Thursday, June 12, 2008

Genernation NeXt…has arrived!

1) Ranbir Kapoor: Son of Rishi Kapoor, grand-son of Raj Kapoor and great grand-son of Prithviraj Kapoor, Ranbir Kapoor is the next biggest star-son to enter Bollywood. Despite a flop outing with his debut film SAAWARIYA, he managed to prove that he’s an competent actor with an extremely likeable screen presence and all the qualities that would catapult him in to the top rung (females love the guy!!). Despite his chocolatey looks, Ranbir also has the most interesting line-up of films on hand and not just sticking to the romantic and light-hearted roles like his father did for the most. Apart from Yashraj’s BACHCHNA AE HASEENO where he plays a cassanova he has Raj Kumar Santoshi’s AJAB PREM KI GHAZAB(his father Rishi worked with Santoshi in DAMINI), Mani Rathnam’s next(a solo), Prakash Jha’s RAJNITI(plays Rajiv Gandhi), Karan Johar’s MY NAME IS KHAN(plays a terrorist), and a untitled film with TIPS. He has also said yes to his friend Vikramjit Singh’s films MERA JAHAAN where he plays a Sikh salesman called Rocket Rocky Singh!

2) Neil Nitin Mukesh: The son Nitin Mukesh and grandson of Mukesh made a firey debut with Sriram Raghavan’s masterpiece JOHNNY GADDARR. Before his debut he was compared with Hrithik Roshan, however it was evident that he was determined to carve a niche of his own. Playing a anti-hero who doesn’t care about anything but money, Neil Nitin Mukesh sprung a surprise on everyone with a stunning debut which oozed confidence. The actor has also decided to ensure he has a mix of interesting films from the commercial fare’s to the more offbeat. His forthcoming films include Sudhir Mishra’s TERA KYA HOGA JOHNNY? (he plays Parvez not Johnny here), Yash Chopra’s Next directed by Kabir Khan (KAABUL EXPRESS), FREEZE with Eros International co-starring Koena Mitra and Amrita Arora and Mahdur Bhandarkar’s FASHION.

3) Mimoh Chakraborthy: One would’ve thought the son of legendary actor Mithun would’ve got a better debut than the jaded 80’s reminder JIMMY. Mimoh’s debut film was a complete and total disaster at the boxoffice and the reviews were less than favourable too. His voice needs to be worked on(a criticism his father also faced), and his appearances need to be worked on too. However despite that Mimoh has a stack of films lined up for release; the bad news is most of them too sound B grade with some directed by JIMMY director Raj Sippy! HAMILTON PALACE(produced by old-timer Salim and directed by Raj Sippy), INDIA ROCKS(a musical opposite Riya Sen), and LOOT(most promising of the lot, produced by Sunil Shetty and co-starring AAP KA SURROOR girl Hanshika Motwani and also Govinda).

4) Sikander Kher: Son of legendary actors Anupam Kher and Kirron Kher; Sikander Kher made his debut a few weeks back with the Sanjay Gupta produced thriller WOODSTOCK VILLA. He made his debut as an anti-hero and most critics have praised his performance and potential too. His next immediate release is SUMMER 2007 opposite the delightful Gul Panang.

5) Harman Baweja: Never before has the debut movie of an actor been so costly, veteran director Harry Baweja (DILWALE, DILJALE, DEEWANE, QAYAMAT) directs thuis sci-fi love story with special FX never seen before in India. The movie has been made on an astronomical budget and co-stars Harman’s real life beau Priyanka Chopra. Harman’s become famous for being a Hrithik “clone”. Not only his looks and the fact he’s treading on terrortiry ruled by Hrithik in KOI MIL GAYA and KRRISH, dancing seems to be one of his biggest fortes. Will Harman live up to the hype remains to be seen. Though one thing is for sure, he isn’t going anywhere soon with films like Ashutosh Gowariker’s Next, Ajit Pals VICTORY opposite Amrita Rao, Anees Bazmee’s ITS MY LIFE with Genelia D’Souza and Nana Patekar.

6) Imraan Khan: Nephew of Aamir Khan (he played the younger version of Aamir Khan in QSQT abd JJWS) and grand-son of Nasir Hussain makes his debut with the sweet looking love story JAANE TU YA JAANE NA. The movie is being produced by Aamir Khan himself(after LAGAAN and TAARE ZAMEEN PAR) and directed by Abbas Tyrewala who makes his debut. The gorgeous Genelia D’Souza is cast opposite him,and the music is by A.R Rehman. Incidentially, the film clashes with Harman Baweja’s HUGE LOVE STORY 2050…will Imraan see success with his much smaller debut? Moving forward, it’s evident Imraan has the upper hand as far as projects go; Imraan has Sanjay Gadhvi’s KIDNAP with Sanjay Dutt and Soham Shah’s next produced by Karan Johar.

7) Shiv Darshan (CALM DOWN SHETTY BHAI): Not much is known about him, except he is making his debut soon. Son of Suneel Darshan, Suneel has gone on record to say that he will be the next Akshay Kumar (no doubt bitter after Akshay has left him). The Darshan Bros. will sign Shiv for all their movies too….but will Shiv stay around? And will others sign him?

