PK = Outstanding. Rajkumar Hirani = Sachin Tendulkar!

So, there probably hasn’t been more expectations from a filmmaker in the history of Indian Cinema than there was from Raju Hirani with PK, especially considering that, with it, he was following, what I consider the perfect film ever made – 3 Idiots.

Pretty similar to what Sachin Tendulkar faced for a majority of his career. People expected him to win his team the match AND score a hundred –  every time he walked out. So there’s a case of completely unrealistic expectations! And so is the case with PK too.

To start off with, let me unequivocally say that PK is fan-bloody-tastic. It is cinematic and is also outstanding entertainment and gives a crystal clear message. So kudos to Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Raju Hirani and Abhijat Joshi.

Coming back to my metaphorical analogy – With PK, Raju Hirani wins his team the match. In style, comfortably, and with plenty of headroom. However, he doesn’t score a century. He did both these things in his earlier 3 films. And that, we believe, gives us greedy bastards the right to make the infamous “But after 3 Idiots we expected more yaa” statement. And believe you me – it is nothing but pure greed. We ‘want’ more. Now why should Raju be beholden to our expectations? He shouldn’t. He made, in PK, what he thought he was making in 3 Idiots – the best film he could make. We should take it, say Thank You many times over, ghumao the agarbatti in front of his photo three more times, thank the stars that he lived and made movies during our lifetime and, if you truly want to thank cinema, vow to never watch a Sajid Khan film again.

Anyway, now coming to the film PK per se. Needless to say, the writing is fabulous. The story seems to have some rub-off colour from ‘OMG – Oh My God’, but its essentially only the core of the subject. Everything else is unique. Story, screenplay, dialogues – are all outstanding. Well done to Raju & Abhijat. Come to think of it – the plotpoints are rather outlandish, but it seems oh so believable and natural. A job well done there! All that said, I don’t think ‘Yeh wrong number hai’ will go viral like ‘All izz well’ did. (When you see the movie, you’ll know what I mean).

The core subject of the film (religion) is the one that, in my opinion, is the subject of these 2 decades (2010-2030) and this film asks very very pertinent questions. As pertinent as the ones asked in OMG, albeit in a rather different manner.

Nearly the entire film is well directed, though there was maybe a very brief moment both before & after the interval where I thought this is dragging. But rather than direction, it is the Editor Raju Hirani who has not been ruthless enough with the content that Director Raju Hirani shot. It could have been 5% shorter, perhaps.

The music definitely lacked the joie de vivre observed in previous RH films. The lyrics also seemed to lack that ‘dil ko choone wali baat’. The PK theme, ‘Chaar Kadam’ and ‘love is a waste of time’ are alright, but the other songs aren’t as uplifting. The background score, thankfully, is. And it lifts the film considerably.

Cinematography is perfect. Well done C K Muralidhar. Production Design good, but production values are, perhaps a notch lower than what I expected though. See – that’s what greed causes. Even though you’ve got it all in the film, you want more!!!

Coming to the performances – Aamir Khan is fantastic. Like he always is. Its amazing that, apart from 1 or 2 shots, he has not blinked on screen. Brutal method acting that!

After you get over Anushka Sharma’s surgically done self-transformation into Anushka DonaldDuck Sharma, and you actually start to watch her performance, you start to enjoy it too, coz she is rather good on screen. There’s some hamming from both of em, but its negligible.

Its surreal to see Sanjay Dutt on screen. God knows how much longer we’ll have to wait to see him on screen again. Sigh! And, of course, he’s fabulous entertainment. Sourabh Shukla is aptly cliche-ish (the film needs him to be that). Boman has a couple of cool scenes but has literally zero screen time apart from that. Pity.

All-in-all, PK is a film to be seen twice. Atleast. Don’t burden yourself and Raju with your greed in the form of expectations from the film. Just go light and you will thoroughly enjoy the film. Coz it’s fantastic.

P.S. Congratulations to Whistling Woods alumni – Anil Mange & Rachit Malhotra for being a part of this masterpiece. Anil – you were awesomely hilarious on screen. Well done dude!!!

P.P.S. – If you realise, I have not let out even an iota of the story of the film & I request other people who write their ‘reviews’ to not do so too. I can’t believe that some of the ‘critics’ who publish in major media outlets have actually let elements of the story out. No, people. No. You are spoiling it for everyone else and behaving like a head-in-the-clouds-arse. Stop it!

Bey Yaar – pathbreaking for Gujarati cinema! And Gujjus!

Okk… So before I start, let me say that I am severely biased in favour of the film, given that so many Whistling Woods alumni are part of the film and practiaclly comprise the DNA of the film. Hence, this review should have actually come a 100 days ago coz I should have seen the film when it released back then, but due to some freak timings and my own laziness, that was not to be. However, what does it say about a film that A) It has run for over a 100 days at a time when films disappear on the next Monday of their release? and B) It is a GUJJU film that has been around for 100 days?

