31 Aug 2017

Hindi Film Songs: Javed Akhtar and War Movies: Border (1997)

jung toh chandd roz hotee hai
zindagi barson talak rotee hai 
(a war lasts for a few days 
life weeps for a lifetime)  

So go the balm-like lines to Anu Malik music at the fag end of the otherwise jingoistic Border. The song Mere Dushman, Mere Bhai (my enemy, my brother) deservingly won singer Hariharan and lyricist Javed Akhtar their respective 1998 National Film Awards. The movie was the first of the Anu Malik-Javed Akhtar-JP Dutta collaborations.

Movie Memories 
My college mate always turned up to the playground with moist eyes after watching Border in its umpteenth TV run. For the next five minutes, he was adamant about joining the army. The incident occurred at every Border rerun. He also joked about how the actress in the wedding night song Ae Jaatein Huve Lamhon momentarily made him forget all patriotism.

War Movies and JP Dutta 
Dutta dealt with war again in the 2003 multi-starter LOC Kargil. That we have only one warring neighbor didn't help Dutta if he was looking for variety. The director's tried and tested approach also threatened to make the music redundant. Just how many times can you have soldiers singing songs at the border in all abandon with the surety that the trigger-happy enemy never attacks mid-song?

Among Anu Malik's Best 
Yet singularly, solely concerned with the audio, we have to say that Border was a very good soundtrack. It can certainly be counted among Anu Malik's finest works. Though the musical treatment follows the Hindi film template norms, the sincere effort shows. (If someone were to brand Malik with the plagiarism taint, he can always shoot back with, "Hey, but I made the songs for Border, all by myself!")

Sandeshe Aate Hai highlights the exchange of letters between the soldiers and their family members. The song never seems to be ten minutes long. The language is deliberately simple. Nostalgia fills the air as the letters are read.

Akhtar nails it in the last paragraph. The soldiers hailing their heartfelt replies back to their loved ones completes the song's story curve. The final refrain main wapas aaunga...(I will be back) is strangely touching. Out in the middle of nowhere, with only desert sand as a constant view and camels day after day after day, why wouldn't you yearn to return home? The robust male chorus (oohohohoo...) is another evocative highlight. One epic emotive spill of a song. Contemporary Hindi film music classic.

Hamein Jab Se Mohabbat is an extended love duet with lyrics that adds luster to an Indian village setting. There are beautiful references to the setting sun, a still, silent river, the paths that run between fields, and the lingering of love. Nigam is a fresh, calming companion to Yagnik's honeyed voice.

Ae Jaatein Huve Lamhon makes poetry out of a wedding night, as the groom yearns to relish every moment with his bride. His heartbreak: War is looming and he is a soldier who may not return. Check the very apt guitar here. The eternally underrated Roopkumar Rathod hits the right mood and pitch.

But the most somber and lasting song of the soundtrack is Mere Dushman, Mere Bhai. Akhtar writes sincere, thought-provoking lines, asks the right questions. Hariharan is in his element, while the humming chorus now sounds overwrought and strained.

Hum apne apne khetoh mein, 
ghehu ki jagah, chawal ki jagah, 
yeh bondooke kyun bote hai? 
Jab dono hi ki galiyon mein 
kuch bhooke bachhe rote hai 
kuch bhooke bacche rote hai..    

(Why do we sow guns instead
of rice and maize in our fields?
when in the bylanes 
of both our countries,
some hungry children cry...)       

The Venus audio cassette also featured in its playlist a monologue laden section that goes to the refrain of Hindustan, Hindustan, Meri Jaan, Meri Shaan. The military drill like song plays out mostly in the chorus, beginning with a Sonali Rathod intonation of a Sanskrit sloka. Shankar Mahadevan yet to establish himself in the Bollywood music league, accompanies her. The song refrain is a backdrop to actor Kulbhushan Kharbanda's (who plays the Indian army cook in the movie) 'India glorified' commentary. It is at best a passing listen.

Two decades later, though many interlude portions of the Border soundtrack sound dated, much of its lyrical resonance, chorus, and love vibes still stick. The struggling 'Mohd. Rafi clone' Sonu Nigam made his mark with Border. He was to further establish himself as a distinct voice that year with the breakthrough Yeh Dil Deewana in Pardes (1997).

