Monthly Archives: November 2011

Changing Face Of Indie Cinema

Last weekend I watched Mod. I felt really sad for Nagesh Kukunoor, the guy seems to have lost it. He has become the RGV of indie cinema. Wonder what happened to his naughty side that we saw in Hyderabad Blues, the enthusiasm we saw in Rockford and the seriousness that was depicted in 3 Deewarein!

But this post is not about Mod or its maker, Kukunoor. Its about the changing face of indie cinema, which is independent no more. The economics of movie making has got the better of story telling, the good soul has been traded for a good body and the angst has been replaced by anxiety of seeing the movie do well in BO. Independent film makers are being lured by production houses, thereby killing the very concept of indie cinema.

I am not in favour of classifying movies as ‘movie for classes’ or ‘movie for masses’ or ‘indie cinema’ as such. But since the definitions already exists, I am merely using them. I believe that there is just two types of cinema – good and bad; and there are two types of budget for movie making – big budget and small budget. The purists have more classifications under budget types, as in micro-budget and low budget; but lets not get into that. The point is, a big budget movie is not always bad and a small budget movie is not always good.

Big budget movies rely on a tried and tested formulae, in most cases. Once in a while, we get a Lagaan. But more often than not, its the same run of the mill stuff. Since the makers are already aware of this, they get into the mode of hyper-marketing and big-bang advertising. This is just to take away our attention from the real stuff, so we can all go with the hype and hoopla. The next step for such mega budget movies is to flood the market with few thousand prints of the movie. The purpose of this is to make as many people watch the movie during the first weekend as possible. So, by the time the word gets out to people that the movie is crap, they would all have watched it already. You must have experienced it yourself. The moment you come out of a bad movie and make a few calls to your family and friends to warn them of the movie, the chances are that, they would be trying your number to warn you.

But lets not just abuse big budget movies. Small budget movies are going in the same direction. People like Kukunoor and Sagar Ballary etc, are backed by production houses and so the pressure to deliver a hit is on them too. They are forgetting that small budget movies cannot enjoy the luxury of few thousand prints and plush advertising. Marketing is important, but that needs to be backed by substance. Word of mouth publicity is the only form of good publicity that can draw the crowd. But if the movie lacks in story telling or has a bad story idea or not-good-enough writing or a combination of all these, then the movie is doomed to flop. In 2008, we had a flurry of good movies like Aamir, A Wednesday etc; but that spirit has quietly surrendered. Nishikant Kamath moved on to direct Force, and other makers too have gone their own way.

In the past, small budget movies have made money and indie cinema has done well. But in the name of small budget movies, what we get these days is nonsense. Movies that you can’t watch, songs that you can’t hum and stories that you can’t follow or relate to. A two minute ad concept being stretched into full fledged movie is not a good idea. A movie has to make money, that fact is understood. Else, the director (who in most cases happens to be the writer too), may not find another producer to finance his ideas. But in the process of finding a good financier, some compromises are made and the end result pleases nobody. The maker is not happy as he/she had to make alterations to meet the demands of the production house, the production house is not happy because they could not make money from the movie; and the audience is definitely not happy being a mute spectator to all this. The movie is soon pulled down from the theatres, and is replaced by an old movie (or a recent one) that may have done good business.

So, where does indie cinema go from here? I don’t know and I don’t have the answers, as I am not a movie maker myself, not even aspiring to be one. I am an avid movie watcher and commentator. I watch Ra.One and Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, with the same enthusiasm as Mod and Jo Dooba So Paar. And all I keep hoping for is good cinema. Looks like, that is becoming a little too much to ask!

This post was also published on MadAboutMoviez

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Posted by on November 24, 2011 in bollywood, movies


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Kungfu Panda 2 : Or Was It Zanjeer Redux!

Last night I was watching Kungfu Panda-2, again. This time in 2D and in the comfort of my house. I had first seen the movie on the big screen in 3D, more than 6 months ago. But the movie is so much fun that I didn’t get bored even in the second watch, I did miss the 3D effects though. Jack Black is so good with his voice modulation, and the many expressions that his dialogue delivery can convey is amazing.

