Haapus- Paisa Vasool

Disclaimer: The writer is biased.

Yes, Haapus opens with a full-on Malvani dialogue. Yeah, it won my heart there. And Haapus, the mango itself narrates the story of Anna Gurav, a kundali reading patriarch and his family. Each member is a quirky character. Be it Gurav’s rebellious son, or his speechless mother or his twin daughters who look identical but are as different as chalk and cheese. Each one has their own story to tell. These stories come together through some witty dialogue and in the voice of ‘Haapus’.

The story revolves around the business of ‘haapus’. While the enterprising son (Subodh Bhave) works hard on developing a revolutionary fruit that is a humungous mango that has all the qualities of Haapus, the father (Shivaji Satam) discourages him citing problems with the ‘Kundali’. Enter Master aka school teacher (Makarand Anajpure) who blends into the household and falls in love with one of the twins, Amruta (Madhura Velankar). Meanwhile, the other twin Ankita (Madhura again) is busy romancing the rickshaw dude (Pushkar Shrotri). They all come together to fight the ‘Kundali’ and to succeed in selling ‘Haapus’ while the cunning mango trader Chajed tries to break the family’s morale.

The cast comprises of talented Marathi actors, so the fabulous performances are hardly a surprise. However, most of these actors, especially Makarand Anajpure, have been typecast by the industry and have been seen in too many similar roles. It is highly refreshing to see all the actors out of their comfort zones and personifying characters that are radically different from what they have been portraying in the past.

The background score is quite peppy and complements the film. I personally hated the extra-emo build up to the climax, however, the audience (mind you, the theater was house-full!) was clapping and cheering and loving it. I am not the target audience for this film, so me not liking it doesn’t matter. The fact that the theater is house-full on a Sunday at 3 pm during the film’s second week speaks volumes.

My verdict:

An entertaining package, the film is full-to paisa vasool entertainment. I say watch!

Raavan: Black, White and Gray

Ramayan has been telling generations after generations about the triumph of good over evil. History is written by the winner, and we forget that between black and white there is always gray. Raavan is an attempt to bring out this gray in the mythological tale, by placing it in a modern day scenario.

Beera (Abhishek) is loved by the people, feared by the people and wanted by the police. He lives in a beautiful rocky place where there are pretty carvings in the middle of a flowing river. Beera kidnaps Raghini (Aishwarya), SP Dev’ wife (Vikram) for revenge. The SP sets out to rescue the wife with inspector Hemant for company. An alcoholic, tree climbing forest officer Sanjeevni (Govinda) joins the rescue squad.
Meanwhile, Beera and Raghini develop a bond and Raghini discovers a human side to the monster as she hears his story.

The story progresses as black turns gray and white turns an even darker hue of gray.
The story wins when the audience wants Raavan to survive as opposed to Ram. But wait, the story takes a good 120 minutes to get to this point. The pace of the film is its weakness. It fails to grip the audience to the point of understanding what is going on and why.

Aishwarya Rai manages to look pretty and rain soaked, but, honestly she does a usual ‘aishwarya’ with bewildered looks, high pitched dialogue delivery and constant crying. Abhishek has done a great job, breaking out into maniacal laughter. Govinda is wonderful as the modern day Hanuman. I was surprised to see him hang by the trees and jump around with an innocent smile. Vikram is rather stiff as the SP, and at times, goes a bit overboard with underplay.Priyamani is a gorgeous curvy damsel, who plays Beera’s half-sister and a modern day Shurpanakha. Other than showing off her voluptuous mid-riff, she hasn’t got much to do.
What really makes the film worth the 2 odd hours is the cinematography. Although it’s always raining, the green, rocky valley is a delight to watch.

All in all, decent performances and great locales can only hold your attention for a while. If the story doesn’t progress at a pace it needs to, you find yourself shifting in your seat, waiting for your cellphone to catch network so that you can tweet while Aishwarya finishes sobbing and SP finishes yelling randomly.
I say: Avoid. I wish I wish I wish I could say otherwise.

Stranger Than Fiction, Closer To Reality

When I was a kid, I believed that the life we lead was actually someone else’s dream. The bad things would all end when they woke up and that none of the bad things were real. As a child, someone else always makes your decisions and you are pretty much happy that someone else steers the car for you. When you want to take control of your life, you know you’re growing up. That comforting thought, the ability to think someone else was dreaming my life for me, started to annoy me as I started growing up.

Then I started to think of myself as the leading lady of a film that was my life. I knew that no matter what mistakes I made, no matter how many times my heart broke and no matter how many times I failed, I would get up and make things right. It worked for me. It still does. The narrative of my life happens in my head, in my voice and most of the times this voice comes out as an affirmation. This narrative is a reminder that this is my life and that I am the creator of whatever happens in it.

What if I wake up and an alien voice starts narrating my life?

It would completely freak me out, despite the bizarre habit of narrating my own life in my head. So it comes as no surprise that Harold Crick, an IRS auditor gets completely psyched when he starts hearing the narrative of his life in a woman’s voice.