8) Rahul Bhatt: Again not much is known about him. Son of Mahesh Bhatt, he will make his debut with SUICIDE BOMBER directed by Anurag Basu. Given the Bhatt’s are usually successful at launching their own in-house actors who give them hits(Emraan, Shiney) Rahul could well follow.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Akshay Shah Reviews 1971 (Hindi, 2007)

Akshay Shah Reviews 1971 (Hindi, 2007)

The year 2007 saw a lot of movies that were simply criminally underrated. Movies that deserved a whole lot more acclaim, accolades and popularity then they deserved…..add another one to the list; 1971; a hard-hitting and emotionally rending film which deserves to be seen by everyone.

On face value 1971 looks like a war film along the lines of say J.P Dutta’s BORDER or LINE OF CONTROL, however once you watch the movie you realise it’s an engaging and exciting tale of survival. In-fact the story of the movie is closer to Milan Luthria’s DEEWAAR-LETS BRING OUR HEROES HOME and it tackles the same theme. The key difference here is debutant Amrit Sagar and writer Moti Sagar get everything right!

A clan of six Indian prisoners of war -- Major Suraj Singh [Manoj Bajpai], Captain Jacob [Ravi Kissen], Subedar Ahmed [Chitaranjan Giri], Captain Kabir [Kumud Mishra], Flight Lt. Ram [Manav Kaul] and Flight Lt. Gurtu [Deepak Dobriyal] -- decide to make the most daring escape from a Pakistani prison camp to the Indian border. What ensues is a gut-wrenching and heart-pounding chase, across the unpredictable terrain, where these men brave inhuman weather conditions and the constant threat of the Pakistani officials on the hunt for the P.O.W.s.

With nothing to rely on except each other and the love of their beloved homeland the men will stop at no cost to achieve their goal, or die in the process.

The story by Moti Sagar is based on plain hard facts, and the writer has ensured that he serves full and complete justice to the subject at hand. There are two things that strike you about the story, the first is that it would’ve been very easy to turn a subject like this in to a documentary, and Sagar clearly avoids this as 1971 is quiet frankly the most entertaining “escape” film I’ve seen from India in a VERY long time. Secondly, a theme like this is easy to turn in to a jingoistic finger pointing exercise, however Sagar avoids this path completely too. Yes, the movie does call a spade a spade, but never does it get offensive (much like Kashyap’s BLACK FRIDAY).

The screenplay by Piyush Mishra is tremendous. Right from the start to the very end the movie is an enaging, egde-of-your-seat thrill-ride which is relentless. The movie gets more and more gripping as it progresses. The first half set in the prison camp does a remarkable job at showing the viewer life in one of these camps, and the thorough research that has gone in to the subject matter is clearly visible in each and every frame. However from the point the escape takes place, the graph only rises further and further. The sequences that follow range from exciting, gripping to horrific and truly disturbing. Though Bollywood has explored films in this genre with films like LAKSHYA, LOC, BORDER, AB TUMHARE HAWALE WATAN SAATHIYON, and DEEWAAR-LBOHH; 1971 covers new facets of the genre which has never been touched before. 1971 is ultimately a tale of survival against all odds, and a undying determination to go back home.

Director Amrit Sagar deserves a full round of applause. This is a stunning debut from a rookie, and Sagar is no doubt one very talented director who has inherited all right family genes(he does belong to the Ramanand Sagar family). Not once can viewers tell this is the work of a first-timer as each and every part of the movie is so seamless in it’s pacing, and so superlative in it’s narrative. The unflinching honesty, the brutal violence and the complexity of the topic is just not something you expect from a debutant (though Kashyap did the same in BLACK FRIDAY, mind you he went to “school” with SATYA). There isn’t a single scene that is unwarranted or undeeded and the emotional impact of the movie is simply staggering.

The performances in the movie are of a high order, and despite a cast of mostly “up and comers” or newcomers, the performances leave a lasting impression.

Manoj Bajpai roars yet again! I had started giving up hope on Bajpai being a part of a quality film worthy of his talent again, however he springs a neat surprise with a knock-out performance. This isn’t on the same par as his earlier works like SATYA, SHOOL, KAUN, PINJAR or AKS, however this is a strong performance which leaves a hammering impact!
Ravi Kissen (Bhojpuri Superstar) surprises with a soft performance. In many scenes he instantly reminded me of Mohanlal be it the delivery or the get-up(compliment enough).

Chittaranjan Giri is equally strong. Kumud Mishra and Manav Kaul are both efficient and excel in the sceneds they have. Deepak Dobriyal is spectacular, and this is the third performance in a row where Dobriyal has totally impressed me (first being OMKARA and second being SHAURYA).

The most vital aspect of a “escape” movie has to be the chemistry between it’s stars(again something DEEWAAR-LBOHH lacked sorely), and the cast here are natural to the core.

Technically again the movie is a slick product, and again this is a department the movie has been over-looked. Chirantan Das’s camerawork is stunning, and worthy of accolades. Shyam Salgaonkar’s editing is crisp never once losing focus on the subject at hand. Shyam Kaushals action sequences are slick.

