Baahubali Movie Review

If there is one thing that I absolutely hate in a cinema hall – it is kids.

They wail, and cry, or decide to take a walk between the seats and touch your hair, and expect you to turn around and pet them. Every time I notice there are kids around me in a hall, I pray that they die before the film starts.

Which was why, when I arrived in the hall for Baahubali, and found there were two kids near my seat, I prayed that they die. When the movie began, I had to double-check if they actually died, because they were silent all through. It is a testimony to how engrossing the film’s beginning is, that even those stupid kids kept shut. (But of course, they are kids, so they decided to cry later on in the movie!).

For a little context, Rajamouli is huge in Telugu cinema. For more than a decade, he has been churning out classic Good vs Evil, Prodigal Son stories that have all been hits – not even one of his films have been average grossers.

Rajamouli’s films more or less maintain similar themes – reincarnation, retribution, and a grand climax. He has perfected the archetype of the hero, villain, and most importantly, the Mother.

When I first saw the trailers of Baahubali, I was sceptical. The graphics didn’t look all that impressive, and I was worried it might just be another Telugu film that had ambitiously bitten off more than it could chew – like his earlier outing Eega.

I am not a huge fan of the ‘Big Budget’ theory. I fail to understand why people rave about terms like ‘Biggest Budget’, ‘Most expensive film’. Having a large budget doesn’t mean anything.

This scepticism comes from having watched earlier ‘most expensive’ films – Blue, starring a pregnant Sanjay Dutt and coke-glazed Zayed Khan, or Ra.One, which was so bad, they should have released a sequel called Tut.Two.

 

Clearly, having a huge budget is not a big deal. If you get a funder, you can make a film on as large a budget as you want, but it’s what you do with the budget that really makes a difference.

Rajamouli has painstakingly invested most of the money on his vision – lavish sets, the epic war scene. He doesn’t let you take your eyes off the screen even for a single moment.

If there was a grudge I had, it was to do with the slight compromises he had to make, to fit in songs. Perhaps we are not hindered by budgets and stories, but our own cinematic sensibilities. The songs seemed force-fed, and were definite speed-breakers in a film that was cruising along smoothly.

Which then brings me to the second part of any huge action film – inspirations.

There have been talks of action scenes ‘inspired’ from LOTR, and 300.

I don’t invest too much thought in such discussions. Cinema, like any art, builds up on its ancestors. For example, for a decade after Matrix released, all action movies had the slow-mo bullet flying in air shot. Even today, most Chinese-Hong Kong action films build on the Bruce Lee style of quick, hand-to-hand combat mode.

So I wasn’t too picky about which scene was inspired from where.

For me, all that matters is if it hasn’t been shamelessly lifted (without any context, just to latch on to an idea). Yes, there are a few shots that remind you of other action films, but the war scene is much more than that. In a way, right from the beginning, you are waiting for the war. And when it does come, it stays on for a good 30 minutes.

The performances, as in most Rajamouli’s films, are consistent – probably because most characters in his movies are archetypes. Prabhas is consistent, and Rana is a shade better. But it is Ramyakrishna and Satyaraj who take larger chunks of meat than they were promised.

If there was one complaint, it was of Tamannah. To watch her walk like a warrior, or use her sword, were laughably amateurish. It’s probably a grave she dug for herself – if you keep playing dandy, simpering doormat roles, it’s going to be difficult to be taken seriously when you actually put in the effort. Tamannah (What’s with the name change? It sounds like an orgasm!) sticks out like a sore thumb in a film with otherwise consistent performances.

Unlike most other hyped movies, you don’t feel cheated with Baahubali.

The best scenes aren’t the ones already shown in the trailers. The film is over before you know it, and that is saying something for the largest budget film in the country.

Rajamouli has his work cut out for the sequel.

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WELL DONE, ORISSA !!

With most Oriyas, the most common complaint is the lack of representation in media.

The fact that we have such a rich culture/heritage/Chief Minister, and yet none of it is shown to the world outside, while the nation is obsessed with Bengalis/Punjabis, is a common line of complaint that most urban, educated Oriyas hold on to.