That Aadesh Shrivastava Soundtrack 
Also featured on the fag end of 'SIDE A' Border audio cassette was a promotional audio for the late Aadesh Shrivastava's Humko Ishq Ne Mara (1997) soundtrack. The featured singers were winners of a popular Doordarshan music contest show Meri Awaaz Suno. Check the soundtrack on youtube.com sometime, interesting, formulaic Bollywood first love scenarios. Humko Ishq Ne Mara never got a theatrical release.

Trivia: Sunidhi Chauhan had won an edition of Meri Awaaz Suno in 1996 as a 13-year old, her talent clearly towering over older singers. Lata Mangeshkar was one of the judges in the final.

25 Aug 2017

Babumoshai Bandookbaaz: Dark Comedy Works, Not the Revenge Tale

Babu Bihari (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) is a contract killer somewhere in small-town North India, a pawn in the bloody chessboard of local politicians. Between hits, Babu cooks chicken, beds prostitutes and snoozes away to All India Radio. He falls for a village cobbler Phulwa (Bidita Bag) who accepts and moves in with him after Babu obeys her wish and kills her tormentors.

In a hit-and-miss contract, Babu encounters his rival and 'fan' Banke Bihari (Jatin Goswami). Both killers are hired to kill off three men. This leads to a 'who will kill first and most' bet between the killers. The aftermath reels in a vicious circle of revenge and vindication.

Uneven, No Character Background 
There is a lot going for Babumoshai Bandookbaaz in its first hour, from the laugh out dark comedy, editing, great story pacing, and performances. But when a killer returns from the dead, it takes a familiar heavy road to revenge.

Despite the spread, concept, and things coming full-circle, Babumoshai Bandookbaaz has no explanation for its character's actions. How Babu and Banke turn contract killers are given no believable ground. Phulwa's murder-inducing turn, a police inspector's (Bhagwan Tiwari) stubborn yearn for a girl child, crooked politicians (Divya Dutta, Anil George), all lack subtext.

Bullet-Sized Plot Holes
Everybody knows who Babu and Banke are. Nobody is keen to catch them though, police action is non-existent. Powerful politicians are threatened and warned by a small-time contract killer and they take no evasive action. It is a puzzle, that though fully aware of the danger, the victims take no precautions to save themselves. Babu's home is no underground cave or hideout that anyone would have a hard time finding it. Somebody is shot in the head at close range and survives! A lodged bullet is mentioned and explained off.

Cut Above Average
The film premise is exciting and out of turn. Two killers discussing lousy pay is hilarious, as is the Babu-Phulwa-Banke interplay. But once the guns start booming, familiar, tired patterns emerge. That two competing killers are not wary of each other doesn't hold ground. It sticks out numb, as does the second-hour kill-kill-kill proceedings, the many sexual episodes, and betrayals.

Babumoshai Bandookbaaz rests on the ensemble cast's performances, the initial striking dark humor and little else. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is brilliant as ever, ably supported by Bag and Goswami, but the script weighs down the impact. This could have worked as an out-and-out dark comedy. A cut above average, Babumoshai Bandookbaaz is still worth a watch for a discerning audience. 

A New, Mature Age of Censorship?
The revamped film censor board needs applause for aptly certifying the film as 'A', instead of cutting out the abuses and love making scenes. Their wise decision keeps the flow of Babumoshai Bandookbaaz intact. They seem to understand that the audience is mature enough to decide what to watch and what not to. Wanted: A well-modulated film certification system that effectively blocks juvenile audiences from explicit content.

19 Aug 2017

James Bond News: Bond 25: Daniel Craig Returns

Daniel Craig, the actor who has played Bond with an edgy, authentic rough and tough scrub, is set to star in his fifth James Bond movie. This was confirmed recently by Craig on a late night show, according to 007.com, the official James Bond website. The movie is presently tentatively titled Bond 25.

