Bollywood Movies, Crime, Popular, Recently Posted

Gangs of Wasseypur (Part 1) directed by Anurag Kashyap

00-Gangs-Of-Wasseypur-2012-VMR-Covers-Album-Art Gangs of Wasseypur, for me, is a landmark in Hindi movies. There has been quite a few path breaking movies which have come recently – Taare Zameen Par, Udaan to Dhobi Ghat, Kahaani and Paan Singh Tomar recently, which have slowly started creating a market for movies with strong unique stories. Gangs of Wasseypur will be among the top in this list and will also have a few uniques to its name

I don't recall a Hindi movie that was intended to be produced in two parts from the start, different from a sequel. Which is a gamble. Since if the first half does not catch on, the second one will have no takers. But this confident gamble seems to have worked out for Kashyap and his cast

And another thing about Gangs of Wasseypur is that the whole universe of the movie is in a very believable hellhole of rural India. In the genre of movies dealing with gangs and the underworld, started primarily by Ram Gopal Verma, most have dealt with urban gangs, mostly Mumbai based. The fact that India has a very rich tradition of banditry and mafia culture across its length and breadth has been largely ignored till now except in superficial ways. This criminal culture is heavily intertwined with local politicians and police, to be almost indistinguishable from them. This has usually been shown in a very fantastical light – e.g. Singham, Rajnikant movies etc. These have never really got into the teeth of the matter.

Gangs of Wasseypur completely rips away this curtain of shallowness and presents to us a story which is completely raw and bloody and completely believable. Local mafia in a rural town of India is shown exactly how it is – driven by history, sustained by opportunistic politics, driven to a frenzy by a people who know no other way to survive. The characters are in a world where there is no moral compass of right or wrong. The right or wrong is completely dependent on who is on top and who has the muscle. Might wins at the end, no matter what else you put up at the table. You either fight and hope to win or you are suppressed by a heavier boot everyday. If Paan Singh Tomar was about banditry – outlaws who are forced to take up arms for dignity or revenge, Gangs of Wasseypur is all about the choice of a lifestyle. There is a revenge aspect all right but its mostly about gaining power, money and fame.

There is no sugar coating in the world of Gangs of Wasseypur. You swear, fuck around, kill people with a knife, gun or agangs-houseful bomb depending on the day, intimidate the police, earn a cut from illegal mining and hack bodies. Sometimes all in a single day! And nobody will think of asking for a justification nor will any be offered. Things are right or wrong just because, well, it is and because the guy on top said so.

The rawness of this world is something that is seen to be believed. Many people will be turned away by what they see as  'excessive' violence. I differ. There is no unnecessary violence at all in the movie. Each kill drives the story forward and I didn't find any violence for violence sake. In any case the whole point of Gangs of Wasseypur is that there is a continuous war outside your door. Do you sit back or dream or do you kill to love yourself? For those who like sanitized violence, watch the highly stylized violence of Singham. Gangs of Wasseypur is real. Deal with it

What increases the realism is the fact that real stories make up the Gangs of Wasseypur storyline – stylized and adapted for the screen. So you know right from the time that they show the history of Wasseypur (from 1941), you are dealing with real stuff. And talking of realism, the acting is something that needs to be seen to be believed. There are no ‘extras’ in this movie. Each character has a role to play, a story to tell of their own. Each in its own way takes the story forward. Manoj Bajpayee, the central character in this first part, shines as the complex gangster who kills to save a 335437-interview-with-zeishan-quadri-writer-of-gangs-of-wasseypurwoman’s modesty and sleeps around blatantly cheating on his wife, at the same time. The galaxy of talented stars around him – Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Jaideep Ahlawat, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Reemma Sen, Richa Chadda, Huma Qureshi are all deliciously rural Bihar – sing song dialect with the choicest swearwords, homemade revolvers and all. They get completely  into the story. Not for the characters of Gangs of Wasseypur the superficiality of mere rural clothes over urban behavior. These guys walk, talk and fuck like guys in Gangs of Wasseypur should!!

