‘UGLY’ Stays True To Its Title, But Is Such An Anti-Climax

Having screened at the Directors’ Fortnight section at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and received rave reviews, there is obviously a huge expectation from a film like ‘Ugly’, directed by Anurag Kashyap.

Ugly Theatrical Poster - 2013

Ugly Theatrical Poster – 2013

And to be honest and really honest, the efforts of the ace director need to be appreciated for bringing out such realistic performances from almost all its lead characters. It is rare that an Indian film (the last I remember was Chandni Bar (Madhur Bhandarkar) and Kashyap’s Black Friday) is so realistic in its treatment and execution. ‘Ugly’ is probably one of those few films that breaks the rules of the typical Bollywood style of filmmaking.

Yet, in spite of being extremely realistic, hatke in style and having some really nice cinematography, the experience is merely satisfactory.

Kali (excellently played by Anshika Srivastava) gets kidnapped when her father Rahul (Rahul Bhatt) leaves her inside his car when he goes to collect a document from his friend. Rahul’s friend Chaitanya (Vineet Singh) tells him that his daughter is missing. When Rahul comes to the police station to lodge a formal complaint, he is confronted by Inspector Jadhav (Girish Kulkarni) who finds out that Kali is Shalini (Rahul’s divorced wife/Tejaswini Kolhapure) and ACP Shoumik Bose’s (Ronit Roy) daughter. Kali’s kidnapping gives Shoumik a chance to take revenge from Rahul for an incident of the past and he leaves no stone unturned to find his daughter back. And this is where ‘Ugly’ is ugliest in terms of Kashyap’s storytelling.

However, certain scenes in the film seem overstretched, especially when Inspector Jadhav questions Rahul over his ‘filmy’ name. While it infuses a laugh with its natural humour, it stretches a tad too long. Similarly, a scene where Chaitanya is interrogated in prison is reminiscent of a scene in Black Friday. And the biggest disappointment is the climax. Watch it yourself to experience!

For all through the 1 hour and 50 minutes, ‘Ugly’ treads along with certain twists and turns and keeps one at the edge of their seat. But it is the last ten minutes where ‘Ugly’ is a complete anti-climax.

‘Ugly’ stays true to its title and offers one plenty to ponder. Anurag Kashyap weaves magic with his actors, but sadly tells a story with too many loose ends. A little back story of the characters wouldn’t have done any harm. While Anurag Kashyap did release a five-minute short film ‘Kali-Katha’ (Watch it on YouTube) which gives a glimpse of Rahul, Shalini and Chaitanya’s character, Shoumik’s back story isn’t unveiled at all. At the same time, certain disjointed plot points leave one with a little more to think.

There are no white characters and no black characters in ‘Ugly’. Each character has shades of grey. And this keeps the thrill factor of the film alive.

Girish Kulkarni as Inspector Jadhav gets a perfect launch in Hindi Cinema. Having directed and acted in several National-award winning films in Marathi, Girish proves his mettle as an actor for the first time in Hindi cinema and he doesn’t disappoint a bit. It’s a terrific performance that deserves more than just applause.

Rahul Bhatt who was last seen in a dud called ‘Nayee Padosan’ makes a comeback after almost twelve years in a role that seemed tailor made for him.

Tejaswini Kolhapure as Shalini gets a role that will surely be talked about. Siddhant Kapoor is good in a small role.

Vineet Singh (Shorts/Bombay Talkies-Murabba) is the surprise package of ‘Ugly’. For many who would have seen him in a restrained role, be prepared to get surprised.

But ultimately ‘Ugly’ for me is all about Ronit Roy’s act as Shoumik Bose. The actor, surely has had a strong second innings in Bollywood as compared to his early days. After working with Anurag Kashyap in Udaan as the abusive father, Ronit Roy once again delivers a performance that speaks volumes of him as an actor. With less words and more expressive eyes, this one is surely a performance worthy of some awards.

And finally Anurag Kashyap. While many claim to say that the director just lost his way post Gangs Of Wasseypur II (which was his most commercial venture till date), the filmmaker returns to his roots of making dark, gritty films. While ‘Ugly’ might not be his best since Black Friday, it is surely a well-made film. A diehard Anurag Kashyap fan may just not be able to miss this one. And being an admirer of his work, I look forward with much eagerness for ‘Bombay Velvet’!

Final Verdict: ‘Ugly’ is a gripping film that stays true to its title. But in the end, it is such an anti-climax!

