Irficionado | Movie Review | “Spectacle”

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Guy meets guy. In a foreign land. They get acquainted on discovering they’re from the same land, India. Both are attractive, and in their minds probably reckon they find the other attractive too, but it’s perhaps not come to the surface just yet. When the first proper ‘Hi’ happens – when Guy 2 goes up to Guy 1 (to be henceforth referred to as G1 and G2 correspondingly) to thank him for lending him his phone since his got stolen – G1 stops both of them short. He says if they follow the typical next steps, it will be the same old story: get to know each other, chat, get physical, and maybe even fall for each other… Here, in this videsi land, where no one knows them, they have the chance to be whoever they want to be. That way, they can also avoid the trappings of love and relationships. How about they just hang – hang out without getting hung up on each other? A six-night stand, if you will, of the platonic kind.

Jim Carrey in a scene from 'I Love You Phillip Morris'

Jim Carrey in a scene from ‘I Love You Phillip Morris’

G2 is amused, but decides to play along. So, they dance at the local festival, move into the same hotel, romp through the countryside… But never cross the physical line. And then it’s time for G2 to leave. The ditch is, G2 realises only then, that he’s fallen for G1. He decides to honour the pact, but still rushes back from the car to the room, to confirm with a dazed G1 whether this is indeed it and that they really won’t meet again, and sensing his dazed answer, kisses him (the mouth variety), and leaves.

Actually, not. G2 is just not able to get G1 out of his system… even after a few years. A work meeting brings him to Delhi, where he stumbles upon the book café whose name was printed on the book G1 was reading back in foreign land. He decides to take a chance and spend evenings there. And is rewarded. G2 spots G1 in a work meeting, approaches him, G1 is dazed again, and then what they had planned to avoid back in that foreign land does happen. Dating, making out, liking each other, and eventually a proposal. However, something, or someone, is missing: the guy, the real guy, that G1 was in that foreign land. G1, says G2, is pretending to be someone else. And so G2 calls it splits.

That may sound like the script of a big Bollywood movie for at least five years from now, or a parallel cinema movie at least three years from now, but that’s actually the story of what has proved to be my best movie of the year. Tamasha. G1 being Ranbir Kapoor, G2 being Deepika Padukone, and the foreign land being Corsica, France. No, I’m not insinuating anything on the part of the script/screenplay-writer (the director, Imtiaz Ali, himself), but to me, Tamasha’s storyline could well have been a gay one. A gay guy living it up, his true self, in a space where no one knows him, and then returning home and pretending to be straight again (and thus feeling straight-jacketed again).

Poster of movie 'Tamasha'

At its core, Tamasha is about coming out of the closet, whether that closet be a gay one or that constructed by society. So, unlike what most people have said about the movie (that it’s about following your passion; it is about that too, but that’s more the plot than the message), it’s about, simply, having the guts to be yourself.

But Imtiaz doesn’t leave it at that. Imtiaz is the bastion, if not the pioneer, of the “urban-inner-conflict-love-story” Bollywood movie, and keeps pushing even that envelope in each subsequent movie, even if it’s just changing the colours of the envelope. While most Bollywood movies would resolve that conflict in the last five minutes of the movie and have the hero-heroine embrace in the last two of those five, Imtiaz spends the entire second half delving into it. (Yes, what I outlined above was just the first half.)

Imtiaz believes the conflict of choosing to live your true life versus fitting into some template society has prepared is rocky enough (at least for the individual) and needs slow, deliberate, conscious unraveling. And there are enough clashes, agonies and tears between the protagonists in the course of this. Each time they meet after the refusal, Ranbir is beginning to get a bit closer to Ranbir Kapoor readying for another day in the rat race in a scene from 'Tamasha'his core. But just like the last mile on Everest can be the most excruciating, he’s finding it extremely agonising, especially with no friends, family or Deepika to hold his hand through the process. (Kind of like the coming-out process, to go back to that gay analogy.) Plus, his anguish is also aimed at Deepika for having been the catalyst in this painful scraping-out (the closeted gay guy hates the out guy for triggering the coming out). Ranbir almost barks at Deepika quite a few times through the few occasions they meet after the split (the closeted guy thinks the out guy is oh-so-self-righteous and hates the latter for making him consider getting out of his comfort zone). So, does Ranbir finally “come out”? As they say, for that, you’ll have to watch the movie. (And now that it’s exited the theatres, wait for the DVD or for it to come on TV.)

