Review: Dil Dhadakne Do

Zoya Akhtar’s next film is finally here! Dil Dhadakne Do (or DDD, or D3, or Dcubed) is about the problems in the lives of the rich and affluent, which are magically fixed by taking a five-thousand-euro-a-family cruise. If I had five thousand Euros, I really wouldn’t have problems, but these guys have some.

(For all desis mentally converting five thousand euros into local currency, it’s 3.5 lakh Indian Rupees. This is approximately equal to the price of four glasses of Coke at your local multiplex.)

So DDD is about the 30th anniversary of the Mehras (why are all rich fictional families called “the Mehras”?), a dysfunctional Punjabi family living in Mumbai, played by Anil Kapoor and Shefali Shah. Their “iklota waaris” is Ranveer Singh, who takes more pleasure in flying planes than worrying about the weakening of the Dollar, as he should be doing. Their daughter is a budding entrepreneur Priyanka Chopra who is married to Rahul Bose, who belongs to another rich family.

Now rich is an understatement. These people are super rich. By the time you finish reading this sentence, they would’ve earned enough to buy your house and still have spare change to buy a car. Kids throw fits when their private planes are being sold, servants stand beside the dinner table with rotis on a plate. You get the idea.

Aamir Khan lends his voice to a Dog who acts as the narrator. This seems kinda pointless, but maybe Aamir just wanted to be a part of a movie called D3 which didn’t completely suck.

Did you notice how I’ve written over two-hundred words and I haven’t even started the review? Because this is how DDD begins. You feel restless for the movie to lift off in the first half.

This doesn’t mean the film is boring, though. A run-length of nearly three hours seems massive at first, but DDD soars effortlessly. Alternating between moments of laughter and misery, Zoya Akthar ensures the presence of a little humour even in the darkest scenes. This helps in not taking the movie too seriously, which is important not to exhaust your brain.

“Money can’t buy you happiness” is something this movie tries to convey, and it succeeds a fair bit. Life problems isn’t something you generally associate with people, and DDD provides an interesting insight into that dichotomy. You’re shown problems of multiple failing marriages, bankruptcy, patriarchy, love which are basically solved by spending lots of money. So that message was pointless.

This review is turning out to be negative, but that isn’t my viewpoint on the film at all! It’s superbly written (the Kagti/Akhtar partnership strikes again!) with sharp, witty dialogues written by Farhan Akthar. Carlos Catalan returns after working with Zoya on her previous films, picking off where he left off. The shots of the cruise and gorgeous Turkish locales make the film look like a million bucks.

Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy deliver some catchy songs. One of my sequences in the film was the song Galla Goodiyan. While egregiously named, it’s performed by the entire extended cast and is shot in a single take, culminating in everyone meeting at the bar. As soon as the movie ended, I wanted to go back and watch this song again. The camera fluidly traverses while giving you fleeting glimpses of everyone, successfully preserving the entire picture in your mind. An outstanding aesthetic and technical achievement which made we want to stand up and scream “DID ANYONE SEE THAT”.

(This video embedded above isn’t the complete song – which explains the single cut you see midway. But you get the idea.)

With a star-studded cast, lack of chemistry is bound to be an issue. A big payday is obviously ensured, and DDD could very well have been big-name actors just hamming their lines and collect a fat paycheck. Surprisingly, this isn’t so. The actors are perfectly cast, creating an ensemble which is hard to take your eyes off. Everyone hits the right notes with utter perfection. Shefali Shah is brilliant as the depressed housewife who has to put on a facade of happiness for the society. Watch her in a short-but-bittersweet scene where she binges on cupcakes as an act of defiance against her husband’s tiresome quips about her diet. Priyanka Chopra displays a varied range of emotions as the underappreciated daughter of the Mehras, who doesn’t boast about her self-made status. Anushka Sharma is a dancer on a cruise ship and she doesn’t really have much to do other than look pretty, which she does. Ranveer Singh walks away with the best lines in the film. He effuses boyish charm and his cocky nature goes extremely well with his comic timing. There’s a spectacular scene in which a lady threatens to slice her wrists, and Ranveer helpfully points out that wouldn’t achieve that using a butter knife. While this cast sets the bar quite high, they don’t hold a candle to Anil Kapoor who smashes that bar and delivers a career-best performance as an acrimonious, philandering business magnate who never misses a moment to criticise his wife. The cast really holds the film together and in addition to some excellent camerawork, makes it hard to take your eyes off the screen for a second.

