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21st-Feb-2010 12:04 pm - My Name is Khan and I am quite smart

There is a scene at the very beginning of the movie that shows hindu extremists dressed in yellow. There are no explicit riot scenes to act as transition, something you would be forgiven to have expected from a Karan Johar film. But this is Karan Johar, with a difference. Aha. I know, so was KANK. But trust me.

My Name Is Khan is, in essence, a very straight-forward bollywood romance, but with a difference. It is about a leading man ready to give it, and lose it, all in a bid to woo back his lost love. Only, this man is - and forgive me for piling it on, I promise I will stop - different. Not just because he suffers from Asperger's syndrome, but because he insists on carrying his nobility wherever he goes. He just knows no other way.

Rizwan Khan meets and falls in the love with the immensely vibrant, if only because she is next to the socially shy Rizwan, Mandira, a divorced hairstylist mother settled in California, stunningly captured by Ravi K. Chandran here. They get married, tragedy strikes and soon he is embarking on a journey to meet the President of USA to tell him something very important - "My name is Khan. And I am not a terrorist".

Karan Johar has been telling us he is ready to get out of the box. He kinda took a dozen steps in that direction with KANK, but traced halfway right back seemingly frightened at the first ray of light. He is older now, a lot more mature, and voila, has turned very cunningly clever on us. He has wanted to go more subtle on us for years, mainly to please the ever-increasing number of naysayers. What he does manage well in MNIK is to mask that innate drive, all thanks to a well-thought-out leading man that leaves no room to bring upon the KJ showiness. Writer Shibani Bathija, who is surprisingly solely credited for the screenplay as well, starts off with a terrific love story and decides to pile on the subplots as time passes. Not necessarily a bad idea, many a great movie has worked solely by gathering steam on the way and finishing on a high. But MNIK was never going to be that kinda movie, and though this is clearly her best effort yet, there is still ways to go.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, I figure I need to add in a couple of lines about the Georgia scenes. These scenes never bothered me as much, thanks to the fact that I was not expecting Karan to go all-out realistic on me. And its just a movie, so I was more than willing to look at the wonderful sets and the cinematography instead. And smile, if only for Rizwan.

What did bother me a lot were 3 other things - a wonderful culmination point to Rizwan's walk of nobility gets marred by an inappropriately positioned and unnecessarily added stabbing. It is totally unnecessary and seems solely an excuse for Mandira to read through Rizwan's journal and sob like only Kajol can. She already WAS there, wasn't she? And what is up with Kajol's son Sam and his Indian English? Also, Karan so needs to drop his fixation with football (as in KANK) or soccer (now in MNIK). Few people in the US follow the English Premier League and Manchester United as fiercely as Karan's characters do. Enough of this already KJ. Oh, and whoever was the casting director needs to be castr... I mean, what is with the amazingly poor overall acting abilities of all those ridiculously caricature extremists in the mosque? Please Karan, if you could research Asperger's as well as this, you surely had the time to get your casting right for what is quite an important sequence in the film.

Well, the casting that actually matters, how could Karan have gone wrong? His leading lady is an actress that has rarely ever put a foot wrong on screen. Her sheer Kajol-ity - I am sorry but there really is no other word to aptly describe her thespian skills - brings Mandira and the off-beat romance to life. It is a surprisingly under-written Karan Johar leading lady, what with Karan not taking on the writing jobs, but Kajol takes and totally runs away with it. And you cannot help but be mesmerized. Through most parts, I must add, for there are moments where you do realize she is trying hard to make something out of zilch. And that only make you realize how good Shahrukh Khan must have been in KKHH and DTPH to take a side-act Rahul and transform him into a memorable leading man. Most of the romance in MNIK is driven solely by Kajol's by-now iconic screen-scorching chemistry with her hero.

And what a hero Rizwan Khan is. He is socially allergic, suffers from a disease he never knew about until he was a full-grown man, is steadfastly righteous. And madly in love. In what is quite simply a breathtaking performance, Shahrukh Khan is eventually what this movie turns out to be. If there is one reason, there are plenty mind you, but if there is just one reason you should go watch this movie, watch it for Rizwan Khan. And let him in, allow him to take you over, for we could all do with more Rizwan in our lives. A career-topping performance, in a filmography full of memorable ones, is always cause for cheer. Take a bow Khkhan saab.

I am solely responsible for turning this into a cliche, almost - but actors are really like sportsmen. You might stand out in a loss for your team, but very seldom does that become something to cherish for long. And very rarely does it ever enter the realm of greatness. But My Name is Khan does not let its glorious leading act down, and I am quite thankful for that.

25th-Jan-2009 01:23 am - Best songs of 2008
Well well, list time again. And the two people who do look at this blog every now and then, you already know it is all about Bollywood. And thanks to small mercies like YouTube, year-end lists have become quite a non-strenous task. Well, I didn't say non-time-consuming. Coz if you have ever just "surfed" through arguably Google's best investment, just for the heck of it, just to kill time for time's sake, or while at work all you over-privileged ones, you'd know what "lost track of time" means. Anyways, before I rattle of into another one of my co-patented never-ending sentences - "I will never write a period film" is just one of the abundant jokes among friends - let me just get straight to the list.

Arite, someone that averages 5 posts per year, give and take, should ideally get to that one BIG list - the top 10 movies of the year. But, 2008 provided us with some great music I feel, and not that many great movies. So, this list is basically the best songs of the year 2008. It was musically a much better year for Bollywood than 2007 was. So, let's get to it.

