Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Movie Review | Mary Kom

In one of the scenes in Mary Kom, Priyanka's Mary Kom says "kabhi kisi ko itna bhi mat darao ki darr hi khatam ho jaye". I couldn't suppress my chuckle. 

"Is there Salman Khan hiding somewhere behind ?" I said to myself. 

Mary Kom is a film that exemplifies what is wrong with Indian cinema. The greed (or the fear) of box-office success has made Indian film-makers wimpy and myopic, so much so that even an inspiring real life-story couldn't shake them out of their comfortable bubble that they have been living in. So, what do they do: stuff the film with over the top dialogues, slow-motion action scenes accompanied by loud music and a happy ending. And lo and behold, you have a hit film. 

Hopelessly relentless in its hope to make senseless look sensitive, and fake look believable, Mary Kom is not just bad film-making, it's also a shamelessly corrupt attempt at filling up the money-coffers by (pretense of) showcasing a life of struggle and courage. It's one thing to take up an inspiring story to make a film out of it, and another, to actually make it look believable without going overboard or schmaltzy. At a time when masala films rule the roost in Bollywood and among audiences, it was only a matter of time when reality based films would also start getting treated with tinted glass of escapism, however ill-conceived it may look, sound or feel. It's not that I don't enjoy watching escapist cinema. It's just that I don't like watching respected real life figures distorted into caricatures. 

Oh, did you think that's this is one of those times when Bollywood gets serious ? Forget it. Mary Kom is no different from the countless Salman films you might have seen in recent years: bombastic, self-congratulatory, reality-effacing, and effortlessly dumb. Not only that, Mary Kom is replete with scenes that made me cringe in my seat. The scenes that have played so many times in hindi films before that instead of making a hero out of Mary Kom, they actually somehow belittle her gallantry

Making a biopic in itself is no easy task, and when sports is thrown into the mix, it becomes doubly difficult. Pulling off sporting events realistically has to be one of the most, if not the most, challenging tasks in film-making, because audiences already know what a sports event looks like on-screen. To my mind except Chak De India and Lagaan, no Indian film has done it convincingly. Paan Singh Tomar did pull off the biopic part exceptionally well, but the portrayal of the racing events left a lot to be desired. So, just like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag last year, Mary Kom relies heavily on histrionics -- most of the times unnecessary -- of its character, forcefully created situations, an out-of-nowhere to-be-perceived villain. While Bhaag Milkha Bhaag at least carried a great leading turn by Farhan Akktar, Mary Kom has a miscast Priyanka Chopra, who more often than not, looks too glamorous for the part (Please note, I wrote "glamorous" and not "beautiful". Mary Kom is beautiful but not glamorous). Not to mention, her all over the place North-Eastern accent is off-putting. I am sure makers could have found someone from north-east to play Mary Kom, if they wanted to, but then, that's a little too much to expect -- of course, any small actor wouldn't have set the cash registers ringing -- and anyway, who cares about authenticity. Right ? 

At the end of the day, film-making is not a charity business. And neither, good intentions guarantee a good film. Had that been the case, every Mahatma Gandhi film would be a masterpiece and every Hitler film, a piece of trash. So, just because Mary Kom is such an inspiring figure who has overcome countless obstacles to bring glory for the country and herself, doesn't mean Mary Kom, the film, gets a free pass. The only good thing about Mary Kom is that its a female-led film, which is a rarity in Indian cinema. But then, good intentions are one thing and artistic merits, another. Though, it seems the only intention of Mary Kom is to make money; which surely it will. 


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Trailer Watch | Birdman

When I prepared my most anticipated list of film for 2014 [Read HERE], Birdman was at No. 6. Not surprisingly, after two phenomenal trailers (including this one), it has shot up to be my 'the' most anticipated film of the year. Anyone who follows my blog closely would know that I am a big fan of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (21 Grams, Amerros Perros, Babel). With an incredibly talented cast of Michael Keaton, Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, Emma Stone and the crafty camerawork of Emmaneul Lubezki (last year's Oscar winner for Gravity) at his behest, Inarritu is looking to explore black comedy in a way that no one else has done before. And to top it all, the reports that the whole film is one single-shot long has left me salivating.

