SANJU – An ode to Sunil Dutt

It was 2013. The release of Yeh Jawaani hai Deewani had marked the 3rd straight successful year for Ranbir Kapoor – commercially and critically.

The previous 2 years had seen him sweeping major awards, including consecutive Filmfares for Rockstar and Barfi. Both the movies had earned great returns, with the latter breaching the coveted 100Cr mark.

YJHD was his 10th movie and it went onto become one of the highest grossing Indian movies. Ranbir catapulted himself into the league of bankable stars. He was touted as the next big superstar of India. He was living his dream.

……..and then came the slump.

2013, the year that had witnessed his most successful film also marked the beginning of his losing streak –Besharam, Roy, Bombay Velvet (lost around 60 -80crores) and Tamasha. Films continued to fail, year after year. Producers lost whopping amount.

 Ae Dil Hai Mushkil came as a relief, but then came Jagga Jasoos, for which Ranbir had turned a producer. Jagga lost around 40 -60Crores at BO.

When you see Ranbir Kapoor in his recent interviews, you can’t help but notice the melancholy in his eyes. Is it melancholy or is it the metamorphosis that he has underwent while reprising the role of Sanjay Dutt in Sanju?

Dutt’s life is filled with unbelievable tales of ups and downs, where he has hit more troughs than peaks. Did Ranbir take a leaf from Dutt’s life?

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What is SANJU – the movie all about?

It’s the tale of Sanjay Dutt – son of famed Sunil Dutt and Nargis. It’s a tale of his tryst with drug addiction and his fight against it. It’s the tale of a man who was charged under TADA act for his role in Mumbai Serial Blasts case and his acquittal. It’s about a man who was jailed under the ‘Arms Act’ and served 1400 odd days in prison.

Above all, it’s a tale of a father, who stood by his son in all his hardships. When the movie ends, whom do you fall in love with? Ranbir as Sanju or Paresh Rawal as Sunil Dutt?

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RANBIR as SANJU

In a career spanning over 11 years, Ranbir has largely played similar roles – a man in his soul searching journey. That makes Sanju a tailor made role for Ranbir. It’s his comfort zone.

However, the role has brought in its own baggage of hurdles and challenges.

When you are acting in a biopic, irrespective of the magnitude of your role – lead or just a supporting cast, you are bound to invite comparisons. The challenge intensifies, when you are reprising the role of someone living.

Sanjay Dutt is a star who has acted in over 150 movies. We have seen him through years – young, old, in his teen cheeks and in his silver beard. Hence, our subconscious continues to draw comparisons. There was always a danger of loss of ‘empathy’ for the protagonist, because the mind is too busy playing the game of comparison.

However, Ranbir hasn’t blindly tried to ape Sanjay, rather he has transformed himself into Sanju. He has picked few mannerisms that look more implicit than explicit imitation.

As a result, barring few segments, we live the experience of Sanju – the character and not Sanjay Dutt on whom the character is based on. That’s where Ranbir’s success lies. He becomes increasingly convincing. He makes us cry, he makes us laugh. He makes us cringe and gets us upset. He earns the empathy of the audience that lasts until the credit list rolls.

Sanju is not only the redemption of Sanjay Dutt, but also of Ranbir. He has regained his lost sublime form. The film is not only going to set the cash registers ringing, but will also fill his drawing room with few more awards. He is back into business.

(With the much hyped ‘Brahmastra’ on cards, he could be the next superstar that everyone wanted him to be)

Paresh Rawal has played the second fiddle, rather beautifully, making us fall in love with the endearing and much revered Sunil Dutt. (After watching the movie, I ended up spending few hours reading about him)

Vicky Kaushal’s would be another noteworthy performance.

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RAJKUMAR HIRANI – The man with the Midas touch

5 movies in 14 years looks a strained effort. It’s the fact that all of them have been blockbusters, which transforms the stats into an enviable track record. Sanju is looking in all good shape to extend his blockbuster streak.

He along with his writing companion – Abhijat Joshi, has retained their entertainment formula. Every scene should either make audience laugh their lungs out or make them empty their tears (joyous tears most of the times).

Hirani movies don’t exist in real plane. It exists in a dramatic space – filled with larger than life characters that look more real than fiction.

Despite being a biopic, he does no different in Sanju. The real characters look larger than life, yet so real. There are places where you feel things going little over board and growing dramatic, but then that’s the space in which the movie is set. You might call it flaws, but they are the flaws that you could live with.

He appears to be certain about the kind of movie that he wanted this one to be – a Bollywood film. He didn’t want to make an “Aviator” for sure. He has used all the right ingredients and to its perfection.

