Saturday, February 13, 2010

‘My Name is Khan’ Movie Review

Dear Karan Johar, Why is that you hate us all so much? Do you really believe that any unrealistic s**t you throw at us will work? From Kuch Kuch Hota Hai to MNIK, you have been the torch bearer of the crap which comes out of Bollywood. And it was one of ‘those’ days yesterday when I found myself seeing the crap-o-rama called ‘My Name is Khan’.

And now I realize why the Shiv Sena supremo Balasaheb Thackeray made such a big fuss about the movie. Trust me, it was not political! It was just that he knew that the movie was not worth the time and money normal people like us could afford. And how we misunderstood the great man! And now for the ‘joie de vivre’ known as My Name is Khan.

The movie starts with SRK at the SFO airport bumbling something at the security when he is supposedly ‘racially profiled’ and taken for in depth screening. Now, if I, or for that matter anyone find people talking and babbling nonsense in the security at the airport, we would be concerned. Then the movie goes into flashback mode where Zarina Wahab is the widowed mother of young SRK and his brother. Undergoing the trials and tribulations of poverty, she is responsible for the simple yet humble upbringing of SRK who hams away saying that the world has only 2 kinds of people ‘good ones and bad ones’. SRKs neglected and jealous brother Jimmy Shergill immigrates to USA and married a kind hearted soul. Once settled he files for his mom and SRK to join him in US. However, before she can join her son, Zarina Wahab saves herself some headache and passes away! So it leaves SRK to travel to America to stay with his brother and sister in law. Now, just a sidetrack, why would Jimmy Shergill, who got a scholarship from Michigan University, become an herbal beauty products salesman??? Beats me! However, getting back to the story, SRK becomes a salesman for the products where he meets Kajol who is a single mom and after about 30 minutes of yapping and hamming, he convinces Kajol to marry him. It is a ‘happily ever after’ life for the family until 9/11 when people start seeing the family in a different light just because their last name is ‘Khan’ and what follows ahead is the gist of the movie. Their son is killed by some school bullies who assume that just because his father is a ‘Khan’, he automatically becomes a terrorist. After his death, Kajol blames SRK for her son’s death and asks him to meet the president and tell him ‘My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist’. And this leads to SRK on his travails all around the country to meet the prez.

Now for my two cents on performances. SRK is his usual hamming self. I would love to just question him once: Does he not get tired of hamming so much! I read a review in Times of India by Nikhat Kazmi where a comment has been made that SRK in MNIK is better than Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump. Now, this is a bloody bold statement to make and I bet that Kazmi has either not seen Forrest Gump or he was paid off by SRK and Karan Johar. Kajol is restrained and good as usual. I don’t even know why Jimmy Shergill was in the movie! Maybe just a reason to show why SRK made his way to USA from Borivali. Other characters in the movie pretty much played their part. Again, as other Karan Johar movies, this is an out and out SRK epilogue. And that is what the pain point of the whole saga is.

The movie could have been bearable if it would have been a 2 hour thriller. However, it is a Dharma Production and so how can they even think of something which is less that 2hours 45 minutes of torture. I mean what was the whole point of showing the Jenny Mama crap in the movie. That whole episode is about 25 minutes and the movie could have very well done without it. SRK has about 2$ and change in his bank and yet he travels all around USA from California to Kentucky to Georgia to DC to Arizona and back to California. Pretty amazing! And if you Barack Obama had a chance to see the end of the movie, he would definitely hang himself!

I am sure that this artistic piece of whatever it is (definitely not a movie) will be a huge hit in India and abroad alike primarily because of its controversies and a hamming superstar with an awful director at the helm. When we were in the theater, there were people who stood and applauded at the end of the movie. It was a sight which made my heart cry for help. And then I realized that no matter how much crap SRK throws our way, there will be people who will appreciate it just because it is from him. I heard a lady say that Barack Obama at the end of the movie was a metaphor for change and that is what has been depicted in the movie. Well, I would love to understand the metaphor on this. And not only me, but also Karan Johar also love to hear about it because he never thought this way!

And to end, I would like to tweak the punch line of the movie for Karan Johar: “My name is Gaurav and I am not an Idiot”. Please give me my money back.

Until Later,

Monday, December 14, 2009

F.R.I.E.N.D.S vs. Seinfeld

Hello folks!!! This post was one which I had not thought about. The idea came to be because of a recent argument I had with someone about which of these being a better sitcom. Everyone has their individual choice and opinion about these shows. I am just trying to pen my thoughts here.

