Tuesday, August 30, 2005


Ramgopal Varma's tribute to 'The Godfather' is engrossing fare.
The film was touted by some as being part 'Godfather' and part 'Life and times of Bal Thakaray'(whyever for, one wonders!). But the similarity with the politician's life is just cosmetic. The beads, the dhoti and the glasses. All similarities end there. Now on to the real story.
'Sarkar', Subhash Nagre, (Amitabh Bachchan) believes in the film's tagline, 'there are no rights or wrongs, only power'. He runs an underworld gang which works for the benefit of the people. Albeit the methods which he uses are illegal, he goes ahead and uses them anyway. The people swear by him. Due to his populist persona he is also a powerful cog in the state's political machinery, although he is outside of it. His elder son (KK Menon) assists him is this enterprise. Vishnu is hot headed, power hungry and careless. Shankar (Abhishek Bachchan) , the younger son, is educated, soft spoken and only mildly acquainted with this dark, murky world of crime, henchmen and politics. However, Sarkar is surrounded by mafia men who have had enough of his non profit, charitable ways and want to see him dead. A conspiracy is hatched, Nagre's own family members are used as pawns and he ends up in jail on charges of murder. How he overcomes this and how his son, Shankar Nagre, takes over the empire forms the crux of the story.
The film is good, no doubt. Amitabh's acting is great as usual. KK Menon is good as the bad son and Abhishek turns in a competant, understated performance as the younger son, slowly taking over his father's empire. The supporting cast is fabulous, although some of the actors like Supria Pathak, Rukhsar, Tanisha, Katrina Kaif and Anupam Kher get limited scope to display their talents. The director uses deep focus and close ups to convey the grim proceedings and to highlight the conflicts and the emotions that the characters are going through. Abhishek excels in this regard. His expressions are honest and spot on. But in using this technique, RGV slows down the pace of the film, in the post interval portions, considerably. At some points, I almost blurted, 'got the idea Mr. Varma, now get on with it!'. Another complaint is the cliched villain characterizations. The Chandraswamy clone and the South Indian Don have all been done time and time again by fellow makers of commercial cinema. One didn't expect them to reappear in RGV's 'Sarkar'.
The background score by Amar Mohile is another strength. It's sinister and draws the viewer into the story. And at just over 2 hours, the film is prefect in his length. Barring a few slow sequences, it keeps the viewer engrossed.

After a disappointing 'Naach', a return to form for Ramgopal Varma. Now we wait for 'RGV ka Sholay'!




This was one movie I always wanted to catch, and it was only a few days ago that I found a VCD. The story is based on the book by Irvine Welsh and stays suprisingly true to it. This 1996 film (starring Ewan Mcgregor and Robert Carlyle) is directed by Danny Boyle who did a fabulous job with 'Shallow Grave'(1994).
The plot revolves around the lives of a group of friends, each unique yet bound together by a common love for heroin. It deals with their trials and tribulations and examines why drug addicts use drugs in the first place. The movie tells it like it is and doesn't for once glorify drug use. The film is stark, real and contains some seriously disturbing as well as brilliant footage. The drug induced 'trips' of Mark Renton, the protagonist are enjoyable but get boring after a while. The film also tries to tackle issues like Scottish identity (the scene in the stunning Scottish countryside, where Mark vents his agnst against his English colonisers is a highlight). The film also deals with basic human emotions such as love, hate, honesty and deciet. The film follows the groups' lives to the end of a drug caper, after which we see Renton stealing the drug money on which all his friends had equal claim. The last scene leaves us wondering if he 'chooses life' or falls back into his meaningless heroin filled existence.
The comic scenes are both dark and poignant at the same time. The acting is good. The direction better. The only complaint being the thick Scottish accent. Those not versed with the Scottish accent may find Robert Carlyle's character virtually incomprehendable.

All in all, a short, dark and funny film about drugs.