Bollywood director Imtiaz AliImtiaz’s stellar writing comes through in other departments of the movie as well. He brings in a side story of an auto-driver who Ranbir hires one night and hears him humming a song. That leads him to discover that the driver used to sing in his youthhood days but then “marriage and living took over”. This leads to the funky ‘Wat wat wat’ sing; you don’t understand the significance of this song in the promos, but in the storyline, its place and meaning dazzle.

Imtiaz’s penchant for symbolisms too bubbles over in Tamasha. Ranbir is reading, he-he, Catch 22 in Corsica. The name of the book café from which Ranbir has borrowed the book (which is written on the first inside page too) is Social. Ah, someone forced to be social, and thus being in a catch-22 situation, you go in raptures. And the best is the movie title itself. Tamasha, or Spectacle, while referring to Ranbir’s real passion for the dramatic and the theatre, also refers to how we, on following society’s path, end up becoming spectacles in our own eyes, but then again, if we follow our heart and its path, there’s the fear that we could end up becoming spectacles in society’s eyes (and society has many of them). Triumvirate symbolism.

In between, Imtiaz also pays homage to his favourites, his favourite cinematic cities. Calcutta makes a comeback (after ‘Love Aaj Kal’) and good ole Delhi (his debut ‘Socha Na Tha’, ‘LAK’, and ‘Rockstar’) and Simla (‘SNT’) are there too.

Child actor Yash Sehgal along with Ranbir Kapoor on the sets of 'Tamasha' in SimlaImtiaz also repeats the casting of the year by choosing Yash Sehgal as the kid version of Ranbir. Yash, who looks exactly like Ranbir would have looked in his childhood, also played the junior Ranbir in ‘Bombay Velvet’.

But Imtiaz’s best writing in the movie is for Deepika’s character. If he spent nights fleshing out Ranbir’s character, his hair must have curled some more prising out Deepika’s. In fact, some reviewers (women, especially) had a standard comment against the movie: why couldn’t the movie be about a woman following her passion and being her true self? One, Imtiaz doesn’t have to make social-cause movies. Two, his intention with Deepika is very clear: she is a catalyst, and that can be a central/critical character too. Deepika is not just the seed, but also the soil, the water, and the sun in Ranbir’s uncocooning. She is the one who turns down his proposal… in front of all his office friends. She is the one who tells him why she did so. She is the one who insists on meeting with him after some tears have flown under the eyes. She is the one who tells him why she wanted to meet him so. And the words she uses are perfectly conceived and crafted. Not ‘I’m sorry I broke your heart.’ But ‘I’m sorry that what I said touched some complex within you, which you didn’t want emerging and you’re not being able to deal with it, and that I ended up doing that for you.’ (Phew. This is great writing.)

Deepika Padukone in a sad scene from 'Tamasha'

However, Deepika’s character goes through some unpeeling and unraveling too, but for the viewers. You understand why her acting seemed so plain in front of Ranbir’s exuberant matargashti (tomfoolery) in Corsica: Ranbir is the hidden actor who was letting his suppressed self and acting come out in France; Deepika, although while playing along with Ranbir’s game, was pretty much her usual self in France, but you get this only in the second half. Deepika’s is a standard, humdrum life (she seems to head a tea company; how exciting). She falls in love with Ranbir because he’s so much fun (compared with her afternoons of tea-tasting), but also because she sees him for who he really is, which no one else has so far. Now, how is this not a strong woman character?

Deepika plays to the character, capably. Ranbir is brilliant in his fooling-around self, the anguished self, the cool self, or any self. (He is becoming rock-solid with each movie. Now, if only the fate of his movies could that solid.) But the star of the movie, luminously, is Imtiaz. Take it away, Imtiaz. Tamasha is, clearly, quite a spectacle.

