Tagged with " Film Review"

Queen – ruling hearts

Queen-Hindi-Movie-Hd-Wallpapers

More often than not, Bollywood fare comes with masala entertainment, paisa vasool hilarity and a ‘leave-your-brains-at-home’ kind of fun. I decided to give a slew of such recent releases a miss, but ended up checking out Queen on the insistence of a friend. And am I glad I did.

Queen’s storyline may not seem much on the surface: it is essentially a coming of age story where the protagonist overcomes adversity by the end of the film, but what makes it unique is its refusal to tie up all loose ends neatly. It takes the bold step of leaving viewers with a sense of freedom seldom associated with Bollywood.

Queen is the story of Rani, superbly played by Kangna Ranaut, a young girl who is looking forward to her big Punjabi wedding in Delhi to her engineer fiancé. Her monologue voiceover, a peek into Rani’s head before her big day, retrospectively turns into a commentary on marriage in desi culture, where the wedding itself becomes the be-all and end-all of the process. The innuendo-laden pre-shadi hilarity along with Queen’s breakout hit song ‘London Thumukda’ nudge and wink at the impossibly glamorous idea of the ‘honeymoon’ with all its attendant promise of exposure to a world of sexual intimacy and travel. But before Rani can taste any of these hitherto forbidden fruits she is jilted by her fiancé two days before the wedding day. In her first flush of deep despair she decides to leave for her ‘honeymoon’ on her own. Thus begins, not just Rani’s journey of self-discovery, but a new-age alternative to the honeymoon, the single woman traveller who can taste both physical pleasures (within bounds acceptable to an Indian audience, of course) and the pulse of the outside world all on her own.

In Paris, she learns how to pronounce ‘Champs Elysses’ correctly but much more importantly manages to outlast a bag thief by tapping into deeper reserves of courage the pre-jilted Rani would never have dreamed possible. Outside of her comfort zone she makes friends with people who are superficially different but so alike when you peel the upper layers. Lisa Haydon, who plays Vijay Laxmi, a free spirited Parisian woman Rani befriends in France, is a lot of fun to watch. Not only she is beautiful and glamorous, she walks off with her head held high in a supporting role.

After a few days in Paris, Rani catches a train to Amsterdam and bids adieu to her friend. What Paris did not teach her, Amsterdam does. She ends up in a youth hostel with a bunch of racially diverse men as her roommates and after a hiccup or two she became really good friends with them.

As a South Asian woman, I hardly ever come across fictional characters I can relate to. The Western characters belong too obviously to a different cultural framework while the characters produced by our entertainment industries seem stuck in time. Rani is unique in the sense that I could relate to so many of her fears, heck I have even lived some of them. Even though the first time I stayed in a youth hostel, I shared my room with girls, but it was no less traumatic for me because of my sheltered upbringing and a very private life. I could relate to her hesitation in trying new food or going to places that she had never been before. Even when you leave your restrictive environment behind, you take your cultural baggage with you even when you are in a city like Amsterdam.

As a long time consumer of Pakistani television dramas and Bollywood, my biggest grouse against both is that most female characters either annoy me to hell and back or make me feel sympathy for them. Queen did neither.

The end cements the rest of the movie’s good sense by refusing to indulge in chest beating histrionics or loud declarations of independence from patriarchy. It just leaves the audience with a subtle awareness that Rani’s life is her own as viewers partake in the joy she experiences when she realizes that she is truly free at that moment.

There is no masala here, no copying of formulaic romantic comedies (Had it been one, she would have found a Raj, Rahul or Prem by the end). It is honest storytelling around a major life changing incident in a girl’s life and how just one decision – of not wallowing in self pity and going ahead with the plan – turns her into a much braver person.

Kangna Ranaut delievers a top notch performance. Her Rani is endearing. She changes, but the change is subtle and intangible. She does not turn into a drastically different person but a more open and courageous version of herself who is ready to embrace life at her own terms. Her changes are not validated by her finding romance with a new man or even the old one.

The film could’ve done with some serious editing in the first half and the characters of Taka, the vertically challenged Japanese roommate and Rukhsar/Roxette, the Muslim stripper with a heart of gold, were clichéd and reminiscent of less subtle cinema of the 1980s, but I could not find fault with much else.

I am a sucker for coming of age films that reaffirm my faith in life, people and humanity in general, so I had the biggest grin on my face when I came out of the cinema. Five stars for honest storytelling with a lot of heart and some stellar performances.

Originally published in The Friday Times

Apr 25, 2013 - Bollywood    3 Comments

If ‘Ek Thi Daayan’ does not make the Daayans angry, then nothing ever will

Once upon a time, a friend and I had a late night profound discussion on movies in general and Emraan Hashmi and his sleaze factor in particular. Back then the two of us used to live in two different continents but we made a pact that whenever we meet next, we will watch an Emraan Hashmi film together.  We ended up in the same city a few weeks back and when ‘Ek Thee Daayan’ premiered, I reminded E that we must honour that old pact and watch this film. We dragged another friend –who we shall call A here – along with us because not only E and I value his company and but also the fact that we are poor people with no mode of transportation to call our own. So eager were we to watch the film that none of us bothered to either see the trailer or check out the reviews. All we saw was a poster of Emraan Hashmi with three women and thought it would be a regular slutty Emraan Hashmi fare. Little did we know that we will end up watching a film which is neither horror nor psycho thriller, but pure bullshit.

