Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Amu… A Quest for Identity

Emotionally provocative and passionately made!

Kaju (Konkona Sensharma), a UCLA graduate is a young girl of Indian origin who is brought up in Los Angeles, USA. She returns to India to visit her maternal relatives in Delhi. Aware of the fact the she was adopted into a Bengali family at the age of three by Keya Roy (Brinda Karat) a social activist, Kaju basically aims to get in touch with her roots and intends to discover her birth place “the real India” through foreign lens. During this pursuit, Kaju comes across signs of hidden secrets related to her past and sets out to trace down her identity.

This critically acclaimed film focuses on the impact of1984 riots that triggered as a result of assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, by her Sikh escorts. The film also throws light on the magnitude of political involvement in the massacre; leading to a complete urban-chaos where thousands of Sikhs were brutally killed and their families were ripped-off from their homes.

Amu is definitely a brave attempt by Shonali Bose considering the controversial nature of the content. The handling of the subject matter is intelligent. The riot scenes are neatly done with absolutely no enactment of blood shed and not a single weapon used. Shonali has sensibly kept it symbolic and has utilized just the mob, their shouts and their cries to depict riots, making it devastatingly effective. However the intertwining of the flashback sequences, including the riot scenes and Kaju’s déjà vu shots, with the present could have been better.  

Alongside the portrayal of a heartrending tale, Amu has its share of lighter moments; be it the scene where the girls share their “hep” way of life with Granny, or the one where the little boy in the slums dances on a Bollywood number or Govind bhai’s recital of the famous Gabbar Singh dialogues.

The film could have easily done away with Kabir’s character (Ankur Khanna). The only reason for its inclusion seemed to be unwrapping the political connects from Kaju’s troubled past. Well, there were better ways of achieving that. Nevertheless, Konkona’s exceptional performance makes up for that miss. In an attempt to do justice to her character, Konkona puts on a little American-ish accent in her dialogues; thankfully she does not over-do it and that helps in keeping it natural. Brinda Karat as a social activist and an adoptive mother looks dignified and beautiful; though not much of an actor, she manages to pull off her role well. Yashpal Sharma as Govind Bhai and Bharat Kapoor as the influential politician have also done a good job.

Originally made in English and dubbed in Hindi, this debut movie by Producer-Director Shonali was later squeezed into a novel with the same name by Shonali herself.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Viruddh… Family Comes First

Some movies are so appealing that they manage to pluck the right string in your heart every single time you watch them. Viruddh is one such emotionally touching film about a small close-knit family in Mumbai.

The first half of the movie revolves around the life of an elderly couple in their early sixties; Vidyadhar and Sumitra Patwardhan (Amitabh Bachchan & Sharmila Tagore). Their only son Amar (John Abraham), who is also the narrator of the movie, studies abroad in London and is in love with a girl named Jenny (Anusha Dandekar). Amar returns to India and marries Jenny with the blessings of his parents. The subtle humor that the family shares and the way they derive happiness from the smaller joys of life, is lovely to watch.

In the second half, the life of the Patwardhan household turns topsy-turvy when Amar witnesses a crime and gets killed during unimaginable turn of events.

While the family is coping with this tremendous loss, the media, the society and the dysfunctional system further worsen their life through mental harassment. Amar’s murderer Harshvardhan (Amitabh Dayal) happens to be a leading politician’s son. Political influences are used to set him free and Amar is proved to be a drug peddler. The Patwardhan family collapses and struggles to fight back in the corrupt system. At this juncture, all they want is justice and all they aim is to prove Amar’s innocence.

The creator of ‘Vaastav’, Mahesh Manjrekar though not at his cinematic best in Viruddh, crafts out a decent film and once again demonstrates his mettle in making reality cinema. He sticks to the genre he is best at and delivers just what is needed; with no larger than life characters and no over dramatization.