I am a HUGE Seinfeld fan and have seen each episode at least 4 times. I do have the collector’s edition of the DVDs for Seinfeld and never get bored while I see the repeats on the telecast. And I have to say this; I am not much of an F.R.I.E.N.D.S. fan. Not that F.R.I.E.N.D.S is not funny; it is just that it is too much of a dumb and slapstick comedy to interest me. It definitely has its moments with the prom video episode etc. But yet, it fails to evoke the chuckle which Seinfeld does.

I have observed that most of us Indians are bigger fans of F.R.I.E.N.D.S than Seinfeld. I think the biggest reason for this is that F.R.I.E.N.D.S was telecast way before Seinfeld in India and so people started following it with a passion. Not many people realize that the basic premise of F.R.I.E.N.D.S was taken from Seinfeld. Seinfeld was the one of the first sitcom which had its main characters completely unrelated to each other. Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer were just friends with no blood ties. Most of the sitcoms before that had a family as a central theme and the stories were built around it.

Now let us talk about the sitcoms as a source of entertainment. Both of these provided wholesome laughter and fun. However, when we compare these two sitcoms with each other, I think that Seinfeld wins hands down. The episodes were funny and intelligent. Agreed that there were some slapstick moments but in the larger scheme of things, Seinfeld was more of an intelligent comedy as compared to F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Seinfeld was one of the earliest TV series which was described as ‘post modern’.

Seinfeld has some brilliantly executed episodes which leave an indelible impression. I mean what can get better than ‘The Chinese Restaurant’, ‘The Soup Nazi’, ‘The Contest’, ‘The Marine Biologist’, ‘The Bubble Boy’ etc. These episodes are pure classics. I would be scratching my heads to name some episodes of F.R.I.E.N.D.S which can match the aforementioned Seinfeld Episodes. Seinfeld has more variety in humor as compared to F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Also, what is really appealing about Seinfeld was the matter-of-fact style of storytelling. It was described as a ‘show about nothing’ and that is what it is. The story evolves within the episodes and characters play around it. When I see F.R.I.E.N.D.S, I feel that many of the situations are forced upon the characters and the story caters to them. However, in Seinfeld, it is the other way round where the story determines the character flow. This leads me to the conclusion that Seinfeld is more situational based than F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Also, F.R.I.E.N.D.S is based on mushy relationships and this sometimes gets in the way of being a pure comedy. Most of the Seinfeld episodes are based on real life experiences and this gives a feeling that ‘anyone of us can land up in a similar situation’.

Even character comparison has Seinfeld top F.R.I.E.N.D.S big time. The characters in Seinfeld, unlike in F.R.I.E.N.D.S where they were loud and gaudy, are everyday normal people like us. I think the weakest link in Seinfeld characters was Jerry Seinfeld himself. And he was not bad at all. This in itself says a lot about the other characters. Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) might not have been as hot as Rachel; but she was definitely a better actress than any of the ones from F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Also, the characters in Seinfeld have a certain aura which is missing from the guys in F.R.I.E.N.D.S. No doubt that the guys in F.R.I.E.N.D.S have acted brilliantly, however, it is just their characterization which pales in comparison to the actors from Seinfeld. I feel that most of the times the actors in F.R.I.E.N.D.S come across as goofy and lost. I mean Joey from F.R.I.E.N.D.S was as dumb as one can get and sometimes it really gets too stereotypical. The alter ego for Joey in Seinfeld would be Kramer (Michael Richards) and I can definitely vouch that Kramer is anything but dumb. Eccentric - Yes but no ways can Kramer be called a bozo with no brains. And let’s not forget: Seinfeld gave us the best character in the history of US sitcom – GEORGE COSTANZA. George is as big a loser as one can find. He is miserable and envious of others. He couldn’t care less when his fiancée dies because of his negligence. He is someone you would love to hate. In spite of all his negative traits, he is thick with Jerry and manages to date girls and get different jobs. The way his character has been presented is plain brilliant. And it has been ably enacted by Jason Alexander. I can bet my money that no character in F.R.I.E.N.D.S can measure up to the mark set by George.

Another thing which differentiates F.R.I.E.N.D.S and Seinfeld is the remarkable recurring minor characters in Seinfeld. Newman character (brilliantly portrayed by Wayne Knight) makes one laugh as soon as he comes on the screen. Jerry’s parents (Morty and Helen Seinfeld), George’s parents (Frank and Estelle Costanza), J Peterman, David Puddy etc all have played their parts flawlessly. Dearth of good recurring characters in F.R.I.E.N.D.S sometimes went against it because the show lost novelty in the later seasons on its run. People got a little tired of seeing the same 6 guys on the screen with a few sprinkled others around.