ek thee dayaan

 

As soon as the credits start rolling at the beginning we saw names like Vishal Bhardwaj and Gulzar, A, who was the reluctant viewer thought that it might turn out to be a decent film but precisely thirty seconds into the film we knew that it would be as crappy a film as we expected it to be when Emraan Hashmi made his appearance in a cage with a hoody as the master magician – a cross between David Blaine and David Copperfield perhaps? Another 10 seconds and we knew that this one is a goner because the master magician was called “Bobo the baffler”. I mean WTF? I wondered throughout Ek Tha Tiger why a self respecting adult man would respond to a name like Tiger, but in comparison with Bobo the baffler, Tiger was a very sane choice.

Bobo is magician who is troubled by his past and his dead sister. At times he hallucinates during his acts and injures his assistants but because it is India, no one sues him for negligence at work. Bobo seeks help from a psychiatrist who hypnotizes him back to the time when he was kid and encountered daayans for the first time. As a kid, Bobo was a pesky bugger who was into books on witchcraft, old elevators and sported the hair do which can pass as a Jew fro but I digress. One fine day, he was fiddling with his building’s elevator and pressed for the sixth floor thrice which took him to an underground hell. Then a Daayan makes her appearance through that same elevator and before you can say Bobo – the baffler, Bobo’s daddy marries the daayan which results in an unfortunate series of events involving dayaans, pitchal pairy, churails and what not.  The child actor who played Bobo was so freaking annoying that I ended up rooting for the daayans to beat the crap outta him. My friend A, who is not too fond of Emraan Hashmi hated the kid so much that he ended up rooting for Emraan Hashmi.

There is more confusion, more dayaans, a couple of songs and some more magic tricks. The ending of the film should make you happy if you are rooting for diminutive Bobo to triumph over the daayans. But if you are anything like me and were rooting for the daayans (how can you root for a guy who looks like Emraan Hashmi and is named Bobo) you totally want your money back.

Lessons I learned while watching Ek Thee Daayan

  • If you live in an old building with a rickety elevator and if you press for the sixth floor thrice, chances are that you will end up glimpsing hell. In order to see hell, you must reside in a building with at least six floors. How else will you press for the sixth floor, if your building does not have it.
  • One should never let one’s 11 yr old kid buy old books on witchcraft from an old book vendor; it makes them total psychos who spend way too much time loitering around faulty elevators.
  • Bobo’s magic trick with a phallic rope has probably inspired someone somewhere to plan a porn scene along those lines.
  • Emraan Hashmi should stick to the slutty roles he was famous for. He is good at running after babes, running after Daayans is clearly not his forte.
  • Daayans are generally born on February 29th because that’s when they sacrifice little children for their eternal lives. If you happen to know anyone who’s born on February 29th, beware. Just saying.
  • Emraan Hashmi is a tiger in bed and he roars. Nops, I am not making this shit up, it was an actual dialogue in the film.
  • Emraan Hashmi is such a stud that a woman dreams about him in Canada, ditches her boy friend of four years, comes to India and wants to hang out with him even when she finds out that he is married. Not only that, she is rich and buys his old haunted apartment for 2 crore Indian rupees and is so fearless that she sings romantic songs for him in front of his wife.
  • If you really want to freak out your friends, order a set of those huge eye ball covering black lenses that the dayaans wore during sacrificial ceremonies and sing them a birthday song. If they have seen this film, they might get scared, otherwise they will think that you have completely lost your shit and will probably call someone to put you in a straight jacket, or a padded room or both.
  • A daayan’s shakti (power) is hidden in her long braid so women with short hair can’t really be the daayans.  Most daayans have really long swinging braids which makes me think that they go through the shampoo bottles like an average alcoholic goes through bottles of Jack Daniels.
  • A daayan can turn into ashes if someone hacks off her hair – preferably with a dagger.  But the daayans can only be killed if the braid is cut off by someone pure of heart.  Emraan Hashmi can pull off anything but purity of heart!
  • Daayans randomly throw lines like “Shaitan ki qasam” in the middle of conversations. I mean like seriously? Next thing you know, they will start banging their heads to death metal and will make it totally uncool for the rest of the world.
  • Once you do it with a daayan, mortal ladies just don’t cut it for you. Looks like Bollywood is trying to sell Daayan sex like folks in True Blood sell vampire sex. Unfortunately the daayans were not as hot as the vampires in True Blood.
  • Last but not the least; I am the bravest amongst my friends. If we ever encounter any Daayan or even a ghunda  mawali for that matter, I will probably end up saving their asses.

PS: Because the name Bobo baffled me to no end, I managed to catch Bobo’s real name on his wedding register. It was Bijoy which is no great shakes but anything is better than Bobo the baffler.