While casually mocking the way the privileged take their lives way too seriously, there arises a small problem. The characters are perfectly believable, but I had a hard time relating to any of them. This is eventually, my biggest grouse with the movie. While Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara also showed rich folks, you could connect with them as it wasn’t about the problems of the rich – it was a road-trip with old friends and made me want to call up my school buddies and go backpacking across Europe. In many ways, DDD is the perfect film. The production values are stunning, the direction is expertly done and the writing is top-notch. However, Dil Dhadakne Do ironically fails to connect with your heart because it crucially misses the most important part of any film – soul.

None of this really matters, though as it has no bearing on the ending – which is terrible. It looks like a frantic finale lifted straight out of an Aneez Bazmee movie. I won’t go into the specifics, but it leaves a sour aftertaste after a delectable main course. A pity. It’s almost as if Kagti and Akthar gave up at the end and let the dog use the laptop.

In conclusion, one can harshly say DDD is Zoya’s weakest film. It doesn’t have the emotional gravitas of ZNMD, and it doesn’t come even remotely close to her directorial debut Luck By Chance (few films do, anyway). It still remains a wonderful film and certainly deserves a watch.

Hannibal

Hannibal

I recently finished the second season watching NBC’s Hannibal and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s one of the best – if not the best – crime dramas on television today (along with the splendid True Detective). Even if you don’t agree with this hyperbole of mine, a few episodes will be enough to convince you that it is, at least, an extremely underrated show.

It’s been twenty years since Jonathan Demme’s wonderful Silence of the Lambs released, and even then the film didn’t catch public fancy immediately. A murderous cannibalistic psychopath and a female FBI agent seemingly did not appeal to the average movie goer.  Irrespective, Anthony Hopkins’ fifteen-minute appearance as Hannibal Lecter was so terrifying and convincing, it was enough to earn the film the Academy Award Grand Slam (not that it matters). Tight scriptwriting and superbly envisioned characters gave us a memorable film. Hopkins did reprise his role as Hannibal in the eponymous sequel with decent success, albeit not to such a level. We wanted a greater insight into Hannibal’s life, which Silence of the Lambs did not provide, and although we had a glimpse in the sequel. It was a decent attempt.

However, the TV show has really hit the nail on its head with its adaptation of Red Dragon. Having not read the book, I cannot comment on the faithfulness of this adaptation, but it certainly is an enjoyable one. Although the show is titled Hannibal, it focuses primarily on Will Graham (played by Hugh Dancy). Will teaches at the FBI academy and tries to solve crimes by predicting the chain of event that might have preceded the murder. Dr Hannibal Lecter is his psychiatrist, and is often responsible for most of the events in the show.

While we’re not shown how a psychopath was made, we’re given an idea of one manages to be a part of society without letting the clouds of suspicion shroud him, or tarnish his reputation. This is the show’s greatest achievement. I’m in admiration of Mads Mikkelsen’s fabulous portrayal of Hannibal Lecter, which, while being quite different from Hopkins’, is worthy of applause in its own sense. There isn’t any specific reason to his madness – much of it arises from a sense of curiosity. Hannibal toys with others’ minds simply to see what would happen. (Before you Google, Mads is that villain from Casino Royale. Before you Google that, Casino Royale was the new Bond’s first movie).