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BOTTOM LINE(s)

Apart from his drug addiction and his jail episodes, Hirani hasn’t delved deep into other aspects of his life. He has not touched upon all his love episodes, his childhood, his film career, failed marriages etc.

Well, there’s too much drama in Sanju Baba’s life to accommodate in 160 minutes, isn’t it?

Few episodes look exaggerated. Few look fabricated or should I call them ‘exercise of creative liberty’? But who cares, as long as we have 160 minutes of pure entertainment on plate.

At the end of the movie, we can’t help but sympathize with him.

Sanju is perfect monsoon gift from Hirani. Watch it for the remarkable performance of Ranbir and the unbelievable life that Sanjay has lived.

Watch it for the beautiful tale between the father and the son.

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BOTTOM LINE

Sanju is Hirani’s ode to Sunil Dutt. It’s redemption of Sanjay Dutt and that of Ranbir.

-CHAN

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October and “Where’s Dan?”

(Analysis of October movie, With Spoilers Ahead)

Dan (Varun Dhawan) – A Hotel Management trainee, working in a 5-star hotel has a long standing affair with reprimands. His child like demeanor and discipline issues keep earning him rebukes from the management. While his co-trainee Shiuli (Banita Sandhu) continues to earn admiration from the management, Dan is made to hop from one department to another viz. housekeeping, laundry, pest control and every other department except for the one which he loves the most – Kitchen.!

The year end arrives and along with it comes the long extended weekend, which would mean only one thing to the hotel staff – tight, hectic, tiring shifts. Dan slips away from the demanding schedule, as he goes home to attend his parents’ anniversary.

After a tiring day at work, the trainees gather on the terrace floor for some merry making. Shiuli makes a causal enquiry about Dan’s absence. “Where’s Dan? Haven’t seen him since yesterday” she asks – a casual enquiry indeed! A moment later, she tries sitting on the parapet, but only to slip down with a deadly fall. The accident pushes her into coma.

Dan returns from vacation and visits Shiuli at ICU, where she looks more equipment than human. The machines that are supporting Shiuli in her battle for life and their intrinsic details piques Dan’s fancy than her sorry state.

A dinner conversation with his roommate makes him learn about the events that preceded the accident. His friend makes a casual mention of Shiuli’s final words – “Where’s Dan?”

In spite of the attempts by others to write off her question as a casual one, Dan believes that it holds significance. He wants to know the reason behind her enquiry. He is in need of the answer, but the one who could answer his curiosity is living on ventilator, lost her conscious and showing no signs of recovery.

As rightly described in the trailer- “It’s not a love story, but a story about love”.! Dan doesn’t cry, neither does he laugh. He doesn’t say the magical words ‘I Love you’! Never once Dan tells us that he is in love with her. We see the love that a mother has towards her kid, siblings towards her sister and we see a Young adult whose pursuit for an answer evolves into an unconditional love.

Written beautifully by Juhi Chaturvedi, the script has transitioned into its absorbing visual form thanks to Shoojit Sircar and an exemplary cast.

In October, Shoojit doesn’t rely on heavy doses of background score and movement of Camera as much as he does on the performance of Actors. Rarely does the camera ‘dolly in’ to enhance the emotions and rarely does the Background score play to amplify the emotions. Isn’t that how it works in real life..? That’s one of the reasons why ‘October’ seems more real.

It also seems real, because the frames look extremely beautiful only when it has to and we don’t see actors mouthing deep philosophical dialogs garnished with metaphors. If any metaphor exists, then it exists in visual form – The flower Shiuli(Night Jasmine) being one.

The faith that Juhi and Shoojit have bestowed on ‘Keeping-it-simple’ coupled with his unorthodox methods, seems to have paid off, as the movie begins to appear more and more real, draws you into its world and puts you into perspective.

We have seen Varun Dhawan in his innocent avatars even before ‘October’. However, no other movie premise has been benefited by it, as much as this movie. The actor in Varun Dhawan ‘expresses it all, without really expressing anything’ and his restrained performance has only accentuated it.

Before the release of the movie, in one of his interviews he had said “I have never been so vulnerable on a film set. After a while, it stopped feeling like shooting. When you know that this is acting, it’s a film, there’s a block, that it’s okay. But when it stops feeling like acting and feels like real life, then the floodgates open”. After watching this movie, you shall know the significance that it holds for him.

Banita Sandhu speaks it all through her eyes and Gitanjali Rao has emotions written all over her face.

Casting of the movie is spot on! Shuttling between Hotel and Hospital, the movie has a plethora of characters that set up the perfect emotional ecosystem – roommate and his girlfriend who looks after Dan’s expenses, seemingly rude but silently caring boss, hostile colleagues, strangers, worried parents, friendly nurse and the list goes on. The cast appear to have slipped into their roles with an effortless ease.

