Saturday, May 29, 2010


Anurag Basu's ouevre is full of love in the shadows - and he manages to give anguish and understanding, instead of licentiousness, to the most basic of instincts and profane of relationships. His Murder, and more so, Life in Metro were landmarks of passion on the cliff-edge.

Hence he was the right person for this venture. Hrithik's stealing his betrothal's brother's to-be-bride from under the nose of the Mafia family's noses, was fraught with dangerous potential.

But, alas, he choses mush over edge, even when he had two full-bodied hot-blooded young stars ready to tear each other out. Instead of the dirty love-making the film was screaming for, we get virginal looks reminiscent of the squeaky-clean '70s.

And then, to make matters worse, the wisp of a story is not even given a bushy tail to wag.

But when one has given up on getting to see a great film, one sits back to check out the little pleasures. Mercifully, they do keep coming!

The film starts beautifully, interweaving the past and present. Hrithik's voice says "When kites fly together for too long they get cut." The barreness of the land is symptomatic of what is to come.

Hrithik's rake is seductive enough for a fragile Kangana to fall for. And his entry into her rich family starts the descent into deceit.

The first meeting of Hrithik with Mori, underwater, is beautifully filmed, with an Enya-like ululation playing out in the background, underlining the physicality of the tryst. Mori is a goddess worth the greek god.

And her boyfriend is, of course, a cad. He runs his hand over her thigh and says he flipped for her two legs leading to heaven. But at least he is honest in his grossness: the film's script is dishonest in having us believe that it is any different for Hrithik and Mori.

The Las Vegas sequences are deliberately garish, and Mori is a waif in the lights. And the rain-encrusted nights are beautifully captured. And so is Mori's knowing innocence.

The real tragedy here is the lack of connect between the lead players. Kangana's desperate love for Hrithik, delienated in just a couple of scenes has more authencity, than all the looks which the lead pair share. This is the most under-written part of the film, and a large reason for its lack of emotional resonance with the audience.

But the set-pieces come a-plenty.

The salsa dance is pulsating and cheoragraphed with panache, and itself worth the price of the ticket. The warmth of love-on-the-run glows in the way it builds. The landscapes of the song Zindagi do pal ki, Mori's and Hrithik's touching, kissing, the closeness and the radiance, along with the light-heartedness of the Mexico chapter are filmed with heart.

Unfortunately the chase scenes, which form a large part of the second half, fill you with a sense of deja vu, as uni-dimensional cops and villians try hard to make fools of themselves.

The penultimate scene is filmed in a white barren landscape against the blue sea, as Hrithik retraces - and follows - Mori's tragic fate.

The film ends where it started, under the sea, in a sepulchral, uplifting underwater dance of spirits. A scene which could have broken a viewer into pieces, only if, alas, it had been at the end of a full and fulfilling film.

~ Sunil Bhandari
Copyright © 2010 – All rights reserved.
May 28th, 2010

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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Iron Man 2

Remember David Niven as James Bond in the spoof, Casino Royale (which came out much before Daniel Craig made it there with Eva Green)? That was a deliberate spoof and an atrocious film, unfunny, and immediately consigned to the dustbin of cinematic memory.

Well, here is Iron Man 2, an unfortunate - and undeliberate- spoof, in its very second outing.

A Russian is plotting against Iron Man with his own personal agenda. A rival American businessman is trying to make the Iron of the Man a national property. And Iron Man is dying, and he wants to spend the last days of his life boozing and partying and generally letting himself go.

Robert Downey can take the tragedy of a soul and make you feel the pain - that's his calibre. Here he plays out the insecurity and the sarcasm of his alter ego as a continuing joke. And he is joined in this unenterprising endeavour by almost every actor. Until it becomes one big unfunny comedy.

The story had some potential - with the chance to bring out the angst of an arrogant Super Hero suddenly finding himself to be mortal, and the delicious Scarlett Johansson being set up for potential romance.

But the tethered story-writing and the untethered (and under-directed) Downey (showing more of his arrogance as an actor than that of his character), make the film sink.

Tragically, the best action set-piece belongs not to him but to Scarlett Johansson, who delivers some superb blows as she gets into the villian's lair. The final confrontation is tame and yawn-inducing.

With Gwyneth Paltrow, Samuel Jackson, Mickey Rourke, and Scarlett Johansson, if this is what they make of their franchise, Iron Man is already rusted.

~ Sunil Bhandari
Copyright © 2010 – All rights reserved.
May 8th, 2010

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Hurt Locker

Films are ultimately experiences. They touch a nerve, mostly tangibly, often intangibly. Some films hit you with a bat; some creep astride ( and then inside) you. And then there's The Hurt Locker, a film which does both.

A military squad in Iraq, which the film follows episodically, is doing a job of defusing bombs. One of the soldiers discovers tragedy. Another counts his days to escape. And yet another finds the job to be his personal escape.

Its all attitude. It could be another day in the office, with different people just doing their jobs in their own way. But this is war - a different kind of an office.

And that's what the film is all about. In its edge-of-the-seat construction, it brings in its layers and sub-texts.

The psychology of a passion, when life is taken over and everything else matters little. When what you do (here: work inside a pressure cook) gets inside you so completely that it touches your very soul. And leaves you cold to the warmest of human connections. War becomes drug.

And in its realization of this grim idea comes the reality of what a war can make of a person.

Its a frightening, liberating and an imprisoning thought. And that's what this film is.

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