In the 70 years of independence, hardly a handful of Oriyas have made any impact outside the state. If featuring in the news is any indicator of such impact, we only have Nandita Das, Debashis Mohanty, and Sudarshan Pattnaik. The only other thing we are in the news for is natural calamities – floods, cyclone, earthquake.

And yet, in the last week, we showed our true colours. Sona Mohapatra sang an Oriya folk song and we filed an FIR against her for committing the grave crime of attempting to re-interpret a folk song. And surprisingly, the outrage is being led by musicians, social workers, artists – people you’d generally expect to have an open mind about such matters. And yet, we cling on to our quaint ideas of ‘culture’ with such insecurity.

Our idea of protecting our culture is making it wear the burkha – it is precious so let us cloak it from head to toe. Let no one touch it, look at it, have anything to do with it. It is ours.

But it isn’t science. It is art.

The very nature of art is to change shape, to adapt, to be embraced by people across generations and still be revered. Sholay, arguably the biggest cinematic product of our nation, has been remade numerous times. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s songs are adapted, Amir Khusrow and Bulle Shah’s songs are sung by rock bands across the world. Adaptations and interpretations are a part and parcel of art.

Shakespeare is the most widely read playwright in the world. Not because the Kingdom protected his writing and made them sacrosanct. But because Shakespeare has been adapted into every culture, every language, every context. And yet, his writings shine through because they touch something deep within us – they show us our dark sides, they throw light on our good.

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Most of the outrage has been because Sona Mohapatra has ‘polluted’ the song.

Well, if you ask any boy who grew up in Bhubaneswar or Cuttack, you’ll realise there wasn’t much purity to the song when we grew up. For all its rich traditions, Rangabati was sung and performed in baarats – accompanied by sleazy, pedophilic songs about the breasts of 15 year old girls. It was sung on the streets at night, as drunken men shouted out the lyrics, made lewd signs, and generally became a pain in everybody’s asses. I never heard a single of these protectors of culture complain about it.

And to differ in opinion is one thing. To file an FIR? Seriously? Now the artists have to run from pillar to post, deal with court hearings, and get called up like petty criminals – just because they remade a song? Who are we? The Taliban? ISIS??

And who should be the culprit? Well, the youth wing of BJP, who else?

These are the same guys who run around shattering coffee shops and man-handling young girls on Valentine’s Day, these great upholders of the culture of Orissa.

And yet, it is not the first time that we are embarking on such foolishness. A few years ago, a Bill was passed in the Assembly to change the name from Orissa to Odisha. We all celebrated on social networks, and took pride in ‘bringing back our lost glory’. Wait, what the fuck?

How does a name change from Orissa to Odisha change anything? For a state grappling with malnutrition and illiteracy, NOBODY thought it inappropriate to spend crores of rupees on a useless bureacratic process. While we harp on about culture and Oriya pride, nobody speaks about the politics of Orissa. There has been just one Chief Minister for the last fifteen years. While there has been hardly any laudable progress (apart from the usual benefits of modernisation), he is hailed as a ‘clean’ man (*Makes mental note to wear white kurtas when meeting girls*).

Nobody speaks about that. About the fact that politics and the electoral process in Orissa is crumbling. That one man in power for long periods (no matter how good/clean he is) is a disaster for electoral democracy.

We don’t care about such things. What we want, is to cloak our songs with burkhas. Let nobody touch them, for they are ours.

*
Well, well done Orissa!

It was just a song on YouTube. People would have watched it, and forgotten about it. But now we have gone ahead and proved to the entire nation how petty and myopic we are!

And singers, writers and musicians from Orissa, beware!

Like Shah Rukh Khan says in one of his shitty romantic films, ‘FIR milenge, chalte chalte!’

******

Posted in Politics | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Thoughts on Rangabati Coke Studio Version

A few days ago, I saw my News Feed flooded with posts with Oriya people, about something that happened in Orissa.

Now, this is rare.

