Saturday, July 30, 2011

Film Review: SINGHAM


An out-and-out masala flick with Ajay Devgn in full-blown action

Cast: Ajay Devgn, Kajal Aggarwal, Prakash Raj, Sonali Kulkarni, Sachin Khedekar, Ashok Saraf
Director: Rohit Shetty

This film is a remake of the Tamil film SINGAM starring Surya & Prakash Raj. This version was simply superb and I really enjoyed it. When my husband suggested that we go for the Hindi version, I made sure I left my analytical mind at home and decided to just watch it for what it’s worth.

THE STORY: The straightforward Inspector Kadam is driven to suicide when he takes on the might of Jaykant Shikre (Prakash Raj) and his henchmen in Goa. Moreover, Kadam’s name has been dragged through mud. His wife Megha (Sonali Kulkarni) is desperate to get justice done. But there seems to be no policeman or politician who is ready to help her.

Bajirao Singham (Ajay Devgn) is in charge of a police station in a small coastal town in the Goa-Maharashtra border. He is too straightforward and the town consisting of mostly relatives, has a peaceful existence. Soon, Jaykant Shikre happens on the town and drags Bajirao to Goa with a transfer order. Thus begins the war between good and evil. It’s anybody’s guess as to what or who wins.

MY PERCEPTION: Ajay Devgn is back in an action film after a continuous string of comedies. He is good, looking super-fit and acting well. The extreme fight sequences are straight out of Tamil cinema – toooooo much of it.

Prakash Raj was excellent as the villain. Congrats! Sonali Kulkarni as the widow of the inspector who committed suicide has a good role and she has executed that well.

Kajal Aggarwal was ‘okay’ as Ajay Devgn’s love interest – could have done much better especially considering the role is not very lengthy.

Sachin Khedekar and his histrionics bring forth a few laughs while Ashok Saraf was quite boring.

I am glad the film was not an absolute frame-to-frame copy of the Tamil version and there were a few sequences that were different from the original.

VERDICT: Total time-pass. You can watch it if you like such films or are a fan of Ajay Devgn.

RATING: *** Smart

* Silly
** Shaky
*** Smart
**** Snazzy
***** Super

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Film Review: HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – Part 2


Excellent Movie! This review has loads of spoilers. If you are planning to see it and don't have a clue about the story, DO NOT READ THE REVIEW!

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman, Matthew Lewis, Tom Felton, Robbie Coltrane
Director: David Yates

I continued to keep the book out of my mind when I went to see the eighth and last film of the Harry Potter series. It helped a lot and I watched the movie for the sake of it. Actually, I watched the film a week ago but never got around to write the review.

THE STORY: The film takes off from where Part 1 ended with Dobby’s death. Harry Potter and his friends Ron and Hermione persuade Griphook, the goblin, into breaking into Gringotts with them. They need to get into Bellatrix’s vault to find Hufflepuff’s cup – a horcrux.

Later, the three go to Hogwarts to find the horcrux hidden there. They don’t have a clue as to what the horcrux is. They meet Aberforth Dumbledore (Professor Dumbledore’s brother) and with his help get into Hogwarts with Neville. The old DA members have made the ‘room of requirement’ their home.

While Harry Potter sets off to find the Horcrux, Professor McGonagall holds the fort (literally) along with the other heads of houses, to keep Voldemort and his followers out. The new headmaster, Professor Snape runs away to join his evil master.

Soon, war breaks out at Hogwarts. Watch the film to see the outcome.

MY PERCEPTION: The film is the darkest of the lot, metaphorically and literally too – just as expected. Hogwarts’ portrayal is simply amazing.

Daniel Radcliffe has grown handsomer and has acted too well. He has got better and better with the film series and this one is his best.

The scene that moved me to tears was the one where Snape breaks down holding Lily Potter’s dead body in his arms. Alan Rickman has been consistently excellent in all the eight films.

Emma Watson and Rupert Grint have done their best, which is very good. Matthew Lewis as Neville Longbottom deserves a mention - he was very good in the last film.

The trio’s escape from Gringotts riding on the guardian dragon was very well shot and the fight sequences were simply amazing.