 

Rating: ***

Happy New Year: The ‘Indiawaale’ Manage To Win Hearts

Like the start in Farah Khan’s ‘Happy New Year’ (HNY) where Shah Rukh Khan sets of by saying that there are two kinds of people in this world, winners and losers, I believe that there are two kinds of films in the world. Films that are made with a script and films of Farah Khan, who successfully manages to become the leader after HNY to make commercial potboilers!

happy

Going by the recent failures of deadpan films without a script, HNY is a much better film as compared to its peers. However, it isn’t as great as Farah’s own ‘Om Shanti Om’ but yet promises abundance of entertainment in three hours.

Thankfully, unlike her previous outing ‘Tees Maar Khan’ which was a bore and sleepy affair, HNY is on the go right from the opening sequence where Charlie aka Chandramohan Manohar (Shah Rukh Khan) unveils his dashing eight-pack abs and mouths dialogues of all his previous hit films. It is followed up by his ‘keep it simple’ plan to avenge his father’s death and plan a robbery of diamonds worth crores of rupees from Charan Grover (Jackie Shroff). He then sets out on his mission ‘Happy New Year’ and manages to build a team of ‘losers’ (including him) who scale to great heights when they decide to take the route to participate in a reality-dance contest in an attempt to rob the diamonds.

Farah Khan sticks to what she has done in her last two films, ‘Main Hoon Naa’ and ‘Om Shanti Om’ respectively, that is use the prowess of her characters. This, itself, makes up for an entertaining and a supreme first half where characters are introduced even as Charlie plans his heist. From Abhishek Bachchan’s ‘desi’ entry to Deepika Padukone’s ‘eazy’ Mohini dance, every character manages to entertain and surprise you as the film progresses to a not-so-riveting climax.

The director excellently blends Bollywood humour, her regular dose of spoofs on her industry colleagues and her cameo specialist actors. But where she scores brownie points is when the bunch of losers suddenly realise that their motive to win the contest is far superior and this is what makes ‘Happy New Year’ entertaining and patriotic at the same time. For once robbery takes a backseat and the troupe comes together to enthral Dubai. Taking a cue from late Manmohan Desai, whom Farah Khan has always regarded as her guru, the director manages to pull off HNY like a supremely executed film with minor glitches, a feat that many commercial directors haven’t managed to achieve.

Music by Vishal-Shekhar is good to hear on the big screen and is peppy. Even Vishal’s act with Anurag Kashyap in a scene would keep all in splits. From Manwa Laage to Indiawaale, each song carries the story forward and keeps pumping up the entertainment level.

At three hours, the film is stretched at places but the performances keep you glued. I must say that HNY isn’t Shah Rukh Khan’s film alone. While he does get maximum screen time, he is excellently complimented by a talented bunch of actors who lend him good support. My clear favourite remain Boman Irani and Abhishek Bachchan who pull of their acts in such wonderful fashion. Deepika Padukone, as Mohini, also compliments with her dancing skills and adds the glam quotient. Sonu Sood and Vivaan Shah are apt in their roles.

With ‘Happy New Year’ being a single Diwali release, it is only fair to say that the film has success written over it and the powerhouse star cast just makes it easy. I went with zero expectations and enjoyed my time at the theatre. Probably you do the same and you won’t be disappointed.

Final Verdict: Happy New Year may not be the intelligent kind of cinema. However, it is one of those expensive buffet outings which one can relish once in a while. This might not be close to Om Shanti Om but these ‘Indiawaale’ certainly manage to win hearts, in true Farah Khan style!!! ENTERTAINMENT GUARANTEED!

Rating: ***

Queen – Every Man Must Watch This Film!

The very concept that a woman goes for her Honeymoon, all by herself, was enough for me to drag myself to the theatre. The promos of ‘Queen’ always were a refreshing, fresh take from the otherwise serious women-centric films and I had high expectations from the Kangana Ranaut starrer. Fortunately, ‘Queen’ has managed to surpass it and has made a huge impression.

Queen - Theatrical Poster

Queen – Theatrical Poster

As always said in my reviews, a film doesn’t need a rich, glorious star-cast, a larger-than-life production design. All it needs is a simple sense of storytelling enough to keep one glued for the time one is at the theatre. And ‘Queen’ is just that kind of film. Yes, it is flawed at places, drifts away shamelessly in the second half, but which other cliché Bollywood film hasn’t been in that league before?