Seinfeld managed to catch the imagination of the masses in a way which F.R.I.E.N.D.S could and will never. Some of the phrases used in Seinfeld have become a part of the folklore. Terms like ‘Yada Yada Yada’, ‘Man Hands’, ‘Shrinkage’, ‘Double Dip’ etc have become a part of everyday conversation. I cannot remember any such phrases from F.R.I.E.N.D.S which caught everyone’s imagination.

Although F.R.I.E.N.D.S has carved a niche for itself in the sitcom world, Seinfeld will always remain a better comedy and a critical favorite. The awards won by the Seinfeld crew for their acting as well the show itself is pertinent to the fact that it is one of the best sitcoms ever to grace the US television. Entertainment Weekly and other magazine have unanimously voted Seinfeld as one of the top 3 shows in the last quarter of a century. I highly doubt that F.R.I.E.N.D.S will ever be as well accepted and recognized as Seinfeld has been!

This post has become more of homage to Seinfeld than the comparison between the two shows. But then, what the hell, Seinfeld is one show which definitely deserves all the praise it can get. I am sure that there are people out there who will disagree with this post of mine primarily because of their love for F.R.I.E.N.D.S. But as I said, this is my personal opinion, which is further vindicated by the awards and critical acclaim garnered by Seinfeld which can never be matched by F.R.I.E.N.D.S. And so I say---- SEINFELD ROCKS!!!!!

Until Later,

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Latest Read: '2 States'....An prequel to the review

Hi Folks, Hope all's well. Been kind of busy with work and so have not posted much of late. I just finished reading '2 States' by Chetan Bhagat. Expect a review sometime soon.

Regarding '2 States': although the book so cliché and toes the expected line, it is an awesome read. I mean the one liners in the book will definitely make you smile and also the writing style of Chetan Bhagat is simple yet mesmerizing. Definitely worth a read. Expect a detailed review later.

Until Later,

Thursday, November 19, 2009

'The Lost Symbol' Review

I recently read Dan Brown’s latest offering, ‘The Lost Symbol’ and have to say that I was not disappointed. Wait, not because the book is a jaw dropping thriller or something; but because it falls in line with most of Dan Brown books: uninspiring, tepid and average.

I have been really surprised by Dan Brown’s regression since his ‘Angels and Demons’ days. I have always maintained that Dan Brown is a very average writer. However, his first couple of books (‘Angels and Demons’ and ‘Da Vinci Code’) though weakly written, were taut thrillers with intrigue and suspense which more than made up for his weak story telling abilities. However his next couple of books (‘Deception Point’ and ‘Digital Fortress’) were absolute disasters. And his latest offering ‘The Lost Symbol’ follows his regression pattern with a very weak story and clichés.

The story in the book is really formulaic with an improbable plot. Washington DC is the center of the story with Masonic connections. The story follows Robert Langdon who, on behest of a call from his friend Peter Solomon lands in DC to find out that the call was made by a scheming villain in search of some hidden secrets. The book then follows the typical Dan Brown formula: a threat to mankind by a ruthless individual who wants Langdon to solve some scripts and clues to get to his destiny. I mean, haven’t we all read the same thing in ‘The Davinci Code’ and ‘Angels and Demons’?

Free Mason leader Peter Solomon has entrusted Langdon with a pyramid capstone which he must guard at any cost. If someone gets the capstone and completes the pyramid, he/she will find a way to get to the hidden mysteries of the Masons which might spell doom for the world as it stands right now. The book follows the journey of Langdon from Boston to DC and his duel with the villain, Malakh. In the process, he is ably supported by Katherine Solomon, who is Peter’s sister and by; now hold your thoughts here; the CIA Director of National Security!!!!! Now since when did CIA start interfering in local law enforcement? Last I knew, CIA was not supposed to be doing that. Also, if you read the book all the way, you will realize that the world changing mystery is not something really earth shattering! I do not want to give out the spoiler here because it will undermine the patience of all those who have so far managed to get half way through the book. The mystery is something which is found everywhere and not at some inconspicuous corner of earth. Now, if that is the case, why solve all the codes and mystery puzzles!!! The mystery surrounding Malakh is so lame that I figured it out within a few pages of the book. And this is true with regards to other readers I have talked to. The central theme of the book is some ancient mysteries which were discovered by some Masons. However, these mysteries are never revealed throughout the book and finally we realize that the mystery does not really exist; it is something we all are aware of but just not deciphering it correctly. The ending of the whole book is totally anti climatic. I mean the whole book keeps talking about codes and clues that will solve the greatest mysteries of earth. And at the end, it becomes a cropper. The clues basically do not lead to anything earth shattering.