If I had to draw a venn diagram of my life, social networking and youtube and internet would be three coinciding circles. If I turn the page over, my home state Orissa would be sitting idle.

It’s like a double life I’m leading.

And it is something that I have felt right from childhood. Since I didn’t study in Orissa, I realised it is never mentioned anywhere. It was almost a Hogwarts-ish place that only appeared during Summer Holidays. Or if a teacher found two of us Oriya guys pinching each other during the prayer session and resorted to a lazy comment such as ‘Aye, you Oriya rowdies. Shut up and keep quiet!’.

However, the last two days have been different. Thanks to Sona Mohapatra’s rendition of ‘Rangabati O Rangabati’ on Coke Studio.

Rangabati

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Now, let me set a little context here.

Rangabati is not just another song. It has folk roots. But most of my generation in Orissa came across the song during drunken nights on a baaraat.

For someone who is very conscious of how he dances, Baaraats opened the floodgates into the world of wet streets and slithery naagins. Of a random stranger tapping me on the shoulder and communicating in that unique code that only another drunk can understand, the words ‘Kaho Na Pyar Hai’. And then, with gay abandon, I turn around and return the compliment with that step that the Bournvita-drinking superhero immortalised – ‘Kaha Na Pyar Hai’.

Baaraats made me realise that it is all OK.

It is OK to slip and fall. There’ll always be someone to lend you a hand to stand back up on your feet. (Else, you better do it quickly, or else those guys carrying tube lights on their heads will walk around you).

Baaraats taught me that there is no such thing as ‘I’ve had enough’. Even if your liver is overflowing, a little nudge from a friend settles everything in place.

Baaraats taught me that there was no point trying to act decent and Shareef when everybody around you was being Musharaff and Taliban. To let insanity take over.

Rangabati is one of the top Oriya baaraat songs.

Now, if you have any acquaintance with Baaraat songs, you’ll know that there is no scope for frivalities like Political Correctness in that particular genre.

Some of the other songs I remember from baaraats are – ‘Nabama sreni jhiata, chaati ku mo hot karuchi’. (That 9th standard girl, is making my chest hot).

Then, there’s the poetic trick that singers use – when you don’t know if he’s singing ‘hot’ or ‘hurt’ – since they both sound the same in the Oriya accent.

Then, there are philosophical musings – ‘Tu aagaru dekhila jenta, tu pachharu dekhile senta” (How you look from the front, the same you look from the back. A throwback to the ancient dual – Dwaita philosophy in Hinduism).

Then, there are those that cater to purely carnal needs. Those that invoke the importance of alcohol in a person’s life – Daaru daaru daaru daaru de daaru. Those that call out to people from other communities – Ekkada Ekkada Ra. Then, the completely surreal and abstract – Kau to bou ku nou (‘May the Crow Take Away Your Mother’).

In the beginning, I was conscious of what people might think. Worried that someone might take offence to such blatantly offensive songs being played at full blast outside people’s houses.

It was only later that I realised that people had developed internal antennae that helped them to tune out of the proceedings.

Since then, for me, there was no looking back (Unless the guy who was mixing the drinks was at the back of the baaraat!).

Among all these songs, Rangabati was one of the saner tunes. Just a folk song that people recognised and would raise their hands, and woot, and go back to dancing to.

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When Sona Mohapatra released her Coke Studio version of the song, people lost their minds.

Some of them said she had corrupted the song. Some others said they preferred the older version of the song. Still others said they had problems with her pronunciation of the words (even though the lyrics are not mainstream Oriya, but a dialect called Sambalpuri).

I don’t get this.

I mean, Coke Studio has historically been a platform for songs to mate with other genres and styles. It’s not Folk Studio, for heaven’s sake. And yes, those two Tamil rappers seemed to have zapped in from nowhere, and were rather annoying, but hey, it’s just a song, man.

It’s somebody’s interpretation of the song. Something the person thought might sound good.

If you don’t like it, skip it. Watch something else on YouTube. Why spread venom and hate in the Comments section?