Kungfu Panda was one of the few movies that was worthy of a sequel. And the sequel was as good as, if not better than, the original. There was a definite story backed by a good narrative and fine dialogues. Even the comic quotient was very well done, it wasn’t forced into the story.
The story has a Harry Potter like prophecy, where a ‘warrior of black & white’ is supposed to end Shen’s rule. Shen, the peacock, was disbanded by his father for having evil aspirations. But he was not going to give up so easily. He took the path of destruction and anyone who would come in his way would be knocked off. Po, the dragon warrior, was out there protecting the valley from Shen. All was going well, when suddenly the flares and the fire around Po brought back old memories to me.

What was unfolding before my eyes was Zanjeer! I am not sure why this did not strike me while watching the movie first time around. I was a little surprised that both movies had so much in common.

A very long time ago, our beloved inspector Vijay was in the lookout for Teja to end his criminal activities. Teja was a cause of concern for the police and a threat to civillian life. Similarly, Shen’s ambitions were big and his actions went uncontrolled.

Po and Vijay, both, are haunted by a nightmare. A bad dream kept waking them up from sweet sleep to harsh awakening; and they kept fighting it off. Both these souls were searching for inner peace. As master Shifu says very early in the movie, some attain inner peace by meditating while others get it by going through pain in their hearts. They both had to come to terms with their past, the hard way.

Inner peace is something we all look for. Its the stimulus that helps us cope with vagaries of life. Unkept promises, unfulfilled dreams, unachieved targets and many such unresolved issues can take away our peace. So, inspite of the clear sky we are unable to see due to mist in our eyes and cloud-cover on our minds. And then there is a moment when all these things come back to bite us. That’s when we need inner peace the most.

Yes, it was a fiery night. The lights of Diwali and the surrounding fireworks had burnt the pages of Vijay’s childhood and left him an orphan. Similarly, Po was adopted by Zeng, the goose, when a night of fire and fury had left him homeless. Both burned in the same flame and carried the pain of separation.

Po and Vijay grew up to be brave fighters and big hearted protectors. When Po and Vijay were out there, fighting their enemy, both did not know that they also had a personal score to settle. But the audience did. Unbeknownst to them, they walked into the lion’s den and challeneged the king of the jungle. Po was ably helped by Famous Five and Khan was protecting Vijay. But in the moment of truth, it was just them against their adversary.

And in one sudden moment of flash, when they find replies to those unanswered questions and when all those mysteries become clear, they attain inner peace; just like that. Once that happens, they become unstoppable!

How much of Zanjeer did I see in Kungfu Panda-2? Apparently a lot! Not sure if you agree with me, but if someone were to remake Zanjeer sometime in the future, then this would be an ideal blue-print for it. In fact, this qualifies as a good enough remake for me. It neither tarnishes the original visuals of BigB nor makes me cringe; in fact I can happily have both in my movie collection without having to swear under my breath as we do after watching most remakes these days.

This post was also published on MadAboutMoviez

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Posted by on November 18, 2011 in bollywood, hollywood, movies


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It’s Love In Bihar

There have been many occasions when I have walked past playgrounds on my way to home. And quite a few times I have been fascinated by the children playing a game of cricket or football. Maybe it reminds me of the good old days or maybe I just need to relax a bit, whatever it is, I just stand and watch the game. For no reason, no entertainment, no gains as such; just killing time. I would not have anything to do at home either, so why not just stand and watch. The game gives me no joy, no fulfillment, serves no purpose and yet I while away my time. Say 15-20 mins or half an hour, not much. That amount of time goes unaccounted for!

Watching this movie, and many other movies in the past, have been of such experience. The movie just goes on and on, like the games that I watch. It fails to entertain, its not meant to leave an impact, its not subject based; its just like passing the ball from one foot to another without scoring a goal.

The players are good, Vinay Pathak, Rajat Kapoor and the promising Anand Tiwari whom I last saw in Aisha. We have a newcomer Sita Spada and quite a few character actors who have played their part ok, but not good enough. The entire team seems uninspired and the slow story telling does not help at all.

The movie is set in Bihar, but it could have been set anywhere. We have a firang, Sita Spada, who wishes to visit Madhubani in Darbhanga, Bihar. The reason for the visit is to study the paintings from that region, as that is a subject of her research. But that’s such a lame excuse for a tourist visit because Sapna, the firang, does not even seem to know about Kali vanquishing a demon under her feet and she hasn’t seen the painting of Lord Shiva before. These things are supposed to be elementary, especially if you want us to believe that someone comes such a long way to do research!

Keshu, played by Anand Tiwari, is son of a truck driver. Some background info on Keshu now. He is rusticated from college because he helped his friends in an exam. The question paper was tough, but he did not help them copy answers. He did the next best thing, he just eased the tension by spreading laughing gas. Second worst use of NO2 in a movie, first worst being Housefull.