 

Dec 22, 2012 - Salman Khan    2 Comments

From Robinhood Pandey to Kungfu Pandey – the Dabangg journey


One of the reasons I write film reviews is that it gives me an opportunity to mock the actors, the director, the story and the plot. It is almost impossible to do that with Dabangg2 not because it is a great piece of cinema with gripping plot, great direction or stupendous acting display, it is because the film mocks itself and its characters to no end, which does not leave me with much. 
Let me start with the confession that I am fan of bhaiyya speak. Whether it is Arjun Rampal in Rajneeti,  Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Gangs of Wasseypur, our apna Salman Khan in his Chulbul Pandey avatar, bhaiyya speak always wins it for me. May be it is my bhaiyya roots – I am from Karachi – or my bhaiyya pedigree – my grandparents were from the Ganga Jamuna land – but I always fall for characters from the Indian heartland and Chulbul Pandey is no exception. He is hilarious when he insults the goons in the respectful bhaiyya speak ‘kar deejiye, beth jaiyee, naha leejiye’ – it just makes everything all the more comical. 

There is no storyline or plot per se in Dabangg2, there are a lot of scenes – some funny, some over the top and some downright ridiculous – and the only common thread among them all is Chulbul Pandey and his histrionics. One never expected Dabangg2 to make much sense but the minute you find out that the trio of villains is named Baccha Bhaiyya, Gainda and Chunni (there was a whole sequence where Chulbul discusses it with his minions whether Chunni is a feminine name or a masculine one) you know that film is all about Salman Khan and it actually works for the film.

This film has taken product placement to the next level.Not only the characters were using a phone/cellular service brand, Chulbul Pandey tried to sell it with a spiel about its worthiness. Similarly, a money transfer service was not just in the background, the viewers were told that it works within 24 hours. The viewers wanted to tell Arbaz Khan the producer in the film’s lingo “ke bhaiyya, zara shant ho jao.”

Sonakshi Sinha is yawn inducing and it was evident from the number of ceetees that came in the wake of Kareena’s entry with her item song. In fact public was so enamored with the latest Mrs Khan that it was almost impossible to listen to the song amidst whistles, claps and shouts of appreciation. She did look quite stunning though but then she always looks pretty special.

The film belongs to Salman Khan the star with minimal contribution from anyone else. The rest of the actors were there to make him shine bright. The cameraman was there to make him look larger than life. The writer and director did not do much in the sequel and let him loose on the set. They replicated everything Abhinav Kashyap – creator of Chulbul Pandey and writer & director of the first installment – did in Dabangg. They did not bother to add anything fresh and copied the tried and tested formula. 
They were so lazy that they even lifted the narrative off the first one in almost the same sequence. A fight scene in a warehouse, check;  Salman Khan’s dance number with extras dressed in police khakis, check. Salman Khan’s romantic song in a bazaar with the heroine, check. Introductions of the villain/s following that, check. Salman Khan’s action sequences in the slo mo with the gravel/wood/dirt flying, check followed by some sentimental scenes with family (daddy and goof of a bro), check. Salman Khan’s second romantic song in the deserts of Arabian Peninsula, check. Salman Khan’s item number with a hottie, check. Salman Khan bashing up a villain, who is much younger, taller and more muscular than him in a shirtless fight scene, check. If anything, Chulbul Pandey seemed more brazen and in your face than the previous chapter and Salman Khan wore this character like a second skin. At times, it felt that he is just given situations and is acting out the scenes the way he wanted– with minimum guidance from the writer and director.  

Just when you think that Sallu is not gonna take his shirt off – he did not even take it off during a love making scene and before you run off thinking it’s a racy film, it is not, it is given U certification – it gets off, miraculously. Pandey ji only pulls his shirt out of his trousers and it gets removed by a touch from the villain’s hands. It appears that even villains want to have a dekho of Sallu’s body which I believe should now get a separate billing in the end credits. The applause for Sallu’s bare torso was even more thunderous than the ceetees and taalis for kareena’s item song and no, they did not come from the ladies, a good 70 percent of the film goers in the packed hall were men. 

My sister who feared that Sallu Bhai might have lost his mojo and his physique due to old age was relieved at the disappearance of that shirt. She thought that the order in the universe was restored with a glimpse of that shirtless body.

Oh and in case anyone failed to notice, I should point out that I quite like Salman Khan – not because he is a great actor – because he is called bhai and he always reminds me of Karachi – my hometown  – the city of the ultimate bhai, Altaf Bhai. 
بس ذرا گردن کی کمی ہے ورنہ اپنے الطاف بھائی بھی کسی چلبل پانڈے سے کم ہیں کیا ؟ 

Nov 14, 2012 - Skyfall    5 Comments

Skyfall-en

Warning: There are too many spoilers.
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Despite 8.1 rating at IMDB and good reviews at Rotten Tomatoes, I found everything about this new Bond film quite tedious – except Javier Bardem and to a lesser degree Ralph Fiennes. 
Moneypenny wreaking havoc on the streets of Istanbul – there is a lady in traditional garb to lend authenticity although you wont find women in this kinda dress in downtown Istanbul, you will have to check out the countryside for it
Like all Bond fares, this one too opens with an action scene – complete with crazy ass crossfire, car chase, rooftop motorcycle chase, action on a moving train that includes Bond getting shot at by a Uranium infused bullet (or was that bullet made of uranium?) and some antics with a crane while aboard that train – the twists here is that M orders Moneypenney to take a risky aim which resulted in Bond getting shot by Moneypenney and presumed dead. He stayed dead somewhere in Turkey until he found out about an explosion in MI6 HQ in London and decided to return home. The explosion happened because M managed to lose important data and as a result, MI6 was attacked. Ralph Fiennes’ Mallroy tells M that not only has she screwed up rather gallactically, she is too old to continue running her department (Isn’t Judi Dench like 103 already and should have been retired a good forty years ago?) but M refused to go. They later learn that someone is after M and the film from thereon revolved around saving M (yes, Ms Boss is the damsel in distress in this one) and about Bond’s loyalty to M, rather than the Queen or country, and it was ‘oh so significantbecause she ordered a shot where Bond almost lost his life in the opening sequence – YAWN! From there on, things got a tad dreary, until Javier Bardem graced the screen in his blindingly blonde flamboyantly gay villainous persona of a former agent gone rogue, Raoul Silva. 