Coming to the central premise, Rani a.k.a Queen (Kangana Ranaut), a young girl, from Rajaouri, is shattered when her beau, Vijay (Rajkumar Rao), calls of the wedding in the last minute. While, Rani does brood over the break-up, she quickly manages to put her rona dhona aside and decides to take the control of her life in her own hands, and decides to go for her honeymoon to Paris, all alone. It is this journey, which changes her completely from a shy, naïve, small-town woman into a bold, sexy, confident lady. It is this transformation in Queen that we see makes the film more than just an entertaining experience.

Queen, is not just is a tale about a woman redeeming herself from the pressures of society, marriage, but it is also a film that transpires a change in the outlook of how small-town girls are perceived. Often regarded to be buried under the control of men, Queen breaks the stereotype and manages to rise strong and bring a change in the outlook. The film does bear a small resemblance to Sridevi’s ‘English Vinglish’, in terms of concept, but it is completely different in its treatment.

Another high point of Queen is undoubtedly its writing, razor-sharp dialogues (additionally penned by Kangana, herself) and the way the film has managed to portray the women. While Kangana’s character is shown transforming from a shy, innocent to a bold, confident woman, there is also Vijaylakshmi’s (Lisa Haydon) character, which shows that there are women in this world, who equally crave for the pleasures of life as much as men, and ‘Queen’ has managed to portray that other-side of a woman pretty well. Reiterating a line from what Vidya Balan had said on ‘Koffee With Karan’, “Women want it, need it, and do it as much as men do!”

Queen is also richly colourful, fresh and refreshing and the locales of Amsterdam and Paris are a delight to watch. Music by Amit Trivedi holds the film tight and it is after a long time that I say, there isn’t a single track that is sloppy or sluggish. And the best part of the music is that, each track blends with the transformation that Queen is going through.

On the flipside, the film unnecessarily drags into the second hour, when Queen makes her trip to Amsterdam, her tryst at an Italian joint and her bid to make money by selling gol-guppas. While these moments could have been rushed, Vikas Bahl stretches them a bit too much.

But again, these errors are completely forgiven for there is that pleasing performance from Kangana Ranaut, which compensates for all the glitches. Kangana as Queen is as real and close that Hindi cinema can get in terms of portraying a woman. The actress pitches in a fine performance, which is so beautiful, thought-provoking and coming of age. As Rani, Kangana gets her act so right, that one could continue to be in awe of her performance, even after leaving the theatres, especially the ‘Hungama’ act just before the interval. It’s hard to take your eyes off her in that scene!

Every emotion is so wonderfully captured, so beautifully played by her, that I wondered if she is acting or really playing her own self. That’s how powerful, a performance it is.

Rajkumar Rao, as Vijay, is wonderful. In a film, which is completely dominated by Kangana, Rajkumar plays the baddie with ease. Baddie because, as women, one would love to hate that kind of a man!

Vikas Bahl, in his second outing after Chillar Party, gets his act nearly perfect. It takes courage, in a country like India, to try something unabashedly different, and it is a delight to see Vikas’s skilled work paying off. Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane also deserve applause for producing a film like ‘Queen’.

Needless to say, the film may be liked mostly by people who prefer a good story over rich looks. But it is surely a film that one cannot ignore!

Looks like the industry is coming terms to accept concepts revolving around women and they aren’t just people meant to run around trees. Kahaani, The Dirty Picture, Highway and now Queen! Take a bow!

Final Verdict: Queen is a film that is sweet, innocent and at the same time terrific. A coming-of-age film that shows the powerful transformation of women, in real, reel life and in Bollywood! While there is no doubt that women may love this film, it is a strict advice for all men to watch this film. Trust me, it will touch your hard hearts, as much as it did mine!

P:S – If there is anything special as a man you want to do this Women’s Day, take your sister, mother, wife, daughter, girlfriend to watch Queen!

Rating: ****

REVIEW: ‘The Lunchbox’ – A Full-Course Meal That Leaves One Hungry For More

Hi All, 

Two strangers in a crowded city, one a lonely housewife and other a lonely government servant. She pleases him with food. In return he sends her motivating letters. Until finally they decide to meet and break away from their monotonous, boring, loveless lives. That in a nutshell is ‘The Lunchbox’ for you. 

thelunchbox2

Ritesh Batra‘s ‘The Lunchbox’ is his first feature film after winning accolades for his short films. The film isn’t just a story about the magic of food alone. There is the spiciness of relationships, the sourness of the city of Mumbai, where in spite of having so many people around you, one still feels like a stranger and sweetness of love, where in the age of Internet and mobiles, Saajan Fernandes (Irrfan Khan) and Ila (Nimrat Kaur) still exchange letters over a ‘dabba’. 