The wizard war late into the night with spells throwing up sudden light in the surrounding darkness gives one goose bumps – a visual treat indeed.

The scene I liked best was when Professor McGonagall utters the spell ‘piertotum locomotor’ and the suits of armour jump down from their positions. Just loved this one!

The film was portrayed well as regards the clash between good and evil - Harry and Voldemort. But at the same time, the impact of all those deaths was pushed to the background. I felt that it was not good enough. The deaths of Fred Weasley, Lupin, Tonks, Colin Creevey and more were just not given any kind of importance. Pretty sad!

19 AD of Voldemort… It was a cutely made sequence where Daniel Radcliffe was the best of the lot.

VERDICT: If you are a Harry Potter fan, you must have already seen this. If not, it’s definitely worth a watch.

RATING: **** Snazzy

* Silly
** Shaky
*** Smart
**** Snazzy
***** Super

Monday, July 18, 2011

Film Review: ZINDAGI NA MILEGI DOBARA



Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Abhay Deol, Farhan Akhtar, Katrina Kaif, Kalki Koechlin
Director: Zoya Akhtar

THE STORY: Kabir (Abhay Deol) proposes marriage to Natasha (Kalki Koechlin) and they get engaged much to the thrill of both sets of parents. His best friend Imraan (Farhan Akhtar) goes to the engagement while a third friend Arjun (Hrithik Roshan), living in London, does not attend.

As the film moves on, we get to understand that the Three Musketeers – as the friends are called – have grown up together and are extremely close. Kabir is a millionaire working for his family’s construction business; Imraan works as copywriter for an advertising agency and Arjun wheels and deals at the London Stock Exchange.

The three men plan a holiday in Spain before Kabir gets back home to tie the knot with Natasha. You need to see the film to find out how the holiday changes their lives forever.

MY PERCEPTION: You need to decide whether you want to read from here on as there might be a few spoilers. If you have not seen the film and plan to do so, this is the point you STOP READING.

The movie takes off on a light note with the first half full of witty dialogues that keep the audience laughing away. Thank you Farhan Akhtar for the clean language – it was an absolute relief after Delhi Belly (no offence to that film, of course).

The characters are amazingly sketched. Kabir is all funny and a great tease. But he is a different man in his fianc√©e’s presence. We realize later that he is not in love with Natasha but has been kind of steam-rollered into making a proposal of marriage. While he is loyal to her, he also takes life quite lightly. Imagine his shock when he finds out that Natasha believes that marriage is so serious that she is ready to give up her career as an Interior Decorator and make him her sole purpose in life. It takes the effort of both his friends and a 3-week holiday away from her for Kabir to get his priorities right. Abhay Deol has delivered one more hit.

Imraan works as a copywriter, and also writes poetry. He is very angry with his mother (Deepti Naval) for not having told him who his real father is. He had believed his mother’s husband to be his father and had been too close to him until his death. He finds out that Salman (Naseeruddin Shah) is his father after the foster one dies. Shocked that his mother could keep this from him, he stays away from her. Later, meeting Salman in person in Spain makes him value his mother better. The meeting between Salman and Imraan shook up not just the latter, but me too. While Salman’s behavior does not fall in with what we believe to be humanitarian values, it’s wholly acceptable from his point of view. “You did ask for the truth,” he says and we catch on. Imraan’s tears touch you very powerfully at this point. Later, when he apologises to Arjun for taking away his girlfriend years ago, you can see the healing take place as the ‘sorry’ is from the heart. Farhan Akhtar Rocks!

Arjun eats, sleeps and breathes money. He has always led life from the poor side of town and he wants to make it BIG before retiring at 40, he insists. He wheels and deals at the stock market and refuses to stop working even during the holiday. It takes Laila (Katrina Kaif) and her deep-sea diving instructions to make Arjun take a new outlook on life. Arjun does not swim as he is afraid. His friends pressure him into joining them on the deep-sea diving adventure and Kabir insists that not knowing swimming is no excuse. Left with no choice, Arjun let’s go of the fierce control that he has over his life for the first time. And learns to live as a result! He sheds tears after the amazing experience under the sea. Hrithik Roshan – what to say? After watching Kites, I had sort of given up on the actor. The film was so disappointing in all ways. I did not watch Guzaarish as I am not a fan of Sanjay Leela Bansali’s work.