Bond in all his Saville Row suited glory – wreaking havoc in Grand Bazaar

 

Before Bardem made his entrance – which was after an hour – the film had a surly Bond, a morose M, a glum Mallroy, some fat Chinese hoodlums, a briefcase full of 500 Euro notes, a sullen former Child prostitute, and two very dour looking ginormous lizards. Bardem’s Silva was like a breath of fresh air, he infused energy in the scenes he was in and honestly, I was rooting for him, instead of Bond. 
The film opened in Istanbul, I mean WTF? Ever since I was looted in Istanbul,  every other film – be it Taken 2, Ek Tha Tiger or the latest Bond flick – is shot in the city which feels like somebody is kinda rubbing it in. Secondly, who the fuck puts the whole bloody list of undercover agents in one single drive – including all their aliases – and then conveniently loses it? BBC is in a shambles already and if this is how things are being run at MI6, then this Tory government is a lot less competent than most people think. In any case, the whole undercover agent list theme – or Noc list as they called it then – has already been done in the first installment of Mission Impossible and Agent Ethan Hunt did a much better job of it than Mr. Bond. Bond, who was shot by that Uranium bullet left the fragments of uranium bullet in his chest and then conveniently dug them out with a knife in his bathroom to get tested and trace the killer. Other lesser human beings would have died of toxicities but then, he is not your average Joe, he is Bond.


Silva getting intimate with Bond
The film doesn’t really come to life until Javier Bardem shows up but even then some of the sequences are unbelievable. For instance, Silva is a former agent well familiar with the gadgets and toys provided by Q, yet he never bothered to frisk Bond for a tracking device which lead to his arrest, but then we were told that he planned it so that he can get arrested and get transported to London. I mean seriously? Even if the guy was short of cash – which he obviously was not – Silva was an IT genius, if he wanted to get to London, I am sure hacking into an airline website and scoring a couple of first class tickets would not have been much of an ordeal for him. Just when you think Silva is evil incarnate who is out to destroy good folks with posh accents at MI5, we find out that Silva is just a misunderstood former agent with serious mommy issues. 
One of the biggest glitches of the film was that during his psychological evaluation – conducted by a Freud look alike – Bond said that he thought of England as his home but later his family home was shown to be in Scotland. If he was an Englishman, then why was his ancestral estate in Scotland and if he was a Scotsman, then I will be damned if he called England his home. 
Bond, M, Bond’s Aston Marton at Skyfall

There were too many references about people being too old for the job. Everyone barring Bond wanted M to retire because she was too old, quite a few including Mallroy though Bond is too old to be out in the field, by the time the film ended, I too was convinced that I am too old to go on and should take up something gentle and age appropriate – like knitting. 
Things you I learned in this bond film; 

  • They can make a film about a failed Bond mission and still rake in millions. 
  • They can make a film which has shades of both The Dark Knight Rises and Home Alone (The improvised bombs made out of light bulbs at Skyfall were reminiscent of a time when we all liked Macaulay Culkin) and it still works.  
  • A villain with mommy issues – no matter how entertaining he is throughout the film– can be sort of anti climatic.
  • MI6 issued standard cyanide is bogus, ek dum kachra, it won’t kill you; the worst it will do is melt part of your facial structure and turn your hair blonde.  
  • Bond can pull in everyone, men women, vampires and dragons with his steely blue eyes –okay not vampires but that is only because none were around.  Eve Moneypenny lovingly shaved a towel clad Bond, Silva rubbed his thighs gleefully in anticipation, a Turkish woman kept him company when he was presumed dead, a Chinese feme fatale was willing to take him to Silva – and her bed, and last but not the least a dragon/lizard in Shanghai was also charmed by Agent 007 and that is just this particular installment. I wonder if anyone has ever bothered to test him for STDs. 
The mandatory sexy babe


Aug 31, 2012 - RAW, Salman Khan, Turkey    12 Comments

Romance of a Ballerina and Tiger Balm

Contrary to my earlier plan of watching Ek Tha Tiger in Cinepax during Eid holidays with the boys and girls of Rawalpindi, I ended up watching Ek Tha Tiger on my computer with a copy downloaded via torrent because the film was not officially released in Pakistan. It was no HD, but was still good enough to see that Katrina Kaif has increased the amount of collagen she injects in her lips to an alarming proportion and now lives with a permanent pout. It was actually quite painful to see her delivering longer dialogues, her lips must be hurting like crazy.
The film opens in Iraq where Salman Khan was busy jumping off buildings and killing people with guns, sharp objects, blunt objects,  with hands and a scarf (Yes, a man jumped after him from one building to another, while the hero landed perfectly on his feet, he rolled a scarf and threw it on the face of the goon following him, the scarf conveniently opened when it landed on the goon’s face, blinded him for a moment, he couldn’t jump neatly and fell to the ground and died, so yes, that was death by a scarf). Oh and he is also a nameless agent who goes by the name Tiger (I wondered through half of the film why a self respecting adult man would respond to a name like Tiger, Salman Khan also realized that in the latter half of the film and said, “yeh tau kuttay ka naam hota hai”.)