Anyway, enough of my adulation.. enjoy below the outlandishly delicious trailer.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Trailer Watch | Interstellar

If the first trailer was a peek into the epic-ness of Interstellar, this trailer offers just a little more than a glimpse. Having read the screenplay of the film, I can certainly say, Nolan is holding his cards very close to his chest. While, the first trailer didn't show anything significant about the interstellar travel, this trailer does. But still, I would say, it's not even tip of the iceberg. In actuality, Interstellar deals with themes of food crisis, global warming, bond between human & nature. And as far as the science-fiction element of the film is concerned, it delves into interstellar travel, artificial intelligence, and also, time travel. Apart from all of these, what is so very markedly different about Interstellar than any other science-fiction film is that at the end of it all, it's a very deeply humanistic and moving story that will surely melt you into tears – something that you don’t usually associate with Christopher Nolan.

Watch the red-hot trailer below ..

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

DVD Review | The Immigrant

Director: James Gray

Stars: Marion CotillardJoaquin PhoenixJeremy Renner

Plot: In 1921, unfortunate circumstances drive newly arrived immigrant Ewa into a life of prostitution, and a complex, volatile relationship with two men - her conflicted pimp and a local magician. 

Review: Two Lovers happens to be one of my favorite movies of last decade. Unpretentious, moody and wildly (in its own way) romantic. There are few movies that treat romance with such honestly and realism as James Gray did with Two Lovers. In short, that film made me a fan of Gray (and Phoenix too). Therefore, I was expecting The Immigrant to be somewhat different than what its period romance look and story hinted at. Different it is, but not as involving or as heartbreaking as Two Lovers. I understand, comparing two films isn't fare, but having said that "The Immigrant" could so easily have been titled "Two Lovers". Not that the stories of both films are similar, in fact far from it. Still, "The Immigrant" left me cold in spite of the well-made film it is. Perfect New York, 1920s setting, great costumes, fine acting but still, the film lacks the heart and the motive so as to allow the viewers to feel for characters. The end result is a visually magnificent film that leaves you not completely satisfied. Marion Cotillard and Jacquin Phoenix do as well as they can, and are extremely watchable -- one of the reasons why you could pop in the DVD and watch the film. On a side note: Is there anything more perfect in this world than Marion Cotillard's face. 

RatingPusher (2012)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Movie Review | Boyhood

As I was watching the final reels of Boyhood (a scene where Mason, an 18 year boy, is packing his belongings and preparing to leave his mother to study in college), I saw a middle aged lady sitting in front of me wiping her tears. Moments later, I was doing the same. We both were feeling heartbroken at the same scene, albiet for different reasons. The lady must have been reminded of the time when her son or daughter left to study or work, whereas, I was feeling nostalgic of the time when I left my home, my parents to pursue higher education. The situation's same, but the perspectives, different. And that's what is so strikingly magical about Boyhood. It doesn't matter if you are somebody's son, daughter, mother, father, brother or sister. You will come out affected, even changed, as you watch the film from a perspective you choose to. 

Boyhood, more than just a film, is an observance. An observance of a 6 years old boy growing up to become an 18 years old adult. An observance of what a mother has to go through to raise children. An observance of what a father means to his children and vice-versa. An observance of a family and their struggles, their joys, their sorrows. Basically, an observance of a life or rather, lives.