The moment Keshu sees Sapna, you know what’s going to happen; the flow of hormones triples in the body. The movie just drags along like a slow push cart, as you know where the cart is heading for. And that’s when two twists occur within a span of 10 minutes. I will tell you about the twist, as I believe that, the twist may push you  into wathcing the movie; else there is no reason. The push cart now wishes to fly like a jet, but not on wooden wheels please!

Firstly, just when Keshu thinks of proposing to Sapna, her boyfriend arrives. Keshu is heart-broken as he watches them smooch. But even before she gets to spend fun time with her boyfriend and even before Keshu starts sulking, Sapna gets kidnapped. The small scale industry in UP-Bihar kicks in, to grab their space on-screen !

What happens next is anybody’s guess, but how it happens, keeps you engaged. The last half of the movie is much better than the first half. With Vinay and Rajat in the starcast, I was hoping for some good comedy and maybe a revival of the ‘Bheja Fry’ times. But no! Vinay Pathak as a drunk hawaldaar who has not had a single permosion in his job, takes up the kidnapping case to redeem himself. And Rajat Kapoor as the ‘unfortunate’ DSP of the district isn’t very good either.

The dialogues are very pedestrian and the movie is predictable in most parts. The only credible bit was the dialect and the lingo; it was consistent and everyone spoke it well. But the biggest problem is with the story telling. The direction is a slack job! The movie could have been better, if they had avoided the cliches and if the writing had been a little better. But, I guess, jo dooba, so dooba.

This post was also published on MadAboutMoviez

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Posted by on November 12, 2011 in bollywood, movie review, movies


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Tell Me O Khuda

Its so true that if you don’t learn from past mistakes, you will end up repeating them. Easier said than done, because every time we make an effort in the hope that the result would be different and positive, it only drags us back into muddy waters of the past.

About two decades ago, I was standing in a queue for movie tickets of a Shahrukh Khan and Divya Bharti starrer. It was their 2nd movie, after the blockbuster Deewana. And I was at Orient theatre in Calcutta, hoping that the tickets don’t sell-out before I get to the window. The movie was Dil Aashna Hai, first directorial venture of Hema Malini. But that did not matter at all, as I was there to see Divya and SRK.

The movie was a multi-starrer with Dimple Kapadia, Amrita Singh, Jeetendra, Mithun and Kabir Bedi. It was supposed to be a suspense drama wherein Divya Bharti, an adopted child who becomes a bar dancer, is out to find her real parents and the reason for abandoning her. SRK loves Divya, inspite of her profession, and wants to help her in this noble cause. This new purpose of life takes her to three doorsteps of rich wealthy couples who have a good standing in society. But will any of the high society couples disclose their past, and not just that, but also accept her as their daughter? That’s where the story meanders and becomes episodic in nature. Needless to say, the movie bombed at the BO. I felt cheated but I still remember the day.

So, after two decades, neither has Hema Malini learnt her lesson nor I. She is still walking around with the same story and to re-tell it once more, in the hope of finding a new audience who might be willing to appreciate it or even watch it. And I still end up becoming an audience for her movie.

As we get into the movie, TMOK, we quickly realize that the movie is a CLV for Esha Deol. You maye have heard of GSLV(Geosynchronous Satellite Launch vehicle) and PSLV (Polar SLV). So, this is a Career Launch Vehicle for her. Most star kids have just a single shot at the launch vehicle, but quite a few privileged ones have multiple shots at it. So, its kind of re-launch, but that would sound demeaning; so lets settle for “launch”.

The point is, she is in every frame of the movie; even when its not required. And she is doing everything, and that too in a good way and not goofing it up! So, she is a successful writer [a la Chetan Bhagat but in female disguise], a good camel racer (she wins the camel race in Rajasthan and dedicates it to the Girl Child), she is mind healer who also doubles up as a psychiatrist because the producer was running out of money since she spent too much on getting Rishi Kapoor and Vinod Khanna on board, and Esha also makes a don from Goa cry like a baby. Yes, she finally made Dharam paji cry on her failure to launch all by herself that she needed the entire family support.

