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Thursday, December 31, 2009

AAL IZZ very much Well with '3 Idiots'!

'3 Idiots' rocks!

I loved '3 Idiots',
but more than that, I felt after reading the t2 review (with The Telegraph) of the movie that
the reviewer (Pratim D. Gupta) and I had watched two parallel films!
It was a delight to laugh and cry with a theater full of paying public,
who whistled in joy, and uttered loud cheers, not on account of star gazing,
or as a sign of boosting of some star worshipper's ego,
but for their involvement with the protagonists,
thanks to brilliantly conceived scenes, and the smart dialogues.
The Chetan Bhagat novel - to be very honest - didn't have anything filmable as per the staid Bollywood norms.
But Abhijat Joshi and Rajkumar Hirani has executed the idea in an almost unrecognisable format with much of the filmy Bollywood conventions thrown in, but retaining much of the crisp of the essence the tale's essence.
The movie, infested with some of the finest performances ever, was a pure delight for me!

And finally, let me assert that I am publishing this post not to publicize the movie '3 Idiots' (it has already become a phenomenal success, and is playing in theaters all over) but to state how biased some of our reviewers are and they go ahead with opinionated trash instead of proper critical appraisals, and yet are proved wrong by the paying public! Had t2 published my original critique of the review I would not have bothered to post this. Let me thank my dear friends who convinced me to go ahead with this post, as they felt agitated by the 'Aal izz not well' & 'bhashanbaazi', 'gyaan' tags that tainted the review page of the publication mentioned earlier as it carried the disgustingly biased take on the film for reasons best known to the reviewer in question.

Right now, Aamir Khan and other members of the 3 Idiots team are RIGHT NOW in Kolkata, and there cannot be a greater cause for celebration for us Kolkatans as we usher in the new year after just a few more hours, hopeful for as engaging and better films in the years to come. Thank you, Aamir Khan, thank you for being at the helm of such adorable 'idiocy'! We love you!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

2 Untimely Goodbyes

This is my tribute to the two stars who have had too sad & untimely demise this year.
This year has seen the biggest untimely demise, the passing away of Michael Jackson, the legend.
And while I, along with the whole world, still mourn for his demise, we are stunned by at least two other deaths - that of Stephen Gately, who passed away at the age of 33, in October,
and of Brittany Murphy, who died just the day before yesterday (Sunday, December 20), at the age of 32.
Both have had a body of work that endeared them to me, and millions like me.
Yet, both had a lot more to give.
One wishes that each of them had lived a full & creatively content life.
Here's saying a silent goodbye to them, as with a heavy heart I recall their work that I had been familiar to.
Brittany Murphy
[November 10, 1977 – December 20, 2009]

I have been very fond of Brittany Murphy's portrayals
in films like 'Clueless', 'Girl, Interrupted', '8 Mile',
and 'Uptown Girls'.
I also remember seeing her in films like 'Don't Say a Word', 'Just Married', 'Little Black Book', 'Riding in Cars with Boys' and 'Just Married'.
She has been known for her singing too, apart from her wonderful roles in films.
I had last heard her as the voice of the sweet as well as fetching penguin, Gloria, in one of my most favorite animation films of all time, 'Happy Feet'.

Stephen Gately
[17 March 1976 – 10 October 2009]

Stephen Gately, the Irish singer, shot to fame after becoming part of the pop-group Boyzone. He was one of the lead singers of the boy-band, the other being Ronan Keating. As Boyzone became a rage across the globe in the Nineties, Stephen's fan following just soared unbelievably. He released a successful solo album in 2000, after the group's initial breakup, which charted in the UK top ten and yielded three UK hit singles, including the top three hit "New Beginning". Gately went on to appear variously in successful stage productions and on television programmes as well as contributing further tracks to various projects. In 2008, he rejoined his colleagues as Boyzone reformed for a series of concerts and recordings.
Gately made his sexuality known in 1999 and later had the same-sex marriage with Andrew Cowles. Upon Boyzone's reformation, Gately featured as part of the first gay couple in a boyband's music video in what was to be his last music video with the band, for the song "Better".
My favorite song of Stephen's is "I believe" that featured in the soundtrack of the film 'Billy Elliott'. His vocals in the Boyzone numbers like "Key to my life", "A different beat" and "No matter what" will keep ringing in my ears, and I am sure millions of music-lovers would agree, forever.
[Intentionally, I have omitted the details regarding the circumstances and actual reported facts regarding the aforementioned deaths. First, because this is just a personal tribute post, and also because the reports keep changing with investigation and/or fresh findings.]

