Unabashedly Frank: Do You Have Proof?

Recently, India has seen a rise in demand for proof. Evidence. Saboot. Certification. The majority (Hindus) needs to prove that it is secular and the minorities (mainly Muslims) need to showcase their patriotism or, better still, provide certification for it.

The other day, the MoS Minority Affairs for the state of Uttar Pradesh Baldev Singh Aulakh was arguing on a news channel for the singing of Vande Mataram to be made mandatory. Yet, when asked to lead by example, Mr. Aulakh was unable to get going. Maharashtra MLA Raj Purohit – another flag bearer of the suggestion – went a step further and mutilated the song by forgetting half the lyrics, going terribly out of tune and basically making a joke of himself. The man’s been in state politics for a quarter of a century, by the way. Samajwadi Party’s Mavia Ali decided to thrown in his two paisa on the subject by saying, like a lot of hard-line clerics, that he was a Muslim first and an Indian second.

Nationalism today has taken on a form of extremism (thank you, BJP). We’re ready to jump at one another’s throats over it. And there is nothing more shameful for a country as unique and as diverse as ours. Let’s face it: singing Vande Mataram does not make anybody more patriotic than someone who doesn’t. There are those who have sung it at some point of time in their lives and then gone on to betray their country. The same applies to the National Anthem. I’ll admit that I love singing it. I am gung-ho about it. But I wouldn’t ask anybody to sing along just to ascertain whether they’re truly Indian. That’s bollocks. Respect doesn’t have one standard procedure in regards to how it is conveyed. And nobody has the right to decide how patriotic someone else is. One shouldn’t have to prove their nationalism to any of the trolls on the internet, quite a few of whom are part of the ruling party’s IT cell. Being patriotic is subjective. Otherwise one would say that only people in government jobs are patriots. No. A software engineer working for an MNC can be just as patriotic as someone who is in the Armed Forces. His/Her way of loving and serving his/her country is just different from what is deemed the ‘real’ method.

As a new atheist (a form of atheism), I’d probably shut my trap on religion but I won’t. The Constitution gives every citizen the right to practice their religion freely. Do it. Please do. Hindus shouldn’t have to prove they’re secular. For the longest time, secularism has meant minority appeasement (thanks, INC) and that is totally and completely wrong. Why must Hindus have to prove that they’re pro-minority? Can they not be without having to yell it out, just like one can be a nationalist and a patriot without yelling about it on all possible social media forums. Is it wrong to want equal treatment with the minorities? Why must they feel slighted each and every time? And why should they keep quiet each time and take all that is being heaped on them?

On a slightly different note, people should be willing to take criticism about religion too. This applies to all religions (looking at you with a death-striking glare, supporters of Triple Talaq). Even religion requires updating. It requires criticism. Culture needs to move forward, instead of staying in the 18th century. That’s the way forward.

This paragraph is dedicated to the upholders of religion and law and order, the biggest, most nationalistic patriots the world will ever see. You know who you are. POLITICIANS! (And your stooges). Know what? Stop bullshitting and get some work done. Appearing on media channels and making a fool of yourself every once in a while is nice, but it gets irritating when you turn up every evening. And stop certifying people. Or people will start cutting you, a la Pahlaj Nihalani. The day is not very far when the people of India get restless and barge into Parliament House to thrash the living daylights out of the politicians. Even the police won’t protect them because they’ll be just as fed up as the rest of us and may just join in. Politicians have no right to decide who is a nationalist and who isn’t. And they’re the last people who should give sermons on that topic. We know they’d do a deal with the devil to fill their pockets. Hey, you! Politicians! You are supposed to do a particular job. You are elected to office for a purpose. You don’t receive votes to decide who goes to Pakistan and who goes to China and who goes to Timbuktu. Kiren Rijiju, a Union Minister, commented about the entire Gurmehar Kaur incident without having watched the video which started the entire tamasha. Is that how a Union Minister should behave? Knee-jerk reactions like Rijiju’s boost the morale of online trolls and give them validity. Inciting people, not reigning in your supporters, talking rubbish….all of this has a greater impact on the country than you’d think (or we’d hope). You are ruining what our ancestors most tried to preserve: our country.