All up 1971 is a MUST-SEE! Do not miss this movie as it’s quiet easily one of the finest 2007 had to offer….

Overall Rating: 8.0/10.0

Monday, June 9, 2008

Akshay Shah Reviews MIXED DOUBLES (Hindi, 2006)

Akshay Shah Reviews MIXED DOUBLES (Hindi, 2006)

I make it no secret that I hold Rajat Kapur and his brand of cinema in high regard, be it his directional debut RAGHU ROMEO or his last venture MITHYA. In between Kapur delivered this refreshing, witty, honest and very funny urban comedy about a middle-class indian couple who decide to try…swinging!
In the hands of anyone else this could’ve turned in to a shameless sex comedy where the emphasis is on lewd and crude jokes. In the hands of Kapur and his team the movie is a classy comedy with ample doses of every-day humour and some very identifiable characters.

The story by Rajat Kapur himself revolves around a young couple in their early 30’s; Sunil (Ranvir Shourie) and Malti (Konkona Sen Sharma) who live in Mumbai with their young son. On face value the couple have everything that should make a happy marriage; double income one kid, a nice apartment, decent job, some good friends, and all the luxuries of life. However one thing is clear, the sexual spark that was there in the early years of marriage is now clearly missing as Sunil is lacking his “mojo”. It’s driving Sunil up the wall…until his American return friend put the idea of wife swapping aka “swinging” in to his head, and a adamant Sunil is dying to experiment at any costs. Malti thinks Sunil is going mad and is completely against the idea, however Sunil slowly manages to convince her. Sunil and Malti meet-up with another couple who are more experienced and have done this before; Vinod (Rajat Kapur) and Kalpana (Koel Purie). The couples decide to meet over dinner and drinks…however does the night go as planned?

The first thing that strikes one about Kapur’s story is it’s sheer honest and realism. The scenes in the movie are straight out of everyday life, and it’s Kapur’s ability to write such a entertaining “slife-of-life” that really makes MIXED DOUBLES work. The theme at hand is indeed bold, but the manner in which the story has been written makes it identifiable to the viewer, and despite the boldness of the subject matter this is essentially a tale about an ordinary couple trying to salvage their marriage through some desperate measures. However if there is a culprit here it’s the screenplay. The movie is simply fantastic up to the final 30 minutes, from the point the couples finally meet til the end the movie does slumber and the end does come across as very rushed. It’s as If the writers didn’t know how to end the film? Or to clarify the consequences of the events any further which would’ve no doubt made for some superb dramatic moments in the tale.

As a director Rajat Kapur is one whom I’ve aways greatly admired. A man of vision who knows how to take a story and tell is superbly wel. He isn’t a “showy showman” ala Subhash Ghai nor does he try to be. His greatest ability is to take a relatively simple story on paper, and bring out the complexities of the subject matter without over-complicating the movie. It’s been his single strength through his first movie to his last. MIXED DOUBLES in some ways is his weakest effort simply because the crucial 30-35 minutes of the finale come across as a disappointment. Ranvir’s outburst is as expected once he finds out Konkona has slept with Rajat (this was bound to happen given what a “baby” Ranvir’s character was shown from the start, and Rajat is perfect in bringing out the “it’s a mans world” philosophy of things). However the finale is less than desired. Even the sequences between Ranvir and Koel comes across as a means for some lame laughs which never quiet hit the right mark. Why does Koel’s character behave the way she does? Also it would’ve been good to see explored what finally pushes Konkona over the line to sleep with Rajat.

The dialogues in the movie by Anurag Kashyap and Rajat Kapur deserve a special mention as they elevate the movie in countless places. Funny, poignant, and VERY real, they are no doubt one of the films greatest assets.

The performances in the movie are ace, and feature all of Kapur’s usual suspects(including himself).

Ranvir Shourie is an actor I hold in a very high regard after his performance in this years MITHYA which to my mind still remains the finest male performance of 2008. In earlier films like KHOSLA KA GHOSLA, PYAAR KE SIDE EFFECTS and TRAFFIC SIGNAL he proved his brilliance, however in MITHYA he took his talents and abilities to another level. MIXED DOUBLES in that retrospect plays on all of Shourie’s strengths. It’s essentially a comic role with a lot of heart and sou, and in many ways an extension of Shourie’s Naanu act in PYAAR KE SIDE EFFECTS. His delivery and facial expressions are bang-on each time.

Konkona Sen Sharma is magnificent (when is she not?). As the wife in a dilemma due to her husbands demanding and babyish manner she hits all the right notes, and shares some superlative chemistry with Shourie.

Rajat Kapur is OK in a small role. Koel Purie’s character needed to be written better. Saurabh Shukla lends fabulous support as always. Vinay Patthak is a knock-out in a small role. Nasserdian Shah is efficient as always.

Sagar Desai’s music is good. Technically the movie is well done and in sync with the movies story and budget. Rafey Mehmood’s camerawork gels with the mood of the film perfectly.