But Hrithik Roshan was simply amazing in this film. He is sizzling hooooooootttt for one thing. He emotes beautifully. I suppose Hrithik’s acting skills depends a lot on the director. As the snooty man who is interested more in money than anything else, as the one reduced to tears after deep-sea diving and later the one who crosses over into ‘living life’, Hrithik was simply awesome. Kudos Hrithik!

Katrina Kaif as Laila was very good in her role. You can see that she has worked hard on improving her acting skills and she is getting better and better at it. Of course, she still has some way to go. Congratulations Katrina!

Kalki Koechlin as Natasha was excellent in her role. Way to go Kalki!

The music by Shankar Ehsaan Loy was just perfect for the film. Most of the songs were in the background and a fitting accolade to the meandering roads of Spain as our heroes travel through the country. The ‘senorita’ song and dance sequence was lovely and all the three heroes of the film who have given their voices for the song have performed well. It was Farhan’s voice that stood out amongst the three.

The cinematography was wonderful and it was a pleasure seeing Spain from the film’s angle. The tomatina festival and the bull-race were well-portrayed.

Congratulations Zoya Akhtar for delivering a lovely movie!

VERDICT: If you love life, you will not miss this one. Absolute fun in the first half, the second half sets you thinking very deeply.

RATING: **** Snazzy
(I did not give full 5 stars as I felt that the movie could have been a tighter fit with half an hour less of it)

* Silly
** Shaky
*** Smart
**** Snazzy
***** Super

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Book Review: HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX by JK Rowling


Harry is terribly upset with everyone – his godfather Sirius, Professor Dumbledore and especially his best friends Ron and Hermione. No one seems to be interested in getting in touch with him. 

The fifth book is darker yet. It begins with Harry and his cousin Dudley coming across a couple of dementors very close to home. Harry just manages to save Dudley from having his soul sucked out. Harry’s uncle is terribly angry – not that he is able to do anything about it. That’s also when Harry finds out that Mundungus Fletcher has been keeping an eye on him on Dumbledore’s instructions.

Harry performs the patronus charm to drive away the dementors and the ministry of magic sends him a letter by owl post insisting that he would be expelled from Hogwarts for performing underage magic outside the school. After a while, he receives another owl post where Harry is ordered to present himself for a hearing at the ministry of magic. 

A group of friendly wizards including Mad-eyed Moody, Lupin and Tonks come to Privet Drive and take Harry with them to No. 12 Grimmauld Place, which is the headquarters for the Order of Phoenix.

The Order of Phoenix is a group of wizards who have volunteered to work underground to overthrow Lord Voldemort. 

Sirius Black is also a part of the order and so is Professor Snape, much to Harry’s shock. While he does not trust Snape, it looks like Dumbledore thinks differently.

There is the hearing at the ministry and then Harry receives instructions from Dumbledore to learn Occlumency from Professor Snape. All in all, Harry begins to hate life at school. Lord Voldemort seems to have a strong connection with Harry and the latter is able to read you-know-who’s thoughts and feel his emotions. While Dumbledore insists that this has to stop, Harry is not too keen. 

The result of Harry’s refusal to learn Occlumency leads him into a load of trouble.

Professor Umbridge is assigned the post of defense against the dark arts teacher by the ministry of magic. It appears that she is actually there to spy on Dumbledore and his school. I do not want to say too much about this lady as you might rather want to read about her. 

There’s mayhem as Umbridge refuses to let anyone learn defense against the dark arts practically. That’s when Hermione comes up with the idea of Harry teaching DADA to anyone who is interested. Dumbledore’s Army is formed. 

Unable to learn Occlumency, Harry is lured into the department of mysteries at the ministry of magic and that’s where he comes face to face with the evil Voldemort’ followers, the death eaters. 

While the earlier four Harry Potter Books were more fun, this one gets quite serious with unexpected turns that shake up the reader. While Voldemort has been planning a comeback since Book 1, this book makes it obvious that he is back and right there at the ministry. 