Full Circle for Daniel Craig
Craig has come full circle since his first Bond movie Casino Royale (2006). In fact, Craig was hit with widespread public criticism when he was first selected to play the flamboyant British spy. There was even an website called saynotodanielcraig.com to protest against Craig's casting. But over the years, Daniel Craig has proven his mettle, though the films have been largely underwhelming, except for Skyfall (2012).

Bond 25 Release Dates
The evergreen, smooth-talking, playboy spy will return to the big screen in 2019. The US release is set for November 8, 2019. Binding to tradition, the UK, and other countries will get earlier release dates.This will be the 25th official film of the Bond franchise. This is not counting, of course, the only unofficial 1983 Bond movie Never Say Never Again starring Sean Connery.

Writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, collaborators on previous Bond productions including the four movies starring Daniel Craig, return to the helm again. Meanwhile, cheers and let's sip our martini at a beach side of an exotic foreign locale, waiting for Eva Green to turn up, or sip...a young Ursula Andress.

18 Aug 2017

Bareilly Ki Barfi: Sweet, Satisfying, Romantic Comedy

Bitti Mishra (Kriti Sanon) is the unabated, small-town tomboy, a sly Bareilly electricity board employee, break dancer, occasional smoker and drinker, and part-comprehending viewer of English movies.
Her parents (Pankaj Tripathi and Seema Pahwa) are introduced by the chirpy Javed Akhtar voiceover as 'not normal'. Unlike typical Indian small-town parents, they don't impose themselves on Bitti. The father knows her vices and has no issues with it.

When the unconventional, free-spirited Bitti gets repeatedly rejected by prospective grooms, she dejectedly decides to leave town. At the railway bookstall, she stumbles upon a novel called 'Bareilly Ki Barfi' by Pritam Vidrohi (Rajkummar Rao). The female lead is (surprise!surprise!) exactly like Bitti. Mystified, Bitti cancels her fleeing plans, desirous to meet this mysterious writer. Enter Chirag Dubey (Ayushmann Khurrana).

Love Triangle With Laughs  
Despite the far-off echoes of the Sanjay Dutt-Salman Khan-Madhuri Dixit love triangle Saajan (1991), Bareilly Ki Barfi has a now familiar semi-rural authentic zeal, color, clean humor and occasional zing.

Midway, there are clear hints as to how it will go. A lesser director would have delivered this cold and dull. But director Ashwini Iyer Tiwari takes sufficient clever diversions to keep us guessing in this sweet, funny film.

Rajkummar Rao Towers Over the Cast 
Kriti Sanon has matured into a good actor, far cry from her dull-faced Hindi debut Heropanti (2014). Ayushmann Khurrana is competent, dependable and sporty, adding ample conviction to his tortured, selfish lover role. The Chirag-Pritam interactions showcase great male lead chemistry.

Pankaj Tripathi, so hilariously brilliant in the director's previous release Nil Battey Sannata (2016) is in his element here. It is Rajkummar Rao's innocent sari salesman and induced-tough guy act that is stand out terrific. Rao battles the character's uneven turns, to create a compelling, laugh-out-loud meek, good-hearted part.    

Sweet Minus Bite  
Bareilly Ki Barfi sticks to its conventional romantic comedy journey, takes its time to crackle, makes us laugh loud and ends tad predictable, without that necessary elevated bite.

For its fluent editing, performances, genre-faithful writing, and assured direction, Bareilly Ki Barfi is a good (*** out of ***** stars) bet at the cinemas this week. It is not a laugh riot, but balanced and intelligently made.

15 Aug 2017

The Best Movies of 2017: As on August 15, 2017

Based on what I have seen in the theaters so far, the best movies of 2017 as on August 15, 2017 are as follows. 
It has been a memorable time at the movie theaters. I have consciously attended single screens, multiplexes, and alleged IMAX theaters to savor movies (more than ever before) on 70mm this calendar year. 
A Death in the Gunj 
Konkana Sen Sharma’s debut directorial is an haunting ode to nostalgia, introverts, bullying and human fragility.
Nolan scores with a minimalist, non-linear, bloodless and sharply edited war movie that digs out a new genre for itself. A war classic in the making.
Lipstick Under My Burkha
Funny, bold, revolutionary, relevant as hell, path-breaking. A serious contender to the TOP THREE BOOM BOX FILMS OF THE YEAR title. A big bear hug to all women who want to live their lives, just like men do and not be sorry for it. Hear, hear. 
A mind-blowing smoking hot X-Men movie that goes against the norm, has gruesome violence, well-coordinated action set-pieces, nice sci-fi mumbo-jumbo to explain the merciless plot. A script that pushes the envelope to mark an important curve in the Wolverine story. Thank you, Hugh Jackman. Thank you steel claws.