A special note about the music. Sneha Khanwalkar is truly a force of nature when it comes to extracting music from noise and creating amazing sounds. In Gangs of Wasseypur, she has created some ground-breaking music. Music created from emigrant history and localized, the music is something of a revelation. Listening to them separately, the music of this movie is a collector’s item in itself

Gangs of Wasseypur brings something quite different to cinema. All I can say is that I cant wait for Part II. This review will be complete only then

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The Taj conspiracy
Book Review, Historical, Thriller

The Taj conspiracy by Manreet Sodhi Someshwar

The taj conspiracy The Taj conspiracy is a thriller from a genre in Indian writing that is just waking up to its potential – crime fiction. Also the fact that this is based on one of the perennial controversy surrounding the Taj Mahal – of its very authenticity, makes it a compelling pick

So far so good. The positioning is brilliant. The question then is – is the story and the writing to the mark? Read on…

As you start reading this, you get a sense of deja-vu. Which is confirmed as the first chapter goes by you and realize that "The Taj Conspiracy" is heavily inspired by "Da Vinci Code". The strong woman with a powerful sense of history, a murder victim who leaves clues with his own blood, a elderly intellectual who is steeped in the history of Taj Mahal, an investigator who starts believing as the story moves on…

The good thing about the inspiration is that it does not stretch too far. You see the obvious similarities but it is never a pale imitation. Instead the Indian context is brought out well. And after a few chapters, you forget about Da Vinci code and begin enjoying the book in its own right

And its time that we get a doughty and attractive women sleuth of our own!! Mehrunnisa Khosa, she of the exotic name and the exotic origin fits the bill.

The book opens with a murder right inside the Taj and unravels with a plot to destroy the Taj Mahal itself. And it only gets more exciting. Bringing in politicians and fringe fanatic groups, the story never loses steam through to its ending. There can be no joy in telling a story in a review, especially one like this. It just has to be picked up to be read!!

What the "Taj Conspiracy" does well is bringing to life the controversies surrounding Taj Mahal. And brings to life, how the conspiracies resonate to this day bringing in politicians and media and fringe groups of all hues. Its refreshing to see an Indian mystery/thriller based on historical intrigues. India's history is laden with riches just waiting to be mined by storytellers. Its a wonder why it has not happened on a large scale till now

This is where Manreet Sodhi Someshwar does well. The research is upto the mark and contributes a great deal to the readability. And Manreet succeeds where many authors falter – meshing the research with the storyline. Amidst all the running and shooting and killings and revelations, the wonder of the mystery is never far off.

In fact, this book will open up the Taj Mahal for the readers once again. I know that the next time I go there, I would beManreet sodhi seeing it with new eyes and not what the guide or the guide book tells me. And if a book can open up something new in something that seemed so familiar, I daresay that its worth reading…

I have a small gripe though. The character development could have been improved a little more. Manreet creates fascinating characters that could have been fleshed out a bit more. At the end of the book, the characters remained slightly one-dimensional.

But then, Manreet has planned a whole trilogy with Mehrunnisa Khosa. So lots of space to iron out the chinks…
Overall, a book worth picking up. And in the fledgling genre of Indian mystery, this quality book is a great step forward. Looking forward to see which mystery Manreet throws at us next…

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We need to talk about Kevin
Drama, English Movies

We need to talk about Kevin directed by Lynne Ramsay

We-Need-to-Talk-About-Kevin "We need to talk about Kevin" is a film you wont forget in a hurry…the theme and the mood that the film creates will ensure this

This is one film that is truly difficult to review. It cannot be easily bracketed. What makes this even more difficult is that its in the form of a narrative where the narrator herself does not quite seem 'balanced'. The movie is adapted from the novel by the same name by Lionel Shriver

If I have to best describe it, "We need to talk about Kevin" is a horror film in the most terrifying sense. It turns what we consider our safe haven – the family, the home, the child and parents into an universe where horror can happen almost casually and naturally. And its not the horror of a ghost or a supernatural being or something not of this world but the horror which is completely human.

What if your child is destined to kill when he grows up and somehow, in some chilling way, you had an inkling of this ever since he was born?