The film might have not made it to the Oscars, where it could possibly even had the chances of winning it! But nevertheless ‘The Lunchbox’ triumphs hearts of the middle-class Mumbaikar or for that matter any Indian with its sheer simplicity and magical performances. 

Unlike most of the films which depict the city of Mumbai in a glorified manner, ‘The Lunchbox’ stays as real to the city as its characters. From the irritated dabbawala, who Ila yells at for delivering the food to a wrong address, to the bunch of kids at Saajan’s locality cribbing about the latter’s rude and arrogant nature, each of these simple, small characters make you feel so connected to the film and sneak a glimpse of one’s own life. 

Even Ila’s culinary experiments and her conversations with the next-door Aunty (Bharti Acherekar – only through background voice) seem realistic. Ritesh Batra’s exemplary writing, simple and to the point is as crisp and crunchy like Ila’s own special recipes she makes for her newfound love and stranger friend Saajan. Batra truly exemplifies that the road to a man’s heart is truly through his stomach.

So much that even Sheikh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) gets attracted to the charm of this dabba each time his colleague Saajan opens ‘The Lunchbox’. With the aroma of sumptuous food also begins a bond of friendship, one that Saajan has been craving for.  

But the bigger question, a more curious one, is whether Ila and Saajan ever meet? And that’s where ‘The Lunchbox’ gives the biggest twist in the tale. A sweet-sour take on the love between two strangers, between two different age-groups. And that’s where it strikes the high point, quite a similar feeling to one biting on to a teekhi mirchi in a dal tadka only to find the jug of water beside us empty. Experience it yourself!

‘The Lunchbox’ is simple, straight-forward and beautifully embeds relationships within the film without making a dal khichdi. From the loveless chemistry of Ila and her husband to the humourous friendship between Saajan and Sheikh, Ritesh Batra poignantly focuses on various dynamics of life, including the power and the need of a strong companion for sharing thoughts. 

Michael Simmonds (Cinematographer) and John Lyons (Editing) give ‘The Lunchbox’ a realistic feel and dimension. The detailing of shots and the spirit of the city cannot be ignored and the two guys triumph with some moments that spring up nostalgia. Situations that are a part of our daily lives, yet unnoticed in front of our eyes. Shots and sequences that come in ‘The Lunchbox’ that are a glimpse of our own mundane and monotonous lives in a way. 

‘The Lunchbox’ is also effective because of its realistic casting. Nimrat Kaur plays the housewife with sheer conviction and ease. A perfect symbol (not offensive in any manner) and a reflection of many educated women, who sacrifice careers for a family! Irrfan Khan as Saajan Fernandes once again proves his worth as a brilliant performer. It’s the skin of the character that Irrfan gets into well, which is hard to ignore. A good example of his pavwala (read Christian) accent when he converses with Sheikh. Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Sheikh is hilarious and entertaining. I am sure one might have come across such characters in real life! 

Kudos to Ritesh Batra for his take on relationships. And two big thumbs up for UTV Motion Pictures and Karan Johar for backing up ‘The Lunchbox’. A simple yet sweet film like this would have gone unnoticed if not for your sweet association. 

On the whole ‘The Lunchbox’ is a full course meal, that leaves on hungry for more! Need I say more. Time to grab a bite of this dabba!  This one will not be shared. It needs to be experienced! 

Rating: **** 1/2

(the half cut is for the abrupt end, if only there would have been something more spicy!) 

Bombay Talkies – Not really celebrating 100 years, nevertheless readies audiences for a new change

Hi All, 

Lights, Camera and Action. Dance, Rejoice and Celebrate. For it’s the 100th year of Indian Cinema. For 100 years might just be too long in the context of saying nothing much has changed in Cinema and it is still driven by the extravagance, aspirations and those endless songs and dance which define our movies. What has changed is maybe a new outlook in the watching of movies by audiences and very little content. It is here in 100 years where you can proudly say “Yeh Khiladi Na Budha hua” with films like Udaan, Do Dooni Chaar and Kai Po Che winning as much applause as the Housefulls and Rowdy Rathore and the Dabanng’s may be even more. 

Bombay Talkies is this new change that 4 prolific film makers in the 4 short films try to bring to the way Indian cinema is being perceived as. While of the four, two succeed brilliantly, the others just try to fit the notion of celebration. 