And finally, to answer the 100-crore question: Why is Deepika’s heartbreak song, ‘Heer toh badi sad hai’, sung by folk singers in rural Punjab, while she is based out of Calcutta? (In fact, as the song begins and plays out, you clearly see her landing and moving around in the eastern city.) [Here’s the promo version of the song (with Ranbir singing to the camera), but the non-Ranbir parts will tell you the song story…]

Simple, people. Since the song is happening in her head, she imagines the guy she just fell head over heels for, but doesn’t know where he lives, must be from pure, proper Punjab. Why else would he be so full of life?

I told you, this movie is great writing.

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Bajirao Mastani poster

Irficionado | Movie Review / Rant | ‘Bajirao Mastani’

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I’m tired of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s movies.

I’m tired of top shots (I felt I was watching the Hindi version of ‘The Walk’), long shots (like at a tennis match), and drop shots (I don’t think there’s anything cinematically like this, but this phrase came up from those tennis court-like long shots).

I’m tired of sets that look like out of an art director’s dream – a wet dream.

I’m tired of heroines’ outfits looking like they weigh more than the heroine.

Tired of bling and attire having more sound effects than action sequences.

Tired of every film of his looking like it wants to best ‘Mughal-e-Azam’. (It’s like Ramu trying to make another ‘Aag’, gola, or whatever to amp ‘Sholay’.)

Tired of the stern-looking, usually widowed matriarch who is usually a middle-aged non-mainstream actress we haven’t seen in a while (Supriya Pathak in ‘Ram Leela’ and Tanvi Azmi here).

Tired of tragic endings that would do Guru Dutt proud. (Am guessing Bhansali himself has dreams – the same type above – over the tragedy guru.)

Tired of the hero overreaching (SRK in ‘Devdas’, Hrithik in ‘Guzaarish’, and Ranveer here).

Of heroine dance showdowns (Mads-Ash in ‘Devdas’, Chops-Deeps here, and Lolo-Mads in ‘DTPH’; I know, I know about the last, but maybe Bhansali was an AD on that movie?).

Of movies that aim to be visual and aural porn but leave a hole in the soul. (Since ‘Black’, all of Bhansali’s movie seem soulless.)

Seriously, Punekars and Marathi manoos elsewhere needn’t have lost their cool over ‘Pinga’, Mastani’s characterization (she apparently had a limp in real life and here she’s running through Mastani Mahal, with her kid, evading attackers, with swords), and other infractions in the movie: Bhansali’s botched it all up. Or hell, maybe they should get more irate?

Now, about the main actors…

Deepika Padukone smiling her trademark downward smile at an eventI’m tired of Deepika’s two expressions that she considers acting: the downward smile and the single-tone dialogue delivery (she sells soap and banking services with the same fervour). I don’t mind that Mastani looks more uncomfortable dancing to ‘Pinga’ than a giraffe stooping for a drink in Africa (she’s not a dancer, after all). But a Muslim warrior princess (yes, she’s half-Muslim but does read the namaaz and dresses like Meena Kumari in ‘Pakeezah’) not knowing her ‘ishq’ (she says ‘ishk’) and ‘khhata’ (khata)? Break her other leg too.

Priyanka Chopra with Pitbull in a shot from her music video 'Exotic'Since ‘Mary Kom’, Piggy Chops is using all her movies as showcases to impress Hollywoodites. (That’s why she’s acting in only author-backed or women-centric roles. But then, 30+ female actors in Bollywood do/end up doing that.) She gives a very hardworking performance here. But Madhuri as Chandramukhi in ‘Devdas’ was way better as the hurt woman.

Ranveer Singh in various looks from the movieRanveer Singh tries even harder – with his accent, his body, his eyes, his acting – but you feel he’s trying too hard and thence playing out of his league. You feel an older, more seasoned actor would have excelled in the role and taken the movie a few notches above the ground. (I’m thinking Hrithik – better body, better screen presence, and has played a chieftain earlier: Akbar.)