Eva (Tilda Swinton ) is the mother of Kevin. The film opens with Eva living in a rundown house, with a host of neighbours who hate the sight of her. Her house and car is defaced with paint and graffiti. Eva seems neurotically nervous andwe_need_to_talk_about_kevin-large jumpy. And right from the start we know that something has gone terribly wrong with her life.

That is the life we are slowly shown – in carefully crafted flashbacks. From her wooing by Franklin (John C Reilly) to her wedding, it seems like a fairytale. Then Kevin is born and things slowly change, irrevocably. Right from the start Kevin seems to be at war with his mother – almost willfully playing mind games with her at an age when he had not even learned to walk on fours. And believe me, the child Kevin can be quite frightening. The father is always blind to Eva's pleas and explanations – dismissing them as something that exists inside her mind only. And Kevin, right until the end, acts absolutely 'normal' with the father, who until the very end continues to treat everything as normal. Eva, it would seem is the only one, to whom Kevin shows his true self.

The film switches between the present and the past, both of them slowly coming closer. You slowly get an inkling as to what may have happened. Of course nothing quite prepares you for what actually happens…

Eva seems to have become permanently imbalanced but continues to try and find a way to come to terms with 'normal' life. Once a successful travel writer, she takes work in a small travel agency and drives home alone to her ramshackle We-Need-to-Talk-About-Kev-007 house. She becomes so used to people hating her that small kindness or a friendly word seems to actually rattle her. One can literally feel the nightmarish world her life is. And yet she hangs on to life and whatever sanity she has left. And you wonder what she is hanging on for…

And as the film progresses we see that she visits Kevin, who is now in prison. And until the very final scene, they sit opposite each other without talking, without speaking one word, not even looking at each other properly.

What is so powerful about the film is that dialogues are sparse. The rest is filled with imagery and music and noise. The imagery used is probably one of the best ever created in cinema.The opening scene is of Eva soaked in red tomato juice in Tomatina festival followed by a white satin curtain blowing in the wind across a open garden door, the significance of which we get at the very end. The music is eerie and beautiful with a tinge of horror at the edges. The song – "Everyday" originally sung by Buddy Holly, one of my favourites, is played back in a slow moving, eerily shot Halloween backdrop, while Eva is driving home. It has altered the song for me forever. The noise and the silence used in this film is used like a sharp weapon – the scene of Eva drowning out baby Kevin's cries with the noise of a drilling site is a scene that will haunt.

Combine this with the haunting presence of Tilda Swinton and an atmosphere of impending disaster throughout. "We need to talk about Kevin" will keep coming at you long after its over…

In the end, a note regarding the imagery again. A lot of this movie is perception. Its about how you want to interpret it. Eva is seen scrubbing off the graffiti and the paint off her door and window throughout the movie, slowly, painfully butWeNeedtoTalkAboutKevinTomatina she keeps at it. And just before her final meeting with Kevin in the film she completes the process. Her door and window is clean again.

 

In the prison, at their final meeting, Eva asked Kevin the simple question – why?. What Kevin says is probably the most chilling yet pitiful part of the whole film. It leaves you unsure of how it goes forward for these two. Eva walks off into the bright white light, ending the film that had started with bright red. Was there redemption? For whom? Was it even possible…

 

You feel a strange pain in your heart as the movie draws to a close. There is a strange sense of closure yet non-closure at the end and it tugs at you.

This is one film that you will think of often and you would think of Kevin and of Eva too…

P.S – A note about Oscars. You see this and you see why Oscar is losing its relevance year after year. A movie like this is not even a contender for many major awards and wins nothing. Truly remarkable!!!

 

 

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paan-singh-tomar
Bollywood Movies, Popular, Thriller

Paan Singh Tomar directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia

paan-singh-tomar-l

Paan Singh Tomar makes for good movie recipe…a national sports champion turning bandit to avenge injustice

Like a desi Robin Hood

Paan Singh Tomar, the movie, is also a sad testimony to the fact that unless he had turned bandit, a movie would not have been made on him. Not if he had broken a thousand sports record

The movie itself proves what the movie tries to say.