Spider-Man: Homecoming 
A refreshing contemporary teenage update, a great commercial punch to take Peter Parker back to school again. The clumsiest, error-prone, raw, clueless Spider-Man ever. This is not great cinema, but the many irreverent, comic touches and quips make this a version just right for the random WhatsApp-indulgent audience.
Moving On: Every film screening has its share of memorable moments. Startling cell phone ringtones, snores, sniggers, ex-colleagues, near-deserted spooky auditoriums, accompanying friends have added to the conversation, laughter, exasperation, and drama. 
Not a dull moment at the cinemas, despite piracy, streaming services, torrent and pen drives. May the big screen live on. Amen!  

11 Aug 2017

Toilet:Ek Prem Katha: Propaganda Unlimited

The well-educated, (I have a toilet at home) Jaya falls for and marries cycle shop owner Keshav. Her joy is short-lived when she discovers that Keshav's village doesn't have a toilet. The village women go on long early morning walks to relieve themselves in the bushes. Jaya refuses to cave into such shaming practices. The marriage begins to crack and the couple's differences lead to a widespread social change.

Preachy Take
Toilet: Ek Prem Katha is a long-winded, forceful, aggressive government propaganda vaguely disguised as a movie. Open defecation is a relevant issue and large-scale toilet construction an arguably valid solution. Don't throw it up in our faces in a preachy, unmasked tone. At one moment, I felt the film's makers will step out of the screen and build a toilet right there in the cinema hall, and push me in to try it. It's that kind of a movie.

Genuinely Funny First Half
Toilet: Ek Prem Katha does pleasantly surprise when it smells of using the toilet as a metaphor for Keshav (Akshay Kumar) and Jaya's (Bhumi Pednekar) love story. The first half has outrageously funny moments, but you know where this is going.

The unusual love story build up is blown out of the way, as the second half dips into hyper dramatics, wayward monologues, and contrived eye-opening situations. The stink becomes evident.

Akshay Kumar Holds Fort 
Pity, for Akshay Kumar is in top-form be it the humor, drama or maudlin moments. Though clearly looking his age on the screen lately like his contemporaries, Kumar seems a better actor with every new release. Bhumi Pednekar is adequately fiery as the outspoken wife. Divyendu Sharma as Keshav's brother makes his presence felt. The underrated, rarely cast Sudhir Pandey plays the unyielding father with great conviction. Anupam Kher is a hoot.

But this is no free-willed, creative-burst of a film. Leave the undeniably multiple laugh-out moments, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha is a heavy, infuriated dose of a social-message injection.

6 Aug 2017

Bollywood Specials: Shah Rukh Khan and the Kiss Dilemma

Jab Harry Met Sejal 

Way back in 2004, Neha Dhupia was promoting Julie, her steamy solo-heroine mainstream movie. The makers made no pretense that sex was the film's main selling card. Neha Dhupia then uttered what summed up the status quo,"In Bollywood, either sex sells or Shah Rukh Khan."

Dhupia had unwittingly also rounded up Bollywood, its star system, typecasting and the blatancy of formula in that one brief statement. In commercial Hindi cinema, sex scenes are often filmed in a sleazy and gratifying manner. It has nothing to do with telling a story. Thirteen years later, nothing much has changed, except that Bollywood now tries to sell everything, from stars, sex, cover versions of older hits, younger struggling stars to....Shah Rukh Khan.  

The other side of it: Once a star gets too big an image to be tampered with, the roles are written with an almost platonic, noble flourish. The kisses (lip-to-lip, to be precise) don't make it to the story. The white-sheets draped Maya Memsaab (1993) encounter was shot before Khan's stardom. Ramesh Sippy drenched Khan and Raveena Tandon in sensual colors in the much panned Zamaana Deewana (1995). The body chemistry in both films were at least attempts at conveying emotions. 

