September 27, 2010

Shakti - Transcendental Masala Cinema, plus some Daddy Issues!

Yes, I have always loved Amitabh for all his mad death scenes

Once every so often, there is a movie that just goes above all expectations and touches your masala dil, Shakti is one of those films that ran with my heart and induced a Barsaat Cry! I for one am upholder of Masala ideals, wherever there is a missing son/daughter/hamster or a rain song, then you know that I'll be there! (I was trying to copy the whole idealistic speech from Grapes of Wrath, but that would be too much!)

Anyway, Shakti is a film that I wholeheartedly love because it elevates all its masala trappings turns it into a level of cinematic magic. The script was written by masala scribes Salim and Javed, so there are lots of typical and archetypal staples that we get in this film. But somehow due to the performances of the two greatest actors of Indian cinema, Shakti becomes a film of aggression, Oedipal drama as well as some necessary dishoom-dishoom!
Look at my Anil cho chweet!

So lets start off with Ashwini Kumar(Dilip) telling his grandson(Anil Kapoor-looking soo young) abour his father. I like how I was able to foretell that Anil and Dilip would also be in another favorite of mine, full of drama and dace-offs in Mashaal, I'm just that good y'all!! Ashwini and his wife Maa(Rakhee) have a very peaceful life along with their son Vijay(Master Raju-my filmi baccha son). Ashwini is a police officer and is always getting into tussles with JK(Amrish Puri) and KD Narang(Kulbhushan Kharbanda), when he arrests their right hand man, and my favorite villain from Toofan, Goga Kapoor!
Goga Kapoor with some better hair and getup than Toofan

Ashwini manages to lock up Goga, to the ire of the principal baddies JK n KD, so the two men decide to kidnap Vijay in exchange for Goga. Ashwini is worried, and what follows is such a strong scene to shape the rest of the film. Ashwini refuses to let Goga go, and shouts on the phone, "Go kill him if you dare, just kill him" about his son, which Vijay hears and is really shaken by, that his father cares more for his job than his son.
My son Master Raju about to become a Vigilante!
Awww it's all downhill from here!

Vijay manages to break free, and is saved by KD who lets him go. Vijay manages to get home before Ashwini comes to save him, and the next day, Vijay keeps replaying the phone call in his head. This small incident mushrooms later when Vijay grows up and drifts apart from his father, Ashwini on the other hand acts like nothing happened and doesn't see why his son is so darn angry all day long. This was great writing on Salim n Javed's part because they seem to blur the lines of who's right and wrong. Vijay, who holds that incident against his father and Ashwini, who ignores his son for his duty.
My only quibble: Rakhee as Amitabh's maa? NAHIEE!

Also its good to see the focus on father-son issues rather than the always brilliant but usual dependence on the mother figure. Though Rakhee puts some gray makeup on, she does a brilliant job of trying to mediate between the two men in her life, and another point addressed is how she just accepts that her husband is more focused on his job and neglects his home life and her.
The other woman of the piece is Roma(Smita Patil) who meets Vijay on the train, and then is rescued by him from some thugs!
What health and safety conscious thugs these are!
The nicest and most down-to-earth jodi ever!

Amitabh n Smita have such a easygoing jodi that worked really well here, and their courtship scenes are so wonderful because they are universal and real. The two of them walk home, and awkwardly and flirtaciously get to know each other, this was definitely refreshing to see and though there's a flower n dancing in the trees song later, there is a good progression towards their love, its not "WOAH I LOVE YOU RIGHT THIS MINUTE, LETS SING!!!" Even though its a small supporting role, Smita gives it her all, and her character isn't a usual condescending heroine that begs Vijay to leave his bad world, they live together and have a shotgun wedding but I definitely liked this change!

But getting back to the story, Vijay is jobless till he lands a job with KD, who hires him on the spot at his hotel. KD is a smuggler and this doesn't go down well with Ashwini who goes on a lecture about how Vijay will shame him if accepts the job, and Vijay quite rightly tells him to get lost and of course he's kicked out of the ghar!
WOAH Dilip just pulled out the "Extreme Daddy Issues for Life" card!

Vijay leaves home and is spotted by Roma who lets him live with her! Oooo progressive! Tensions between the two men become increasingly fractured, when Vijay is accused of the murder of some drunk guy that hassled Roma, Ashwini again spares his personal feelings no thought and jails his own innocent son. KD now bails Vijay out and tells him that JK is responsible for this mayhem. And as we all know when Amitabh is named Vijay, he naturally turns into ire personified Vigilante Vijay. I was able to overlook this for a bit, because I understood that Vijay was supremely hurt that JK would humiliate him in front of his father by framing him! And the crucial moment here was that KD was rubbing it in Ashwini's face that Vijay had found a new father figure! BOOOM!