The album has four plus songs, but the movie has none. However, the background score which plays only when needed stays with you!

I often compare movies with food. Probably ‘October’ is like the red wine. Few might love it at the very first go. For few others it’s an acquired taste. The fact that the movie is earning extreme reactions is disheartening for sure, but is quite understandable.

“Where’s Dan?” isn’t the central question of the movie. For Dan the central question is ‘Why did she ask about me?’ and hence the central question of the movie is – Whether Dan will be able to get an answer to it and whether his innocent attempts to revive her pays off or not?

And once you watch the movie you shall know that the movie is indeed about ‘Where’s Dan?’ – The answer to which lies in his self-discovery.

October is Juhi chaturvedi’s ‘Last leaf’, Shoojit’s best one yet and probably Varun’s ‘Where’s Dan?’ – As the actor in him appears to have made a self-discovery in this movie. Watch it if you want those emotional strings of yours to be pulled.

-Chan

‘A Taxi Driver’ and why the world needs more such movies?

 

History is a mutating entity. It mutates, because every day there occurs thousands of events of historical significance – few of them is open for world to know and the rest are secluded and stay under wraps. History is a mutating entity, because it’s based on perspectives and there occurs shift in perspectives every now and then.

And History is a mutating entity, for it keeps getting rewritten whenever ‘what-has-stayed-under-wraps’ emerges out for world to know and see.

Every such emergence brings out stories of unsung heroes and Movies play a significant role in bringing these stories into bright light. ‘Schindler’s List’, ‘Hotel Rwanda’ etc. stand as perfect examples for this.

A Taxi Driver’ – a South Korean Movie released in 2017, is an addition to the not-so-long-list of shining examples. A beautifully crafted movie based on the Gwangju uprising that took place in South Korea in early 80s and how a Taxi Driver became an accidental hero. (Something that I didn’t know until I watched this movie and read about it later. His real name may not be that).

I am writing this piece, because of the relevance it holds to the times that we live in.

The movie speaks of a pro-democratic uprising that took birth in Gwangju against the martial law imposed by South Korean Government. The demonstration against the government by the student group was later supported by local citizens but only to be oppressed by the military. The 9 day rebellion-and-oppression exercise witnessed an estimated death toll of 600.

However, Gwangju was quarantined during this period. Government had ensured that there is no outflow of information – in writing, in pictures or any other form. The entire uprising episode was being projected to the rest other parts of South Korea and world as “rebellion instigated by Communist sympathizers and rioters”. Death tolls were misreported and falsely projected, so as to make the world believe that it’s the army men who are getting killed by the civilians. This had helped the Government earn sympathizers across the nation.

It was not until a German Journalist by name ‘Jürgen Hinzpeter’ smuggled himself into Gwangju, videotaped the real events and broadcasted it to the rest of the world, that the perceptions changed.

And He couldn’t have done so without the help of a Taxi driver who agrees to drive him into the town, for the hefty bill that the reported had promised to pay. The government sympathizer that he is, the driver’s perception about the uprising sees a seismic shift after he reaches the town and witnesses the holocaust. He then decides to stand by the reporter and ensures his safe return to Seoul along with the videotaped evidence of the military violence. He becomes the accidental hero.!

The beauty about ‘A Taxi Driver’ is the light hearted narrative set against a violent backdrop. In spite of being based on historical account, it hasn’t dressed itself into a ‘history movie’. The movie progresses through the evolving chemistry between the German reporter who doesn’t speak Korean and the taxi driver who’s English is ‘a-little-better-than-worse’. This has helped the movie in being both entertaining and engaging. Hence, it’s no wonder that ‘A Taxi Driver’ is amongst the highest grossing movies in South Korean Industry.

Song Kang‑Ho’ (I have watched most of his movies, yet find it difficult to type in his name without seeking help from Google) is as impressive as ever. Playing the role of the taxi driver, he effortlessly slips into the role and made me empathize with his character. His list of ‘impressive’ movies has continued to grow.

We need movies like ‘A Taxi Driver’ because it deals with ‘collective perception’ on a very lighter note. In a subtle manner, it tells us how entire/ most parts of the nation/world could have a collective perception about truth only to be proven otherwise. It tells us how, it’s not so right to have an opinion on a provincial issue based on our telescopic views. Telescopic views are influenced on others perceptions. A first-hand account ‘might’ make you realize that your long held opinion was not a right one.

The movie does all this without being preachy.

