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Marvel Redefines Synergies

Marvel Studios has made it a habit of churning out huge money spinning blockbusters but it was not as easy as it looks. Marvel started as co-producers on Spiderman and X-Men movies, with Columbia and Fox Studios owning the rights. However, there were other forgettable co-productions like Elektra, Daredevil and Blade (which was not as bad as the first two) along the way and their failures got everyone to rethink the whole ‘films on not-so-popular superheroes’ idea. Spiderman and X-Men were well-established and extremely popular comic book and cartoon franchises, so to make a film on them entailed much less risk. Kids had seen and read plenty of things on both these franchises. So, any film made on these characters was just unstoppable whenever it released. In comparison, DC Comics was not able to make a successful film even on the most popular super heroes, Superman and Batman. (Read More DC vs Marvel)

The issue of lesser-known superheroes was not new for Marvel who had been struggling with this since 1990 when they first gave the rights of Iron Man to a studio. Over the years, no one was able to believe in the project and the rights changed hands a few times before coming back to Marvel in 2005. So Marvel took it upon themselves and conceptualized the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) which today is the third largest movie franchise ever. Iron Man (2008) was the first film in the MCU and no one gave it a chance at the box office. Yet it proved everyone wrong and went on to become a huge blockbuster. Post that Marvel knew it could pull off films even based on lesser-known super heroes, with the right amount of action, humour and CGI in them. They pulled off Thor for god’s sake and have continued their success with Captain America and The Avengers.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the latest film under the Marvel Cinematic Universe and if the opening weekend is any indication then this one too seems all set to break records. Marvel has been able to deliver what the audience wants but their real strength lies in managing the universe so seamlessly. Right from 2005, when they started work on Iron Man, they had envisioned how the universe would pan out and what would be the role of each medium in it. Marvel didn’t just get the universe to play out on the big screen, they extended the universe to TV (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Agent Carter (upcoming)), Netflix (planned), Video Games & even Direct-to-Video Short Films.

To achieve this synergy across various mediums and platforms, Marvel made sure that every director they hired was comfortable with the idea of a shared universe and was able to skillfully weave the story in a small part of it seamlessly. Every Marvel film has some elements from the shared universe and now fans look out for it. The scenes after the end credits are one such recurring element and people wait for them till the very end. The bigger accomplishment, however, is being able to manage the elements of the shared universe across mediums. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D TV series, which started with huge expectations, could not live up to them early on but as the elements from big screen started dropping in, the show has got a huge boost. Nick Fury himself was featured on the show in a very short appearance. A Chitauri (aliens from Avengers) artifact showed up in one episode and Sif (played by Jaimie Alexander) from Thor also made an appearance in an episode.

The biggest proof that Marvel is damn serious about this shared universe came in the latest episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Those of you who haven’t seen The Winter Soldier yet, there are spoilers from here on. [SPOILERS] Captain America: The Winter Soldier serves up plenty of material for Avengers: Age of Ultron and ends with the emergence of Hydra and the death of SHIELD. People who were sitting and watching the film started wondering what would happen to the TV show they have been following for 16 weeks, as it is called Agents of SHIELD. So everyone was waiting for this week’s episode and it did not disappoint at all. The episode brilliantly rides behind the story of The Winter Soldier and hides clues in plain sight. Visuals from the film also make an appearance and the viewers are left more than satisfied. One can actually link each moment as it happens with what they have seen in the film. The fact that this episode is not a one off occurrence and actually takes the story forward along the lines drawn at the start of the season just proves the fact that Marvel has thought this through way ahead.

At this point of time, Marvel is light years ahead of other studios that have only now woken up to the idea of a shared universe. Before this, the concept of a shared universe was totally unheard of and Marvel have shown everyone what a humongous money-spinner this genre and approach can be. Warner and DC have finally announced a Justice League film; Sony is releasing the new X-Men Days of Future Past, which could be a start for their shared universe. Imagine how many super heroes were just lying there gathering dust, but now with this new approach thanks to Marvel, a lot of them will live to fight another day.