Monday, August 29, 2005

Main Aisa Hi Hoon

The pictures on the CD cover conjured up images of the Sean Penn starrer, 'I am Sam' or that Dustin Hoffman classic 'Rain Man'.
However, half an hour into the film and all hopes of any redemption are squashed. Ajay Devgan tries his best as an 'autistic' man with brain of a 7 year old (the filmmaker should have researched the term before using it), fighting for the custody of his daughter (you guessed it, also 7 years old!) but is badly let down by a slow script and an unispiring story line. Another half an hour into the movie and I could hear my room mate snoring! The story revolves around Ajay Devgan, a mentally challenged man, fighting the wealthy Anupam Kher (his child's grandfather) for the custody of his daughter. The story tries to drive home the point that money, wealth, intelligence and adulthood are not necessary qualities to make a good father. Care, love and innocence can do the trick just as well. The dialogues are cliched, the direction average and the music insipid. The supporting cast is adequate. I quite liked Esha Deol as the love starved junkie (mother of Devgan's child); Anjan Srivastava is always lovable, but kudos to Sushmita Sen for her potrayal of a career oriented lawyer, who agrees to fight for the underdog, Devgan. Her performance is finely nuanced.
You could safely give this one a miss...



Friday, August 26, 2005

10 Best Hindi Film Soundtracks

This was a long time coming. I've been meaning to put up a list of my top-10 Hindi film soundtracks for a while now. Opinions in this regard will vary greatly and some degree of bias will creep in. This is completely subjective and film lovers could argue over such lists till the the cows come home. However I will attempt to attach some method to the madness by using the following parameters: lyrics, instrumentation, on screen fit and of course the tune itself. Another trait I was looking for in the soundtrack was for each and every song on it to be a classic, unlike the one hit wonder soundtracks of today. There are times when all of these just come together to create unforgettable moments in cinema, moments which live on for future generations to discover and enjoy. The list is not ranked in order, but is a collection of the ten musically richest soundtracks which, according to me, Hindi cinema would have been poorer without.

The List.

1. Baiju Bawra (1952)
Music: Naushad
Lyrics: Shakeel Badayuni

A true classic. Perhaps Naushad's definitive soundtrack. Contains classical gems like 'Man tarpat Hari' and 'Mohe bhool gaye sawariya'. Lets not forget Rafi's silken voice on 'Duniya ke rakhwale' and 'Tu ganga ki mauj'. The highlight for me is the jugalbandi with Ustad Amir Khan and Pt. DV Paluskar, 'Aaj gawat man mero'. A classical feast.
Trivia: Bharat Bhushan lost out to Dilip Kumar for the Filmfare award that year but won next year for 'Chaitanya Mahaprabhu'. Despite being a huge star in those years, he died in penury.

2. Shree 420 (1955)
Music: Shankar Jaikishan
Lyrics: Shailendra and Hajrat Jaipuri

I had a tough time deciding between this film and 'Awara', another Raj Kapoor classic. I decided to go with this one beacuse this soundtrack was more accessable than Awara. The anthemic 'Joota hai japaani' continues to introduce new generations to Shankar Jaikishan's brilliance. Manna Dey's singing complements the music directors' songs perfectly. 'Dil ka haal', 'Mud mud ke na dekh' and 'Ramaiya vastvaiya' were all great songs. There was also 'Pyar hua ikrar hua', which still conjures up the magic of the Raj Kapoor-Nargis pair in your head. You can see them standing in the rain with the umbrella...a true cinematic 'Kodak moment'. Also on the soundtrack were 'Ichak dana' and 'O jaanewale'.

3. Pyaasa (1957)
Music: SD Burman
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhiyanvi

Guru Dutt's masterpiece. SD Burman at his peak. Mohd. Rafi and Hemant Kumar. The combination is just sublime. Each and every track on this album is fabulous. We have the peppy 'Jaane kya tune kahi' and 'Sar jo tera chakraye' and the soulful and poignant 'Jaane woh kaise log the' by Hemant Kumar. Also contains one of the great duets of the time, 'Hum aap ki aankhon mein'. What can be said of Sahir's lyrical genius? 'Jaane woh kaise log the?'
Trivia: Apparently, 'Sar jo tera chakraye' was an RD Burman tune!

