Critic's Rating: ***1/2
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Rani Mukherjee, Randeep Hooda, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Sadashiv Amrapurkar, Katrina Kaif
Direction: Karan Johar, Dibakar Bannerjee, Zoya Akhtar, Anurag Kashyap
Duration: 2 hours 7 minutes
A tribute is hardly ever the truth. Maybe just a sliver of the truth. You simplify, romanticize and gloss over what’s unpalatable about your subject—distilling a kind of agreeable net worth. The romanticizing is perhaps bound to be more pronounced if the subject is one of your own.
Most of Bombay Talkies, four miniatures by directors Karan Johar, Dibakar Banerjee, Zoya Akhtar andAnurag Kashyap, meant to commemorate 100 years of Hindi cinema, is that stereotypical tribute. There is warmhearted humour and a playful, anodyne gaze at Hindi cinema’s power and role in the life of India, largely Mumbai. They don’t question its workings or provoke strong reactions on its hyper-presence in our life. More disappointing, none of the stories have a personal stamp—in aesthetics or point of view.
Johar’s film is about a couple, a journalist who edits an entertainment tabloid (Rani Mukerji) and a television news anchor (Randeep Hooda) whose marriage is bereft of intimacy. A young intern at her office, who abruptly becomes her best friend, scratches the surface of this relationship, and secrets emerge. Johar’s confused and abrasive lead character is a connoissuer and collector of vintage Hindi film music and has a room in his house, stacked with LPs and memorabilia. Here, he misses an opportunity to discover new love. Two of Lata Mangeshkar’s most popular and exquisite songs, Ajeeb dastan hai yeh and Lag jaa gale, accentuate the narrative.
The lead performances lift the narrative above its predictable curve and earnest tone—both Mukerji and Hooda make the most of every scene they have without going overboard with histrionics. This is Johar’s most mature, if sentimental, look at homosexuality. Hindi cinema is a tertiary flourish in his story.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays a thwarted actor with a troubled past with his mentor and a difficult present in Banerjee’s story—the most cinematic of all the films. Storytelling, cinematography, music, editing and acting are in meaningful synthesis. Siddiqui lives in a chawl in Mumbai with his wife and a bedridden, depressed daughter. He tells her stories about Bollywood and Bollywood stars who he meets while trying to find work in the film industry. In an absurdist twist, Banerjee introduces a gawky emu into this congested and loud chawl milieu, which the actor owns. The emu is a reminder of one of his failed projects but has become his pet. One day, he is randomly chosen for an extra’s role on a film shoot. Within that span of a few minutes, he questions himself and his dreams. Sadashiv Amrapurkar has an engaging cameo.
Siddiqui is at his peak of acting prowess. In Banerjee’s direction and the writing, pathos and humour intermingle, and Siddiqui brings out the character’s fine print without the crutch of lines. It is a little more safe to say that Siddiqui is today’s most engrossing acting talent in Hindi films. Nikos Andritsakis’ cinematography produces some gems, including a surreal sequence in which the actor shakily rehearses his blink-and-miss role in an open space surrounded by glass high-rises. Under a scorching sun, he meets an old man and an emu. Indisputably, the best-executed story in Bombay Talkies.
Akhtar’s protagonist is a boy (Naman Jain) in love with jhatak-matak Bollywood. He wants to doll up and dance to film songs. Katrina Kaif worship leads him to a hallucinatory life lesson. His tyrannical father (Ranvir Shorey), of course, wants him to toughen up by playing football and cricket. Jain is adorable as the conflicted boy. Art direction is authentic and Akhtar’s forte, her ability to work with actors, and a charming climax somewhat make up for the thin story. An Allahabad boy’s travails outside Pratiksha, the most famous Bollywood address, is the subject of Anurag Kashyap’s story. He looks at hero worship through a father and son duo in Allahabad. The ageing father’s (Sudhir Pandey) last wish is to share a morabba(pickled Indian gooseberry), a traditional UP kitchen staple, with his hero Amitabh Bachchan. The son (Vineet Kumar Singh) arrives in Mumbai with the bottle carrying themorabba and embarks on a mission. Kashyap’s writing crackles. Dialogues and the humour are sharp. The story is a full-throttle ode to Bachchan—with a song, a cameo by the superstar and a fairly convincing portrait of Bachchan-worship in Mumbai. The house, Pratiksha, is a metaphor for all that is desirable and daunting about Bollywood.
Bombay Talkies is set to excellent music by Amit Trivedi and while they unfold, the stories hold up in their half-hour individual length. But after you have left the theatre, it is not gratification you feel, but the short-lived aftertaste of a music video or a good commercial. It eulogizes Bollywood, sure, but in a Bollywood-crazy nation it is like preaching to the converted. Surely there is more to the desire, madness, ugliness and fantasy in Hindi cinema, and to the millions who work here. If you wait to watch the terrible promotional video at the end of the film, starring all our stars, you will most likely forget the best ofBombay Talkies.