If you pay your taxes, if you don’t commit a crime and if you’re genuinely a good citizen of India, you’re a nationalist. You are showing your love for your country by not throwing garbage on the streets, not by roughing up people in the darkness of a movie theatre.

Our strength as a country has been our diversity as people. Nowhere in the world is there a nation wherein reside people from so many occupations, religions, ethnicities, regions. Politicians and internet trolls and news anchors are dividing the country. Today, you have Hindus and Muslims, Nationalists and Anti-Nationalists, Communists (or as I, ever the Commando fan like to call them, the Reds) and Right-Wingers, UPites and Maharashtrians. In the midst of our religious beliefs, political ideologies and regional loyalties, we’ve forgotten that we’re Indians. We’ve allowed ourselves to get pushed into a corner where we are punched by the powers that be, constantly. And we have refrained from reacting till now.

On the seventieth anniversary of India becoming an independent nation, I want to thank each and every sensible Indian who has done their bit for the country (or will do, in the future).

Varun Oak-Bhakay

Independence Day 2017


UNABASHEDLY FRANK is going to be a series similar to CINEPHILE STOCK. The piece ‘Unconsciously A Feminist….Until Recently’ will be out on August 29, after which the series will be updated every Sunday. Cheers.

Cinephile Stock: Jab Harry Met Sejal

JAB HARRY MET SEJAL

Written and Directed by Imtiaz Ali
Produced by Gauri Khan
Starring Anushka Sharma & Shah Rukh Khan
with
Aru K. Verma & Chandan Roy Sanyal
Photographed by K.U. Mohanan, ISC
Edited by Aarti Bajaj
Music by Pritam
Background Score by Hitesh Sonik

Imtiaz Ali’s last film was my favourite film of the year it released in. Highly underrated and not-properly-understood by audiences and critics, Tamasha was an incredible film, set as it was in the Imtiaz Ali Universe.

Jab Harry Met Sejal is in the same space….well, almost. Locations change more frequently as Ali takes the audience on a tour of Europe. And how does he improve upon the sights of Europe? He hires Shah Rukh Khan as the tour guide and Anushka Sharma as a traveller looking for her lost engagement ring.

Harry is a Kanidda da Punjabi (technically….his passport is Canadian) who is suppressing memories of his pind and getting into bed with women, mostly travellers on his tours. He is, in his own words, cheap. Sejal is one of the travellers who has lost her engagement ring somewhere on the tour and wants to find it. She drags Harry along, mainly because her family trusts the guy (no background checks there) and his boss, on the verge of firing him, consents. Thus begins the journey which takes the duo to a number of places, where they meet a number of ‘characters’.

Aarti Bajaj does some swift work with the scissors, enabling the film to keep moving in places where it could’ve stagnated. Picturesque locations are aided by K.U. Mohanan’s elegant cinematography. It’s better than his work in Raees, which was drenched in bright colours. Here, the colours are more subdued and the pictures look more lifelike.

Pritam is unable to match up to Rahman. The music is better than it was in the last two films he composed for, but I have to admit that I am getting tired of Arijit Singh. He’s not the sole singer in the film industry, is he? There are some trendy, upbeat numbers like Radha (Sunidhi Chauhan and Shahid Mallya’s vocals are fantastic) and Beech Beech Mein, and there are also the more soulful, more Imtiaz Ali numbers like Safar and Hawaayein. Hitesh Sonik’s background score is not too evident in the film but is soaring when it turns up.

The film has only two supporting characters (Thanks, Imtiaz, for not crowding it with too many to handle). Aru K. Verma as Harry’s fellow guide Mayank does a pretty good job. Chandan Roy Sanyal as the illegal immigrant/criminal Gas is riotous, adding to the troubles of the guide-traveller duo.

