Category Archives: Movie Review

Movie review – Fashion

From the dingy, dark, drinking holes in Chandni Bar to the spotlit world of high fashion in quite an arc for filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar, who makes another faintly exploitative movie exposing some more dirt under the complexity that is Mumbai.

Fashion is the ex-video distributor’s 8th movie as director. Priyanka Chopra is Meghna Mathur, the small town girl who dreams of becoming a supermodel in the big, bad metropolis. With the help of a few friends she has a spectacular rise to success and an equally explosive fall before she realizes a few home truths about herself and the strength of her small town values.

If this sounds like a fairly conventional parable, it is. The plot is far less complex than the director’s earlier efforts like Page 3 or Traffic Signal. Meghna’s success in the glittering world of fashion comes far too easily, considering the struggles most aspiring models go through to make it and how many fail. It feels that her quick rise is just a setup for the troubles that come after, and even these seem forced. The way Meghna’s character is developed early in the movie, she seems like a pretty sensible, level-headed girl and it is not quite clear how she could fall prey to drinking and diva-like behavior in such a short time.

Kangana Ranaut is supermodel Shonali Gujral, whom Meghna deposes as the queen bee of the catwalk. She emotes well, though her diction still needs work, but she is danger of being typecast as the boozing out-of-control prima donna( previous roles in Woh Lamhe, Gangster and Metro all had her alcoholically impaired and she seems to have become the go-to girl for characters like these).

Priyanka Chopra as Meghna gives a heartfelt performance, showing that in the hands of a good director she is capable of competent work. She has the looks and figure to pull off the character of a supermodel, though in real life she probably would have been asked to lose 10 pounds. But all her earnestness cannot lift this movie from being a superficial look at what must be a cutthroat industry, full of scheming and politicking. People are just too nice to be real. Meghna gets an unbelievable amount of support from designers, talent agents and fellow models, something even I, with my limited knowledge of this industry found hard to swallow.

It is as if the filmmaker, having tasted commercial success, has added a glossy patina to what used to be gritty and raw moviemaking. Madhur Bhandarkar makes a cameo in the movie, gently mocking his tendency to capitalize on the pain and the hurt that lingers just under the surface of so much of Mumbai’s successes. And in a nod to how well the formula is working, Karan Johar shows up too.

I would rate Fashion as watchable, at least for those of us with limited knowledge of this environment. Unlike Chandni Bar and Page 3, expect it to fade from your memory quickly, though.


Directed by Madhur Bhandarkar

*ring – Priyanka Chopra, Raj Babbar, Kangana Ranaut

My Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Movie review – Roadside Romeo

On paper it looks like such a slam dunk; Yash Raj Films, a top quality production house with access to the biggest talents in Bollywood, and Disney Films, an animation giant, collaborating to make a cutting-edge animated movie entirely produced in India. On screen, the result is pretty sad.

Created at the Tata Elxsi’s Visual Computing Lab in Bangalore, Roadside Romeo is the story of a resourceful dog who manages to survive and thrive in the mean streets of Mumbai after being abandoned by his affluent owners. Saif Ali Khan gives voice to the lead character and Kareena Kapoor is his glamorous amour, Laila.

Trailer of Roadside Romeo( much better than the movie)

As a parent of two, I have suffered through several humdrum animated movies aimed at kids and as such my expectations were not very high to start with. But Romeo is a particularly pathetic effort.

For one, this is a movie very confused about who its target audience is. One might make the assumption that it is the small fry, but then you have the item numbers! Imagine nude but anatomically neutral dogs doing sexy moves – it is a truly creepy sight. Then there is the heavy emphasis on Bambaiyya slang for most of the movie’s humor quota – not only is it completely lost in translation, but I suspect it is a caricature even to people in India. Though Javed Jaffrey as Charlie Anna with Karunanidhi looks and a heavy “Madrasi” accent is one of the bright spots in the movie,  the humor is lost to someone who is reading the subtitles to make sense of the movie.

This would have been a small obstacle if the movie had other redeeming qualities, but the script falls short – there are several moments which I can only describe by the radio term “dead air”- nothing happens for several frames. It is a shortcoming inexcusable in an animated movie, where the pace is supposed to be frenetic.

