Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Fortress in the Sun

Back from Goa after a 4 day break, the hang over still there, the most dominant image of the trip has to be that of the commandos - camouflage uniforms, black bandanas, machine guns slung over the shoulders, some taking position behind sand bag bunkers, others strolling on the beaches, eyes ever watchful. Dozens of them, securing the beaches, the cities, the air ports. Heavy police presence, yet completely unobtrusive. Foreign and Indian tourists enjoying the sun, the sea, and the food - protected and secured by our armed forces. Coming back from Goa last night, I saw this posse of commandos stopping a truck for inspection on the highway, somewhere in Malvan taluka in Maharashtra. Everytime you see the commando, you get a sense of security, not a sense of fear. Interesting...

For the first couple of days, it did feel as if the beaches were empty, the usual festive spirit dampened, recession and terror taking its toll. But by the time we left, the tourists had started streaming in, more and more flights landing with foreigners, and scores of Indians driving in with their bikes, cars and jeeps. Terror has lost, yet again.

Movie Review: Ghajini

It was billed as the showdown of the year - the two big Khans facing off, Rab Ne versus Ghajini, the new eight pack Khan versus the older six pack Khan, Anushka versus Asin, so on and so forth. Unfortunately, Ghajini is a complete let down, a B grade South Indian action flick with dollops of gore and violence, with absolutely no comparison against the superbly crafted Rab Ne. And while the King Khan dishes out one superb performance after another, the wannabe King resorts to his barber and his gym instructor, and lots of screams and growls to try instill fear in his audiences as the Indian Hannibal cum Super Man cum Hulk. All he succeeds in is assaulting your senses with mindless violence.

I agree I am a SRK fan, but I loved Aamir in QSQT, I loved him in Jo Jeeta, and in Dil Chahata Hai, and in Lagaan, and in countless other movies where Aamir was a great actor, with chocolate boy looks, and a lot of sense on his shoulders. Somewhere along the way, he lost it in the pursuit of being number one, wanting to be called the King. Obsessed with insulting the King on his blog, Aamir seems to have lost focus from what he was good at... acting.

Back to the movie. Inspired by a Tamil movie of the same name, which itself was inspired by a truly beautifully executed Memento, Ghajini is the story of a young business tycoon who falls in love with a wannabe model, but never reveals his true identity to her, because he loves being loved by her as the middle class simple fellow she thinks he is. It's not moot how she never figures out that he is in fact one of the richest men in the country, who moves around with a sleek fleet of black Band Mercs, accompanied by a platoon of assistants and security guards. When she is killed by a gang of child smugglers, the smart Van Heusen dressed businessman suddenly develops eight pack abs, gets a football haircut, learns to growl and snarl, and having lost his memory (he can't remember anything beyond 15 mins), learns to live with a set of photos and notes, and tatoos, constantly reminding him of his mission - take revenge on Ghajini.

The story has too many flaws. While Memento, with its back and forth narration, beautifully pieced the puzzle for you, Ghajini does none of that. It neither brings out the complexity of his life, except for one short sequence of him trying to find out his own house, nor does it bring out the anguish of a man unable to remember even his own name. There are too many unanswered questions, too many loopholes. The screenplay leaves a lot to be desired, although the camera work and technical brilliance of South Indian film industry will catch your attention, especially in a couple of unhummable songs.

For the actors themselves, well, there's really nothing positive to say! Aamir has a good body, one must admit, but coming as it is after every other actor and actress did it, it does leave a "oh, you too" feeling lingering around. He's a good actor, but frankly, an innovative haircut and some loud growling and screaming isn't a big ask. I would have liked to see more anguish, more mental agony, more basic instincts, more questions for the mind. Asin was billed as the next big thing to hit Bollywood after Deepika - she is a huge disappointment, her over acting and extremely ordinary looks coupled with a disastrous wardrobe, make her very uninteresting and boring. Jiah Khan was great in Nishabd as the Indian Lolita, and she has a couple of interesting moments, but overall, she doesn't make the cut. Ghajini himself is also extremely loud and amateurish, again reminiscent of the B grade action movies of the 80s and early 90s.

