Sunday, February 22, 2015

Movie Review: Badlapur Don't Miss The Beginning

There has been a refreshing bunch of movies coming out of Bollywood lately - Shamitabh and Roy, in the last few days itself - and Badlapur keeps the trend going with a fantastic crime thriller, an excellent cast, great music and some awesome editing and screenplay!

Badlapur is about a young man's revenge for the murder of his wife and child in the course of a botched bank robbery. Nothing extraordinary in that - but where Badlapur differs is that the focus isn't on mindless physical violence. There are no blazing guns and the angry, bloodied hero taking on a dozen monster-sized goondas. It's a revenge on the mind, it's a revenge that takes 15 years to be completed, and even then, at the end, you aren't really sure it's over. You aren't sure who wins. Is it the perpetrator of the crime who gets redemption and release through death, or the victim and perpetrator of the revenge, who has to live with some uncomfortable questions. It's the mental violence, the mind games, the raw human feelings that tug right at your heart, and refuse to let go, long after you have left the theatre. The scene after Varun comes back to his empty home, as the camera pans across the toys and the clothes, every single item reminding him of his beautiful family, lives shattered in a terrible twist of fate... Vinay Pathak's reaction when he has to let his wife sleep with Varun... the scene in the morgue...

The cast is absolutely top notch. Varun Dhawan takes a huge risk early on in his career, and comes up with flying colors. As the dark, brooding anti hero, Varun leaves his Student of the Year act far behind. Nawazuddin Siddique is absolutely a delight as the bank robber and murderer who gets caught, and spends 15 years in jail, waiting for an opportunity to get out and live his riches, never losing hope. Huma Qureshi and Vinay Pathak have small but incredibly memorable roles, while Yami Gautam, as always, is absolutely stunning on screen. Radhika Apte is smoking hot, and delivers an astonishingly brave scene by Bollywood standards. Watch out for this girl in the days to come!

The locations, the screenplay, the cinematography, the sound track - absolutely top notch. And yes, don't miss the beginning... an opening shot on MG Road in Pune, a car parked in a no parking zone, a cop tow truck pulling up, a simple every day scene on Pune's streets plays in the foreground, until suddenly you realize, there's a bank robbery going on... the subsequent events are conceptualized and shot absolutely brilliantly.

Overall, definitely a must watch, but keep your kids at home..

Waiting For Myra

So, there we go. Less than 2 weeks after first setting my eyes on a feisty red Audi A3 in Pune's SB Road showroom, we went ahead and booked a diesel, red with beige Premium Plus A3 today.

All the excellent arguments against pricing and cramped rear seats, and the comparisons to other lower segment cars notwithstanding, here is what influenced my decision:

1. It's an Audi. Ever since Ravi Shastri won his at being crowned the Champion of Champions in 1985, it's been my dream car. The Beemers come close, but I had evaluated the 3 series when I bought my Endy 5 years ago and somehow, at that time, the 3 series' ride quality and fun quotient hadn't seemed too different from that offered by my Ford Fiesta SXi. That test drive pushed me away from the Beemers.

2. White was never in the reckoning. Blue was upstaged by black. My wife and daughter shot down the black in favor of the stunning red. And I have to admit, the red really is an eye catcher.

3. The Premium missed too many features that were important to me - xenon lights, DRLs, leather seats to name a few. The additional 2 lakhs or so seemed worth it. Rather, saving a couple and missing out on all that didn't seem to make much sense.

4. The Technology variant made no sense.

5. I would have preferred the petrol, but the dealer tried his best at convincing me otherwise, and succeeded. He talked about all other Audis coming in Diesel only, about petrol requiring higher maintenance and so on, but the clincher was when he said (and I don't know how true it was, but that didn't matter any more) there was only one Petrol model available with Audi India as of date, and he wouldn't be able to promise me a delivery date any time in the near future. Impulsive and impatient as I am, I didn't want to wait any longer than I absolutely needed to.

6. I had seen the Skoda Octavia and Superb very recently, and while they are great cars, they didn't have the 4 rings, and that was a lot.

7. The A3 TD blew me away. I love squealing tires, I love tearing away when the traffic lights turn green, I love the sound of the engines revving, and the way the A3 pushed you back into the seats - it was beautiful.