Anushka Sharma is fantastic as Sejal. She nails the Gujarati accent and mannerisms. Her comic timing is incredible and she is pretty good in the more dramatic portions too. The sense of individuality her character has is greater than what Deepika had in Tamasha. She isn’t reduced to a supporting character, which would’ve been terrible for the film. She owns her moments in the film with ease.

Shah Rukh Khan is on a roll. Fan, Dear Zindagi, Raees and now this. I officially forgive him for Happy New Year and Dilwale and sincerely hope he doesn’t slip back into that kind of movies again. This is Shah Rukh as a character not a lot of people are used to. He sheds the ‘lover boy’ tag and becomes cheap, crass and womanising, very anti-Rahul/Raj. He is a tad bit over the top in a couple of scenes but does well for the rest of the film. The Punjabi accent feels authentic and adds a lovely touch to the character. Add to that the brooding expressions, the charming smile, the dimples and the intense dialogues, and you have the entire package of Shah Rukh Khan the actor (Yes, I’m a fanboy.)

The lion’s share of the pie is, without a doubt, Imtiaz Ali’s. After having made three rather serious films, he writes a fun, frothy story. He doesn’t relegate one character to the sidelines, even though the story is more about Harry than Sejal. His dialogues are incredible, laugh-out-loud hilarious at times and worth pondering over on a few occasions. The humour works because it isn’t crass or vulgar. It’s naturally funny. As usual, Imtiaz has an underlying theme. How we may attempt to hide our real selves (different from Tamasha because Ved didn’t know who he was.) in order to create a perception people will have of us. Imtiaz even showcases a bit of class divide, of how we may treat someone we believe to be inferior to us. There is also the offering that one shouldn’t bottle up what one is feeling. If you don’t tell another person what you’re thinking/feeling, you’ll never know their point of view. Imtiaz scores on the direction too, simply by keeping the film short (140 minutes approx.) and tonally light. He could’ve made it darker despite the story but he doesn’t. The sole quibble I have is that Imtiaz stays within his comfort zone of self-discovery. Another film like this and people may actually not want to see someone find themselves again.

Jab Harry Met Sejal is a fun movie, one that can be watched with anybody (I watched it with around 500 people, none of whom I knew). It is worth a watch, just so one can have a hearty laugh after a rather serious month in terms of films. The premise is unique and it’s a pretty good ride.

Verdict: E (Entertaining and Enjoyable)


Please leave your thoughts about the piece in the comments section below. You can also add yourself to the mailing list or you can tell me to do that. Cheers!

Up next on CINEPHILE STOCK: Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari’s Bareilly Ki Barfi on August 18. BUT! A different segment is out on Independence Day, so drop in to check that out! Cheers!

Varun Oak-Bhakay

4.8.2017

Cinephile Stock: Raag Desh

RAAG DESH

 Based on the Red Fort Trials
Directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia
Written by Tigmanshu Dhulia Pramod Singh
Produced by Gurdeep Singh Sappal
Starring Kunal Kapoor, Amit Sadh Mohit Marwah
with
 Kanwaljit Singh, Kenneth Desai, Mrudula Murali, Vijay Verma
and
Kenny Basumatary as Subhas Chandra Bose
Photographed by Rishi Punjabi
Edited by Geeta Singh
Music by Rana Mazumder Siddharth Pandit
Background Score by Dharma Vish

State-owned Rajya Sabha Television’s foray into film production comes at a time when major production houses and studios in India are shutting shop and films are losing people large amounts of money. Kudos to RSTV for taking on a subject which is tricky as far as box office collections and general public interest go.