The writers have shown him to be a skilled cook with an interest in various cuisines. To emphasise his love for exquisite food even further, each episode of the first and second season is named after an element of French and Japanese cuisine, respectively. Naturally, as his profile suggests, he likes to cook with human flesh. Something so utterly disgusting portrayed with an undeniable charm, generally set to light classical music. I say charm, because it’s fascinating to watch – almost as an art from, while you know exactly how horrifying the task at hand is. Mikkelsen goes over all this with such ease and slips into his character so convincingly, it’s hard to imagine he himself isn’t a psychopath. Mads Mikkelsen plays Hannibal with such disdain, coupled with expressions of mild interest while cooking human kidneys, plating the food and relishing it while sharing it with unsuspecting guests – it’s a privilege to watch him operate.

Importantly, the writers are aware of the pacing and don’t rush the show. Initially, I was sceptical of this gradual approach, but I realised it was important to glide through plot points, tying them intricately with one another. Anything different would make the plot seem convoluted. While the first season showed Will and Hannibal’s friendship blossoming, the second season takes it up a notch in ways I cannot explain without divulging too much information. The scenes in which they’re conversing provide some of the series’ most chilling moments. Each line is deliberately enunciated to create a tension which is deliciously thick, often leaving you gasping for breath. I was missing their interactions at the beginning of the second season, but it was fixed with brilliantly as the season progressed.

Of course, Hannibal isn’t without its flaws. After a while I was slightly sceptical of Will’s uncanny ability to perfectly predict the nature of a crime, which seemed more like tired writing than anything to advance the plot. Moreover, the romance in the second half the second season (which ends as abruptly as it begins) seems like an unnecessary complication. Laurence Fishburne, who plays Jack Crawford, head of the FBI Behavioural Science Unit, seems lost and utterly clueless about the events happening in his own department right under his nose. Even as a major character is killed off, their colleagues seem to weep only for three minutes, following which they completely ignoring their absence and not being bothered with it at all, which was a pity, as that murder, and the following scenes, were one of the most chillingly executed sequences in the show. Gore might also be a problem for some viewers, as the show is not at all reluctant in showing you organs or blood or other unspoken horrors. Certainly not for the faint of heart, but with the drama associated with the show, you may be able to tolerate the gore.

As the tension builds up, the second season concludes with two magnificent episodes. The second season’s finale was one of the best TV episodes I’ve ever seen (it’s also rated 9.9 on IMDb, for the curious). It is thematically different from the rest of the season, while still retaining the general tone of the series, giving us an unforgettable visual treat. The finale is emotionally satisfying and more – an impeccable end to an outstanding season. The inevitable cliff-hanger it leaves us with makes the wait for the next season even longer…

…which brings us to the bigger problem. Hannibal airs on NBC. Their viewership ratings aren’t that great (you probably didn’t even know it was airing in the first place). Call it poor marketing or niche interests… we arrive at the same conundrum. What happened the last time a genre-defining, ground-breaking, innovative show with a passionate fan-base failed to meet the high expectations of NBC executives? It didn’t exactly end well. NBC seems too trigger-happy in cancelling shows and I don’t want Hannibal to meet a similar fate. I hope that Bryan Fuller has more influence on the NBC board than Dan Harmon did.

At this point, I can only urge you to go on a quick two-season binge of Hannibal, and you’ll come out of it wondering why you hadn’t seen it before (you can buy me some cookies later).

For Indian viewers, Hannibal airs on AXN in the same week as the US! I haven’t seen an episode there, though, so I have no idea about the extent to which they will censor gore. It can’t be worse than Star though, who feel the book with Ishmael as the main character is Moby-**** (true story).

Of Movies And Big Screens

Four months into 2014, and I remember that I have a blog which I swore to maintain. Who did I swear to? Myself. Does this mean that I die if I don’t update my blog? No, since I haven’t updated it, and I’m quite alive. Does this meant that swears are pointless? Indeed. But why am I mentioning this? To increase the word-count of this post Because why not? Then why am I writing this post? I know you’re all dying to be blown away by another one of my literary masterpieces and the last few posts have made you hungry for more. And I decided to throw you all a bone.

