Pad Man

It’s commendable to see an actor use his celebrity to spread awareness about a serious issue plaguing the country. Akshay Kumar is no stranger to putting his muscle to use for good causes, be it supporting the Armed Forces, drawing attention to farmer suicides or now making sure the taboo around what’s part of a woman being fertile no longer stays a taboo.

This movie, based on Arunachalam Muruganantham’s life, explores how menstruation is associated with shame and how women themselves make something as routine as this an issue of impurity. On the one hand certain cultures in India celebrate the coming-of-age of young teenage girls when they get their first period with grand fanfare, on the other hand they are told periods are impure, they have to sleep outside the house, cannot visit the temple, cannot enter the kitchen and the list goes on. The moment you ask “Why?” you get a big imposing stare translating into “How dare you ask?” because even the people setting the rules don’t know the answers. Just like human evolution or creation (whichever you believe in) created the digestive system to keep the energy flow going it also created menstruation to support a woman’s fertility. Why is that a problem?

The movie has some slightly preachy, edging towards documentary style dialogues at the beginning which is understandable because many of its viewers may not even know why female hygiene is important and how big of an issue that is. From there unfolds the underdog to hero story that may not be incredibly entertaining but with an actor as fine as Akshay Kumar still becomes an interesting watch.

The crescendo of his skill comes to bear during his final speech at the United Nations where he is more convincing than many trained public speakers I have watched. This one doesn’t go to feminism, or entertainment, or any other motif of movie making. This one is an ode to innovation, perseverance and purely goes to Askhay Kumar’s acting ability. (7/10)

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The Glass Castle

No matter how much we wish and sometimes talk ourselves into believing our families are perfect there are bound to be struggles we are trying to overcome. For some the extremes are highly pronounced with the good times being better than one can imagine and the worst times being worse than you’d wish upon your enemy.

This is a story of a family that precariously lives within that spectrum of extreme love and extreme neglect. A family that inspires and inhibits its members at the same time for sometimes remarkable beauty comes with deep imperfections.

The Walls are a family of father, mother, four children living the hippie life. There is no money but there is an abundance of love – except on days the alcoholic father drowns himself in his addiction and leaves his children hungry. With the mother slowly losing it too one of the elder sisters, Jeannette,  becomes the de facto caretaker of her younger siblings. A particularly chilling evidence of it is when the youngest sibling, Maureen, wakes up her sister in the middle of the night because none of them have had food for three days. The only thing left in the house is a bowl of butter and some sugar which Jeannette stirs up and feeds the little one.

As the children grow up they slowly start leaving home to become independent but deep down the love for their parents and the knowledge that their father’s neglect was not his intent but the result of his addiction they try to stay in touch and take care of each other. When Jeannette, the daughter closest to her father becomes an accomplished journalist and gets engaged to a successful banker in NYC the chasm between her and her parents inevitably widens but she can’t let the burden of that break the strings of her heart firmly connected to her family. The drama culminates in a beautiful ending that’s testimony of Jeanette’s strength and her undying love for the people that she depends on as much as they do on her.

Be warned: This movie will leave you sobbing and hurting but it’s beauty will stay with you for years to come. (10/10)

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The Post

All I wanted on a Sunday afternoon was an easy-to-follow-along movie with taut storytelling and an uplifting ending. Instead I felt I had to work hard to understand what was going on and I caught myself squinting at my watch twice in the dark of the theatre to see how much longer it will take to get to the point. In all honesty, I feel Hollywood movies sometimes contain so much “noise” that it becomes hard to focus on the actual happenings of the plot.

This movie tried to do a few too many things by taking on the topics of government blunders, rivalry, survival, freedom of press and the added dose of feminism that most movies are using to draw audiences these days. With so much going on the story didn’t do full justice to any of them. Sometimes less is more!

What stood out, however, are excellent performances by both Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. What fine acting! (4/10)

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Padmaavat

Too much beauty is lethal – as a weapon and to the life of the one who possesses it or claims any right to it.

I wish I could meet Karni uncle and ask him if he saw the same Padmaavat as I did. If anything this movie serves an epic glorification of the Rajputs. They are the heroes of this saga from every angle you look at it unless you are hanging upside down with your brains hanging out your ears. Rajputs are portrayed as courageous, kind, cultured, intelligent, hospitable, respectful and soaked in a pool full of integrity. Even the Queen showing her reflection to Khilji is done to save Mewar, not to bring dishonor to it. Karni uncle, problem kaai hea?