To give you a gist of what the film is about, here is a brief history lesson. Bear with me. The Indian National Army was formed from the Indian PsW taken by the Japanese Imperial Army after the Fall of Singapore in 1942. It folded up pretty quickly, thanks to their Founding General Capt. Mohan Singh’s distrust and disenchantment with the ways and intentions of the Japanese and the Indian Independence League. The force was revived upon Subhas Chandra Bose’s arrival from Nazi Germany in mid-1943. Within days of his arrival, Bose took command of the INA, legendarily proclaiming to his ‘soldiers’ the words “Tum mujhe khoon do, main tumhe aazadi doonga.” The fact that a similar experiment with PsW in Nazi Germany – the Indian Legion – had not fared well did not deter the INA. They were utilised as a guerrilla force, participating in operations in Arakan, Imphal and Kohima before being pushed back by the better-equipped British Indian forces. The wheels fell off the INA’s campaign quite rapidly as their opponents pushed on and they retreated to Singapore. Soon after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Bose boarded a flight to Saigon. He was never seen or heard of again. The INA was finished but the British weren’t. They decided to try prominent figures of the INA as deserters in a court martial. The first trial was that of the film’s three protagonists.

All three were charged with ‘Waging War Against The King’, Dhillon was charged with ‘Murder’ and Shah Nawaz and Sahgal with ‘Abetment to Murder’. A defence committee was set up by the Congress; lawyers of the calibre of Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, Bhulabhai Desai, Asaf Ali and Jawahar Lal Nehru were a part of the defence team with the prosecution headed by the Attorney General of India, Noshirwan P. Engineer. The British intended on making an example of the trio and show India that they were traitors. But when censorship ended and people realised what the INA was, public opinion turned in favour of the defendants, going so far as to causing mutinies and riots. The fact that the three men were from different religions – the three largest in number – united the country, something our rulers failed to foresee.

The film wastes no time in needless prologues and throws the audience into the battleground with the INA after a brief narration by director Tigmanshu Dhulia himself. It goes from Singapore to Burma to Delhi and halts in other places, including battlefields, along the way.

The first hurdle is the screenplay. Written by Dhulia and Pramod Singh, it has too many unnecessary scenes. The romance between Col. Sahgal and Capt. Lakshmi Swaminathan doesn’t fit with the proceedings. There is just too much crammed into the film. A little tightening would’ve been hugely beneficial. Geeta Singh’s editing is haphazard. The nonlinearity of the writing requires swift jumps from place A to place B but that is poorly handled. The film’s authenticity loses a few points when officers, who wore pips on their shoulders in the British Indian Army are also shown to be wearing stripes, which are worn by NCOs only. Dharma Vish’s background score is a little repetitive and gets a little on your nerves after a while.

But we’ve dwelled too much on the negatives. Despite its shortcomings, the screenplay has plenty of beautiful scenes to offer. The historical research is applaudable and it makes the film feel real. Rishi Punjabi’s photography is okay for the most part, but the wide-angle shots and the action sequences are extremely well shot. FRI, Dehra Dun serves the purpose of multiple locations quite well. Mukesh Chhabra’s casting is spot-on. The production design is solid too. Rana Mazumder and Siddharth Pandit do a wonderful job with the music of the film. Mazumder’s rendition of ‘Kadam Kadam Badhaaye Ja’ is the best I’ve heard and the track ‘Tujhe Namaami Ho’ fits in beautifully. Pandit’s Teri Zameen is slow but just as good as the two previous tracks. Sandeep Nath and Revant Shergill’s lyrics are powerful.

The supporting cast is perfect. Vijay Verma is earnest as the fictitious journalist Jamal Kidwai. Mrudula Murali does a fairly decent job in her limited scenes as Capt. Laksmi Swaminathan. Kanwaljit Singh as Acharuram Sahgal, a Judge in the Lahore High Court and Col. Sahgal’s father, is wonderful. Kenny Basumatary as S.C. Bose imbues the character with a sense of honour and honesty. Instead of putting the man he plays on a pedestal, he humanises him. Kenneth Desai goes all guns blazing as the ailing Bhulabhai Desai. He pushes himself into the character brilliantly, delivering a rousing monologue towards the end of the film.