The Bollywood Archie-Betty-Veronica Version

Kiss vs Image
The making of the Shah Rukh Khan romantic, charming, good boy image began with Aditya Chopra's Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) and found validation in Karan Johar's Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998). The closest Khan came to kissing was in Dil To Pagal Hai (1997) and by quite a distance in Asoka (2001). He is conveniently interrupted in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Devdas (2002). 

Years after the ridiculous but cute image of two shivering flowers coming together in speculative communion meant sex was on, it was about timely disruptions now. In the new millennium, Bollywood was still conservative about mainstream actors kissing.

Like Helen was the only one supposed to dress down and do the Bollywood cabaret, for years only Emraan Hashmi seemed to have a Supreme Court permission to kiss prolifically onscreen, mostly picturized coarsely and provocatively. 'Serial Kisser' became a Hashmi tag and a played up lame joke on the actor himself in films like The Dirty Picture (2011) and Ungli (2014). 

The 'My Boyfriend is Watching' Kiss
Shah Rukh Khan finally did dare to kiss Katrina Kaif on screen in Yash Chopra's last directorial film Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012). These are strangely brief, reluctant millisecond smooch moments. It was as if Kaif's off-screen boyfriend was close by, with bloated eyeballs and a pair of XXL size censor scissors.

The Sane Bit in Jab Harry Met Sejal 
Shah Rukh Khan does go for a lengthy kiss in culminating Jab Harry Met Sejal's unbelievable premise with some sane sexual release. In a fluffy, soap lather romance it was already alien that lovers detested from making out, that the kiss was a big saving grace in the film's flimsy context. It took two and half decades to tweak a trademark Shah Rukh Khan template, even if mildly. It's a tiny dot of a dare in a safe, redundant movie that Jab Harry Met Sejal is.    

Movie Talk: Why Jab Harry Met Sejal is Imtiaz Ali's Biggest Letdown Yet

Imtiaz Ali's directorial debut Socha Na Tha (2005) was a refreshing, entertaining youngsters film. Travel was seemingly incidental in a lovely sweet film that stood out for its little nudge-away-from-formula writing.

The Unending Journey
The director first won over audience's hearts and the box-office with Jab We Met (2007).Then followed a series of movies with travel as a metaphor.

The beautifully juxtapositioned Love Aaj Kal (2009), wayward but heartfelt Rockstar (2011). The physical journey and the journey within. Chaos, suffering, heartbreak, and self-discovery. The grossly underrated Tamasha (2015) is my favorite Imtiaz Ali film. It is a culmination of all Ali had revealed in earlier films about his side on love, travel and life.

Ali's strength is layering an all-out commercial, Hindi film formulaic story with strong, poetic writing. But isn't it time to move on from travel? How about a film that tells of the time between journeys. The time when a person is still, in transit. I long for out of the box variations from Ali now, not the same loop. As the Tamasha tagline goes: Why always the same story? 

Jab Harry Met Sejal in comparison is a conventional rom-com that banks very hard on its lead stars to pull it off. For the first time, the writing is not wrapped in layers. Here's a list of what else doesn't work:

Creepy Casanova? No Problemo! 
Harry is a self-confessed womanizer, yet Sejal just wants to hang out with him in a distant city, day and night. Who is Sejal, freak or just plain foolish?

Star Power Over Story
Sejal's family is not conservative, they are only pretending to be so, by the looks of it. Why else would a 'strict' family allow an engaged daughter, alone in a distant country, search for a ring with a tour guide they barely know for days? Because he is Shah Rukh Khan. Khan hasn't yet deflowered a woman on screen, at least not when he is romancing one. The family must know.

Ten Second Trivia:In his two-decade filmography, Khan has slept with women on camera occasionally. Memorably in Maya Memsaab (1993) and as part of a brutal revenge and murder in the entertaining, morally ambiguous anti-hero blockbuster Baazigar (1993). 