All up MIXED DOUBLES is a refreshing, engaging, funny, witty and original story that is well worth a watch despite it’s flaws.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10.0


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Akshay Shah Reviews HUM (Hindi, 1991)

Akshay Shah Reviews HUM (Hindi, 1991)

If there was ever a director after the likes of Prakash Mehra, Ramesh Sippy and Yash Chopra who fully understood Amitabh Bachchan, and his “angry young man” legacy it was none other than the Late Mukul ANand. Anand made a trilogy with Bachchan which started with AGNEEPATH (1990), then came HUM, and finally KHUDA GAWAH (1992). While AGNEEPATH is undeniably the better film, HUM is one that quiet easily remains my personal favourite though I liked the film considerably less on this watch as the flaws are more glaringly evident than ever.

The movie revolves around Bhaktawar (Danny Denzongpa); a criminal mastermind, whose most active territory is the dockyard. He constantly gets irritated by the dockyard's union leader, Tiger (Amitabh Bachchan), and only tolerates him because Tiger's dad (Deepak Shirke) is his trusted and loyal bodyguard. When Tiger’s best friend Goinsalves (Romesh Sharma) is killed by Bhaktawar Tiger leads a revolt against Bhaktawar entering his house with the intent to kill, however a conniving and cunning cop Giridhar (Anupam Kher) tells Tiger to run for his life. Giridhar in the meantime has Bhaktawar arrested, burns his house, murders his wife and daughters and blames Tiger. Tiger runs for his life even abandoning his lady love Jumalina Gonsalves (Kimi Katkar). Years later, Tiger surfaces as a bespectacled mild-mannered man who now goes by the name of Shekhar, with two younger brothers Kumar (Rajnilkanth) and Vijay (Govinda). As fate would have it, the past catches up with Shekhar who is once again reminded of his dark past….and once again he becomes Tiger and returns to the old Mumbai dockyard…once again for his family.

Just the other week when watching TASHAN I described masala cinema as …”the kind of cinema which makes you want to travel to the single screen theatres, whistle, clap, make noise and throw coins at the screen. The kind of cinema which ultimately makes you want to go wild, makes your heart thump in excitement and whether you realise it or not you’re sitting there with a big stupid grin on your face, the “masala” cinema of Bombay which is only seen in brief flickers these days…” and folks, the first 1 hour of HUM is exactly that cinema in it’s truest and bluest form. The story by Ravi Kapoor and Mohan Kaul is superb to say the least. The age old themes of family, love, honour and revenge are repackaged in the most entertaining of masala pot-boilers with HUM. The idea of a man escaping from his dark and tainted past only for it to come back and haunt him is one that has been superbly written.

However the biggest let-down here is Ravi Kapoor and Mohan Kaul’s screenplay. The first hour of the movie is pure masala gold, however from the point we’re introduced to a older and “retired” Tiger the movie stagnates considerably. The scenes of the “loving family” have been well depicted, however there have been too many unnecessary sub-plots added which hinder the films pace considerably. The entire plot-line about duplicate Kader Khan and also Captain Zattack stand out like a sore thumb now more than ever. The pace does pick up again at the moment Deepa Sahi is kidnapped right up to the very end.

As a director Mukul.S.Anand to my mind is one of the biggest losses ever to the Hindi film industry. Much like Santoshi, he was a authentic masala film-maker who understood the legacy of Amitabh Bachchan; the superstar, and Amitabh Bachchan; the actor all too well and managed to merge the two together in to one in the most spell-binding manner across three fantastic (and note diametrically different) films. The best film of the lot will always be AGNEEPATH, however I have a great weakness for the persona of Tiger that Anand creates in HUM. Anand knows all too well the kind of mass hysteria and superstardom associated with Amitabh, and Tiger is a character that in essence symbolises Bachchan’s entire persona, the crowd-pleasing man of the masses, Tiger is a lowly slum dwelling “goonda” with a heart of gold. A “man’s man”….saviour for the poor and a death-wish to the rich. Thing with Anand was that he knew all too well that this persona would only work, but to a certain extent as by 1991 age was slowly catching up to Bachchan, and it was time to add a new facet to the age old Bachchan persona (he couldn’t continue playing the “angry young man” for too much longer), hence showing him as a “angry young man” in the first hour, and then having him re-appear as a mild-mannered and lovable family man is not only a spectacular re-working on the superstars image, but also one that offers the viewer the rare insight as to what would happen IF the “angry young man” ran away from the world and decided to lead a normal life only to have his past catch up with him? And again, in the finale, having Tiger re-enter the docks as his old-self shows Anand’s grasp over the realm of Bachchan’s legacy. The thing with HUM is, unlike AGNEEPATH and KHUDA GAWAH, it’s a less serious film. HUM is a all out, no holds-barred masala entertainer, and while the first hour has enough gritty, raw Bachchan action for those who wanted another AGNEEPATH-esque film, the film however does shift gears in to a more traditional film. The portions in the middle are even forgettable in some cases, whilst the family sequences have been well canned with plenty of heart, the forced comic sequences and extended love story of Govinda seems jarring. The drama however does pick up considerably once Amitabh’s past catches up with him right up to action-packed finale. Anand’s work in both AGNEEPATH and KHUDA GAWAH proves that he was a director of pure class, a cut above the rest with his seamless direction and larger-than-life story-telling. With HUM he gets it right most of the time, though with a tighter screenplay it could’ve been much better. Even technically, the first hour of HUM is simply unbeatable, the entire ambience and atmosphere that Anand creates with the dock setting is so vivid and enticing it’s hard for one to take their eyes of the screen. As a director, on the whole HUM wasn’t Anand’s best film, however on the whole, I would argue that this was quiet easily Anand’s “massiest” film with moments of golden masala. Such was the hype of HUM at the time it came out, whether you were Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, Afghani or Iraqi…you knew “Jhumma Chumma De De”!