Mohit Marwah as Col. Prem Kumar Sahgal is a revelation. He is very good and given that he has only been on screen once before this, he is exceedingly believable as Col. Sahgal. Amit Sadh is intense as the hot-headed Lt. Col. Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon. His Punjabi speaking skills are fantastic and he is able to add the appropriate rawness to the character, which is a result of Lt. Col. Dhillon having risen through the ranks in the Army, unlike the other two. Kunal Kapoor is more subdued as Maj. Gen. Shah Nawaz Khan and does a great job with the Urdu-Punjabi dialect. He portrays the conflict of the character with ease and a sense of dignity. What they do absolutely right is that they are distinct as heroes. They aren’t larger than life and their speeches about loving their country aren’t jingoistic. They feel like flesh and blood.

Tigmanshu Dhulia may have slipped a little in the screenplay but his direction drives the film. He doesn’t let it become over-bearing or sentimental or chest-thumping jingoistic, all of which has been done by the likes of Sunny Deol and Akshay Kumar and a large number of social media users. He examines Indian society and politics of the time quite subtly and the subtleness is where his strength lies. The scene where Bose tells his officers to wipe off the vermillion from the foreheads is remarkable because of how sync it is with the way things are happening today. He keeps clear of Bose’s disappearance and focuses on the job at hand. His direction that makes one forget about the film’s shortcomings whilst watching it. He doesn’t have the same objectiveness he had in Paan Singh Tomar but that was expected.

Would I recommend Raag Desh? Hell yes! It is a reminder of who our heroes should be and what all we have lost in fighting for Independence and what we may lose if we don’t stop squabbling. It is patriotic in a more relatable sense than those shrieking panellists on news channels. Most importantly, it is the story of an event we should all know about. So, skip the Bazmee and Bhandarkar bonanza and watch the Dhulia movie this weekend.

Verdict: D (Daring and Definitive)


Please share the review around. And watch the movie. And comment. You don’t even need to sign up for the last.

Up next on CINEPHILE STOCK: Imtiaz Ali’s Jab Harry Met Sejal on August 4.

Varun Oak-Bhakay

28.7.2017

Cinephile Stock: Dunkirk

DUNKIRK

Written and Directed by Christopher Nolan
Based on the Dunkirk Evacuation of 1940
Produced by Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan
Introducing Fionn Whitehead
and
Starring Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D’Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Tom Glynn-Carney
Photographed by Hoyte van Hoytema, ASC, FSF, NSC
Edited by Lee Smith, ACE
Music by Hans Zimmer

They were trapped by one of the most dreaded armies on the face of the planet. They were low on ammunition, they were hungry, they were scared and inevitably faced annihilation. They were stranded in a French town called Dunkerque. The shores on which flew the Union Jack were no more than twenty-six miles away. When 400,000 men couldn’t get home, Home came for them.

The Dunkirk Evacuation of 1940 is perhaps one of the most well-known events in the annals of modern warfare. Those of you who know about it should skip ahead to the paragraph after the next. Those of you who don’t, read on.

The Second World War began in September ’39. After the declaration of war on Nazi Germany by Great Britain and France, a British Expeditionary Force was dispatched to France in order to aid the latter in case it was attacked. On May 10, 1940, Hitler invaded Belgium and Holland. Three Panzer Corps pushed towards France through the Ardennes Forest. They steam-rolled through France and by the 21st, they had confined the BEF, remnants of the Belgian forces and the three French armies to a small section of the northern coast of France. BEF commander Lord Gort decided that an evacuation across the Channel was possible and the troops moved towards Dunkirk. The next day, the German forces stopped the advance rather strangely. The order of ‘Halt’ meant that the donkey work of cleaning up the surrounded forces was left to the Luftwaffe, the German Air Force. This meant that the forces managed to put defences in place and pull back troops, in large numbers, to Dunkirk. The Germans resumed their pursuit on the 26th but had to face off against 40,000 valiant Frenchmen in the Siege of Lille between the 28th and the 31st. The evacuation from Dunkirk, code-named Operation Dynamo, saw battleships, cruisers, destroyers, corvettes, vessels, trawlers, torpedo boats and various other types of waterborne vehicles, including large numbers of civilian boats which, in many cases, were manned by civilians, participate. In nine days, close to 340,000 men were evacuated (As I researched for this history lesson that I’m imparting, I realised that though a majority of the forces made it back, about forty thousand men sadly fell into German hands). The British were understandably ecstatic, so much so that their Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, had to remind them on June 4 that “we must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations.”

