Farewell 2015, part I

At the start of every year, I look back and realise, “Crap. Haven’t updated the links for x months.” This 2016 is no different. So here are the movie reviews from September and October.

Welcome Back: Biggest surprise of 2015, since I was well prepared to hate this film. 

“There’s a lot to love in Welcome Back if you don’t expect intelligence from the film. Like a sequence in which Uday and Majnu play antakshari with ‘ghosts’ in a graveyard (with neon tombstones, no less). You get to hear Kapoor singing “My name is Lakhan” after 26 years. There’s also a don named Wanted Bhai who gets a operatic chorus sing “Wanted Bhaaai” each time he makes an entrance. Just to bring this character home, his son’s name is Honey (played by Shiney Ahuja, which makes this role a double whammy of unfortunate names). And let’s not forget the desert chase that involves hovercrafts, skydivers, four-wheel drives, helicopters as well as a random train of camels.”

Hero: Possibly the most forgettable film of the year. Not sure. I forget.

“By the time interval strikes, you’ve got to feel bad for young Pancholi and Shetty. Sooraj and Radha may be sporting bruises that look like the make-up team was using lipstick to make tally marks — perhaps to show how many days of shooting these two newcomers had survived? — but the real wounds are deep. Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt got the vapid but glossy Student of the Year. Ranbir Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor got the nonsensical and lavish Saawariya. The son of Aditya Pancholi and daughter of Sunil Shetty get Hero, a film as B-grade as their fathers’ filmography. Herois ill-conceived, outdated and lazily made, with neither director nor crew giving a hoot for details like continuity or logic. Pancholi and Shetty deserved better; not because they’re star kids, but because as actors they commit as much as they can to the colossal ineptitude that is their debut film.”

Katti Batti: Evidence of Bollywood’s stupid convention of privileging gender over talent.

“Give the film a little more time and you’ll realise that the film is not a study of what love means to lunatics. It’s disguised marketing for a manufacturer of toilets. Or perhaps this is Advani subtly accepting just how bad Katti Batti is.

There are critical moments of the film in which toilet bowls appear for absolutely no reason. For instance, when Maddy meets Payel’s ex-boyfriend, it’s in a toilet. They could have chatted by the wash basins, but no. We see the ex-boyfriend pee in one cubicle while Maddy sits on the toilet, in the neighbouring cubicle, comforting his turtle. This is not a euphemism. Maddy and Payel have a pet turtle named Milkha, which might be the only joke in Katti Batti that works.”

Meeruthiya Gangsters: Meh. 

“If Quadri is to be believed, then Meeruthiya Gangsters is an honest portrait of the average youth of UP. This is not a particularly heartening thought because then, one would have to surmise young men in UP are not just cartoonish and prone to mindless violence, but also idiots. South India and women in general, please refrain from holding up “Told you so” placards.”

Black Mass: Yet another piece of evidence for the case that Johnny Depp is among the most overrated actors in Hollywood.

“The questions that we should be asking while watching BlackMass are whether Whitey will actually succeed in getting the better of the FBI and if Connolly will get sniffed out? Instead, we find ourselves wondering whether the wig on Edgerton’s head is made of plasticine and if the expressionless Depp is actually a vampire, because what else explains that Edward Cullen-esque pallor and lifelessness? The prosthetics, fake hair and ice-blue contact lenses make Depp resemble Whitey, but it’s all so patently a feat of make-up that Whitey might as well have been CGI.

Despite being based on a true story, Black Mass feels theatrical and fake. Everyone is obviously playing a part and the performances all feel hollow.”

 

Pawn Sacrifice: One of my favourite films of 2015.

“This is an intriguing story that’s made gripping by Zwick’s masterful direction and the extraordinary performances that he gets out of his immensely talented cast. Maguire is incandescent as Fischer and despite being the film’s producer, he doesn’t whitewash Fischer in order to get sympathy. His Fischer is a brat, ungrateful, disturbed and trying — but we still care for him.”

Kis Kisko Pyaar Karoon: Just kill me already. 

“KKPK is on its own planet. Ergo, Bholu — the dude who drives a fancy car, works in a fancy building, wears three-piece suits and shiny sunglasses, and is a trigamist. In Mumbai, where single people and unmarried couples struggle to find flats to rent, Bholu lives in a building called Cocktail Tower, with three wives, housed in three separate floors, and no one bats an eyelid. It’s home science, KKPK style.”

Calendar Girls: A gigantic case of #ButWhy?

“Unfortunately, Bhandarkar’s nose for stories isn’t matched either by his writing or directorial talent. It doesn’t help that he chooses to collaborate with people like his writing partner on Calendar Girls, Rohit Banawlikar. There are a lot of people who work hard to make Calendar Girls worse than it could have been, like the sound department that not only layers the film with a terrible background score, but also makes it painfully obvious that the dialogues were dubbed. However, few can match Banawlikar’s contribution toCalendar Girls’ downfall. His dialogues are so awkward and stilted that you will feel physical pain while listening to the actors struggle with their lines.

