have an opinion? got feedback? drop me a line- pooja.x.rao@gmail.com
Can also read my posts at Mumbaikar.com and filmi features @ Bollyspice.com


Movie Review: Aashayein 'lost all hopes'

Before I begin my take on Aashayein, I have a small confession - I have seen almost all of the 30+ movies (theatre/small screen) that John Abraham’s filmography boasts of. Not because I believe he is a terrific actor (which he is not!) or someone who’s acting prowess I admire (he has his good moments but has a long way to go). The truth is that I have a special soft corner for John (and Ritesh) because we share birthdates. Therefore, I am a JA loyalist and despite his average performances, will continue to be one. However, for the benefit of my 10-odd loyal readers, I am going to be completely unbiased and write an upright review of the film.

For director Nagesh Kukunoor, it has mostly been about realistic cinema. Stories you hear in neighborhoods, human tales you empathize with and news you read in dailies. Luckily, for him, audiences are in the day and age, caught between OTT popcorn productions and illogical condescending potboilers with nothing to fill the void. Films with a humor-laced message like Peepli, Udaan, are more acceptable today than ever. With Aashayein, does the engineer-turned-filmmaker manage to keep his art intact after Hyderabad Blues, Iqbal and Dor or does he fall prey to the commercial masala demands of the masses. Read further to find out.

Meet gambling addict (we hardly get to see his obsession) and chain smoker Rahul Sharma (John Abraham) and girlfriend Nafisa (Sonal Sehgal). One gambling win and a proposal later, Rahul slumps to the floor at a party amidst laughter and conversations. Diagnosis reveal that Rahul is suffering from lung cancer and has only few months to live. After a few mockery, rain sprinting and understandably piteous moments, Rahul decides to move into a hospice breaking all ties with Nafisa and the world in general.
In the hospice, Rahul meets a mixed bag of characters - Padma (Anaitha Nair), Madhu (Farida Jalal), Parthasarthi (Girish Karnad), Govinda (Ashwin Chitale) all having a common purpose among them - to make the most of their remaining days.

I am not being bias, but genuinely, John Abraham has put in probably the best/toughest show of his career. He is intense, distinguishes well between all his relationships, emotes and justifies the role largely to an extent that there are some scenes, wherein you forget John, the Bollywood star and only sympathize with Rahul. Undoubtedly, the bright star of the film is Anaitha, whose eccentric ways strike a lovable chord. Anaitha does an extraordinary act of the estranged cancer patient, a fine supporting act.

The idea is noble, the subject is right; the casting of the leads and more importantly the supporting acts is satisfactory. However, despite all this, the script falters in a major way influencing the entire outcome. The incorrect mix of art and commercial cinema is one of the key weaknesses. The filmmaker intends to put across many ideologies, but trying to fit everything in, he misses the key essence and lacks compassion.

For a film with a sensitive topic around the much-dreaded C-word, there are hardly any tear-jerking, hearts wrenching scenes. Emotions are over quicker than the credit roll and the story hardly manages to leave an impact.

Aashayein starts favorably, but post the first half; it collapses like a pack of cards, owing to directionless story and venturing into sub-plots hardly relevant to the narrative. Nagesh plays a solid part of trying to steer his messy storyline, but with an added highly amateurish ending, the film will hardly manage any hopes for itself.
Verdict: the only ‘Asha’ this film could hold is hopefully for John’s career, as the actor has managed to draw some fabulous scenes to his credit.

On second thoughts: most films these days are boasting of better performances from supporting casts rather than the leads. About time, Bollywood cashes in on these small actors rather than chasing big names.

Lafangey Parindey: for the free spirit inside all of us.!

From charms of Kolkatta in Parineeta, to the warm visuals of Varanasi in Laga Chunari mein Daag, Director Pradeep Sarkar next Lafangey Parindey, moves to the Mumbai gallis (streets). Where matchbox sized flats stand side by side to sprawling towers, dandiya is celebrated with, as much gusto as govinda dance during Ganpati festivals and dreams are bigger than the pockets.

In a chawl in the bylanes of Mumbai resides Nandan Kamtekar aka one-shot-nandu (Neil NM) and his gang of loafers, who going by Mumbai’s tapori reputation, ride bikes into the dark night, speak Mumbaiyaa slang and wile away time playing carrom or throwing random digs at passer-bys. When not diddling-dawdling around, Nandan wins fights in a boxing ring for bets put by boss Usmaan bhai (Piyush Mishra) (reference check: Salman in Karan Arjun). Nandu’s USP – he fights blindfolded and can take down his strongest opponent with a single blow (that’s why the nickname, for all those who didn’t put it together yet!). Among the lafangeys, lives Pinky Palkar (Deepika Padukone), a free spirited chic co-basti-walli, who lives small, dreams big and aims to win a talent competition as her exit route from the chawl’s humble existence. Working in a shop, she dances on rollerskates like a doll in a music box.

