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Berlin Diary: Myths and genre mash-ups

Art cinema with arty touches. Plus, art cinema with blockbuster touches. And the award for the best opening shot goes to… Denis Côté’s Boris Without Béatrice. A tall, lean, bald man stands in a meadow, looking at… something. And then we see, over the trees beyond, a helicopter. Is it coming to pick him up? […]

People power

Watching a movie with an audience makes it a very different movie. During the latter half of Sanam Teri Kasam, which was released about a week ago, we’re told the heroine has a brain tumour. Ailments are always so lovely in the movies. At home, a cold means red eyes, sneezes that can blow the […]

Berlin Diary: The ties that bind

A middling contender for the festival’s top prize makes you wonder if quality is the only criterion. You can understand why some films of iffy quality find a place at a festival. Like the Coen Brothers’ Hail, Caesar!, which I missed due to a late flight into Berlin. But everyone said it was nothing special […]

Berlin Diary: Hail, Clooney!

Notes from the opening day’s press conference at the Berlinale, when George Clooney lost his cool. There are signs in the press-conference room that something big, something international is afoot. On one wall, there are clocks displaying the time in Los Angeles, New York, Buenos Aires, Berlin, Beijing, Tokyo. At the other end are booths, […]

Not a black-and-white issue

The racism controversy around the Oscars cannot be addressed by just nominating a few black actors. When Mary Kom was released – actually, right from the point the film was announced – a lot was said and written about Priyanka Chopra playing a Manipuri boxer. “Why not cast someone from the North East?” was the […]

“Sanam Teri Kasam”… A long, dull, weepy love story

Spoilers ahead… If you believe that the ones you love should, after they die, be buried under a tree so that they can welcome you with petal showers every time you pass by, then Sanam Teri Kasam is the movie for you. This isn’t a diss, exactly. It’s what it is. It’s like saying Psycho […]

Vacation notes

I’m not proud to confess this, but flying thousands of miles and then lining up to visit a museum doesn’t do much for me. To your right, ladies and gentlemen, is the house in which Charles Dickens lived. Okay – and? This is the desk at which he hammered out The Pickwick Papers. Okay – […]

“Ghayal Once Again”… Good, old-fashioned, masala mayhem

Spoilers ahead… Sometimes you wonder why a movie struck such a chord. Ghayal had nothing new by way of plot. Even within the Sunny Deol-verse, Dacait had the same rage-against-the-System narrative arc, and before that, Arjun. But something clicked with Ghayal. Maybe the action felt new. Maybe it was Sunny Deol discovering how to deliver […]

Those makers of magic

In the third Oscar-season piece, a look at the directors. Just how mad is Oscar madness? I’m not talking about the ceremony that’s a few weeks away. That’s so… 2016. I’m talking about the fact that, on January 27, vulture.com, the pop-culture web site of New York magazine, published a feature titled “Which Sundance Films […]

“Bangalore Naatkal”… A faithful, warm, fun remake

Spoilers ahead… When they announced a Tamil remake of Anjali Menon’s Bangalore Days, I wondered how they’d pull it off. Because the biggest strength of the film is its warm embrace of the polarities that make urban Indians tick. The fact that we slip easily between local tongues and English. The fact that we like […]

“Saahasam”… A dull, empty vanity project

Spoilers ahead… Watching Saahasam – aka Prashanth’s attempt to prove he’s still relevant, by dancing and romancing and stopping moving cars with his fists (he plays a happy-go-lucky “youth” named Ravi)  – I kept thinking it can’t be easy being the dialogue writer for a masala movie. You’re expected to give every line a… punch. I’m […]

“Visaranai”… A powerful, chilling drama about how the System toys with us

Spoilers ahead… The ancient Greeks probably had it right. According to them, gods were power-hungry pleasure-seekers who got their kicks by toying with human lives. It’s a fancy way of saying shit happens – but how else to explain away the mind-boggling randomness of, say, the recent floods in Chennai? Or the plight of the […]

“Kyaa Kool Hain Hum 3 / Mastizaade”… Sophomoric smut

Spoilers ahead… The Kya Kool Hain Hum movies pride themselves on their wit – all fifty per cent of it. (You can imagine the writing team in T-shirts that say “The penis mightier than the sword.”) So in the manner of the Hindi film hero who puts up with whiplashes because Nirupa Roy is tied […]

The women in waiting

More Oscar-season talk. This week, about the actresses. I know people are going on about the lack of diversity at this year’s Oscars – as opposed to all those other years when people of colour hogged all the nominations, resulting in howls of protests from the whites – but the real scandal may be that […]

“Irudhi Suttru / Saala Khadoos”… A heart-warming boxing drama

Spoilers ahead… There’s a sly joke in Irudhi Suttru about the Kollywood (and indeed, the Tamil) tendency to bestow titles and nicknames, put up cut-outs and banners, transform the most ordinary of events into a combination of Pongal, Deepavali and the Superstar’s birthday. The utterly ordinary event, here, is the return of Hissar-based boxing coach […]

After-effects of an award

With Rajinikanth’s Padma Vibhushan, the North is finally seeing what the Superstar is all about. Baradwaj Rangan reports. “Hey Ram! Is it raining?” These were the first words out of Mrs. Sharma’s mouth when she opened the door and saw her husband, soaked from head to toe. Mr. Sharma didn’t reply. She looked past him and […]

A bit of bragging

I’m beyond-beyond-beyond thrilled that my blurb for Anand Pandian’s excellent book, “Reel World: On Location in Kollywood”, is featured alongside one by Walter Murch, the legendary sound designer and editor, whose film work includes The Godfather movies, Apocalypse Now, and The English Patient. Show More Summary

“Airlift”… A fine mix of Western understatement and Indian heart

Spoilers ahead… In August 1990, when Iraqi forces took over Kuwait, Ranjit Katyal (Akshay Kumar) discovered that he had to get out with his wife Amrita (a lipstick-happy Nimrat Kaur) and little daughter. But instead of buying three one-way tickets – a matter of loose change for this business tycoon; he’d just have to sell, […]

All signs point to Leo

In the year of DiCaprio, some thoughts on acting and this year’s Oscar for Best Actor. One moment during this year’s Golden Globes left me misty-eyed. It was when an actor, long overlooked, took home a prize. Clearly, others in that glitzy hall felt the way I did, for they gave the actor a standing […]

“Moondraam Ullaga Por”… An imaginative premise, that’s about it

Spoilers ahead… It’s 2025. Things look slightly different. The handheld devices, for instance, have a holographic quality. But The Hindu still looks the same – there’s even the same masthead. And Tamil film heroes still behave the same way. Take Saravanan (Sunil Kumar), the Indian soldier who’s been captured by the Chinese and is being […]

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