The background score……the angry roar of a tiger…..the flying kicks and power-house punches….right from his “seeti-taali” entry Bachchan was at his massiest best as Tiger. Infact, I would say that Bachchan in the first hour of HUM is quiet easily one of the best “masala” performances of the 90’s. Everything that made the audience fall in love with Amitabh Bachchan; the legend; in the first place can be seen in that first hour. The anger, the “street” appeal, the “mass” appeal, the rugged charm, the swagger, the delivery, and the fight scenes. The persona of Tiger allowed Bachchan to play to the gallery and he is simply outstanding here. However what I liked about HUM was the re-emergence of Tiger as Shekhar. Bachchan as the mild-mannered family man was equally brilliant here and he perfectly underplays his character. Sequences like when Govinda asks him “bhaiyya aapne kabhi kisi ko laat, ghussa ya punch maara hai” and he has a flashback to his younger self is simply priceless. One of my favourite moments in HUM as far as Bachchan’s acting goes, is actually a much quieter scene. It’s the sequence where someone rings and asks for Tiger years later, and we get a momentary glimpse of a blank-faced Bachchan sitting there as he realises that his worst nightmares are finally coming true…..and that his past has finally come back to haunt him. If ever one facial expression could delivery a 1000 words then this is it! After AGNEEPATH, this to my mind is Bachchan’s finest performance from the 90’s (though I have a great weakness for AKAYLA and INDRAJEET as well, but that’s for another day).

HUM is also a feat because it managed to bring in to one frame three of India’s “massiest” stars, Bachchan, Rajnikanth and Govinda who all shared magnificent chemistry with each other.

Rajnikanth is great here in a supporting role, he plays his part efficiently and what really stands out is his warm and natural chemistry with Bachchan. His “clash” sequence with Amitabh would have to be one of my favorites in the movie and he does a splendid job. Surprisingly, Rajnikanth did HUM at a time where he was featuring in Hindi films more frequently. HUM aside, he had FARISHTAY, PHOOL BANE ANGAARAY, THALAPATHI(dubbed in to Hindi as DAL-PATY) and Mukul.S.Anand’s other little gem KHOON KA KARZ. Rajni from what I have read in past interviews, left such a thunderous affect on Govinda, whom later did a film titled HATHKADI where for the entire movie Govinda mimics and imitates Rajni’s style! Incidentially Rajnikanth himself did a remake of Bachchan’s HUM with himself taking on Bachchan’s role titled BAADSHA in 1995!

Govinda was in fine form himself here and left his mark. His comic scenes were great and despite the towering presence of Bachchan and the presence of another super-star with Rajni he didn’t get completely over-shadowed.

This was no doubt Kimi Katkar’s finest performance to date, and her one true claim to fame. She reached dizzying heights globally as “Jumma” after which she disappeared off the face of the earth. She plays her part well, and surprisingly made a good match opposite Bachchan too. Their scenes together in the first half are a lot of fun.

Deepa Sahi is an actress I had a huge crush on. She not only looks gorgeous, she acts gracefully and is a complete natural. However unfortunately, with the exception of HUM, MAYA MEMSAAB, OH DARLING YEH HAI INDIA and AAR YA PAAR the actress was never to be seen again.

Shilpa Shriodkor is just aboutOK here and fails to leave much of a mark.

Danny Denzgopa is remarkably as Bhaktawar and his ranks as the second best performance in the movie after Bachchan’s. As the money hungry businessman, or the disturbed and revenge-seeking jail-bird Denzgopa is just perfect and shines with his electric presence and menacing delivery. One of my favourite Denzgopa performances ever.

AnupamKher is annoying here and hams it to a hilt. Granted his chemistry with Annu Kapoor is natural, and the two seem to be having a lot of fun, however after a point Kher fails to evoke any scares and ends up coming across as a buffoon.

Deepak Shirke is good as Bachchan’s dad. Romesh Sharma is apt as Gonsalves. Shiva is painful as Captain Zattack.

Mukul.S.Anand was no doubt technically one of the finest directors India had., A visionary who knew how to handle a huge budget and make a true “blockbuster” film, and HUM was no different. W.B Rao’s camerawork has aged a little, however the spellbinding shots of Mumbai dock-yards in the first half alone are applaud-worthy. R. Verman’s art-work is magnicient. Ravi Dewan’s action sequences are top-notch too.

