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!

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.

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…

Natarang: Must Watch!

‘Every man has a bit of a woman in him and every woman has a bit of a man in her…’ says Gunwantarao Kagalkar as he fights to prove to the world that his masculinity is intact but circumstances and his passion for his art have driven him to be the ‘Nachya’ the effeminate, graceful, half man half woman in a ‘Tamasha’

Story

Adapted from Dr.Anand Yadav’s novel by the same name, Natarang is the story of Gunwantrao aka Guna Kagalkar played by Atul Kulkarni. Guna is a helping hand on the farm and someone quite disinterested in anything but the art of Tamashaa. Tamashaa, is his creative outlet, but the world does not get it…

When the landlord fixes a pump to draw water out of the well, Guna and his friends are rendered jobless. To overcome their unemployment, Guna decides to set up his own Tamashaa crew. He works through the challenges of writing the songs and plays, getting the actors to learn their dialogue, but when their only hope, a young girl, who could be their heroine, demands a Nachya, he finds himself at a loss. No man would put his masculinity on the line for an art form but for Guna, this is his passion. Guna transforms himself from a hatta-katta pehelvan into an effeminate Nachya and their Tamashaa crew starts pulling in the bucks. However, Guna’s struggle doesn’t end here. He has to fight politicos, the society that questions his masculinity and to convince this very society that Tamashaa is a form of art and Tamashgirs, artistes.

I always enjoy films or books that give me something beyond the premise of the story, and Natarang goes to do that on many levels. Be it chronicling the folk art form, which by the way is almost never visible to us urban ‘Maharashtrians’ or be it talking about an artiste’s struggle in swimming against the tide, Natarang touches a chord and how…

Performance

Atul Kulkarni, yet again proves himself to be a brilliant performer as he switches from the ‘tagda’ Guna to the ever so graceful Nachya. When he moves, you cannot take your eyes off him, and when he burns to tell the world that labels him ‘Phalkya’ (Marathi slang for Gay), that he is nothing but a passionate ‘Kalakaar’, you burn with him. The grace he brings to the character is phenomenal… Right before the interval as he transforms into the ‘Nachya’ you can’t help but applaud. Sonali’s (not Sonali Kulkarni as buzz18 conveniently calls her) introduction in the film as the young, graceful Naina Kolhapurkarin, makes you want to get up and dance.

The Music

The soul of the film is the fabulous background score by Ajay-Atul. It captures emotions of every scene, every character and just creates magic. They are my favourite music directors and you will know why when you watch the film.
Biggest drawback, in my opinion is the lack of subtitles. A passionate film like this should not be limited to an audience of one language alone.

My take: 4.5/5

And yes, this is the second Marathi film I’ve seen in the past month, first being Gabhricha Paus, and I am proud to say that in quality of content and creating that magic of cinema, Marathi films are way ahead than the much larger Bollywood. I want to congratulate the entire unit of Natarang for creating this fabulous cinematic experience that captures entertains, emotes and enriches the mind of the Cinephile in me…

New York I Love You; The Film, Not So Much

NYC to me is a city glorified by films and music. Many directors have romanced this city on celluloid. Quite a few legendary TV series have had the city as a character by itself and not a mere location. New York. It has cinematic magic glued all over it. So when you happen to be in New York when a film called ‘New York, I love you’ releases, you can’t help but be a little excited.

On a pleasant evening, I coaxed my heavily pregnant friend to come see this rendezvous on celluloid. A rendezvous with a city that I have been much fascinated by. Unfortunately, we came out unimpressed. The stories were predictable, random and sometimes, one couldn’t help but wonder if the stories had anything to do with New York in the first place. I mean how is chatting up a woman over a cigarette, a New York phenomenon?

One would expect to see the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty or Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge weaved into the stories beyond being mere locations or part of some random montage. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the montage, you’d never realise this film was about New York, leave alone be a tribute to the city. Or how is a squabbling old couple walking down a street innately New York like? Distanced couples rediscover each other all over the world and the musician who has to read Dostovesky could have been in Moscow for all I care? Where is New York in these stories?

I feel no New York love in this one, I don’t see anything remotely fascinating or remotely ‘New Yorkish’ about these films made by a bunch of noted filmmakers and written by some very awesome people. I loved Paris Je T’aime. I loved how the soul, the identity of Paris was weaved into each segment with much love. That love, that soul is simply missing in this one.

Btw, my sandals broke and I had to walk home barefoot! Couldn’t help but think about Neil Simon’s play, ‘Barefoot In The Park’. Had he written something for this ‘tribute’, I am sure he’d have created a fiery little story that would do justice to the madness that is New York City. Dad, I am sure you’ll agree!

 

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Shivaji Raje Bhosale Leaves an Impression

The last film I saw was an English one about Parsis. Now, I dared myself to go and watch a Marathi film about ‘Marathi Manoos’ and it was a struggle (in a good way). Plaza cinema: house full, Chitra: house full, Fame Nakshatra: house full.