10. Bakhuda Tum Hi Ho - Kismat Konnection

A Pritam track finally makes it to my favorite playlist for a year. This is a persistently plagiarizing moron that is roaming around scot-free thanks to our wonderful constitutional amendments or lack there-of. But there are times every now and then, his monstruously small heart wakes him up into delivering a fresh, likeable soundtrack. And Aziz Mirza's Kismat Konnection is one of them. Jatin-Lalit have always provided terrific soundtracks for Aziz and Pritam maintains the standard. Aai Pappi was refreshingly original and brought forth one of this year's rockingly original hum-lines, but Bakhuda makes the cut here, thanks to some good vocals and terrific cinematography. Pity the film was as bland as it gets, that is what you get when you pick Shahid Kapoor as your lead star, but don't blame the MD here. Well done Pritam sir.

9. Jaane Kyon - Dostana

Ladies and Gentlemen, two new dudes in town have finally arrived. Vishal and Shekhar are now the go-to "dudes" of hindi film music. Shankar Ehsaan Loy used to hold that tag a few years back, not anymore coz rockers Vishal and Shekhar are here. To stay. Dostana was an effervescently youthful album and their music never intruded with the film, even though it was a film that could have used a few, but always conveyed a new-age feel to it that very much made the movie. This was not a soundtrack to write flowery tributes to, but V & S created consistently hummable lines. While every song was fabulous in the album, why did I pick this? Ah, you must either be a woman or own a giant-sized closet to ask me this. PC in spetacular gold (oh please, it aint no bikini if it got only one piece, now piss off). PC in a two-piece short and sports bra. PC in a red top, PC dancing away to glory.... you get the drift. Oh, the whole buddy feel among the three in this song defined the film for me. And all remarks aside, I fairly enjoyed the film.

8. Dil Haara Re - Tashan

V & S strike again. Tashan came right at the very start of the year and has remained in my favorites list ever since. And this was a film I really enjoyed as well. The regular ditty Falak Tak and the over-enthusiastic Dil Dance Maare were quite nice too, and the title track was spendidly rocking to boot. But, Dil Haara was just beautifully picturized and sung with immense gusto by the ever-surprisiing Sukhwinder Singh and just pips the rest into the list. Well done again VS.

7. Khuda Jaane - Bachna Ae Haseeno

Bachna Ae Haseeno was, easily in my book, VS' best work of the year. The brilliantly remixed title track and the situationally brilliant Jogi Mahi were wonderful compositions, but what took the cake were Ahista Ahista and Khuda Jaane. The former was sung brilliantly by the ever-unique Lucky Ali and was tempo-ed brilliantly for its scooter-thon picturization. But Khuda Jaane literally ran away with the honors, thanks to its liberal use as a theme track throughout the film. V & S have always used KK's voice sparringly and given him the best of their work to sing, and they follow suit here. While KK reliably adds loads of pathos to the song, Shilpa Rao's pronunciation of the "s" is quite cute I think. Oh, and Deepika Padukone dude. You can seemingly never go wrong with this girl. As long as she doesn't open her mouth that is.

7. Ha Reham - Aamir

Now, this is a first of a kind for a bordering-on-maniacal lister like myself. A tie !! Let me tell a little something about ties on lists - the two bullets vying for the same position do not happen to come so because they are both worthy winners, it is usually because the list-maker himself (pardon the gender-generalization, but women hardly ever put up worthy "lists" of anything, not even mascara) feels that one of the two deserves to be up there in the list and not just as a worthy also-ran. And these are the lists that manipulate you enough into co-belief, like this one here which will also have a #6 despite two #7's. So, what was special enough about this song for me to indulge into make-belief. Not just the song actually, but the album in entirity. Newcomer Amit Trivedi's haunting background score leaves you speechless, and does it by keeping it ridiculously simple. Simple tunes, simple singing, simpler orchestration and the simplest of instrumentation drive this amazing soundtrack, which, in turn, drives this wonderful little film. While I enjoyed most tracks, Chakkar Ghumyo and Ha Reham stood out for me. This particular track that made it to the list was one of those flashes of brilliance that the film displays, with a song playing in the background when the hero bumps off goons. Talk about simplistic spectacle. Take a bow Mr. Trivedi.

6. Dil Ka Rishta - Yuvvraaj

I still do not know how many v's and r's they could have added to make this film work. Maybe an SRK guest appearance or an Aamir 20-pack one, perhaps? Whatever, Ghai made this film a mess with just his first teaser. Salman crooning Beethoven and calling himself a "bad boy" !! Geez, even Satish Kaushik did much better with baldie Salman shrieking away Mr. Showman. One thing Ghai did get right was the music. You cannot go wrong with AR Rahman you know, unless you are Ketan Mehta. And Rahman delivers a kind of brilliance that a film like this did not deserve, with perfectly downplaying Alka's increasingly-screechy voice in Tu Muskura, picking Srinivas to soulfully render Zindagi and promotes his sheer joy in discovering Benny Dayal, seemingly to sing all those songs that he had been forced to render himself, unwantingly, in the last few years, in Tu Hi To Meri Dost Hai. But, he tops all of it with one of the songs of the year in Dil Ka Rishta. A brilliant climax number whose orchestration simply sets it apart from anything else we have heard from him in the last few years. Sonu Nigam croons it his usual style, no missteps at all. And the chorus that includes the rarely-heard Roop Kumar Rathod supports ably. Broadway delight this.

5. Kabhi Kabhi Aditi - Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na

AR Rahman and Aamir Khan have always been one helluva combo to contend with. And Rahman jazzes up the year's most youthful soundtrack with a song to please every Aditi in the world, and ease up on every one of her boyfriends too. Pappu does swivel well on the dance floor, Nazrein Milana is hip, Kahin To Hogi Woh is soulful and the title track is the first-of-its-kind brilliant jazz number (whose original I have just heard so that takes a lot out of enjoying it) but Kabhi Kabhi Aditi is the anthem in it all. It is simplest of tracks that the wannabe singer that is resident in every one of us guys would wanna belt out to the love of our lives. Yeah go ahead and replace Aditi with whomever you like and love too.