Which finally brings me to Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s music……JHUMMA CHUMMA DE DE created global mass hysteria….the song, it’s picturisaton, Bachchan’s dancing, everything about it was legendary and to this date the song remains a landmark event of the 90’s! The other track which is the title track is also splendid, and cements the central theme of the movie well.

All up HUM hasn’t aged that well overall as a movie. Like I said right at the start, the flaws stand out now more than ever, however if there is one thing that only gets better with time it’s Bachchan’s performance, the flawless first hour, and the dramatic last hour; which alone leaves the viewer more than satisfied.

Overall Rating: 8.0/10.0


Saturday, May 31, 2008

Akshay Shah Reviews KUDRAT (Hindi, 1981)

Akshay Shah Reviews KUDRAT (Hindi, 1981)

The reincarnation genre is one I have a great weakness for, not only does it make up for a riveting watch if done correctly, it’s a genre that has given Hindi cinema one of it’s finest films. Chetan Anand’s KUDRAT is without a doubt the finest entry in to the genre (alongside Roy’s MADHUMATI and Ghai’s KARZ). An eerie, haunting and suspenseful murder mystery executed to utmost perfection, enhanced by excellent performances and featuring one of the finest album’s music albums EVER in a Hindi film….KUDRAT is a bona-fide classic. And yes, despite 22 years passing since it’s release the movie is just as exhilarating now as it was back when it released.

The film revolves around Chandramukhi (Hema Malini) who with her parents goes on holiday to Simla. Chandramukhi’s mum runs in to her childhood who lives im Simla with her psychiatrist son Naresh (Vinod Khanna). There is instant attraction between Chandramukhi and Naresh however their joy is short-loved as Chandramukhi has a horrific nightmare on her first night there where she’s chasing a man who. The night mare occurs again on the second night which prompts Naresh to hypnotize her , he starts by walking her through her adult years, then younger years and before he knows it he’s taken her back to her previous life where her name was Paro! Inexperienced in the field, Naresh stops the hypnosis immediately. However Chandramukhi’s situation keeps on getting worse as slowly she starts recollecting bits and pieces of her previous life as she spends more time in Simla. She also finds herself getting strangely attracted to Public Prosecutor Mohan Kapoor (Rajesh Khanna) who is to marry Advocate Karuna (Priya Raajvansh). Karuna is the daughter of Simla’s wealthiest and most respected man; Choudhury Jannak Singh (Raaj Kumar). Chandramukhi is convinced that Mohan is her lover Madhao from a previous life however Mohan doesn’t believe in reincarnation at first, though eventually something clicks in him and he realises that Chandramukhi is telling the truth and he breaks off his engagement to Karuna. Choudhury Jannak Singh decides to announce the engagement of his daughter to Mohan regardless, Chandramukhi is also invited to the party, and when she meets Choudhury she reacts with a blood-curdling scream. Skeletons now tumble out of the closet one by one as an age old investigation is taken to court. The crime? Rape and murder of an innocent village girl called Paro by Choudhury Jannak Singh. The race against time is on as Mohan and Naresh start trying to gather evidence to prove that this heinous crime did actually occur.

Chetan Anand’s story is simply a work of art. Anand is no doubt a passionate writer who has taken his time to painstakingly craft this remarkable tale with total conviction. Like any great story-teller Anand doesn’t rush in to his tale, and takes his time in establishing the core crux of the story and allows the viewer to completely become involved into the proceedings. It’s hard to slot KUDRAT in to a genre as such, as unlike other reincarnation tales, this is one that truly brings out the “horror” of reincarnation, and genre’s flawlessly merge in to one. There are parts of the movie which has enough chills to give most Hindi horror films a run for their money, the suspense is spellbinding and riveting at the same time, and this is without a doubt one of the greatest murder mysteries ever told in Hindi cinema. At the same time, Anand ensures there is enough heart in his love story for the viewers to really become attached to Madhao and Paro. The story of KUDRAT is a benchmark for directors still as it’s a tightly woven , multi-layered, highly complex tale which doesn’t falter once, and manages to only get better and better with each passing frame.

The screenplay of the movie much like Anand’s story is again a work of a master craftsman at the very top of his game. Right from the start when Hema Malini is first entering Simla, the viewers know they are in for a experience like no other. The first half of the movie keeps the viewer in tenterhooks throughout as one never quiet knows where the story is going. The manner in which the mystery is built-up slowly as each piece of the puzzle is revealed with each subsequent flashback is a brilliant touch. The sequence at the party when Hema Malini comes face to face with Raaj Kumar is a classic one, and one that is still used as a reference point, or copied until today. From that point the movie again takes a number of sharp turns which leaves the viewer breathless right up to the finale.

