On the Road with Mumbai Xpress – Review


The camera refuses to move. Stops panning and stands uptight on Vaiyaapuri’s face as he comically remarks about the kidnap plan to the deaf Kamal Hassan. Half an inch more and Vaiyaapuri’s nose would brush the camera lenses. What is an unrestrained close-up like this doing in this comedy film. Out-of-place, you would feel. So did I. As more-and-more similar shots came more-and-more closer to the characters, you know it’s different. And by that definition of different, Mumbai Xpress is very different from the comedies that we have had before. It’s an offshoot of on-the-road movie genre. By a unwritten rule, we have had on-the-road movies either being thriller or serious types. Mumbai Xpress tries to explore the arena of on-the-road comedies. It tries.

Even as Pasupathi(codenamed as A) etches the kidnap plan of a rich business magnet’s son, to his sidekicks, the movie takes-off in a high speed. From then on, it runs express speed to hire Kamal Hassan in the kidnap plan and execute it. All of this told in a way that makes you think the movie was truly shot in a single day. Singeetham’s directorial experience comes to play in executing this kidnap sequence with a professional touch. The Kidnap plan which looks like the plot of the story gets done with half hour with top class comical twists, turns from the top of a crane. The Vande Matharam sequence in the school being the best of all sequence in the movie.

While the first half completes with a bike chase, one is left to wonder how Kamal & Singeetham would manage to drag this rather simple story into the next half. The second half occupies the commercial aspects for the film. A rushed-up romance that wouldn’t gel with the plot, introduction of new characters and new confusions in the aftermaths of kidnap and resolving these knots make up for a dragging second half. Even as I say that the second half goes dragging, there are scenes which make you laugh, like a typical Kamal Hassan comedy flick. Kamal chooses to end the film with a fiesta similar to Shrek.

A kidnap plan gone wrong, an innocent circus bike driver and a bunch of foolish amateur kidnappers gives enough time and space for an adept actor like Kamal Hassan to carve a niche for himself in the film. While acting as an innocent dude is something that Kamal does in most of his comedy flicks, also irritates a viewer who would expect assortment. With that Asterix type knot around his head and colorful bike, Kamal Hassan is all out for fun throughout.

Pasupathi is one who would be the most profited from the movie. Its his character that walks away with the cake, like the Gemini Ganesan of Avvai Shanmughi. Pasupathi talks a natural Tamil slang that just rocks. His voice modulation and his facial expressions just suits the ‘Boss’ role he plays. The scene where he tackles the traffic police alongwith Kamal, WOW. Manisha looks pale and is a misfit for the role. Naaser and Santhana Bharathi take similar roles they played in Anbe Sivam.

Sidharath’s camera needs to lauded for the angels and some amazing free-flowing shots. But then, blame it on the digital movie-making that most of the effort gets wasted and overlooked. Its understandable that the crew is trying to use a movie-making which is even debated in the Hollywood but the audience were just not told of all these. An unassuming viewer would think that it’s just an act of irresponsibility to have a movie show-up grains and poor picture clarity.

Illayaraja needn’t have been there in the film. The songs needn’t be hyped so much. The film would have managed well without songs too. Yelle Nee Ettippo which plays at the background has neat music in the album. All that got lost in the film and makes one feel that Illayaraja’s efforts weren’t paid-off properly.

As said its a beginning of a breed of movies in Tamil and could not pushed aside by overlooking. I don’t seem to recall many on-the-road comedies atleast in Tamil. Thiruda Thiruda was a little adventurous than being a riot fare. Mamootty and Arvind Swamy’s starrer Puthayal was of a similar type but Mumbai Xpress is out-right comedy with more logistics than logic. You may not be inspired to watch it again and again like Michael Madana Kama Rajan or Pesum Padam but you would certainly relish the moments of Mumbai Xpress.

Black Movie Review – Bhansali Blacks-out Bollywood !!

Rani Mukherjee in Black

The screen dissolves into black. A little androglossian strained voice starts to speak-out, feebly. It narrates a story as a first-person account. A story that is nothing but a state-of-mind. A story that transforms the mind and vision of blackness into white. All this transformation accompanied with a lot of trouble, anguish, agony and zillion other words that you relate to the word PAIN. Cut.

Film Fare Awards 2005 – And the filmfare award for the best – film, screenplay, direction, camera, back ground music, actor, actress and child artist goes to the cast and crew of BLACK. Will sport a moustache if this doesn’t come true. Sometimes, even if you are stiff emotionsless critic, you fall shaken with emotions when a movie moves so deeply from the heart. Black is one such gem. A classic that can stand over gimmicks and modernities of film techniques. Cut.

