Veere di Wedding

Veere di Wedding – brought to you by the big ad rupees of the Indian consumer goods industry! This movie is the perfect case study for Marketing 101 in Business School on the topic “product placement gone wrong”. I want to know how much Anil Kapoor charged Bikaji to show four bathing attire clad pretend 20-somethings sit at the pool in Phuket and chomp out of aluminum Bikaji Bhujia bags. I also want to know how much Amul paid him to show the mandatory fat person in the group of four girls eat tub after tub of Amul ice cream with a chocolate¬† laden tray in the foreground of the scene. Once I get the economics of that maybe Videocon, Uber, and the at least three other brands that I am losing track of care to share how much they paid to get artificially placed into the scenes killing the mojo of the movie. Oh, wait! Did I say mojo? There was none!

Call me old school, call me prude, I have little patience for movies that are interpreting feminism to be the impersonification of vulgar, vagina-driven and very very immature. I used to not enjoy Hollywood movies for their excessive use of the f-word (506 times in The Wolf of Wall Street) and here we are making a full-circle aping the West with the c-word. Believe you me, I am likely the rare Indian outlier that doesn’t believe in marriage for the sake of marriage unless it has meaning, commitment and real intent but the way genuine issues were handled unnecessarily loudly in this movie was a complete put off.

Every stereotype found a place in this movie and was exaggerated to suit the Indian movie goer palate: extramarital affair, gay couple, broken family, NRI marriage, big fat Punjabi wedding, wedding rituals, one smart friend – one fat friend – one pretty friend – one rich friend group.

Shashanka Ghosh should focus on directing Indian TV serials because they could make good use of his over the top drama seen here and in his previous movie Khubsoorat. Poor direction and worse cinematography. (1/10)

VDW

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Raazi

After a six week hiatus & figuring out why I have more <randomstringofletters>@outlook.com blog followers than Donald Trump has typos in his tweets I am back!

I may have been slacking with writing reviews but rest assured I was on the top of my game watching movies! Let me start with the best:

Raazi, a beautiful play on word, signifying a young girls’ willingness to marry an unknown man, join an unknown family, call a rival country her new ‘home’ and her willingness to put all on the line to become a spy for her motherland. A deep bow of respect for real life Sehmat whose heart beat for more than just her own wellbeing.

Alia Bhatt is putting nepotism claims to rest with yet another talent-filled portrayal of the protagonist. What a nice contrast to pelvic thrusting, half-clad, dunked in a pot of make up heroins! Mind you, this wasn’t an easy character to play. It was equal parts grief and determination, confidence and sub-ordinance, hope and despair, courage and fear. Yet she brought each of these to life without flinching an eye.

Vicky Kaushal was a true surprise. How handsomely he slipped into a Pakistani army man’s, a son’s, a brother’s and a husband’s character. Ouuff! It’s not the first time I am asking and also not the last: “Where do they make men like these anymore??” Accomplished yet humble, not sappily romantic yet loving and caring in ways that don’t need words…

The direction was powerful, subtle and had just the perfect amount of patriotism, pride and clever.

Bonus: If Dilbaro doesn’t get you crying at “Babul ki Duayein Leti Ja” levels go get your eyes or your heart checked! (10/10)

raazi

 

Bhoomi

This movie with a message went unnoticed because either our society is becoming immune to constant messaging about India’s rape “culture” or they see enough of it being shared around on social media that they didn’t care noticing this mirror of Indian society.

This is the story of a daughter and her father in a small town whose life gets turned upside down by one man’s inability to handle rejection of his one-sided love. What follows is a sequence of abduction, gang rape, an unsuccessful attempt at seeking justice through the legal system, humiliation by law and society and the eventual revenge by father and daughter.

If you can ignore the non-sensical last 10 minutes of the movie it’s a pretty well made film, with great context setting, moving plot line, just enough detail to invoke anger, disgust and pain. Aditi Rao Hydari and Sharad Kelkar have acted brilliantly. Sanjay Dutt conveyed more with his eyes than his emotions. (8/10)

This movie is sadly far too relevant this week in light of what happened to little Asifa and unfortunately thousands of other unnamed girls and women across India. Expressing your anger through social media is one thing but thinking through solutions is another. There is so much psychological cause and effect and an unsettling level of voyeurism going on that it begs the question if the way to address this problem needs to be solved with the same weapons.

I strongly believe that crime and resource scarcity cannot just be curbed by patches like better education and better infrastructure. They are important but shouldn’t be the only focus. To nib the issue in the bud you have to solve for population growth control. Just like that rapes cannot be stopped by raising awareness on social media and candle marches. It’s time to nib the issue in the bud!

I am no psychiatrist but here is my very simplified – but not simplistic – attempt at understanding this situation:

Monsters rape because they are either mentally ill, have a desire to execute power over someone who is weaker than them (also a psychological disorder), are influenced by wrong interpretations of religion or its centuries old manifestation that men are a superior species. All of these causes are tightly related to the emotional centers of a human’s brain. Let’s park this thought for a second.

Many women’s plight never comes to light because of fear of repercussion, what will society say, the fear of their families being ostracized, the fear of living a life pinned by painful stares and if someone is so “benevolent” accompanied by some pity. Fear of all of this is also tightly related to the emotional centers of a human’s brain. These women have already endured the utmost test of physical cruelty. Now their neurons become hyper-sensitive to emotional cruelty. Let’s park this second thought too for a second.

Clearly, the sharing of such crimes on social media, television, newspapers, documentaries is not doing anything. I have no insight into statistics but I doubt the number of rapes are going down. And dare I say the Indian legal system is not (yet) equipped to handle these cases with the seriousness that they require to create consequences that are harsh enough to deter criminals.

Let’s go back to the two points I made earlier. If the perpetrators are driven by causes related to their psychology and the victims are put to silence by consequences related to their psychology — isn’t it high time this issue be addressed with a psychological war?!

There is a saying and a fact: The only way to cut a diamond is with a diamond.

The only way to end this psychological disorder is through psychological warfare!

Again, this is far more than two hours of my thinking can solve but this movie made me think how much more effective it would be to give these monsters a taste of their own medicine. Killing them by death penalty would be too easy of an end to their lives and likely not a shocking enough deterrent to future criminals. But killing them with their own weapons of fear, isolation and mind torture a little every day is worth a thousand deaths by execution.

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October

Bematlab ki sadness. That’s the feeling I left the theatre with.

I certainly don’t mind movies on the dark side of the emotional spectrum, ones that are more tragic than comic or take a bit of interpretation but this one kept me waiting for two hours for something to happen.

I later learnt it’s about unconditional love without expectations but there is zero character development or explanation of any sort about the protagonist. I kept wondering the entire time if he is of low IQ, mentally unstable, distracted, has some violent background that will later be revealed or if he has some history with the girl he is so besotted with. Nothing! Nada! He just happens to pretty much give up his daily routine, job, family, friends to be by the side of a bed-ridden girl who was nothing more than a colleague before.

The plot moves slower than it takes an iceberg to melt. Varun Dhawan’s acting is not bad but at times belabored. Gitanjali Rao tried her best but I didn’t see much of an emotion in many scenes where I expected to.

As for the title – just like the movie – it’s a far cry from sensible. Girl’s name is Shiuli which means Jasmine. Jasmine blooms in October. Let’s call the movie October. Let alone ‘bloom’ the girl meets a much worse fate. Kuch bhi! (3/10)

Oct

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)

PM

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)

 

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)

TZA