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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Bollywood Movies, Popular, Thriller

Paan Singh Tomar directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia

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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

Silent Night directed by Rodney Gibbons

 silentnight (1) This movie, for me, is like “Dogpound shuffle”, a gem almost completely unknown generally. A movie that I saw on TV on a delightful channel called Hallmark (which stopped being aired long time back) way back in middle school and a movie that I craved seeing ever since. Internet finally came to my rescue and I was finally able to get it on my hard drive…
 
There is a certain appeal about movies that play out in a room or a house and dont use outside locales (the best case in point being “The Man from Earth”). That is because you have to rely on intelligent and taut scripting and need to have completely fleshed out characters to hold attention. You more or less rely completely on conversation to make the story.
 
Right from the first frame, you realize that this is going to be a dramatic movie. The scene of  Elisabeth Vincken (Linda Hamilton) trudging on the snowy wastes of a forest tugging along her son Fritz Vincken (the narrator), the landscape littered with wrecked tanks and dead soldiers, makes you take notice…

It is 1944 and Elisabeth Vincken is a German mother with a young son  who goes upto the family log cabin in the forest, which you realize is the theatre of the Battle of the Bulge, ostensibly to get to a safer place. But she has a deeper reason, which is revealed later…

 

 

 

 

 

The drama starts when their cabin is invaded first by three American soldiers, one of whom is seriously injured, followed soon after by three Germans. Events take such a turn (which it would be a spoiler to reveal!) that Elisabeth comes into a position where she is able to broker a temporary truce between the two parties so that they l9eave their weapons outside. It is naturally an absurd position to be in, in the middle of World War II and the soldiers are naturally incredulous at the situation but as it happens, it is something that they decide to abide by…for the moment…and they settle down to celebrate a very unusual Christmas
 
This is when the movie really comes into its own. The characters are so life-like that you begin to understand the personalities of each within a few minutes. The situations are realistic and makes the story move along at a clip. Mutual suspicion (after all you are supposed to be killing each other!!!) slowly starts turning into curiosity and later even grudging warmth.
 
The basic attraction about the movie cannot be understood unless the movie is watched since its all in the dialogues and the reactions of the different characters thrown together in this unusual situation. The Silent_pop1 atmosphere is always laden with taut tension (with the threat of things getting out of hand any time) and nervous camaraderie as everyone, over the course of the night, begins to understand a little bit of the other.
 
The whole story is about something very basic about human nature – we are as easy to be at each others throat as to be sitting around a table eating together, a paradox. And this simple fact is beautifully captured. At the end, after a dramatic ending, you wonder whether thats not the best way to defuse all wars – make them all sit around a table for dinner!! And yes, I loved the ending – completely went with what you would have expected from each of the characters.

 

 

 

 

 

By the way, if you were wondering at the outlandish situation (as i did), you would be pleasantly surprised to know that it is in fact a completely true story!!! This is one of those “happens only during wars” kind of story…and the fact that it is true makes it all the more compelling.
 
 
This is one gem of a movie that is difficult to find but it is one that is for keeps. Somehow my movie library seems complete with this…
 
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Drama, English Movies, Thriller

Zero day directed by Ben Coccio

Zero_Day_film Very similar to ‘Elephant’ in the manner of shooting the movie – in this case with the help of handheld cameras, Zero day is an eerie take on the Columbine High school massacre. The resemblance is made closer by the fact that the two gunmen even look similar to the original student-gunmen – Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris

When you read about the manner in which Dylan and Eric planned the attack – making video documentaries about their firearms, practicing shooting, making a farewell video etc, you find that this movie is faithful in its reproduction of the events. And it can be frightening in its detailing and in the complete dispassion of the two boys towards their actions.

Eric and Dylan filmlist.zeroday

Of course, movies made on this tragedy try to understand what the ‘reasons’ might have been, the reasons which compel two otherwise ‘fortunate’  students to undertake a cold-blooded massacre. Various reasons have been thrown up – from bully culture and social alienation to violent video games and music.