So before I go on about Bey Yaar, let me list out some of the major films that have come & gone since Bey Yaar has been playing in theatres – Mary Kom, Finding Fanny, Dawaat-e-Ishq, Khoobsurat, Bang Bang, Haider, Happy New Year, Roar, Kill Dil, Happy Ending, Ungli & many more. Now to survive this onslaught and still continue to get screen space is fabulous. And then they say – ke achchi movie to release nahi milta. Milta hai!

Now there is another reason why this film is revolutionary for Gujju cinema. Pl note that I say this after considering the fact that the same makers gave us ‘Kevi Rite Jaish’, which effectively re-kick-started the dead heart of the Gujarati film industry. But this film is special. It talks about more. It tries to bring out a deeply latent sense of art, culture, philosophy and storytelling from a community that is otherwise known for only 4 things – doing ‘bijnesss’, Amul, sweet veg food & diamonds. It tries to add another personality to every Sa (to be read as ‘Shah’), Patel, Desai & Meta (to be read as ‘Mehta’) out there. If the makers didn’t intend to do so, then, in my opinion, they inadvertently stumbled into it. And that is what is key about this movie. It breaks stereotypes.

Now about the film. Its actually a rather simple film about 3 things – friendship, the youth wanting to get rich quick & finally, a con. Visually, it looks as good as any mainstream commercial Hindi movie. The cinematography, production design, production values and the actors – are all mainstream. Special praise here to the DoP – Pushkar Singh!!!

All that said, probably the one weak aspect of the film is its pace, screenplay and one or two plotpoints. It is a little too long and a little repetitive. Dialogues are up & down – some are pretty good, some are a little flat.

Sachin Jigar’s music is rather good, with a very good rock vibe and overall lifts the film, except for 1 or 2 scenes where  thought the background score was a bit ott.

Now getting all of the above in place and managing to make this film the way it has turned out should earn the director – Abhishek Jain and the Creative Producer – Amit Desai some very special praise. Well done boys!

Performances are, surprisingly good. Darshan Jariwala is outstanding. So are Manoj Joshi, Amit Mistry & Kavin Dave. The new boys – Divyang Thakkar & Pratik Gandhi are fantastic – both individually and the friendship-chemistry between them. Samvedna Suwalka does rather well, but needs a little more screen time for us to be able to see her range of performance.

All-in-all, Bey Yaar is a must-see. For everyone! You will start looking differently at both – Gujarati cinema & gujjus!

Bhopal A Prayer for Rain – a decent film but the ‘X’ factor is missing…

Bhopal A Prayer for Rain is somewhere between good & very good. There’s the one missing ‘x’ factor that very good films have, which strike a chord or connect with the audience, which was missing here. What that is, I do not know, but the film did not leave me feeling like I have enjoyed it. Even though it is a tragedy, tragedies too can be memorable. This wasn’t.

The story is one that everyone knows. It is the screenplay, however, that felt disjointed. Edits seemed jerky. I did not sense a flow. Characters were introduced and dropped off, et al…

Also, I felt that the film tried to highlight the human, rags-to-riches, lower middle class antecedents of Warren Andersen and the ‘corporate social responsibility’ aspect of why this plant was set up where it was, probably to try and get people to empathise with him. Also, there was some screen time dedicated to the science of the incident as well as to the moral battle between the accountant & the PR rep of Carbide.

About the incident, per se – there were some valid points – about the town moving with the plant & there being unauthorised houses where there should not have been any – basically suggesting that people were in harm’s way where none were originally planned for. There’s also the great American ‘legally our ass is covered’ aspect to the incident, with there being a official report a few months before highlighting the potential dangers / fallout of a gas leak and that the global company not having any direct links to the Indian subsidiary. There is also plenty of screen time dedicated to aspects where most of the blame is assigned to the lack of training of the workers and that the untrained / uneducated on-site management team, comprising mostly of Indians and the self-convinced-invincibility of one supervisor basically destroyed thousands of lives.

The entire political aspect of the incident was missing. The role played by the state govt before the incident was reduced to the oft-repeated narrative of corruption. The role of the central govt was missing altogether as was the role of the state govt after the incident. Didn’t seem like the film spoke about all aspects of the incident. Whether it was intended to, or not, I went expecting it to…

Coming to performances – Martin Sheen was awesome. I mean, how can he not be awesome? Kal Penn as the local journo was competent. Rajpal Yadav was what he always is – above average, but nothing spectacular. Tannishtha Chatterjee did well. Mischa Barton was totally wasted – would have made NO difference whether she was in the film or not. Fagun Ivy Thakrar looks hauntingly good in a largely non-speaking role the last 3/4th of the film.

All-in-all, Bhopal is worth a watch. For a better understanding of the science & the micro-events that led to India’s worst industrial disaster to date.

Exodus – By God, it’s a king-sized turd!!!

Really dunno what Ridley Scott was smoking, sniffing, snorting or drinking when he made Exodus Gods & Kings.