Another thing which the book does is undermines the intelligence of its central characters. Now, we all know the Langdon is a brilliant professor and all. But how can he be so naïve that he flies out to DC after just speaking to his friend’s secretary without any confirmation from Peter. To top it all, he also gets the capstone, supposedly because Peter needs it!!!!! Also, Katherine Solomon is a brilliant scientist. Yet, she does not care to take back ups of all her work done so far. Also, she trusts someone who she has hardly met and lets him into her supposedly ‘most secretive’ lab who no one else has access to! The CIA director cannot comprehend a way to stop Langdon from escaping! Why would the villain not kill Langdon and Katherine once they have helped him decipher the pyramid? Also, why does Brown always need to pull off romance out of the hat in all his books? It is so cliché and reminds me of typical Bollywood movies where romance ‘does’ have to be a part.

I think what Dan Brown wants to convey through this mish mash of a story is that humans have enormous potential and if channeled properly can achieve dizzying success. They would not then need to depend on various doctrines as specified by religious zealots for progress of mankind. However, I believe that the book is just a work of adventure and fantasy which the author has created because of his familiarity with history, symbolism, art, science and architecture. In no way is the author trying to challenge the Superior Power and everyone's beliefs in Him. At least I hope so. And in case he is trying to undermine the influence of religion and God, trust me, he is not going to be successful with the kind of weak plot he has in this book.

One thing this book will definitely do is increase the number of tourists going to Washington DC; especially to the Library of Congress to explore the architecture and secret tunnels through the building. This book is definitely not the hype it created. You won’t miss much if you give it a skip.

Until Later,

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Next Posts

I am currently working on a couple of new posts. Just finished reading 'The Lost Symbol' by Dan Brown and will write a review on that in the next couple of days. The other post is my insights on decisions made my people to stay in foriegn land and their take on patriotism.

Currently in the process of reading 'The Forever War' by Dexter Filkins. So far the book has been an amazing experience. Will let you gus know once am done with it.

Till Later,

Wake up Sid! Review

I happened to see ‘Wake Up Sid’ a few weeks ago. Although the movie lacked a very concrete plot, there were many riveting sub plots which made the movie a great watch. The screenplay, flow of the story and direction by rookie Ayan Mukerji were absolutely first class. However, what makes the movie really worth the dollar is the lead pair of Konkana Sen Sharma and Ranbir Kapoor brilliantly supported by the other actors. We all know the Konkana Sen Sharma is an amazing actress. But I think the revelation of the movie has been Ranbir Kapoor. With an author backed role, Ranbir Kapoor has come into his own and given a smashing performance.

Ranbir Kapoor as ‘Sid’ is a young and delinquent son of a rich industrialist (Anupam Kher) who is completely aimless in life without any motivation. He takes his easy going life for granted and his life basically revolves around partying and enjoying with his friends; his only passion being photography. However, with all these fallacies, there are certain characteristics of Sid like his love for friends, zest for life etc which make him loveable. He meets Aisha Banerjee (Konkana Sen Sharma) at his farewell party and they soon hit it off in spite of having contrasting personalities; as different as chalk and cheese. Aisha is a free spirited and self confident individual who has come to Mumbai (Bombay) to live her dream of becoming a writer. She lands up with a job of Editor’s assistant at a very well known magazine where she meets Rahul Khanna who is her boss whom she is immediately attracted to.

Sid’s reactions after failing in his final exams create a rift between friends and him. This also leads to him leaving his house after a bitter fight with his father and he lands up at Aisha’s place and starts living with her. Still used to the carefree lifestyle, Sid does not adjust to his new life and this creates tension between him and Aisha. Certain events after that make Sid take a step back and circumspect his life so far. He realizes his follies and starts a career in photography at Aisha’s magazine. Slowly but surely, he makes up with his friends and more importantly his family. He moved out of Aisha’s house and goes back to his parents’ place where he soon realizes that he loves Aisha and his feelings are equally reciprocated.

The movie is very much a metro centric film with Mumbai being at the centre of the whole movie. I am sure any youngsters who have watched this movie will instantly relate to Sid’s character. It takes us back to the era when everything was fun, when there were no responsibilities’ partying with friends took precedence over college and studies. It depicts a life which I am sure most of us have lived and enjoyed. It also takes an eagle’s eye view on the differences between the older generation and the Gen X.