JK now is upset with his former partner KD and Vijay and tries to kill them! Of course this is hilarious because Amrish is in full anger mode and roaring out his lines!
Can you imagine how angry he sounded!
Amitabh doing his amazing leaping about!
KD now thinks of Vijay as his son for saving him, but Vijay has a great line about how the word son has become a gaali or swearword for him. What follows is some amazing drama and face-offs between Dilip and Amitabh.
Good positioning and fabulous actors!

Its usually troublesome to have two amazing actors on screen together in a film, for example who was the sappiest but best in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham or Mashaal with my Anil and Dilip, there's usually a telling scene where one actor goes the extra mile than the other. But in Shakti you have two of the most competent actors ever not competing but just adding to the drama, to make it almost Shakespearian(yes it's OTT but there's so much good acting here!). Dilip, master of the method acting and emotional delivery is stellar as Ashwini Kumar, he makes the character human instead of masala caricature of an egregiously horrid father, when his wife dies and he's crying for her is an example of just how solid a performer Dilip is. We empathize with Ashwini, who's let his career interfere with his relationships and how he's unable to rectify them till the end.
One of the best scenes ever!

Amitabh too imbues such pathos into Vijay, sure people can say its another variation of the many vengeful Vijay's that he's played before. But really you'd be missing the point, this Vijay is more anguished than the Vijay from Zanjeer or the calculating Vijay from Trishul. This Vijay is jaded and bitter and crushed that he can't live up to his father's ideals and instead decides to "act out" in the general sense against his father. But what struck me was how Amitabh played him as strong in pursuing his own identity however opposing from his fathers. In one of the more famous scenes in the film, Vijay tells Roma that his father has two wives, his mum and the law, and that his father loves his "step brother" his pride more than Vijay, and this could be another moment of AB doing his typical angry Sharaabi shtick but it was revealing in his pain and I loved it!

There's a moment from the screencap above, where these two actors just join forces in making this film transcendental. Vijay has been released for a short while to attend his maa's funeral, and he sees his father crying and joins him in mourning. Its these quiet moments where these two titans of the screen play off each other so well, and it makes me love films even more if in one scene with these two can elevate the lousiest film in the world to art, then I'm happy.
The famous drunken sadness scene!

I could be going overboard in my praise but I really haven't seen a film where two actors have just burned the screen by sheer intensity of powerful acting, that too in a dressed down masala film like this. Sure there are astounding moments in arthouse films and middle of the road cinema that can be equally as amazing. But with this film I was just jolted up that this was Amitabh Bachchan and Dilip Kumar both crying and mourning together and facing off together in a normal film like this.

I'll try and recover from all that cinephile gush, perhaps it because I was reading my Bhagwan Francois Truffaut's book on films that made me hyperventilate and spew with praise. ANYWAYS masala films always have stunts or thrills that make your adrenaline somewhat rise up if you're not laughing at the extra who fell over that wasn't even hit. This film has got lots of thrills that are actually good and made me go "Ooo watch out Amitabh!!" or make me go "Woah now thats some action!"Vijay being chased around by a mad tractor! Transformers gone WILD!
Amitabh going all Dirty Vijay on us!

The film was really thrilling towards the end with a chase in the Mumbai Airport, where planes are actually about to take off and Dilip and Amitabh are running around and in between them, very well done!
If Dadamoni is in the film even for a paycheque role, it stills classes up the joint!

Kids, when I like a movie I REALLYY like a movie, and I know everyone's masala intake is different but me I can take it by the tonne-load, but this is a really fabulous film showcasing the two best actors of Bollywood playing off each other very well, and disguising the masala trappings into a really intense narrative.
I leave you with an imploringly wet and sexy Amitabh to beckon you to see the film:
Aaja re aa zara!

September 7, 2010

Masala Mini Reviews - The I've Been Lazy and University Edition!