A well directed film, Viruddh is bundled with an effective background score by Ajay-Atul, a well known music-director duo in Marathi cinema. Amitabh Bachchan is in great form while portraying a man who has lost all, but not his faith. Sharmila Tagore is wonderful as the protective mother and a supporting wife. Our very own Sanju Baba is as endearing as ever in his short yet commendable role as a mechanic. Sachin Khedkar as the inspector, Amitabh Dayal and Anusha Dandekar also leave a mark with their neat performances.

The film did not taste the deserved box-office success, in spite of an intense story line, a series of fabulous performances and a top-notch cast.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Guzaarish… A Plea

Guzaarish is a passionate, tear-jerking and heart wrenching story of Ethan Mascarenhas (Hrithik Roshan), who is one of the most celebrated Magicians in Goa. Ethan is paralyzed with a serious spine injury and turns into a Quadriplegic, when Yasser Siddiqui, a Magician and Ethan’s best friend deceives him owing to jealousy.

A true fighter, Ethan bravely survives fourteen long years celebrating life with immense courage and an unfading smile on his face. He sets out to be a successful loved-by-all RJ hosting Radio Zindagi, and is no less than an idol for his listeners.

Aishwarya Rai, who personifies elegance, gracefully dons the hat of Sofia D’Souza, Ethan’s nurse since twelve years, who has been sincerely taking care of him. She forgoes her home, family and her almost-broken marriage, unaware of her silent yet deep love for Ethan.

Tired of living a life confined to the four walls, a bed and a wheel chair, Ethan urges his best friend and lawyer Devyani Dutta, portrayed by Shernaz Patel to file a petition requesting for Euthanasia or Mercy Killing.

Devyani and Ethan’s mother Isabel (Nafisa Ali), stand by his decision as they had seen him suffer enough all through the years and want his agony to end at once. Sofia and neurologist Dr. Nayak do not approve of this since they had saved and nurtured his life for so long, but later on back his decision for his own good.

Meanwhile, Omar Siddiqui, played by Aditya Roy Kapoor, a naïve young man approaches Ethan with a desire to learn magic from none other than the legend himself. Ethan agrees to pass on his magical prowess to him, in full awareness that Omar is Yasser Siddiqui’s Son.

Using Radio Zindagi as an aid, Ethan tries to gain people’s support in favor of his case. He calls it ‘Project Ethanasia’ and asks his listeners for a vote. Much to his disappointment, he learns that all his fans want him to live.

The truly imaginative Bhansali is at his aesthetic best when it comes to the splendid sets in his movies. Sets of Guzaarish are nicely embellished with rich yet sober play of colors. Alike Bhansali’s earlier works, Guzaarish is a musical. The film’s music also composed by Bhansali adds to its sublime beauty.

A lovely movie with an equally beautiful bunch of actors. Hrithik Roshan steals the show with his effortless portrayal of the character. Rajit Kapoor, who has also written the dialogues for the movie, plays the infuriated prosecution lawyer. Shernaz Patel was wonderful as ever. Newcomer Aditya Roy Kapoor also leaves a mark with his on-screen spontaneity and an amusing performance.

Guzaarish is magical, serene and full of life. Guzaarish... is a plea for death!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ek Ruka Hua Faisla...

Produced and directed by Basu Chatterjee, Ek Ruka Hua Faisla the Hindi remake of Twelve Angry Men, is a flick with a strikingly unusual plot. A Jury of twelve people from different professional and personal backgrounds is chosen to determine the fate of the accused, a boy in his late teens, who is held on the charge of his father’s murder.

The jurors are called on for the verdict on the grounds that they have no connection what so ever with anyone or anything involved in the case and hence making it easy for them to be fair and completely unbiased in their decision as there would be no personal profit or loss involved. They are supposed to remain in an enclosed room until consensus is reached on whether or not the accused is guilty.

Each juror due to varied reasons has his own opinion about the murder trial. One has a pre-conceived notion about the cadre of people who come from the same financial background as the accused. One is aloof and totally unconcerned about the outcome of the case since he wants to finish the job at the earliest, not to miss the movie starring his favorite actor. There is one disagreeing individual who is totally convinced that the young man is guilty due to personal prejudices. And there are others who are supportive and understanding.

