Movie Reviews, Commentary & More

Rang De Basanti - Movie Thoughts

I have seen less than fifteen Hindi movies.... and almost every one of them were given a terrific box-office verdict promising me some sort of entertainment value... and in most cases I've walked out dissatisfied. May be the problem is mine for expecting a lot, may be it's the hype, maybe I don't have that Hindi taste in me, may be... there are a lot of 'maybe's. The much hyped, touted, celebrated 'Rang De Basanti' does nothing to shake my bad run at the Hindi pitch.

This is a two-message movie: [a] A reasonable chunk of today's youth doesn't care for their country or it's future. [b] For a transformed India, the youth need to take politics, bureaucracy, etc into their hands and start shaping the future. Coming to think of it, it's just one message, but the movie is structured such that it wanted me to think there are actually two messages, which is nothing but the result of a fractured screenplay. As far as message movies go, there is not much preaching or crappy tragedy involved here, but there is a sense of emptiness surrounding the entire running length of the movie, which essentially prevented those messages from striking a responsive chord in me.

Sue, a budding documentary filmmaker from Britain wants to make a film out of the chronicles recorded by her grandfather who served as a prison superintendent during the Raj. These chronicles involve prominent freedom fighters and essentially tells the story that our freedom is the price of many lives. On her arrival in India, she sets her eyes on four young men, who, she thinks may fit into the roles of those leaders. The first two-thirds of the movie is all about developing these characters who chat and booze and party as if there's no tomorrow. Sue also films her script meanwhile. The last segment of the movie slides into incredulity where there are logical loopholes and violent jerks in the narration that I just wanted the movie to end.

Talk of cliches: A worker of the saffron party and a Muslim brush in the beginning, and they're friends in the end. The youth gang goes around the Amar Jawan in their jeep with beer bottles and hip-hop music in the first half and the same gang goes around the same structure in a toned-down mood in the second half. "Is anybody willing to lay your life down for the country?" we are asked, and the very next scene four of our jolly guys take an IAF pilot on their shoulders for a merry-go-round and then... predictability is the bane of Indian movies. Though the final thirty minutes are radically different, they leave much to be desired and I thought the decisions of the young men were sending a wrong signal.

The prime cast includes Alice Patton, Aamir Khan, Kunal Kapoor, Siddharth, Sharman Joshi, Atul Kulkarni, Soha Ali Khan and Madhavan. The overall acting is above average with Alice as the weakest link and Siddharth as the strongest link in the acting chain. Siddharth very effectively plays the spoiled rich kid - his expressions are the same through out the movie, but there are simple, observable differences in every scene. If Siddharth is the hero in front of the camera, then it is A.R.Rahman, the hero behind the camera. There is so much energy in his compositions, he simply lifts the story all by himself.

Rakesh Mehra wrote and directed the film. The story is good, but lacks the depth to make me think about the society even as I walk out of the theatre. The screenplay is good, but lacks a punch that is required to drive the message into the minds of the youths. The direction is good, but lacks a flavour that is essential in holding our attention for this 160 minute running length. This is a perfect B grade movie. If there's nothing running in the multiplex that you want to see, you can see this movie.

Memoirs of a Geisha - One Minute Review

Beautiful women dressed in artistic kimonos walk out of tidy-tiny bamboo houses into small streets that are always buzzing with people of action. And if you're an attentive viewer, it's all presented with a visual flair such that you can't miss the details. This movie is an example of the inseparable blend of photography, production design and costume for which it won Oscars. These three elements are important in imparting a credibility factor to the movie: set in a geisha house in the early to mid 20th century, Japan. Since we never question the setting, we easily glide into the story and characters.

"A geisha is an artist trained to entertain men through her skills, not her body" says Mameha (Michelle Yeoh). The movie very gently follows the vicissitudes of Sayuri (Zhang Ziyi), a geisha who sincerely tries to be a geisha and succeeds and fails in that attempt. The climax scene left me wondering if this is a love story all the while that I have forgotten to notice. Along with those top Chinese artistes, there are Gong Li and Ken Watanabe in the star-studded cast. The direction is crisp and captures the subtleties of a woman's routine.

Extra thoughts: [a] Ang Lee, who has worked with the Yeoh and Ziyi before is a master in creating the tones and moods for a story like that of 'Memoirs of a Geisha'. Still Rob Marshall (Chicago) doesn't do a bad job. [b] I thought the art direction for 'Kingkong' was breathtaking in recreating the island and the America in the 30's. I'm guessing if most of those scenes were computer images. Because the quality of art direction in 'Kingkong' is on a grand scale and in no way comparable to this one. [c] Suzuka Ogho as the young geisha delivers a truly great performance. There should be an award for child artistes in all major film festivals - they do commendable work only to be overlooked by their older ones. Recently I've seen some terrific work by kids where the senior artistes had to work tight to be noticed in those scenes.