Filmed over a period of 12 consecutive years, Boyhood is the longest shot film in history of cinema. And the results are magical to say the least. You see all the main characters age in front of your eyes in a span of 3 hours. (Not what you are used to seeing in movies where a child actor is employed to play hero's younger self. Here, both the younger and older selves are played by the same actor(s)) To be honest, any amount of words will fall short of describing the beauty, the tenderness, the epic-ness of Boyhood.  A film so deft in its design, and so fluid in its rendering, that after a while you might have to keep reminding yourself that what you are watching is a fictional family's life captured on cinema, and not the reality of life itself.

Boyhood follows the story of a family whose youngest member, Mason (Ellar Coltrane) is the central character (He is 6 when the story opens and 18 when it ends), though the film is not only about him. The film is also about his sister who herself grows from 8 to 20. It's also about his mother Olivia (Patrcia Arquette) and her struggles with career, men, and raising 2 children. Finally, it's also about his father (Ethan Hawke) who has divorced his mother and comes every once in a while, to spend some fun time with him and his sister. 

While all of this may appear routine or mundane to you, it is surprisingly the real strength of Boyhood. It relies on deriving beauty, joy and emotion out of the ordinary lives of people and not from any heightened act of drama (bread and butter for most of the movies). It's fascinating to see how from scene to scene, not only are there changes in physicality of characters, but also you will notice the transformation in their fashion, hairstyle, taste in music, and in general, perspectives about life.

It doesn’t matter which country, city or neighborhood you grew up in, you will associate yourself with Mason; and the twinkle in his eyes; and the countless hopes and dreams in them, unmarred by the cynicism of the world around him. Though, as Mason becomes an adult, you realize, Mason is different from what most of us are. As we grow into adults, most of us, somewhere, somehow, get lost in the transition. But, not Mason. He doesn’t let the cynicism around him affect his world view.  As his teen girlfriend put it “You are weird”. Most of us will try to run away from that identity. But, not Mason. His teacher warns him that his passion of photography isn’t going to take him anywhere. Most of us will pay heed to the advise and relent. But, not Mason. He decides to follow his heart. Perhaps, this is the biggest life lesson out of Boyhood: Don’t let the world around affect the dreams that you saw as a child, as a boy, as a girl. 

But having said that, DON'T lead yourself into believing that Boyhood is just about a young boy's dreams and ambitions. It's so much more than that. Boyhood is also a fond reminder of the bygone years of uninhibited joy, unwavering optimism and bubbling innocence, when we lived a free-spirited life unadulterated by the responsibilities and worries that plague adulthood. Believe it or not, but Boyhood is as much about parenthood as it is about boyhood or girlhood. If anything, it might actually be a more cathartic experience for parents to watch this film. To see your child grow up, learn from you and everything around, stumble and then get up and then finally, to see him/her depart on a journey of his/her own, could be both painful and prideful. In the end of it all, Boyhood is about growing up: be it a child growing up to become an adult, or, parents growing up to meet the needs of children and vice-versa. 

With Boyhood, covering so many spectrums of life, it's befitting that it has turned out be a film that also has wide array of emotions in it. So, it is affecting one moment, and uplifting, the very next; it's sad one moment, and funny, the very next. One scene where the father tries to explain his teen daughter about sex and contraceptives is particularly hilarious. Then, in a gorgeously shot scene on the streets of Austin, Mason and his girlfriend roam around carelessly, and then wait for sunrise on a terrace, is very reminiscent of Before Sunrise. I can go on and on, but it's an experience that needs to be savored first hand. 

It’s pretty evident Richard Linklater, the director, sees himself in Mason. He ventured into making films pretty young not caring much about education or a degree. I am sure, he would have faced challenges around him not very dissimilar to Mason –  working single mother, migrating from one city to another and a dissuading society. And there are stamps of him throughout the film especially in the long conversations that he has become so masterful at -- not surprisingly, considering he has Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight on his resume. Though, while in Before series of films he captures moments in time, separated 9 years from one another, in Boyhood he lets the time flow over the course of 12 years. And time, will itself do justice to this film, when several years from now, it will be referred to as Linklater's masterpiece.