Stranger Than Fiction (2006) is the story of Harold Crick, who hears his life being narrated to him and then when the narration stops, Harold tries to figure out what lies ahead of him. Harold Crick is forced to break out of the monotony of his life and rediscover what genre his story falls under. Harold is auditing a deliberate tax evader, Ana Pascal. As he goes through her tax history, Harold starts to realise that he is attracted to Ana. If it weren’t for the narrative, Harold would have never noticed how he felt. I couldn’t help but wonder, how many times, we overlook what we really feel towards a thing or a person and go on to do what we think is right or what we think fits into our job description. Personally, every time I pass a shoe store, it would be cool to have a voice say, ‘She was attracted to the luminous silver sandals and the fiery red peep-toes. She found herself being pulled into the store to buy them, but as she tried the shoes on and walked to a mirror, she realised that she didn’t need them. They looked fabulous but the truth was that she was going to feel terribly guilty about buying them. Did she want to feel that guilty?’ Yes, a narrative can make you see things the way they are and no, you can’t suppress that voice.

It’s interesting to see Harold break out of his routine to live his life. The quest to find the genre of his life story becomes his life story. And he surrenders to the narrative of his life and prepares to embrace a tragic death because without the death, the narrative of his life would sound bland.  Irony.

Move over Lucy, LSD has been hijacked by Indians

First with Khosla Ka Ghosla, Dibakar Banerjee introduced us to a typical middle-class Delhi family and their dreams, then he gave us Lucky, the Punjabi con artist who takes us through the different strata of Delhi society and now, he brings out three different stories about love, sex and dhoka (betrayal) that use the backdrop of varied Delhi cultures as a canvas on which this vivid picture is painted.
Dibakar Banerjee’s film links the movie camera to a CCTV and the CCTV to a spy camera via three different stories to tell us, we are being watched. He interlinks the stories wonderfully, without being too obvious or too intelligent. The stories are nothing different from what we once read in the papers, but it’s the way that they are told that captivates us. The characters, treatment and most importantly the background score and the music make this film awesome. Love, Sex aur Dhoka has a hidden agenda to shock you with this reality. Honestly, I wasn’t shocked at all.
‘The relevance would have been awesome four years ago,’ says the sister.
True that. Four years ago rich fathers had their daughters’ poor lover boys murdered, four years ago boyfriends were taking the country by the storm with recorded clips of private moments with their girlfriends and sting operations were oh-so-hot…
Today, sting operations happen, but they don’t really rock our world (they trend on twitter, I’ll give them that). MMS, CCTV footage scandals do happen, but they don’t shock us like they did back in the day and  four years ago, a father having his daughter and her lover killed was unthinkable or rather shocking to read in black and white.
In the last four years, media has desensitized us. We don’t dwell on these incidents, we see them, discuss them over coffee or in the train and we move on. We read about a businessman who had his Muslim son-in-law murdered, we discuss it for a few days and then the same businessman goes on to sponsor an IPL team owned by a Muslim. We read about a girl being attacked by a random man at Gateway of India, we read about a couple chopping up a man’s dead body into pieces and then we pick up our cup of tea and go about our business.
This film would have rocked the nation if it came out four years ago, but who would have put their money on a film that doesn’t have a definitive love story? Who would put money on a film that has ‘camera’ as a central theme? Dibakar Banerjee could get the funding for this film because of the success of his previous films. And the censor board passed this film, because we are an audience that won’t get disturbed by such stories.
I love the film for the way it tells its story, for the music and for the sheer joy of seeing Dibakar Banerjee’s ability to use the right aspects of different societies existing in Delhi to tell a story. It deserves its credit for being a good film for that reason. There’s no social change or awareness that it will bring about. Don’t dream honey, worse has already happened.
And for a change it’s good when real life seems an exaggerated version of reel life, and not vice versa.

Look Who’s Calling

All I knew about ‘Karthik Calling Karthik’ before I entered the movie hall was that it’s about a loser who turns his life around. I fell in love with the opening credits, and then, the film just sort of rolled.
Karthik is a hard worker, but his work’s never noticed or appreciated. Karthik’s life is made up of an angry, domineering boss, indifferent coworkers who take credit for his achievements and a frustrating landlord. The fact that his lady love, Shonali, never notices him and is dating his coworker, doesn’t exactly make it all a rosy picture.  Things change when Karthik decides to stand up for himself and confront the boss. Karthik, has lost everything he had, but then a phone call shakes up his life. He manages to turn his life around and emerges a winner. He has a great job, a big pay packet and the love of his life is now his girlfriend. But who’s this Karthik who has been calling Karthik?
That’s the premise of the movie. The plot cleverly unfolds, although through the first half, you are convinced it’s all predictable. I was convinced that the whole movie would be about Karthik rising up and proving he’s not a loser. But I was mistaken.
The strength of the plot lasts only if the audience doesn’t know what to expect next. Therefore I won’t say anything else about the story. But I will say this, it grips you, makes you impatient even.
Farhan Akhtar is a brilliant actor and he’s proved it on prior occasions but Deepika really surprises you with a sincere effort to emote.
The loose ends get tied up in a rather clichéd manner toward the end and the epilogue is rather unnecessary. But all in all, I found the film entertaining and totally worth a watch…
My verdict: 4.5 on 5…

Pies, an abusive husband, a good doctor… A well baked story!