As a director this in my view is his finest film to date; a exemplary effort which remains completely unmatched. As a story-teller his narrative is like reading the most gripping novel one could imagine. He takes his time and reveals each layer of the story one by one leaving the viewer completely engrossed in the proceedings. The shift in genres, the use of flashbacks in the narrative and the subsequent twists and turns in the story are all perfectly done. Anand’s understand of the complex theme at hand is commendable, and while other film-makers have attempted the subject before, it’s Anand’s unique fusion of terrifying horror, chilling suspense, pounding murder mystery, poignant love story and above all a dramatic fight for justice which sets KUDRAT aside from the rest. It’s evident in each frame that Chetan Anand was a passionate film-maker, and quiet frankly one whom was clearly a cut above a number of directors in the industry at that time. His work is classy, elegant and certainly very polished. He pushes the envelope constantly and avoids clich├ęs throughout. Even taking the story to the court-room finale could’ve come across as staged however again this is a refreshing touch here which is a perfect narrative device. Also his ability to visually transport the viewer to different era’s too is simply amazing. The entire British Raaj sequence is simply surreal and an absolute pleasure to watch.

Another thing which Chetan Anand must be given full credit for is taking a A-list multi cast and giving each and every cast member an unforgettable role. Much like Ramesh Sippy’s SHOLAY, KUDRAT is a film where every cast member, not matter how big or small, is given a role that the viewer simply can’t forget.

Raaj Kumar as an actor is one who I’ve always found relatively overrated. No doubt one of the most stylish men to ever grace the silver screen in Hindi cinema, his unique voice, and unmatched style made him an immense pleasure to watch, however on the acting front I found him relatively wooden a lot of the times. In saying that KUDRAT is quiet easily one of my favourite Raaj Kumar performances ever. His diction and delivery is absolutely amazing here, and his presence simply electrifying. He brings out the negative shade in his character with aplomb and ignites the screen each time. Be it the flashback sequence when he’s shown as the younger and devious rapist or scenes like his verbal showdown with Rajesh Khanna (“ehsaan faramosh”); this is a unforgettable performance.

Rajesh Khanna is great here too. He plays both the dual roles of Madhao and Mohan with aplomb and leaves his mark. Though he doesn’t have that much to do in the first half (which is only 1 hour 9 minutes); but he comes forth in the second half with a dynamic performance. He ensures that both Madhao and Mohan are completely contrasting and is convincing in both roles. His courtroom sequences in the finale are dynamite!

This is quiet easily one of Hema Malini’s best performance. Overall she’s an actress who always annoyed me quiet a bit with her whiney delivery, however in KUDRAT she is fabulous. As the troubled an disturbed Chandramukhi she plays out the inner complexities of her character perfectly.

Vinod Khanna’s performance here is one of my favorites, and one I can rank quiet highly. Despite being a supporting turn Khanna manages to steal quiet a number of scenes he’s in with a natural performance as the helpful Dr. Naresh. He looks dashing as ever, and his confidence, presence and delivery are all exemplary.

If there is one huge flaw in the movie that stands out like a sore thumb, it’s Priya Raajvansh. The character she plays is crucial to the movie, however her performance is one that grates on the viewers nerves, and in many scenes it’s as annoying as nails on a chalkboard. Her voice modulation and delivery is very poor, and she sticks out like a sore thumb. She does surprise in a few scenes in the climax, however in the hands of a more capable actress this role could’ve been something else.
As I mentioned earlier, each and every smaller character stands out with a class act. Infact, the cast features quiet a number of my favourite performances. Aruna Irani is delightful as Satto and this is no doubt one of her finest. Satyen Kapoo is reliable as ever. Tom Alter is fantastic in a brief role. Devan Verma leaves his mark. Keshto Mukherjee is a knock-out in his part. Ditto for A.K Hangal who features in one of best sequences in the whole movie. Despite only being on-screen for a few minutes, his “deewarr ke peeche” sequence is piece of cinematic gold.

KUDRAT also features what is quiet easily the best soundtrack to ever feature in a Hindi film. Never has a soundtrack been so complete, so perfect and so absolutely legendary as R.D Burman’s evergreen tunes in KUDRAT. Each and every song is so diametrically different. HUMEIN TUMSE PYAAR KITNA is a “anthem” of sorts in the music world, and one that is still looked up to today. The song itself is very simple, and that’s what works for it. It features in the movie a number of times, and each version is absolutely amazing. TUNE O RANGEELE is again a soothing romantic number which is gold. CHODO SANAM is a personal favourite, a club number which quiet easily gives most of today’s club numbers a run for their money. SAAWAN BADHO is a splendid rural song which is lilting and foot-tapping. And finally, my favourite, the title song which plays at various intervals throughout the movie, again a haunting number which acts as part of the narrative as it tells it’s own story.

Technically KUDRAT surprised me after al these years. The movie is slick, classy, and very elegant. Each and every shot is a visual delight, and in today’s modern age it holds it’s own like a classic vintage painting. The camerawork by Jai Mistry deserves a standing ovation. The entire landscape and surrounding of Shimla has been magically captured. Sudhendu Roy’s art-work too is a feast for the eyes. Keshav Naidu’s editing is slick.

All up KUDRAT is a bona-fide masterpiece. A fully accomplished piece of work from a master-craftsman which has aged like fine wine.