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Ani & Bonnie: Talking Tolly

Hello.... here's a bit of letting in....
for those who have been complaining that there hasn't been much of the friendly banter of late....
get into this candid conversation about films, what else, but actually trying to gain a perspective on the Bangla cinema exclusively.
For the uninitiated: Ani is what my friends call me (short for my first name, Anindo) and Bonnie is a dear friend (well a lot more than that, and that's all that you would get in the name of an intro for Bonnie) and a fellow film-buff, or a film junkie!

Ani: Hey, don't you think that things have been looking up for Bangla films of late? I felt surely lucky to get treated to such diverse yet engaging & watchable films this year as 'Antaheen', 'Jackpot', 'Madly Bangali' and, of course, 'Angshumaaner Chhobi' (the best Bangla film of 2009 according to me)...
Bonnie: I cannot sound so optimistic, dear! Though the year began good with 'Antaheen', 'Jackpot', 'Cross Connection' & 'Madly Bangali', most of the films seen later were duds! Only 'Angshumaaner Chhobi' being the exceptionally good offering later in the year.

Ani: Well, the Bangla films do suffer from qualitative mediocrity because of a lot of things, though there is no dearth of talent here in Tollygunge.
Bonnie: The compulsions that the makers are often subjected to are too weirdly traditional.

Ani: What do you mean exactly?
Bonnie: The weird wondrous traditions? Oh there are a plenty, for instance take Prosenjit considered the numero uno in Tollygunge, as if he is the next best thing after the rosogollas of Bengal..... everybody goes gaga now that he backs up supposedly substantial films after having clenched his teeth and flexed his muscles, mostly the facial ones, in umpteen trashy potboilers.
Ani: This year I am sure you saw him in 'Houseful', what you would call a pseudo art-house flick. Prosenjit did deliver what was asked of him. No?
Bonnie: Well, he did.... but wasn't that expected? However, I fell asleep watching that indulgent director Bappaditya Banerjee torturing us, as he would like to torture his critics, with such a boring film!

Ani: I was lucky to see Prosenjit in a gem of a performance in a Buddhadev Dasgupta film, that I saw on home video this year, it's called 'Swapner Din'. Seen it?
Bonnie: Ya, some time back it was released in select theaters during the Pujas. Prosenjit was good in it. I am not saying he is a bad actor, I never said that - he was fantastic in 'Utsab', 'Chokher Baali', 'Dosar' and 'Khela' too, all Rituparno films - don't forget that link..... ha ha ha...
Ani: Did u see some of the new-age films of the year, like 'Bishh' and 'Risk'? I missed seeing both.
Bonnie: I was not so lucky! I found 'Bishh' engaging, but it hardly makes the cut as a decent watch. And the less said about Riingo's 'Risk' is better; it is so moronic on a technically competent director's part to rip-off a Hollywood thriller like 'Cellular'!

Ani: Okay, got your point.... but originality is hardly valued in Bangla films these days. Look at the double successes that Raj Chakraborty had with his 'Challenge' and 'Prem Aamaar', both of which I saw in theaters and saw the mass-connect that is enjoyed by Raj. I might not have approved of the content, but I had to say that this is a director with panache, after all the controversy over a silly song from 'Challenge' (Bhajo gourango....) and the way he gave his sound-bytes on umpteen television channels on the same....
Bonnie: How a young, energetic director like Raj makes silly potboilers is not hard to guess.... it is the lure of the lucre, boss..... but what beats me is that guy's emulation of Subhash Ghai in being in front of the camera in every movie of his! Well, he is at least better looking that Mr Ghai.
Ani: Both Raj & Subhash Ghai had one thing in common, a big fat ambition to be a hero in films.... hence the cameos. But on another note, what do you think of the first Bangla blockbuster that had the gloss thanks to 'digital intermedite' technology? I am talking about 'Dujone'....
Bonnie: Did you see it?
Ani: No, I could not....
Bonnie: It is absolute rubbish. Dev has his limitations as a hero, if you ask me.

Ani: But isn't he the next big thing in Tollygunge after Prosenjit & Jeet?
Bonnie: If you had seen Jeet in this year's 'Saat Paake Baandha' and 'Neel Aakasher Chandni', you would know why Dev still has a long way to go as far as acting is concerned.
Ani: You seem to have a personal bias for Jeet, eh? I am yet to see the two Jeet hits of the year, will surely try to catch them on home videos later.
Bonnie: Well, you may say that I am partial to Jeet. That guy surely worked his way up, and has been able to maintain a stable position as far as commercial viability is concerned. And the Jeet-Koel pairing is truly good. The films would have done much better had it not been for the 'Paran Jaaye Joliya Re' craze that was fanned by the fact that the filmmakers got sued (ashamedly, a first for Bangla films!) for having copied 'Namaste London'.