Also, in Syria, Islamic State is beheading men, women and children. In Pakistan, children are being shot while taking classes in school.

There is shit flying all over in the world.

It’s just a fucking YouTube video.

Let it be.

Or else, kau toh bou ku nou.

Seriously.

*******

Posted in Arbit Gyan, Television | Tagged , , | 13 Comments

Dil Dhadakne Do – First World Armageddon

Farhan and Zoya Akhtar make films about First World Problems.

Dil Chahta Hai dealt with three overgrown college-goers dealing with life. Zindagi Milegi Na Dobara dealt with three rich Mumbai kids discovering their true calling through a trip to Spain. Rock On! dealt with a bunch of guys whose problem in life is that their rock band couldn’t click.

Not that I have a problem with it. I have made peace with the fact that a filmmaker will mostly derive from his/her own upbringing in life.

Which is why the Akhtars make films about South Bombay dudes and Anurag Kashyap makes films about factories, slaughter-houses, and gangsters in Bihar. Which leads me to think – if I ever make a film, it’ll probably be about cats and masturbation.

But getting back to the topic at hand, I don’t really have a problem with first world problem films. The Akhtars have always ensured that their scripts are tightly written. The screenplay exploits the conflict through sharp lines, beautiful locations, and music accompanied to Javed Akhtar’s lofty, if slightly dopey, lyrics.

Dil-Dhadakne-Do1 (1)

Sadly, with Dil Dhadakne Do, there is a feeling of Been There, Done That. A multi-starrer depends heavily on its characters, and unfortunately, the characters in Dil Dhadakne Do seem jaded, un-fresh.

Ranveer Singh plays a soft, rich youngster. Now, Ranveer Singh essentially has two voices. One – the loud Gunday voice, the second the raspy, soft Lootera voice. He uses the Lootera voice, and yet slips every now and then.

Priyanka Chopra and Anushka Sharma play feisty independent characters, both of whom we have seen in umpteen movies. And frankly, after you see Sharma bashing goons with an iron rod, this is going to seem a bit tepid.

Farhan Akhtar, of course, plays what he always plays. The urban, non-conformist, liberal cool dude.

It’s like yesterday’s gajar halwa that was kept in the fridge overnight. It’s still gajar halwa, but there’s something amiss.

Interestingly, it’s the seniors of the film who salvage the movie.

Parmeet Sethi and Manoj Pahwa, saddled with bit-roles, put in their best.

Anil Kapoor, who seems to have let down his narcissistic guard after all these years, shines in every single frame. But the star of the show is Shefali Shah, playing Anil Kapoor’s wife. Watch her in the scene where she stuffs herself with cake, and you feel a yearning for what the film could have been.

Sadly, Dil Dhadakne Do never manages to cruise over its troubled, haphazard script. It’s just another First World Problem film that Farhan Akhtar stars in.

But that’s ok, because he’ll grow a moustache and play Veerappan, and win awards for it.

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A Very Late Review: Tanu Weds Manu Returns

tanu weds manu returns

Not to sound picky, but there’s something about grammatically wrong movie titles that gets my goat.

Like a Sohail Khan movie released a decade ago named ‘I Proud To Be Indian’. I understand that the story, the production, the budget – is yours. But how much does it cost to add an ‘am’ in the middle. Or may be a comma?

The makers of this film could have named it ‘Tanu Weds Manu Again’, or ‘Tanu Weds Manu After Returning’. ‘Tanu Weds Manu Returns’ makes no sense.

Right. Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, here’s what I thought about the movie.

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There are a few things Anand L. Rai gets bang-on in his films.

Casting, for one.  If one were to forget his first two forgettable films, director Anand L. Rai has a knack for casting people who fit the role, even though it might not seem right in the beginning.

Another thing he gets right, is the sharp dialogues. His films are laced with interesting lines, mouthed by interesting characters. Tanu Weds Manu is no exception.

After reading the universally rave reviews, I got to watch the film very late in the day. And I’m sorry to say, I wasn’t blown away by it or anything.