Couple of reels later an accident brings Nandan and Pinky together. Dreams that come crashing down, destinies that are rewritten and odds that are fought together form the remaining story of Lafangey Parindey.

Both leads, whose histrionic skills are questionable, put in engaging performances. Deepika Padukone’s act is effortless. While she is extremely graceful in her dance sequences, she exudes intense confidence as the strongwilled optimist. Neil’s restrained act complements chemistry with Deepika beautifully. Unfortunately, his looks impede the realism as he does not fit into the chawl class at all. No amount of tattered wardrobe and fake blood veil Neil’s golden locks and fair rose complexion. Body language is spot on, body features sadly fail. The scenes where he fights his inner conflicts, initial feelings for lady-love and emotions shown through eyes are the mark of a very promising actor.
Music by R. Anandh, lines by Swanand Kirkire, songs ‘mann lafanga’, ‘dhatad tatad’ are contagious to any true-blue matki-phod mumbaikar.
The biggest strength of the film undoubtedly lies in Gopi Puthran’s simple storytelling. The narrative maintains its horizontal plane with enough twists suitable to its theme, but luckily does not venture the path of unwanted characters and redundant sub-plots.
Hiccups? Yes, heaps of them. Lafangey Parindey is neither a winner nor a loser. The substance is raw, similarities are many, and story is as predictable as it gets, yet between the flaws and grinds is an earnest youthful resonance and a wholesome human experience that celebrates the spirits of underdogs who are down in dust but don’t give up.

Watch it if you can digest a pure masala movie without getting extremely judgemental or making parallels with any other film.
Watch it if you’re a fan of Ms.D, pink-cheek Neil or Pradeep Sarkar.
However, moreso, Watch it because it is an inspirational and poignant tale of any third person amongst us.

Happy Birthday India!

"At the stroke of midnight, while the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom", said Jawaharlal Nehru on the eve of 15th August 1947.
63 years later, we woke up again – yet to a different sentiment this time. We woke up to a lazy Sunday, a day of family trips to the mall, a day of catching up on the movies missed during the week, a day to binge on the alcohol that was stocked the day before, a day to indulge in the numerous sales, a day to relax the competitive professional batteries and a day to prepare for the week ahead. And life went on, and soon it will be the 64th year.

To India,
Caught between hell and heaven,
a subcontinent torn by wounded partition
the day was 15th August 1947
you were born - a new nation!

Refugees scoured to start a fresh life,
Separated from loved ones, lonely and forlorn
Eyes filled with agony, seeking many answers
Heart heavy with sorrow, body frail and torn.

As each day passed, problems grew,
freedom gave way to greed, we tried to start anew
You tried to keep them together,
your children wanted different paths,
they had their own plans,
some became Hindu, others sought Islam.

Bloodshed increasing by the hour, All in the name of religion and caste
A part of you sits in quiet oblivion, while a part of you is still being ripped apart

One one side is a deprived child staring into his empty plate
On another is a filled restaurant with ambience so great,
While a section fights for basic food, clothing and shelter
Another lives in palaces and owns expensive cars

While mercilessly, life of a girl child is being sacrificed in small towns
Sushmita, Aishwarya put you on the global map with their crowns

Been born to rich parents,
a child is blithe and lives lavishly
Yet another child having to take care of his ailing mother,
toils through the day for a paltry salary 

Watching your children divided by class & pride, you groan in quiet pain,
while your children desert you for far-lands, joy & equal ache you maintain.

Today on your 63rd birthday, you have come so far,
no words are enough to tell you how proud we are
to be born to you, you’re my motherland
While your children wound and cause you pain,
you still embrace us with your open arms.

As I sing Happy Birthday, my heart whispers silent prayers,
Hope you continue to prosper and grow for many many years!  

And on that note, I leave you with one of my all-time favourite patriotic song.

Movie Review: Peepli (Live) – ‘SANSANI Khabar’ at its best! !