A few days ago, I was sitting at the Nescafe in the college with Kilol and Fahad, when the topic of movies came up. FabFahad mentioned that he doesn’t watch English movies because “laptop screen pe movie dekhi nahi jaati“. Kilol seemed to agree with this sentiment, in the sense that everyone is entitled to their own opinions.

After my initial urge to smash Fahad’s head in with a hammer had subsided (not Kilol’s though, she’s cute), I began to wonder about this. What is a movie experience? How would you define one? Movies are unique in way – they’re completely different from other forms of artistic media of expression like books and music such that they’re specifically shot to be shown on the big screen. A book publisher chooses a typeface and font size, but the author may not specifically recommend one. A musician may want his music to sound in a particular way, but may not have issues over its method of distribution (digital or physical media). As long as they reach their customers, they’re happy.

Movies, though. Filmmakers are extremely specific in the way content is delivered. The choice of aspect ratios, the nuances in sound mixing and many more are pondered upon meticulously by them. Because they want the viewer to be lost in their world to guarantee as much immersion as intended. (This is the cornerstone of the smoking-message debate). I understand this.

Certain movies like Avatar and Gravity simply do not work outside the cinema hall. Avatar is probably the best example. I remember watching it in 2D at PVR and being completely blown away by the visuals. So profound was the effect that I convinced myself to ignore the (many) plot holes and errors in the film. Notably, Avatar and Gravity made a lot a money owing to their use of 3D, which convinces many studios to start producing 3D films and converting films shot in 2D to 3D during post-production. The re-release and subsequent success of Titanic and Jurassic Park to name a few reinforces the fact that the audience cherishes a grand movie watching experience. The rise in the sales of large-screen TVs, Blu-Ray players, home-theatre systems further provides proof of this phenomenon.

Till now, this felt like an essay I’d write in an English exam (basically full of bullshit to inflate the word count), but this post isn’t about the others. It’s about how feel. Looking back at all the hundreds of movies I’ve watched (claiming to be a movie buff in the process), I realized that most of them weren’t seen in the theatre. They were either seen on my TV, laptop or even a tiny phone screen. If you were to hold me at gunpoint and ask me to rattle off my favourite movies of all time, it would closely resemble IMDB’s Top 10 list.

I saw The Shawshank Redemption on my 21″ Sony TV on Zee Studio, which had censored a lot of portions. Just like it did then, Red’s concluding monologue about the Pacific Ocean gives me goose bumps till this date.

At the age of eight, when my beautiful little face was contorted by pockmarks (thanks a lot, VZV), dad brought home a VCD (remember those?) of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. My jaw still drops when the Battle of Helm’s Deep is fought.

Owing to its length and severe lack to time due to exam preparation, I saw The Godfather: Part II in four instalments on my 17″ monitor with god-awful speakers and running subtitles to decipher what everyone was saying in Italian accents. Al Pacino’s wide, bulging eyes, when he slapped Diane Keaton right across the face, will remain etched in my mind.

I saw JJ Abrams’s take on Star Trek on my 40” TV which begins with a stunning set-piece immediately followed by some of the most iconic movie themes I’ve had the pleasure to experience. In a hilarious reversal of status quo, I tried to recreate the experience by catching its sequel in the theatres, but nothing came close to capturing the sense of awe I had experienced with the first one.

There are many more additions to this list, notably Psycho, L.A. Confidential, The Dark Knight, The Matrix, Inception, Toy Story 3, Looper, Primer… none of which I managed to catch in the theatre, irrespective of their release dates. They’re all examples powerful, though-provoking, cerebral cinema which I aspire to watch whenever I decide to watch one. And I don’t think I need a cinema hall for that.

If I were a filmmaker, I’d probably be offended by someone remarking they were underwhelmed by my creation simply because they saw it on a smaller screen. By extension, I believe good cinema is only one which can convey the desired emotion irrespective of its medium of distribution. Otherwise, many classics won’t be held in high regard, as it’s safe to assume a majority of the movie-going population hasn’t seen many of them in a cinema hall.