I think they unnecessarily squeezed in Johnny Lever to play a comic side-kick who works in a municipality ward of a hospital that burnt down during the great fire of 1986. Unnecessary because the movie had a lot of unintentional laughs, but I guess no one had a good sense of humour to see that. Arjan Bajwa, a supposedly nice friend who helps Esha in the cause of finding her parents, has to bear with her and cross-dress and live in guest houses and carry a ring around, while Esha prances from one household to another. And if this was not enough, he had another side-kick; so a side-kick to a side-kick. That makes it double the kick for the audience!

Anyways, finally after 2.25 hours of pain and agony and suffering and small bursts of unintentional laughs, the audience is finally relieved when the end credit rolls. Not sure if people waited that long, so let me do a small social service and declare that Salman Khan was there in an item song when credit rolled. But tragically, that screen space was eaten up by Esha too. I warned you earlier, she was in every frame!

On hindsight, I think Hema Malini’s first attempt with DAH was much better than TMOK. I am not mocking now, duh! This has been an expensive mistake and not the best way to learn a small lesson. Hopefully, both of us, Hema and I, will not repeat this; ever again. Hopefully!

This post was also published on MadAboutMoviez

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Posted by on November 8, 2011 in bollywood, movie review, movies


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Trade Analyst, Film Reviewer & Film Critic

So, what exactly does Taran Adarsh mean when he says that Ra.One has “blockbuster” written all over it? This is not an easy question to answer, because we are not asking how the sub-prime crisis was caused! To answer this question, we will have to go back a long way to mid-90s.
During the mid-90s, people like Komal Nahata and Taran Adarsh were just trade analysts. They did the number crunching month after month, and appeared in a small news slot of 10mins to discuss the trade figures. All they spoke about was the releases over the past month and their performance at BO. And probable reasons for the hits and misses.
But as the film market grew among the NRI audience and cable and satellite rights started gaining importance, these trade analysts also gained prominence. They started appearing more often on tv, weekly once, to dicuss the numbers. Film distribution became such a big lucrative deal for the bigger stars, that they started demanding a share in the profit. And sometimes, they would just go for the collections of an entire region. Big actors turned big businessmen. They charged a big fee and a bigger territory!
This gave trade analysts a fillip. Since they knew the distribution sector and the collections in a region, they started telling out the mantras of what kind of film would work in what region.
This situation was akin to the economical upturn in the country. As fund houses started gathering bigger AUMs, the finance analysts turned into fund reviewers overnight. They started appearing in various business channels reviewing mid-cap/large-cap/micro-cap funds, reviewing IPOs, reviewing and forecasting quarterly results. And so also, the trade analysts became film reviewers. They would watch a movie, and tell how the people might react to the movie. They started forecasting what aam-junta will like and wont like!
The trade analysts finally had their moment of glory. And that’s also the time when paid reviews became a regular thing. So, when Taran Adarsh says that a certain movie has blockbuster written all over it, it just means that the average IQ of the film going audience is so low that they would watch the movie, and not just once but many times. Its not entirely the reviewer’s fault! Our past record has proven that time and again. We have made hits out of movies that should have rotted in the can and not seen the daylight. We have splurged over movies that were badly cooked but nicely packaged and good looking enough but on consumption gaves us food poisoning.
Having said the above, I can’t recall names of any good film critic. From the 1930’s until now, no film critic has stood the test of time. They have been a handful of reviewers worth mentioning, but no film critics. And the reason for that is just not evident. Film criticism is a very important business, not everybody can become a movie critic. And especially not, if they are in the habit of siding up with a particular movie-maker or who favour certain actors.
If at all we want to improve the quality of movies, we need to change the mindset of the audience. And this can be done by introducing a ‘Film Appreciation’ course as an optional subject. So, at least we will have a pack of guys every year who would know what they are watching and can decipher the good from the bad. Until we don’t reject bad movies, we will never get good ones. The old practise used to be that, we eliminate the rotten apple from the rest so we reduce the chances of spoilage. But the new tactic should be to isloate the rotten apple, and insulate the good ones from them. Reason being that, its not easy to eliminate the rotten apple but much easier to isolate them.
Until the time that happens, people like Taran Adarsh will continue to come up on the tv screen, day after day, and say/write stuff which reflects the mindset of the audience on one hand and on the other hadn, it creates an environment where even the sane ones would feel tempted to checkout the movie at least once. And by the time you finish reading this post, Ra.One would have overtaken the collections of Bodyguard; one blotting ink mark spreads and totally eclipses another blotting ink mark!

This post was also published on MadAboutMoviez

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Posted by on November 1, 2011 in bollywood, movies


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