Dunkirk sees Christopher Nolan reunite with the usual suspects in Warner Brothers, Cillian Murphy, Hans Zimmer, Lee Smith, Nathan Crowley, Scott Fisher and, in an unexpected cameo, Sir Michael Caine. Nolan’s DP from Interstellar, Hoyte van Hoytema (who also photographed Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and the latest 007 flick Spectre), is behind the camera for this one as well, Tom Hardy also jumps aboard and producing the film with Nolan is his long-standing producing (and life) partner, Emma Thomas. Brother Jonathon Nolan is conspicuous in his absence, having co-written six of the previous nine Nolan directorials.

Well before the film came out, Nolan insisted that it wasn’t going to be a war film. So you can imagine how disappointed I was when I heard this piece of news. It is a suspense thriller which focuses on the men involved in Dunkirk and how they survived the horrors of it rather than being a historical film. Nolan uses three perspectives to tell the story: land (the Army), sea (the Navy and civilian boats) and air (the Air Force). Omitted are the Jerries (the Germans) and Churchill and his boys in London. Nolan opts to focus wholly and solely on the men and boys at Ground Zero.

The film opens with British soldiers running through the streets of the titular town. They are being pursued by the invisible but ever-present enemy. The film’s central protagonist, Tommy, runs to the beach, where he sees a vast sea of fellow soldiers and a vast sea, with a couple of ships here and there. The tension sets in pretty quickly as the Luftwaffe bombs the beach, making one slightly nervous.

Nolan writes this film as he does most of his work: in a non-linear format. It isn’t tough to follow as long as you keep your wits about you. The three perspectives are titled The Mole, The Sea and The Air. The writing is excellent in every possible way. The perspectives change lithely and your attention never dawdles. The enemy is never seen in the film, but the writing makes one wonder where Jerry will pop up from. While the overt focus of the story is on the minds of the men, it is also, more subtly, a human story filled with emotion. It is a slap in the faces of those who say Nolan’s films have no heart. You have to use your loaf and look for the heart a little.

The film is on technically solid ground, with some great sound design, fine production qualities (Nathan Crowley) and fantastic practical effects by Scott Fisher and team.

Hans Zimmer provides epic music to the nerve-wracking on-screen events. Brilliant use of the ticking clock sound (from one of Nolan’s own timepieces), reminding the audience that, as James D’Arcy’s Colonel Winnant says, “Every hour the enemy pushes closer!” Music has not been used so stylishly in a film of this kind before.

Lee Smith cuts from one perspective to the other fluidly, leaving no room for error. He goes full throttle in his efforts to make the 106 minutes of screen time count.

DP Hoyte van Hoytema is in top form. I have not seen such photography in film in quite a while. He has a variety of looks on hand: the colours are cold and stripped down for the beach sequences but warm and solid for the aerial shots. One particular shot, that of three Spitfires flying side-by-side over the Channel, reminded me of Guy Hamilton’s Battle of Britain. Hoyte shoulders the 40-pound IMAX camera for quite a bit of the screen time and squeezes it into the Spitfire cockpits to create a claustrophobic environment. His team too deserves a huge clap on the back for the capturing of the shots of The Sea and those done masterfully in The Air. Hoyte doesn’t mind getting the camera drenched either in some nerve-wracking underwater sequences. I envy the people who got to see the film in IMAX 70mm. If it was so breathtaking in digital, it must have been awesome in the original format. It is really marvellous how the IMAX has been attached to the exterior of aircraft while the damn thing is airborne. Fantastic stuff!

