Archive | Movie Reviews RSS feed for this section

Movie Review – Where Do We Go Now?

25 Apr

Like everything else, movies too are big in Texas. The past weekend wrapped up the ten day long Dallas International Film Festival. Needless to say, yours truly with his partner in crime hopped on to every opportunity possible to catch some good films at the festival. I can confidently say that if movies were to be taken out of my life till now, I would have been quiet for more than half of my life! 😛

Click here for the promo.

Where Do We Go Now? is a film which is as endearing as thought provoking. The Lebanese film directed by Nadine Labaki (Caramel fame) is based in a small village which is literally connected to the rest of the country through a narrow valley bridge. The village has Muslim and Christian inhabitants and due to the overall political unrest, maintaining harmony between the two communities is like a tight rope walk. The essence of the film is in the resolve with which the women of the village, who are tired of mourning over their dead sons, which is to not let the political tension impact the peace in their village. The icing on the cake is the humor which is seamlessly woven throughout the story. For instance, when the women anticipate disturbance among the men of the two communities, they get a group of Ukrainian girls to distract them while the women execute a rather interesting plan to balk the unrest.

The narrative has a lot of subtle highlights throughout the film. The village or the country is unnamed. I perceive it as an attempt to make a more generic statement about communal prejudices. The urge to maintain peace has been given prominence in the script over the emotional upsurge within the women of the village revolves around the anxiety of losing their men – sons and/or husbands to the atrocities of communal war. There are several instances in the film which enunciate this notion strongly. While the priest and Imam concoct stories to avoid communal conflicts on petty issues instead of being religious jingoist, the mother of a young lad who gets accidentally killed in the riot outside the village hides her sorrow under the pretext of her son not being well.

This gives a fresh perspective and falls out of the parenthesis of the hackneyed story of misery and death. The film gives us a glimpse of the rather unnoticed yet basic issues of women in Lebanon which have not been glorified in erstwhile attempts.

Music has been used as a character in the story in a brilliant manner. The story maintains a constant pace throughout and music plays a crucial role in doing so. For instance, the use of music to show the love story between Amale (Nadine Labaki), a Christian girl and Rabih, a Muslim lad is austerely beautiful. However, I must mention that the love story gets a little fuzzy and lost in the narrative. All said and done, I am certain that when you finish watching the movie, a couple of those numbers are going to resound in your mind over and over again. Kudos to Khaled Mouzanar for such a wonderful soundtrack!

The film is audacious with its script and the sparkling presentation. It does not strike the melancholy strain entirely, yet conveys the misery of a jaundiced society. The crucial difference lies in the fact that the script actually tries to evaluate the possibilities to resolve the issue rather than lamenting over the socio – political aspects of the issue at hand. It is a venturesome attempt and certainly a praiseworthy one. For all those who want to catch something pretty bohemian, go for it!

My rating:

Click here for the previous movie reviews on Through the Looking Glass..

Movie Review – Stanley Ka Dabba

25 May

Probably the one quality that describes childhood the best is innocence. Amole Gupte captures this very quality with immense penchant in his latest offering – Stanley Ka Dabba. After Taare Zameen Par, this film once again enunciates the sensibilities of Amole, both as a filmmaker and as a parent. Stanley Ka Dabba is an ode to the gamboling freedom of children and a satire at the worried adult lives of the twenty first century.

Stanley, the protagonist is a forth standard student of the Holy Family School. The first few minutes of the film showcase the sheer fun that Stanley (Partho) has with his gang of friends in the school. The screenplay quickly presents a sketch of every character in the narrative. The Hindi teacher Babu Verma (Amole Gupte) who digs into the lunch boxes of students and teachers alike, the typical Science teacher Mrs. Iyer (Divya Jagdale)  who only means business and the charming English teacher Ms. Rosy (Divya Dutta) who is probably every boy’s crush. Stanley is clearly the favorite buddy of the entire class. His entertaining anecdotes are popular with everyone in the class. However, he gets in the bad books of Babu Verma for he never gets his tiffin box. The turning point of the story is when Verma scolds Stanley and asks him to enter the school only if he has a Dabba. Almost from the first frame, the director builds an enigma about Partho’s life out of school. Where does he live? What do his parents do? And most importantly, why doesn’t he get his Dabba? Stanley’s Dabba strongly symbolizes the reality behind his enigmatic existence.