The three hours I was practically absorbed by the movie (almost literally – I had the center seat in the very first row) I kept wondering what happened to Khilji raaj’s descendants? Shouldn’t they be the ones rioting for the animalistic portrayal of their King? I am not a historian but was Alauddin Khilji really as bestial?

Why didn’t Sanjay Leela Bhansali just call this movie Alauddin to begin with? He was the one driving the story and eliciting all sorts of reactions from the Rajputs. So what if he was the antagonist? Had the crew thought of the proposed name change all that hoola hoop could have been prevented. But who am I to know if it was intentional or not?

Bhansali is known to create magic of epic proportions on screen and Padmaavat is no different. From Deepika’s no-make-up make up look, to Shahid’s tanned skin and toned abs, from Ranveer’s black aura to his barbarism, from the grandeur of the palaces to the dust of Rajasthan’s vast expanse, from the glitterati of Rajput and Mughul jewels to the brushed cottons and gotas of the Rajputs’ outfits. Awe inspiring in every fold and frame! Bhansali, aisi cinematograpy pe 100 thappad kurbaan!

No one but Ranveer Singh could have done justice to Alauddin’s character. His off screen craziness served him very well in Alauddin’s boots. We all know Shahid is a great actor but who knew his petit frame could fit the grandeur of a Rajput King too? Deepika, a bit too solemn on her expressions, is graceful as ever.

The authenticity of the actual story aside this movie is a complete advertising package for the Rajputs. Even something as cruel as Jauhar is made to look morally superior and outright glamorous. The dialogues are dripping of Rajput pride and a Rajput Queen is given an equal pedestal as a Rajput King.

Whether a woman fights for a man, with a man or against a man, her fierceness rooted in reason is the most attractive trait she can possess. Padmavati’s beauty got her in trouble, her brains crowned her with victory and Khilji’s madness led everyone to a ruinous end. Sound familiar? Oops, sorry men.

The climax visuals were absolutely grand: A sepia castle going under in a soft yet ravenous fire, a sea of women in red and amidst all that a lion-maned Deepika slipping out of a blackened Khilji’s heinous sight. How can you make destruction look so stunning? Leave it to SLB. (9/10)

 

The Commuter

An ex-cop is framed into killing a witness to a huge corporate conspiracy. He is offered $100,000 to identify the witness on his daily commute train and tap her with a GPS that can then be identified by another killer. As the movie unfolds the cop feels increasingly threatened. His family is held captive which makes him reach out for help to an old colleague he trusted. Things go south from there rapidly with the movie ending in a climax that would put Bollywood to shame.

Liam Neesen is a polished actor but for the 60 year old he is portraying in the movie even he’s gone a bit overboard. His on-screen wife has two scenes and is irritatingly annoying. Maybe she should have been kept hostage a bit longer. (4/10)

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Tiger Zinda Hai

Tiger kabh marega? … was the thought looming over my mind as I was exiting the movie theatre at 1am in the morning. I can understand why the audience erupts into whistles and cries (the happy kind) when Salman Khan takes over the screen – shirtless – and out of nowhere procures a kalashnikov to singe-handedly finish the whole Syrian army troupe on the scene. But somewhere deep inside, where I lock up my brain before I embark to watch a Salman Khan movie, my logic is rebelling and letting out suppressed cries of pain. I know movies are meant for entertainment yada yada but after being spoiled with quality action thrillers like Baby and Airlift this Tiger business doesn’t measure up more than a meek meow.

For the first time ever I felt Katrina did a half-decent job. Guess why? She didn’t need to speak much. She was fully consumed by fierce-fully slaying Syrian goons. Quite the power packed sight.

Now if you have to – like me – see every movie whether it’s worth it or not by all means drive yourself over to the next theatre but if this is not a vice for you stay at home and spend the time doing something wiser. (3/10)

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Dhobi Ghat

This is the story of four very different people whose worlds collide in the big brawny city of Mumbai. They find themselves drawn into intertwined relationships: Shai – an investment banker turned photographer on sabbatical, Arun – a lonely painter, Munna – the “dhobi” who aspires to become an actor and Yasmin – using her camcorder to “write letters” to her brother who has never been to Mumbai. The film follows how their lives are changed by the presence and absence of one another.

Completely off the beaten path, not your typical Bollywood film. Part documentary, part indi-touch it provides plenty of food for thought as you see four characters very unlike each other deeply caring about one another. Munna likes Shai, Shai likes Arun and Arun is shocked by Yasmin’s diary.

Very laid back watch for a day you don’t want Bollywood glitz and glamor on your screen. (7/10)

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