All members of the jury, except one, strongly believe the accused to be guilty. That makes it Eleven Vs One. It is this one juror, played by K.K Raina (of Byomakesh Bakshi fame) who takes a rational approach from the very beginning and thinks that the young man should not be convicted in view of even a slightest visibility of his innocence. He analyzes the evidences and the testimonies provided by the witnesses in a truly analytical way without getting judgmental. Throughout the movie he stands firm on his belief and finally succeeds in convincing the other jury personnel one after the other that the young man is not guilty.

Amongst genuinely brilliant performances, Pankaj Kapur, who plays one of the jurors, takes the cake for his absolutely stunning performance. He stands out for his highly frustrated and angry mannerisms and proves to be a hard nut to crack. The reason for his firm stand though false, being his own heart touching story of his son leaving him a couple of years back after beating him up, which he reveals at the end.

Standing true to its title, the film succeeds in holding the suspense on the final verdict of the trial. Excellent screenplay coupled with truly apt and realistic dialogues. The film, not a Bollywood stereotype, is very well directed, with an extremely interesting and gripping storyline. It subtly displays how our personal biases rule the actions we take and decisions we make in our lives. It strongly brings out the significance of not being influenced by our prejudices before coming to a conclusion.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The City that never sleeps…


The City of Lights, as they rightly call it, completely awed us by its charm. There is never a dull moment in the city and could be easily regarded as the fun capital of the world. It’s just so amazing to see how the city manages to transform itself from the ‘any other city’ look to the ‘Woooow’ look as the day progresses into night.

To begin with, the Hotel we stayed in ‘Excalibur’ was simply fantabulous. It had a medieval look and Camelot Castle Theme. Each Hotel in the heart of the City, better known as ‘The Strip’ is based on a different theme viz., Luxor (Egyptian), The Venetian (Venice), Bellagio (Italian) and Caesar’s Palace (Roman) to name a few. We could not visit them all but from whatever we did; I must say all of them were exotic!!!

Being a veggie, food over there was a disappointment though. But yeah, a couple of times we did satisfy our taste buds at an Indian Restaurant called Tamba. Yum!

The Gandola Ride at the Venetian was majestically romantic ;) It was a small boat ride like the ones in Venice (remember the song? Do lafzon ki hai…dil ki kahani...). The magic and romance in the ambience multiplied two folds as our gondolier sang for us. Loved his songs! J

And oh my!!! The view from top of the Eiffel Tower Restaurant and the stratosphere swept us off our feet. Stratosphere is the tallest tower in the city, and the rooftop lays out the view of the dazzling city neatly covered with a blanket of lights. Phew! It is extraordinarily beautiful!!!

Musical fountains of Bellagio are mesmerizing. Madamme Tussauds, Titanic Artifacts Museum, Bodies – The Exhibition and Shark Reef Aquarium were a few other places that we visited. We’d also been to Fremont, a digital overhead street with glittery lights and music all around. All you can see there is lights and people. And all you can hear is loud music. The Fremont Street Experience is what they call it.

The FlightLinez ride at Fremont was a terrific experience. They harness you up and you gotta ride over the zipline from top of a 5 storey bldg moving across the street about half a Km long and land on top of a 2 storey bldg. Gosh it was so much fun!! Must confess I was really scared, but finally did it! Yippieee!!!

We majorly commuted by walk throughout the trip and the walking spree though tiring but equally exciting never seemed to end. At times we did travel by bus as well.