Bombay-Talkies-Poster

Karan Johar:
The moment Karan Johar’s name comes up, we don’t need to think much as we expect the same emotions, LOVE and drama like all his films. Be it Kuch Kuch Hota Hai or his latest Student of the Year, Johar leaves no room for the romance and drama in abundance. In Bombay Talkies also one would expect something similar. But one rather gets a complete shocker and this spring of surprise from Johar leaves one wondering, is this the same person who made those above films. 

Avinash (Saqib Salim – Outstanding) is a new intern at Gayatri’s (Rani – elegant and poised performance) office. He is a gay and has been discarded by his family. Gayatri is battling a loveless marriage and moving on while Avinash finds solace in song’s of Rafi sung by a street urchin girl at a railway bridge. Avinash meets Dev (Randeep Hooda) – Gayatri’s husband at Gayatri’s house over dinner.Till here one would begin to feel that it’s another love triangle beginning to build. However Johar takes a complete turn when Avinash and Dev actually fall for each other. Trubulent and Bold, Johar silences all with this bold act and pitches a finely crafted story about Homosexuality and the openness that it needs to be seen with. This is the new change in Indian Cinema and a new theme, not much explored and Johar gets it bang on target. Easily the finest of the four. 

Dibakar Banerjee:
Dibakar’s film is an adaptation of Satyajit Ray’s short story about a failed theatre artist trying to regain his lost confidence back. Purender (Nawazuddin – flawless) has been a complete loser in life. His business never rose, his stint as a failed artist in a theatre keeps haunting him and he has been a failure in the eyes of his daughter and wants to prove himself. A role of a junior artist along with Ranbir Kapoor is that one opportunity which leads to the big change in his life forever. Dibakar’s version of the Ray story just simply states that no role is big or small. You are a star if you are able to deliver it right. Simple and Sweet attempt and a great act by Nawazuddin makes Dibakar’s story the second on the list. Inspirational and Motivating. 

Anurag Kashyap:
With Anurag Kashyap one would expect guns and gaalis maybe a shorter version of Wasseypur. However Murabba is sweet and sour and a new attempt by Anurag, not seen in his earlier long films. It shows how smaller town people are mesmerized by stardom and big stars like the Dilip Kumars and Bachchans. Vijay (Vineet Kumar) comes down from his hometown Allahabad with a jar of Murabba to meet the biggest star Amitabh Bachchan. It is his dad’s last wish and his belief that if Amitabh tastes half a piece of murabba and the remaining half is brought back, he shall survive even death even if it is for few months. Vijay comes and after several disheartened attempts, finally meets Mr Bachchan and gives him the taste half  a piece of murabba. Least does he expects that on his way back, a man from the upper birth in the train break the murabba jar and the other half would crush putting water on his attempt and his father’s dream and last wish. 

While some parts are funny and hilarious, certain things are uncharacteristically unrealistic. Kashyap’s this Murabba story is a sweet and sour tale and works in parts. Vineet Kumar is good as Vijay but it gets melodramatic at places. However it goes with the theme of Bombay Talkies and the fascination that small town migrants have for celebrities. 

Zoya Akhtar:
A 12 year old boy is fascinated by seeing Katrina Kaif dance to Sheila ki Jawani and aspires of becoming her. Least does he realize the difficulties that would come with it. He wears his sister’s clothes, uses his mother’s lipstick to dress up like women and also grooves to Katrina’s dance number to raise a meagre Rs.250 so that his sister could go on a picnic. This is the crux of Zoya’s story.

Of the four this is the weakest and the most unappealing film. It does portray the harsh reality of cross-dressing and how that affects child psychology. But the film is less believable and falls flat. The less said the better. 

Bombay Talkies may not be the perfect celebratory cinema that one might have expected because somewhere the charm of DDLJ and and simplicity of stories lik3 Golmaal (Old), Barfi and the innocence (Udaan) seems to be missing. But it definitely is a new attempt which gears up audiences for the future. It with four films shows openness to new form of stories which break the society norms and set new bar in the otherwise cliched world of Bollywood story telling. While the first 2 in the above list stand out for coming closer to those wonderful “lump in the throat” moments and moist eyes, the rest just don’t work. 

The last song however is a not to miss opportunity. Bombay Talkies tribute song by the 20 odd artists and a mix up of yesteryear stars bringing voices cut from the hit songs of the 50’s-90’s is the only riveting, celebratory moment. This song is the true celebration of a 100 Years of Cinema. 

Rating: ***
Expected a bit more, nevertheless Indian Cinema is opening new doors, Watch it! You May like it or you may completely disown it. 

Rahul Iyer