 

Best Films of 2013

Another year has gone by but this one has not been so productive for this blog. I say this because this post comes after 5 months of silence. To be fair 2013 has been more than productive on the personal front with a shift in location back to the capital city. And oh yeah I also got married this year (almost forgot). Still 5 months is a really long time and enough is enough. So here I am putting down my thoughts on my ‘Best Films of the Year 2013’. Continue reading “Best Films of 2013”

The Best of Films in 2011

Another year comes to an end with people asking  the same irritating question,  “What are your New Year plans?”. I have modified my reply over the years from “what is the big deal with a New Year???” to “I will  be doing what I love to do, watching  films that I have missed”. There is nothing more enjoyable than a planned home screening of an unseen film, dimmed lights, curtains drawn with pop corn and cola for company. Blissful.

I keep a close  watch of films that I miss but for those who don’t here is a list of my favorite films from 2011.  Now this does not mean I expect you to watch them on New  Year’s Eve. All I wish is  for all of you to watch at least some of these films in original print and enjoy them the way they are meant to be.

Special Mentions-Bollywood: This year I will stick to the regular top 10 in my list. However, I would like to mention some other films that left a mark. Sahib Biwi aur Gangster with Dhulia again in his element, Shaitan for some good hard hitting, disturbing cinema, Mujhse Fraandship Karoge for the performance of Saqib Saleem and for giving a fresh feel to the college romance, Tanu Weds Manu (On a reader’s reminder, slipped my mind) for realistic sets, authentic art direction and bang on characterization (especially Pappi), Don 2 for some slick film-making surpassing even Hollywood, and Singham for being such a damn good entertainer.

10. The Dirty Picture

Dropping necklines, superlative dialogues, and great performances especially by Vidya Balan who showed everyone that fat can also be sexy. It is one of my two favorite performances of 2011.

9. Pyaar  Ka Punchnama

A low budget film which had no stars to power it. What it had was a great idea executed well and helped by legendary dialogues (one liners as well as the 5 min one). Add to it Divyendu Sharma as Liquid and you have a winner.

8. Shagird

Tigmanshu Dhulia is totally in his element in this film. He has everything in place from a great script to superb dialogues to an excellent main lead in Nana Patekar and a fine support cast. All these combined made Shagird a surprise package in 2011.

7. Chillar Party

A gem of a film about a bunch of kids and their dog. It talks about friendship and standing up for what you believe in. It is a simple film with its heart in the right place. Also worth mentioning is the kid known as Janghya (Naman Jain), he is a complete superstar. A lot of credit for this film goes to Salman Khan as this is the first film from SKBH (Salman Khan Being Human) Productions. Hats off for choosing such a script to launch his production house.

I am sure very few people would have seen it so please do watch this one for sure.

6. No one Killed Jessica

Filmy yet effective, No one Killed Jessica is a hard hitting film that asked some very relevant questions. Vidya and Rani in top form along with a powerful musical score by Amit Trivedi led by the track Dilli Dilli.

5. Delhi Belly

So much was expected from this film ever since the first promo came out and the expectations kept building up with every song being released. The controversial ‘Bhaag DK Bose’ led the pack with ‘Ja Chudail’, ‘Sweety’ & ‘I hate you’ following behind. Probably the best script of the year, Delhi Belly delivered on expectations with fine performances from Vijay Raaz, debutante Poorna Jagannathan, Vir Das and some kickass music.

4. Yeh Saali Zindagi

“Zindagi pe tera mera kissi ka na zor hai, hum sochte hain kuch yeh saali sochti kuch aur hai yeh zindagi, uff Ye Saali Zindagi”.  This is the title track of the film and its done in such a style that you know then and there, you are watching something special. The film holds true to this feeling and delivers a hilariously romantic ride which is thrilling at the same time. It offers a damn entertaining story coupled with the Khan of all seasons, Irrfan Khan in his zone. Irrfan lifts this film to great heights and is supported well by some wise-cracking lines. It  is a must watch for all those who missed it & those who didn’t miss it would watch it again anyway.

P.S. There is also the super hot Aditi Rao.

3. Stanley Ka Dabba

A truly experimental piece of cinema which showcased so many different facets of life. Shot with kids as a part of a summer camp without giving them the knowledge of it being made into a film, this brought out a natural feel to the film which is very rare today. A superb concept, beautiful execution and a genuinely heartfelt performance by

2. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

I don’t think I have seen a more fun film than ZNMD in the last 10 years. Coincidentally the last time I had so much fun was  again a film by an Akhtar, Farhan Akhtar’s debut film Dil Chahta Hai. In this case it is the sister behind the camera while Farhan comes in front for the most natural role of his career. Mind you there is a lot of difference in the styles of both brother and sister when it comes to film making but both styles are excellent. Zindagi na milegi dobara teaches you how to  embrace life and not be so involved with the future that you spoil your present. It is a film that makes you think about the choices you have made and the memorable days of your life. I say Zoya Akhtar has a different style of film making because she follows a layered style where all these things are very subtle, hidden in a way. This was the case even in her debut film Luck, By Chance another superb film.