Oh, and here is the original jazz track.

4. Kaise Mujhe Tum Mil Gayi - Ghajini

Whether you pick the voices or the instrumental, it doesn't really matter with this song. Really. It is an AR Rahman show all the way. The maestro comes up with a terrific melody and then riffs along to the bollywood-standard filler tune between interludes, then has a brainwave and decides to let the girl sing to the filler-tune instead of the primary one. Shreya Ghoshal has steadily perched herself in the Rahman pet-zoo, displacing the brilliant Sadhna Sargam, and she is terrific support staff to the very Rahman-ish Benny Dayal. The fact that the instrumental sounds just as good as the original is testament to the song totally belonging to Rahman himself. Rahman mixes up jazz and hip-hop to brilliant effect in Behka, Shreya still displays bad breathing technique in Lattoo, Suzanne rocks all over the place with Aye Bachchu and Guzaarish provides the film with the regular romantic ditty, but Kaise Mujhe is the pick of the lot, simply because this will probably the one track you will be listening to perhaps even 10 years from now.

3. Sinbad The Sailor - Rock On!!

This was, arguably, the best soundtrack of the year, looking at it solely from a musical pov. S, E & L have shuffled it up quite beautifully over the years and dealt us a delectable blend of commercially vibrant and musically sound music year after year. They had a ridiculous release in TPTM very early into the year, but who can blame them, they were working with the brain-dead Kunal Kohli. But they more than make it up with Rock On. As Mani Ratnam is for AR Rahman, so is Farhan Akhtar to SEL, apparently. Every one of their combinations so far have yielded spectacular results. The soundtrack is not a pleasant first listen AT ALL. And this is not the Rahman-ish effect either, the first listen sounds ridiculous sole thanks to Farhan's hoarse-hoarse rendition. But the genius of having the bathroom-singing Akhtar actually dawns on you only after watching the film, which is surely bettered by it. Great shuffle SEL and Farhan. But geez Farhan, ease off on the acting and give us a better Don in 2 years. Oh, and your TV show SUCKS !!

2. Phir Milenge Chalte Chalte - Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi

This album reminds me a lot of Chak De India last year. Salim-Suleiman's score for CDI was pretty bland overall, but they made it up with a title track that was one for the ages. And they reproduce the magic again with RNBDJ as well, with loads of help from Jaideep Sahni and Sonu Nigam. A tribute to 3 generations of leading Kapoors, Dev Anand and Rajesh Khanna can never go wrong I suppose, but it still takes a lot of skill to mix the music well together and borrow lyrics from all over the place to make an entire song. I was worried when Adi Chopra decided on SS to do the music instead of going to someone like Vishal-Shekhar or one rung up to SEL and AR Rahman. And now I feel I had very good reason to be worried because the soundtrack, in itself, is not something to write home about. Though, I will give them this - the songs have definitely grown on me after watching the film. Good steady lower-rung going SS, but it is about time the two of you moved on to bigger and better things and stop producing background-music sounding albums.

1. Khwaja Mere Khwaja - Jodha Akbar

Phew. What A Song !! Easily, easily, easily the best in the business, AR Rahman proves his worth once again. Slumdog has the Oscar buzz and Rahman should win it easy, but Jai Ho is not a part of this list given that it is not exactly Bollywood. But, for my money, his work in Jodha Akbar far succeeds anything else he has done since Rang De Basanti. KMK is so ridiculously simplistic a tune that you would never give it a chance to make any list ever. But trust Rahman to fool you into unreasonable territory only to pull you right back into dream-world. Trust Rahman to give an album a song whose chorus is solely his voice multiplied and another one sung totally by a chorus. KWK is pulsating and breathtaking. And Rahman's rendition is spectacular and this is, truly, the song of the year. Dude, bass guitar in a devotional semi-qawwali !! You would be crazy not to fall in love with its genius. Take a bow Rahman, grab that Oscar, shove it into Aamir's ego and go take a long friggin bow.
29th-Aug-2008 11:30 am - The Darkest of Knights
The Dark Knight - 8.5/10

Spidey-2 still holds its top slot as the greatest superhero movie I have ever seen. DK comes close, very very close, a lot closer than Iron Man did. Dark, moody, intense and very internal, the Nolan brothers just friggin rock. I'd have preferred if Katie Holmes had stayed. MG's Rachel Dawes is such a ridiculously bland character that you have no idea why she has even 1 boyfriend, let alone two well-worthy men drooling over her. Christian Bale is, well, he is the best actor of the current generation and he does not put one foot wrong as Batman. I wish there was more Bruce Wayne though. Heath Ledger - give him that Oscar. NOW. Actually, let him fight it out with Aaron Eckhart, who rules like he was BORN to play Harvey Dent. The Joker looks scary, acts very scary but there is thankfully not much in-your-face gore. I still have to see Javier Bardem's performance in No Country... , but I doubt if it would be any better than Heath's. Harvey Dent's transformation to Two-Face is just beautiful beautiful writing, and more than the performances, it is the tight tight script and the interconnected storylines that actually make SENSE (by Batman standards, that in itself is applause-worthy) that make the movie work.

The cons - Maggie G. She is worse than Katie Holmes, I don't know how to put it mildly. And this is a superhero movie, so I did not want the loose ends with the Joker and Two-Face. The English-accented butler was plain boring and added nothing to the storyline. An actor as great as Caine is, deserved a lot more than this two-bit piece. A little more detail into how the Joker rigs bombs in ridiculously mobbed places was required, especially in a film by the Nolans. A little more in terms of how the Joker ingeniously accomplishes almost the impossible would have truly showed the world what great writers the Nolans are. But that might have rendered the movie into a summer action blockbuster rather than the true character study it really is.