Cast: Emraan Hashmi, Konkona Sen Sharma, Kalki Koechlin, Huma Qureshi, Pavan Malhotra
Director: Kannan Iyer
What Aatma promised, Ek Thi Daayan almost delivered. Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s presence in Aatma promised to bring innovation and ingénue to Bollywood horror films. But the film turned out to be just another cliché ridden Bollywood potboiler. Ek Thi Daayan on the other hand steers clear of all clichés associated with horror films in Bollywood and presents to us a taut supernatural thriller. So you can be rest assured there are no ‘tantriks’, ‘shraaps’ or ‘bhoots’ with garish make-up in this film. The scares and creeps in Ek Thi Daayan can all be attributed to brilliant performances by the leads actors and a well-written script.
In a nutshell, Ek Thi Daayan is the story of Bobo (played by Emraan Hashmi) – in present day one of India’s leading magician/illusionist – but a dark and disturbed childhood lurks in his past. Constant creepy hallucinations force him to consult a psychiatrist. During a regression hypnosis session a terrifying event from his childhood surfaces and that forms the base of what happens next. Obviously, as the title suggest, there is a ‘Daayan’ or two lurking in the narrative but it will spoil the fun of watching this film if their identity is revealed here.
Kannan Iyer showcases assured directorial prowess in his debut feature film and is ably supported by his cinematographer Saurabh Goswami, who artfully frames each scene to create an eerie atmosphere with shadows being his weapon of choice. It needs to be pointed out that on a couple of occasion Saurabh can be blamed for succumbing to the ‘shaky-camera syndrome’. Besides the lead actors – Emraan Hashmi, Konkona Sen Sharma, Kalki Koechlin and Huma Qureshi – the others, Pavan Malhotra as Bobo’s father, Rajatava Dutta as Bobo’s shrink and Visshesh Tiwari as the young Bobo put in equally stellar performances; especially Visshesh who steals a lot of applause off the leads. Sarah Arjun as Bobo’s younger sister Misha is cute and engaging.
The first-half of Ek Thi Daayan, which is based on a Mukul Sharma short story, is crisp and as good as any Hollywood horror flick that you might have watched. Instead of resorting to clichés, Kannan Iyer introduces us to fear through a child’s eyes. There is a very thin line between what we see transpiring in the film and believe to be real and what could easily be a young boy’s imagination; a boy who has been exposed to a healthy dose of supernatural stories and is desperate to believe in those legends. This lends the film originality that has been missing from most Bollywood scare-fares. Most of the first-half is taken up by the flashback involving Bobo’s childhood and it makes for some riveting cinema. Kannan Iyer’s use of tiny details is most praiseworthy and the narrative is amplified through great acting.
The buildup in the first-half is let down, to a certain extent, post-interval. It seems the film loses confidence in its own voice and tries to cramp in too many things in this period, thereby hampering the narrative. The uniformity in tone and mood is lost as well. The innovative introduction of Lisa Dutt (played by Kalki Koechlin) is one of the few highpoints of the second-half of Ek Thi Daayan. The climax turns out to be predictable and that is a big letdown as one will expect more after the smartly restrained beginning.
A special mention for the music of Ek Thi Daayan, brilliantly composed by Vishal Bhardwaj (also the producer of this film along with Ekta Kapoor) and admirably complemented by Gulzaar sahab’s lyrics. The tracks ‘Yaaram’, ‘Kaali Kaali’ and ‘Lautungi Main’ are to die for.
VERDICT: Ek Thi Daayan is an original attempt at a supernatural film, which is a rarity in Bollywood, and for that alone Kannan Iyer needs to be applauded. The performances by the lead actors are effective as each plays it with a flair and assurance. The climax is a letdown, but nonetheless Ek Thi Daayan is an ambitious attempt in this genre. It is one of the best Bollywood films of 2013 so far. Watch it!
Actor: Ali Zafar, Anupam Kher, Divyendu Sharma, Rishi Kapoor, Siddharth
Actress: Taapsee Pannu
Director: David Dhawan
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Release Date: 5th April, 2013
Singers: Mika Singh, Shreya Ghoshal,Sonu Nigam, Wajid Khan
Cast: Rishi Kapoor, Ali Zafar, Divyendu Sharma, Siddharth, Taapsee Pannu,Anupam Kher, Lillete Dubey
Director: David Dhawan
Writer: Sai Paranjpye
Music Director: Sajid Wajid
Singer/s: Sonu Nigam, Ali Zafar, Shreya Ghoshal, Mika Singh, Wajid Khan, Neuman Pinto
Plot: Siddharth (Sid), Jai & Omi (Ali Jafar, Siddharth and Divyendu Sharma
Dum hai, Boss! — the perky young Miss Congeniality in David Dhawan’s Chashme Baddoor, a far cry from the shastriya sangeet trainee tutti fruti-eating Deepti Naval in Sai Paranjpye’s film, exclaims whenever she is impressed by her loverboy’s dialogue-baazi.