The Filmi Bache Orphanage were furious at my disappearance~
Yes this must have been the longest time I've left the Masala Pradesh unattended, I'm sure there was mayhem abound here. Filmi Bache running loose turning into Vigilante Vijay's and the Anil and Chichi towns having a war at who's the best comedian. So much has happened this summer! I went to London by myself for a couple of weeks before my daddy and sister joined which was nice. I went to AR Rahman's concert in Birmingham, his first after the canceled dates and most importantly I watched 10 trucks worth of films on the glorious ZEE Cinema and STAR Gold channels while keeping my grandma company. I was also internetless at this time and unfortunately my grandma is not the type of friend like y'all to say "WOAH I love Chichi in Khudgarz and look at those jumpers!" Though I was doing lots of chores and duties that I can put on my marriage resume with my time with my gran, I can say that when she was dozing that was ample time to channel hop! Let us commence the Summer rundown!
1. Khudgarz - I absolutely adored this film especially because the above gorgeous young thing! Okay the movie wasn't solely about Chichi and Neelam daring to fall in love wearing absolutely wonderful jumpers and fugly tracksuits. It was about the Khudgarz/Selfish deeds of Jeetendra/Amar and his friend Shatrugan-the Swaggalicious-Sinha/Bihari, two best friends since childhood. I kinda loved the filmi kids back story, with Amar wearing a very funky suit and getting into a fight with early swaggering Bihari, and becoming quick friends and gobbling up ladoos together! But the kid playing Amar gave so much pathos to his character who's been neglected by his rich daddy! Of course disagreements follow when daddy horriblest wants to build a hotel on Bihari's dhaba hotel, and gets Amar to do the bad stuff! All in all a nice masala film abound with misunderstandings, that coulda been explained but ohh well at least we get Neelam and Chichi falling in love!
2. Ek Hi Bhool - It seems that as I think of all the films I saw many of them had Jeetendra, who I do like for his outrageous jumping/dancing skills. I don't know if bopping around and wiggling one's head makes him a 'Jumping Jack' but he definitely knows how to move. There was lots of dancing and being cute. It was directed by Southern king T Rama Rao, who remade many of his Southie films in Bollywood using Jeetendra and Anil's help. This one is ridiculously exploitative of my love for filmi kids, so the one in danger is Master Pinky, who my gran reckoned was Ajay Devgn as a kid, but I doubt it! Master Pinky was on the receiving end of many smacks from his maa Rekha who dumped his dad Jeetendra when he made Ek Hi Bhool/One mistake of lying to her about something silly. What I did enjoy was the middle class setting where the two split up but have to work together in the same office which is ...AWKWARD! Poor Master Pinky wants to get to know this guy who claims he's his daddy and Jeetu and him sing a cute song which goes "Ohh Raju Ohh Daaadddeeee" when they go on a playdate. There's also Shabana Azmi in a wasted role as her friend who keeps urging her to forgive and forget. There's a completely hilarious ending that involves a wedding and a tranny and Rekha using her screeching skills!

Aww Poor Rajni and his pancaked face
3. Andhaa Kanoon - Perhaps one of my favorites of all time! Because it was apparently Rajnikanth's mainstream debut into Bollywood, I may be wrong I read this in the research bible Stardust. Rajnikanth is one of those actors that defies everything about subtle acting and in turns spins on its head and adds a dollop of ishtyle! I think this is the movie is the one that began the Southie and Rajni odyssey for me! Rajni is Vijay Kumar, and y'all know that the name Vijay means one thing VIJILANTE! I'm all for vigilante films because the actors being Vigilante Vijay or Angry Amar or Furious Feroz or Mad Manoj, seriously I'm gonna make a list of angry synonyms. BUT these actors get to stretch their skills in anger and getting me on wronged masala side. Rajni and his feisty cop sister Hema Malini had their parents and family murdered by a trio of the best villains ever: Amrish Puri, Prem Chopra, and hot stuff Danny Denzongpa. And I have to make a note, I was really annoyed by the ammount of pancake on Rajni's face, he looks fine with his dark looks and in some scenes when he was with Hema they just piled it on so that he looked sooo silly. Anyway some more gripes with roping in Amitabh Bachchan here, I'm all for the original vigilante man, but sometimes he looked like he was trying to steal the show from Rajni! Ohh well check it out for Rajni flipping some sunglasses around!
Perhaps the sexiest man I've seen for a while
4. Raavanan - Alright I am soo on board the Vikram train to the best actor award somewhere! I have a disadvantage of seeing this without subs, which does hamper my proper viewing of it, but even without it I just knew that I liked Vikram a lot better than Abhishek(don't kill me Ness). I've known Vikram was a class A actor when I saw Sethu the original Tere Naam on TV once. Here was an actor who could dance around with sass and develop layers to a character like that. Again Salman was excellent but Vikram is in a league of his own. If I go far enough and say that Vikram is a world class actor then that wouldn't be pushing it, because he just is! Raavanan was made all the more better by Vikram embodying the complexities of such a character as Veera. He made Veera a very earthy and sensual character especially his chemistry with Aishwariya was seriously the hottest of the year so far! My gushing is due to Vikram just amazing me with his crazy good acting and it helps if he's the sexiest thing since nutella!