Zindagi na Milegi Dobara also boasts of some very fine cinematography, Shankar Ehsaan Loy’s music, certainly one of this year’s best albums and a extraordinary performance by Hrithik Roshan. Couple of scenes that are worth mentioning are Hrithik’s reaction after the deep sea dive and his reaction to being rejected in a arranged marriage. Simply superb.

1. Rockstar

My favorite album, my favorite performance, my favorite screenplay, my favorite director of the year, all come from Rockstar. To be honest, the first time I saw the film I went to watch a Rockumentry as that was the kind of positioning done with the trailers. This is the major reason why people felt a disconnect in what they expected and what  they saw. I was no different.

However, the film still managed to have a very strong after effect and I felt like watching it again. This time I saw it from the point of view of Imtiaz Ali and fell in love after just 40 mins into the film. It was almost like I was watching some other film. The screenplay that looked random came across as brilliant and I appreciated Imtiaz Ali for the treatment he gave to the film. It is more of a Rockstar meets Devdas kind of a film than a documentary of a famous rockstar. I mean it as a complement because first the  latter would have been easier to execute and second I am not referring to the SRK starer, merely to the character Devdas.

Imtiaz Ali does a brilliant job of using a random narrative which gives the film an almost dreamy feel. It is like when you dream, the sequence of events is not linear, its jumbled but even then you can make perfect sense of everything that is going on in your head. Similarly here every scene has a connection and makes perfect sense in the bigger picture.

Ranbir is exceptional as Janardhan as well as Jordan which says a lot about his acting abilities. The bigger hero of the film is AR Rahman who gives one of his career best scores for this film, every song has classic written all over it. Equally special is Mohit Chauhan who put to rest all debates about how he can only sing one kind of songs. Overall It was a very difficult film to pull off and credit to Imtiaz Ali for doing it in his way.

Best films of 2010, how many have you missed?

As 2010 comes to an end and people get ready to go crazy celebrating the New Year, I thought I should also bid farewell to a wonderful 2010, the way I know best. So here is the list of my 16 most favourite films of the year 2010, English and Hindi.

Bollywood 2010 – The year was not a spectacular one for bollywood but nevertheless, we still got some gems to balance out the duds like Raavan, Kites and the Tees Maar Khan.

No. 16  – My Name is Khan

The much hyped international film by Karan Johar didn’t really get the box office to explode but it did go on to become the most successful hindi film abroad. The execution could have been much better but for an unusually restrained performance by Shahrukh Khan and once again a fine performance by Kajol, My Name is Khan makes the last spot on my list.

No. 15 – Golmaal 3

My apologies to all SRK fans for putting Golmaal 3 above MNIK but what can I say, It’s a guilty pleasure. It may not be even close to the first instalment but Golmaal 3 has some really memorable moments which are hilarious to say the least. From the addition of Kunal Khemu who says the most irrelevant things to Arshad Warsi delivering what could be my dialogue of the year, “Chee pa chee, iss umar mein? Upar wala bhi aapse do ya teen din hi bada hoga” in his signature style. It’s rib cracking stuff.

No. 14 – Aakrosh

From the man who has gone crazy making brainless comedies comes this hard hitting film about honour killing. The non linear screenplay escalates the level and gives it an almost thriller like feel. The film is lit up by some fine performances from Ajay Devgan, Akshay Khanna and Paresh Rawal who steals the show as the baddy. It’s not as great a film as Priyadarshan’s Viraasat but it still makes the cut.

No. 13 – Rakta Charitra

Surprised? I would expect you to be, merely because of the recent track records of Ram Gopal Varma and Vivek Oberoi. However, Rakta Charita is a semi fictional story and is based on the underworld which is the forte of RGV as well as Vivek. Believe me neither of them disappoints in this violent saga of revenge and power. If you can handle the bloodshed then its a film that should be seen.