Fabulous film nevertheless. Watch it in a digital screen, some of the action is abrupt and audacious and Dolby enhances the experience.
Arite, I am so lazy. So, those that have already read these elsewhere, bear with me. Will definitely come up with a more original post. In time.

Cheeni Kum - 6/10

Looks like bollywood is finally getting rom-coms right. AB-Tabu are very good as a combo, and director Balki gets Delhi right. And London, seemingly. Good debut, but the film could have used a little less of all the rona-dhona.

Race - 4/10

The plot twists can be seen from quite a distance, and the ones that you cannot have predicted do not seem to be gripping enough to even interest you. And bollywood needs to get rid of songs completely, at least for thrillers. The songs in this film are such a roadblock, and unlike a film like Humraaz where the songs were fantastic, this film has some utterly boring tunes combined with insipid English lyrics and some retarded choreography. I'd be a tad generous and give this movie a 4/10.

No Smoking - 5/10

Great core idea to introduce the "wierdo" genre to Indian movies. But it takes it too far, which is a pitfall that pretty much every neo-filmmaker tends to fall into. Writing mind-job movies is very tricky, you need to know where to draw the line. A lot of budding filmmakers tend to get trapped into the "I want to surprise myself" syndrome, while all they had to look to do is to surprise the viewer. Anurag Kashyap falls too, quite badly in some places. The key to writing a good wierd movie is to not let the wierdness completely take over the entire storytelling, but should be cleverly masqueraded with the mundane. Anurag throws metaphors after metaphors that keep getting more and more difficult to keep track of. John Abraham has a fairly simple role, so does Ayesha Takia. Paresh Rawal is very good in the beginning, but the writer in Kashyap completely lets him down in the second half, with an adamance to pile on the weirdness factor, thus reducing him to a caricature. Overall, interesting start from Kashyap. And instead of blaming the audience for "not being ready" for a film like this, hope he learns from this and produces a simplified weird movie next time.

Aaja Nachle - 7/10

Finally finished watching it. It is very good, but I'd have thought Madz deserved a "great" comeback. The movie is fantastic up until the climax, and Sahni shows his ability to lace in several contrasting characters smoothly into the narrative. But the climax was a big big let-down. The climax should have been a musical that should have been relatable to every one of the main plotlines in the film. Instead, it is only the people portraying characters in the musical that are relatable to members of the audience. That was quite naive, and should have had a lot more depth in the writing. Madhuri is, well, Madhuri, hope she gives us at least one film a year. Akshaye Khanna, Vinay Pathak and Konkana were fantastic - why? Coz they were spontaneous. And Kunal Kapoor was anything but that, and stands out like a sore thumb. He needs acting lessons pronto. Overall, I'd say it was a wonderfully sweet film, immensely enjoyable, but just not great.

And yeah, what is with the songs? The songs have just started sounding so much better to me after watching the movie. The first thing I did after the movie was to download Ishq Hua and Show me your Jalwa. Maybe Adi Chopra has the right idea signing Salim-Suleiman for his next.

Welcome - 3/10

Nana Patekar is superb, and for a change, I did not mind Anil Kapoor here. But, in a comedy, if you can count the number of funny scenes on one hand, it doesn't help.

Mixed Doubles - 7/10

Superb debut from Rajat Kapoor, as director. And Konkana and Ranvir are outstanding. Really really liked the movie.

Indiana Jones IV - 7/10

This is nowhere near as good as Raiders of the Lost Ark (the first scene with the boulder rolling down is in itself worth the price of all 4 dvd's put together). Let's just say that if you are a fan of the series, just sit back, let it unfold and you will definitely have your money's worth. Well, if you are a fan, I needn't tell you this at all. You'd know exactly how to enjoy it. Does Harrison Ford ever age? Shia LeBouff is apparently the next big thing according to Lucas and Spielberg, and he is being groomed well with this film to take over as the next Henry 'Indiana' Jones. Not that the movie is without flaws. Did Lucas and Spielberg not hear about a film called National Treasure:Book of secrets that released earlier this year??? There was a sense of dejavu in a lot of scenes that should have been reshot completely. The other problem I have is with John Williams well underplaying himself and his masterfully original background score in this edition. There are certain scores that just make you smile with satisfaction though. The Star Wars and Indiana Jones themes are such that they can make you want to fasten your seatbelts immediately, eager in anticipation of a joyous filmy ride. His dumbed-down orchestration was a major let down for me. If you are a fan (who isn't? duh!) go watch it. Heck, watch it just to see the original Henry talk of his bearded old man and snatch his fedora away from the pretender, in a I-am-still-the-man moment. And smile.

21 - 6/10

Saw it over the weekend. It is nice, just not great. I haven't read the book, but going by the movie, I'd assume that it sticks loyally to the book. The cast does arite, but I hate it when directors adhere loyally to books. Books and movies are a competely different medium, and movies are supposed to be a lot more entertaining, which gives filmmakers a lot more freedom to veer away from the original text. But then, there are nerds all over the park who accuse filmmakers of that every time a movie releases. I'd give the movie 6/10. There is nothing great in it to shout about, the blackjack skills depicted are expectedly half-baked, Spacey is perfectly cast, but Ms. Bosworth could use quite a few acting lessons. Not a bad watch, just wish it was a lot more than just recollection of facts.

Mulholland Drive - 4/10

Why, why, why. Why did I have to rent this movie out? Why did I have to believe in the David Lynch following? Why do I get carried away when I see Naomi Watts on the cover of any film? Why does David Lynch make such pointless movies? Why are so many critically-hit films so self-indulgent? Why, why, why.

The Breakfast Club - 4/10

This came with really high recommendations. But I was mightily disappointed with the entire movie. I guess me not having had a yankee schooling rendered it unrelatable, but still, I expected a lot more than a bunch of kids complaining about anything and everything in life, so much so I took a lot of pity on their parents and their principal.

