Monday, December 21, 2015

Movie Review: Bajirao Mastani

A lot has been written on the controversies surrounding Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Bajirao Mastani, so before I wade into that, a quick few words on the movie itself.

Bajirao Mastani is another beautifully executed masterpiece from someone who has already perfected the art of lavish sets, royal splendor, and riveting performances with glorious song and dance routines. The Sheesh Mahal, the intricate carvings, mirrors and tapestries reminded me of the beautiful Alahambra at Granada in Spain. The Shaniwar Wada, the King's palace in Satara, and the various battlefields are also very faithful renditions of what it must have been.

Ranveer Singh is cast absolutely spot on as the mighty warrior Bajirao I, with just the right streak of pomp and arrogance, as befits someone proud and fearless like him. Both Deepika and Priyanka also put in memorable performances - Deepika as the beautiful, courageous Mastani, and Priyanka as the loving, confident wife of the great warrior, who suddenly realizes she is no longer his favorite. While I am personally not a big fan of the Pinga and Malhari tracks, they have been wonderfully choreographed and shot. I absolutely loved Deewani Mastani - soulful and melodious, and stays with you for a long, long time.

However, coming after the epic Baahubali, I have to say Bajirao Maastani almost pales in comparison. The war sequences have the "been there done that" feel - we have seen this "keep it fast, keep it dark, keep it shaky, so you don't need to worry about the detailing" action so often in the past, unlike the absolutely crystal clear cinematography of Baahubali. The beautiful sets of Bajirao Mastani are just that - sets. You can see the artificial skies, the beautiful facades (minus the body behind) and keep reminiscing about the effort taken in the epic Baahubali to make everything so real and authentic. If not for the Baahubali comparison, SLB's Bajirao Mastani would have got top ratings in the art direction department.

And now to the question of authenticity. I am not a historian, and I am pretty tolerant of artistic and cinematic liberties. As someone who was only faintly aware of Bajirao Peshwa, the movie definitely aroused a keen interest in the life and achievements of this great Maratha warrior, as well as the immortal love story of Bajirao Mastani. In that, the movie definitely achieves it purpose.

It also made me aware of Kashibai and her trials and tribulations as the first wife of Bajirao, who has to see her husband go away from her into the arms of his new lover. However, unlike some of the reviews I have seen, I did not find Priyanka's character portraying strength. Instead, I see her almost helpless and forced to accept her husband's second wife, because she simply has no other choice.

Whether the Bajirao had time for song and dance, whether Kashibai and Mastani ever met, leave alone dance together - I think those are minor distortions, if at all, and can be ignored without hurting the image of the great Bajirao. However, did Bajirao give up his responsibilities as Peshwa for Mastani? Did she really die in prison? These are questions that remain unanswered.

The end definitely feels unreal. While there are many conflicting accounts of their deaths, the movie presents a very filmy version, which leaves a lingering doubt in my mind about the authenticity and robs the film of a powerful ending.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Movie Review: Dilwale

20 years ago, then a college student, I watched DDLJ with my girl friend on our first "date", and like everyone of that generation, fell in love with Raj and Simran, and the lush green European countryside. Isn't it pretty amazing then, that two decades later, the new Dilwale is still about the Badshah of romance, SRK, and the ever-so-stunning Kajol?

That's what Dilwale is all about, really. It's a nostalgic journey back in time to an era without cell phones and Google. Without Instagram. When we had little money, and no multiplexes to spend them in. When we hadn't heard of intolerance or vendetta politics. It's when a naughty Raj performed monkey antics to win over the innocent Simran, in locales rarely seen in Bollywood cinema, dancing to steps brought to the screen for the first time by a little known Shiamak Davar.

Will today's generation identify with Dilwale? I don't know. I guess they will drool over Varun Dhavan, who is now delivering his sixth hit in a row. Or watch the long legged eye candy Kriti Sanon dance to Manma Emotion Jaage. The kids might salivate at the DC rides, and clap when Kali and his two henchmen make mincemeat of an entire gang in a warehouse. (Note: Rohit Shetty still has cars exploding and flying in gravity defying action, but in hand to hand combat, it's a lot more earthly now!) Even though it's predictable, the story will invoke some oohs and aahs before interval. And most audiences will love it when Shahrukh says, "Hum thode sharif kya ho gaye, puri duniya badmash ho gayee!"

But it's when SRK and Kajol are together, that the screen absolutely lights up with their chemistry. The fantasy world of Janam Janam will mesmerize you, the melodious roller coaster engulfs you as you swirl around black beaches, waterfalls and skeletons of abandoned planes. While SRK does what he does best, Kajol is stunning and delivers a very memorable and beautiful performance. Here is one of the most successful on screen couples, and 20 long years after Raj and Simran, Raj and Mira are just as good together.

So, stop fretting about a predictable story line. Stop criticizing the liberal use of gaudy colors on houses, cars and costumes. Stop counting the flying cars, defying the laws of physics. Ignore the forced humor and lame jokes, the lack of comic timing. And simply immerse yourself in warm nostalgia - go back into those innocent, beautiful times of DDLJ, and as much as possible, find love and tolerance in today's India.

After all, as the Badshah says so beautifully at the end, bade bade deshoan mein, aisi choti choti baatein hoti rahati hai, senorita!

Sunday, December 06, 2015


Miss Long Legs

Those are really long... or are they?

Quintessentially Goa...

Railway Crossing

A Lovely Evening

Memories of a lovely evening at the Phoenix Mall East Court with a very close friend...


How many birds can you count in here?

(Taken thru the sunroof of my Audi with a Samsung Galaxy S5)

The Perfect Breakfast

The quintessential Maharashtrian breakfast of pohe teams up so beautifully with this prawn pickle!

Cat And Dog

Movie Review: Katyar Kaljat Ghusali (Marathi)

And it keeps coming, like a glorious flood of talent and creativity unleashed with full force. The Marathi film industry is on a major upswing, and Katyar Kaljat Ghusali shows exactly why. Packed with powerful characters, stunning imagery, great story-telling, drama and at the core, a rich treasure trove of classical music brought to you by some of the most acclaimed Indian artists, KKG keeps you absolutely mesmerized through the 3 hours, even if you are more inclined to attend NH7 Weekender... like my 14 yo daughter.

Panditji (Shankar Mahadevan) is the Royal Singer in the Court of the King of Vikrampur, a princely state in the early days of the British. On a visit to Miraj, he meets Khan Saaheb, unappreciated and unsung in his own city of Agra, and invites him over to Vikrampur, where Khan impresses one and all by his performance. At the annual Dusshera fest, a competition sees Khan perform against Panditji, and while Khan evokes rapturous claps from the audience, Panditji moves his audience to spell-bound tears, and is declared winner by the king. Khan feels humiliated, and wows to trump Panditji. However, year after year, he loses to the superior Panditji, each time his ego and hurt increases, taking over his music and feeding his thirst for revenge.

He conspires with his wife to destroy Panditji's voice, and finally achieves his dream of moving into the mansion of the Royal Singer.

It's then left to a disciple of Panditji to face Khan and set things right. The conflict of the gharanas escalates dramatically, with Khan demanding the exercise of his right to "one murder"... killing the disciple to protect his gharana. Will the young disciple win the battle of the masters?

KKG is a wonderful movie, a treat to the senses, and an absolutely must see in the theatres! Do not miss this one, even if you don't understand Marathi! (English subtitles will take care of you...)