Last but certainly not the least: (The Moment of Truth :D) Did we gamble? ;) – Yes we did, but no luck. L

In Toto a real good, amazing, crazy, exciting and eventful trip. Whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

SAARI RAAT – A Review

Venue: Ravindra Bharathi
Date & Time: 22nd July’ 2010, 7:30 PM
Genre: Drama

Duration: 1 Hr 30 Mins
Language: Hindi

CAST & CREW

Director: Sunil Chandurkar
Music: Parag Sathe
Cast: Sowmya Ram, Sunil Chandurkar and Saurabh Gharapurikar

The fourth day of the Hyderabad Theatre & Short Film Festival staged ‘Saari Raat’, a one-act play by Udaan at Ravindra Bharathi, one of the largest and oldest forums for Art & Theatre buffs in Hyderabad. Saari Raat is Pratibha Agarwal’s Hindi translation of the original Bengali Classic by Badal Sircar. Directed by Sunil Chandurkar, the play showcases an impossible incident of an impossible night.

It is pitch dark outside and heavily raining; a young couple seeks shelter in an old creaky mysterious house. Amidst shabby surroundings, strange happenings, echoes and loud laughter, enters an old man who claims to be the owner of the house and allows them to stay over for the night. The old man possesses an uncanny flair of interpreting people’s thoughts and lives. He has his own inscrutable theory surrounding the number ‘Seven’ based on which he explains them the different stages of their life that leaves the couple dumbstruck. “Saari Raat... Raat Saari... Main Jaagta Hoon...” iterates the old man throughout and perplexes the young couple by revealing their personal details with such stark precision that he seems to be able to read their minds.

Unlike the young man who has an average set of expectations & desires from life that any common man would have, the young woman seems to be living in a world of her own. Her thoughts revolve inside the walls of the dream that she has weaved for herself through the years. She comes face-to-face with her innermost desires as flakes of her dream start surfacing during her conversation with the old man. This makes her suspect supernatural presence in the house.

In toto ‘Saari Raat by UDAAN’ can boast of having a brilliant and experienced team of actors. Saurabh, the founder of UDAAN, perfectly fitted into the shoes of a typical loving husband while Sowmya displayed the grey-shades in her character with élan. Actor-Director Sunil Chandurkar was stunning as the sagging eccentric old man. Parag Sathe, who also contributed in vocals, did an amazing job with the background score. His music certainly added the desired punch and a well suited flavor of suspense to enhance the overall feel of the play.

The play for sure succeeds in creating the intended curiosity as the plot seems to oscillate between dream & reality. In the end, it is left to the audience to decide if the occurrences were real or the woman had been dreaming it all.


Signing Off…
Neha Natu Sharma

Monday, July 26, 2010

Through The Looking Glass - Book Review

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the King’s horses and all the King’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again


This is the rhyme that every child has grown up singing & humming. But just imagine meeting up with Humpty Dumpty one day. What an experience it would be !!! Such are the events portrayed in “Though The Looking Glass”, a magical sequel to “Alice in Wonderland”.



Authored by Lewis Carroll, the book speaks about the experiences of Alice, the central character, who enters a realm of fantasy. Alice goes through the looking glass into another world where she meets people who are either chess pieces or characters from nursery rhymes, talking flowers or insects. The people in the looking glass world seemed to be living backwards. They are rather eccentric and tell her all impossible things. But Alice, being a child, never doubts the truth of what she hears.


The impossible rules of logic that the characters have and the imagination that Carroll possesses in penning them, is a delight to read. His simple writing style and friendly tone lures the readers’ interest. The way Carroll has penned the characters, the incidents and the places is so real that you almost feel transformed into that magical world.


Alice sets out to become a queen of the chessboard and on her journey meets Humpty Dumpty, Tweedledum & Tweedledee and queens, kings and knights of the chessboard. Alice is more than amused at the things in the Looking Glass world but finally she realizes that she had been dreaming it all.


Carroll has donned several hats – a child, a teenager and an adult while penning the story. He succeeds in fascinating readers of all ages. The characters and the pictures displayed in the book assist the readers to explore Alice’s dream to the fullest. All of us do dream, but we must learn to dig deeper, as Carroll does, to know how we can almost live through the dream. The book explores the essence of a beautiful dream of a little girl, and is all about stepping into the realms of dreams and enjoying the fantasy.