Tiger Bhaijan beating up an ISI agent

 

To cut a long and totally unnecessary story short, Tiger goes to Dublin, meets Katrina Kaif, a Dancer/Ballerina/choreographer/stage manager/ lighting director who also moonlights as a maid and dances with a vacuum cleaner. Before you can say something like ‘meteor shower’ our Tiger Balm and Katrina Ballerina are in love and before you can say ‘Abay kya bakwas hai yaar’ Tiger Balm aka deadly RAW agent finds out that Katrina Ballerina is not the sweet simple girl he thought she was (what’s with the desi dudes wanting simple girls, they do know that in English language simple also passes for a simpleton, right?) but an ISI agent! Hai Allah Mian Ji!

They part ways, Tiger Balm is back in the mother ship (that is Delhi and his sarkari daftar) and is kinda miserable. He finds out that there is some foreign ministers’ conference happening in Istanbul and Katrina Ballerina would be there. Tiger Balm suits up and goes as a member of the Indian delegation. Katrina Ballerina too is removed from active duty to become part of the Pakistani diplomatic entourage and though some sherwani wearing dude played the role of the Pakistani foreign minister, the film director paid a fitting tribute to our fashionista Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar by making Katrina Ballerina wearing clothes that look straight out of Ms. Khar’s closet, complete with blow dried hair, duppata pinned to her hair and small studs in her ear lobes – the only item missing was a Berkin Bag in her hand.

Katrina Ballerina in her HRK avatar

At this point, things got intense; kinda sad and very emotional, but I could not get invested. As I recently came back from Istanbul, afterbeing royally robbed, I was busy figuring out the exact spot where my bag got stolen. While Katrina Ballerina confessed her love for Tiger Balm and saying poignant words about tragic love between hostile spies and how they can never get together, I was busy telling my cousin that it was probably shot on one of the bridges in Eminönü and it was Süleymaniye Mosque in the background with our jasoos Romeo and Juliet.

Süleymaniye Mosque , Tiger Bhaijan and Baji ISI – Love in Istanbul

Tiger Balm and Katrina Ballerina duped everyone in their respective organizations, ran away from Istanbul and ended up in Havana where they lived like ordinary folks, or as ordinary as a balm and ballerina can get. Tiger Balm painted at night and sold his art on the streets of Havana during the day and Katrina Ballerina became a Ballet teacher, until one fine day someone tried to snatch Katrina Ballerina’s purse and being the agents that our love birds were, they ended up killing a bunch of low level criminals in front of an ATM machine with a camera. That image got transported back to Islamabad and Delhi and by defying all travel related logic; the agents from both the agencies reached Havana in just few hours.
No matter how modern Bollywood gets, there is always a lecture about the values and morality of Bhartiye  naari, this time because the naari in question was a Pakistani, there was a lecture about the izzat and abroo of a Pakistani dosheeza. What makes this lecture most distinctive is that it was not delivered by some Ammi, Baji type but by the guy who played Katrina Ballerina’s ISI boss! Katrina’s ISI boss, Capt. Abrar, was a very shareef pappu type boi who respected her so much that he used to call her Bibi. I have spent enough time in Islamabad to know that no one calls anyone bibi in any of the sarkari offices and they would never call a girl bibi who look anything even remotely like Katrina Kaif.
Among other things, there was a car chase in Havana where both ISI and RAW dudes were chasing the spies who loved each other and one of the cars was a brand new Range Rover! A shiny black range rover! Now I have not been to Cuba but I know that Fidel Castro is still alive and they would not start importing shiny new Range Rovers while Fidel still breathes and his brother heads the government.

Tiger Bhaijan romancing an ISI agent in a bed sheet

Btw, if Katrina Ballerina is an example of how ISI trains its agents, they are certainly top notch. If ISI puts it out in their recruitment brochures that their training includes ballet, Spanish language, jumping off the buildings, flying small planes, killing random men and pataofying the likes of Salman Khan, a lot more women would join the organization instead of all the shalwar qameez wearing uncles with handlebar mustaches and pot bellies.
Both RAW and ISI failed in catching the love birds, they are still on the run and my young cousin who was watching the film with me thought that it was sweet that they defied such odds for love but it would have been great if they were not living in sin. I am still trying to tell her that finding a maulvi who would agree to a nikah between a Zoya and an Avinash – the names that Tiger Balm and Katrina Ballerina were given in the film, would be a tad difficult, especially when they are on the run but she still insists on legal matrimony. Ah these children, they want this, that and the other!