Overall Rating: 9.5/10.0


Akshay Shah Reviews ANAMIKA (Hindi, 2008)

Akshay Shah Reviews ANAMIKA (Hindi, 2008)

Believe it or not I had some level of hopes from ANAMIKA for a number of reasons, firstly because this was to be Ananth Mahadevan’s last film in his thriller trilogy (AKSAR and AGGAR were the other two which were relatively good time-pass thrillers) and secondly because Dino Morera’s last thriller BHRAM was again a decent effort…however ANAMIKA is a complete dud which leaves the viewer totally disappointed and the biggest culprit is the story.

The movie draws inspiration from the classic novel REBECCA which itself was made by Alfred Hitchcock in to a stunningly crafted thriller. Sadly ANAMIKA decides to add it’s own twists and turns which fall totally flat. The movie revolves around an escort(no, not the LAAGA CHUNARI MEIN DAAG type) called Jia (Minissha Lambha) who meets and within 2 days (very hard to believe) gets married to Vikram Sisodiya (Dino Morera). Before their wedding Vikram admits to Jia that he used to be married before to Anamika (Aarti Chhabira) who had died under mysterious circumstances.

After marriage Vikram and Jia fly to Gajner (Rajasthan) to his ancestral home. His home is a palace which is managed by Vikram’s childhood friend Malini (Koena Mitra). This is when the story really begins, as everyone in Gajner can’t stop talking about Anamika (and still refer to her as Mrs Sisodiya), it turns out the entire town is obsessed with Anamika, and to make matters worse Jia is constantly compared with her as well. And if that’s not enough one night Jia sees Anamika’s spirit in the palace as well. In a turn of events Anamika’s body resurfaces and all fingers point to Vikram…what is the mystery behind Anamika’s death? How did she die?
Sounds like the premise for a nail-biting thriller? Think again! Writers Ananth Mahadevan and Anand Vardhan had the perfect story to make the best thriller in Mahadevan’s trilogy, however the constant loopholes in the first half, and a completely disappointing climax hinder the movies quality. After the initial hiccup of having Jia say YES to marriage in one day, the movie is well written, the suspense is slow-moving but well built and keeps the viewers at the edge of their seat. When Jia sees Anamika’s spirit again the movie gets exciting, however the second half is a lazy piece of work which clearly rips off films like GUPT and KUCCH TO HAI and leaves a lot to be desired for.

Anand Vardhan’s screenplay is a letdown. While there are moments in the first half which are well done and set the scene for a riveting thriller, it’s the lazily written second half which leaves the viewer exasperated. One wishes that Vardhan had stayed true to his material as there are plenty of other facets which could’ve been explored here. For example, ANAMIKA could’ve been a brilliant ghost story with it’s ambience and setting with the ghost of Anamika possessing Jia? Or perhaps a psychological thriller where Jia gets obsessed with Anamika and starts behaving lke her(which is hinted at in certain parts but never explored).
Ananth Mahadevan clearly had way too much on his plate. ANAMIKA is a film he put on hold after he got half way, and then rushed and made VICTORIA NO.203 and AGGAR, and this has affected the films quality. While the first half is a atmospheric and effective thriller, the second half is a rushed piece of work which he has hurriedly directed for the sake of it. The entire premise of the movie falls apart once the suspense if revealed and nothing makes sense. Why is everyone obsessed with Anamika? Why does Dino never tell his wife the truth in the first place? Why does Gulshan Grover’s character behave the way he does? No doubt Mahadevan is a director who knows the genre well, there is ample evidence in the first half with scenes which are superbly canned however these few scenes don’t make the whole movie….majorly disappointing.

The performances in the movie are flat for the most.

Dino Morera does a re-run of his BRHAM role and is just about OK here. The character is clearly out of his depth and he seems to be struggling in places. Though what is surprising is that Dino pulls off the regal look with complete conviction.

Minissha Lambha is the best thing about the movie. This girl is seriously talented and stunningly gorgeous and needs some better films and roles ASAP! After YAHAAN and SHAURYA, this is another performance which totally impresses. She looks bewitching, and adds a certain aura of innocence and naivety which enhance the characters appeal. Her delivery and presence are splendid, and one feels her talent is wasted in the movie.

Koena Mitra is wooden as a plank of wood and would give Arjun Rampal a run for his money. The girl clearly is easy on the eyes and makes good eye candy but just cannot act, this is the exact same problem I have with Celina Jaitley too.

Aarti Chhabria has nothing to do, infact one hardly gets to see her in the movie. Vishwajeet Pradhan has a confusing role which leads nowhere. Gulshan Grover is reliable as ever.

Technically the movie is good. Pushan Kriplani’s camerawork is splendid, and he captures the atmosphere of the film very well. It’s rather refreshing to see a thriller at the backdrop of a old haveli after such a long time, certainly harks back to yesteryear thrillers of a past era which adds a nice touch, and that’s why it’s all the more frustrating the movie goes so wrong. Sanjib Datta’s editing could’ve been tighter. Jai Singh’s action is OK.

Anu Malik’s music fails to leave a mark which is surprising given AKSAR had a blockbuster soundtrack, and AGGAR even had a decent score.

All up ANAMIKA is a colossal let-down.

Overall Rating: 2.0/10.0


Exclusive Teaser Promo: RGV's CONTRACT