Bollywood director Sanjay Leela Bhansali at an eventWhich finally brings me to Bhansali himself. Who needs to learn that gorgeous outfits, lavish sets, and elaborate drama/action sequences do not a movie make. But I already ranted about those. The only saving grace then seems to be the music – ‘Albela Sajan’ is still ear-spinning. The third movie on the trot SLB has done the music for, and this one, the controversy notwithstanding, is ear-pleasant. But the rest of the movie, ah. Maybe music direction as the first career, Mr Bhansali?

To paraphrase what he intended as a killer catchline, “Bhansali ne iss movie ke saath ayaashi ki hai, mohabbat nahi…”

 

 

A poster of the movie Main aur Charles

Irficionado | Movie | Random Thoughts | Charles-Gnarls

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I think I end up doing a Random Thoughts when the movie is hyped but ends up being disappointing (as in this case) or I find it disappointing or no big deal (as in the case of, will I be trolled for saying this, Baahubali). And so, Random Thoughts ends up being Snarky Thoughts. Below’s my Random Thoughts for Main aur Charles. (And if interested, here’s it for Baahubali.)

/

Man, how many women are there in the movie? Correction. Man, how many white women are there in the movie? It should have been called Mem aur Charles.

A bare-backed Mandana Karimi in a shot from Main aur CharlesNone of those women wear bras in the film. And if they do, they take them off before you can say ‘bra’. As in the case of Mandana Karimi. The same with panties. And the same with Mandana Karimi.

The movie needed subtitles. For Randeep Hooda / Charles’s French-accented Hindi / English / whatever. Je vous prie.

The movie uncannily ends up living up to its title. It’s about everyone else and Charles – their view / take on Charles. So, you pitifully get to see little of Charles’s famed cunning, at least not from his side. For that, I guess we’ll have to wait for a movie titled Main, Charles.

Prawaal Raman, the director of Main aur Charles, against the backdrop of his previous movie, 404Charles is finally sentenced to 11 years in jail, instead of the 2-3 he’s supposed to get initially (as the investigating officer manages to charge him for a murder conspiracy instead of the conning charges planned initially). Given the disappointing movies he’s been steadily making for the past several years (404: Error Not Found, Darna Zaroori Hai, Gayab, and this one), Prawaal Raman (the director) should get 11 years out of Bollywood.

So, the best thing about the movie ends up being the much-promoted remix song, Jab chaye tera jadoo (originally from Dev Anand’s Lootmaar). You could have saved money by just fixing it as your caller tune. Or watching it on YouTube. So, here goes…

Movie poster of Pawn Sacrifice

Irficionado | Movie Review | Pawn Sacrifice

Logo for Irficionado series‘Pan-Sacrifice’

Years of playing Spider-Man seems to have done something to Tobey Maguire that we may have overlooked all along, or not thought about. Either he was quietly developing his acting skills beneath Spidey’s mask or that he is very eager to prove that he knows more than just to swing from buildings and kiss upside down.

Tobey Maguire holding up his Spidey costume in one of his Spider-Man movies

Tobey then takes to Pawn Sacrifice with a vengeance. As the madcap, mercurial, maverick mid-70s US chess GM, Bobby Fischer, he fills up a good deal of the movie. (The movie is about him, after all.) But not content with getting a meaty role, he goes about actually trying to fill up the screen. There are sequences and sequences that feature only him and his slow but steady descent with paranoia. And when that isn’t enough, you get scenes and scenes of his eyes moving from one side of the socket and screen to the either, as a display of his increasing suspiciousness.

Tobey Maguire with suspicion large on his face in Pawn Sacrifice

But forgive these, and you spot enough instances of Tobey possibly receiving a nod for a nomination. He gets into the character like the GM into his game (or does he ever leave it?), ostensibly living it as much as Bobby lived chess. He allows you to get very close to the character too. He conveys his growing loneliness, detachment, and annoyance with the world very well – to the point of you beginning to lose your patience with him, much like many of the folk around him, who possibly tolerated the genius only for his genius on the square board.