One of the key highlights of the film is the effortless and warm performances by the child actors. Partho is adorable in every bit of his presence on the screen and his gang of friends made me nostalgic indeed! The film has been made through acting lessons over the weekends and the children have not missed a single day of school. Divya Dutta shines bright as Ms Rosy and Amole Gupte wears the “Khadus” title in an entertaining yet convincing way. The film never flashes out of the boundary of subtlety. There are no preachy dialogues nor are there any tear jerking scenes. It is the sheer simplicity that the narrative has to offer which captivates the audience.

The background score is predominantly used for narrating parts of the screenplay. In my humble opinion, the songs may not really be good to listen unless one has the images of the film to map the lyrics to. Having said that, Shankar Mahadevan’s stirring rendition “Nanhi si Jaan” lingered on my mind for quite a bit.

Stanley, figuratively puts forth several questions which we probably overlook easily while going about our daily chores. His mysterious Dabba while on one hand states that it is love and affection which can bind us all together; it also throws light on the probable fallacies in our societal notions and jaundiced opinions on the other.

There is a little bit of Stanley in every one of us! Stanley Ka Dabba is a journey back in the years of our lives which are probably the most cherished by most of us.  It expands the horizons of perceptions outwards and peaks inwards with a sensitive flavor that creates a  heartwarming experience. For all those who want to watch a simple film which can probably give your cerebrum something to ponder, go for it!

My Rating:

Movie Review: Sita Sings the Blues

18 Dec

An animation and a musical woven out of an epic which has been a part of the rich cultural heritage of India forever – a combination which surely seems promising as a film and it certainly is. When my close friend Sanket suggested me to watch this one, I ought to take it up the moment I had a chance. “Sita Sings the Blues” is an animated film written, directed and produced by American artist Nina Paley. The film is a satirical take on certain prominent events of Ramayana – the most celebrated Indian epic, amalgamated with the story of a devastating marriage of a contemporary married couple, which in fact is the story of Nina Paley herself. First and foremost, what needs to be lauded about the film is the fact that Nina Paley, the one woman army has responsibly mastered every aspect of making the film and has done it with brilliance. With a shoe-string budget and lack of distributors, she released the film on YouTube in 2008. (Yes! It is legitimately freely available on the internet! 🙂  )

Let’s be clear on this – The film is about male bashing. There is no dispute on that fact.  😛 The script asks and demands answers to questions which are presumably not new even to the Indian audience. Why was Sita asked to prove her virginity by taking the Agnipariksha (the trial of fire)? Why did Ram not trust Sita after he got her back from Lanka? These are just a few of the questions which have been posed time and again by the feminists of this planet. However, Sita Sings the Blues does not propitiate any of the extreme ideas. It applies these questions to the modern day convolutions of relationships which each one of us sees around. The story of trust, betrayal, sacrifice and affection which all of us seem to be living day in and day out is worth exposing to these conundrums of destiny.

The narration of the story of the film is done using puppets with a voice over which is superb. This has given the entire  narrative an authentic feel of a folklore. On one hand the wonderful animations capture the essence of the story perfectly, on the other the engrossing soundtrack is worth the bet. The musical part of the film is accredited to Annette Hanshaw, the quintessential jazz singer whose voice has not only embossed the melancholy strain of Sita’s blues, but even presented some awesome music after a real long time for those who love musicals. My personal favorites are “Am I Blue” and “Who’s that knocking at my door”. Hats off to Nina to think of jazzing up an Indian cult epic! That does require a lot of courage! 🙂

There are particular sequences of the film which force the viewers to question their own sensibilities with which different societies have created different definitions of marriage. When there are expectations out of either ends of a marriage, friction is bound to occur. Wondering why Sita even went to the extent of proving herself time and again to a man who was blinded by disbelief is a question which we tend to hide somewhere in our minds, not wanting it to erupt. Sita Sings the Blues gives way to many such hidden questions. In my opinion, the eventual emotion which the director probably wants to convey is a possibility of Sita’s emancipation and empowerment as a woman before being tagged as Ram’s wife towards the end of the entire episode. May be something with which the modern woman can relate a lot.

