Sunday, November 13, 2016

Movie Review: Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

Private Billy Lynn is a 19 year old American hero, back home from a deadly stint in Afghanistan, for a short victory tour along with fellow soldiers from the Bravo company. Drafted in to participate in the halftime show at a Thanksgiving Day football game for some PR, Billy's thoughts become our gateway to discover what it really is like to be fighting a war, contrasting the realities with public perception, giving a fascinating peek into what lies beneath. 

Moving back and forth between the traumatic experiences on the frontlines and back alleys of Afghanistan to the razzle dazzle of the halftime show, from the cowering residents during raids in Afghan homes to the families back in America, the film takes you back and forth, blurring the lines between reality and perception, until you start asking, what's more terrifying?

Joe Alwyn as Billy does a good job, sharing great chemistry with his mentor (Vin Diesel, who initiates him into Karma and Krishna!) and his commander (Garett Hedlund). Kristen Stewart excels at playing the very sick (recovering from a very bad accident and break up) Kathryn, his sister, who pleads with him not to return to duty. Steve Martin and Chris Tucker are also memorable in short but well essayed roles as media men seeking to do a movie on the Bravo company. Makenzie Leigh, as Billy's one-hour-long cheerleader-lover, sizzles the screen and more than makes up for Kristen.
The film is a technical marvel, directed by Ang Lee, who lists Life of Pi and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon among his other brilliant works. Shot in 3D with a 4K resolution, at a speed of 120 frames per second, 5x the normal, the movie should be a visual treat. Sadly, very few theatres in the world, leave alone in India, will be able to make the most of this format in the near future. That said, the immersive presentation coupled with Destiny's Child's "Soldier" at the halftime show, is enough to give you goosebumps and a racing pulse, and make you want more, even when the credits roll 2 hours later...

Definitely worth a trip to the multiplex, but watch it in the best one you can get into!

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Black and Whites - Old Goan Houses!


Our grand old Caesar, all of 95 years old!

Old Goan Homes

Brought up in this amazing old Goan home, you can imagine how tough it was for me to shift to a hotel room that measured barely 8 ft x 5 ft during my IIT Bombay days! :)

The Old Charms of Panaji, Goa

Spent an evening walking through the beautiful heritage burrough of Mala Fontainhas in Panaji last week, looking through my 10-18 lens, as a tourist might do - taking time to stand and stare. Old Portuguese architecture, some well maintained, other recently renovated buildings adorn both sides of tiny but uncongested lanes. Here are some pics, including those taken in other parts of the city as well.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Movie Review: Doctor Strange

I am not an Avengers fan, I don't partake (at least in an intelligent fashion) in the Marvel vs Disney arguments, I didn't even know until recently that you gotta sit through the entire end credits roll to get a peek into the next big Marvel. And Doctor Strange isn't even a real superhero (all he does is dash in and out of time and space warps, and outta his physical body). But I loved the movie!

When an extremely talented neurosurgeon crashes his car, smashing the nerves on his delicate fingers and with that, his blossoming career, he turns to the psychic world to master his body, mind and spirit. And ends up getting sucked into a fight for Mother Earth against the dark forces in the Universe, bent on sucking life out of the world as we know it into a timeless, endless vortex. Etc etc. Yes, we have heard that before.

What's stunning though, is the SFX, especially if you can catch it in IMAX 3D. When you think you have seen it all before, Marvel comes up with a fascinating rendition of warped time and spaces, and such high fidelity psychedelic graphics, that nothing else really matters - just sink back into your comfortable lounge seats and let your eyes go wide with wonder. The accident is also extremely well shot, as are a couple of panoramic shots of Kathmandu and the surrounding mountains.

An excellent performance by Doctor "Sherlock" Strange, and the extremely cute Rachel McAdams, keeps you engrossed throughout the running time, with more than a couple of good laughs. The best part is that the end game comes quick and fast, unlike many similar super hero/sci fi movies that seem to drag on and on in a blur of SFX overdose!

Do check out this Strange movie, and in IMAX 3D if you can find one in your city!