No. 12 – Ishqiya

When I saw this film earlier this year, I knew that it would be one of my favourite films of the year. Spectacular performances by all the three leads coupled with some clever and witty dialogues make this film a great watch. Abhishek Chaubey is the first debutant director in this list and he shows great promise throughout the film, leaving a signature of sorts in the last scene with the three leads walking into the sunset, Hollywood style.

No. 11 – Striker

Rang De Basanti may have been Siddharth’s entry into bollywood but what will keep him here for a long time is Striker. If you think he acted well in RDB, then wait till you watch this film. Its a small film set in Mumbai in the late 80’s and centres around a gifted carrom player. Aditya Pancholi and Ankur Vikal (Slumdog Millionaire) give memorable performances. It’s a must watch.

No. 10 – Dabangg

Robinhood Pandey aka Chulbul Pandey fired up the box office like no other film this year. It went on to become the second highest grossing film of all time. Even though the movie was good, what made it great was a career best performance by Salman Khan portraying the lovable Chulbul. I am certain we will get to see a lot more of this character in the years to come.

No. 9 – Rajneeti

Raj Kumar Santoshi assembled an all-star cast for his silver screen adaptation of mahabharat and each member of this cast made it count. It was great to watch Manoj Bajpai in full form after a long time but the real surprises came from Arjun Rampal, Ranbir Kapoor and Nana Patekar. All three of them were great in the potrayal of some very difficult characters. Even Shruti Seth’s performance as an ambitious young politician was unforgettable.

No. 8 – Once Upon a Time In Mumbai 

Its narrative is fast paced and helped by some crisp editing which makes sure that the film never becomes boring. The art direction is commendable which successfully gives the film a very 70’s feel and provides the authenticity that a movie like this requires.The buildup to the final faceoff between Sultan and Shoaib is terrific. Milan Luthria deserves loads of applause as he is successful in making your heart go out to Sultan. This one is indeed…….. Mumbai’s greatest betrayal.

No. 7 – Peepli [Live]

This is a film that has proven Aamir Khan’s calibre as a marketing genius. If it wasn’t for the intelligent marketing, Peepli [Live] would have remained a critically appreciated film. It’s arguably the most well written satires in Hindi cinema along with Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron. Watch it for the ugly truth behind the media, politics and life in the villages of our country.

No. 6 – Love Sex Aur Dhokha

LSD is the most innovative and original piece of filmmaking ever, period. It has spellbinding screenplay, real and believable characters, and a brilliant cast. Dibakar Banerjee has got a hattrick after Khosla ka Ghosla and Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! proving once again that you don’t need big budgets or big stars to make a great film.

No. 5 – Phas Gaye Re Obama

The last good film to come out this year, Phas Gaye Re Obama was a hilarious ride into the recession struck underworld. One could not imagine how recession would have affected this industry but director Subhash Kapoor does a great job at creating it on the silver screen. Manu Rishi also puts in a great performance after Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! but the best performance comes from Sanjay Mishra as the bankrupt don Bhaisahab. And if not for all this, PGRO is a must watch for the English coaching class scene, my scene of the year.

No.4  – Tere Bin Laden

If you havn’t seen Noora and his Sikaaandar this year then you surely have missed something. Tere Bin Laden came out of nowhere and took everyone by surprise. Ali Zafar plays Ali who is a Pakistani reporter and wants to go to America and work with CNN. The Movie is about his attempt to reach America by creating a fake Osama tape using Noora who resembles Osama a great deal. Tere Bin Laden reaches no. 5 because of an awesome script executed to perfection. From Pappu Chhatri to Ted Ji, everything is perfect.

No. 3 – Band Baaja Baaraat

I had just one thing to say after watching this film and that is “Main toh Ainvayi Ainvayi lut gaya”. That’s because I was completely smitten by this romantic comedy where finally, the makers get things right, especially after romcoms like Aisha, I Hate Luv Stories, Anjaana Anjaani and Break Ke Baad. Band Baaja Baaraat is a refreshing film that does most things right, from characterization to chemistry and from dialogues to music.

No. 2 – Udaan

Udaan is the coming of age story of a 16 yr old boy who has to deal with his abusive father portrayed brilliantly by Ronit Roy marking his return to the big screen. Rajat Barmecha plays Rohan, the 16 year old boy who gets expelled from his boarding school in shimla. The story touches you at many levels and the final blow is the unexpected ending that puts a big smile on your face. My favourite scene is the argument between father and son on the stairs and the smile on Rohan’s face…..priceless.