Arlington Road - 7/10

A tad slow-paced to start with, providing a mild sense of eerieness to the scenes and depression to its characters. But picks up steam mid-way and ends on an applause-worthy note. It is amazing how many a mediocre movie can be transformed with the one thunderbolt ending. Tim Robbins is perfectly cast and Joan Cusack and Jeff Bridges are tolerable.

Iron Man - 9/10

Robert Downey Jr, I bow to thee. What a rivetting performance. A good summer action blockbuster needs to get one thing right - well, apart from the action that is - humor. And RDJ nails it, his bad boy image persona going real well with the character. Christian Bale was awesome as Batman, but geez, this has gotta be the best superhero performance of the decade. Jeff Bridges turns a commendable performance, but his dialogue delivery still hurts me. He always seems like he is swallowing stuff. But I still have a huge problem with how it ends. Are there any fanboys/fangals here? From what I can recall, Tony Stark never reveals himself as being Iron Man. Very few people know his secret identity. But why does he do so in the movie? But the build-up to it and the final delivery of the statement is just about the perfect ending anyone could have given it I suppose. Bring on the sequel.

Don't Mess With The Zohan - 7/10

Its your typical Adam Sandler movie, but more on the lines of Click than his other absurdities. There is a very good subtext to the movie, with the larger-than-life romanticizing of war heroes and all-powerful reverence to them et al. And they cover it up beautifully with over-the-top goofiness to make the message quite appealing. You could watch it like a Will Ferrell movie, or if you know Sandler stuff well enough and eagerly wait for Rob Schneider to show up, watch it like any other Sandler movie. Then come back and think back about the intent in the film.

National Treasure: Book of Secrets - 4/10

Hate to admit it, but I loved the original. The sequel is more of the same and nothing novel about it. Waste of $$.

I Am Legend - 5/10

Didn't know it was a zombie movie. And I hate zombie movies. Still, I was willing to give this movie plenty leeway, but it is as confused as Will Smith's character is. Some scenes are shot beautifully, but they cannot do enough to redeem this feature.
11th-Feb-2008 11:49 pm - The Best of 2007
2007 was a mixed-bag for me personally. I finally got engaged and am all set to move into a totally different phase of life. Or as my mother would put it, "get settled". It is a new feeling, and anticipation fills the air, don't want to get used to the feeling soon though.

The year also showered on me several other joyous moments that I will surely remember for quite a while:

  • I moved from one teeth-chatteringly cold place in central USA to another. I have always been termed a freak of nature. Someone to be born in a hot, humid city like Chennai, then Madras, to go on to love the colder places on the planet is quite freaky I suppose. But the snow, the chill and the freezing cold make me feel a lot more at home than stressful heat. It is not the scenery that interests me, nor the country-side, for Steve Taylor's sake, but its the mere sense that it sets me well into loner-mode, covers me up with a warm privacy-blanket and lets the mind truly rule over the body. Enjoying it so far.

  • Like most movie-goers, I have been waiting for that one performance from Shah Rukh Khan that would shut everyone up for good. And he finally delivers with a highly-nuanced portrayal of coach Kabir Khan that is far more internalized than anything else we have seen this year from any other actor. After having followed his career closely over the last decade and more, I realize how smooth a transition it has been from playing the man everyone loves, to characters he himself loves to be. He has got to a stage where the only thing he seems to be doing is having fun with himself on screen. It is hard for a superstar to play around with himself, he does that too in Om Shanti Om, quite literally in a few sequences. Don and now OSO - these are just perfect for people like me, lovers of the Ocean's 12 kinda cinema. Keep going SRK.

  • The Bourne Ultimatum was the one hollywood film that I enjoyed most this year. After a wierdly subdued performance in a half-baked role in The Departed, Matt Damon is right back into scintillating form in a role he obviously loves dearly. The film is gripping right through to the very end, has some more terrific car-chases and hand-to-hand combat, and some intelligent characterizations. Well played Matt. Oh, I am not complaining about the shaky-cam at all. In fact, I had to be told about it to actually have me take notice even in the Supremacy.

  • I got myself hooked big-time on to golf in 2007. And hooked to an extent where I now claim it to be the greatest sport in the world. I always watched golf on tv, from a very young age and enjoyed it immensely, but playing it and playing it well is just quite something else. I can now go to a pretty-darn-difficult course and not actually embarass myself, maybe even make a few pars every now and then. I still have to improve my putting game, where I tend to lose concentration real quick.

  • Serbia - I have absolutely no idea about the country as such. But it was an absolute delight to see such a small country be represented by 3 players in the top 10 in the world of tennis. Novak Djokovic, Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic must make a small country like Serbia - same population as NYC I believe - real proud. While Jankovic's rise has been a slow and steady one, Ivanovic and Djokovic have captured the crowds' imagination with both their tennis and their off-court earnesty. You oughtta be proud Serbia.

  • Madhuri Dixit finally came back to hindi films. Not in a great film, as I had hoped, but in a film that was still enjoyable despite its flaws. And disappointingly, she was not any special, but maybe that was the point of it all - you went nowhere Madz, you are still the queen. And for my money, the very best I have ever seen. I am ready to wait for any stretch of time to see you on the big screen again - just so I can sit back and smile everytime you appear - coz I know, we all know, even when you go, you never leave.

Plenty things sucked about 2007, and given the kind of person I am, that should be a much longer list and requires a lot more patience than I can produce at the moment. In a week's time maybe.
13th-Jan-2008 12:00 am - Arite arite, explaining myself.
People, gear up. This is quite possibly the only bad review of Taare Zameen Par you will find on the internet. You wanted it, so here it goes. The rest of you should know I have already had the slurpiest of abuses hurled at me. But there is one verdict that is quite unanimous, and probably very true - that I am as stone-hearted as people get. Well, given that, let me put myself out of this misery quickly and get to what I hated about Taare Zameen Par, and why it will find a spot in a forthcoming year-end list on this very blog.