Nina Paley has created motley of disparate emotions interwoven with a single thread of music with such penchant that makes you hysterically laugh at the most unexpected spots, mysteriously
cry at beautifully worded songs and finally avow – “WOW!” 🙂

For all of you who want to experience some really different cinema, Sita Sings the Blues is a must watch. Here is the YouTube link for the movie:-

Go for it!

Click here for more movie reviews.

My rating:

Movie Review: Invictus

14 Dec

I would like to assert right in the beginning that I am a true admirer of movies like Jo jeeta wohi sikandar and Lagaan and I am a true detester of films like Goal. Films about sports have been one of the most successful genres of film making in every film industry. Haven’t we all cherished films like The babe, Million dollar baby and Ali?

From the promos and publicity done for Invictus, it does come across as a sports film. However, I would like to look at it as a socio-political drama which has been treated in an invigorating way using Rugby as a central theme. In today’s world, where being innovative and thinking out of the box is given such massive importance in every industry, here is a story of a man who thought in a staggeringly different way to establish harmony in a society which was jaundiced by Apartheid way back in 1995.

Nelson Mandela, the first president of the democratic South Africa, was an anti-Apartheid activist and had served 27 years in prison charged with leading a movement against racial discrimination. After his appointment as the President, out of the many challenges he had at stake like a State to run, an economy to stabilize the biggest was to build a state of brotherhood amidst its citizens. The story of Invictus starts at the point in Mandela’s life when he takes charge as the President. South Africa’s Rugby team Springbok was predominantly supported by the Whites and was hated by the Blacks. Mandela saw an opportunity in this sport as the Rugby World Cup was right at the anvil. His thought was to eliminate the racial divide that was persistent in South Africa and that had put forth its ugly head in every sphere of life by projecting Springbok as a national team as opposed to the contrived notion of it being a symbol of racial oppression. He publicized Springbok as the team that represents South Africa on the whole and not just the White population of the country and infused this notion in every team member. Victory of Springbok would mean victory of South Africa and only that could establish an emotion of oneness.


Morgan Freeman undoubtedly is the best choice for the lead role of Mandela. He is one of those actors who can breathe every character he plays. I cannot imagine anyone else portraying Mandela’s character with such penchant on screen. Clint Eastwood yet again showcases his cinematic genius with the perfect choice of actors and a strong screenplay which only exhilarates the viewing experience. Matt Damon who plays the role of the captain of the Springbok team puts forth a highly leveled performance. The authenticity of the script is seen in the dialect in which both Freeman and Damon speak. There are some dialogues which are truly fantastic, brevity being the biggest pro. For instance, the day before the final match, Matt Damon thinks to himself – “He could forgive those who imprisoned him for thirty years”.

However, I feel that the film is a tad too swiftly paced. It lacks the dramatic luster at places where it deserves to have it almost inevitably. The whole process of convincing every team member to overcome their dogmatic opinions about the Black population has not been shown to be a great deal of struggle. Also, the last few minutes of the match are stretched sequences which mar the excitement that is built since the beginning of the final game. I think for a film like Invictus, the biggest challenge is to be able to hold viewer’s interest in spite of the fact that it is evidently known who the winner is at the end of the game. To a large extent, Eastwood has been successful in doing so. On the whole, the strong performances of Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon overshadow the lack of drama and the film comes across as a truly soul stirring presentation of a visionary’s life, not being a mere documentation of a series of events in Mandela’s life.

Invictus, which means unconquered, is a poem by Willian Henley which I remember reading as a part of my English curriculum in school. This poem plays a rather crucial part in the climax of the story which justifies the name of the film. I would surely recommend this film to all those who want a breath of fresh air. Watch it for a mind blowing performance by Morgan Freeman and the unconventional backdrop of a story which is seemingly predictable but is immensely engaging.