The story is also all over the place – is it about Romeo’s survival skills? It about his romance? Is it an action movie involving gangsters? Roadside Romeo uses every cinematic cliche associated with Bollywood, and just like the rest of Yash Raj Films have been doing lately, falls flat on its face.

Saif and Kareena ham it up, but it can’t save the movie. Having big names behind the microphone is a Hollywood tradition, but even here that can’t guarantee box-office success( witness the fate of “Bee Movie”, voiced by Jerry Seinfeld.)

In the end, Roadside Romeo falls victim to the same malaise that has been plaguing both Disney and Yash Raj Films – it is out of touch with the times, making movies using a formula that needs to be retired pronto. Hopefully its failure does not discourage the nascent animation efforts in India; there are wonderful stories waiting to be told and creative storytellers who can tell them – all that is required is the courage to break the mould.

Movie review- A Wednesday

Wow, what a delightful year for lovers of good Hindi movies! Four of the six movies last reviewed here have been low budget gems that also made good, pointing to a crumbling of the studio oligopoly that has existed in Bollywood for years.

Three of those have been set in Mumbai, a city whose encompassing moods and multiple layers of existence have been rich fodder for young writers and directors. While Jaane Tu dealt with romance in the hip, sophisticated side of this cosmopolitan city and Rock On was a coming of age movie set in the comfort of urban success, A Wednesday looks at the seamy side of Mumbai, where gangsters and politicians co-exist in relative amity, where the man on the street is just a pawn in the complex games of the powers-that-be.

A Wednesday has been unfairly clubbed with other movies dealing with bomb blasts in Mumbai. Terrorism is a subject that goes deep into the psyche of the average Mumbai resident and it is not surprising that different filmmakers try to deal with it in their own unique way.

But this particular movie is not a commentary on the issue like Mumbai Meri Jaan or Tahaan. What it is, first and foremost, is a tight, taut thriller, a cat and mouse game between the police chief, played by Anupam Kher, and an anonymous criminal (Naseeruddin Shah) who threatens to bomb five unknown locations in the city unless his demands are met.

The drama plays out in just 100 minutes of movie time( about 5 hours of real time on a Wednesday), but each minute is a cliff-hanger as the terrific script keeps us guessing till almost the very end. The direction by debutant director Neeraj Pandey is impeccable and worthy of the enormous acting talents of Kher and Shah. If I had a quibble, and it is a very small one at that, it is that a couple of supporting actors don’t quite measure up. This is especially true of the guy who plays the Bollywood star threatened by the Mob, but I am really nitpicking now. Given that this is a movie that was probably made on a small budget, this cost-cutting is pretty forgivable. Especially as there are some scenes which could be used for a master class in acting.

One in particular is the final scene between Kher and Shah. This is the only time in the movie in which the two share the frame. The freeze frame at the end captures a look on Shah’s face and he manages to convey so much more with just his expression in that one second than reams of award-winning dialogue can do in hours.

What is more encouraging than the fact that this is a really good movie is that it is a big hit back home, gaining some kind of cult status among movie fans. It is unashamedly bilingual, with the English dialogue sounding colloquial and appropriate, and has no songs. Isn’t it great that a movie that bucks the formula can do so well?

I’ve been feeling lately that there is a renaissance of sorts happening in Bollywood. Studios like Yash Raj Films have been turning out turkeys like Tashan and Thoda Pyaar, Thoda Magic while the indie crowd has been scoring all the goals. Young filmmakers have been making the films they want to make, not the ones they think they should and the results, while not uniformly good,( witness strange creations like Ugly Aur Pagli and Money Hai to Honey Hai), have been interesting.

At the very least, this new direction in Bollywood is giving character actors like Anupam Kher, Naseeruddin Shah and Ranvir Shorey their place in the sun. Like movies produced by Miramax in Hollywood, an alternate channel of small, intelligent movies is emerging in India. As an avid Hindi-movie watcher, I can only rejoice.

A Wednesday

*ring Anupam Kher, Naseeruddin Shah, Jimmy Shergill

Written and directed by Neeraj Pandey

My rating – 4.5 stars out of 5.