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Movie Review: Ae Dil Hai Mushkil

I didn't want to watch this movie. Nothing to do with Fawad (I actually loved him in Kapoor and Sons!), but really because I got turned off by the entire controversy, dragging the army into it, and the eventual capitulation by the producers, which was such a shame. Then I thought, heck, what and who am I taking a stand against anyway? It's just a movie. The politicians will play their part, especially with elections around the corner.

Or maybe because I've never been a great fan of Ranbir, or of Aishwarya. But then Anushka Sharma (never been my favorite, but I have to admit, she's done some fantastic roles lately in NH10, DDD) was a plus, and when SRK has a cameo, how could I say no, really?

Sometimes in life, you do make mistakes. Maybe, this was one of them.

To be honest, the first half was actually OK. Quite pacy, and enjoyable, if you keep low expectations from everyone. The second half is all downhill into a deep crevice from where there is no coming back. A muddled storyline, insipid dialogues, and a very predictable and stretched ending makes this a very mushkil watch as the minutes drag on.

On the plus side, some of the numbers are beautiful and will stay on my play list for a very long time. SRK mouths some memorable dialogues in the 3 min he is on screen, Lisa Haydon is sexy and funny, and Fawad simply takes your breath away. Anushka is dependable, for most part. Ranbir is also tolerable, for most part. Aishwarya looks good, sometimes (especially when she is the model instead of the actress).

Oh, and there are a bunch of other cameos too. I think I saw Alia in one shot!

Now that Diwali is over, maybe ADHM isn't such a bad idea.

Movie Review: Shivaay

This is one movie I had really high hopes about - maybe because at some subconscious level, I thought it might be an adaptation of one of Amish Tripathi's novels, or at least borrow some ideas from! The awesome action seen in the trailer only served to heighten those expectations.

The movie opens to a great sequence, the cinematography, the locale and the background score creating a sense of purpose and direction that's hard to buy into. Sadly, just like the protagonist (Ajay Devgan) nosediving down the steep cliffs, the movie goes just one way - downhill - from there on.

In spite of some great action shots and wonderful locales and the breathtaking cinematography, the movie is done in by stretched sequences of uncalled for emotional drama that completely upsets the pace and the narrative, dialogues that are unintentionally funny where they should be taut, and insipid direction and editing, where a good cut of the scissor could have made this a movie Jason Bourne could have been proud of. Entire scenes could have been snipped out and no one would have missed a thing!

Ajay Devgan the actor is let down by Ajay Devgan the director. The two imports, Erika Kaar (Ajay's love interest) and Abigail Eames (his daughter) are decent, except when Erika mouths the overly accented Hindi dialogues. Thankfully, Abigail is verbally challenged and doesn't have to go through the torture. Vir Das, Girish Karnad and Saurabh Shukla are completely wasted, which is such a shame. And the tub scene being the highlight of Sayesha Saigal's debut, it does her no favors.

News is that the directors have obliged distributors and cut off a good 10-15 mins - and that might just make Shivaay a lot more tolerable. From me, 2.5 stars out of 5, the negative marking not so much for what's missing, but what should have never been there in the first place!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Movie Review: Inferno

Robert Langdon wakes up in a Florence hospital with a splitting headache, amnesia and a bullet wound to his skull. And even before he can change out of his hospital gown, is thrown head first, arms and legs flailing, into a deadly game of cat and mouse. Doing what he does best, deciphering clues hidden in ancient art and sculpture, Langdon, assissted by his nurse and saviour from the hospital, the very pretty Sienna, hurtles through Florence, Venice and Istanbul trying to stop the release of a deadly virus aimed at cleaning up the world of the human scourge.

The action is fast paced, the cinematography clean, the movie is a very faithful and effective reproduction of the very exciting book. Not a mean feat when it involves quite a bit of detailing and reference to literature and history, without tuning off the audience. Watching in Imax format was the icing on the cake.

Tom Hanks is effortless, and Felicity Jones lights up the screen every time the camera is not focused on the magnificent sculptures and vistas of Italy. Our very own Irrfan has a cameo too, although I do believe Bollywood actors should aspire for meatier roles!

A definite recommendation for the weekend.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Movie Review: MS Dhoni The Untold Story

We have loved and admired him as Captain Cool, the anti-fragile hero, who loves standing up to pressure and who's taken Indian cricket to the very top in every form of the game.