Ani: Okay, now tell me which was the worst Bangla film seen by you this year?
Bonnie: Cannot name just one, dear. There are so many of them..... as I get to see a lot more of those meaningless, formulaic films than you... the films with those silly imports from Mumbai (be they B, C or Z grade starlets, we have such a fetish for them it seems!), the sillier stunts, and stupidly lifted plotlines.... the majority of the Bangla films are a mess, STILL!!!!! The worst I have seen this year, or should I term it the most gruesome torture of the year that one could be subjected to, was 'Phire Pete Chaai' starring Vivek Trivedi & Arpita Mukherjee. However, there's this one film that I would like to make a mention of which I was heartbroken to see... and that's 'Hitlist' by Sandip Ray, I must have expected a lot more from such a fine filmmaker. It seems he made the mumbo-jumbo pulpy saga having been completely clueless about what he was doing; it left me with a 'neither here - nor there' feel.
Ani: I know what you mean. I too was disappointed by 'Hitlist'. Sandip Ray is a very good filmmaker on his own, and one need not always compare his work with that of his father, Satyajit Ray - the maestro, the legend. I think he needs to be backed by credible producers who can help him realise his creative vision.
Bonnie: That's a far cry, 'cause Tollygunge is always dependent on the non-Bengali 'moneybags', that's as deplorable a tradition as the trend to refer to our film industry by the name of Tollywood, a christening in poor taste!
Ani: That reminds me of the worst Bangla film that I happened to see just a few days back, on VCD..... it's 'Trishna', a Bangla version of the steamy flick 'Jism' (which itself was 'inspired' by a Hollywood product) and it gave me nightmares.....
Bonnie: Yuck! How could you sit through it? It had made me cringe, I remember.

Ani: I had known about it being universally panned.... but could not resist the temptation of seeing Rituparna do the dare-bare routine. Ha ha ha... Well, it definitely has some shock value. Before I end the chat, I would like to say something positive. I just remembered seeing a film that was not exactly in the A-plus league but is worth a watch... it was the pleasant surprise of the year for me, I am referring to the film 'Kaaler Raakhaal'.
Bonnie: I missed out on that? How was Parambrata in it?

Ani: Parambrata was excellent, and so was Rudraneel. I thought that the film by Shekhar Das would be a propagandist bore, but it is eminently watchable, a fine story, fine musical score, and some fine performances.
Bonnie: By the way, I hated Rituparno's 'Sab Charitro Kaalponik', with Bipasha Basu, Prosenjit and Jisshu in the cast. And judging by your review of that movie (in mouthshut.com) it is evident that you did not approve much of it either. Though I think that the whole execution was wrong. The dubbing of Bipasha's voice by Sohini definitely takes the cake for drowning it completely.

Ani: I agree. I am anxious to see 'Kaalbela' which I missed seeing when it released....
Bonnie: Goutam Ghose's 'Kaalbela' was good enough, but it again had a lot more to chew because of the extensive serialsed version that was originally planned for television and was heavily edited for the big-screen release. Paoli Daam is here to stay though, she is a brilliant actress.

Ani: What are the things you are looking forward to in the coming year, as far as Bangla films are concerned?
Bonnie: I am greedy. I am hopeful. I hope for the best. But I am also a bit cynical, when I say that it is really hard to make things change for the better in Bangla films. I am hopeful to see a lot more fresh talents both on and off screen. And the big-ticket release that I am waiting for is Aparna Sen's 'Iti Mrinalini'.

[Pics, from top: stills from 'Jackpot', 'Antaheen', 'Houseful', 'Hitlist', 'Challenge', 'Bishh', 'Trishna', 'Kaaler Raakhaal' and 'Sab Charitro Kalponik'; and the promising actress Paoli Dam; and, a scene from the film 'Madly Bangali'.
Pics courtesy: Google images]
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Monday, December 07, 2009

Movie Viewing, 2009: Top Ten

Here's the list of the top ten movies seen this year:
1) Happy Together (1997) [directed by: Wong Kar-wai]
2) Revolutionary Road (2008) [directed by: Sam Mendes]
3) The Ice Storm (1997) [directed by: Ang Lee]
4) Cinema Paradiso (1988) [directed by: Giuseppe Tornatore]
5) 13 Tzameti (2005) [directed by: Géla Babluani]
6) 500 Days of Summer (2009) [directed by: Marc Webb]
7) Dev. D (2009) [directed by: Anurag Kashyap]
8) Match Point (2005) [directed by: Woody Allen]
9) Wake Up Sid (2009) [directed by: Ayan Mukherjee]
10) Alpha Dog (2006) [directed by: Nick Cassavetes]