The cast does a great job too. Sir Kenneth Branagh and James D’Arcy as Commander Bolton and Colonel Winnant respectively are the anxious senior officers on Ground Zero, worried about the men under their command and the lack of transport. Their agony is evident when Bolton wishfully says, “You can practically see it from here.” Winnant asks what he’s talking about, and Bolton replies, “Home.” They are so near and yet so far. Sir Kenneth particularly is brilliant, which he always is. British pop star Harry Styles is pretty good as the slightly brash young soldier Alex. I doubted whether he could act, but Nolan isn’t known for bad casting and his belief in Styles really pays off. Aneurin Barnard as the silent Gibson also makes a mark, reminding viewers of the fear that can take over a person in situations like Dunkirk. Barry Keoghan (George) and Tom Glynn-Carney (Peter) embody the ‘British lads’ who are eager to do their bit for the war effort. Both are quite believable and bright prospects in cinema. Sir Mark Rylance (Mr. Dawson) steps up the emotional aspect of the movie, getting into the skin of the ordinary British civilian who went to help the boys at Dunkirk. He is firm but calm in a role tailor-made for him. Cillian Murphy, a Nolan regular, is frighteningly real as the PTSD-stricken Second Lieutenant who, when rescued by Dawson and the two lads, is insistent that they ‘turn it around’ and return to England. Jack Lowden (Collins) and Tom Hardy (Farrier) are impressive as the RAF fighter pilots, sharing a complex chemistry despite never being in the same frame. Playing their boss, in a surprise cameo, is Sir Michael Caine, whose voice is as reassuring as always. Hearing it made me feel that everything would be fine. Fionn Whitehead debuts as the average British teen soldier and plays the role with a wonderful innocence and a curious determination that doesn’t make him seem like a first-timer at all. Kudos to him!

Christopher Nolan is at the top of his game as a director. He tells the story in its entirety without becoming over-indulgent, which he has been in his last two films. His direction takes this film to new heights. He serves it cold and warm. He keeps out sobbing girlfriends and wives and mothers, proud dads and sons, and most importantly, politicians. He opts to aim his guns at the men that matter and that perhaps made all the difference in the end. It is exactly the film he said it was in pre-release interviews. Take a bow, Christopher Nolan. With Dunkirk, you’ve officially entered the League of the Legends.

Whether you enjoy thrillers or not, Dunkirk is a must watch. It is powerful, taut and amazing. It is happy and it is sad. Above everything else, it is a masterclass by perhaps the greatest filmmaker of the 21st century.

Verdict: F (Frightening and Fabulous)


If you liked the review, please do share it on social media with every homo sapien that you know. And do watch Dunkirk. And no, Warner Bros. and Syncopy did not pay me, though I wish they had.

Up next on CINEPHILE STOCK: Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Raag Desh on July 28.

Varun Oak-Bhakay

21.7.2017

Cinephile Stock: Jagga Jasoos

JAGGA JASOOS

Written and Directed by Anurag Basu

Produced by Siddharth Roy Kapur, Anurag Basu Ranbir Kapoor

Starring Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, Saurabh Shukla, Saswata Chatterjee, Sayani Gupta, Rajatava Datta, Denzil Smith

Photographed by S. Ravi Varman, ISC

Edited by Akiv Ali

Music by Pritam


I have to admit that I really didn’t like Barfi a lot. It had good performances but instead of the ‘homage’ it claimed to be to many films before it, it seemed lifted in far too many places.

Jagga Jasoos is better in terms of originality, though it does have certain co-incidental sequences. But in almost all other aspects, it fails stupendously in comparison to Anurag Basu’s previous film.

