Hey Mr. Scorsese, Take A Bow!

I gotta say, the new year has started off pretty well. The Wolf of Wall Street was released on January 3rd, and since nobody would come with me, I went alone for the movie (hey, don’t judge). The movie is- for lack of a better word- mind-blowingly awesome. And I wish Dad would go see it. Of course, the only time he watches a Hollywood movie is when I explain a bit of the plot to him, make sure the movie has subtitles, and keep saying “Watch now! Just see what happens! Are you watching?” every time his attention starts faltering. It is a lot of effort. And I would do that with The Wolf of Wall Street too, except that I couldn’t sit through the thing with him beside me. The movie has the word ‘fuck’ a record-breaking 506 times (Fuck!). And there are scenes that left me wide-eyed, one hand tightly clasped over mouth, thinking, “Oh my God, how did the Censor board let this through?” And yes, I saw the clean, Indianproof version. 
The Wolf of Wall Street has managed to piss off a lot of people. The reaction to the movie everywhere has been in extremes. There is one side which can not stop gushing about its awesomeness (Example: Me), and there’s the other side which believes the movie is vulgar and crass and “glorifies greed”. Richard Corliss of TIME magazine, in his review, says the moviekeeps bathing in amorality until it drowns. True. The movie makes abusing drugs and crashing a Ferrari look funny. When Leo crumpled up a hundred-dollar bill and threw it in trash- you know, just for amusement- all I could think was, “God, he’s cool.” When Leo’s Dad yells at him for spending $26000 on ONE dinner, I was laughing uncontrollably (“The sides! Tell him about the sides!“). Getting stoned and dry-humping air hostesses, saying every possible derivative of ‘fuck’, abusing quaaludes and cocaine, throwing money off yachts (at FBI agents, no less)… Martin Scorsese makes everything look GOOD.

See, that’s the point these critics are making. That the movie is void of ethics, of any morality whatsoever. So what? What’s wrong with being greedy? What’s wrong with being ambitious? The movie is exactly like its protagonist. Open. Unabashed. Doesn’t give a shit about what people think. Honestly, all those “pep talks” that Leo gives to his employees- asking them to be “telephone fucking terrorists”… they don’t make you cringe, they don’t disgust you… they make you think “Fuck. I gotta work. I gotta start dialing.” He works on the basest human emotion: greed. He uses greed as the prime motivator to work. And why shouldn’t it be that way? After all, who wouldn’t want a life like that? I certainly would. Offer the same life to the critics who said the movie “glorified greed” and let’s see if they turn their backs on it. The point is, everybody wants to be rich. If you’re one of those who believe in being content with what you have, that money isn’t the key to happiness, sure, good for you. But you have to admit that money makes life easier. So why deny it? There’s nothing wrong with loving money, or wanting a good, a better lifestyle. The problem arises only when one chooses to get it through illegal ways- and that is definitely not what the movie encourages. If you see it that way, well… rethink. Or better, watch it again.

In fact, DiCaprio’s little speeches in the movie remind me of Alec Baldwin’s fiery speech in Glengarry Glen Ross (he plays a sales executive). Take a look:

Did the video make you hate Baldwin’s guts? Or did it inspire you to get off your ass and start working? Think about it.

I’ll end this with one of my favorite dialogues from The Wolf of Wall Street (I wish I had a video clip, but it isn’t up yet):

Let me tell you something. There is no nobility in poverty. I’ve been a rich man, and I’ve been a poor man, and I choose to be rich every fucking time! ‘Coz at least as a rich man, when I have to face my problems, I show up in the back of a limo, wearing a $2000 suit, and a $14000 gold fucking watch.

So, Mr. Scorsese, take a bow. You did a fucking brilliant job on the movie.