I know the usual argument. That it is better than your average Bollywood fare. But somehow, over the years of watching, analysing, and writing about cinema, that lame description doesn’t cut it for me any more.

Tanu Weds Manu does the classic Bollywood trick of raising your expectations and slamming it down on your head with a gigantic Thud! at the end. I had problems with Manu’s choices in the film, but I’ll get to that later.

Deepak Dobriyal is a fine, fine actor. But I’m tired of seeing him as the hero’s sidekick. He has done it in OmkaraTanu Weds Manu, and this one again. But if you’ve watched him in Teen They Bhai, or Shaurya, you’ll know he’s capable of much, much more.

Kangana Ranaut is undoubtedly the hero of the film. She reminds you of the time when Sridevi would make films with less famous actors and carry the film on her shoulders.

Having perfected the crazy-girl-with-big-heart role, Kangana nails the fiesty, if slightly cranky Tanu. As someone who has found her immensely watchable from her very first film, I am scared if it will get tiring after a point.

Which brings us to the second Kangana in the film – Kusum.

Tanu was probably an exaggerated stereotype on purpose. Because when Kusum comes on screen, she steals your heart. Ranaut puts so much into the role, that you forget it’s the same person at one point. Kusum is vulnerable, attractive, strong, and steals your breath away.

And when Manu (Madhavan playing the nice guy, a role he’s been playing since he was a sperm) has to choose between the two, is when my problems with the film really begin. Why would he choose the crazy, psycho, alcoholic Tanu when he has gone through the pains of getting married to another lovely girl?

I’m not trying to be Mohan Bhagwat here, but let’s do a comparison.

Tanu is moody, clearly dim-witted, critical and caustic, and uses men in her life because they are attracted to her. She also walks about the streets at night after getting drunk, and eats chow mein, which a Sanskari Indian girl shouldn’t do. 

Kusum on the other hand, is independent, caring and mature. She doesn’t shy away from fighting for her love, and most importantly – is superfantastico, smoldering hot. She’s so hot, she makes Tanu seem like a loud, insecure starlet in comparison. Then why would Manu choose Tanu over her?

I failed to put my head around this.

Ah! Because, love.

Love is supposed to be blind, and biased, and doesn’t need to follow logic or reasoning. I’m hardly an authority on love. Like Mahishasura, most of my decisions are driven by lust.

Love might be blind, and deaf, and HIV positive, but all that love bullshit is what ruins Tanu Weds Manu Returns as a finished product. If Manu chose Komal, I’d have been impressed. But with its present ending, the film is just about Meh!

I am waiting for the director to release a third part – Tanu Weds Manu and Returns with Komal. 

#Threesome

#SorryIKnowThatsATerribleThought

#KarnaPadtaHai

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Review : Bombay Velvet

Long before Anurag Kashyap became the cult hero that is today, I have been supporting and defending him.

I watched Paanch around 2007, and it was the same year that my ex girlfriend mentioned that she wanted to watch Black Friday. It was a phase when I would watch Shah Rukh Khan movies, and I scoffed at her poor taste in cinema.

Black Friday changed the way I looked at cinema. It was the first film that shook me in the real sense. Ever since, I have defended Anurag Kashyap in debates and discussions. I loved No Smoking, though I’m still yet to put a finger on why. I watched Gulaal twice, and felt a strange pride when the four others in the hall applauded at the end.

Somewhere along the line, DevD released. Though it was clearly not his best work, it shot him into pop-culture hero-dom. Anurag Kashyap today is the face of the indie movement, he is the voice of freedom of expression in films, and seems like a sane voice who is finally getting his due. For millions of viewers, Anurag Kashyap is a ray of hope in a tunnel that is filled with shit every Friday.

And so when Bombay Velvet released, and got panned by everybody, I wanted to go watch the movie.

I wanted to like the movie, and write a passionate blog about how everybody else who didn’t like it were basically idiots.