The story revolves around Jagga and his search for his missing foster father. It goes from Bengal to Manipur to Africa, creating a major muddle. The backdrop of the real-life Purulia Arms Drop of 1995 and militants adds a little bit of intrigue, which Basu then proceeds to screw up royally.

While Bombay Velvet was overwritten, Jagga Jasoos is the opposite. Characters are picked up, written a little and abandoned, plot points are half-baked. There is no moment where the story seems to really take off. Despite the intended emotional impact, you couldn’t really care whether Jagga and his dad meet up.

The novelty of the cast singing the dialogues instead of saying them wears off after a while and becomes annoying.

The film has terrible visual effects, wherein one can actually make out the CG background and objects. Prasad Sutar and his team from NY VFXwala aren’t to blame, the hurried post-production is. When you spend close to forty months on making a movie and deliver a shoddy finished product, you don’t call for much appreciation.

Katrina Kaif’s casting is questionable since she is hardly able to transform a written character to a live-action creation. She does pull off the Calamity Jane bits with ease but is off-key in the more dramatic scenes.

The major portion of the blame for this carelessly made film lies on the doorstep of director Anurag Basu, who takes his mess of a script and messes it up even more. The film has no sense of coherence or continuity. Physics, logic and common sense are a few prominent victims of Basu’s overactive imagination. Rohit Shetty may have MDMA-fuelled action, but when you have a sub-plot involving arms dealers, rockets that change course 180 degrees do not work. The length of the film is another issue: it is at least half-an-hour too long. A tighter film would’ve made for fewer mistakes.

Pritam’s music is not all that great. It gets boring and repetitive after some time and has very few memorable tunes. He should’ve just taken something (second nature to him) from the films Jagga Jasoos seems to pay homage to: the likes of Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and The Adventures of Tintin.

Noted action director Allan Amin provides some cool stunts and chases, almost making those scenes feel out of place, in a good way, in this film.

Akiv Ali’s editing was on point, with a special focus on the way scenes shot in different places merge into the same frame. Had Ali had more freedom, the film wouldn’t have been so clunky.

Ravi Varman’s lensing is reminiscent of his work from Imtiaz Ali’s Tamasha but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful. He captures the vast landscape of the film very well. Despite the shabby visual effects, the frames look like paintings. Lit intelligently and coloured well by Ken Metzker, the visuals are the biggest plus in the film.

Actors of the calibre of Sayani Gupta, Denzil Smith and Rajatava Datta are wasted in their brief roles, though they do try their utmost, especially Mr. Datta. They were either given underwritten characters or their roles were snipped off in the edit (my allowance money is on the latter).

Saswata Chatterjee as Jagga’s foster father is the polar opposite of Bob Biswas from Kahaani. Warm, friendly and clumsy, Mr. Chatterjee has some of the more remarkable scenes in the film: those with the young boy playing Junior Jagga. He is the emotional lynchpin of the film and plays his part to perfection.

Saurabh Shukla is excellent. He has the best lines in the film and his recitation scene with Ranbir Kapoor is the funniest in the film. Mr. Shukla doesn’t really have the shades of villainy the character should’ve had but he is enjoyable nonetheless.

Ranbir Kapoor is quite good. There is a sincerity, an innocence and a determination to overcome the stutter in his performance as the titular character. He faces up to the challenge of playing detective admirably. However, he is far too old to pull off a school boy character which, even with some lein-dein, can’t possibly be older than twenty-two. He makes up with some wonderful stuttering and sing-talking, though Tushar Joshi has dubbed for roughly thirty percent of the scenes of the latter nature (not songs, scenes!).

Anurag Basu’s Jagga Jasoos failed to live up to my expectations. It is a haphazard film whose director did not seem to have a confirmed course. Despite the cliffhanging climax, I’d rather there wasn’t a sequel.

Verdict: C (Clumsy and Cluttered)


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Up next on CINEPHILE STOCK: Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk on July 21.

Varun Oak-Bhakay

14.7.2016