This post/rant ends here. Have a drawn a conclusion? I think I have. But can I say this with absolute certainty? Definitely not. I clearly had higher expectation from this post. Part of me hoped I’d get a clearer answer when I end it, but that hasn’t happened. I can say that Fahad’s opinion is incorrect, but surely cannot vouch for the validity of mine as well. I can feel a sense of frustration welling up inside you, as you realise this post will end in the top wobbling. I’ll leave the decision up to you.

P.S: I wasn’t lying about the head-smashing. I can totally do that.

Head-smashing

Head-smashing

P.P.S: It just struck me that Fahad may be referring to poor posture leading to a general sense of discomfort. In which case this rant was totally pointless.

Review: Man of Steel

Man of Steel theatrical release poster

Man of Steel theatrical release poster

I was one of the rare persons in my friend-circle to not be too excited regarding Man of Steel. I’d read that Chris Nolan would be returning to reboot the Superman series, and having done such a fantastic job with the Batman series (which no one would touch by a long stick after the sad demise of Batman and Robin), I was intrigued. However, when I found out that he would be involved only in the production and story, and not directing, my heart sank a little. It plummeted when I found out Snyder had been handed over the directorial responsibilities. Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of Snyder’s films. I disliked Watchmen, generally and hated Sucker Punch. Of course, I loved 300. I was worried that there might be too many slow-mo sequences in Man of Steel as well, which would destroy the movie like Sucker Punch. Nevertheless, a little Nolan touch couldn’t hurt, so I had to know how the movie was.

It all starts off in Krypton. The planet’s core has become unstable and will soon lead to the creation of a singularity which will consume the planet. Pike sends Kirk and Sulu to disable the machine which is killing the core. Unfortunately, it’s too late and Vulcan is dest–

Wait. Wrong movie. I can’t be blamed, though. Because this is exactly how Man of Steel opens. Krypton is being destroyed, villains to fight, too late to stop it, yada yada yada. There’s also some babble about some Codex or something (reminiscent of the babble in Prometheus) to be sent with Kal-El to Earth, which is seen to by Jor-El. Zod is there to ensure this doesn’t happen.

On Earth, Kal-El (now Clark Kent) hops from job-to-job, falsifying his identity and disappearing after being forced to reveal the full powers of his superhuman strength while saving people around him from dangers. In second act, the film alternates between real-time and flashbacks continuously as you see Clark’s childhood, teenage and young-adult days as he struggles to cope with his unusual powers. None of this is particularly confusing, and I personally felt this portion was handled nicely. Lois Lane (played well by the charming Amy Adams) is also introduced as a beauty-with-brains Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist who tries to decipher the Superman’s real identity. Halfway into the movie, Zod arrives to seek out Kal-El, leaving us with a massive and really, really long battle sequence which constructs the film’s finale.

Now you’d be an idiot if you walked into a Superman movie and detested the action. Clark Kent isn’t an intelligent detective like Bruce Wayne was. So there’s less of intellect and more of bad-guy bashing, upholding humane ideals and dealing out justice. The supposedly true embodiment of America. Here is where Zack Snyder seems to take over the reigns of the horse and boy does he race well. The action sequences are unlike anything you’ve seen before. This is CGI-porn at it’s finest. We haven’t been strangers to massive on-screen battles which leave large cities in ruins (consider the Transformers movie series or more recently, Marvel’s The Avengers), but watching just a few individuals battle it out is a sight to behold. There’s a particularly gripping choreographed fight sequence between Zod and Kent where they fly through the city trading blows. There’s no slow-mo involved anywhere and yet you’re able to keep track of the action.

There are a few problems though – ones which cannot be ignored. The film was shot in 2D and converted to 3D, which explains why the colours look terrible. It’s a pity Nolan (as Producer) allowed such a travesty to happen, as he’s always been particular to shoot movies in good ol’ normal 2D, opting for IMAX cameras only in The Dark Knight Rises, and ignoring 3D even then. When you see Superman flying over green pastures bisecting hordes of zebras, you want to see it in glorious, gorgeous 2D.