Student Of The Year: Welcome to the GenY School

Directed By: Karan Johar
Starring: Alia Bhatt, Varun Dhawan, Siddharth Malhotra, Rishi Kapoor, Ram Kapoor
Review: **

We all have our fantasies. Our dream schools or colleges. The “school”- more like an Olympic stadium- in this film seems to be KJo’s fantasy. As is most obvious from the trailers, the labels-obsessed director has certainly pushed the boat out for this movie. Everything, literally EVERYthing is designer. From the cast’s backpacks, shoes, outfits to even the Principal’s umbrella (-Burberry, price= $295). Talk about a launch platform for star kids. The school itself is HUGE- with a cafeteria bigger than a decent 3 BHK, an assembly hall with glitzy red-marble floors, a swimming pool that looks ready for hosting the Olympics swimming events, a prom night/ dance competition that has Farah Khan & Vaibhavi Merchant as the judges (hahahaha… in my school, our History/ Geography/ Science teachers and the Principal used to be the judges 😛 ). This certainly is KJo’s fantasy school. And the movie certainly pulls you inside St. Teresa’s state-of-the-art everything so much so that when the movie finally ends and you walk out of the theatre, everything else around you looks disappointingly drab.

Anyway, SOTY is about three friends: the “baap ke paise pe aish karne wala“, rich, spoilt and neglected Rohan Nanda (Varun Dhawan)- son of filthy rich, successful businessman Ashok Nanda (Ram Kapoor- what an actor!), the rich, popular, sweet, all-I-want-is-a-little-attention campus-hottie Shanaya (Alia Bhatt) and the gareeb, sincere baccha with sparkly eyes and big dreams- Abhimanyu Singh (Siddharth Malhotra). The three are in- “ye koi aam school nai hai“- St. Teresa’s (high school? junior college?- it’s never made clear how old these kids are). The two boys soon form a quick friendship and their vellagiri is fun to watch. Shanaya is Rohan‘s girlfriend, but (obviously) has feelings towards Abhi too. The rest of the gang- Tanaya (the cute, impish kiddo in KKHH), ShrutiShanaya‘s best friend, Sudo– the overweight nerd, and JeetRohan‘s chamcha; together, all of them form a group in which each person reminds us of some friend of ours back in school. Their dean Yoginder Vasisht– played brilliantly (gay) by Rishi Kapoor- has this “Student Of The Year” competition thing going on in the school for 25 years- and that forms the main premise of the movie. Who will win the trophy? And more importantly, who will get the girl?

Karan Johar was probably missing his Kuch Kuch Hota Hai fame- SOTY is just an upgraded version of the same: a campus, a love triangle, and a bumbling Principal. The added spice in this purani dal is the “competition bit”. People tend to do vile things, friendships are broken and so are hearts under the pressure of competition. The story isn’t new. The characters aren’t new. In fact, nothing is. But this glamorized, lacquered over version of KKHH sure is enjoyable.

The three protagonists play their parts very well for a debut; Alia Bhatt’s acting is confident and her angelic (hot?) face is sure to win the crowds. I just wish KJo had given her a more substantial non-stereotypical role (Do pretty girls have to be dumb?). She’s reduced to a slow, dim-witted mannequin in the movie with a few moments here and there that focus on her alone. The Rohan-Abhi bromance is what makes the movie worth watching. I wish my school had guys with six (eight?)-pack abs! Ram Kapoor, as the overbearing, you’re-not-a-good-enough-son father plays his role excellently- together with Rishi Kapoor as the gay Principal, their brilliant acting skills balance out any inadequacies on the protagonists’ parts.

Peppered with one-liners and some genuinely light, funny moments, SOTY is fun in the first part, and drags a little in the second. The music (composed by Vishal-Shekher), like the movie premise, is young, preppy and fun. KJo’s direction, of course, is great; he brings out the stars’ acting skills very well- especially the young Dhawan who shines better than his co-stars (watch out for his smashing introductory scene in which he sings- “Papa kehte hai bada naam kaerega… WHO THE F**K cares?“). Go for Student Of The Year with your school friends; by the end of the movie, you’ll definitely realize how stupid all those old school rivalries were and how much you actually miss your old friendships!  

English Vinglish: Simple & Beautiful

Written & Directed by: Gauri Shinde
Starring: Sri Devi
Review: ****

English Vinglish is easily one of the best movies of 2012. The fact that this is Gauri Shinde’s directorial debut only goes to prove how talented she is. I have only two words for the movie: simple & beautiful. Yes, I am going to be using those words a lot. Sri Devi makes a comeback through English Vinglish, and all I can say is… what a comeback! Dressed by Sabyasachi in ever so plain but beautiful sarees, Sri Devi looks every bit a perfect, homely, Indian wife. I haven’t seen many movies of Sri Devi (except Mr. India and a few others, I guess), but now I will make it a point to do so!