But that’s the limit to which Tobey, or maybe, the screenplay goes. It shows you his journey, and allows you at most to be a bystander, but doesn’t allow you to get into it and be a passenger with him. Unlike a similar movie earlier this year, also about a beleaguered genius and in similar territory of war, The Imitation Game, about the WW1 Germany-codebreaker and computer inventor, Alan Turing. In that ‘game’, you cheered for him (while he’s inventing the machine, and taking his time doing so, in the eyes of others) as well as felt his pain about his gayness, both as a boy and as an adult. There, you feel the film. Here, you merely view it.

Pawn Sacrifice though doesn’t suffer only on these counts. In trying to make its protagonist the hero, or king, of the piece, it reduces the supporting cast – all of them – to mere pawns. Be it his team of Priest and Paul (the one starts strong but slowly lets his light and presence fade in the shadow of the genius; the other begins commandingly – “I have been the agent to the Rolling Stones” – but next scene on, becomes softer than a marshmallow); the few odd women in his life (Mom leaves early on and resurfaces only as a faded figure toward the end; Sister makes weepy appearances, and ok, one cheering one; Hooker’s make-up and clothes have more to do than she); and the most incorrigible, his adversary, Boris Spassky. Boris is reduced to a wussy caricature, and if ever Liev Schreiber, who plays him, wanted a role to come out of his perennial fringe-line presence in Hollywood, he chose the wrong one. He is shown as a man of few words, and those words are all Russian, and someone who fails to even offer resistance, cinematically, to the emerging genius of Fischer.

And then, when the end credits roll, you understand why. Why all the pieces are stacked in Tobey’s favour. He’s produced the movie, damnit. Check and mate, viewer.

Welcome Back poster

Meview: Very Welcome

The opening credits – still shots of the principal players to the accompaniment of the single word ‘Welcome’ – start rolling, and you know something’s on. But it hits you only with the killarious graveyard scene way into the second half. Welcome Back is a ’90s movie. And as madcap as they came.

This seems to be the era for celebrating the era in which Gen Y came to be. There have been some awesome tributes (Dum Lagaa Ke Haisha), some awful ones (Dheere Dheere aka Bore Me Slowly), and many more brewing. (Heads-up: Saajan completes 25 years next year, and the baap of all path-breaking movies, Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, the year after that. Keep those hashtags ready.)

But back to Welcome Back. WB is all things nineties: sister from another mother (Shruti Haasan, to Nana Patekar); son from another father (John Abraham, to Paresh Rawal); conning jodidaars, only this time, the gender gets changed (Dimple Kapadia and newbie Ankita Srivastava); bhais/goons (Anil Kapoor – fusing roles like Loafer, Laadla, Ram Lakhan; Nana Patekar, and Abraham); right down to a visually challenged don (Naseeruddin Shah, picking up from Mohra, and pumping in the fun of Ishqiya) and a written-on-the-sets, tweet-wit story (Kapoor and Patekar discover they have another sister, Rawal uncovers his wife has another son, they decide to get them married, then not, then Naseer jumps in, with a son… Should I go on?).

But is it fun. Again, think nineties: David Dhawan directing all his favourites (Govinda, Sanjay Dutt, and to a lesser extent, well, Anil Kapoor)… in one movie. It’s that amped up. Clearly, everyone’s having fun here. It’s like they went on a three-month vacation to Dubai/Abu Dhabi, decided on the spur of the moment to do a movie there, came on the sets asking, “Toh aaj kya karna hai?” And the response was, “Aap ko kya karnaa hai?” And then, all went about their roles like pre-schoolers discovering crayon.

So, Paresh Rawal, seemingly happy to be back to comedy from netagiri, rolls his eyes, totters about exasperatedly (first half) and schemingly (second half), and even delivers an about-two-minute dialogue through a cut-out of Abraham’s head. (Told you.)

Naseeruddin Shah rolls his eyes too – although he can’t see – and rolls his guns and dialogues even more… And keeps them coming thick and fast. As his character exclaims, “Mazaak thaa, mazaak!” And then finally regains his sight, after hitting his head on a bumper. (Believe me now?)

Naseeruddin Shan in a scene from Welcome Back

Dimple Kapadia and Ankita Srivastava wear flowing and itsy-bitsy outfits respectively and switch their accents from posh (when faking a Maharani and a Rajkumari) to street (when being their true characters) to Hyderabadi (when being their real true characters).