There’s also the excessive use of shaky-cam which may lead to bouts of dizziness for the inexperienced. Znyder also prefers to zoom in really quickly onto the subjects in certain scenes. This, too, is used a lot, but works to a large extent.

Maybe Znyder tries too hard. Maybe he doesn’t. Maybe it’s perfect. But many may not agree with his skills here, and opinions are certain to be divided on this.

But he does manage to extract great performances from his cast. Russel Crowe as Jor-El manages to make the otherwise boring opening act watchable. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane portray Clark Kent’s adoptive parents who love their son, but know that he’s destined for greater things. They’re instrumental in convincing Superman (and you) why he shouldn’t reveal his powers to the rest of humanity. Michael Shannon is terrific as General Zod. Here we have a villain who has a fairly justifiable agenda to conquer the Earth and pursue Clark Kent. He’s every bit as menacing as a villain and is equals Superman’s ability. He’s ruthless and unrelenting in his quest to fulfill his mission. Henry Cavill is also fantastic as Clark Kent/Kal-El/Superman, exhibiting just enough vulnerability when required, and bringing the action-movie-man looks when the time comes to battle. Surprisingly, however, it is Antje Traue as Zod’s sub-commander Faora who kicks ass in the final act. It’s difficult to explain how, or why, but you’ll understand when you watch the film.

While watching Man of Steel, my mind continuously wandered to Nolan’s Batman, and here’s where most of the film’s criticism lies. There’s hardly any humour. Not that there was much in the Batman series, but there was general amusement throughout the movies, something which is a staple of Nolan’s directorial flair. Not here, though. As a result, it pales in comparison to Batman Begins. It simply fails to be a satisfying reboot to reach the fairly high standard Batman Begins set (as a reboot).

What really binds the movie, though, is Hans Zimmer’s exceptional music score. You might complain that it is deafening during the final act, and you’d be right, but it makes the action sequences all the more exciting to watch. If you listen to the soundtrack while pooping, it would be the single-most epic poop you’d have ever pooped. The sound effects, especially when Superman takes flight, sound so marvelous reverberating through the hall while shaking your seats. It’s a visceral experience, with each sound punching your gut knocking the wind out of your stomach till you gasp for breath…

…which puts me in the unusual position of wholeheartedly recommending a film to watch at the cinemas, despite it being only a good film. Man of Steel isn’t the best superhero film, but probably one of the better Superman films. It is, however, an extremely promising reboot and I eagerly await the next edition. You must keep in mind that Batman Begins wasn’t the classic it’s successor was, so we can hope for a better Superman film from Znyder-Nolan-Goyer in the future.

My rating for Man of Steel: 7/10

Review: Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani

I have a confession to make. I have a slight man crush on Ranbir Kapoor. He’s undoubtedly one of the finest young actors in the country right now. Not only are his acting skills impressive, his choice of movies is also generally unconventional and bold. A risk which no A-lister will generally take (referring to Wake Up Sid! and Barfi! in particular). So when I heard about his participation in YJHD, I was intrigued. Director Ayan Mukherjee had returned after a long time, his debut film being the surprisingly mature Wake Up Sid!. This raided my excitement level. The trailers didn’t look particularly promising, but hey. Don’t judge a book by its cover, right?
Never have I been so wrong.
Within the first five minutes, I knew I had made a huge mistake spending Dad’s precious money. We’re introduced to Deepika Padukone, a nerdy girl with biology textbooks being her only companion. She leads a frustrated lifestyle simply because she’s sick of studying and wants to enjoy life. So when she learns that her acquaintances (played by Kalki, Aditya and Ranbir) are planning an excursion to Manali, she leaves her place in an impromptu decision and decides to accompany them. The first half chronicles their adventures in Manali (actually shot in Gulmarg and passed of as Manali, much to Omar Abdullah’s annoyance). Initially shy and reserved, Deepika quickly loses her inhibitions when she bonds with her aforementioned acquaintances and showcases her wild side. Now since this is a Hindi movie, she inadvertently falls in love with Ranbir (named, I kid you not, Bunny. How does one fall in love with someone named Bunny?). Obviously, since this is a Hindi movie, she can’t be with him because Ranbir wants to travel the world, against the wishes of his caring father and step-mother.