Shashi (Sri Devi) is the perfect Bhartiya biwi, who cooks well, takes care of her (mean) husband and children, manages a side-business of laddoos, but suffers from an inferiority complex because of her inability to speak English. She is constantly reminded of this because of her insensitive husband and daughter. They laugh for a minute when she says “jhaaz” instead of “jazz“, the daughter is painfully embarrassed to take her to the PTA in her school, and she is deemed to be “born to make laddoos“. A chance wedding takes her to New York where she is even more acutely aware of her problem, but on an impulse joins an “English tuition”- a class with students from diverse backgrounds and an American teacher who is cute as hell! Together they form a class similar to the one in Mind Your Language, and it accounts for a quite a few funny moments.

The movie is, like I said, simple… predictable even: woman feels bad because she can’t speak English, decides to join a class, and feels great about herself. We all know where the movie is heading, but we just don’t feel like letting go. Small moments like when Shashi tries to find her class, or when she learns that she’s an “entrepreneur” (her scrunched up nose, chin in the air, confident walk really makes us proud), or the very last scene where her husband looks at her admiringly- all these are strung together so beautifully that the audience is rooting for Shashi till the last minute. She’s the quintessential wife who reminds us of our mother, and her family of, well… us. The movie gives us an important lesson without being preachy at all: that when someone has an accent, we should remember that he/she knows one language more than us. We are all unique and our accents are something to be celebrated and not be ashamed of.

Sri Devi, despite her South-Indian accent, is beautiful. Her high-pitched stuttering voice, big sad eyes and hurried mannerisms, all lend to her character, making it immensely likeable. The rest of the cast is also very good- especially the English class. The music is hummable and sweet; Amit Trivedi works his magic again! The director, Gauri Shinde is obviously someone to watch out for. Go watch the movie if you’re a Sri Devi fan, or you have a mom like Shashi, or … in fact, just go watch the movie. Period. 

Heroine: Recycled Overkill

Directed & Written By: Madhur Bhandarkar
Starring: Kareena Kapoor, Arjun Rampal, Randeep Hooda
Review: **

How is it that highly publicized, over-hyped movies with over-the-top budgets always fall flat on their faces? Are we as an audience wrong to expect so much? I guess so. Because Heroine joins the ranks of Agent Vinod, Jannat 2, Teri Meri Kahaani, Cocktail and Ek Tha Tiger– a few elitist movies of 2012 that were huge duds. Oh, Mr. Bhandarkar, why, why would you think that you could make Heroine just by combining Page 3 and Fashion and the audience wouldn’t know the difference? Bhandarkar ji, your star-struggles, star-on-the-rise, and star-collapses formula worked wonders before, but let’s not abuse it na?

Heroine is about Mahi Arora (Kareena Kapoor), an actress who is at the pinnacle of her career, living every actress’ dream, with a hunky boyfriend Aryan Khanna (Arjun Rampal) by her side, dozens of endorsements, hungry media and adoring fans. The film starts off at this exact point, and this is where Mr. Bhandarkar makes his first mistake. Who is Mahi Arora? How did she become a superstar? What struggles did she face? What is this background story of a troubled childhood, a broken home and a convenient-to-the-script bipolar disorder? (Bipolar disorder, FYI, is a condition which makes a person oscillate between periods of extreme happiness and depression- something which isn’t quite apparent in Mahi‘s character). All this is narrated very briefly by an annoying movie journalist with terrible acting (or in this case, narration) skills. The movie then follows her collapse from superstar to a has-been desperately trying to get back to super-stardom. A failed relationship is followed by getting a new PR agent, bringing in new career highs, a new cricketer boyfriend (Angad Paul– Randeep Hooda), only to lose it all again. A “serious movie” with an eccentric four-time National-award winning Bengali director (played by Ranveer Shorey- hilarious & brilliant) gets shelved with all of Mahi‘s mehnat  going down the drain. Over-confidence turns to insecurity which in turn becomes desperation when she resorts to a cheap publicity stunt to ensure a successful release to her latest film. It is all sad, yes, so sad, but the audience doesn’t care. Why? Because it is hard to sympathise with her character; in fact, it is hard to even follow the character which is basically a mish-mash of all bad and a little good.