5.Being Cyrus - This was a very conflicting film, at times it was very original in its casting of Saif Ali Khan as the mysterious stranger, and the excellent supporting cast of Dimple, Naseeruddin Shah, Boman Irani and Simone Singh. But it also felt to gimmicky at points with the crazy dream sequences that reminded of 'The Mighty Boosh" skit with Jurgen von Habermaster presenting his batshit film "The Pencil" it was too nutty! Being Cyrus is a one of a kind experimental film that just works because it is so out there and thoughtful. Very film noir with Saif being the calculating Alan Ladd or someone like that.

Keep these family socials away from me!
6. Hum Saath Saath Hai - NAHIEEEEEE is my reaction to this disgustingly saccharine family film with a jumbo cast of Saif, Karisma, Mohnish, Tabu, Salman, Sonali and a cast of thousands as family members. My gran made me sit through this because being an old lady she doesn't like all the dirty bikini offerings and would rather torture her granddaughter with this hogwash! I really can't believe Sooraj Barjatya's made a career out of making solid cheese like this, sure I liked Hum Aapke Hai Kaun once and maybe Maine Pyar Kiya a tad bit, but gosh these large families that go on holiday and honeymoons in the caravan together! Excuse me while I hurl in the corner! If only watch this film for the fabulous vamps Kunika, Jayshree T, and my disco dancing gal Kalpana Iyer, they wreck havoc like nobody's business!

We're bromantic work colleagues!
7. Namak Haram - Now this was the only critics favorite that I watched there, and I kinda wasn't feeling it. Don't get me wrong I love a Hrishikesh Mukherjee film and it was a treat to see some early Angry Young Man growling from Amitabh as the upper crust friend of the chamcha/spoon Rajesh Khanna. Maybe it was my mood, as I did have a late night snack of Coco Pops cereal, but it was all a little bromantic for me! Chi chi chi you say, well apart from the good social points about unions, and unemployment, Amitabh was acting very well but more as a dumped boyfriend than a best mate. A bit of trivia too, this was the film where Rekha and Amitabh met and well ya know the rest!

8.Once Upon A Time in Mumbai - Being a devotee to the Ajay Devgn cult, I naturally loved this film, it was a really fun and thoughtful. They can maintain its not about Haji Mastan or Dawood Ibrahim but if you look properly it really is. But what I'm surprised to say is Emraan Hashmi as Shoaib, the power mad cronie to don was just excellent. He really got into the head of the pyscho, especially in one scene where he bashes someone up and smiles twistedly at his gal Mumtaz(Prachi Desai). Not to say Ajay Devgn wasn't amazing as always, but this time he got to channel his masala roots and be stylish in those safari suits and act very noble. In short, these two actors faced off really well together, and matched each other scene for scene. I also liked Kangna's role as Rehana the Bollywood queen, I don't know who she's based on, but she was very good as Sultan's grounding factor in his life. And may I say Randeep Hooda is another one of the sexiest guys of the year as inspector Agnel Wilson(really digging that name) he was really fun and had some good lines, though my subs didn't indicate so, as one insult was worded "do you want to sit on my leg?" Errrrr okay!

9. Laura - Another Hollywood film noir that was just glorious! This one is the founding father of mysterious femme fatales and Gene Tierney, bless her stiff acting was kinda perfect for that role. Her suitors Vincent Price, Dana Andrews, and Clifton Webb love her because she is so bewitching in some attractive way, and Tierney is so mysterious in this role. Its gots a very creepy vibe with Dana the detective trying to figure out who might have killed Laura but finds himself attracted to her through the stories of the Price and Webb. My god, I seriously wish I had a Walter Winchell-esque columnist like Clifton Webb to take me under his wing, because he is sooooo fabulous and gets the most crackling one-liners ever written! One of the best film noirs ever!
I'll leave it there folks as my mind escapes me when I think of all the half watched film that I flicked past on all those channels! So stick around because I have some Neetu gushing coming up soon! Till then Toofan's eyes of vigilantism beckon you back to the Masala Pradesh