If you are a die hard Aamir fan with an avowed will-not-miss-a-single-movie existence, and you are comfortable with scenes of heads being smashed with iron crow bars and blood dripping out from taps inserted in stomachs, go ahead and spend the pretty long 3.15 hours on Ghajini. Frankly, a better idea would be to watch Rab Ne for the 3rd or 4th time.

Oh and yes, do keep your kids away from the movie... trust me on that!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bangaluru Rocks!

OK, make that, the new Bengaluru Airport rocks! I was in Bangalore today for a NASSCOM Innovation Awards roadshow - in fact, I am blogging from the airport while waiting for boarding to start - and flew in this morning. It's spanky new, clean and spacious, extremely well laid out, has a very upmarket Western feel to it. Very nice. The expressway into the city is also awesome, and you pass these sexy shiny green Meru taxis and red Volvos on the way. Almost so-not-India! Or rather, oh-wow-so-new-India :) Shopping is good, food is awesome too. And what's best - you have free Internet - all you need, is to send a SMS, and key in the password you receive, which gives you free connection for an hour. Need more? Just send one more SMS, that's all!

Another interesting thing was that Jet Airways actually did my online checkin for the return journey too - what's surprising? Well, I am coming back on Kingfisher!

Anyway, chalo, my boarding call is beckoning me... catch you later!

Movie Review: Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi

I need to see this movie a few times before I can really review it objectively - happens to me with SRK movies :) But here's my first attempt...

First the story. Surendar Sahni is middle class small town Indian thirty something male personified, his life defined by his work at Punjab Power, in a 4 by 4 cubicle, surrounded by dusty files and a never ringing phone. Fate gets him married to a bubbly, effervescent Taani, who loses her lover and her love in a tragic bus accident on the day of her marriage. While Suri falls in love with Taani at first sight, he knows Taani can never love him. With the help of his saloon-owner friend, Suri changes into a metrosexual Raj, complete with gelled hair, tight jeans and biceps, and spends some very happy moments with Taani learning dancing together for the dance competition. Will Taani finally figure out that the Raj she loves to be with, is also her boring Suri? Will Suri change? Will Tanni ever love him?

SRK is King, and once again, he proves why. And to all his detractors who said he couldn't act, inspite of movies like KANK and Chak De, RNBDJ has some absolutely stunning moments - every move Suri makes, the scene where he realises she won't run away with Raj, the conversation he has with his Suri mannequin are abolute gems. He's looking great too, especially in the medley song sequence.

Anushka makes a great debut - she's sexy, she's sweet, she looks hot in tracks and demure and innocent in her kurtas. She has a beautiful smile, and while she looks a little common at times, her confidence, her attitude and her poise make up for any shortcomings. Overall, a stunner :)

The screenplay and cinematography are excellent, the sets beautiful. I loved the opening sequence which really sets the atmosphere of the small town life Surendar lives. The medley is fun, and Hole Hole and Dance pe Chance really grow on you as you keep listening to them.

The story could have been a little more innovative - it does get a little boring at times, especially in the 2nd hour. And I think a more exciting way to end it would have been to let Suri change a bit into the new Raj - incorporating his "forced" habits... making Taani like him more and more, until one day - the day she sees her Rab in Suri at the Golden Temple - she realises that they are the same! Would have also been a more serious challenge to the King, to play that slowly evolving character...

Anyway, either way, it's a MUST SEE :)

By the way, what was really interesting to see was the variety of the audience for the movie - old and young, kids, rich and high society, middle calss families... King Ka Jadoo doesn't spare anyone! :)

Movie Review: Transporter 3

Saw this quite a long time back, but somehow never got around to reviewing it. After Death Race, Statham pulls off another action caper, this one about a "transporter" who needs to deliver a cargo - a wierd at first but gradually grows on you Natalya Rudakova. There is catch though -his armed and exposive wrist band ensures that he cannot get more than a few feet away from his car!

Watch it for some very innovative and different action - especially the hand to hand fights, and some good car action, again, treated very differently from the usual!

Definitely a watch for action lovers.