Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Shout out at Makkhanwala

It is the height of prohibition, and lawless gangsters rule the city of chicago. Into this scenario enters a lone superhero. With smart-aleck old wise cop, and discriminated-against sharp-shooter, he proceeds to fight against the empire of crime. Actually, wrong movie. Twenty years after,Lakhia, who may not be de Palma (for which he has our sincere condolences), proceeds to make a pretty fair movie about India's own high tide of gang wars.

Maya (not Mayawati) is a small-time crook in Mumbai. He gets his start at a very young age, when he gets an opportunity to prove that he cares.

Fast forward to the time the movie is set in (which is apparently sometime in 1991), where a defense lawyer, played by the man who's done the most advertisements ever, is listening (and making smart comments) to
excuses put forward by a bunch of elite cops (sound familiar? Only, instead of the semi-believable people in Untouchables, you have the dedicated high priest with family problems, the trigger-happy muscleman who does airport security part-time, and the traffic cop who wants more.

The flashbacks involve the great man's son in a guest appearance as the cop who busts open a cell of urbane turbans, and is promptly gunned down for his pains. Following this, the dedicated cop guns down the turbans, with embedded reporting by our lady from Hyde. Her dedication to the job deserves applause, particularly her ability to put the right spin onto current events.

As counter-story, we are also provided insight into how Maya grows into his position as the pre-eminent Man of Significance in Mumbai, interspersed with what is Indian cinema's longest experiment with the Item Number. Shame, really - the Item may be quite a number, even though she is restricted to, basically, wallpaper. Maybe it was for the best, though - it is possible to reduce the length of the movie to a bearable minimum, simply by excising her presence. Kudos to the director to give people who watch this on media with lower returns an unambiguous clue on when to fast-forward.

This is probably the right moment to introduce the music: When you have songs by Indian Ocean and Euphoria, is it reasonable to expect it to suck less than the baseline? Even ignoring the Longest Item Number Ever, it's still nothing special. Hell, listen to Nancy Sinatra, and mull over how the song would sound with Andrea Corr and Bono singing.

Since this is really too big for a movie that is based on true rumours, we cut to the shoot-out: The big bad gangsters are counting their spoils in a remote location surrounded by people who wish to live a normal life, and the Man from the Middle-East decides to be a law-abiding citizen by informing the high priest where his personal demons are to be found. Much boom and bang later, the movie ends with an impersonal question by the embedded reporter to the audience of this movie. Unfortunately, the only audience reaction is along the lines of "Finally, it's over."

Perhaps it's worth mentioning that the post-shootout camerawork, (which, owing to a strange bubble in spacetime, is shown at the beginning of the movie) is impressive - whether it's enough to make you watch this move is your call.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Nuevo Cinema Paradiso

While we were growing up RK Narayan was one of the authors we loved. Now if someone were to ask why exactly, we would be very hard put to come up with an answer. The fact that his short stories are just that, short and a story that you can relate to very well. And we were very pleasantly surprised by Cinema Paradiso the movie we watched over the weekend. It is true in word and spirit to the Sony Pix tagline "We tell stories".

There is a scene in Cinema Paradiso where Alfredo a person who shares a very unique relationship with the protagonist of the movie projects the movie onto a house in the town square so that people who could not watch the last show can enjoy the movie. Only after a few minutes Alfredo loses his eyesight as the film catches fire. Moments like these make Cinema Paradiso the great movie it is.

We follow Salvatore at three different times in his life: as a child, then as an adolescent and finally as a middle aged man. As a child he sells money meant for milk to watch movies, Alfredo of course bails him out of tricky situations with his mother. As an adolescent he falls in love with Elena who initially does not reciprocate his feelings. And finally as an adult for whom something in life is missing and closure is finally obtained when he travels back to his village from Rome.

The very simplicity of the movie is what appeals to you. You can feel the raw emotional attachment that Salvatore has toward movies and Elena.

The cinematography is superlative. Watch out for Alfredo exclaiming "Progress is always late" or a madly in love Slavatore exclaiming 'When will this bloody summer end. In a film, it'd already be over. Cut, and there's a storm.' And true to cue Elena does come, there is lightning and they do kiss passionately.

Then of course there is the soundtrack made by one of our favorites Ennio Morricone.

We really cant say much more except that it is a movie you will treasure, so get off your arse and go watch it!!.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Retro Show --> Review of Life in a Metro

There was once this senior of mine who told me that the best equation he liked in Physics was

Work Done = Force X Displacement

The equation implies that for work to be done it is not necessary to just apply a force but also to do so in the right direction.

Anurag Basu's latest movie Life in A Metro has the right direction, but lacks the required force. We might be biased, considering we have been pampered on a diet of noir movies that involve an ex-marine whose idea of a date is watching a porn movie, a paranoid mathematician or about movies that talk about the amount of weight lost when a human being dies.

The movie gets the basics right. The cast is great (I mean if Shilpa Shetty can actually emote on screen, that should amount to something). The screenplay is excellent, and so is the soundtrack (Mark Knopfler, operatic solos way to go Mr Basu).

An effort towards creating our own Amores Perros, we appreciate Basu for not going their way and start off by showing how all the parallel stories are interconnected. And not since Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri acted as the witches of MacBeth, have we seen an innovation like having the actual band perform the songs in the movie. The first three tracks are good but the last two we could have done without. Thankfully that takes care of any of our hero/heroines running around trees.

We can forgive Basu for making Kangana Ranaut's hair straight (As Hobbes says "Redheads, I like redheads!!" our philososphy is "Curly Hair, We like curly hair!!, Sandhya Mridul, Sushmita Sen, Bipasha Basu you get the drift we guess"), but sir please the Indian audience is much more appreciative than you would think. Why did you have to have that extra long bit on that "Style and RDB" guy explaining why he is making money for a good reason ? Why oh why did you have to end it with such a sugar-coated-everyone-rejects-money-and-follows-love-at-the-end ? And still we do not have an Indian heroine walking out of an unsuccessful marriage, now that would have been something!! And you had to break the heart of the one guy we liked in the whole movie, Shiney Ahuja ? Don't worry sir you are not the only one even Mani Ratnam made an unapologetic movie till in the end he felt compelled to make Gurubhai the Mahatma!!. We definitely could have done without the horse in the rail station and some more screen time for Ifran Khan and the lady who said no to "The Namesake". (with good reasons we must say after watching the movie)

All in all it is an excellent movie till about the last 15 minutes where it quickly degenerates into yet another Bollywood movie.

And as we were shaking our head in disappointment at the dumb ending and went home we switched on our Idiot Box only to find "Main Hoon Na" and we realized how much better by orders of magnitude your movie was, so what if the ending was not what we wanted, we will surely watch it yet again and maybe add it to our DVD collection just yet.

P.S : The boss working out with the "Brokeback Mountain" poster in the background was quite good eh. And if you have read so far and are wondering why the title is what it is, well we are equally clueless!!