My rating:

Movie Review: Harishchandrachi Factory

19 Nov

After the horrendous experience of watching a wreck, there was just no way that I could deny an invitation from a friend to attend the NA premier of Harishchandrachi Factory (Harishchandra’s Factory) – India’s entry to the Academy Award 2010. South Asian International Film Festival (SAIFF) has been doing a praiseworthy job in this part of the world by getting the best of Asian cinema to the western world and giving them good amount of publicity and befitting awards. Harishchandrachi Factory was the closing night film of the festival and the director of the film, Paresh Mokashi was present for the screening. Ever since the news broke of the film being selected to be the official entry to the Oscars, it had surely gone on my wishlist! 🙂

Harishchandrachi factory is a joyful depiction of how Dadasaheb Phalke, rightly known as the father of Indian cinema, made the first Indian motion picture – Raja Harishchandra in 1913. The screenplay has been adapted from Dadasaheb Phalke’s biography written by Bapu Watve.

Phalke’s journey can be seen to be one full of adventures and entertaining encounters. His comely personality and eccentric zeal has been portrayed in an unmatched way by Nandu Madhav in the film. The story importantly unfolds the superstitions that prevailed in the society pertaining to films in that era and the social stigma that revolved around “moving pictures”. Dadasaheb had to face both social and political hurdles in his journey to make his dream come true. But, Paresh Mokashi has not created a melancholy portrait of his struggle. Instead he has enunciated Dadasaheb’s pluck in an awesome way. Undeniably, some cynics may not really approve of portrayal of his struggle in a cheerful way. In my personal opinion, the subtlety with which two mutually opposing emotions have been painted on the celluloid by Mokashi deserves a sincere applaud.

There are scenes which are creatively enriching in every way and which linger on the viewer’s minds for a long time. In 1913, it was impossible to find a lady actor to play the part of Taramati, Raja Harishchandra’s wife in the film. It was traditional in Marathi plays then for men to play female leads as well. The comedy involved around the inhibitions that actors in Phalke’s film had around shaving off their moustaches is rib tickling, yet not slapstick. The way Mokashi has showcased Phalke’s intelligence and intellect is simply spellbinding.

There are unconventional and interesting metaphorical props used as well which only put forth the intellectual sensibilities of Mokashi as a film maker. For instance, the use of a patriotic marathi poem (“Ek tutari dya maja anuni”) to convey resurgence of hope whenever Phalke was hurdled by an obstacle Or the use of appropriate slogans by revolutionaries in the background to depict the year that is being shown.

Vibhavari Deshpande, who plays Phalke’s wife in the film, has done a fantastic job of portraying a character that is strong, yet submissive, audacious, yet timid and hopeful, yet worried. Every shade of the character has been decorated with beautiful anecdotes and dialogues. Music has been used very effectively throughout the film. In spite of the fact that there is no song in the film, the catchy background score only acts as a catalyst to the entertainment quotient. The facet of the film that grabs your attention with fascination is the art direction. To recreate an era of pre-independence has always been challenging for art directors in India and Nitin Desai rightly deserves all the accolades that he has won for this movie.

The film has a joyous charm that remains intact throughout. We are talking of an era when India was under the rule of the British. An ordinary film maker would have undoubtedly made an attempt to aggrandize the atrocities committed by the British. But, what makes this film extraordinary is the fact that, we don’t see a loud and gaudy expression of any sort.

We rather see the director talking of a man who was enterprising, venturesome and courageous enough to have gone all the way to London in that era to learn the technicalities involved with film making. We are talking of a man who was strongly determined to reach his goal no matter how arduous the pursuit was.

Paresh Mokashi is a highly acclaimed thespian in the marathi theatre circle. Harishchandrachi Factory is his debut film. His journey of creating his first film has also been a challenging one if not as challenging as Phalke himself. To a large extent, we see Mokashi relating well to Phalke throughout the film and his heartfelt love for cinema is seen in each and every frame. What a splendid start of the career in film making!

After the screening of the film, there was a Q&A session which clearly showed how infectious the humor and the warmth of the film were. The film is slated to release early next year all across India. Dubbing the film in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam is also on the cards.