The movie, with typical Bhandarkar style, has it all: gay designers, bitchy wives, jealous co-stars, nosy journalists, cutthroat agents, MMS scandals, and an over-consumption of alcohol and cigarettes by every person on the screen. Even a lesbian fling is thrown into the script- the relevance of which is highly questionable. What it doesn’t have is a new story. Kareena Kapoor plays a troubled, insecure, needy, impulsive and overconfident star who’s decisions are based on ‘love’ in the first half and ‘career’ in the second. That’s the film’s problem. It is confused just like its protagonist. What does Mahi want? And what is the point Heroine wants to make? The end is as if Madhur Bhandarkar thought “Chalo, bahaut ho gaya, abhi khatam karte hai“- abrupt and completely blah.

I wish Madhur Bhandarkar’s “film research” had involved more than reading gossip tabloids. Why didn’t he explore the puraane zamane ki filmein angle more? A parallel between old and new Bollywood would have been interesting. This and so many other points: the size zero and “curvy/overweight” phenomena, botox, implants, casting couch episodes, two-minute marriages, so-called Hollywood offers, sex scenes in movies, etcetera are completely missed out. What is the filmmaker’s take on these? I even missed the sniggering duo (Lobo and that other guy), who were a part of both Page 3 and Corporate and were hands-down hilarious; why did the director not add these guys?

So much remains to be wished in Heroine. It isn’t a bad movie; it’s just an overly long repetition of what we know and love about Mr. Bhandarkar’s works. Full marks to the costume and make-up department though: Kareena Kapoor looks stunning in every single scene. The title track is wonderful- sexy and seductive, while Saaiyan is beautiful and poignant. The movie itself is bearable only because of Kareena Kapoor’s superb acting skills- she’s come a long way from her chubby teenager and painful overacting days. One scene in particular, in which Kareena says “Kya karoon… kaam hi nai hai” simply bowled me over. Go for Heroine if you are a Kareena Kapoor fan. She is the only non-disappointing aspect of the movie.

Ek Tha Tiger: Spectacularly Unoriginal

Directed By: Kabir Khan
Written By: Aditya Chopra
Starring: Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, Ranvir Shorey
Review: *

Bollywood romances have been done to death. Every possible angle of the boy-meets-girl, boy-girl-fall-in-love, boy-girl-cannot-be-together, boy-girl-overcome-problem-somehow and boy-girl-live-happily-ever-after has been exploited, and the audience wants something different. D-I-F-F-E-R-E-N-T. Does Yash Chopra think that if he gives us the same boring Bollywood romance package wrapped in a different wrapping paper, the audience will be fooled and start gushing and gasping about his cinematic genius? In fact, it was ironical that a teaser of SRK-Katrina’s forthcoming film London Ishq was played before the movie; it was called (and very pompously, at that): “A Yash Chopra Romance”… hah! Coming back to Ek Tha Tiger… I must say, the man who made the trailer for the film must be given some brownie points; I absolutely loved the trailer, which is why I rushed to watch it on the very first day. It is only because of Yash Chopra’s trailer-making-guy that it broke the Box Office record for first day collections.

Enough dilly-dallying. Lets talk about the movie. Ek Tha Tiger is about a RAW agent (Salman Khan) who has worked non-stop for 12 years for his country, fighting oddballs, terrorists and RAW defectors all over the world, and succeeded in all his missions. On his latest mission to “observe” some scientist, he crosses paths with Zoya (Katrina Kaif), a pretty (SO pretty) dance teacher who weirdly happens to be the scientist’s assistant/cleaning lady/dogwalker (no idea, it’s never made clear). The first part of the film trudges along agonizingly slowly as Tiger and Zoya make googly eyes at each other and Zoya laughs at his simple and goofy ways, falling in love all along. Wow. SO original. What I never understand about Yash Chopra romances is how do the characters fall in love so easily? Hamare saath toh kabhi nai hota yaar! Never mind. The second half has a lot more action, with Zoya jumping from rooftops and landing on the ground firmly on her feet like some sort of Catwoman, or just a cat maybe. I don’t know if she has done the stunts herself, but if she has, kudos to her, they are amazing. However, midway through the second half, you cease to care about the couple, waiting for the mindless bhagam-bhag to just end, knowing fully well that YC would suffer from bouts of insomnia if his films did not have a happily-ever-after end- the climax is very much obvious. Both the actors perform their roles mediocrely- both have a total of one expression throughout: Salman with the perpetually tensed, “Oh, I am a RAW agent, so I have to be tensed all the time” look, and Katrina with a pained “Why, oh, why can’t we be together?” look, tears set firmly in place. Ranvir Shorey is fine (read: forgettable) as Gopi, another RAW agent, and Tiger’s friend.