No. 1 – Do Dooni Chaar

I am sure most people are surprised by this one, if not all. However, the sooner you watch the film the earlier you will agree with me. It’s the simplest film of the year and I guess that is what touched me. The film is about a middle class family and the quest to buy a car. It’s not the story that is special, it’s the treatment. Debutant director Habib Faisal makes this film so believable that you actually feel like meeting Mr. Duggal (Rishi Kapoor) right after the film. Its a film that compelled me to love it and it is also the reason why I made this list, to let others know how good this film actually is. Please go and watch it right away.

 

Hollywood 2010 – Unlike Hindi cinema where over 1000 movies are made every year, Hollywood has always been more about quality. This year too there are a lot of quality films from which I have chosen my 16 most favourite.

No. 16 – Despicable Me

It starts out with a great character and a nice plot of a perpetually evil super villain who is not that great at being a villain. The plot changes as three small girls come into his life and he gets attached. The most memorable moments of this film are the scenes with the minions, the little yellow creatures. They are just adorable.

No. 15 – The Karate Kid

A remake of the 1984 original, The Karate Kid stars Jaden Smith, Will Smith’s son as Dre Parker and Jackie Chan as Mr. Han. I can’t say that this one is better or worse than the original because the previous one released the year I was born. Even then I can safely say that this one is a damn entertaining film.

No. 14 – Hot Tub Time Machine

4 losers, a Hot Tub, loads of booze and an illegal Russian drink “Chernobly”….I know it doesnt sound much but trust me, it’s the recipe for a very hilarious film. Common perception is that it resembles Hangover in some ways but that’s not correct. Whether you have seen hangover or not, is immaterial, just give this one a shot.

No. 13 – A-Team

Based on a hit TV show of the same name, The A-Team is a team of 4 war veterans who are wrongly accused and convicted. They escape and seek revenge against the people who framed them. Its not a very original plot but the characters are the ones that make this a great ride, coupled with some breath taking action sequences. My action sequence of the year is where the A-Team is flying a tank, yes flying a tank. It makes for great popcorn entertainment.

No. 12 – Unstoppable

How entertaining can it be to have an unstoppable train as the plot of an entire film? Awesome as it turns out. Unstoppable offers a thrilling ride and edge of the seat action at al times in the film. On top of that there is Denzel and Chris Pine who play real life characters and behave as if they have been working on trains since they were born.

No. 11 – Scott Pilgrim Vs The World

If you have ever wondered how a movie would look if it was filmed as one long video game then you have to check this one out. Scott Pilgrim Vs The World is a film about Scott and his love interest, Ramona Flowers. Now to get her he first needs to defeat Ramona’s seven evil ex-boyfriends all of whom are psycho. Everytime Scott defeats a boyfriend he gets coins just like in a video game and yes there is a 1-up for grabs too. Watch it if you can handle a new concept and style.

No.10 – Get Him To The Greek

This film is about an ambitious executive at a music company who is assigned the task of getting a once popular rockstar to the Greek theatre. Russel brand plays the rockstar Aldous Snow and gives his best performance ever. He looks and acts so natural it’s hard to imagine thta Aldous is actually Russel. Jonah Hill plays the executive Aaron Green, who gets the impossible task of escorting Aldous to the greek theatre. Their journey is filled with twists, mad parties, and even a threesome. The funniest scene is Aldous forcing Aaron to smuggle cocaine on the flight.

No. 9 – Toy Story 3

Everyone was very curious to see Toy Story 3 because it is believed that a third instalment is never successful and not even close to the first. This belief has been gaining strength for a long time from films like Spiderman, Shrek, Mummy, Terminator and numerous others. What people forgot is that this is Pixar we are talking about, the geniuses who made us cry and smile at the misfortunes of toys, cars, insects and even robots. So as life came a full circle for Pixar with the film that started it all, they left no stone unturned to give their fans a spectacular third instalment. If people disagree then they should think about the climax and remember what feelings they experienced and that to for a bunch of toys? That’s the power of Pixar.

