Thursday, July 18, 2013

D Day: The 1 min review

D Day is a spy action thriller about an unlikely event - a mission by the R&AW to abduct Dawood Ibrahim from Karachi and bring him to India. The film stars Rishi Kapoor as Dawood, and he is easily the best bhai to have graced Indian cinema in a long while. He fills the screen with his presence. Irrfan Khan does a fine job as a RAW agent, as do Huma Qureshi, Arjun Rampal and Akash Dahiya, but there is little doubt that in this film, Kapoor is the boss in the acting department.
The Cold War rivalry was the stuff of legendary spy novels and films. The intense rivalry between India and Pakistan has inspired surprisingly few of those, perhaps because of the sensitivities involved. However, there is now the occasional film that tackles the subject through genres other than war.
This film is arguably the best to have done so thus far. It manages to convey, with surprising humor, something of the complex, murky and violent world inhabited by spies and gangland dons, albeit with the dramatisation necessary for a proper Bollywood feature presentation. The characters, thankfully, are allowed to remain human; despite the genre, this is not a Bond film.
And although this is Nikhil Advani's film, there is a definite touch of Anurag Kashyap visible in the combination of humour and violence. It's the sensibility I noticed in Gangs of Wasseypur.
The pacing is uneven, but I have no complaints about that. Even when it seemingly dawdles, a thread to the narrative is being spun. The only loose end, finally, is the ending, about which I can't reveal more.
I could tell you, though, that somewhere in the movie, Dawood tells the R&AW agent who has come to get him, in a memorable dialogue, "Trigger khich, mamla mat khich". Wasn't the filmmaker listening?

Friday, July 05, 2013

Lootera (लूटेरा) my 1 min review

First things first. Sonakshi Sinha is beautiful, and in this film, has delivered a performance that marks her out as the best actress among her contemporaries. Ranveer Singh is suave and brooding by turns. The film itself has charms that are rare in today’s Hindi cinema. It harks back to a world of grace that is no more. There is quietness and slowness, restraint and melody. It is lovely to watch.

And yet, I left the theatre disappointed. 

The words ‘film industry’ speak of the conjunction of two very different worlds: film, which is art, and industry, which is technology and business. Most of the big new releases these days get the industry bit right. The parts are all manufactured to high quality and precision; the locations are perfect, the sets are excellent, the cinematography is just right, and the sound is appropriate, at the least.  

But you can’t manufacture soul in any factory. And that’s where film after film falters or fails.

Lootera tried to borrow its soul from one of the greatest short stories of all time, a little gem by O’Henry. This was grafted onto another story, about the lonely daughter of a Bengali zamindar in the 1950s. That is a world whose cadences were captured masterfully by Satyajit Ray in films like Jalsaghar and Charulata. 

Vikramaditya Motwane and Anurag Kashyap have managed to bring back some of those cadences into Lootera. They have managed to infuse the perfect body of their film with some borrowed soul. For this, I am more than happy: I am grateful. My disappointment is about the failure of imagination that drives Bollywood’s best talents to go about their business like the Thieving Magpie - also the name of an opera by Rossini whose music has been used in Lootera - to build their films.