Where this movie stands out is clear portrayal of ‘no reason’. Andre and Cal (the Eric and Dylan of this movie) point out quite clearly that they just have to do it – to wake people up and to make a point against society, a society that they hate, a society that they would force to take notice of them.

A hate, that you realize, which has gone so deep that it has ceased to factor as a reason. All that is left is a blind lashing out at the world around them – a world they find to be unsuitable for them and which they have the ability to blow up – with easily available firearms.

The videos capture this zeroday3dichotomous world that Andre and Cal live in. Part of apparently happy family which take them out on picnics and give them gifts on birthdays and enough freedom to do what they want. Yet, right under everyone’s noses seethes this anger which after its explosion seems almost inexplicable.

Zero day does not do a psychological study of the possible causes but only mention them vaguely in passing. What it does do is show the outward signs – the double lives, the casualness about which Cal and Andre talk about deaths (including their own), the megalomaniac craving of their taking part in an earth shattering event, the rationalizations.

What you, the viewer is left with at the end is a sense of the utter photo_02_hiresalienation of the two, who despite all the dangers they represent, seem lost and vulnerable. You dont get the reason why (but then you are not  supposed to) but you do understand why Manson, in his interview to Michael Moore (in ‘Bowling for Columbine’) said, when asked what he would ask the two gunmen, replied “"I wouldn’t say a single word to them. I would listen to what they have to say, which is what no one did."

This is a movie that makes you think and leaves you with no answer but only with a sense of how lives are wasted simply because we choose not to look or wake up in time. Cal and Andre seem to tell us just that by their actions.

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zodiac killer movie
English Movies, Thriller

Zodiac directed by David Fincher

Zodiac1 After seeing the movie, I realized how few good detective movies I have come across lately. By that genre I don't mean the movies which seem to have some world-conspiracy behind them or the ones which seem to have some shadow of Watergate type of scam going on. I mean the real clue-searching, detective work type of movie. I realized how much I missed these kind of stories after watching this one…

There was no swashbuckling unnecessary action, no constant on the edge tension (It compensated with being a well paced thriller). That's what made it great. It made the movie real. What it did have was a grittiness, a story that was all too real and a justice system that was that as well – too real. Its quiet, grim and dark.And because the movie was based on a true story, that made it all the more absorbing. The one man’s (Jake Gyllenhaal) fanatical quest for justice, even though the murderer had not affected him personally, out of a small initial curiosity that becomes a full fledged obsession that threatened to consume his family and himself is something that would captivate you throughout the movie.

If you enjoy a good detective story – how a structure can be built from hypothesis and how it can fall like a house of cards onzodiac-movie-clips a simple missed logic; the frustration of trying to unearth something that everyone has given up on (the case dragged on for decades); the quiet doggedness  that a determined man has to have in order to unearth a mystery; how pieces of a jigsaw fit together,  you would enjoy every minute of this. The movie lets you get into the mind of an investigator, in all its starkness – minus the glorification. That's a rare movie that lets you do that…

 

 

 

 

 

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Action, Classics, English Movies

Spartacus directed by Stanley Kubrick

spartacus-DVDcoverFor me, the best Roman era epic to come out of Hollywood. For me, Spartacus beats hollow Ten Commandments and its ilk. For me, this is mainly because firstly this has a historical element to it (and I am fascinated by the history of slave rebellions – and the most famous name in that history always goes to Spartacus), which makes it real and believable. Secondly there is no preaching a la Moses et al which can make you cringe…

The story is about Spartacus (played by Kirk Douglas – the better of the two Douglas according to me!!!) and his doomed slave rebellion (the Third Servile war). It was the most successful slave rebellion in the history of the Roman empire, a rebellion which threatened Rome itself. It was a rebellion which had in its army some gladiators (Spartacus and his generals were all gladiators) while the majority were hastily trained slaves who seemed magically to destroy almost any legions that the Romans threw at them and which reached a point when Rome did not have legions to defend itself and had to recall legions fighting abroad to come to their rescue. It was a rebellion that took three whole veteran armies to destroy though by this point Spartacus’ army was very muchspartacus weakened.