Ironic

The real Paan singh But it makes for a great script. And with the irrepressible Irrfan Khan in the lead role, you can expect the screen to come alive. And it does. Irrfan Khan brings to Paan Singh Tomar an amused dead pan humour that suits both Paan Singh the athlete and the Paan Singh the bandit

Like Paan Singh Tomar says in the beginning, while giving an interview – “dacait to parliament me hai, hum to baagi hai” (dacoits are in parliament, I am an outlaw)

 

Its the same Paan Singh Tomar who readily joined the army sports team because he was told that he could eat as much as want without limits

The movie starts off with a flashback, while giving an interview to a local newspaper, of how he first becomes a national steeplechase champion, creating records that will stand for decades and then how a disillusioned Paan Singh turned bandit to avenge his land grabbing of his ancestral property

There is good rhythm in the first part as we see the rustic youth in the army turning into an athlete. His talents as anPaan singh soldier inexhaustible runner is soon recognized and he goes on to represent India at the Asian Games. He is a good family man and is content with loving his wife and his children. Mahie Gill as his wife plays the perfect supporting role – a wife who will support Paan Singh no matter what and who understands why he has to act the way he did.

The first half ends with the transformation of Paan Singh Tomar as he is pushed into what has been both the curse and the blessing of Chambal valley. Turning bandit is both an act of liberation and defiance and an act of desperation. And Paan Singh tries his damn hardest to defy his fate – going through all ‘proper channels’ to try and get his issue resolved.

He even tries to use his sports medal to try and persuade. In a heart-wrenching moment when his medals are thrown away by an openly corrupt police inspector, Paan Singh finally sees the truth. He sees the only way open…

Mocked and derided at every turn by a compromised establishment, facing apathy by even the district collector, Paan Singh does what many men and women before him had done and what many after him will do – he turns to the only route that will give him justice. Through the barrel of a gun

The second half is his journey as a bandit – from taking his revenge to finally falling to police bullets, refusing to surrender till the end.

The second half is also the story of the sheer futility that he faces as he realizes that he has to be always on the run. Even if he completes his revenge, he realizes, there is no going back. Paan Singh Tomar will only run for his life now. He can never again run for sport. As he gains notoriety and his gang becomes big, he knows that he only has to go forward. That this was the life chosen for him. Not by him but chosen for him.

I do have an issue with the second part. It seemed a little incomplete. The Paan Singh we could relate to in the first half paan_singh_tomar_20120319 seemed to disappear somewhat in the second half. The storytelling in the second part dealt more with action than with the man. We see he becomes a bandit but what we don't see what it does to him. Except for a few scattered dialogues, we don't see the dilemma much. The man who loved his family to bits – does he not miss the wife that he loved so much? If he did and I am sure he did, that fact never makes an appearance. We know that he realizes the futility of it all but Irrfan Khan as the Paan Singh Tomar on screen does not share it with us.

However the second half is action packed and the chase that ensues between Paan Singh and his main nemesis is one the most riveting moment. Especially when Paan Singh uses the same strategy to run over obstacles as he did when he ran for India – the tragedy of his situation could not have been made starker

The end is shot with care and the very last that we see of Paan Singh leaves you with a good closure…

Another thing to note is that the dialogues are almost completely in rustic dialect. This is a great move. Since you understand what is being said well enough, the dialect gives a very earthy and real feel to the movie. You can almost feel how Paan Singh must have talked

Overall, Paan Singh Tomar is a welcome direction that Hindi movies are taking. India is filled with folklore and mythical figures.Chambal folklore especially has never been exploited as it should have been. Man Singh, Putli Bai cry out for a245909-paan-singh-tomar portrayal on the screen. We really don't need to go to exotic locales or dance in Greece or in front of pyramids to get audiences anymore

Paan Singh Tomar's success is testimony to the fact that the we, the audience today, want a good story told. And we want a a sincere movie not a fluff in the wind…

This one really should not be missed. Irrfan Khan as Paan Singh Tomar will leave quite a mark on you… and so will the ending credits, when you realize just how many sportsmen have been neglected to death. Makes the movie even more telling…

This is a good article that I found on the web post the movie release – well written piece on a journalists journey today to Paan Singh's homeland

Times crest article – here

and a Frontline article related to Chambal dacoits – here

What do you think?