4. Madhumati (1958)
Music: Salil Choudhary
Lyrics: Shailendra

Bimal Roy's biggest hit. This tale of reincarnation had some amazing music and gave Salil Choudhary his only Filmfare award. Mukesh takes centre stage here with songs like 'Suhana safar' and 'Dil tadap tadap ke' (with Lata Mangeshkar). Evergreen songs like 'Ghadi ghadi mera dil dhadke' and the haunting 'Aaja re pardesi' give Lata Mangeshkar ample scope to stamp her class on the proceedings. Not one filler here.
Trivia: The story and script was actually by a gentleman named Ritwik Ghatak.

5. Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958)
Music: SD Burman
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri

This Marx Brothers-esque laugh riot is still one of the most enjoyable comedies to come out of India's film factory. The Ganguly brothers team up with SD Burman to create a magical soundtrack which revels in its own lunacy! The songs were fun, peppy, bouncy and had a strong western influence. 'Baboo samjho ishare'(great singing by Manna Dey and Kishore Kumar), 'Paanch rupaiya barah aana' and 'Ek ladki bhigi bhagi si' were fun, fast paced and delightful. There was also the naughty love song, 'Haal kaisa hai janaab ka', which went on to become the Ceylon Radio song of the year in 1958. Majrooh's lyrics were brilliant in their simplicity. Baaaajuu...!!!
Trivia: The song 'Hum the woh thi' was influenced by a western tune. SD Burman didn't want to include the song, but was forced into doing so by Kishore Kumar.

6. Guide (1965)
Music: SD Burman
Lyrics: Shailendra

The evergreen Dev Anand's pinnacle. 'Dada Burman' at this time was at the peak of his powers. Guide's music broke records all over the country. It contained such mersmerising tracks such as 'Din dhal jaye', 'Tere mere sapne', 'Aaj phir jeene ki' and 'Piya tose naina'. And who could forget the only Kishore song on the album, 'Gata rahe mera dil'? The lyrics by Shailendra are touching and apt. The music is as evergreen as Dev 'Raju Guide' Anand.
Trivia: Guide was made in English as well, the script being written by Pearl S Buck (the author's only film script). However, it failed at the Box Office.

7. Ghar (1978)
Music: RD Burman
Lyrics: Gulzar

One of RD's more underrated movie scores. This Vinod Mehra-Rekha starrer didn't fare well at the box office and hence the music perhaps failed to catch on. It is a personal favourite. The Kishore/RD/Gulzar combination was simply unbeatable! Each and every track here is pure genius. Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar both get ample scope to display their versitality on the solos 'Phir wohi raat hai' and 'Aaj kal paaon' respectively. Then there is the classic duet 'Aap ki aankhon mein'. Then there is the other Lata classic 'Tere bina jiya jaaye na'. A solid effort by the indomitable 'Panchamda'.

8. Umrao Jaan (1981)
Music: Khayyam
Lyrics: Sharyar

Muzzafar Ali's masterpiece was a true musical gem. Khayyam's tunes were so apt for that era. The lyrics were amazing as well. It highlights the beauty and the depth of the Urdu language perfectly. High point in Rekha's career. I would also hasten to say that it was the same for Asha Bhosle. 'In aankhon ki masti', 'Dil cheez kya hai' and 'Yeh kya jagah hai doston' will stay with listener for ever. Personal favourite is the duet 'Zindgai jab bhi teri bazm mein'. Simply gorgeous.
Trivia: JP Dutta is making a remake of this classic with the possible choices of the lead being Priyanka Chopra or Aishwarya Rai! Shabana Azmi will play the lead's mother.

9. Ijaazat (1988)
Music: RD Burman
Lyrics: Gulzar

The RD/ Gulzar team at it again. The words, the music and the vocals. Very few times in the history of cinema have these three elements fused to make such magic. Asha Bhosle's singing leaves you breathless. 'Mera kuch saaman' has to go down as one of the best songs ever written in the history of Hindi cinema. Asha's singing on 'Choti si kahani' and 'Khali haath shaam' is her best ever. Not to forget 'Katra katra', a track on which RD introduced twin track recording to Indian cinema. The richness of this album leaves you spellbound.

10. Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (1995)
Music: Jatin Lalit
Lyrics: Anand Bakshi

The last of the modern classics. A hge hit, this established Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol as huge stars. Sometimes the soundtrack of the film is the true star, which was the case with this film. The banjo heavy 'Tujhe dekha to ye jaana' went on to be the love anthem of the 90s. The whole album had a peppy, upbeat feel to it. 'Zara sa jhoom loon' and 'Ruk jaa o dil deewane' are examples. 'Ho gaya hai' also showcases the veteren Lata Mangeshkar's versitality. This album also spawned the wedding anthem of this generation,'Doli sajha ke rakhna'. Jatin Lalit's swan song.

Phew! That took a lot of doing. There can be no absolute list as music is an individual experience. It was tough to leave out so many great pieces of work. The ones that narrowly missed out are:
Kaagaz Ke Phool, Abhimaan (SD Burman), Bees Saal Baad (Hemant Kumar), Anand (Salil Choudhury), Teesri Manzil, Aradhana, Amar Prem, Aandhi, Hum Kisi Se Kam Nahi, Masoom, 1942- A Love Story (RD Burman), Alam Ara, Mausam ( Madan Mohan), Utsav (Laxmikant Pyarelal) , Kashmir Ki Kali, CID (OP Nayyar) , Qayamat se Qayamat Tak (Anand Milind) and Dil Se (AR Rahman).


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Do Anjaane

I happened to catch this movie on VCD one day at campus. This was a movie I had seen ages ago and hence decided to give it another watch. All in all, it was a decent experience.
Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha play husband and wife, who both want different things from life. He wants family, social acceptance and a steady career while she wants to be a dancing phenomenon, a star. Since the husband feels guilty about having squashed his talented wife's starry dreams, the poor fellow has to loan funds from office to pay for his wife's lavish tastes. In the meanwhile they both dream of making it big someday, albeit in their own ways. In the midst of all this enters the husband's rich spoilt friend, played by Prem Chopra. He immediately falls for his friends wife and showers money and gifts on her. He also reintroduces her to the world of dance. The proximity between them grows. Of course, the husband dissapproves of this and confronts his friend, who promptly throws him off a running train. However, Hindi film heroes can never die before the climax and hence our man survives, only to lose his memory and be adopted by an indrustrialist (Pradeep Kumar) who believes him to be his long lost son.
Six years pass by, when in a minor accident our hero regains his memory and realises that he has a past (unfaithful wife, chocolate deprived son, et all) and vows revenge. He finds out that his wife is now a big star in Bengali cinema and that she has made it big with the help of his two-timing friend. With the help of a film director, Utpal Dutt, he sets out to destroy his friend and reclaim his neglected son.
A good movie to watch on a lazy sunday afternoon, when you have nothing better to do. It has good performances from the lead pair, Amitabh and Rekha. You can see the magic in the scenes they have together. This movie is also significant in regards to the fact that it has Mithun Chakravarty, in one of his first screen apprearances, playing an extra, the 'mohalle ka gunda' . Clearly, Utpal Dutt's potrayal of a scotch loving Bengali film director with a limited Hindi vocabulary has to go down as his second funniest performance in a Hindi movie after Golmaal. The music by Kalyanji Anandji is non to speak of.

A slice of typical 70's Bollywood. Enjoyable fare.



India in Zimbabwe - inauspicious beginnings

India landed in Zimbabwe for their test and triangular series today. Another time, another series. This means all of the team's sins of the past are now history confined to the deepest darkest recesses of the Indian cricket fan's mind. The Indian cricket lover can be so brutal and so forgiving at the same time...
Apparently Coach Chappell was 'terse' with media reps at the press conference before departure. And why wouldn't he be? The captain hasn't yet arrived. Due to some travel plan screw-up, the team will now go to Bulawayo through Harare and hence miss out on valuable acclimatisation time. There was no training camp and no team meeting before departure. And you ask, Chappell 'ko gussa kyon aata hai?' He apprently left the media room muttering about the need for organisation. Given the chaos at media conferences, he might not have been talking about just cricket!