PS: That checkered black and white gamcha that Tiger Balm sported in the opening sequence may be all the rage in India now, but we in Pakistan have been wearing it for quite some time. 🙂 

Jul 25, 2012 - Saif Ali Khan    12 Comments

Bharti naari, a party girl and an aging Lothario do not make a good Cocktail


After my latest sojourn to the local cinema, I have come to the conclusion that I seriously need to move to a country where they show things besides ‘Abraham Lincoln: the Vampire Killer’, ‘Rowdy Rathore’ and something called ‘Cocktail’. 
For starters, why was the film called ‘Cocktail’? All indiscretions happened after shots, all conversation happened over a glass of red, Saif Ali Khan even competed to finish a beer bottle in one go, but NO cocktails, so why name it cocktail? It’s not like anyone was either serving or drinking them but I digress.
The film starts with Saif Ali Khan playing an Indian Lothario and wooing a flight attendant with lines so cheesy you would think you are not in a cinema but damp cheese ripening rooms. As if that was not cringe worthy enough, he continued to act like a stupid 22 year old and tried pick up lines – in Hindi – that were once used by Dev Anand in his jawani, on random gori women on the streets of London and his workplace. He tried to do the same to a certain Bharti Naari at Heathrow airport, who came all the way from India in gulabi jora, bangles and bindi to meet her husband. The husband turned out to be a scumbag who only married her for her money and wanted her to go back to India. She was a loser miskeen behen ji type with no parents and an aunt who couldn’t care less about her and one wonders why anyone would marry her for money.
Somehow the Bharti naari ended up in a club’s (or was it a restaurant, I can’t recall as I must have dozed off in the super thanda air conditioned cinema hall) restroom where a party girl played by Deepika Padukone came to her rescue. To cut a long story short, Bharti naari became a free loader at the party girl’s house and in another scene the Lothario and Party girl decided to become lovers (they said they are just having fun) and he too moved in to party girl’s house. 
A few other inanities, a crazy Punjabi mother and bumbling mama scenes later, party girl decided that she is done having fun and wants the whole works: Shadi, ghar aur bachay. While party girl has had a change of heart, the Bharti naari went on a vacation with these two, wore a short dress, had a few shots, danced a bit and wham, the Lothario falls in love with her. Even though the party girl had been doing pretty much all of it all along, the Lothario remained unaffected. But the minutes Bharti naari showed her long limbs, the dude was a goner. Even though the girl was a Bharti naari who was still married to the money hungry scumbag, she had no qualms about kissing her BFF’s boy friend – the same BFF who sheltered her, was also sponsoring her lifestyle (and perhaps her vacations). What about the bharti naari code that a wife must stick to her husband after saat pheray even if he happens to be an arse and a greedy one at that? What happened to the girl code that says that ‘thou shalt not look at your bestie’s boy friend with lovey dovey eyes?’
When the party girl finds out, she flips and the Bharti naarigoes out. The minute the bharti naari is out of this aging lothario’s life, she goes back to her old dowdy self and behenji clothes. I mean who wears floral printed corduroy cropped jackets FFS!
The scenes where the party girl begs the Lothario to marry her border on torture. Here is a friendly, free spirited, well off party girl begging a guy with too much Botox, to take her and is willing to morph into his mother’s clone for him to accept her. To make it even more puke inducing, she mouths dialogues like “Party girl (forgot what the party girl was called in the film) bhi ek normal larki hai, usko bhi pati aur ghar ka sukh chahiye.”  With lines like this, feminism goes back to the century before last.
Lothario did not have one endearing quality apart from bouts of grocery shopping and still two seemingly intelligent, beautiful women who are both taller than the Lothario fall for him. The behen ji who called him pig for being a man whore fell for him just because he said she is beautiful! I mean how easy do the Bollywood walahs think girls are, esp those who are like ten feel tall and weigh 120 pounds?  
The premise of the film was that men fall for behen ji types even when they are man whores and have slept with half the women in two metros (Delhi and London). Lothario was a slut because he had not found true love, party girl was a slut because she has abandonment issues and Bhati naari was NOT a slut because she was insecure about her looks.
I ask Bollywood one simple question: Why can’t sluts be sluts because they feel like it? Why do they have to have something deep going on? Why can’t the NOT sluts be Not sluts because they do not feel like sleeping around? Why do they have to be insecure about their looks and what not. Why can’t life be simpler and why does Saif Ali Khan use this much Botox? 
The party girl, the Lothario & Bharti naari in a not so Bharti naari-ish dress!

Total ‘eclipse’ of the mind

Earlier this year, I was teaching an undergrad class a course on Gender. While discussing femininity and feminism, I asked my class to name one male and female they think of as the epitomy of masculine and feminine beauty. The idea was to determine how the concept of masculinity and femininity is socially constructed and male and female desirability is strongly attached to it and that  it evolves with the passage of time. As I teach generally hip kids, their idols were mostly western and their tastes represented that trend. Salma Hayek, Shakira and Beyonce were considered most feminine women by both the boys and girls, clearly indicating that concept of femininity has undergone a transition and blue-eyed blonde is no longer the pinnacle for beauty.