8. I have never been able to not give an Audi a second look, and the red A3 was no exception. It's beautiful. It looks compact and strong and very reliable! The DRLs are mesmerizing, and lines are strong and defining. The sun roof fits beautifully, and the tires look hot. Compared to a 3 series BMW, the A3 is a clear winner in my eyes.

9. I can't part with my Endy, and the A3 will therefore do duty driving my wife to and from work in the city at most times. We are a family of 3, and the rear seat is no problem for my daughter. When parents and cousins visit, the Endy will step in with its cavernous 8-10 seating capacity

10. I have woken up every morning these last two weeks with the A3 on my mind. I guess specs and comparisons and logic sometimes need to defer to the heart!

The countdown begins now - and I am eagerly waiting for the call!

Coffee On The Wall

Got this forward on Whatsapp today... lovely story!

Coffee on wall:

A story from Murlidhar Gupta

I sat with my friend in a well-known coffee shop in a neighbouring town of Venice (Italy), the city of lights and water. We enjoyed our coffee, a man entered and sat at an empty table beside us.

He called the waiter and placed his order saying, ‘Two cups of coffee, one of them there on the wall.’

We heard this order with rather interest and observed that he was served with one cup of coffee but he paid for two. As soon as he left, the waiter pasted a piece of paper on the wall saying ‘A Cup of Coffee’.

While we were still there, two other men entered and ordered three cups of coffee, two on the table and one on the wall. They had the two cups of coffee but paid for three and left. This time also, the waiter did the same; he pasted a piece of paper on the wall saying, ‘A Cup of Coffee’.

It was something unique and perplexing for us. We finished our coffee, paid the bill and left.

After a few days, we had a chance to go to this coffee shop again. While we were enjoying our coffee, a man poorly dressed entered. As he seated himself, he looked at the wall and said, 'One cup of coffee from the wall'.

The waiter served coffee to this man with the customary respect and dignity. The man had his coffee and left without paying. We were amazed to watch all this, as the waiter took off a piece of paper from the wall and threw it in the dust bin.

Now it was no surprise for us – the matter was very clear.

The great respect for the needy shown by the inhabitants of this town made our eyes well up in tears.

Ponder upon the need of what this man wanted...

He enters the coffee shop without having to lower his self-esteem…

he has no need to ask for a free cup of coffee…

without asking or knowing about the one who is giving this cup of coffee to him.

He only looked at the wall, placed an order for himself, enjoyed his coffee and left.

... probably the most beautiful wall you may ever see anywhere....!!!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Movie Review: Roy

Roy. There are two ways to do it. Join the critics and talk about how excruciatingly slow it is. Look at it as the story of a brooding writer-director who is making a movie about himself, using a heroine who looks like the girl he has just fallen in love, and broken off, with.

Or, you can indulge yourself in it. Fall in love with the handsome hunk in Arjun Rampal, with his whiskey and cigar, his coat and hat, and the typewriter. You can fall in love with the beautiful Jacqueline Fernandes in her double role, her beautiful dresses (which, I hear, have been designed by herself). You can admire Ranbir on his Harley as he majestically rides through the woods on curvy roads when he isn't bobbing on the choppy waters in the yatch. You can groove to Chitti Kalaiyaan and Suraj Dooba Hai. You can sway with Jacqueline as she does the ballet on the beach. You can drink in the warm colors on the palette, and you can appreciate the beautiful subtleties on screen. Admire the significance of Ranbir's character, stuck in limbo on the yatch in the middle of the ocean, as the heartbroken director withdraws into his room, unable to take the script ahead. You can wait till the end, and watch Ranbir's character unite with his love and walk into the painting.

You can criticize it and get on to watching the world cup. Or you can immerse yourself in Vikranjit Singh's beautiful movie and indulge your senses.

Movie Review: Tusk

When podcaster Wallace Bryton, always on the lookout for the strange and the weird, goes missing in the remote mountains of Canada, his best friend and co-podcaster Teddy and girlfriend Allison join forces with a detective to look for him. What they find will horrify them, as much as it will thrill you while you live through Wallace's transformation from man to walrus!

The best scene of the movie - the sequence at the very end.

Movie Review: Friends With Benefits

Never got to seeing this before, although I had caught bits and pieces on TV... but I must say this ranks as one of my most favorite friendship movies of all time. Mila Kunis is highly underrated as an actress, and her character in FWB is one you will relate to, and fall in love with!

A perfect movie to watch on DVD with your special someone!