Sunday, August 21, 2005

Mangal Pandey - The Rising

Finally. The most awaited movie of the year. Ketan Mehta's magnum opus.
We feared not getting tickets at Singapore's only dedicated Hindi movie theatre - Bedok, especially it being a saturday night. But we took the chance anyway. This was worth it. Or was it?
The movie is mounted on a lavish scale. The setting is BIG and so is the canvas. It aspires to be a sweeping epic of the scale of a 'Braveheart' or a 'Patriot'. It is a big screen experience. Watching it on the telly on VCD or DVD would not do it justice. The fact that the movie is doing very well commercially is a good thing. But it need not necessarily be good cinema that does well at the box-office. The Rising is good cinema. But far from the 'best thing to come out of Bollwood' status that it is being accorded by the producers, director and actors. I must admit it did fall short of expectations.
The first hour of the movie is almost flawless - gripping, smooth and concentrates on character sketching. It involves the viewer into the story and he's now waiting for the buildup to an explosion of a climax. Then there is the intermission and its all downhill from there. First, jarring item songs take centre stage. They actually impede the progress of the narrative. Just when you expect the story to go forward, there appears a song to befuddle you with regards to its purpose. Four songs could easily have been done away with. The fact that AR Rahman's music is at best average also adds to the frustration.
The fictitious love angles could have easily been done away with. The Toby Stephens/Amisha Patel is the more sensitive of the two tracks, and could have developed further. However, these bits were inconsequential to the story. Rani and Amisha are competant in their 'blink and and you'll miss them' roles.
The movie comes across as without a soul. It lacks that passion which was so ubiquitious in 'Lagaan'. The motivation of Mangal to start the freedom movement just doesn't come through. The director tries to get it across through a few 'black man flogging' and 'village burning' scenes but Mangal's interaction with the time's socio-political environment remains superficial at best.
Why did he feel the need to rise up and take to arms? The fact that Mangal was religious enough to be affected by the cartidge biting episode doesn't evoke any strong feelings with the viewer. Both Muslims and Hindus were affected by the cartidges, but there seemed to be little or no response from the Muslims. These threads could have been built up further rather than the characters breaking in to song and dance at the drop of a hat. The scene where Mangal takes on the whole Rangoon platoon single handed could have been the scene of the decade had it been developed, but it ends all too soon.
Having said that, the movie does have its strengths. The Toby Stephens/ Aamir Khan friendship is sensitively potrayed. The acting is first rate. Toby Stephens does a bang up job. Despite most of his dialogue being in Hindi, he exels as Capt. William Gordon. Aamir Khan is good as usual and comes up with a fine performance. The cameo-characters, 'Lol bibi' and 'Nainsukh the sweeper' are perfectly positioned. The title song is one that remains with the viewer much after the end of the film. Cinematography is fabulous. One feels completely transported back to the 1850s. It focuses well on the workings of the East India Company and brings to light issues of the time like the opium trade, the caste sytem and suttee. Some scenes like the one in which Gordon explains to Mangal what the Company is all about is one of the best shot in Indian cinema.
This could have been great cinema instead of good cinema. Ketan Mehta, who brought us movies like 'Sardar' and 'Bhavni Bhavai' , succumbs to commercial charms. One wonders why. Did someone tell him that western audiences love song and dance routines? Was he trying to replicate the Lagaan formula?
What could have been a true epic ends up being part documentary and part masala Bollywood and hence lacks clear identity and focus. However, make up your own mind. It is worth a watch at least.



Just to say welcome to my blog. Since my interests are tuned towards the Arts, most of what I shall post here will deal with cinema, theatre, music and books. Of course I'm a little partial to sports and current affairs as well, so I'm hoping you'll bear with me while I rave and rant about these issues as well.

Will start posting soon.