Undoubtedly, one of the year’s anticipated flicks, Peepli Live has already bagged its first recognition by winning the Best First Feature Film award at the Durban International Film Festival. At the helm of this satire-marries-pragmatism film, Aamir Khan dons the producer’s hat, allowing debutant director Anusha Rizvi (NDTV ex-journalist) to take charge of the film, which is a take on the role of government and media in farmer suicides that have been plaguing the country over the past decade.
After the ‘Peepli Live’ special screening for cast & crew held earlier this week, Salman Khan didn’t allow Aamir Khan to touch him. His reason? - He was afraid that he would turn into gold, as he believes Aamir possesses the ‘Midas touch’. By no chance can we disagree with Salman. Gold? Not so sure, but Aamir’s touch sure holds the ‘movie hit karne ka formula’!
2007 – Taare Zameen Par, 2008 – Ghajini, 2009 – 3 Idiots, for the past few years, Aamir Khan has set trends, broken records, given Bollywood cinema a new dimension. When filmmakers were going full-on commercial and skeptical about dabbling in untrodden subjects, Aamir Khan boldly played and received acclaims for real-life subjects like education system, parental sensibilities etc. Be it in front of the camera or behind (in the capacity of producer), Aamir’s films are a great example of the perfect blend of masala and a thought-provoking message. His most awaited film, Peepli (Live) is no exception to this rule.

Set in a small village in rural India, Peepli Live is a candid narrative of farmers Natha (Omkar Manikpuri) & older (more crafty) brother Budhia (Raghubir Yadav) who are deep-neck in debts, whose land is to be auctioned, owing to an unpaid loan. The only way out as Natha & Budhia see is a government plan, which provides monetary compensation to dependants of farmers, who commit suicide. While Natha is still contemplating, his mother (Farrukh Jaffer) & wife (Shalini Vatsal) indulge in their routine saas-bahu squabbles; his son pesters him to go ahead with the suicide, so he can work his dream of becoming a policeman with the money.  Before Natha can give his plan an outcome, word spreads & news channels come sniffing for what we know in this age as ‘Breaking News’. With elections in the offing, and media swooping in, netas, political parties and bigwigs all jump in to get their share of limelight and fill vote banks. While Natha wants to escape all the hoopla surrounding his life (or death), sleepy Peepli is caught in a 24/7 frenzy transforming it into the great Indian TAMASHA (with mela and all)!

Will he, won’t he?; while the viewers stay glued to the TV sets, forms the remainder plot.

Caught in the chronicles of Natha’s life is ambitious television reporter Nandita Mallik (Malaika Shenoy), shrewd minister (Naseerudin shah) conniving CM (Yugal Kishore), local journalist Rakesh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), among the many other intriguing characters.
Debutant director Anusha Rizvi and co-director Mahmood Farooqui have done a spectacular job at working a script as delicate as Peepli Live. Farmer suicides are a huge cause of concern and sensitive to the millions who live thru it, yet treatment of the subject highlights immense research, maturity and empathy on the filmmakers’ side. Cinematography and art direction are perfectly synchronized to the theme. Dialogues are astute, in equal doses thus never going overboard in the gamut of emotions.

Needless to say, all the characters put in genuine acts, totally enjoyable, don’t emulate or mimic, and refreshingly don’t try too hard. The entire cast right from the protagonist to the supporting are superlative. Theatre experience is distinctive and prominent in the performances of Omkar Manikpuri & Raghubir Yadav who completely shine throughout as the distraught hapless class of people caught in the socio-economic circus. Malaika Shenoy and Nawazudin as reporters are apt, bring confidence and subtlety to their roles. But my hot favorite is Farrukh Jaffer as ‘Amma’ – brilliantly charming, powerful delivery, highly commendable.
A few minutes into the film, the narrative is as engrossing or entertaining as watching the live late-night news broadcast. While we have been witness to many films’ unraveling the scheming minds of unscrupulous politicians, the manner in which the film explores the inappropriate behavior of the media is truly remarkable and a major triumph. Yes, the film does tend to be slow and repetitive at points, and the film does not have many LOL moments or love angles, but the overall narrative is tight and smart. There are chances that the film’s biggest advantages (simplistic approach and cast) would turn out to be a disadvantage as urban cinegoers still prefer light-weight comedies and rom-coms with heavy duty star casts.  
Peepli Live is a film with an earnest message, approach and story and it certainly deserves its place at the box office. This film further strenghtens the fact that content is king and you don't need big names to make a good film. Recommended.

A fashionista in the making - my wardrobe favourites!