John Abraham and Shruti Haasan, perhaps the weakest actors here (but then, they are pitched against stalwarts), sense their limitations or those of their roles and play along, happy to flare (he), simper (she), and gallivant (they).

But the movie belongs to the bhai/muh-bola-bhai jodi of Anil Kapoor and Nana Patekar. They get meaty parts, and pounce on it like… bhais. Kapoor lets his eyes and facial expressions do half the acting (keep your eyes and ears on all alert for the same graveyard scene) and his clothes (like Govinda’s in the nineties, but glammed up) and glasses the other half. Nana Patekar is the perfect bromantic partner to him. Check him trying hard to keep his control in most of the movie and then losing it big-time in the graveyard scene and at the end.

Anil Kapoor and Nana Patekar in their promo poster for Welcome Back

Plus, the seasoned duo are sporting enough to take a barrage of ageist jokes thrown at them. (Here’s mine: Knock, knock. > Who’s there? > Our knees.) But seriously, how old do they look – 45 and 47? Seriously too, the next Welcome – oh yes, it’s looking very strong after this, and one hopes sooner (Welcome Again?) – should concentrate even more on these two. After all, don’t we, and they, want to know: Will they ever get a girl? Or maybe not.

And if you want any more nineties’ masala, in the end, you have everyone in the middle of the desert trying to escape exploding devices, galloping camels, and a billowing sandstorm. (Clearly, the director, Anees Bazmee’s turn to play with crayons.)

Naseeruddin Shah near a chopper in a climax scene from Welcome Back

The last time I had so much fun at the movies – and heard others having too: laughing, clapping, thumping their thighs, whistling at snippets of the first part (Feroze Khan’s RDX character got the loudest) – was Mujhse Shaadi Karogi, surprise, another David Dhawan romp-in-the-amusement park.

Welcome back, Welcome Back.

Side-note:

Raja Sen’s review of the movie on Rediff stated something like, “in Shruti Haasan’s case, the acting genes (Kamal Haasan and Sarika) have cruelly missed her”. I’ve seen her in a couple of movies now (the earlier being D-Day, which gave her a better platform for performance than here), and I think he misses the point. I read his review before I watched the movie and kept a close look-out for this. And now having watched enough Kollywood (Tamil) movies too, I think I got it.

Shruti Haasan in a scene from Welcome Back

Shruti has worked more in South Indian movies (and Sen doesn’t seem to have watched too many of these), that too Tollywood (Telugu) movies, and her acting sensibilities have got moulded that way. So, she hams it up and gestures a lot more than necessary for Bollywood, but all of which is par in Tollywood, where everything needs to be supersized (these are the folk who gave us Baahubali, after all).

Shruti Haasan in several promo shots from the Telugu movie, Race Gurram

Several other non-South-Indian actresses who have made the South their base after trying their luck initially in Bollywood have gone this way too. They get entrenched and established here, then based on their success here, get a Bollywood offer or two, but don’t cut the grade. Think Shriya Saran, Asin, Kajal Agarwal, and Tamannah (the last one in all her outings). In Drishyam (the Hindi version), my parents asked me of Shriya, “She’s that Sivaji girl, right? Where’s she from? Oh, Punjab. But she’s looking completely South Indian now.” There you go.

So, I think Shruti’s just fine. And I’m not even a fan.

Movie poster of Manjhi the Mountain Man

Meview: Manjhi the Mountain Man

Manjhi the Mountain Man is a pile-high of a disappointing movie. Though perhaps not so if you know the director, Ketan Mehta’s track record. He’s done many biopics/character-pics (more so in recent times: Rang Rasiya, on painter Raja Ravi Verma; Mangal Pandey, on one of India’s first freedom fighters; Maya Memsaab, based on Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary; and earlier, Sardar, on India’s Iron Man, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel) and several movies on social issues (Mirch Masala, on women’s subjugation in his home state, Gujarat; Bhavni Bhavai, on the caste system, and Holi, on college ragging, as Aamir Khan’s factually first movie as an adult actor).