Cheers!
Neha Natu Sharma

NITHALLE - A Review

Venue: La Makaan
Date & Time: 4th July’ 2010, 7:30 PM
Genre: Comedy, a Political Satire
Duration: 1 Hr
Language: Hindi

CAST & CREW
Director: Sunil Chandurkar
Script: Dr. Rekha Saxena
Music: Saurabh Gharipurikar
Host: Suhas Barwe
Cast: Ashutosh Patwardhan, Prajakta Phansalkar, Pranav Gharipurikar, Tanvi Deshpande, Mahesh Nule and Kimaya Deshpande

With a pretty looking smallish stage set between rocks and bushes distinctive of the Deccan, ‘La Makaan’ has a very European sounding name for a typical Hyderabadi setting. With the weather cooling down and the sweet aroma of Hot Tea spreading across in the open air auditorium, it did not need a second invitation for the audience to help themselves with a hot cuppa and getting set for the show to begin.


With the auditorium filling up in time, the host & dost of the evening Suhas kicked off the show by welcoming the audiences and providing a quick introduction to the play in question, ‘Nithalle’, an as-is enactment of the script by Dr. Rekha Saxena. Told through the eyes of six protagonists who act as mirrors to the society, ‘Nithalle’ unveils many ‘behind the scenes’ truths of the Indian society and forces the audience to ponder "Kya Saare Jahan se Acchha Hindustan Hamara Hai?". ‘Nithalle’ is an analogy for the typical "Aalasi" man on the street with the "Chalta Hai" attitude whose indifference has brought things to where they stand today.


Addressing each other as “Nithalla” and “Nithalli”, the actors, who took turns to don the hats of the ‘Nithalla’ and ‘Nithalli’, portray the common man in the Indian Society, who is not necessarily a ‘Nithalla’, but is as criminally passive to the happenings around him. “Nithalle” brings to light the harsh realities of the political setup and emphasizes the utter indifference that the common man exhibits towards them.


A special mention for the scene where ‘Nithalle’ beautifully brought out the plethora of criticism and mistrust one has to bear if he/she empathizes with the occurrences around and chooses to make a difference.


It would not be inappropriate to say that the artists were “Ek se Badhkar Ek”. The cast, a team of six plus a cameo by Saurabh, who also played the background score ‘live’ on Tabla and Dafli, did not fail to leave their mark through their performances. The doe-eyed Tanvi expressed extremely well with her eyes. Ashutosh’s “Jaagte Raho…” chant made quite an impact on the audience and would linger in their memories for long. Kimaya could pluck the comic string in the audience so consistently and efficiently that she succeeded in making them laugh at all her dialogues. Prajakta’s experience as an actor showed in the ease with which she performed; a perfect combo of apt expressions & style, while Mahesh’s strength lay in his effective dialogue delivery and strong stage presence. Last but definitely not the least, Pranav charmed the audiences with his lively presence & cute smile.


A brilliant concept; very well directed by Sunil and effectively presented by his team. The apt dialogues, patriotic numbers pertinent to the occasion, and the parodies that were beautifully weaved through the script kept the ‘Entertainment Meter’ running. The unceasing energy of the artists and the powerful throw in their voices in spite of the absence of mikes was commendable. Acting, dancing, singing and instrumentals, the team displayed it all and kept the theatre-lovers glued to their seats. However, the costumes seemed quite upmarket, providing a glaring contrast to the parts they seemed to play. A more rustic setting would have helped.


The show certainly achieved the objective of forcing the audiences to ponder on the supposed greatness of the nation. After a big round of applause for the performance, the audiences departed after interacting with the team and congratulating them for the splendid show.


Hyderabad has witnessed a spurt in theater groups in the last couple of years and UDAAN has been one of the early ones to take flight. Additionally, ‘La Makaan’ is fast becoming the chosen destination for theater lovers in Hyderabad. One only hopes that this is just the beginning.


Signing off…
Neha Natu Sharma