Before I get into what I did not like in the actual movie, you will need to know a few personal ..err.. things that have laid the path to TZP hatedom.

  • There are some kinda actors, and then there are some others. Aamir Khan is surely the second. We still haven't defined what the first kind actually are, but suffice to say Aamir Khan has us believing he is not of them. Now, when an actor goes out of his way to let us know he is very choosy and only does the best of the best, we need to get up and take notice. And so I did, waiting to see what he could throw me in the form of TZP that he felt was worth the hype. And yes, I had my daggers out way before the movie even started. It is the most normal reaction isn't it? You think it is flawless? Well, let me look into it a lot deeper than I would most other times. There are plenty other movies I would probably never start to scrutinize, since they thankfully do not claim to be society-rewriting cinema. So, even though you might find flaws listed like these in the best of movies that came out in 2007, that does not matter here. This is TZP remember?

  • And this is a very personal little crib I have against certain film-folk. I have often felt filmmakers tend to take themselves way too seriously. Movies are for entertainment, so you better stick to it and stop shoving messages about living my life better down my throat - I have late-night and mid-afternoon programming for it, and its FREE. Taare Zameen Par does that, in overdose. Contrast it to last year's gem Lage Raho Munnabhai - a film that also carries with it a very good message. Unlike TZP that disguises entertainment in the form of a message, LRM manages the complete opposite and that is where it wins over the viewer. And I have serious problems with people who are so full of it that they want to preach it to everyone else they can find. Why else would you release it worldwide? Besides a want to bathe yourself in glory that is.

  • And, to boot, I have serious problems with people trying to tell me how to bring up kids. I think we treat kids these days like angels already, and this "treat kids right" brigade is quite unnecessary. It is not something I can explain better, so I am not even going to try. Bottomline, I hate these people.

  • Oh, and one more thing. I know the story and the screenplay have been credited to one Mr. Amol Gupte. But, apparently, Mr. Gupte was not impressed with the final cut of the movie. So I am sure this was not what he had visualized himself when he wrote it. That being the case, I am not going to call him out but the man who kicked him out instead. All plusses and minusses from hereon will be placed firmly on Aamir Khan's head.

Now, the actual movie. I assume those reading this have already seen the movie, but if you have not, doesn't matter. There is not much of a plotline that I need to explain. You will start to gather the loose ends as we go further.

  • The film deals with dyslexia. You ought to have known this much for you to have gotten this far. But does it really deal with the disease? All you get is one song and wham, the kid is all set suddenly and loves what he is doing. What should really have been the core of the movie - well, arite, but a substantial part of that "core" at the very least - actually ends taking up less than 5 minute of screen time. To think that the movie would take an entire hour and more to paint you the boy's predicament in all its glory, with cartoons and sfx galore, and not even tell us how he is able to overcome it? Frankly, this is the film's major mess-up.

  • The entire first half is dedicated to the kid and his problems with dyslexia. And about how no one is able to even recognize it, let alone understand it. And there are major portions in this half that drag. A LOT. Aamir Khan assumes no one has ever heard of the disease, and so he goes all out to spell it out to us in the form of long-drawn toons. They are not bad at all, just way overdone.

  • There is a scene in the firt half where Ishaan wanders about, and for 5 minutes there is not a single dialogue and you are shown Ishaan's world with simplistic background music. It is a bold scene for a debutant, and expectedly, Aamir does not seem to be able to handle. I recently saw a tamil movie called Mozhi, and the movie had a very similar scene. The hero falls in love with a deaf and dumb girl, and decides he wants to experience how she looks at the world, stuffs his ears with cotton and sets off into the road. And for the next 5 minutes, the movie carries with it absolutely no sound at all, and it manages to pull it off simply because the on-goings are actually interesting. TZP's 5-minute sequence is alarmingly boring.

  • Aamir Khan's entry is superb and he brings with him a ray of hope, since that is where the actual movie is supposed to kickstart. But things fade away into cliched territory for a while. Until you get to know Mr. Nikhumb is dyslexic himself. Now, are you telling us that one has to be suffering from a defect himself to be able to relate to someone else's problems with it? I would hope not. But, ideally, at this juncture, the movie should have been starting to focus on how Nikhumb dealt with dyslexia himself and how he draws from his own experience to help the kid. But, as a screen-writer myself, I can understand the need to throw the audience the unexpected here. So, the movie completely ignores this piece of information from here-on. Excuse me? If it was not going to be used at all, why even bother telling us about it? Or does it really mean that Nikhumb is not dyslexic at all, and it was just a lie to get closer to the kid? If that is the case, it makes no sense not to let us know. Especially in a movie that is as cliched as hindi movies get.

  • Ok, the cliches. Boy, where do I start? Let us start with the parents. I don't know why, but hindi film parents are hardly ever two-dimensional. Hardly ever real. And Aamir follows suit here. Ishaan's parents are the perfect screen parents - the dad is too busy with work and expects results without putting in any effort on his children himself. The mother is loving - she HAS to be, this is hindi cinema and we won't have it any other way - but never understanding enough. Now, this is a really tough call for me. A mother who wants the best for her child and never once in the film seems to want to give up on him, not being understanding enough? I cannot seem to digest it, but that is trivial.

  • And then we have the teachers, all of them unreal again. I have had my share of bad teachers, sure. Non-understanding ones, sure. But none exaggeratedly so. There is this one scene where these teachers start to instruct Nikhumb about something in their own sarcastic way, and at a point when you are readying yourself up for a lecture, Aamir throws us off with a silly one-line retort. And that is about the only redeeming feature in the entire "Nikhumb vs the other teachers" angle. And obviously, Nikhumb has to be different from these gentlemen. But turns out, he is quite at the other end of the spectrum. Contrasted with the other adamant, careless professors, Nikhumb is a God-send. For starters, he is just a part-timer in Ishaan's boarding school, while his main job is at a different school - no prizes for guessing this one. YES, he works with mentally challenged children, or something like that. Now, what angle does that bring to the movie? Does someone have to be an angel to understand and relate to dyslexia? Why can Nikhumb not be a regular guy, who has his own set of problems in life, and still have the ability to understand the problems Ishaan faces and help him deal with it? Why does he have to be the all-conquering do-gooder he is shown to be? Pointless. And the effort to show how much more accessible he was to his students left me quite embarassed - I don't ever like the idea of a teacher being overtly friendly with his students to the point of calling them "dost", "dude", whatever. I had a teacher like that once, and I don't ever recall respecting him. It is quite a normal reaction, and I believe that the line dividing teachers from students can be overrun, but should never vanish.

  • Ishaan is, what, 8 yrs old or something like that? Now, in the climactic sequences, when Ishaan wins the coveted prize for a painting competition at school, the first thing he does is run towards his teacher and give him a big hug. Now, it is a little difficult for me to digest that a kid like Ishaan could actually understand the graveness of his situation and actually turn grateful to his mentor. It is quite a stretch, and is basically an excuse to let Nikhumb bask in more undeserved glory. Contrast it to Chak De India - the girls win the World Cup, and celebrate together with the trophy in hand, while we see the man responsible for this watching it from the sidelines. Beautiful and fitting. And just when TZP is about to end, as if a just-in-case-you-missed-it-the-first-time, Aamir shoves a repeat performance in my face.

  • Who in the world is Nikhumb's girlfriend? Or whoever the hell she is? What does she have to do in the film? Is Aamir telling me that even though Nikhumb suffers from dyslexia, he has grown up to be a "normal" guy, and even has a girlfriend? But, thanks to her, I get to see one of my favorite moments in the film - a scene with Nikhumb and herself planting seeds in the garden. It is a very simplistic scene, and though I don't even remember what the two talk about (Ishaan probably), I remember the imagery pretty well. Hindi films do not have such simplistic scenes any more, of real people doing a mundane job while going about discussing something important on the side. Very nice Aamir.

  • Oh, and Aamir, would you stop blaming Black for being too "manipulative", please? Cinema is supposed to be manipulative, and I don't fault it. But, if you have a problem with it, stop starring in manipulative movies like Rang De Basanti, and stop making manipulative movies like Taare Zameen Par. TZP is as manipulative as movies get.

Aamir Khan is superb as the teacher, and the kid Darsheel is wonderful, but not as good as Ayesha Kapur in Black. Aamir Khan's direction is very bookish and other than a couple of stray occasions, he never ventures into the unknown or the unsafe. It is a safe debut as a director, and the good news is he can only get better from hereon.

Ok, I am tired now. I never wanted to elaborate or "explain myself" this much, but there you have it. Read, snigger, shake your head, call me a bonehead or call me other things, but that is your problem.
30th-Dec-2007 08:13 pm - Yawn
Finished watching Taare Zameen Par. What a borefest. Filmmakers tend to take themselves way too seriously. Just entertain us and sod off. Thanks.
16th-Dec-2007 09:05 pm - Last week's report

  • I finished reading Happiness by Will Ferguson. He is a very gifted writer, and if he can have someone like me, who detests books and thinks they are just for people who live in timeless and movieless dimensions, hooked on throughout the read, then I say well done. Unlike others who actually seemed to have fallen in love with his basic premise, I was more interested in his writing style and the expressions he uses. And that is where book writing is so much more different than screen writing. Screen-writing is a lot more dumbed down, since you are reaching out to a much bigger market, or at least hope to. Books have the freedom to express themselves in whatever way possible, without having to worry about the after-effects. And unless you write and direct yourself, screenplays are never ever going to turn out to be as good as you had written them, no matter what the Kaufmans would have us believe. Heck, isn't that one of the biggest reasons why CK is directing the next one himself?

  • And talking about screen-writing, I am currently in the process of penning my 17th movie script. A hobby not many people know about, so this is more of an out-of-the-closet indulgent post. And I am as charged up about it than I have ever been. But the one thing that keeps bothering me, and has done over the last 2 scripts I have written, is the thought of how much better my idea would have been in CK's hands. But, good news is that I am slowly trying to get that thought out of my system, and gladly enough, enjoying some mild success at it.

  • And I have seen some movies too. Mulholland Drive - well, frankly it did have its steamy moments, a major reason for me to rent it out. But I don't understand the David Lynch following. The movie is as bizarre as it gets. I am ready to forgive a little self-indulgence on any writer's part, comes with the territory. But this is stuff that you make and show off to close friends and shut up about. The problem with such movies is how much of our time they waste before they give us that flashy technically-brilliant moment, which frankly never manages to make anyone other than the writer himself to sit up and take notice. And I finally did see Bicentennial Man, which ends up as one you'd find on everyone's "Nice Flicks" lists. It is neither brilliant nor lackadaisical, but it sure has its moments, all involving Robin Williams. If you like sci-fi and are willing to forgive a lack of logic for the sake of humor, on a put-a-smile-on-me-coz-I-am-a-sucker day, you might actually end up finding it quite amusing, like I did.

Over and out.
15th-Nov-2007 12:24 am - Every movie buff's wet dream
No no, we are still talking movies here. Actually, just one in particular. Two if you want to be all nit-picky about it. Farah Khan's Om Shanti Om is definitive filmmaking. There is just one thought process running all through it - entertainment, no matter what the means. And after being bombarded with self-indulging movies like Eklavya, No Smoking and Aag through the year, OSO brings with it some pleasant relief, thanks to an intelligent presentation and loads of laugh-at-me irreverence.

If you have been living on this planet, you have already heard what the movie is about. So I will stay clear of that, not that it would take me too much time or effort to paraphrase, but I really want to leave you with as much joy as I possibly can for your first run. Khushwant Singh once famously claimed that what distinguishes Indian humor from the rest of the pack is our ability to laugh at ourselves. I am not sure how faultless his hypothesis is, but Farah Khan seems to have taken it to heart. If you got hints of it in Main Hoon Na, Farah shreds her inhibitions here to pack the entire movie with takes and shots on every cliche that Bollywood is known for.

The first half is filled with punchy dialogue, magnificent sets and pure 70s movie magic. The characters do not behave like people in the 70s did. Who wants that, when we can have them behave like how they did in the movies then. And Kirron Kher turns in a boistrous performance as the ex-junior artiste mom, who still cannot seem to get out of character. In between all of their shenanigans, a one-sided fan story creeps up on us. Om Prakash Makhija - yes that really is his name, no wonder his best friend keeps encouraging him to go in for a name change - tries every trick in the book to impress the love of his life, including a hilarious take as a south indian hero - curt english, outlandishly tight costume and the whole works. And then, cut back to more mischief. The first half packs subtle subtexts to almost every scene, if you are one of the unsure ones that is. If you are the trivia king, there is subtext blaring at you at feverish decibel levels in every single dialogue throughout this half of the movie. Find a theater that does provide safety belts, if you wanna keep from falling to the floor laughing.

Post-interval, the movie shifts to 2007 and in true Karz-style, embarks on a revenge-after-rebirth journey. And even amidst the seriousness of the context, Farah refuses to let the situation get to her by dumping on us regular doses of humor. You cannot help but rivel in the pleasure of watching the biggest names of the industry come together for a one-on-one dance-athon with the new age Om, in celebration of his Filmfare award for one of his fascimile releases that year. So what if Ms. Khan thrusts on us one of the evilest inventions on the idiot box, the laugh track, in a bit to lure us further into celebratory mood. So what if she uses the same snippet of the soundtrack over and over again, in a bid to provide every star a good share of the fun. We will endure all that and more, if the packaging is gonna be this good. Farah even sticks to the original idea of the title - I have long believed that the title always meant 2 Om's and 1 Shanti - and I thank her for that, though there were moments in the finale I was worried about it.

The positives score a landslide victory over the downs, but there are things Farah could have bettered. For starters, she could have given the Red Chillies VFX team one of her now-famous tirade for some below-top-notch work in the Dhoom Tana song. Finding too many other faults with Farah's second outing would equate to being overtly critical. This is a worthy follow-up to her smash debut Main Hoon Na. She shows vast improvements in her story-telling technique and a lot more mastery on the technicalities of filmmaking. And 3 people provide her with immensely valuable back-up.

V. Manikandan's cinematography is top-notch, and more importantly consistent enough throughout the movie to make nothing seem out of place. And Sabu Cyril needs to get out in public and take a bow. Well actually, give him that Filmfare. Now. And the third person to be commended is Shirish Kunder. His editing is superb and he manages to never let proceedings fall into a lull.

Vishal-Shekhar add to the magic with their best soundtrack till date. Though Dastaan-e-OSO, probably the best song in the album, is let down a bit by a rather over-nostalgic video, all the songs form integral parts of the story and showcase their work real nice. This movie should catapult them into the big league. A small word then about Sandeep Chowta's background score. While he does manage the ghostly bits very well, his work in the rest of the movie is nothing special to write home about.

Farah, you need to be felicitated with another "special" award just for making Arjun Rampal act. Finally. Rampal gets presented well this time around and while being pitted against solid actors, he manages to hold his own. And given his track record, this in itself is a huge accomplishment for the actor. Shreyas Talpade does not have too big a role, but fits well into whatever he is provided with. Kirron Kher, as mentioned earlier, is superb as the 70s soap-opera-ish mom. Always too eager, always too nosey, always overacting, she is an absolute hoot. Deepika Padukone makes a stellar debut. The girl is an absolute stunner, can dance well and hey, can act pretty well too. Being pitted against SRK in a movie that sees him in almost every frame must have been a huge ask for a debut, but she manages quite nicely. The Rani's and the Priyanka's, watch out.

Shah Rukh Khan is gleeful throughout the movie. Chak De probably took a lot out of the actor, and he seems to have found immediate salvation in Farah Khan's frivolous script. He digs, bites, chews and gnaws the hell out of both the Om's and keeps the movie afloat from reel 1 to the end. He is in tremendous form once again after Chak De, and the spirit with which he takes to both his characters as well as the cheeky, spoofy digs at himself and his industry-mates reminds us why he is still the country's biggest superstar. Few could have gotten away with all of this, but Farah and Shah Rukh pull off that walk on the thin line that divides irreverence and disrespect successfully. The fact that they don't spare even themselves only helps. This is a return back to the days when a movie used to be a party, a joyous celebration of human fantasies, a genre that seemed to have gotten lost thanks to the sudden advent of artistry and meaningful cinema. And we have SRK, the producer, to thank for that as much Farah herself.

Farah Khan does not want to write scripts anymore, and is looking for bound scripts that she can just pick up and direct. I would have loved to provide you with one sweetheart, but Om Shanti Om is so superbly written that I am deathly afraid of how short I might fall off your expectations.

A friend of mine insists Farah Khan's movies - talk about making a quick name for yourself, she is all of 2 films old - are made only for film buffs. I can't seem to care a hoot that he is half-right.
24th-Aug-2007 07:37 pm - You da man
This, is why is it is extremely difficult for me to take Commodore James Norrington seriously.

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