This is particularly disappointing because – brace yourselves – a lot of the conversations in Calendar Girls pass the Bechdel Test. Much like in real life, the women chatter a lot about work. They’re ambitious, hardworking, and a credible mix of good and bad qualities. They’re all friends who accept each other’s quirks with an eye roll and a grin. Barring their terrible make-up and wardrobe, these women are all surprisingly normal, which is a huge improvement from the last time Bhandarkar wandered into the world of glamour, in the godawful Fashion.”

The Martian: So. Much. Fun.

“The cast of The Martian is brilliant and particularly gifted at comedy. Damon is perfect as the cocky and brilliant Watney, who holds on to his good cheer with a desperate determination as time wears on. He gets most of the screen time and makes every second count. Watching him sitting around in Mars, listening to disco and talking to himself, you might just find yourself wishing the rescue mission gets delayed because it would mean some more time alone with Mark.”

Talvar: One of the best films of 2015. 

Talvar should be mandatory viewing for every police force and investigative agency around the country, who must confront and take responsibility for what their colleagues have done. Aarushi and Hemraj’s blood lies on their hands as much as on those of the actual killer. Loyalists of our law enforcement agencies may argue that this case is an exception. One desperately hopes that is indeed the the truth because if this case is the norm, then it’s a wonder anyone bothers to report a crime in this country.”

Singh is Bliing: Hello Akshay Kumar!

“Akshay Kumar is proof that ageing is a wondrous thing. He didn’t have even a fraction of this onscreen charm when he was in the prime of his youth. It’s not just that Kumar looks infinitely better — the death of the Nineties’ mullet has been a boon in many heroes’ lives — but as a grizzled older man, he’s also commanding the screen with far more confidence and grace than he did before.”

The Walk: One of the most disappointing Hollywood films of 2015.

“There would be no need to bring up Marsh’s documentary if The Walk made for compelling viewing and was an insightful portrait of Petit. Zemeckis had Petit’s autobiography as his source as well as Petit himself (Petit was a consultant on the film). Zemeckis also had at his disposal a big budget and contemporary digital imagery. Yet, the shadow of Marsh’s documentary looms large over The Walk. The photographs with blurred outlines of Petit sitting on almost-thin air, of him grinning as he walks on the wire and away from the hapless policemen on the roof of one of the twin towers — they’re actually far more captivating than anything Zemeckis and his crew are able to recreate.”

Jazbaa: Shed a tear for Aishwarya Rai having to settle for this as her comeback vehicle.

“One of the meta questions that Jazbaa raises is, just how shameless is Gupta? The director has the audacity to end his film with a slide that tells gives you statistics about rape, as though it’s an issue close to Jazbaa‘s heart. Does Gupta really think that we won’t notice how one woman’s rape is re-enacted for the audience’s viewing ‘pleasure’ no less than three times? It didn’t need to be shown even once. Do the depressing statistics make up for how the film suggests women should feel guilty about working hard and choosing to leave an unhappy marriage? Jazbaa also suggests daughters raised by single mothers are more vulnerable and therefore likely to suffer violence in the hands of strangers. What gives?”

Pyaar ka Punchnama 2: Gentlemen, seriously?

“According to Ranjan, women come in three flavours of manipulation: bimbo, spineless and gold-digger. They enter men’s lives and ravage them with either their stupidity or their mind games. Men, fuelled by lust and luuurve, are defenceless against women. That in a nutshell is the plot of Pyaar ka Punchnama 2. The three heroes do everything the heroines demand, but it isn’t ever enough. The women reduce the alpha males to unpaid labour, credit card debt and nail polish, so that by the end, the men are just beta. The Hindi beta, that is. Since spoilers are frowned upon, let’s just say that for Pyaar ka Punchnama 2‘s three heroes, mum’s the word.”

Shaandaar: A colossal mess. 

“Nothing adds up in Shaandaar and few of the characters have any sort of evolution. Alia is the wild child, Bipin is the kindly but weak-spirited daddy dearest. Jagjinder is the hardworking good guy. The only thing worse thanShaandaar‘s script is the editing, which makes the film a meandering, boring medley of forgettable songs, interspersed with some laboured comedy. The pace is slack and there’s no tension in the film. Frequently, it feels like large chunks of the story were snipped to make space for fluffy, silly repartee that contributes to neither character nor plot. Then at one point, as though no one could bear it anymore, the story gets bundled into a rushed ending. The only thing worse than the editing is the unnecessary and amateurish CGI that plagues the entire film.”

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