Manjhi director, Ketan Mehta, with the movie poster in the background

So, let’s see: he takes interesting (actually, very interesting) subjects, and then gives us… rubble. His movies start with very promising premises and then slowly have you breaking for a ciggie (upto the ’90s) or for Temple Run (now). In between, he didn’t direct for a long time.

Here, he takes the real-life account of Dashrath Manjhi from Gehlore village in Bihar from the early ’60s, who took upon the task of pounding a road through a mountain all by himself, after his wife (Phaguniya) lost her life trying to cross the mountain. How long was he at it? 22 years. Absolutely incredible.

The real Dashrath Manjhi on the mountain

But Ketan Mehta gives us such a dull screenplay that after some time the only thing you’re noticing on screen are the subtitles. And the problem isn’t that of only one person occupying the screen for 85% of the time. There have been other movies in this mould – Cast Away, 127 Hours, and more recently, Life of Pi – but the screenplay there has been solid enough for the duration or there have been other credible interludes. Here, the non-Manjhi screentime goes for forced fictionalised accounts (the Manjhi-Phaguniya meet-cute is way over-the-top, over-the-mountain-top). Plus, it tries to do too much: include accounts of the changes Indian went through over Manjhi’s mountain-breaking years (abolishment of casteism/untouchability, Naxalism, Indira Gandhi, Emergency). Or maybe that’s the problem: Mehta tries to do much with the non-Manjhi time and too little in the Mountain-Man time. The Manjhi space has the titular character either having monologues with the mountain or having visions (like in most of these movies) of dear-departed Phaguniya, for whom he’s building this rock-fested Taj Mahal.

The let-down though doesn’t stop at the screenplay. The supporting actors, big on paper (pack-a-punch director and part-time actor, Tigmanshu Dhulia; eternally solid character actor, Pankaj Tripathi; rapidly rising Radhika Apte), look disinterested on celluloid. (Perhaps because they knew even the mountain had more screen time than them?) So, Dhulia doesn’t look the necessary frightful when he’s about to be… hanged. (Guess he was relieved at the end of his misery.) Tripathi plays the rustic lout yet again. (Tripathiji, we would like more of what we saw in Masaan and less of this, if possible.) And Radhika Apte tries very hard for sometime (when she playfully reveals she’s pregnant and not-so-playfully beats up Manjhi with the broom), but loses interest soon and sticks to making her big eyes appear even bigger and revealing skin (from all possible angles).

Radhika Apte in two scenes from Manjhi the Mountain Man

That leaves Nawazuddin Siddiqui to rescue a movie that he’s anyway supposed to bear the weight of. But Siddiqui seems to have chosen this movie of all to not act, overact, or worse, act himself… yet again. It’s like he was huffed by two movies on the trot with Salman Khan (Kick and Bajrangi Bhaijaan) becoming monster hits without he getting due credit. So, he went: ‘Since this movie is all about me, let me show everyone what I am about.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui in two scenes from Manjhi the Mountain Man

Siddiquisaab, we already know what you are capable of (Gangs of Wasseypur). We wanted to see how you would play someone who is anguished, desolate, and determined. Instead, we get someone who comes across as cocky, overzealous, or shoot, full of himself.

Really, if Manjhi took 22 years to tame that mountain, couldn’t Mehta have taken at least one-tenth that time to give us a better flick?

And what is ‘meview’? Find out here on my blog – Irfictionary: Meview

Jurassic World Poster

Meview: Jurassic World

Early on in Jurassic World, you see Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) informing both a group of investors and Owen (Chris Pratt), separately (great, not once, but twice, so that we don’t miss the point), “We need to keep upgrading, giving people something bigger/better, so that they don’t get bored, and keep coming.” And just in case you didn’t get that, a bit later, during crisis time, Dr Wu (the scientist, B D Wong) tells Masrani (the owner of the park, Irrfan Khan), “Why did we invent Indominus Rex? Because you wanted something cooler.

Great, we get it; the new Jurassic Park movie, a sequel to the first movie (from 1992) is a reload for the generation that was born after 1992 and is thus aiming to be bigger, better, badder, cooler for them. So, now, we can begin checking off.