But how was it for Mahi as a kid? How did he end up keeping wickets? What did his dad do? Do you know MS was a TC at Kharagpur station? Did you know he lost his first love to an accident while away playing for the country in Pakistan?

But most of all, the struggle to get selected, to even get a chance to get selected for that matter.

The movie is not about cricket. Although montages of key India victories and defeats over the last decade are beautifully edited to have Sushant instead of MS, and you get a good filling of Mahi's helicopter shots, there is almost no focus on his captaincy, his cricketing brain.

It's about an ordinary guy with extraordinary dreams, with a sense of purpose and a dogged determination and belief in himself.

Sushant is absolutely perfect as Dhoni, his mannerisms make it impossible to distinguish between whether it's the actor or the man himself. Sushant has always proved himself to be a seriously talented actor, but with Dhoni he sets a new benchmark for himself. Kiara Advani and Disha Patani are both very memorable with small but significant roles, and quickly make a place for themselves in your heart, already swelling with admiration for Sushant's Mahi. 

The supporting cast led by Anupam Kher is brilliant. The young Yuvi who teaches MS an important lesson early in his career is brilliantly cast. So is the big boss of cricket, Jagmohan Dalmiya. Mahi's school coach, family members, friends and Mahi as a school kid... every role is played to perfection and brings lots of smiles.

At over 3 hours, this is truly an epic every Mahi fan needs to see. But truly, it's just one of those rare true life inspirations that can impact each and every one of us.

Dont miss it.

Sunday, April 17, 2016


I got this amazing 10-18 mm Canon lens a couple of days back, and what better way to explore it than try and get some interior shots? Pictures I could never dream of capturing on the standard 18-55!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Movie Review: Fan

SRK has always been the showman, the badshah of Bollywood, the guy who can make a million hearts flutter with just an outstretching of his arms. Fan plays an unabashed tribute to the superstar Shah Rukh Khan through his character, Aryan Khanna, with a perfectly chosen montage of his interviews and movies, and the "birthday appearances" at Mannat, his Bandra residence that's literally a Mecca for his frenzied fans. You also see shades of the superstar minus his stardom - a family man who dotes on his children, a self-made hardworking man who has his own fears and fallacies, a peek into what very well could be SRK's life inside the high walls of Mannat.

But Fan also presents, probably for the first time in his career, an actor par excellence, devoid of all the mannerisms that he can always bank on to get legions of his drooling fans going. Just a little help from the make up department (a slighter built, a broader jaw, smaller nose, straight eyebrows, bucky mouth), and you have Gaurav, who worships Aryan (so many of us will relate to that!) and is convinced he was made from the same "mitti", and dreams of meeting his idol one day.

After winning the moolah in the mohalla's talent competition (a wonderfully executed sequence), Gaurav sets out with his trophy and a box of halwa, WT (without ticket) to Mumbai, to wish Aryan on his upcoming birthday. But fan life is not easy - I know, I spent 8 hours in the blazing sun waiting to get an audience with the Badshah during the shooting of Chennai Express at a remote railway station in South Goa! Kicked away from the gates, his halwa crushed under the feet of the beserk crowds, Gaurav doesn't lose hope. While his devilish plan succeeds in getting Gaurav an audience with Aryan, the superstar summarily rejects his fanatical worship and methods. "You are not my fan", he admonishes Gaurav in a Mumbai lockup.

Hell hath no fury like a lover scorned, it's said. Gaurav now makes it his life's credo - to get the superstar down to his knees, and goes after Aryan with a vengeance, almost destroying his career, his image and his family. All he wants is for Aryan to say sorry.

Gaurav hai toh Aryan hai. Gaurav nahi, toh Aryan nahi.

SRK fans will not be able to take their eyes off the screen - because there is literally no frame without the badshah in it. Fans with heart ailments are advised caution during the Mannat scenes. Adrenalin pumping chase and fight sequences on blazing rooftops in Europe, crumbling dilapidated Mumbai gullies and dusty terraces of Delhi are executed with finesse. There are no frivolous songs (there was always the possibility of inserting a song sequence in Aryan's superstar life or an angle on Gaurav's local love interest), although SRK gets to do his signature sprint more than once. There are no cheesy romantic dialogues, no twisted eyesbrows, no tears in the superstar's eyes. There is just cold determination in Gaurav. A manic resolve, a deadly obsession that manifests in cold, calculated moves that doesnt fail to bring a chill to the bone, a slight tingling in the spine. There is no hamming, no long winded dialogues. Just a subtle change of expression from hope to anger, from expectations to resolve, from anger to determination.