The cinematography is amazing, capturing a lot of locations very well, especially Cuba, Havana in the song Main Laapata. The action sequences are the only redeeming quality of Ek Tha Tiger. Mashallah is a treat for the eyes, thanks to the gorgeous and curvy Ms. Kaif’s belly-dancing, but alas, is played only towards the end during the credits. Kabir Khan, of New York fame, has done an okay job; it isn’t his fault really that the movie turned out to be so flaccid and boring, the fault lies in the story, or rather, the lack of it. Go watch Ek Tha Tiger if- a) you are a Katrina Kaif fan- she has never looked prettier, or b) if you like the sort of silly movies Salman Khan has been a part of lately (sadly, I really expected this one to be different), or c) you have absolutely nothing to do. 

Cocktail: Betty, Archie, Veronica Bollywoodified

Directed by: Homi Adajania
Written by: Imtiaz Ali
Starring: Saif Ali Khan, Deepika Padukone, Diana Penty, Randeep Hooda
Review: **

My sixth semester results are due any day now, in fact, due any minute now, and I am one of those greedy-about-marks kind, so obviously, I have been a nervous-wreck since the past two days. Cocktail was supposed to be my distraction. Sadly, it failed to do so. Or partly failed, at least.

I guess Imtiaz Ali was reading Archies Digest when he came up with the idea for Cocktail. We have Gautam (Saif Ali Khan), the flirt, Meera (Diana Penty), the shy, sweet goody-goody, and Veronica (Deepika Padukone), the self-proclaimed “rich bitch” who likes to party and get drunk with strangers. So when poor Meera comes looking for her husband saatsamundarpaarkarke in big, bad London, the cruel husband (Randeep Hooda) kicks her out with the usual “dafa ho jao!“. Veronica- the party-animal with a golden heart- takes her in and soon forms a friendship that we can all relate to. Somehow Gautam is also added into the equation- he and Veronica start going out (read: start sleeping together). The three become best friends, with the introvert, wallflower of a girl Meera having no problem with being the third wheel. So what’s the problem? In the first half: nothing. Really, the first half is easy-breezy, all smiles and dimples, partying, doing shots, getting drunk, and dancing to the bhajan song (Tumhi Ho Bandhu). The second half is when Imtiaz Ali decided that his characters had had enough fun. The ugly/boring yet overdone cliched love triangle comes up, with alas, no original ending or execution. The pretty Ms. Padukone loses her pretty dimple, Ms. Penty sheds endless tears to gain the audience’s sympathy, while our brawny hero sleeps on park benches for some unknown reason; there’s also a two-minute fighting scene, and a climax that makes you go “Ehhh??”

Saif Ali Khan’s character is supposed to be in his 30s, I guess, but poor Saif looks all of his 40 plus years. His spouting of filmy dialogues as a part of his whole flirting act are supposed to be cute, I guess, or at least make the audience laugh. They do, at first, and later, it’s just plain irritating. Deepika Padukone is HOT. Really, the clothes, the heels, the thick eyeliner… everything just works! She looks fabulous and acts particularly well in most scenes (except maybe one in which her “I love your smell” dialogue seems more creepy than sensual). Diana Penty plays her role beautifully for a newcomer, and yes, looks pretty too. Randeep Hooda is wasted, and I really couldn’t figure out how he actually contributed to the plot. Dimple Kapadia has a brief role as Saif’s mother and plays it pretty well as the overbearing Punjabi mother, while Boman Irani plays his uncle- utterly wasted with the ‘umar pachpan ki, dil bachpan ka‘ role.