Spartacus has been an inspiration to centuries of rebels fighting oppression, most notably Toussaint L’Ouverture (he was called the black Spartacus by the French). Indeed his legend has lived on through the centuries as a symbol of uncompromising and heroic defiance of tyranny (and Imperialism).

Of course since the movie is only three hours long, Hollywood simplified the whole rebellion, shortening it and making a linear structure to the whole process (when in fact there were many twists and turns in the actual rebellion). In the process, it also manufactured a somewhat fictionalized account of the life of Spartacus (Very little is known of Spartacus himself historically – his body was never found). But its a beautiful job done since the only the peripheral elements are changed to bring cohesiveness to the story. And Kirk Douglas is sublime as the leader of the rebels where he is projected as a freedom fighter who aims to free all the slaves in the empire and allow them to go back to their homes. Historians agree that his actions did aim for the freeing of the slaves (though not from all the empire – just whatever he could do).

The movie starts with Spartacus as a slave when he is bought by a Gladiator trainer for his Gladiator school. He falls in love with a slave girl, Varinia, there but there is little he can do about except steal glances and long for her silently. However a small rebellion starts when a show is put up for Crassus and his entourage where the four gladiators are spartacus_1960_reference forced to fight to death. Spartacus is defeated but his opponent Draba refuses to kill him, instead charging up the podium towards Crassus, being killed in the attempt. The mood turns ugly in the camp and the spark is lit when Spartacus sees Varinia being taken away to Rome where Crassus had bought her and kills the guard who jeers at him. The other gladiators join in and the rebellion starts…

The story of how the rebellion progresses and how from being dismissed off a gang on a small time rampage, the rebellion is slowly seen as a major threat by the Roman Senate whose armies are decimated systematically by the poorly equipped and semi-trained slave army…Along the way, the story develops Spartacus’ personality, his love for Varinia, his loyalty towards his men (refusing to save himself at the end) and more importantly his growth as a defender of the weak and the oppressed, giving them the strength to fight back, thus creating history.

The best scene in the whole movie is surely the “I am Spartacus” part (and a whole lot of fans of this movie would agree), when his men refused to give him up for a chance at liberty. This is of course not historical but I am sure the kind of man he supposedly was, it would have probably happened if the situation had actually occurred. This64.-I-am-Spartacus._imagelarge part is really the climax for me – the rebels defeated but unbowed. That really makes the movie perfect.

Another good part of the movie is the development of the personality of the main characters in the movie – other than Spartacus and his generals (especially Crixus), Crassus, Gracchus, Julius Caesar, the Gladiator school owner Lentulus Batiatus, Varinia and Antoninus. You understand what each man is fighting for and the movie also makes clear that there are no specific villains in the whole story, only heroes and victors. This, for me, is what makes the movie so compelling and moving.

Spartacus is a movie that should be watched by all…not only is it an epical tale well told but a tale that is told beautifully. It a movie whose scenes and dialogues stay with you for a very very long time…and you begin to understand the legend that is Spartacus…

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Drama, English Movies

Basketball Diaries directed by Scott Kalvert

basketball_diaries A true story which is what makes this movie moving. The story is about drug abuse, about how simple teenage bravado and dare takes a person down the abyss of addiction and its horrific consequences. It ends with redemption of sorts for the author of ‘Basketball Diaries’.

But having watched movies like “Requiem for a Dream” and “Spun”, which I feel draws you much more into them, this movie seemed to make somewhat less impact…Midway through the movie, you realize that you have seen it all. This is all a bit unjust, I know, since it was one of pioneers in this genre. Its just my luck that I saw movies which I liked better before I saw this one…

But watch it for the acting of Leonardo Di Caprio. It is breathtaking. And he was a strapping teenager when he acted in the movi4e. We all got to know his acting prowess with the films he did after he became famous in Titanic (though not in Titanic itself). This is pre-Titanic of course and you just see the mature actor he would become in the tormented character he plays in this movie…

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