SRK, in and as Fan, is simply an actor you've never seen before.

Shriya Pilgaonkar (as Gaurav's love interest "Miss BPO" Neha) is a find! She is smart, good looking, and super confident in front of the camera, her disarming smile a real asset. A small role that is getting lots of appreciation, and very deservedly so.

Fan isn't a romantic movie. Fan is a taut thriller, with a simple but powerful theme that keeps you hooked from the beginning to the end. A complete departure from the Happy New Year genre, Fan will take you to the era when the Baazikar created just the right amount of Darr! This one is for keeps.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Even I Take Public Transport!

End Of A Bright Day!

Soaring Over Despair, or Ominous Clouds?

Bottled Feelings

Cat Scientist

Can't stop laughing...

Moview Review: The 5th Wave

The Others want our Earth, and for that, they need to eliminate humanity. In the first wave, they take out all power and engines through a giant electromagnetic pulse. Then come the earthquakes and tsunamis, wiping out most coastal cities. The 3rd wave is a deadly form of the avian flu, spread through the 300 birds that inhabit our planet. Then, The Others inhabit the Earth, getting inside human forms to pick out the survivors one by one.

The fifth and final wave is about to come, and the US Army enlists help from the children who've survived the apocalypse to fight the Others. Outfitted in battle gear, the kids are sent out into the battlefield. Yes, it makes no sense... and neither does most of the rest of the movie. But when you are about to eliminated from the face of our only planet, who has the nerve to question?

There can be only 2 reasons to watch The 5th Wave this weekend - you have already seen Airlift and Joy, AND, you are a big fan of Chloe Grace Moretz, who is cute as hell.

Movie Review: Joy

After Silver Linings, the amazing trio of Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert de Niro join forces again with director David O Russel to bring another delightful and uplifting story to the big screen.

Joy is very Silver Linings like, the same crisp dialogues, drama and humor, with not a moment that fails to engage. And while de Niro is his usual wonderful self, and Bradley Cooper will make you drool in the small but memorable role he has, Joy is all about Jennifer Lawrence, in my opinion, the most accomplished actress Hollywood has had.

Struggling to find her own identify and dreams in the midst of a singer ex-husband who lives in her basement, a dad (de Niro) shuttling between failed marriages, kids, an soap-opera obsessed mother and a step sister, JLaw instantly connects with audiences as she takes them through a roller coaster of emotions and states - despair, frustration, madness, inspiration, delight, victory, failure, hard work, and finally, success. Trying to make ends meet, Joy sees an opportunity in taking her Magic Mop to the market - but it's not easy. Patents, lawyers, cheats, debtors, cops, even her own family - everyone seems to be conspiring to hold her back from her dreams.

Don't miss Joy. There's very little of it around, anyway!

Movie Review: Airlift

The year was 1990. I had just finished 10th, and started high school. India didn't have cable TV, there were no mobile phones. No Coffee Days or Baristas. No Pizza Hut. Life was very simple. Hanging out with friends on the beach. And watching Kung Fu movies on the VCR.

And then, thousands of miles away, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. And all of us in Goa felt the tremors. No, it wasn't just because oil from the Gulf was expected to dry up in our tanks. But it was because thousands of Goans lived and worked in Kuwait and rest of the Gulf, sending money back home to lonely families.

Suddenly, they were refugees in a faraway land, with no where to go.

The Gulf War of 1990 did one more thing. It brought war from the frayed pages of school history books right into our living rooms. Night vision shots of anti-aircraft fire, bombs blowing up the cities, tanks rolling across a landscape strewn with burning oil fields... the world was no longer an innocent place for 15 yr olds like me.