“Go to a non-Marathi area!” Mom suggested. So off I went to Cinemax Sion and managed to grab the tickets. The ticket vendor actually spoke to me in marathi! Odd, because everywhere me and the brother insist speaking in Marathi, we are met with a ‘samajh mein nahi ayaa’!

With bestest friend and best friend in tow, I entered the theatre to watch a Marathi film after almost a year! (The last one I watched was an impressive ‘Checkmate’, but that’s for later)

The film starts with a sorry tale of a common man. A marathi man working as a bank clerk, who dreams of buying a nice shirt and longingly eyes the pomfret in the fish market, but gets shooed away. He cringes and accepts insults and shuts his eyes in shame when someone calls him ‘ghati’. That’s Dinkar Bhosale (Sachin Khedekar) for you. His life is depressing. He lives in a run down mansion with a nagging wife, a struggling daughter who can’t break into the industry because of her downmarket surname and a son whose career is one the line because of his CET result. Enter a builder who’s trying to acquire Bhosale’s palace, and then there’s trouble in (not-such-a) paradise.

His daughter wants to change her surname to Chopra because she’s denied a role absed on her surname, the son is upset because he has to give up his engineering dream for the lack of money for the donation.

Bhosale shuns his Marathipana, curses ‘Para-prantiyas’ and in a very impactful scene, shuns the founders of Maharashtra and its culture. This scene stood out to me because the statues of Ambedkar, Phule, Tilak glare helplessly from their statued busts at Bhosale as he rants on being Maharashtrian, ghati and being denied the right to live a peaceful life.

What follows is a bit vague. Shivaji maharaj (Mahesh Manjrekar) takes it upon himself to free Bhosale of his meek attitude. Bhosale being from the Bhosale family that Shivaji Maharaj himself belongs to, is given the baton to awaken the Marathi Manoos. Bhosale completely changes, goes around threatening ‘Muskatat Marin’ (I will slap your face) and convinces people that he is not suppressible. He takes on corrupt BMC officials, policemen, politicians, builders and transforms a Don, even!

In his small victories, the audience rejoices. Claps and whistles were just raining throughout the film. When a distraught Shivaji Mharaj says, “Thank God you don’t pray that Shivaji should be born but in another state!” many members of the audience stand up and clap hard! This is the film’s victory. It captivates the audience, holds them close and expresses an emotion that resonates with them.

Many people assume this an anti-Non-Maharasthtrian movie. It’s not. The movie solely tells the marathi manoos to get up and be pro active. It doesn’t slander any Non-Maharashtrian. Considering its context, it would have been easy for the director to get carried away. But he stays with the concept and plot. Of course, the preachy bit toward the end was a little cheesy, but that’s ok.

Makarand Anajpure as Raiba is priceless! Bharat Dabholkar as Afzal Khan is convincing. Watch out for many other cameos and guest apperances by celebrated Marathi artistes like Reema Lagoo as Jijau, Ajit Bhure as the Chief Minister, Kishor Pradhan as the band manager etc.

All in all, it’s a good film. It captivates, it entertains and it leaves an impact. Not bad Mr. Manjrekar, Marathi Paul Padate Pudhe!

Title: Me Shivajiraje Bhosale Boltoy

Dir: Santosh Manjrekar

Cast: Sachin Khedekar, Mahesh Manjrekar, Makarand Anajpure, Sucheta Bandekar

My verdict: Worth a watch, but make sure you watch it in a theatre where you can enjoy the audience. Watch out for dialogues written to induce an applause!

Rating: 3.5 /5!

For Parsis, By Parsis and Of Parsis

A stellar star cast, a celebrated screenwriter who turns director and some exciting promos convince you Little Zizou is worth a watch. If you’re like me and you grew up in a Parsi locality mesmerised by the dhansaks, gymkhanas and Agiaries, you will certainly be drawn to this film.

The film, largely performed by a Parsi cast, tells the story set within the confines of very real issues faced by the community. We see the stories through the eyes of young Xerxis Khodaiji, who is rather fascinated by the footballer Zidane, talks to his dead mother’s picture and observes the world with a humorous angle.

Be it his father who’s a spiritual healer or the father’s assistant or his father’s arch enemy Boman Pressvala , each character is very ‘Bawa’ and extremely quirky. But the plot is just so fickle that the characters are the only hope you’ve got. That just puts too much pressure on the characters. The story is very random. It doesn’t move for quite sometime and by the interval you give up hope of it ever moving.

That said, the film captures Parsi lifestyles impeccably, but why shouldn’t it everybody’s a Parsi in the film. The performances are awesome and Imaad Shah is fantastic.

Frankly, I enjoyed it the most because  of the familar locales of Dadar Parsi Colony and the little things that made me wonder what being Parsi was all about… So, I’d say watch ‘Little Zizou’ only if you’re a Parsi or have some connections to this adorably insane yet elegant species of people.

PS: Why is the film called ‘Little Zizou’ again, my daft brain didn’t quite catch that!