More dinos (mososaurus, the ginormous whale-meets-croc one; the baby ones – in the petting zoo; pteranodon – the flying ones; more raptors – four; and of course, the motherlode, I-Rex).

More sophisticate: holographs of dinos in the museum; gyrospheres instead of the electric-powered cars; and whew, both terrestrial and submersible viewability of Gino Dino.

Cooler setpieces: the much-memed and already-cult sequence of Owen saving an apprentice, and himself, from his nurtured raptors; the flee, flight, and fury of the pteranodons; Gino whooshing up for its meal of a… Great White shark.

Jurassic World Chris Pratt cult scene

Stay: The already-cult scene from Jurassic World where Chris Pratt urges his raptors to behave

Tributes to many of Steven Spielberg’s cult movies, especially beginning with J: Jaws (Gino speeding to the surface a la the Great White); the Indiana Jones franchise (Pratt killing the terrain on a mean hog and alongside his raptors); and of course, J Park itself (I-Rex scaring the kid first with just his eye).

Standard forebodings about not caging, controlling, and messing with animals and their DNA – the best part about the movie to animal-freedom-advocate me.

And the final check-off. The movie’s achieved what it set out to do: appeal to a younger generation, earn gino amounts of money, and pave the way for sequels and triquels.

And then, you really check something: the eyes. First, the eyes of the kids. You notice them looking somewhere other than where they’re supposed to on the green screen. (Ah, maybe they are just kids and thus novices. Still, a bit unforgiveable in a movie of this monetary magnitude.) And then, you notice the eyes of the grown-ups too – Claire, Owen, Masrani: they all look empty, like they are just acting out and mouthing up what’s on the pages rather than feeling it. Yes, even the normally solid Irrfan Khan; at times, he even resorts to adding unnecessary, trite gestures to his dialogues to make up for the lack of feeling in the lines. And you slowly notice this all around: the baddie Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio); the support cast; the filler cast; heck, even the dinos – all going through the rigours of the screenplay without any feel and only because they got fat paychecks for such a movie. (Dinos not emoting? Lack of feel among the behind-the-scenes animation folk.)

It’s then you realize – a bit late, as you’re already lured in by then – that Jurassic Park Redux is just a monster movie (a movie with monsters, rather than a movie about monsters), and at best, a serviceable one. (In comparison, last year’s Godzilla was truly god-like.) As if bearing testimony to this, toward the end, there’s even a monster pile-up: raptors vs I-Rex; raptors with I-Rex; T-Rex vs I-Rex (yes, how could T-Rex not be reloaded?); T-Rex and raptor vs I-Rex; and finally, hold your breath, G-Rex (good ole Gino) coming up and gobbling up I-Rex. (Really, Gino needs his own movie to showcase all his skills.)

The new J Park movie sorely lacks the soul of Steven Spielberg. The soul of Spielberg, to folk born after 1992, is the opening sequence of Jaws, where you get the feeling that something terrifying is going to happen, and it does, only in a more terrifying way than you imagined, and you didn’t even see anything. It is the spine-scaring T-Rex coming close to the adolescent girl in the 4×4, and you’re shouting at the stupid girl to shut off the flashlight, but who’s too terrified to think or listen to you. It’s the claustrophobic and scarier-than-any-horror-flick sequence in the original J Park, where the raptors and the kids go hammer-and-tongs at each other, both psychologically and physically, in the place with hammer and tongs, the kitchen.

Jurassic Park T-Rex eye close-up

Eye on you: The classic and cult T-Rex intro sequence from Jurassic Park

In the middle of the movie, the younger kid Cray (Ty Simpkins) asks Owen near his raptor unit, after Owen has finished telling him the four raptors’ names, “So, who’s the alpha male?” Owen, uber-cool: “You’re looking at him.” Unfortunately, in this movie, you’re not looking at the alpha-male version of Spielberg, but just his holograph. The director-writer duo of Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly go, pitifully, full fanboy and hole soul. And as pitifully, exec producer Spielberg lets them. Now, we’ll just have to wait for Bridge of Spies (Spielberg’s next directorial offering) to rekindle what the master is like. And until then, watch Jaws and Jurassic Park all over again.