I wanted to like Bombay Velvet. But like the prettiest girl in class, Bombay Velvet didn’t give a flying fuck about me. Bombay Velvet is so caught up in its own trip, in being pretty and trippy and grand and epic, that I had no other option.

*

bombay velvet

For a film that has four writers, two editors, and three accomplished directors as producers, Bombay Velvet fails on so many levels, you are reduced to tears as an earnest fan.

Sample this. Ranbir Kapoor doesn’t get a single line till 25 minutes into the movie, and Anushka Sharma 40 minutes into the film. I understand that these are creative calls that the director takes, but how am I supposed to empathise with the leads when I feel nothing for them?

And Anurag Kashyap has consistently given us characters that we fell in love with. Whether it is Baba Bangaali in No Smoking, or the spectacular Nagma Khatoon in Gangs of Wasseypur, or Ransa Singh in Gulaal, Anurag Kashyap has a knack of creating stellar characters.

The leads in Bombay Velvet seem too caught up in their own trips. It’s as if they realized that this is their moment. That they’ve left behind the world of Yash Raj and have broken into the indie scene. And that’s enough.

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Bombay Velvet is utterly disappointing. Not because it fails as a film. But because it pays you no respect as a viewer. You could plug in and listen to your favourite song for all the film cared.

The film is plagued with lazy writing, sloppy editing, and doesn’t give a fuck about you as a viewer.

And that is very hard to come to terms with.

I am waiting for Anurag Kashyap’s next film. I know it will be better.

Anything will be better than Bombay Velvet.

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Movie Review – Piku

Personally, I have never been a huge fan of Amitabh Bachchan.

I couldn’t connect with his 70s ‘Angry Young Man’ image. I have watched Zanjeer, Kaalia, Deewar, and Don, and thought he was terrific in them. But ever since I have started actively following films, Amitabh Bachchan was just a caricature.

He would do the same role – the powerful patriarch with the powerful voice – over and over again. Every single director who signed him would give him a different version of the same role.

Black was a shitty film with terrible acting. Sarkar was just RGV fusing his AB and Godfather fetishes into one dimly lit movie. Baghban made me want to pull my hair out in frustration, and then reach for my neighbour’s.

Piku, surprisingly, does away with the AB frills.

In a film that stars tall actors, Amitabh Bachchan towers over the others in every way possible. Given a role by director Shoojit Sircar that lets him stretch his hands out and have fun, Amitabh Bachchan slips into his character and stubbornly refuses to step out of it.

*

piku

Piku talks about parents, but chooses a path that no other film earlier has dealt with.

We have been shown films where parents are sacrificing, idealistic, loving and caring. But no film has ever touched upon one important aspect of Indian parents – that they are stubborn. That they refuse to budge from their standpoint, even if times around them have changed, even if their children are a different generation.

Our scriptures expect us to respect our parents just because they are parents. Matru Devo Bhava, Pitru Devo Bhava – we are told. I have always been baffled by this idea. Anybody can marry and have kids. It requires no special skills. How then does the simple act of reproducing elevate you to the level of a God?

There is no nice way to put this. But Indian parents are selfish.

And Piku brings this point out beautifully.

I will leave out the details so that you can go watch it (if you haven’t already), but let it suffice to say that director Shoojit Sircar finally paints a realistic picture of Indian households. And the transitional pains we face on a daily basis. The wide chasm between age old morals and the hustle-bustle of the modern world and its demands.

Deepika Padukone barely puts a foot wrong. Surprisingly, Irrfan Khan seems like the weak link in the film. His newly found English accent is a little difficult to come to terms with, especially since he speaks his Hindi lines in the same old Vodafone Chhota Recharge kar lo voice. And his English lines (A’right) seem a little forced.

Minor hiccups if you aren’t a picky viewer, because Irrfan Khan does more with his eyes than his voice. Moushumi Chatterjee is spot on as the party-popping Bengali aunt, as are Raghubir Yadav as the doctor who attends to AB’s idiosyncrasies.

But finally, Piku belongs to a 70 year old man. A 70 year old man who has finally found a reason to stretch his hands out and have fun.

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