He basically just took one giant digitally-enhanced dump on screen. Can’t believe he’s the same filmmaker who gave us Themla & Louise, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down & American Gangster. That’s how bad Exodus is. Ugh! Double Ugh!

Just coz you have an unlimited CG budget and it can make anything look good & realistic on screen, doesn’t mean that you don’t need a screenplay, characterisation, plotpoints, logic, brevity, pace, tempo and basic common sense.

Honestly I felt asleep a couple of times in the film, it was so long & stretched. And I wasn’t the only one. There was a harmonious percussion of snores coming from various parts of the theatre which were actually augmenting the unnecessarily loud background score.

How, Bale, after being so effectively worked upon by Nolan, can put himself through this is beyond me. He tries to be sincere, but you can almost see him laughing within, at the dialogues he’s spouting. Nearly everyone else is badly cast, especially John Turturo as the Pharoah. Yes, the guy who played Seymour Simmons & The Phantom is being cast as a Pharoah. Joel Edgerton too tries hard, but is terribly miscast.

Basically, there’s very little right with Exodus apart from the CG stuff – the Animation, VFX and digital cinematography is outstanding. Everything else is the other end of the spectrum.

Pl avoid Exodus. Get 2 root canals instead! Will hurt less.

Hunger Games Mockingjay1 – Good setup!

So, the Hunger Games series has been, perhaps, one of the serious gamechangers in Hollywood. It created the based-in-the-future-teen-action-star genre. Divergent, Maze Runner followed.

The first Hunger Games was fantastic. And just when you thought that things could not get any better, Catching Fire came out and kicked the first one’s ass. Going by those standards, this one had a lot of expectations. However, the makers decided to fatten their wallets instead of truly ‘wow’ the audience and split the third into two films. Not advisable, coz not enough happens in this film. And more importantly, the Mockingjay does not do enough.

Hold on. That does not mean that this is not a good film. Its awesome. Just that going by the graph of the first 2, this one’s a notch lower… I am pretty sure that the final film will be spectacular, action-packed and really good.

Mockingjay 1 is slower in pace. Has very few action sequences interspersed with long sections of drama, dialogues and scenes that bascially are setting-up the end of the series.

Jennifer Lawrence is outstanding, as usual. The rest of the cast – Josh Hutcherson, Liam Helmsworth, Julianne Moore, Donald Sutherland do well too, ably supported by the huge support cast (Elisabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Stanlet Tucci, Jeffrey Wright). Its surreal to see Philip Seymour Hoffman on screen. Wonder if these 2 films are the last time we will ever see him on screen.

All-in-all, Hunger Games Mockingjay 1 is a must-see. Just be aware that this is just a set-up, the crouch before the leap!!!

Ungli – Enjoyable, but the zing is missing!

So this is another film where I seem to disagree with the ‘critics’ out there. Contrary to the 2-star reviews, I enjoyed Ungli. There is an X factor that’s missing. Also, the film does look marginally dated . Looks like it should have released 2 yrs ago. Immaterial to that, I dunno if it was the publicity or what, but the movie seems to have had a cold opening. Strange!

Coming to the content – it is a well written film. The concept of aam-aadmi-vigilantes (not the chu***a Kejriwal types, but genuine aam-aadmis) and their using the every-hungry media to broadcast their content across the country, is well dealt with. Not nearly as good as ‘A Wednesday’ but pretty good in itself.

That said, the Screenplay & Direction were a little flatline. There is literally no sense of suspense in the film. Some back & forth through the timeline could have been interesting. Its just a little flatline. Not that its boring or anything, just that we’re now used to movies playing around more with timelines nowadays. Not sure if it was a Direction decision or a writing one. Direction itself could have been better too. The scenes are a little not-so-tight. Could’ve been crisper.

The performances are competent. Kangna looks sweet & acts well, but has a dated look (pre-Queen). Emraan Hashmi, Sanjay Dutt, Randeep Hooda Angad Bedi & Neil Bhoopalam all do very well. Nobody has a weak performance, but there are no major flashes of brilliance either apart from one or two in the scenes between Sanjay Dutt & Emraan Hashmi. Neha Dhupia looks bloody good on screen, albeit in a terribly small role. Why someone has not taken her on & written a fantastic film around her is an enigma. I honestly think there’s some serious untapped potential there. Dunno why, but I’ve always thought she’s capable of much more than what Bollywood uses her for. Anyway…

All-in-all, Ungli is a decent way to spend a couple of hours. Its not the best film ever made, but its enjoyable.

Penguins of Madagascar – The Magic continues!

The Madagascar series is possibly one of the most creative, visually delightful and hilarious pieces of content to ever emerge from the Dreamworks stable.

Penguins, spun off from the original series, continues the tradition. It is well written, fantastically voice-acted and, needles to say, the CGI work is truly outstanding.

The addition of Benedict Cummerbatch & the ‘The North Wind’ gives this spinoff the ability to become another franchise. Lets see where Dreamworks takes it.

All-in-all, Penguins of Madagascar is a must-see. Even if you don’t have the excuse of going with your kids. Just go see it!!!