The boys in my class came up with the usual suspects as models of masculinity such as Brad Pitt and George Clooney with a mention of Ali Zafar and Salman Khan to add the local flavor. However, most girls swooned when they mentioned their heart’s desire and it was a guy named Edward Cullen. Now, I may not be a teenager well versed with the latest trends but I don’t exactly live in a cave and do managed to keep a track of things but I seriously did not know who Edward Cullen was. So I asked and was regaled in no uncertain terms how wonderful a character he is and how I have missed on the greatest thing since the sliced bread. Equipped with the background info, I asked my female students whether they liked the character of Edward Cullen or the actor, Robert Pattison, who plays the role. One of them gushed that she couldn’t distinguish between the two of them; she loved them both and everything about them.

Quite obviously I bought the “Twilight” and “New Moon” DVDs on my way back to witness the ultimate specimen of a gentleman. Needless to say, I was galactically gutted when I found out that he is, you know, kind of neither alive, nor dead. I mean back in the day when I was a teenager, we used to swoon over sun-kissed men with big shoulders who were alive and kicking. A pasty-looking, slightly effeminate, undead vampire is definitely not my idea of swoon worthiness, but heck, what do I know? I am not a twenty-first century teenager!

In the first installment “Twilight,” we have a sulky teenager Bella who likes this boy – the personification of undead romance Edward Cullen – in her class whose eye color keeps changing which basically lead her to believe that he is a vampire; how perfectly logical. Then we have a family of vampires (Edward’s family) who think they are vegetarian vampires because they do not drink human blood. In what parallel world, sucking the blood of cute furry animals makes you vegetarian? I am quite surprised that PETA stayed quiet over it.

In the second installment “New Moon,” the romance between the whiney (Bella) and mopey (Edward Cullen) runs into snag when one of his siblings wants to suck her blood so he breaks off with her and goes away. Bella’s friend Jacob, who is actually a werewolf – is there ever a woman who attracts more inappropriate men than our tragic heroine? – falls for her and now Bella is torn between two highly unsuitable men.

Because I am the type who would want to finish the things, I decided to watch the third installment “Eclipse,” against my better judgment. I am still not too sure whom Bella chooses at the end of the 123-minute saga where newbie vampires were wreaking havoc, trying to kill the heroine. The werewolves and the vegetarian vampires band together to save her – amidst the general lovesick atmosphere of the film.

Apart from the regular teenage romantic anguish, an army of well-groomed vampires, Bella’s whines, Edward Cullen’s cherry red lips and Jacob’s buff bare torso (Jacob was shirtless for most of the 123 minutes that even the character of Edward had to ask him whether he owned a shirt), there were a couple of things that need to be highlighted. I was in for a surprise when I saw a scene with a hint of “Brokeback Mountain” where the undead and werewolf get curiously intimate during a long night in a tent. Frankly, there was more honesty and chemistry in that one scene than the whole angst-ridden trilogy where Bella keeps panting after the total dreaminess of Edward.

Another thing we learn is that vampires are as big on hierarchy as European royal families are. There are some blue-blooded vampires called Volturi who prefer the Goth look and rule the vampire world with a rocker wardrobe. And of course, they decide which vampire stays in the state of undead and who gets to die the true death.

After I told my students that I had seen the films (the first two installments), the eager ones wanted to know how I liked the movies. One of them even asked me if I was rooting for Team Jacob or Team Edward (yes, the crazy fans are divided between who gets the heroine). Honestly, despite being a werewolf and an underage werewolf (Taylor Lautner who pays Jacob in the movie was 17 when my students asked me), Jacob gets my vote for being, err you know, not dead.

Should people go and watch this film? I don’t know but I have to say, it’s unique. After all, you don’t get movies like this very often where a werewolf and a vampire battle it out for the affections of a human and not to make a meal out of her.

Originally written for Dawn.com 

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Jun 9, 2010 - Uncategorized    32 Comments

This is NOT a film review

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I saw Rajneeti last night and while the film was arrite, there are a couple of things that I must point out.

For starters, it always comes in handy to have two studs in a political family. You want a super rich dude to finance your election campaign; you offer one of them to marry his daughter, if he does like the one you offer, there is always the other stud who will step in.

The film has some of the most fertile female characters ever presented on celluloid. They could be from different generations, different races and countries but they all conceive at the drop of a hat. There are three female characters in the film and they all got pregnant before you can actually say the word. Be it the mother who sleeps with her geriatric guru ji, Ranbir Kapoor’s character and his firangi girl friend and the married couple of Arjun Rampal and Katrina Kaif, they are all reproductively blessed beyond measure. No single character, not even the PhD from New York and his American girl friend thought about using protection. No wonder South Asia still has one of the highest birth rates in the world.

Whosoever designed Manoj Bajpai’s hairpiece should be shot dead. I mean there is fake hair piece and there is a fake hairpiece that screams ……..FAKE!!!!!!!!!!! As if that hair was not distracting enough, he was made to wear silk waistcoats that go with kurta pajama/shalwar kameez. The irony was that he was made to wear them with trousers and shirts making him look like a total moron. The audience had to root for the sartorially sophisticated combo of Arjun Rampal and Ranbir Kapoor, poor Bajpai had no chance.

I am glad that Ajay Devgan’s role was small. Tolerating him is an ordeal in any case, tolerating him in a longer role would have been a bigger ordeal. Thank God I, and millions of other viewers were spared that.

The parallels with Godfather are inevitable. 