As the above list contains only the ten most favorite films of mine, from more than 250 films that I have seen this year, I now name some of the other odd films that stand out among the rest, though they do not make it to the top ten listing. Here they are - some old films, some new; some classy, some popular entertainers; some international films, some Indian; many languages, but all immensely enjoyable - for whatever reason:
Jamón Jamón, Chéri, Brüno, Paths of Glory, Burn After Reading, Invictus, Shine, Lady in the Water, Slumdog Millionaire, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, December, The President is Coming, 10 Items or Less, Romulus - My Father, Luck by Chance, 3 Idiots, Quills, Holy Smoke, Milk, The Reader, Mansfield Park, Rachel Getting Married, The Wrestler, Frozen Days, Frozen River, Frost/Nixon, Little Zizou, Barah Aana, Running Sacred, The Hunting Party, Ask the Dust, The Passion of Ayn Rand, Firaaq, Gulaal, Hunger, Doubt, Mighty Aphrodite, City of God, Tsotsi, About Schmidt, Paradise Now, Crossed Tracks, Rosewood, Enemy of the State, Good Night and Good Luck, Taking Chance, Mad About Mambo, The Counterfeiters, She's the Man, Hangover, Shelter, Broken Sky, To Kill a Mockingbird, ChungKing Express, Shi Mian Mai Fu, The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain, Volver, Kinsey, Holes, The Wind that Shakes the Barley, Australia, The Nanny Diaries, 8 Crazy
Nights, Corpse Bride, Public Enemies, The Great Raid, Inglourious Basterds, The Black Balloon, The Transporter, Irreversible, Perfume - The Story of a Murderer, The Greatest Game Ever Played, 13th Floor, La Zona, AntiChrist, Buying the Cow, Summer with Monika, Hey Goodlooking, Funny People, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Whatever Works, Fireflies in the Garden, The Duchess, Boiler Room, Rocket Singh Salesman of the Year, Get Real, Moon, Snatch, The Narrows, Avatar - 3D, Life Support, The Paranoids, Magique, Divided We Fall, The Householder, It's a Boy Girl Thing, Twilight, The Safety of Objects, Valkyrie, and De Griezelbus.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

AIDS Jaago

Today being World AIDS Day, I am going to talk about a brilliant bouquet of short films that I have had the privilege to see on UTV World Movies;
'AIDS Jaago' is a collection of four short films that address the AIDS menace which has been alarmingly threatening the Indian population just as several other countries worldwide.
The best thing about this collection of short films is that it is multilingual, and the films have been directed by four eminent Indian directors. It features some of the best known actors & actresses from India (from veterans like Shabana Azmi, Pankaj Kapoor, Boman Irani, Irrfan to the younger breed of talented performers like Siddharth, Prabhu Deva, Ayesha Takia, Sameera Reddy, Raima Sen and Arjun Mathur.

In each, the treatment is unique and the narrative keeps the viewer engrossed despite the foreknowledge that it primarily spreads awareness. None of the films have a dry, preachy tone that often makes many a well-intentioned docu-feature fail to connect with its target audience. Here, the dialogues are crisp, the screenplay taut and the performances competent; I can easily say that the films offer much more than the nuggets of wisdom regarding tackling of the AIDS menace & its preventive safeguards; a young film enthusiast can aspire to learn a lot from the masters by just watching their craft.

Made in 2007, in 35 mm, 'AIDS Jaago' is an Indo-American co-production, graced by the funding from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The total length of the film, with all the four segments, is just 71 minutes.
The segments are as follows:
Migration, directed by Mira Nair;
Prarambha/The Beginning, directed by Santosh Sivan;
Positive, directed by Farhan Akhtar;
Blood Brothers ,directed by Vishal Bharadwaj.

Of all the four films, I particularly loved Prarambha/The Beginning , the Kannada film by Santosh Sivan. In it, a truck driver (played by Prabhu Deva) meets a boy searching for his mother who had left him when she had learnt about being HIV-positive. The way in which the simpleton tries to get the boy, who also has the virus, back into school is touching in a dramatic way, yet it is every bit reflective of the real-life scenario.

In Blood Brothers, Siddharth plays a young man whose life falls apart after being told that he has got the virus; he is plagued by the guilt of having given in to carnal digression. In true Vishal Bharadwaj style, there is a bit of suspense too, and the character of Pawan Malhotra is shown acquiring an uncanny significance later in the tale.

In Migration, Mumbai go-getter Abhay (played by Irrfan) leads a double life, with his wife, Divya (Sameera Reddy), and a gay lover. Impoverished farmer Birju (Shiney Ahuja) has amorous encounters with the neglected Divya, while his own wife (Raima Sen) & baby test positive.

In Positive, a son returns home to nurse his once-philandering father, who is dying of AIDS. Shabana Azmi & Boman Irani excel as usual.

If you haven't been lucky to catch the films on television, you can surely watch them online at the Jaman site. [http://www.jaman.com/aidsjaago]
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