This is typical Karan Johar. The cinematography and locations are prime with no blemish in sight. People break into perfectly choreographed dances given the opportunity. There’s even that moment when the leads know they’ve fallen for each other. Now since this is Karan Johar, he can’t seem to satisfy his endless appetite of marriages. So naturally, the second half there’s the wedding. That’s right. An entire half. The funny thing here is the second half is significantly better than than the first. You can imagine how the first half was, if I’m stating that I enjoyed watching yet another Karan Johar Big Fat Indian Wedding.

There are some inexplicable moments throughout the movie. An extremely experienced and adventurous trekker, Ranbir tires faster than Deepika, who you’d remember, has had practically zero adventures. The duo trek to an abandoned mountain completely obvious to their instructor who specifically advised them against it, without any repercussions. The narrative hinges itself on certain plot points which will leave you scratching your heads, most of which I cannot reveal because spoilers.

Credit where it’s due, though. The film isn’t entirely unwatchable. This mostly because of Ayan’s masterful direction. The friendship amongst the four is beautifully done and you can feel their troubles as they to through them. There’s a wonderfully understated romance between Kalki and Aditya, which tends to become a major plot point in the future. But Ayan doesn’t unnecessarily give us mushy-mushy scenes. It’s a refreshing take on relationships; a mature one – something he has proven he can handle in his directorial debut. Of course, the two leads do get together in the end but I loved the way the eventual fate of the other two was decided.

Some scenes stand out for the emotional impact they have on the audience, although these are few and far between. There’s a powerful, poignant moment where Ranbir reconciles with his step-mother as he longs for catharsis. It’s beautifully shot and never overstated. There are no words spoken and there’s no over-the-top crying. But it manages to moisten your eyes when you least expect it.

Then there’s the cast. The ensemble cast is excellent. This is not exaggeration. Everyone hits the right notes. Farooq Sheikh and Tanvi Azmi are nicely cast as Ranbir’s caring yet misunderstood parents. Kalki is a revelation as she fits well into the vodka- guzzling adventurous-girl role torn between love and stability. Aditya exhibits the right amount of vulnerability when required as he plays a financially unstable bar owner who struggles with his gambling problem and alcohol addiction (which I learnt was basically his role in Aashiqui 2). Ranbir is great as always, oozing charm, although his character seems a little too perfect to be successful in the real world. It’s surprising how Ayan managed to extract every shred of emotion from Deepika as well. In what is arguably her best performance till date, she’s able to essay her equally incredulous character with ease, never once failing to drop the high level of chemistry she shares with her (alleged) real-world boyfriend.

In the end, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani is essentially a flawed film, but only because of the incredulous plot. However it’s made immensely watchable by a fantastic assortment of actors. I’d certainly not recommend seeing it in a movie theatre, but it won’t be a bad idea to rent it on DVD (or those new-fangled Blu-Rays, if you’re classy) to watch it on a lazy weekend.

My Rating for Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani: 6/10

Review: Vicky Donor

That is right, sirs and madams! Your friendly neighbourhood unicorn is back to blogging with this delicious movie review!

The day I gave my final entrance exam the BITSAT, I wanted to go for a movie. Simply because I hadn’t been to one in what seemed like ages. And the last few shows of Vicky Donor were playing in Fun Cinemas, Pitampura and I could not resist. I had to go. I’d heard a lot about the film via Twitter.

Vicky Donor is the story of this Punjabi dude Vicky (Ayushmann Khurana, that MTV VJ) who lives in Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar’s Refugee “Calonee”. Living with a widowed mother and an ultra-modern grandma with expensive taste (“ab maine bhi Sony da TV lena hai, woh bhi bayalee inch da”), all Vicky does is move around doing precisely what I’m doing during these holidays – nothing. His mother runs a beauty parlor in the house and often demands money for him as payment to stay in the house. Frustrated, Vicky reluctantly takes up sperm donation at the insistance of the infertility-curing doctor played by Annu Kapoor.