Beech Beech Mein has no story premise, it just begins, plays and ends

Song After Song After Song

Imtiaz Ali has delved into complexities and contradictions of his main protagonists in all his previous films. It made the predictable 'lovers unite!' endings just a milestone. The fun was in the journey and moments. He makes a startling exception in Jab Harry Met Sejal. The mushy romance has no ground, too many songs and dance bits underline this mush with soap-bubble lather. It's a huge turn-off.

This Sejal Character  
Sejal is free-minded, adventurous and chirpy, a repeat take on Ali's previous female leads. Sejal's casualness stands out weird here. She strangely gives no thought to her fiancee, just because Harry's around. Should we conclude that when Shah Rukh Khan is around, you give in to him. It is a star surrender contrivance, that kills any audience relatability to the romance.  

The Imtiaz Ali Standard
We have expected a certain quality from Imtiaz Ali films. That is where Jab Harry Met Sejal disappoints the most. Did top star presence affect his writing from going all out? Rather play it safe and sugary?

A decade of romance + poetic travel metaphors + good looking lovers + self-discovery songs is not the issue. We have enjoyed those movies. But repeating that same template here with nothing new to add, that killed it.

On hindsight, this may be where Imtiaz Ali moves out of the typecast to other genres of cinema. He may yet surprise us. The journey may have just begun for him.

4 Aug 2017

Jab Harry Met Sejal: Fluffy Entertainment, Predictable Rom-Com

Harry (Shah Rukh Khan) is a Europe-based tour guide for Indian tourists, his life churning in similarities and routine like the windmill in the opening scene. Sejal (Anushka Sharma) is one of his customers. A tiff with her fiancee over a lost engagement ring leads Sejal to miss the home-bound flight and stubbornly stay back to retrieve the ring. She coaxes and threatens Harry to accompany her in the search.

You Knowaa What You Gonna Gettaa 
You may see what is coming next, right to the end credits from miles away down the road. This is Imtiaz Ali's most straight, conventional Hindi commercial (an ode to travel, as usual) movie yet. No nonlinear narration, no symbolism, no live your life talk, just straight out rom-com.

Garam Garam Double 
I will come up with a cheaper, hornier Hinglish subheading soon. But Shah Rukh Khan and Anushka Sharma crackle with so much chemistry that they reel in the audience for most of the tad predictable journey. Age differences disappear when they are together.

Khan's bearded look adds to the character's turmoil. He is in subtle form, reining in, letting loose the legendary charm at will. Sharma's once there, once not Gujarati accent doesn't hinder in creating a watchable character, foolish, instinctive and meandering. An echo to Kareena Kapoor's Geet in Jab We Met (2007). Khan and Sharma can take a hell lot of credit for audience engagement. They keep it all afloat and brimming to an amazing, mercurial degree.

Great Locales
The European setting gives the film a beautiful travel-with-me feel. The bridges, cafes, nightclubs and cobbled streets add conviction to the characters actions. Why wouldn't you want to hang out in places as charming as these a little longer?! Say, say.

Nice Safar, Some Suffer
Ali is going to the lovers-get-together fun love journey with no complexities here. He shoots down any chances of great cinema right there. It is now about keeping the humor and joy coming. Ali doesn't get there smoothly.

The first half is a breeze, with damn funny interchanges and some danger. By intermission though, you know it is a matter of time. There is nowhere else to go but the bloody arrow through heart wala luv, luv, luv.

Harry's Punjab backstory is hinted at, yet mysteriously never explained. Giving Sejal's backstory a miss adds to the allure. The 'love happens' sections are a bit contrived. When does Sejal end up so casual and easy with Harry, spending nights together all of a sudden? That is Khan's star charm in play rather than Harry's.

No Musical Musical Please 
Despite Harry's louder-than-the-tractor-singer touch, there are just too many songs here, mitigating the impact, underlining the obvious Harry-Sejal romance too many times. This happens in so many Hindi movies. They just go lip-synching and musical without any thought how it may mar the storytelling.

Song-and-dance makes great celebratory, whistle out moments, but not always. The tiresome sections in the second half are to do with song marathons. Pritam's soundtrack is impressive in parts, listenable audio that required judicious use of the film.