So I caught 'Aisha' (the movie i.e.) over the weekend & I'm still hooked on to it! Not the movie by any chance, but the overflowing closet of Diors, Ferragamo & our very own Manish Arora's traditional couture.
I am the worst shopper there is (I just can't gather the patience to go scouring for stuff!) Everyone who knows me will vouch that I am also an extremely moody yet immaculate  dresser, so for all I care, I could live in my ill-fitting tee's, shorts & flip-flops forever!
But then there are those days when I like to dress up, just to feel good & confident. And much to my sister's anguish its yet another day of wardrobe whining and raiding. Then again its been raining 'end-of-season-sales' all over & the girl in me can't help but splurge a little on things that I adore and feel should be a part of me.
Because we all have our fashion favorites and these are mine! 

Classic pumps and heels - for times when you want to stand tall and powerful.
The tunic - for times when you feel girly and delicate. Pair it with a pair of jeans or go full-on traditional with the churidars or salwars

Basic pair of Jeggings/Jeans - (the denim version of leggings) - Invest in these, pair it with a figure hugging, bold Tee & you're ready to take on the world! ultimate comfort!!
Little (black) dress - For times when you're feeling sexy and flirty. Black is a must-have for years now. But playing with colours is fun. Add a dash of colour, spice up your personality and hit the dance-floor. Also perfect for the girls night-out!

Flats - Sandals in all colors, and styles. From Ballet to sling backs to gladiators, perfect for the trip to the mall or the walk down the beach. Coffee with friend or just some grocery shopping! Embellished, simple, adorned, or plain graffiti, they are perfect to jazz up everything from jeans to shorts to casual skirts.  

cropped jacket/ stole/wrap - extra care for the late nights. Mumbai might be a safe place, but you could always be tad bit careful when you are dressed up to hit the party. Just throw on a jacket or wrap yourself in a stole to keep any roving eye at bay.


Bags (basics - sling for the daily, handbag for work/traveling and a little clutch for the evenings out!)

bling-a-licious - for that extra dash of confidence, dazzle and FUN! Be it accessories, footwear, or if ur too bold, then the dress, all things shiny are in & can be a great morale booster...If you can't carry the complete bling look, just add a tinge of shimmer to the boring LBD or jeans-tee combo; with a bag or shoes or belt. 

I don't claim to own all of it, but you never know maybe someday, they will make way into my wardrobe! :D

Movie Review - Despicable Me! 'Bad is the new good!'

‘Growing old is inevitable; Growing up is optional’ – if you live by this idiom, animation, cartoon films are never childish to demand a dekho and if you enjoy the genre, ‘Despicable Me’ is definitely worth your time.
Despicable Gru (voice by Steve Carell) prides in being the the world's ultimate evil villain and the best that there is in his line of business. All is fine till one day another villain and Gru’s arch-rival Vector (voice by Jason Segal) steals the spotlight from Gru by robbing the Egyptian pyramid. Gru won’t take this insult lying down and plans to revamp his reputation by carrying out a major heist – stealing the MOON! He approaches the Bank of Evil to sponsor the project. The bank refuses. Plan B – to compact the moon for which he first needs to get hold of the shrink ray (google it!). Gru has to enter Vector’s hideout to take the machine. For this he has to take the help of three spunky orphans Margo (voice Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (voice Dana Gaier) and Agnes (voice Elsie Fisher). What Gru does not apprehend is that the girls are a handful and they are all set to melt the heart of the mean baddie. (Sounds straight out of a Bollywood plot ain’t it?). Thus begins the great fun roller coaster ride from BAD to DAD!
Without focusing much on the storyline, enjoy this movie for its novelty, antics and whackiness. There are bucket loads of humorous scenes and wisecracks to keep the audience truly entertained. All the characters have a cutting edge sketch and at no point appear hollow or jumpy. Humour is straight lined, not deeply slapstick or cheeky, but equal in sarcasm and sharpness. Visually the film scores as well. Watch out for the supporting characters of Gru’s partner-in-crime Dr. Nefario (voice of Russell Brand) and also him loyal legion of mischievous pill-shaped tiny yellow minions and the character of Gru’s mother (voice Julie Andrews). Charming! Same goes for the clever reference to ‘Lehman Brothers’. Very cheeky!!
Vivid colors, near perfect animation, great voice-overs, feel-good heart-warming ending, all make this a great weekend family watch. DIL TOH BACCHA HAI JEE.

Although I haven't seen the 3D version, have been hearing great reviews about that too. Hope to catch it soon.

On second thoughts, Do I hear MacDonalds coming up with ‘Despicable Me’ models for their Happy meals. I for one won’t complain.! !


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