A Hellenkellrish story that carves lives of two people, where both become teacher and student to the other, at various points of the thorn-filled garden of life. A story that could well be complained for being straightly copied / stollen or even inspired from the life of Hellen Keller, known to us from the english textbooks of 4th grade.

Take a vivid look into the black, non-imaged, non-pixelated, muted life of Michelle McNally [Rani Mukherjee], living in Shimla. Take a detailed view into the life of the humane, adorable and angry old Debraj Sahai [Amitabh Bachchan] who is losing his worthy life and it’s memories to Alzheimer’s diesease. Their lives gets inter-twined when Debraj comes to hand-hold the blind ‘n’ deaf Michele. And what would you teach to a child who has no idea about the world around her, except for the sense of smell, taste and touch. All Michelle knows is her maa who has a hand that is soft that touches her cheeks. Any other hand and Michelle reveals her ultra famous emotion, anger. It is this anger that when postively charged gets her moving in her life to the heights, she never had imagined even in the wildest of dreams.

The movie moves firmly for a two and half hours without a single boring frame. Not only it makes you cry, laugh and applaud but also it teaches you that a movie needn’t pronounce a message. A movie can just arouse plethora of emotions in you. The physically challenged have a zest for life. A thirst to know more and know it completely. Shallow knowledge gets them upset. Their anger is sharp and uncontrolled for they are the ones who react appropriately at situations than the normal mortals who are numb with emotions. Michelle gets angered when Sahai slaps her for not typing as fast as expected. She reacts immediately. From 10 words a minute, she types 30 a minute. She bursts out when her sister makes a miunderstands her on the engagement day. Proves that she has much more to offer than what’s known to the outisde world. Also she becomes a patient teacher to her ex-teacher only to create a miracle on him.

For the first time, one would understand the demon behind Alzheimers disease. You could forget to carry a pen, forget to meet someone at four o’ clock. But what if you forget yourself, your past and every single thing around you. Terrible.

As Debraj Sahai, Amitabh Bachchan carries the entire movie on him. With the intonation so accurate and expressions very classy he takes away the cake in the movie. I’ve never seen such a spell binding male performance in a bollywood flick before. With those wide-open eyes and that stupendous acting performance, I see Kamal Hassan. As a south Indian, I’ve known Amitabh as a bollywood hero compared to the Rajinikanth of south. Being a Rajinikanth admirer, I hated Amitabh for a reason because some of Rajinikanth’s earlier flicks were remakes of Amithabh’s bollywood hits. And I hated to believe this fact. As a carorepathi host, Amitabh was convicing but did not catch my fancy. Many bollywood films that featured after that used him as a brand ambassador for their films. This one is a killer effort. A perfect way for Amitabh to prove he is truly the the BIG B. As he catches the young Michelle with strands of her hair to control the blind kid’s anger, as he slaps her when she could never type more than 10 words a minute, as he walks effortlessly with his head shaking of aging and being suffered with Alzheimers, Amitabh creates magic. He adds color to this rather black movie. A true champion.

Rani Mukherjee. WOW. No exaggerations but this is far most one the best performances by any actress in recent times. As a grown Michelle McNally, she occupies the second half of the movie ans stays throughout in the heart. She has this amazing voice that brings in reality to the movie. It’s her voice that narrates the entire movie. A swaggering gait with a walking stick on her hand, she sometimes reminds the Chaplin walk. And not only that but also dances so rapturously. She listens to the college lecture by feeling the lip movement of her mentor. What everyone does in 3 years, she does it in a two decades withstanding all the pains of being blind and earing impaired. And yeah, even as a blind woman, she wants to know how it feels to be kissed by a man on her lips. She has just her teacher to help her with that. Afterall, isn’t he the one who teached her life, maa, papa, water, cry, snow and every other damned thing of life. She asks. He teaches. A classy scene that brings out gross realities of life as they are without exaggerations. Rani Mukerjee can be announced as the Indian actress of the decade, undoubtedly.

Ayesha Kapur, as the young Michelle grabs the first half with her lovely debut performance. With a movie full of scope for performance, it is the casting department which needs to be appreciated to have casted Ayesha Kapur as young Michelle. Hats off.

Ironically, for a movie that details the life of a blind and deaf girl, the images and the sound stand out first class. Ravi K Chandran, known for his stylish modern camerawork in Mani Ratnam‘s Kannathil Muthamittal and Aayitha Ezhuthu goes in for a conservative yet astonishing camera work. It is through his lens that we look into the life of Michelle and Sahai. The lighting is modern but the camera angles are truly old fashioned. And probably thats what Bhansali drove Ravi K Chandran to do. If only the movie was shot and edited as modern as Aayitha Ezhuthu, it would have failed to impress. This slow movie requires patient camera movements but yet needs to touch the audience. Pre-dominantly colored with black, wherever possible, the color tone itself is rich, lavish and conveys what the movie is upto. I could devote a paragraph for the music by Monty. It would be right to do that. The music and camera are inter-weaved in the movie. So is the review. If only we get to watch the movie with either one of this(visual and sound), it wouldn’t make any sense . The camera pitches the emotion while the music accompanies and heightens it ten fold. There are no songs however and hence the distractions are reduced largely.