The scene on the magical brethren at the ministry of magic; the many rooms and the mysteries they hide at the department of mysteries; Harry, Ron, Hermione, Neville, Ginny and Luna travelling by thestrals (magical flying horses that can be seen only by those who have seen death); the room of requirement becoming the meeting place for Dumbledore’s Army are some of the amazing highlights of this book. 

Do not miss this one. I would advise everyone to read the books in the order they were published. If you like magic, then the Harry Potter books are a must read.      

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Book Review: HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE

The story begins with a murder committed far away from Hogwarts. Yes, this one is way darker than the first three Harry Potter books. JK Rowling has handled this superbly well. The children who must have been lapping up the books were also growing along with Harry Potter. The negative picture of the story has been introduced in stages. Excellent!

Harry goes to stay at the Weasleys home towards the end of the summer holidays. Harry, Ron and Hermione get the opportunity of a lifetime – to go to the Quidditch World Cup match along with Mr. Weasley, Percy, Fred, George and Ginny. The ground where the match is to take place is totally bewitched with more than a million witches and wizards from around the world coming together to watch the match. One has to read the sequence to understand the magnitude of the author’s imagination as she describes the scene. Then, there is the match itself with the veelas (introducing yet another batch of magical creatures in the form of beautiful women) and Leprechauns fighting it out (literally) on behalf of the players of their countries.

There is Barty Crouch from the ministry and Ludo Bagman who is supposed to be in charge of organizing the match - interesting characters that move the story along.

 The Dark Mark is set off immediately after the match and the Death Eaters (Lord Voldemort’s followers) are rather excited. This brings about the question whether the evil Voldemort is coming back.

The fourth year begins at Hogwarts and this year, they get yet another defense against the dark arts teacher in the form of Professor Moody. Moody has the oddest appearance that one could have ever seen. Beautifully described! He wears a bright blue ball for one eye that rotates fast giving him a 360 degree view, even through Moody’s own head. This eye has given the professor the name Mad-eye Moody. While he does not hesitate to train the students in the forbidden curses, he is so far the best teacher they have had in the subject. Moody takes a liking to Harry and vice versa. But is he what he appears to be?

Then there is the Triwizard Tournament to take place between Hogwarts and two foreign magic schools – Durmstrang and Beauxbatons. Three champions – one from each school – are to compete in the tournament. Students who are interested in participating and are above the age of 17 are only allowed to put their names written on parchments into the Goblet of Fire. No one could cheat the age line drawn around the goblet by Dumbledore.

Fortunately or unfortunately, someone has added Harry’s name (he is underage) to the goblet. The magical goblet chooses four champions – Viktor Krum from Durmstrang; Fleur Delacour from Beauxbatons; Cedric Diggory from Hogwarts and Harry Potter from Hogwarts. Ron is quite cut up with Harry as he believes that Harry has used special magic to add his name to the fire.

While the delegations from the other schools are not happy to have two champions from Hogwarts, Dumbledore is worried about Harry’s participation in the tournament. But, Harry has no choice as he is magically bound to do it as his name was thrown out of the Goblet of Fire.

Adventures galore involving dragons, mer-people and a dark maze follow. The tournament leads to the climax that is as amazing as it is incredible. One has to read it to believe it. I remember reading the last few chapters a few times before I could fully absorb that Lord Voldemort was finally back.

Priori Incantatem was simply amazing! You have to read the book to check it out for yourself. I read, breathed, woke up and slept magic for weeks together on reading this book the first time. The ninth time was no different, believe me. 

Absolutely fascinating! While one part of your mind might feel that Harry is too young to face such things in life, the logical follow up of events convince you that he is the perfect hero.

Love you Harry Potter and love you JK Rowling for giving birth to Harry!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Book Review: HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF ASKABAN by JK Rowling

Harry and his friends go to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for the third year. Just before they get back to school, a prisoner – Sirius Black – escapes the wizard prison, Askaban. He is supposed to be a crazy murderer and from Lord Voldemort’s side. Is that the truth?

Then there is Buckbeak, the hippogriff – yet another fantastical creature brought to the school by Hagrid. While Hagrid is absolutely fascinated by such beasts, the school students – especially those belonging to Slytherin – Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle – don’t agree. Black and Buckbeak are both in danger of being killed by the Ministry Of Magic officials. Will Harry and his friends be able to save them?