Of late I have been hooked to Castle, the TV series starring Natahn Fillion and I have been gushing to all and sundry about what a cutie pie he is. So I was steered toward this movie about pies which stars Nathan.
Of course, I started watching it reluctantly. I’d never heard of the film, I am on a diet and the last thing I needed was to watch a film about pies and start craving them. But I was suffering from a massive writer’s block, not much was coming out of the writing effort and the film was downloaded and sitting on my desktop. So, I began watching it.
Right from the get go, the film sucked me into feeling the underlying emotion, maybe it had to do with the fact that it was a bleak Wednesday evening.
The Story:
The Waitress takes us into the life of Jenna, a girl working hard for a living in southern America only to surrender all her money to her abusive husband, Earl. She longs to get out of the marriage, win a pie baking contest and be happy, but when she learns she is pregnant, she feels helpless and desperate. She goes about weighing her options as she invents a new pie each day (I can’t wait to try the bad baby pie and the ‘im having an affair pie’). Her only friends her co-workers. There’s also Old man Joe, a difficult customer who loves Jenna’s pies and is fond of Jenna.
In her quest to be happy and be appreciated, she ends up having an affair with Dr. Pomatter. All the loose ends of Jenna’s life are tied the moment she holds her newborn daughter, and thats the moment where Jenna takes the decisions she had always been putting off.
I’ve always loved films revolving around food or films that use food as a metaphor… The Waitress uses ‘pie making’ ever so adorably to tell us that we can reinvent our lives if we wanted to. It’s a shame that the film never made it to India, but I can understand why. To understand the film, it is important to understand the life in the American south. The America we outsiders see in popular films or TV shows is very different from interior America. It’s hard to understand why a girl like Jenna sticks with her husband even though he’s a jackass without understanding the life in interior America.
Keri Russell does a fine job of taking the audience through the emotions of a pregnant woman who goes from not wanting the baby to deriving the strength to dump her husband from her baby. She effortlessly lets you feel her desperation, helplessness and she makes you fall in love with her pies….
And may I add, I enjoyed mulling over about the film as much as I enjoyed watching it. I love films that seem light hearted and simple but give you a lot to think about… The Waitress is certainly one of those films…
And other films that involve food and are also good food for thought:
Chocolat: The metaphor is just wow!
Julie and Julia: Two women, common factor, food… Their journey
Sideways: It uses wine, but hey… Wine is food…
Ratatouille: Anyone can cook!
… and many more…

And he made it happen!

‘What is it about cinema that makes you Indians go mad?’ my British friend once asked me. ‘What makes it such a religion?’

I honestly didn’t have an answer, but I felt it too. I still feel it when I buy tickets to an SRK movie or when I watch Dev D, but I can’t explain it. Maybe the answer lies in the way this industry originated, probably the madness, the passion was well sowed into it back in the days where it began.

Where did it all begin? Everybody knows Dadasaheb Phalke was the pioneer of Indian cinema. But you have to watch this story- the story of how the idea of making a moving picture (which we merrily have abbreviated to movie) completely possessed him, the story of how his vision helped establish what we today know as the largest film industry in the world. This story will make you understand and appreciate the madness of being ‘filmy’.

Harishchandrachi Factory, is a simple Marathi film that tells you the story of how Indian cinema was born. It begins in Girgaum, Mumbai on the 14th April 1911 when Dadasaheb Phalke chances upon a moving picture exhibit while running away from a keen investor. He gets so excited by the concept that he decides to go against all odds, sell his furniture, belongings etc. to explore and study this new form of art. He travels to London, acquires the equipment, learns the horrors of casting, discovers ‘method acting’, gets his wife to take on the role of developing the film, manages to release the film and when the theater is empty, the man discovers film promotions and marketing gimmicks to get the box office ringing. It’s such a thrill to see these things that we crack our heads over today, being effortlessly thought out by this one man, just out of passion and a vision.

Paresh Mokashi tells us this story in the Phalke format- simple scenes, linear narrative, jarring harmonium in the background, focusing completely on the story.This style of filmmaking could also be credited to his theater background, but that’s digressing.  It isn’t a path breaking film in terms of how it’s made. One could almost call it a docu-drama, but at the end of the film, when Phalke rejects an offer to move to London to stay back and establish filmmaking as an industry in India, you realize that the fact that you sit in this multiplex, watching this film distributed over a satellite network (a technology pioneered by Sanjay Gaekwad, an Indian) because of that one decision. I think this feeling is the reason why this film is made, and that is exactly why you must watch it.

Watch this film, for cinema, for the love of cinema and to just feel glad that it all happened. Perosnally, I can’t imagine my life without Indian films and I feel grateful to the fact that a potential investor chased Dadasaheb on 14th April 1911 and to escape this investor Dadasaheb chanced upon the tent screening moving pictures and out of curiosity, he spent 2 annas on a ticket… 2 annas well invested…

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