Harishchandrachi Factory is surely a must watch for all the movie lovers. We all owe it to the person who sowed the seeds of cinema in India – Someone who continued making films in India in spite of attractive offers from the western world only to ensure that the motion picture industry in India gets established. In true spirit, the doyen of the largest film industry in the world. Hats off to Phalke and Thumb’s up to Presh Mokashi for giving us a chance to celebrate Indian cinema in true sense.

My rating:

Movie review: Main aur Mrs.Khanna

27 Oct

It was a rainy Saturday. The sun had not shone on me for even a minute since the morning and that made as morose as ever. I had slept enough, orkutted enough and gmailed enough (I have still not been smitten by the facebook bug! 😛 ) and believe you me, I had cooked enough as well. Basically, I had come to the stage where one really wants to do something fruitful on a Saturday like watching a movie, or chilling out with a gang of friends and the likes.

I have no valid justification for the fact that I chose to see this film to be able to spend my weekend time ‘fruitfully’. I knew it all even before deciding to watch it. I knew it had the ever atrocious Salman Khan with wrinkled face and drooling eyes, it had Kareena, half his age who looked like the frozen chapatti that I eat every day of the week and not to forget it had the ever obnoxious Sohail Khan who thinks that just because he has been breathing the bollywood air since childhood, he can be a part of anything that is even remotely linked to film making.


As a film viewer, it is the screenplay and the script that attract me first and then I begin to look at the way the story has been told on the celluloid. A lot of times, I tend to even overlook poor presentation if the screenplay is strong. For instance, Hyderabad Blues could have been a far better presented film if Nagesh Kukonoor had that sort of a budget. But, it is the story which attracted the viewers and they did not even mind if there were scenes shot with a simple handy cam.

Leave alone screenplay, this film does not have a story to start with. Set in Melbourne, the story begins with a little tiff between Samir Khanna (Salman Khan) and Mrs. Raina Khanna (Kareena Kapoor) over the fact that Raina had thrown the news paper in the trash can as it had marring remarks about Samir who had been a part of a scam. Raina is a waitress in some big time restaurant in Melbourne and Samir obviously dislikes it. He believes that “Every marriage must have financial stability” and he is shown to be disturbed of the fact that just because he lost his job, their marriage has lost this indispensable ‘financial security’.

After realizing the fact that there was not much in Melbourne for him to do, he decides to move to Singapore in search of job and books Raina on a flight to Delhi to go and stay with his parents till the time he returns. Raina decides to not to take the flight back to India and stays on in Melbourne. This is where Akash (Sohail Khan) enters the story by being the smitten lover boy of Mrs. Khanna. He is shown to be working at a coffee shop at the airport. The way he is shown ogling at Mrs. Khanna is only childish.

Just like any other typical bollywood flick, Raina makes a bunch of close Indian friends in a span of 2 minutes of screen time which includes Akash. What more? She even gets a job at a jeweler (played by Bappi Lahiri) at the airport. You ought to look at the lavish which she “manages” to live in by working at the jeweler.

I don’t want to detail the mindless plot and the enervating climax. I must mention the cameo which Preity Zinta has done with a flimsy item number to woo Mr. Khanna. She is hired by Akash so that Mrs. Khanna thinks that Mr. Khanna is of an ill character and grows an aversion towards him. Mr. Director, do you think you are making a film for kids who have just entered their teenage. On second thoughts, I don’t even think that today’s teenagers would do something as silly as this!

The appearance of Salman Khan is saddening, the pale look on Kareena’s face is irksome and Sohail Khan’s obliquely comic expressions can only bring a grimace to the viewer’s face. There is only one fairly hummable song in the film Rabba sung by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan.

If you too suffer from the ‘Start-to-finish’* disease like me, don’t even venture into looking at the promos of this film. As for Prem Soni, who happens to have started his career with such a disastrous film, I can only wish him luck!

* An ailment in which if you have seen the opening titles of the film, you cannot get rid of it until you watch it till the end. The author of this post has been a victim of enumerable atrocities due to this fallacy. Eg: Mithun da’s Aag ka Gola, Ganga Jamuna Saraswati, etc.

My Rating:half_star

%d bloggers like this: