Thursday, August 28, 2008

Rock On Movie Review

ROCK ON!! DIL CHAHTA HAI 2, one is tempted to ask. DIL CHAHTA HAI was a trendsetter when you look back, paving way for storytellers who wanted a new story to tell. Now, the DIL CHAHTA HAI team of Ritesh Sidhwani and Farhan Akhtar with director Abhishek Kapoor deliver ROCK ON!!, a film that makes you understand the true meaning of friendship.

Put your hands together for one of the finest films of our times. Put your hands together for a director who pulls off a challenging subject with élan. Put your hands together for the actors who pitch in superlative performances.
ROCK ON!! is not just about music. It's about relationships. And relationships can get really complicated and messy as all of us would agree. ROCK ON!! captures it so beautifully, so sensitively, so effectively on celluloid.

Everything is in sync here, everything is just perfect. Flaws? Perhaps, the slow pacing. But come to think of it, you can't play with the edit in a film like this. ROCK ON!! also works because you can relate to the characters, you can relate to the moods, the egos, the highs and the lows...

In a nutshell, here's a film you just can't afford to miss. We've had our share of masala films week after week. Now have a look at a film that India can proudly showcase to the West. ROCK ON!! simply rocks!

ROCK ON!! is the story of four friends [Farhan Akhtar, Arjun Rampal, Purab Kohli, Luke Kenny] who put together the greatest band this country has ever seen, Magic, but never make it. Years later, fate conspires to bring them together again and set them on a journey back to where they left off... a soul-searching pilgrimage into their past.

ROCK ON!! bears some resemblance to the Hollywood film THAT THING YOU DO [Tom Hanks], but it could be a mere coincidence. Director Abhishek Kapoor sets it in the Indian milieu efficiently. Watch the bonding shatter into pieces for no fault of anyone in particular actually. It's the circumstances that play the villain here and Abhishek captures it on lens so beautifully. The fragile relationships, how piece after piece is put together and the journey to the climax… the narrative is so compelling, it makes you feel you're witnessing all of it first-hand.

Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy's music is perfect. It's completely in sync with the mood of the film. Connoisseurs of music have already showered the music with rave reviews and rightly so! Jason West's cinematography is fantastic. The screenplay and dialogues are commendable.

Every performance in the film deserves brownie points. Farhan Akhtar makes his debut as an actor and he displays rare maturity for a first-timer. Known as an accomplished director all along, Farhan will now be acknowledged as a mature actor as well. Arjun Rampal delivers his finest performance to date. Watch him emote those tough emotional moments and also as a failed person in the latter parts and you'd realize that he has only grown with the passage of time. Superb is the word!

Purab Kohli is tremendous and so is Luke Kenny. Purab has always delivered fine performances, but he's touched a new high this time. Luke is equally charged.

Prachi Desai scores in her very first feature. She has a challenging role and footage-wise too, it's substantial. Prachi brings in a lot of freshness and poise. Plus, she's a competent actor. Shahana Goswami is a talent to watch out for. Her performance is one of the most difficult ones for a newcomer and the confidence with which she carries it deserves to be lauded. Koel Purie has a brief role and she enacts it quite well.

On the whole, ROCK ON!! is an amazing experience. The highpoint is the emotional quotient, the skilful performances and the superb execution of the subject. At the box-office, this urban film holds tremendous appeal for metros and mini-metros. Business at multiplexes of Mumbai, Pune, Delhi and NCR, Kolkata and South in particular should be excellent. Very strongly recommended!


Friday, August 1, 2008

'Stallone was very impressed with Indians' - Sajid Nadiadwala

Producer Sajid Nadiadwala has managed to do what other Bollywood filmmakers could not -- rope in Hollywood stars in our movies. Thanks to him, we may get to see Sylvester Stallone and Denise Richards mouth some Hindi dialogue in Kambakht Ishq.

Starring Akshay Kumar and Kareena Kapoor , Kambakht Ishq almost also saw Arnold Schwarzenegger in the film. But the deal fell through.

Sajid, who flew back to Mumbai to be with his wife, who just delivered a baby boy, chats with Nithya Ramani, and talks about the Los Angeles shoot with Sly last week.

What is Kambakht Ishq about?

The film is about a stuntman, who does stunt doubles for Hollywood actors. That's why we roped in Hollywood stars -- the script demanded it.

Sajid Nadiadwala and Sylvester StalloneHow did you manage to rope in Sylvester Stallone and Denise Richards?

We were trying to get in touch with Hollywood actors through various sources. We tried many actors and finally, we could get Stallone and Richards.

Arnold will not be a part of the film. We wanted him to play himself but things didn't work out.

What was Stallone's reaction on reading the script?

He enjoyed the script. He was very impressed with our way of working.

It was a great experience working with him. He is a director's actor. We have grown up watching his films. I have watched Rocky many times. It was like a dream come true, working with him.

How was your shoot with him?

We shot at the Kodak Theatre, Los Angeles. He was very punctual. All of us stood up in respect when he entered. Shooting with him was a very good experience. He does whatever the director asks him to.

Sylvester Stallone and Kareena KapoorYou were shooting at the Kodak Theatre, where the Annual Academy Awards takes place. Were you filming an award function?

We were shooting the Taurus Awards, an award given for the best stunts.

How was the rapport between Akshay and Stallone?

They gelled very well. Stallone was very impressed with Indians and our way of working. Akshay and Stallone would discuss their workouts, gym routines and trainings.

Was it tough explaining the scene to Stallone, as he does not understand Indian cinema?

It was very easy. He is like a baby in front of the director. He is as simple as anybody else. The only difficult part was getting them to sign the film. Once he had signed, it was smooth.

He gifted you his Rocky boxing gloves.

Yes, that was a momento. I will always cherish that. He was so impressed with us that he gave his boxing gloves to me. India has come up in a big way off late and people look up to India. Cinema in India is growing big time and people abroad have started recognising us. It is a matter of pride to get boxing gloves from Stallone himself.

How long are their roles -- Stallone and Richards?

Denise has an important, substantial role. We have an eight days shoot with her. Stallone has approximately seven to 10 minutes of screen time. We had a three-day shoot with him.

Jaane Tu Mera Kya Hai - Video

Mallika Sherawat's Ugly Aur Pagli - Review

It's only fitting for a movie about slapping to show a lot of cheek.

One of the high points of Ugly Aur Pagli comes when Kabir (Ranvir Shorey) sits at Yash Ram Films, trying to get them to buy a script. The producer, a bald man with a french beard, is disappointed that the man has come only with an actual script -- where's the DVD, he asks, referring to the film the script must have been ripped off from.

It seems almost as if debutant director Sachin Khot, in a blatantly confessional moment, tossed in a slice of his life, as if he was asked to provide a reference DVD but, unlike Kabir -- who predictably sticks to his guns and writes out his life story -- the director wilfully handed over a copy of the Korean film My Sassy Girl, and assumed that with this cast, his film could be groundbreakingly awesome.

It's not a bad call, honestly. The original is a sweet, fun film about a guy hopelessly devoted to a girl, who constantly humiliates him, and who better to play loser and lioness than Ranvir Shorey and Mallika Sherawat ?

Alas, this film, like its drunken protagonist, consistently staggers.

Mallika Sherawat in Ugly Aur PagliWithout going deep into the originality debate yet again -- it tires me as much as it tires you, really -- if a film does have to be ripped off, can't it be adapted sensibly, like Aamir or Dil Hai Ki Maanta Nahin, to look at diametrically different ends of the good remake section? But no, Ugly Aur Pagli falls into that same old Bollywood trap, trying to camouflage a ripoff as an 'inspired by' film by replacing plot-points with extraneous songs and playing havoc with the narrative.

As a result, a bittersweet film about an ordinary boy smitten by the girl, who harasses him, turns into an over-the-top farce, the original's charming moments here failing to work minus context. Meanwhile, the plot's roundabout logic, rudimentary even in the Sassy original, here translates into a mess of perplexity and coincidence because of the chopping and changing. (It's likely a completely desi problem, though, for a screenwriter to have to replace an inventive naked-boy-meets-girl situation around, simply because that hideous Neil N Nikki had already stolen that scene.)

Anyway, Ugly starts off all right. Kabir is a dweeb, who runs into a scarily sloshed Kuhu (Mallika Sherawat), saves her life and doesn't sleep with her, and the film is essentially a story of how the masochistically mediocre man gets to know the sadistically slap-happy siren. Yes, the bondage theme runs deep as the girl whacks the life out of the boy, and you can almost imagine him in a gimp mask -- while I'm genuinely surprised she doesn't weild an actual whip. Heh.

And the only reason this decidedly unusual undercurrent crackles -- despite the lame-duck script -- is because of the leading pair. Ranvir Shorey -- playing the single most pathetic protagonist I can remember in our cinema -- is fantastic as Kabir, his expressions striking enough to make us laugh, often despite ourselves. The role needs him to whimper and hope and desperately crave, and Shorey, an actor good enough to convince us he's still studying engineering, can carry off priceless between-the-lines moments and petticoats with equal panache.

Mallika Sherawat and Ranvir Shorey in Ugly Aur PagliIn a way, the film is a showcase for the believably aggressive Mallika Sherawat. Well capable of giving anyone a tongue lashing, this film asks her to employ a more hands-on approach, and she clearly enjoys herself. Her Kuhu is a potentially fascinating character, an inexplicably whimsical mean girl with major psychological issues, and even though the film doesn't explore Kuhu, Mallika manages to stay natural even in this weird avatar. You believe her Kuhu even if you don't understand her; when Ranvir instinctively flinches as she merely leans toward him, you sympathise. She looks like a million bucks -- even when dressed 'superhero-style' for a day in her college -- and a significant share of the film's audiences will have cowgirl dreams for a while. Giddyap.

Yet it is a case of two strong actors with much personality trapped in a script that makes even two hours seem long. The first hour is about right, but hour two is a banal procession of more slapping mixed with a high-drama climax, memorable only because we get to see the sexiest woman of the 1970s and her modern-day successor in the same frame.

My Sassy Girl works largely because the tone of everything in the film -- save from the cocky titular heroine -- is normal as toast, which is why placing sauce on it is tasty. Here, the treatment is consistently over-the-top and gets tiresome after the first act. While some of the lines are wicked good -- especially Ranvir's VO, which quirkily once labels Mallika a cross between Medha Patkar and Keshto Mukherjee -- there just aren't enough of them.

There's also a severe need for polish. Pyaar Ke Side Effects had a waferthin plot, but was salvaged by very fresh treatment and the fourth-wall breaking narrator who spoke directly to the audience. Trying to capitalise on that film's attitude, this film loses its own. It struggles to find a voice, initially trying too hard and eventually turning into a different kind of movie. There are random pointless shots of Mumbai, a supporting cast seemingly told not to act, and a set of narrative-killing songs -- bad ones, at that -- which serve only to have Mallika dress skimpy and Ranvir dance with a filmi flair that totally defeats his loser-character. (Also, it's alarming just how much of Kabir's fantasy sequence is dominated by a Punjabi rapper.)

It's disappointing just how boring this film gets by the time the end-credits come around, and one genuinely feels bad for the lead pair. And for the throwaway lines that aren't followed up on. The DVD-seeking movie producer mentioned earlier, for example, claims that he can liken anyone's story to an existing film, and asks for his story. The dare goes by ignored. Sachin, boss, I really wanted Kabir to try and nutshell his and Kuhu's story only to be cut-off midway by the bored producer holding up a copy of the Korean DVD. Now, that would have been special.

In a crazy way, Ugly Aur Pagli could even have struck a blow for women's lib. Why can't girls beat men up, anyway? Behind me, during the first half, a half-dozen giggly schoolgirls were eagerly counting slaps, trying to see if the film lived up to its cleverly devised '99 slaps, one kiss' tagline.

Unfortunately, like the film, they stopped counting midway.

Helen makes a comeback with Bachpan

Bollywood's original 'Dancing Diva' Helen will be seen making her comeback in Bollywood with a film titled Bachpan. The film is directed by debutante director Rajiv Sharma who has in the past assisted filmmakers like Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Satish Kaushik.

Taking on from where last year's smash hit Taare Zameen Par left, Bachpan is a musical family saga, laced with emotions, seen from the perspective of children. In fact, when Rajiv Sharma decided to debut as a director, he zeroed in on this project which reflects the sensibilities of children.

As for Helen's character, she plays the role of a grandmother in Bachpan. An elated Helen says, "The script was simply amazing. And when I read it, I was so overwhelmed, that I decided I had to do it. I have recently seen the rushes of the film and liked the way it has shaped up immensely."

Apart from Helen, the film will also star another veteran actress Padmini Kolhapure along with four talented children.

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