Movie Review – Welcome to Sajjanpur

By Vidya Pradhan

Why give your movie an English name when it is entirely set in the North Indian heartland? Shyam Benegal’s latest is set in the sleepy village of Sajjanpur, situated at a vague distance from the big bad metropolis of Mumbai and populated by quirky characters straight out of Nukkad.

In tone and treatment, this movie resembles nothing as much as Hari Bhari, the director’s previous folksy effort from 2000. Mahadev(Shreyas Talpade), is a letter writer for the village and its surrounding district. He ekes out a fragile existence in the age of SMSs and email, lucky to be surrounded by illiterate people with serious issues. Continue reading

Movie Review – Rock On!

Imagine you were cleaning out your closet and came across photos of yourself and your friends from a few decades ago. Would the pictures make you laugh or would you cry? Did you live up to the promises of those snapshots in time or did you end up making compromises like everyone else? And whatever happened to those great guys you knew?

Director Abhishek Kapoor explores the angst of nostalgia in his second film, Rock On, starring an ensemble cast with the only familiar face being Farhan Akhtar. Farhan, who directed another superb buddy movie, Dil Chahta Hai, gets in front of the camera this time, delivering a knockout performance which is sure to leave more than a few knees weak. Continue reading

Movie review – Persepolis

By Shreyasi Deb

On a moist work evening in Mumbai, on my way home I decided to drop by at the mall next door without any great purpose. I walked to the multiplex area and while I was wondering how ‘The Vagina Monologues’ would feel in Hindi (our emotions have language?) I hit upon the wonderful poster for ‘Persepolis’ almost hiding apologetically behind its blatantly colorful cousins which spoke of movies I’d turn in my grave to watch.

“I must do this” I said and soon I went in (my stomach sorted with a quick sub and a quicker coffee) expecting a ‘private viewing’ of the movie on a weekday late evening show. The theater didn’t have a single soul (although a dozen odd co-viewers did walk in after a while) and what began is a great show about life.

Persepolis is based on a graphic novel( or comic as we call them). An autobiographical account of author Marjane Satrapi's childhood, the comic is inked in black and white and tells of her coming of age in the turbulent times of the Iranian revolution. The movie, animated to resemble the book, is co-directed by the author. Continue reading

Kismat Konnection – Missed Opportunity

By Vidya Pradhan

An American on a steady diet of Hindi movies may be forgiven for thinking that most Indian men are called "Raj Malhotra" – a name that is popular in Bollywood these days in the way Vijay used to be a couple of decades ago. 

Even the heroines have some pretty standard names – Pooja for the A-list and wannabe A-list, Priya for the low budget movies and Aditi for the offbeat ones.  Kismat Connection tries very hard to be offbeat and quirky, though it does not seem very low budget, and is completely undone by pedestrian direction and a weak script. Continue reading

Movie review : Jaane Tu…..Sho Shweet

How refreshing, that a movie about upwardly mobile young people should actually cast upwardly mobile young people! Jaane Tu…ya jaane na, a romantic comedy about privileged South Bombay kids, is the ultimate multiplex date movie, a sweet confection that entertains even the most jaded of Hindi movie viewers.

Abbas Tyrewala, who has written for movies like Munnabhai M.B.B.S and Main Hoon Na, is one of the few original and talented scriptwriters in Bollywood today. He makes his directorial debut with Jaane Tu…and brings the same sparkling dialogues and sense of joi de vivre to this movie. Continue reading

Dasavathaaram – Kamal Haasan’s magnificent obsession

By Vidya Pradhan

“15 bucks!” was my outraged gasp at the flea-bitten Cinedome East in Fremont yesterday. Yes, inflation is up all around, but over-pricing the already dubiously valued movie ticket is something really hard to stomach in these days of 5 dollar gas and 18 dollar atta sacks at Indian grocery stores.

The reason I discovered, courtesy the under-employed youngster at the movie hall, is that the filmmaker has decided this is what the movie is worth, going retro in the age of 99 cent songs and free movie downloads. Not surprising – the movie went over its budget of Rs.130 crores( about $30 million) and is now considered the costliest Indian movie ever made.

Well, I shelled out 30 bucks for my 12 year old and myself and entered the theater for a very private screening – there were just 2 of us inside. The same pimply youth at the counter had to be summoned to start the movie. We settled down with popcorn to see if we would get our “paisa vasooled” .

We did. Continue reading