No. 8 – Easy A

This was the last film I saw this year and straight away it reached no. 8 in my list. I know there have been plenty of high school comedies over the years but there is always a possibility of a Superbad and Easy A does in 2010 what Superbad did in 2007. It throws up some great sarcastic humour, hilarious situations and a supremely promising actor in Emma Stone who was coincidently also a part Superbad. Watch it for a great performance by Emma and as a different comdey film for this year.

No. 7 – Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 1

It felt like the end of an era as I sat down to watch Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part1 because I suddenly felt a little empty thinking ‘There is just one more after this, and that’s it’. It has been a gold mine for Warner Bros. also with every movie surpassing the previous in collections. This one is darker than all others but answers less and asks more questions since it’s only the first part. There is loads of action, suspense and even the end of some very important characters. 

No. 6 – The Town

If any of you have pre conceived notions about Ben Affleck then i suggest that each one of you should watch Gone Baby Gone (2007) which was his directorial debut. It’s probably one of my all time favourite films and that is the reason why I couldn’t wait to watch The Town, Affleck’s second as a director.  It does not disappoint one bit as every minute of the film is filled with nail biting action. It is similar to Heat (1995) in more ways than one and just like The Heat, this too is one hell of a ride.

No. 5 – Kick-Ass

As the name this film too is totally Kickass. Based on a comic book of the same name, Kick-Ass tells the story of  an ordinary teenager, Dave (Aaron Johnson), who decides to become a real life superhero and calls himself Kick-Ass. This action-comedy film does not hold back anything and surprises you at every moment. Boasting of some incredible action especially by the little Chloe Moretz, who was adorable  in 500 Days of Summer but here she is well….kickass.

No. 4 – Shutter Island

Based on a novel by Dennis Lehane, Shutter Island is a psychological thriller and the 4th film together for Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese. Set in 1954, U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels is investigating the disappearance of a murderess who escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane and is presumed to be hiding on the remote Shutter Island. It offers one of the best climaxes in recent history, boasting of spectacular direction by the legendary Martin Scorsese.

N0. 3 – How to Train Your Dragon

Superb animation, an underdog/coming of age story and fire breathing dragons make How to Train Your Dragon the best animated film this year ahead of Pixar’s Toy Story 3 which is the biggest compliment any animated film can get. If there is a movie to be enjoyed in 3D it is this one as it has great aerial scenes which were made for 3D, not converted so as to make money. It’s a story which teaches us to look beyond the obvious, beneath the skin and appreciate what we find.

N0. 2 – The Social Network

The Social Network follows a non-linear narrative between the founding of Facebook and the two lawsuits, all brought out simultaneously in front of the audience.The dialogues are top notch and so is the screenplay and it’s because of these that the film works so effectively.  What touched me most is how the man who connected more than 500 million friends lost the only friend he had and in the end preferred to sit alone in a closed board room with the only friend he was left with, his laptop. The Social Network, part fact part fiction is a very intelligent film for the intelligent audience but it will not be appreciated by the masses.

N0. 1 – Inception

After a long list we finally reach no. 1 but then again I don’t think there was ever any suspense about what film is at the top since the time Inception came out. If there was a movie that could actually dethrone Inception then it would be the best year at Hollywood in ages. A multi-layerd plot in literal terms, the finest original piece of film making I have seen since The Matrix (1999) and the best screenplay by a long shot make Inception a defining piece of cinema.  It’s a film that asks for your undivided attention and rewards you for it. Inception is a film that needs to be seen at least twice to appreciate every little detail (once is enough to understand it against popular belief) from set designs to the special effects and even the performances by a spectacular cast.

Note: I would like to know what your top three films of this year are, so if you would like to share, please feel free to do so using the comments section.

P.S. – Only films that were released in India (Theatre or Original DVD) have been considered. Hence, recent films like Black Swan, True Grit, The Kings Speech etc have been left out.

 

Freedom is a Privilege

(One of the contendors for the PFCone, Independence is a short film directed by Neeraj Ghaywan)

Is a picture really worth a thousand words? It sure is and Neeraj Ghaywan proves it with Independence, a one minute film about a poor street girl who struggles to sell. India earned independence 6 decades ago but people didn’t get freedom. There are people who haven’t gotten freedom from hunger, poverty, illiteracy or lack of opportunity and the film drives home this point with great sensitivity. What’s truly commendable is that in one minute, Neeraj uses many subtle references to show the plight of the little girl. A reflection of a beggar kid in the girl’s eyes; the girl’s refusal to alms; the school named ‘Free Bird High School’ where girls are happily playing; all these references beautifully depict the state of the girls mind.