Arjun Rampal is drool worthy no matter what he wears (or not wear), but Arjun Rampal in a kurta pajama trying to speak in Bihari accented Hindi is super drool worthy. If you are a woman with a pulse and can understand Urdu/Hindi, please do watch the film to admire super desi studliness (yes, I just invented that word) of Arjun Rampal, you won’t regret it.

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Feb 8, 2009 - Uncategorized    20 Comments

Kara till now …

Let me admit; like every other social science/liberal arts graduate, I am guilty of being fond of Indie films and obscure foreign cinema. Well everything in Pakistan is foreign cinema because we do not really produce any films so to speak, but by foreign films, I meant European, Latin American and Far Eastern films. Foreign cinema and Indie films make me feel special on many counts; for one, after auditing a couple of courses in visual anthropology at university and my brief stint as a television producer has me convinced that I have a film maker inside me and Indie flicks give me hope that one day, I may make it as a film maker. Secondly, they make me look/sound/appear to be sophisticated/cosmopolitan citizen of the world who can appreciate cinematic gems from across the globe.

As a result, I am one of those people who throng any film festival that happen to take place in their vicinity because film festivals are the places that show case odd ball comedies, gritty documentaries and quirky short films. To feed into my desire for the odd and wonderful, I am known to have braved a cold night at the train station at Düsseldorf to go attend Berlin Film Festival in 2005, managed to go to Glasgow film festival when my master’s dissertation was due and coaxed my boss to grant me a few days off so that I can attend the Dubai film festival last year. So it is but natural that I am a Kara Film Festival veteran as it happens to take place in my very own city – Karachi.

This year, Kara took place after a year’s gap and has been a sort of let down, at least on the local front. I am mostly interested in short films and documentaries and have seen a few really good ones such as Coffee & Allah, The Quiet Man, The Lost Lovers, Small Boxes and Shanti Plus to name a few. But the Pakistani shorts and documentaries I have seen so far left a lot to be desired. With the sole exception of Kiss of Life by Wayla Kayla Productions (A production of NCA students), the others are nothing to speak about. Two bad exceptionally films stood out particularly . One was a short called ‘Paint’ by Saba Khan which was trying to link real images with paintings. The quality of production was simply appalling with shoddy camera work and poor editing. The other film was an even bigger disaster than Paint. It was titled Tumhara Zikr by Shahlalae Jamil and it looked as if someone had given a handy cam to a five year old and then grabbed the kid and started running and jumping. The result was out of focus and jarring cinematography. The camera moved so much that it actually gave me a headache. The film maker captured images of all the old ladies in her family, he maid, her dogs, some other family members, a few ladies praying with their prayer mats on beds, a dholki in the family, her dogs again, a few shrines, a couple of car rides to shrines, a man in kurta and a torn book in no particular order. To add insult to injury, she did not even bother to edit them to some coherence. The sound quality was awful with background Sufi music over riding the voice over. After the film was over, just about everyone was badmouthing the film and a few of us were wondering of it can be called film making on any count?

Initially I thought the film was made by some kid who wanted an experiment in vague film making and is related to someone influential in the film festival to get a place. I later found out that the director is a trained film maker and teaches film making at the department of Visual Studies at Karachi University (I feel really sorry for her students). What stunned me most was the audacity of the festival organizers to showcase that film but also the audacity of the film maker to actually own that headache inducing sloppy piece of film making and put her name in the biggest possible font in the end credits. Kara needs to get its act together, seriously.

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May 23, 2008 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Yeah baby, it is Iron Man

Yesterday, I went to see my dermatologist and he handed me a thelaful of medicines, concoctions and shampoos to make my scalp healthy and my hair shiny. Extremely morose I was after that visit so I decided to go and watch a film. As A and I had been planning to see Iron man for quite a while. Both of us are die hard Robert Downey Jr. fans – we both have a thing for bad boys and flawed characters – so it is but natural that we go together.
As usual, it turned out that apart from an odd pair of parents or two (there was a poor old grand mother who accompanied her grand kids for the film), we were the oldest people over there but that was understandable. Adults, esp. girls don’t go and watch super hero films. When I discussed it further with my sister she said that we always go and watch movies at the PG rated time (we usually take the 6:30 shows). She added that if we try and catch movies later, we may run into people our age, but I digress.
I quite liked Iron man, perhaps because he is the first super hero who is truly global in nature. I mean Superman and Spiderman usually save children from burning buildings of Brooklyn and from drowning in Pacific or Atlantic. Iron Man, on the other hand, flew across half the world to save people in Afghanistan – and that too at super sonic speed. Here is the twenty-first century super hero who, like his vast global business empire, is a do-gooder at international level. I also like him for the fact that he is a super hero who is super confident with women (unlike Superman who could never summon enough courage to tell Lois that Clark and him are the same people) and self assured (not doubtful like Spidey) and a narcissist to boot, who knows how smart he is and not afraid to come out in the open (unlike batman who even hides it from the love of his life) and admits to being the super hero in front of a roomful of journalists. How super cool is that?
Robert Downey Jr. was as dishy as we expected him to be in the film. While A admired his super fit tush, I admired his eyes. When I shared these details with my sister, she lamented the fact that I always had a thing for short men; be is Salman Khan or that couch molesting infamous son of Xenu.

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