Exclamation marks are the only punctuations in this seamless comedy of courtship played at an impossibly high octave, without getting shrill.
‘Farce’ things first. Barring the core theme of two friends maliciously nipping the third friend’s romance in the bud, and some mischievous sequences and characters from the original, which have been entirely re-interpreted as ‘swines of the times’, Dhawan’s Chashme Baddoor is far(ce) removed from Paranjpye’s original.
Those were days of relative innocence. Whistling at girls at bus stops, chasing unwilling girls to their homes, and landing up at their doorstep under assumed identities were all considered innocuous bachelor bacchanalia. In Paranjpye’s “Chashme Buddoor“, it was a big deal that Rakesh Bedi managed to get into Deepti Naval’s bathroom pretending to be a plumber.
In Dhawan’s film, the very gifted Divyendu Sharma, who plays Bedi’s part, just can’t pretend to know the perky girl next-door intimately by her bathroom decor. He manages to take a picture of a tattoo on her waist to convince his love-smitten pal Sid (Ali Zafar) that the girl is… well, not chaste but quite a ‘chalu cheez’.
While the writing gets ‘chalu‘, it miraculously steers clear of being cheesy by a wide margin. Under the veneer of vicious courtship games played by two desperately single guys, Dhawan’sChashme Baddoor retains a core of innocence. A tongue-in-cheek virtuosity remains the film’s greatest triumph. Sajid-Farhad’s writing is wild, naughty and witty, but never vulgar. The whimsical word-play flows from a tap-dance of prankish internet-styled banter which is border-line silly but nonetheless very engaging in an off-handedly smart way.
If anything, the repartees flow much too furiously. From Anupam Kher’s slap-happy mother Bharati Achrekar (effortly replacing Leela Mishra from the original) to Goan cafe owner Rishi Kapoor’s unidentifiable assistant – everyone is a certifiable quipster in the new film.
Among the three protagonists, Divyendu, playing an awful self-styled shaayar, gets the most tawdry lines of bumper-sticker wisdom, which the actor delivers with such punctuated panache, we can’t help guffawing out our implicit ‘irshaad‘.
Comic timing is of vital importance to this film. And every actor gets it right, dead-on sometime dead-pan. To me, the film’s most natural-born scenestealer is the southern star Siddharth. Seen lately in Deepa Mehta’s “Midnight’s Children“, Siddharth nails his character’s filmy flamboyance. Many would say Siddharth has gone over the top. But to sustain that high-pitched level of crazy energy throughout the film is no laughing matter.
Or, on second thoughts, this talented actor’s performance is indeed a laughing matter.
Ali Zafar is far more sober and controlled than his co-stars. It takes some doing to remain steadfast in your stipulated sobriety while all your co-stars pull out all stops.
The laughs, so refreshingly liberated of lewdness flow almost non-stop. Adding a dollop of spice to the original script is an entirely unscheduled love angle between Rishi Kapoor and Lilette Dubey. Lallan Miya (Saeed Jaffrey), who played Rishi’s character in Paranjpye’s film would have loved that. Outstanding both, Kapoor and Dubey make their onscreen romance look warm, cuddlesome and credible.
Audaciously, Dhawan and his writer Sajid-Farhad have transferred the celebrated ‘chamko’ detergent demonstration-sequence between Farooque Sheikh and Deepti Naval in Sai Paranjpye’s film to the Rishi-Lilette characters. Maybe the writers saw this pair’s chemistry to be more frothy and foamy than the central romance?
Ali Zafar’s courtship of the vivacious Taapsee Pannu is relatively thanda. One reason for their frosty compatibility is Ali Zafar’s reined-in performance. He deliberately plays his part a few octaves lower than his loud co-stars who are so hyper-strung that you sometimes wonder which drugs they are on.
This Chashme Baddoor moves wickedly at its own volition creating a crazy pattern of comic chaos that stops short of being anarchic due to the finely-tuned situational satire simulated in the writing out of a material that was created 30 years ago when there were no mobile phones and the height of male voyeurism was the Playboy magazine.
Dhawan’s film doesn’t take the characters’ contemporary courtship games into areas that would offend the moralists. He knows where to stop.
Just when my faith in remakes had been shaken by Himmatwala last week, David Dhawan had me shaking with laughter this week.Carry on, Mr Dhawan.
David Dhawan’s new-age interpretation of the 1981 film moves far away from the original creating for itself a new pathway of laughter and hilarity without showing any disrespect to the source material.
Ali, Divyendu and Siddharth’s audacious antics, with Rishi Kapoor and Lilette Dubey’s age-defying romance thrown in for added measure, make the trio of girl-crazy heroes in Paranjpye’s film look like angels. This is David Dhawan’s wickedest comedy of one-upmanship since Mujhse Shaadi Karogi. You can’t miss it. The attention-grabbing chest-thumping gibberish-spewing rowdy boyz won’t let you.
Dum hai, Boss!
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