Movie Review: Dolly Ki Doli

Dolly and her "family" run a very profitable business - the business of one-night marriages, in the course of which she drugs her in laws and husband with glasses of spiked milk, and runs away with the riches.

But as the victims keeping piling up, is she stretching it too far?

DKD is a nice, simple movie with yet another gorgeous performance by Sonam Kapoor, the very lovable Rajkummar Rao, the dashing Pulkit Sharma and a tiny cameo by Saif Ali Khan. Not too predictable, with a couple of nice twists and turns, DKD is definitely worth a watch.

Movie Review: Birdman

Birdman is a dark comedy about an actor (Michael Keaton), famous in the past for his role as an iconic superhero, as he struggles to overcome his recent reverses and resurrect his career through a  play on Broadway.

Shot mostly in the darkrooms and tired corridors behind the stage, Birdman is vibrant with power packed, layered performances and an intense screenplay. Do watch out for the father-daughter scenes Keaton plays with the stunning Emma Stone, and Emma's scenes on the terrace. Watch out for Birdman's flight of fantasy, and the wonderfully dark end!


V V Freshhhh

A street market right outside our home... a veggie's delight!

Cat At Work

This just isn't fair... there is simply too much to review while you get busy on your Whatsapp!

You really expect me to do all this?

Ok, I am done for tonight!

Movie Review: Ouija

Never play a board game that involves the supernatural. You can't stop playing, and it won't leave you alone!

After Debbie commits suicide by hanging herself by the Christmas decorations, it becomes clear that something sinister is at work. Her friends need to keep playing, and take the game to its terrifying end.

Oiuja has its moments, and is well worth a late night watch, especially for the very pretty Olivia Cooke, who delivers a very convincing performance!

Kitten, Anyone?

Quote For The Day

They tried to bury us... they didn't know we were seeds.

Mexican Proverb.


Movie Review: The Boy Next Door

As predictable as they come - just the movie title should be sufficient for you to guess what happens in this "crime thriller". There is only one possible reason to sit through it - the stunning JLo, if you are a fan of the Latina hottie.

Movie Review: Shamitabh

Dhanush is an aspiring actor with tremendous potential and passion, but with a big disability - unable to talk, his dreams of being a superstar are in the danger of being still born, until a revolutionary new technology opens up the possibility of him talking again - through someone else's voice. Time for Amitabh, a drunkard of an old man in a cemetery, with his own story of being a struggling aspiring actor in his better days, to lend his voice. An unlikely partnership is inked, overseen by a bubbly young AD, played by the very cute Akshara Haasan. The screen name of this new actor, with the secret of his voice sealed behind a non disclosure agreement: Shamitabh!

The combination is deadly and Shamitabh becomes an overnight sensation, gracing magazine covers, and bagging millions in endorsements. Amitabh, on the other hand, is relegated to the sidelines as his dumb valet. No one can know the truth, remember?

And no artist loves to be invisible, especially no one with the ego of Amitabh Sinha.

Shamitabh packs powerful performances by Amitabh and Dhanush, who absolutely fire on screen. While there is a lot of drama, there is some beautiful humor, and Akshara adds a lot of zing and bubble to the mix.

Not your typical weekend entertainer, but definitely one of Amitabh's best ever performances. Do not miss this one!

The Incredible Mentalist, Nicolai Friedrich

I didn't believe in magic until we attended a show by one of the world's best mentalists, Nicolai Friedrich, at the Symbiosis Auditorium in Pune this Friday. I remember going to PC Sorkar's magic shows as a child, and it involved sawing girls into pieces, rabbits out of a hat, and abracadabra...

But this was something unbelievable!

Nicolai has an amazing stage presence, looks like a movie star, and an awesome sense of humor. His tricks don't come through his sleeves, which stay rolled up. He will mesmerize you with his "mind reading". Asking the audience itself to nominate people from the audience at random, he did unbelievable mind reading tricks - too many to mention here, but almost impossible to fathom!

And some of his tricks - he tore up a Bombay Times, and then "rewound" time, and you could actually see scraps of paper rise back from the floor, into the tore up pages into his hands, to form the full paper again. Unbelievable. Life in rewind. I swear!

He drew a bowling ball on a piece of paper, then squeezed it - and a real bowling ball fell on the floor, disappearing from the paper he had drawn it on.

Yes, I am sure there are tricks and techniques. I am sure there is sleight of hand. But after Nicolai's show, I prefer to believe it was for real!