Airlift is the story of the biggest evacuation in the history of the world, when efforts of Indian Kuwaitis like Sunny Matthews, pilots of Air India, Indian Airlines and Indian Air Force, and many nameless, faceless government and embassy officials resulted in the coming home of almost 170,000 stranded Indians from the war torn Gulf. Told through the eyes of a wealthy Indian businessman, Ranjit Katiyal (Akshay Kumar in a measured, restrained and wonderfully executed performance), Airlift brings the horror, the despair, the frustrations, perseverance and ultimately, the victory of a "system" that succeeds in the impossible evacuation of our citizens through almost 500 flights over 2 months.

Raja Menon's taut direction, and Priya Seth's cinematography makes Airlift a compelling experience, with scenes that give you goosebumps, that invoke anger and cynicism, and ultimately, and an immense sense of pride.

Akshay Kumar is ably supported by a wonderful cast. Kumud Mishra is the hassled and frazzled bureaucrat in Delhi, dealing through red tape and processes, pleading with Ministers in a wobbling coalition. Prakash Belawadi is the forever grumbling and complaining George (don't we all know people like that?) who gets on your nerves, while Inaamulhaq in just right as the slimy, corrupt and menacing Iraqi major in charge of Kuwait.

For me, the find of the movie is Nimrat Kaur (and I can't help thinking of Rosamund Pike, another of my favorites, when I look at her). She is the perfect foil to Akshay, a stabilizing and reassuring force in the turbulent times. Angry at him initially for ignoring his family's safety, she soon becomes his pillar of strength. A superb monologue in support of her husband, a dazzling smile that lights up the bleak landscape, and an almost regal wardrobe - this is one girl to watch out for, if she gets the right kind of movies.

Like the shot of the wheels of the first flight taking off, Airlift will lift you and carry through the cynicism and despair our news channels keep dumping on us. Do not miss this one!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Movie Review: Wazir

With my favorite Farhan Akhtar teaming up with Big B, and the very pretty Aditi Rao Hydari, Wazir promised to be an intense affair. The movie starts brilliantly, setting the audience up for what promises to be a cat and mouse game between terrorists and the ATS, played against the backdrop of a chess game. But while the build up is great, and the first half keeps you engrossed, the second half is quite a let down, almost making you feel as if the writer and director ran out of energy and decided to wrap it up. There is really very little connection with the chess, and the story itself is pretty predictable. The end, a let down.

That said, watching Farhan and Big B on screen together, and the very talented Aditi in a small but touching role, is worth the 2 hours... especially given that there is little else this weekend.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Movie Review: Natasamrat (Marathi)

Natasamrat is the poignant and depressing story of the last days of an acclaimed and very successful theatre personality, his battle for respect and relevance in a world that no longer has any use for him. Forgotten by audiences and abused by his own family, unable to cope with his theatrics and inability to adapt to their "modern" way of life, the once proud actor is forced to take shelter with a roadside bootpolishwaala, minus his companion, his identity, and his sustenance.

Nana Patekar puts up a signature performance, but for me, it was Vikram Gokhale as his frenemy that takes the award. The supporting cast, especially Nana's "sparrow" daughter and his wife, are also brilliant.

While Natasamrat evokes some hearty laughter in the first half, and shocks the audience into silence in the second, terminating with spontaneous applause to the brilliant performances when the end credits roll, this is the kind of movie you do not want to see at the beginning of a new year. While it is packed with powerful performances, it's not my kind of movie - it does nothing to lift your mood, it drowns your spirits, and the bitter aftertaste only serves to wrench your heart.

The world already has a lot of despair and sorrow. Give me something that gives me hope.

Movie Review: Point Break

An aspiring FBI agent surfs, speeds and flies his way into the midst of daring heists pulled by extreme-sports athletes on a mission, in this remake of Kathryn Bigelow's Point Break.

PB provides almost 2 hours of adrenalin pumping extreme sports action from mountain biking at the top of the world, bat-flying through dangerous valleys, sky-diving into jungle hollows, extreme surfing in the ocean, and some nail biting free rock climbing in exotic locales, backed by crystal clear cinematography which is excellent advertising for the much-abused 3D format.

What the movie lacks is a credible plot to hold it together, and wastes the amazing potential of the charming and sexy Teresa Palmer.

I would still go for it - if nothing else, to simply enjoy the NatGeo HD - meets - Mission Impossible 3D action.

Goa In Dec 2015... Some Vistas

Cat Overdose