For the first time, the students have a good – no, great – defense against the dark arts teacher in the form of Professor Lupin. But, what they don’t know is that he is a werewolf. While Snape helps Lupin with the perfectly made potion so that the latter feels better, the former can’t wait to let everyone know that Lupin is a werewolf.

Ron and Harry also take up the new subject, Divination, much to their regret. Professor Trelawney keeps predicting Harry’s death during every class. If she had had her way, Harry would have died a few hundred times during his third year.

Dementor – another magical being introduced in this book. But unlike most others, Dementors are horrid creatures that suck the happiness out of souls and if allowed the souls themselves. Harry learns to make a ‘patronus’ to chase away the dementors. There is no witch or wizard his age who could produce a full-fledged patronus.

Hermione takes up three times as many subjects as the rest of the other students. While Ron and Harry wonder how she manages to get to all her classes, they realize towards the end of the year that she uses a time-turner that takes her back in time to attend all the classes. Amazing bit of magic! I am sure all of us would love to own this one.

Fred and George gift Harry a special parchment – a secret marauder’s map – that helps him know where everyone is within Hogwarts. Another fascinating object that had been created by Harry’s own father and his best friends.

Coping with his lessons, dementors, Quiddich and more, read the book to see how Harry and his friends manage through this year.

Over and above, they are set a special task by Professor Dumbledore and the threesome do manage to complete that successfully too.

Fascinating book with a lot of meat and keeps you begging for more!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Book Review: HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS by JK Rowling

The second book in the Harry Potter series begins with Harry going to Hogwarts School for the second year. Thanks to Dobby, Harry and Ron are unable to get into Platform 9 ¾ and manage to get to the school using a flying car. While the boys get into a load of trouble for this unconventional entry, they have had fun, blissfully unaware of the danger that they could have got into.

This year, there is more to study while the rumour is that the Chamber of Secrets has been opened for the second time in fifty years. A great sense of curiosity and the need to resolve unsolved mysteries leads Harry and his best friends Ron and Hermione into yet another adventure to kill the Basilisk that lies way under the school.

Gilderoy Lockhart – what a realistic character. He’s handsome and women drool over him especially considering the number of his heroic achievements. Along with that is woven his obvious vain nature - simply superb!

Dobby – the house-elf so reminds me of Casper, the friendly ghost. I keep imagining Casper every time I read about Dobby – so cute, so loyal and so painfully helpful.

Then there is Ginny who is terribly conscious of Harry; Tom Marvolo Riddle – as evil as he is handsome; more of Quiddich, Malfoy, Snape, Fred & George.

Then there is Fawkes, the phoenix – totally fascinating. Imagine being healed in an instant by the tears of the phoenix from nothing less than a snake’s venom! I like!

This book made me look forward to the third one eagerly.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Book Review: HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE by JK Rowling

     I know it’s been years since the book has been published. So what? I read it for the 9th time and suddenly felt the urge to write about this one. I feel the need to contribute my two-bit to this much talked-about book that has a cult following. 
     I fell in love with Harry Potter the first time I read this book – some time in 1999, I think. And all that magic surrounding him – I just lapped it all up. The characters that pop out of the book and dance in front of one’s eyes as you read the words is nothing short of amazing – I got transported into a different realm. Ron, Hermione, Hagrid, Neville, Dumbledore, Malfoy, Snape and most important of all – you-know-who – what kind of research and imagination must have come together to create these!
     I hated the Dursleys more than Harry did – Vernon, Petunia and Dudley. I loved talking to the snake through Harry and felt thrilled when it got its freedom. I got quite excited when Harry found out that he was a wizard and got a chance to go to Hogwarts. I was thrilled with every single adventure that Harry underwent at the tender age of eleven – feeling sad for his losses and mistreatment while feeling envious about the magic he was connected to. I hated Snape and Malfoy and wanted to hit out at them on Harry’s behalf.
     Every time Harry lifted his wand to perform a spell, I could feel my right hand twitching. I have lived and breathed Harry Potter and can’t have enough of him. 
     The magic spells, Hogwarts' Express, 9 3/4 Platform, the invisibility cloak, the Mirror of Erised, the moving photographs, the magical staircases and corridors, the paintings, the ghosts, parsel-tongue, muggles – give me more, please!
     How can I forget Quiddich? Such a complicated game and described so clearly and precisely. It was such a thrill when Harry becomes the youngest seeker. I soared on the broom every time Harry took off in it. 
     I just loved every aspect of the book and each time I read it – it takes me a couple of weeks to recover from the fantasy world and get back to normal. 
     Ms. JK Rowling – thank you for weaving magic!  