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Drama, English Movies

The American directed by Anton Corbijn

george-clooney-the-american (2) If you just happen to read the promotional summary of this movie which reads “An assassin hides out in Italy for one last assignment.”, and look at the poster, you would be forgiven for thinking that this is a Jason Bourne or a Neeson “Taken” type of swashbuckling movie…
 
If you sit down to watch this with an intent to lose your blues in an orgy of fast moving punches and adrenaline pumping chases, you would be sorely disappointed. And that is only because this is a case of bad marketing…
 
Because this is probably one of the best movies that I have ever seen. And it becomes one not due to any breakthrough theme or espousing some philosophy that multiple views to get the aha moment.
 
It does this by having a screenplay that almost makes it a visual O Henry short story – a taut storyline that leaves more questions than answers, by a character sketch that is as profound as it is multi-american_set_image_george_clooney_butterfly_tattoo_01 dimensional and yes having a background score that almost gives a dark poetic feel…It had the same feel as Uzak (Distant) does in most part…
 
At the centre of this extraordinary movie is perhaps one of the most (till yet) under-rated actor of our generation – George Clooney. Watch this movie, Up in the Air, Syriana, Michael Clayton, Oceans series, One fine day and the sheer extraordinary range of Clooney comes through. And this movie is given its quality by his sheer presence.
 
Clooney is Jack, an ageing assassin, looking for a way out, another life. A man of few words, almost of Spartan laconism and never betraying emotion, at times he seems like a cold calculating machine who shows GEORGE-CLOONEY-THE-AMERICAN no remorse (especially when you get past the first 5 mins).
 
However as we move along, we realize that its just a job for him and its the same as when we do something over and over again, we end up doing it highly efficiently and without thinking. And as we see, he is not without his demons either. Or a conscience…
 
Where Clooney shines through as Jack is that he gives one of his best performances without so much as a handful of dialogues. Its all in his eyes and his slight changes of expression and postures. Its when you see a performance like this that you realize we as humans respond much more to body language and visual signs rather than to spoken words.
 
As you watch this movie, you begin to feel extraordinarily close to Jack and you begin to understand him and how he is feeling and all2010_the_american_020-thumb-640xauto-217156 without hearing anything much from him!! Its only then that you appreciate the depth of this performance.
 
A performance that for me reaches its opus at the end. The mingled expression of anger, frustration, pain, regret, helplessness, determination in one single moment is a performance that few actors can manage – past or present. The whole movie, for me, was given the perfect ending in the last five minutes.
 
Violante Placido (As Clara) also plays a superb supporting cast as the quintessential prostitute with the golden heart (a role as old as modern cinema and yet never seems to touch the heart!). The transformation of the relationship and the growing maturity of the relationship between Jack and Clara is another of the highlight of the movie (as is the relationship between Jack and Father Benedetto)
 
This is a movie that should be watched for the depth of the performances and for its perfect screenplay (the ending of the movie is something that i found better than the book’s on which its based – A Very Private Gentleman by Martin Booth). And yes watch it especially for Clooney who gives his most subtle, understated and yet powerful performance till now (after Syriana)…
 
the-american-047
 
Oh and yes there action sequences – short, brutal and yes silent!!
 
This is a movie that stays…
 
One more thing…there are just about tonnes of people who either have no clue about what the movie was about or did not watch it through, or both – sample this review for instance 🙂
 
 
 

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Drama, English Movies

Gran Torino directed by Clint Eastwood

gran-torino1 You really have to wonder where these movies come from. Who would have thought that the cult western hero, the ‘Dirty Harry’, would turn out to be one of the most exciting directors who could churn out one masterpiece after another…

Gran Torino is supposed to be the last film that he would star in himself. So while you are watching it, take a good eyeful of the legend as he delivers a flawless performance…

Like his other movies, this movie too has its share of unlikely heroes. Heroes who are not heroes because they can shoot from the hip, but heroes because they rise a notch above the normal humdrum when needed…

Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, a widowed Korean war veteran who is  bitter about almost everything – especially his family, clergy, his neighbours…and is also a cynical racist…

But life, as in all Eastwood’s movies, makes sure that nothing remains the same and no one remains how they seem to be…

Pretty soon, his life changes as the next-door girl befriends him, whosefilm_gran-torino brother had previously tried to steal Walt’s ‘Gran Torino’ as part of a gang initiation. He also slowly develops a fond relationship with the brother…

But life is never perfect, especially when everything seems to be going so well…The gang which had tried to initiate the brother, with its ego bruised now, begins to wreck the lives of Walt’s new found friends…

And how does Walt, the erstwhile legend of the wild west, counter this gang? You would be surprised. And that is where you are witness to the genius that is Eastwood…

In time, the climax would probably become of the most memorable scenes in the history of cinema…you realize that you have been holding your breath as Walt stands before the gang till the climax…

One thing about the movie that would not strike the viewer before seeing it and having heard the story is the humour. Walter has the dry cynical humour that you can absolutely associate with him. His grrr is absolutely outstanding. There is humour gran_torino_3in so many of the scenes but they never jar with the theme or the core of the movie. This humour is surely one of the things that makes this movie stand-out. It brings flesh and character to Walt. In fact, without the humour, the character would seem phoney…

And a review of this movie cannot finish without reviewing the way Eastwood looks in the movie. The wizened, cynical, gritty, tough guy who can take on street gangs but has private demons – this character was tailor made for Eastwood. He is a man whom you would turn for advice and surprisingly for his age, for brute strength. He has the look of a guy who has been toughened by what he has experienced in life and who battles his memories in private…and this look and his guttural voice is what carries the whole movie on its shoulder…the movie is made with one man in mind…

Watch this movie for well, everything…from the dialogues, the plot, the characters, the ending and yes, especially Eastwood…

A movie that would stay with you for a long time…and so will the song at the end of the movie…

And you would wonder…Slumdog won the Oscar over this???

 

 

 

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the_ladykillers coen brothers
Comedy, English Movies

Ladykillers directed Ethan and Joel Coen

Ladykillers Except for a few unnecessary gags, this is one hell of an enjoyable comic movie. I understand that people compare it to the original and don't like it  as much for the same reason.

But hell, I have only seen this one and would then, fortunately, be able to judge it personally on its own merits…

The star of the show is undoubtedly Tom Hanks. He literally carries the whole movie on his shoulders. Playing a dandy professor with an overdeveloped sense of the literature (especially of Poe), Hanks (as Prof Dorr) is actually the head of a criminal crew who aim to rob a casino in a sleepy town in Mississippi. And the whole crew is uniformly and wonderfully eccentric especially Gawain(Marlon Wayans).

The gang is pitted against the landlady of the house from which the tunnel is to be dug (where Dorr has taken up tenancy as a cover),a pious black elderly widow (who is fat in the nice stereotypical black landlady way!!). A band of criminals against her…nice contest, wont you agree?!!!

The ups and downs of the gang through a series of mishaps makes this one seriously funny movie. There wont be any gags pulled nor any special action sequences. It would be just in words and facial expressions that you would get you giggling…and yes, watch out for Hanks. It was one of his best performances I have seen, in a role thatladykillers2 seems to be cut out for him. He is verbose, speaks in a eighteenth century tongue, is a wonderful orator and is also equally ruthless. Excellent combination!!!

Of course, beware – this is not a thorough light-hearted comedy. If you don't like darkness in your comedy, you may not enjoy it that much (and if you like it, you would enjoy this). I mean, this is not Mr Bean or Friends. This movie would fall into a dark-comedy-thriller genre if there is such a genre. It actually feels like a movie made in another era. Maybe because its a remake of the 1955 original. That feel only adds to the appeal that of this movie…

Though a few gags could have been done away with, this is a movie that you can watch many more times than once…if for no other reason, for the sight of Hanks' (or Dorr's) quotes and oratory especially his rendering of Poe’s “To Helen”…

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