Before We Part 
Don't expect depth, layers, and insight, or a strong, daring take here. Ali digs for travel's most attractive aspect, get together, don't pause and have a great time. Who doesn't want to? Jab Harry Met Sejal is mostly a decent rom-com, somewhere between OK and average.

2 Aug 2017

Movie News: Ready Player One: Forthcoming Spielberg Movie

Steven Spielberg's forthcoming directorial venture is called Ready Player One, based on the Ernest Cline 2011 sci-fi/dystopian novel of the same name. The teaser trailer looks ravishing and visionary.

Think Spielberg revisiting the dark drab atmospherics of Minority Report (2002), the wide ocean spectrum of  A.I.Artificial Intelligence (2001), and the absorbing, addictive world of virtual reality video gaming multiplied by 50. Spielberg is clearly going for the epic, universal spread here like only he can.

The extended trailers provide a sneak peek to popular cultural references, not a usual Spielberg film element. There is the giant robot from Brad Bird's The Iron Giant, The Lord of the Rings, the Back to the Future time machine, the modified Mad Max Ford Falcon, among other recognizable nostalgia elements.

We do yearn for a rollicking experience that a potential Spielberg blockbuster is. Among top-notch contemporary directors, nobody has consistently combined box-office success and cinematic ambition like Steven Spielberg.       

Ready Player One is set for a March 30, 2018, US release. Watch this blog for updates and special features.            

1 Aug 2017

Movie Watch: My 'Dunkirk on IMAX or LieMAX' Experience: Cinepolis, Westend Mall, Aundh, Pune, India Review

Big hello to moviegoers who saw Nolan's Dunkirk on a mammoth IMAX screen

It started with a childish curiosity, gaa-gaa, go-go and other baby sounds. What exactly is the word on IMAX? As a movie regular, an IMAX feel was long overdue.

Life and the movies are best experienced, so I waded the Internet for information. Would you believe it? Pune city, in all its cosmopolitan entirety, has just one IMAX screen! Dunkirk was showing at this sole, haloed screen at Cinepolis, Westend Mall, all day, all week in IMAX 2D. I promptly booked a weekday morning show ticket.

Initial Letdown
The first shock was the screen size. I had half a mind to throw up a baby tantrum there and then. The Cinepolis IMAX screen was barely 10-12% bigger than the regular screen. Waaah! Boo Hoo! IMAX screens are meant to be at least double the size of standard cinema screens.

Excellent Sound Quality, Uneven Picture Quality  
The film screening finally commenced after a dreary run of advertisements, 15 minutes past schedule. I had already watched Dunkirk at a regular screening, a fortnight ago. The comparisons came easy.

The sound was sharper and balanced. Bomb explosions, fighter plane sound effects made for great acoustics, without hitting high deafening decibel levels. The Hans Zimmer background score stood out, especially the violin set piece and the now famous 'ticking watch'. The picture quality was also a notch higher.

The fighter plane sections stood out with outstanding clarity. IMAX (Oh yeah?) did make the experience more close-in and immediate, but only by a small degree. Certain visuals had a scandalous, shunted look. It was like a magician trying to stuff his stubborn rabbit back into the top hat.

More than the technical glitter, the second viewing of Dunkirk on suspect IMAX revealed a sharp, minimal, cleverly executed, uplifting war movie. It hit me with an enormous wallop. But the screen size dwarfed my thrill. It was just not done. If you don't have a mammoth wide screen, why call it IMAX? At that exorbitant ticket price, a definite con job.

Screen Size Issues     
My experience echoes in similarly ripped off IMAX audiences around the world. They refer to this shrunk screen phenomenon as LieMAX. You may ask, what is that dude?

LieMAX is a term for theater screens pretending to be IMAX when they are just a bit larger than regular screens. So if you are looking for the IMAX experience in Pune, it's clearly not happening as publicized at Cinepolis, Westend Mall, Aundh, Pune.

Last Word
A badly made movie will not elevate you, even on IMAX. The Dunkirk experience is enhanced by a further 20% even on LieMAX. A good movie always gets to you, the format is only a medium then. There goes my concluding self-comforting, false-refuge statement.