It is not only the theme of the movie which makes it exciting. The characters play their roles to perfection. Special mention must be given here to Sid’s friend Lakshmi (Shikha Talsania) who has given a commendable performance. Anupam Kher and Supriya Pathak as Sid’s parents are believable and act well. But then that is expected of these veterans. Rahul Khanna is wasted in the movie and does not get any screen space to show his histrionics. The music of the movie by Shankar – Ehsaan – Loy is melodious with ‘Ek taara’ deserving a special mention.

Although the first half blows you away, the movie does have a little slack in the second half but then in the overall scheme of things, the movie is brilliant. The direction is as said; top notch. Ayan Mukerji packs a punch with most of the scenes which hit you hard. There is a subtle softness in Konkana’s character which is well depicted by the director. Ditto with Ranbir’s confusion with life and his escapist attitude. There are a few scenes in the movie which are amazingly well enacted and directed. Some of the special mentions here would be: Ranbir’s reaction to his failing the exams where you can see the pains he is going through; Ranbir celebrating Konkana’s birthday; Ranbir and Shikha’s scene at Konkana’s house; Konkana’s perseverance about getting Rahul Khanna to read her story; Ranbir going to meet his mother where they share a heart to heart.

All in all, this is a Ranbir Kapoor movie and he has done full justice to it as urban, suave Sid. A definite must watch for young and old alike. The best part about the movie is that it does not give a judgmental view on any generations. It just takes the views of each and lays them before us giving us a choice to decide the pros and cons of the views.

Lastly, as someone who has lived the best part of his young life in Mumbai (Bombay), I can definitely confirm this. BOMBAY ROCKS MAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Till Later,


Thursday, November 12, 2009

'Crash' Movie Review

I happened to see ‘Crash’ last week for like the 5th time. For records, I absolutely love the movie and the way it depicts simple human nature and emotions. And I am still not over the fact that Paul Haggis did not win the Best Director Academy for it! (Ang Lee won it for ‘Brokeback Mountain’).

What is really like about Crash is the way each character in the movie depicts and emotes their thoughts in a clear yet subtle way. From Don Cheadle to Shaun Tobb to Matt Dillon to Ryan Philippe, all of them played their roles without being over the top. And the best part of all this is that the actors play roles which you would least expect them to. Be it Shaun Tobb’s pain and anguish over his shop being ransacked or the confused Sandra Bullock’s hatred for men of color or the 2 black guys’ take on racial discrepancy in LA or the young girl’s innocence over the magical cloak or a mom’s take on her two sons albeit mixed with confusion and blind love strikes a chord somewhere within you and leaves you with indelible thoughts.

The basic plot of the movie consists of 5-6 stories that come together at the end. The movie starts with Don Cheadle and his partner’s car hit by an Asian women. While the women are fighting over the matter of fault, Cheadle walks over to a scene of crime where he eventually finds out that it is his brother who has been killed. The movie takes place in about a 24 hour time period and racism plays a role of paramount importance. The complexity of the movie comes from characters’ tangled lives and world. The way each character is developed over the movie obliterates any preconception we have about it. Each of the character in the movie undergoes a metamorphosis of some sort which leaves them with an unsettling thought about their existence. Some scenes in the movie simply take your breath away. Be it the way Terrence Howard fights his demons about being black, Matt Dillon’s relationship with his sick father, Ryan Philippe’s helplessness, Carlos Pena and his daughter’s scenes, Cheadle’s grief or Sandra Bullock’s and her maid’s relationship which eventually makes Bullock realize her own fallacies; each one has a message and enacted brilliantly by the actors.

What makes Crash all the more enjoyable is it brilliant soundtrack. It is absolutely mesmerizing and goes with the flow of the movie. The cinematography of the movie is top notch too. Camera shots at various angles with close up of the characters with their expressions and the overall shots show more emotions and speak more and better than any dialogue.

The thing that would is the eventual winner is its editing. Brilliantly edited scenes do not allow any let ups and the flow of the movie is just breathtaking. Never in the movie will you find lags between scenes and there is no break whatsoever. The editing is a magical and maintains the balance of the movie without it getting crappy. No wonder Hughes Winborne won the Oscar for the editing.

All in all, a brilliant movie which takes an honest look into the racism prevalent in society with a subtle message for hope. It is definitely a controversial movie which will evoke mixed responses within masses. But as far as I am concerned, the movie definitely deserves all the praise and awards which it received. The acting, music, editing, cinematography and characterization make this movie definitely worthwhile. Simply put, a must see for all movie buffs!!!!