The editing and the sets adds more value. The sets of the bungalow as situated in Shimla are realistic and to re-create them after a fire accident must have been a great effort for the entire team. From the title card, it looks like most of the movie was shot in Himachal Pradesh.

Bhansali did a great job in Khamoshi but it was just not reaching there. His efforts that followed in Hum Dil De Chukke Sanam and Devdas were lavish and were heavily commercialised. With Black, Bhansali proves that he is the bollywood master of melodrama and blacks out the better movies of Bollwood. Black is a picture postcard movie. Any single shot can be blown out into a poster and to this Bhansali has compromised to heavlily exaggerate at some places. By making the story revolve around an Anglo-Indian family situated in a a hill-station, Bhansali tries to show places, people and their costumes which a normal middle class Indian, couldn’t relate so easily. That gives you a feel that the movie happens far away from India. You can shirk these off for the kind of movie Black is. Am sure this effort of Bhansali wouldn’t go unnoticed. If only the reviews/reactions to Black turn-out the otherway it could be because of the prepossessed mind-set on Sanjay Leela Bhansali and his movies.

Black is an effort that needs to be showcased inside and also outside India. While outside India, people would definetly see Black, it needs to be taken to places deep inside India. The best way would be to dub them in many regional languages without affecting the moments of the movie. If you don’t want the rest-of-the-world to dub bollywood from looking at the colorful Monsoon Wedding and Bride and Prejudice, represent Black to the world as an ideal Bollywood flick and articulate the fact that we are one of the movie super stars. For it takes a huge effort to create a movie of this excellence. Whatever it takes, beg-borrow-steal, watch BLACK.

The Incredibles movie review – Unbelievably Incredible (!)

The Incredibles

Why would Vishnu incarnate as Rama in the epic of Ramayana and be sent to exile? He needs to kill Ravana. That’s one perspective. Being a staunch bhaktha of Shiva, it’s the path that Ravana chose to attain Moksha. That’s another. Put both into a single glass and see through it. I am sure you get another perspective. Every perspective also has a moral. A moral that so glaringly and sometimes very subtly told. This probably is the reason Ramayana still exists as the numero-uno of moral story building forte.


Manmadhan – Serious Serial Killing

[Pic : galatta.com]

Simbhu requests a shoulder to cry, talks a mile long amateurish dialogue about his girlfriend, who ran away with someone and when the cricket fame Mandira Bedi consoles him, catches her by her hips and over her shoulder winks at the camera. You know by then what manmadhan is going to be. Don’t you?

Taking off as a modern day adaptation of Sigappu Rojakkal, manmadhan is all about serial killing girls who are unfaithful to their husbands/boy friends. While this fact hasn’t been established clearly through dialogues, the screenplay makes you to assume this. Similar to its predecessor serial killing thrillers, the protagonist/anti-hero has a purpose. That purpose as expected is a lengthy flashback. By a chance most of the girls whom our hero meets are diseased by infidelity. Contradictory to real life, these girls fall for the hero in the first pass he makes at them. This disease, again as per the kollywood grammar doesn’t affect the heroine.


The Terminal Movie Review – Go Nowhere

Tom Hanks in The Terminal
[Pic: terminal movie]

Steven Spielberg, other than creating visual magnificence’s in his movies, has also a soft side. The last few films, spoke of it, way too much. Despite the soft side was even well known from Schindler’s List and Amistad, the last four/five films have brought out an interesting side of Spielberg. Having been inspired hugely by Spielberg films, I’ve created myself, a personality of Spielberg to be a technical showman. And Schindler’s List was nothing but a different film for this showman. But Artificial Intelligence and Catch Me If you Can broke those assumptions on him. They showed how Spielberg has grown-over the techie image. I believe, Spielberg has evolved into a style of filmmaking that allows him to take a simple story and weave it into an amazing masterpiece.

The Terminal is one such film. More than the premise of the story, the humane side stands out, clearly displaying the different arena of film making, where Spielberg now treads. The film talks about a man who gets stranded in the JFK Airport, New York because of a legal logical hole in the law. No one could do anything about it, just like Victor Navorski. He couldn’t get anywhere. He abides the law, stays in the airport terminal for months and finally gets a chance to step in the American soil. What would he do ?