Cocktail is a pretty film- the location, the actresses- pure eye-candy. The first part is fun to watch, but the second part is too Ekta Kapoor-ish. The good part is that the dialogues are kept real, true to Imtiaz Ali’s style, but sometimes are plain boring (especially Saif’s overtly long, blubbering confession in the last scene- you’re tempted to yell “Finish it already!”). The plot kicks off as something new and original, as the movie flits from London to Cape Town, but decides to do a YRF in the second half. The music (Pritam) is amazing, while Homi Adajania’s direction isn’t half bad. The sad part is that the movie seduces you with a nice, yummy, intoxicating cocktail, and instead roughly hands you a glass of soda water instead. 

Quantity Over Quality

I simply CAN NOT watch MTV before my mum and dad. Every time a crappy song comes up (crappy= idiotic/meaningless/crass lyrics + skimpily-clothed women), I have to:  a) shrink in embarrassment and change the channel immediately, or b) watch the song and ignore my disapproving parents, or c) discuss at length with them about how times have changed, and people today are less ‘kabhi kabhi mere dil pe’ and more ‘dil mein mere hai dard-e-disco’. It’s mostly option c, and the discussion is normally forcefully concluded with ‘let’s just agree to disagree’.

I normally avoid the topic of movies during our tea-time talks (my family is big on chai and chattering). Reason? It results in my dad getting deeply nostalgic about ‘humare zamane ki films’ and starts one of his endless stories about how some movies were so popular that the audience used to clap and hoot and throw flowers  and loose change (1p, 2p coins) at the screen. “You have no idea! For Sholay, we used to get up and dance and sing in the theater! And for Jai Santoshi Maa, people took off their shoes outside the theater before going in! That was how crazy we were!” What can one say to that? If people did that today, their shoes would be stolen in two seconds, and the audience would have to go home shoeless.

It is true, you know. Bollywood has changed big-time. People no longer want to pay to see Amitabh Bacchan crooning ‘Kabhi kabhi mere dil mein khayal ata hai’ under a Banyan tree- don’t get me wrong, Amitabhji is still a huge star, getting only better with age it seems. But today, people want mindless action, steamy sex scenes, actresses in sexy outfits (smaller the better), and hilarious dialogues (hilarious bordering on highly idiotic). Maybe this is why Bollywood is churning out one masala film after another. I think it started with Golmaal, then Wanted, followed by Dabangg (Filmfare award for Best Film), Bodyguard (what was the god-awful dross?), Ajay Devgn’s Singham (“Ata majhi  satakli!”), SRK’s Ra.One (the biggest turkey of the year!) and more recently Akki’s Rowdy Rathore. What is common in all of these? The screenplay: mindless, music: very good (that’s relative, of course), lyrics: idiotic, action sequences: awesome/unrealistic, verdict: masala film, full paisa-vasool, box-office collection: an obscene number. I wonder if anyone notices this sequence, it’s almost like a geometric progression… each movie is stupider and garners more money than the one before. And I am pretty sure many more such recycled, assembly-line productions are yet to come because this is what rakes in the moolah, right? Let’s face it- filmmakers want to make money, not quality cinema. Why else would Sanjay Leela Bhansali, the man who gave us movies like Blackand Devdas produce something like Rowdy Rathore which has dialogues like “Main jo kehta hun who karta hun…”?

Dhobhi Ghat, an ‘art’ film, made less than 20 crores at the box office; poor Kiran Rao… doesn’t she understand that after a hard day’s work, the masses don’t want to think when they are watching a movie? Most people claimed they didn’t even get the movie, while some said ‘isko picture kaun bolega!’ (Who would call this a movie?) That’s the problem, actually. Once upon a time, movies were supposed to make you think– they lingered in your minds even as you left the movie hall and stayed with you long after when you discussed them with your friends. Now it’s all about (as Vidya Balan aptly put) ‘entertainment, entertainment, entertainment’. Fine! If thou wants entertainment, thou shalt have it! Because its ‘by the people, of the people, and for the people’, no?

When I argue with mum and dad about today’s Bollywood, I come up with movies like Rang De Basantiand Lagaan(both, unsurprisingly, Aamir Khan movies) to defend myself and say that Bollywood still has some soul left. But it is hard to do so when Katrina Kaif is gyrating to ‘ayee chikni chameli chupke akeli…’ on the TV in the background.