Monday, July 4, 2011

Film Review: DELHI BELLY


Delhi Belly

Cast: Imran Khan, Shenaz Treasury, Vir Das, Kunal Roy Kapoor, Vijay Raaz, Poona Jagannathan
Director: Abhinay Deo

I went to see Delhi Belly along with my family on the day of the film’s release. We went for the 8.45 pm show wading through heavy rains. We avoided taking the car as Cinemax Sion is pretty close to our home and finding parking on a Saturday at the theatre is ‘no go’.

It rained so badly that I wondered why I was bothering to go at all as I was kind of worried that I might find the movie heavy-going on swear-words and obscene language. Well, we did go and see the film and it was not just the language that was obscene. Read on for more…

THE STORY: Tashi (Imran Khan), Nitin (Kunal Roy Kapoor) and Arup (Vir Das) are three bachelors who stay in a dilapidated apartment in Delhi’s belly. Tashi is a journalist whose girlfriend is airhostess Sonia (Shenaz Treasury – yeah, you read right, that’s what the credits said). Nitin is a photographer who accompanies Tashi on his stories while Arup is a cartoonist who works for a horrible boss. To help a friend, Sonia agrees to smuggle a parcel for a foreigner not knowing that she is actually helping him bring diamonds out through customs. Not realizing the value of the parcel that she is carrying, she hands it over to Tashi to deliver. He in turn passes it on to Nitin who falls sick. Nitin requests Arup to deliver the parcel along with a sample of his stools that he is to give at the testing centre. You can guess the line of events that follow when Arup delivers the diamonds at the medical centre and the stools to Somayajulu (Vijay Raaz) who would kill at the least provocation and these are diamonds, after all. I am not saying any more here to avoid spoilers. 

MY PERCEPTION: Well, I have to mention that every single sentence uttered in the film carries at least one four-letter word. The script-writer has made sure that even one dialogue is not left out in his write-up. You need to be some kind of genius to achieve this, I suppose. I have to mention here that the gen-next just gobbled it up and enjoyed it thoroughly. This includes my own children - they were completely enamoured.

That apart, the film has a tight script and keeps you glued to the screen throughout the 96 minutes run without an interval. There were a couple of songs in the background that do not distract you from the film. The item number by Aamir Khan happens at the end when the credits roll.

The sequence that really got to me was the dilapidated flat where our heroes live. If you are from a secure and clean home, you might not be blamed for thinking that the three guys are living in alien territory. Then, of course, you realize that the bachelor pad is very much a part of Delhi’s belly. 

You are on a roll from beginning to end with a load of laughs keeping you thoroughly hooked. There were a couple of times when I covered my face with my dupatta and there were a few times when I felt a strong urge to cover my nose as I thought I might smell a fart or shit – WTF, if you can’t beat them, join them.

Imran Khan can act. I never thought otherwise, but it looks like he needs the right director to get him to work well. Well, Abhinay Deo succeeded as against Danish Aslam of Break ke Baad fame.  

There could have been more of Vir Das, I felt. He is good at comedy. What was there was done very well.

Kunal Roy Kapoor was excellent in his role as Nitin. Kudos!

Poorna Jagannathan as reporter Menaka was simply amazing. Considering that it was her debut, the actress has simply sailed through her part. Way to go!  

A special congratulations to Huzefa Lokhandwala for the superb way he has handled his scissors - not one little bit of excess!

VERDICT: How can you miss this one?

RATING: ****Snazzy

* Silly
** Shaky
*** Smart
**** Snazzy
***** Super