The little girl (meenakshi) gives a great performance and uses her eyes to convey a lot of emotions, which Neeraj captures cleverly using close-ups. What enhances the mood even further is the background score which complements the film and the subject. And the director saves the best for last, the rain which puts a smile on the girls face and gives her the liberation that she seeks, also washes away the saffron from the flag almost making you feel that the flag is bleeding. The bleeding flag is the last reference and it has a lasting impression on the viewer because it further reinstates the fact that, freedom is a privilege.

Irrfan ‘The Mindblowing’ Khan

Irrfan Khan is not your regular hero but he is one of the rare breed of actors who can kick some serious butt even if he is pitted against your typical hero in his very own backyard. But he hasn’t reached such a stature overnight. It’s taken years of TV serials, numerous passable films and a lot of hard work. He got his first break in films with Mira Nair’s Salaam Bombay but unfortunately his scene was deleted before the release. He went on to play the role of Senapati in the famous Chankya on TV and was also seen in the award winning film Ek Doctor Ki Maut in 1991. Still, it wasn’t until 2003 that he was really noticed in India even though he did The Warrior which won the Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film.

In 2003 came Haasil, a gem of a film based in Allahabad about student politics and love which got Irrfan his first Filmfare award for the negative role as Ranvijay Singh. This was what his career needed and he hasn’t looked back since then. Over the past 6 years he has done films across various genres and played so many memorable characters. His performance in films like Maqbool, Life…In a Metro and Mumbai Meri Jaan speaks volumes about his range and talent. It was because of such performances that he got films like The Namesake and the Angelina Jolie starrer A Mighty Heart which got him rave reviews in Hollywood. Namesake in particular was a special performance by the man who just expresses so much by his body language that he doesn’t even need dialogues. He makes you live his character along with him which is something that can only be said for the likes of Al Pacino, Robert De Niro etc.                                                                                                                                                              And  If people were wondering what more can this man offer, he has given us another unforgettable performance as Billu. He captured the helplessness and simplicity of Billu perfectly and did it so naturally that it was hard to believe he had ever been anybody else but Billu. Hats off to this fine actor who, in spite of not having the personality of a star continues to inspire and amaze. He is a complete superstar in my book and I hope I get to  see more such performances.

Slumdog – A Millionaire for sure but an Oscar?

 

The Wonder Kid
The Wonder Kid

I don’t wanna get into the habit of pulling down the expectation of everyone but i don’t even wanna praise something just because its got an Oscar nomination. Having said that Slumdog by no means is a bad film. In fact its a superb film, one that takes you on a ride which is fast, crisp and exhilarating. The cast is fantastic specially the small kid who plays Jamal(junior most) along with Dev Patel and Anil Kapoor who plays the two faced host with perfection. Even the others like Irfaan Khan and Saurabh Shukla fit in very well. Also there are some scenes that will stay with you forever like the young Jamal running covered in shit to take the Big B’s autograph or the eye popping beggar scene followed by a heart wrenching chase.

 

However the most fantastic thing about the move is its screenplay which moves between present and past with such ease and purpose. Simon Beaufoy surely deserves the Oscar nomination and so does Chris Dickens the editor of the film for such sharp work.

Also if there is something else that is Oscar worthy it is the score by A.R. Rahman which complements the happenings of the movie phenomenally well, be it O…. Saya, Paper Planes or even Jai Ho. Its funky, peppy and  very apt. A special mention for the brilliant cinematography (Oscar nominated) by Anthony Dod Mantle who captures the slum streets and brothels with utmost honesty.

So now the big question, Oscar? No. Not now, not ever. The only reason that it has reached such heights is because apart from being a good film it is directed by Danny Boyle and not Ashutosh Gowarikar or Rakesh Om Praksah Mehra. I see no reason why Slumdog can be nominated and Taare Zameen Par, Rang De Basanti and Lage Raho… can’t be.

One very important point. There is a scene where a driver beats up Jamal Junior for stealing something and Jamal tells the American couple that this is what real India is, and the American Couple say ” We will show you what real America is like” and hand over some cash. What does Danny want to prove here? That we Indians only know how to beat up and don’t have feelings? Or that Americans are so better of than Indians when it comes to forgiving someone? I really don’t know but i sure would like to ask him that.