When I read the outline of the plot on the internet, I admit – it felt ridiculous. Another pointless attempt at cheap humour by our film industry which is running out of good ideas remarkably fast. And another MTV VJ trying his hand at acting, while two others have failed miserably? Looks like a poor idea already.

But I was in for a surprise! Despite the sperm donation plot device playing a major role in the development of the film, the writers don’t rely on it to extract cheap humour from the audience. Instead, they bank on the city the film is set in and it’s perpetually frustrated crowd. The dialogues have that Delhi-esque charm, that tiny attention to detail that makes such supposedly insignifcant films a delight to watch. Ayushmann’s accent as the Punjabi boy is impeccable and not overdone one bit. It comes naturally so you feel as if you’re witnessing a normal conversation rather than watching a film.

Back to the film’s plot which works surprisingly well, the writers don’t try to force too many subplots. They take advantage of a delicious little idea here and weave around it a hilarious tale about the Punjabi boy who falls in love with a dignified Bengali Aashima Roy (“Oh tussi Bong ho?”). Of course, you can expect the standard boy-doesn’t-reveal-embarassing-fact-about-his-personal-life type scenarios but they’re not stressed upon much. Emphasis is paid upon Vicky’s spelunking with Aashima and Annu Kapoor’s insistance on getting Vicky for sperm donation to save his clinic – both providing us with some of the film’s most hilarious scenes.

Of course, the film isn’t perfect. Far from it, actually. After a stupendous first half, the film stumbles in the second. It isn’t particularly bad, but it slows down dramatically, relying on the cast’s fine performances to compensate for the lack of plot here. It almost seems as if the writers ran out of ideas in the second half, knowing well enough how to conclude it (and setting it up for a probably sequel), but not entirely sure about what to do before the conclusion.

Of the cast, everyone performs admirably. The weirdly named Yami Gautam is believeable as the well-educated Bengali girl working in Delhi. Annu Kapoor as the frustrated doctor Baldev Chaddha is simply brilliant. Watch him as he deals with patients and tries tirelessy to convince Vicky to donate some of his sperm.

But the real revealation here is Ayushmann Khurana. He pulls off the role of vella Delhi boy effortlessly, adding small nuances to his performance which demands a powerful screen presence. It’s hard to take your eyes off the screen when he’s there. The film was marketed on his popularity as an MTV VJ and rightly so, as it was what drew audiences to the film in the first place and spread its popularity. It will be interesting to see Khurana’s career path now. But as of now, my perception of his acting skills can be perfectly expressed in a line spoken by the doctor in the film – “Baat hai. Munde vich kuch baat hai.”

Tom Hardy In Batman Begins?

We all know Tom Hardy is cast as Bane for Christopher Nolan’s third and final installment of his Batman series in The Dark Knight Rises. Bane is a primary villain in the Batman series and famously broke Batman’s back in one of the comics.

I found something startling the other day as I was watching Batman Begins. You know, that movie which gave us hope that the Batman franchise was still alive? That one. Apparently, Chris Nolan stuck Bane in the movie, and hoped no one would notice. Nolan always repeats his supporting cast (Tom Hardy was Eames in Inception) so I thought he put in Hardy just for the heck of it. But now, I find out that Hardy is Bane. I’m pretty sure The Dark Knight Rises will feature Bane coming from Arkham Asylum.

The scene: Batman has just decapitated Dr. Crane and his fellow goons and his rushing through Arkham, when he chooses to open the door of one the cellmates. He says, “Excuse Me” (or something like that). And we see this.

Here’s Tom Hardy.

Tom Hardy

And here’s Tom Hardy (the guy on the left).

Tom Hardy in Batman Begins

Correct me if I’m wrong, but that looks exactly like Tom Hardy. Well done, Chris Nolan. Well done.

Here’s a clip from the movie. All rights belong to Warner Bros.