We need movies like ‘A Taxi Driver’ because it tells a beautiful tale. We need movies like ‘A Taxi Driver’, because it might help us build a beautiful and better place to live in 🙂

Padmaavat – with an “I” for beauty.!

 

There are movies that look grand, there are movies that appear beautiful and there are movies that the likes of Ang Lee and #SanjayLeelaBhansali do – enchanting, beautiful and grander than the grandest! Hit the pause button at your will, and any frame that freezes is a plush rich painting!

I might be being a bit lavish in my praises for the movie – but that’s only because of the lavish experience that I had, while watching the movie – #Padmaavat!

 

Based on an epic poem #Padmavat of 15th century, considered as history by many and argued as fiction by many others, this ‘Padmavat’ is a visual poetry painted on screen!

Hmm… but take away the grandeur, the aesthetic beauty and you will see the holes underneath.

Screenplay is engaging, but not on par with the excellence that the rest of the departments have brought on screen! If only the screenplay had been improved by a notch or two – this could have been a timeless piece!

There are no surprises in the screenplay – the planned surprises are way too predictable. There are are no true turbulent journeys for the protagonists – there is no peaking success but only diving failure. For the antagonist it’s the polar opposite. All that he does is win, win and win..!
One of the important aspects (not like a rule of sorts) of screenplay is to make the audience empathize with the characters and make them find an alter ego in either or both of the protagonists. Yet, I repeat – It’s engaging!
Inspite of knowing the climax of the movie ( which everyone anyway knows), the portion does pull the right strings and puts an arrow right through your heart.!
However, this minor imperfection could also be because of the “cuts” that were ordered to facilitate the screening.
Other “minor” complaints are – #Padmavati termed as the most gorgeous beauty by the characters in the movie.

It becomes important to make the audience also feel the same. Amidst the stunning locales, sets and pretty women like #AditiRaoHydari#DeepikaPadukone in the role of Padmavathi does look beautiful, but not “out of the world beautiful”.

Had the glamour in the costumes, sets been toned down and had the other females looked less gorgeous, Padmvathi would have surely looked one of her kind beauty in the movie. (This is strictly my opinion).
#ShahidKapoor has acted well, but doesn’t look like a king who could inspire bravery and instill confidence in his citizens.

Or is it the side effect of being cast alongside energetic #RanveerSingh, who in the role of Khilji – has KHILLED it.!
If only he hadn’t gone overboard in couple of scenes and only if #Bhansalihad painted his scenes less beautifully, he could have had a terrorizing impact.

Well.. As I said these are only minor complaints. It’s like walking into an expensive restaurant, with state of the art interiors. The food might not be the best thing that you would have ever eaten, but you wouldn’t mind as long as it’s good and the ambiance is ‘never-experienced-before’ and ‘enchanting’. Had the food been great, it would have been a fulfilling experience!

Padmaavat is an experience to absorb! Not to undermine the efforts put by #Bahubaali, but for me this is the greatest cinematic effort to come out of Indian Industry. #SanjayLeelaBhansali as a film maker does inspire jealousy and makes you feel a lot inferior.
He has given us a text book of film making – where all the chapters might not be relevant, but ones that are relevant are the ones that are must learns.
PS: Call it my lack of knowledge, but I couldn’t understand how a movie which heaps praises on #Rajput valour and pride, offends them.!

AND IF YOU HAD THE PATIENCE TO READ THIS LENGTHY PIECE, YOU ARE INDEED GREAT.! 😀 😀 Couldn’t even proof read it, such a lengthy one to give a second read..! 😛

 

Dear Zindagi – A Detailed Analysis

 

It’s been long since I have written a detailed analysis of any movie – could be because none of the watch was motivating enough for me to write or could be that I haven’t watched some of the best movies that got released in the recent past.

“Dear Zindagi” – The latest offering from Gauri Shinde, stands as a testimony for the earlier accolades that she had received for her first outing – “English Vinglish”.

Being an ad filmmaker that she is, it’s for sure that every frame of the movie would be tidy – spick and span, Abundance of light and props only adding to the aesthetic decorum.

The movie might not be inspired from them, but it does remind you of “Good will hunting” and “Dead Poet’s Society” in parts.

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Plot:

The movie revolves around the life of a female cinematographer Kaira (the loveable Alia), going through a phase of “Distress and Desperation” and how she, with the help of a psychiatrist Dr Jehangir Khan (our dear SRK) manages to overcome it.

It’s this very one lined plot of the movie, which manages to strike a chord with the audience with it’s personal touch.

“Phase of distress and desperation” is bound to visit everyone’s life, every now and then. The unwelcomed guest that it is, it does no gender biasing – treating men and women alike. That said, even I am not spared.

It’s highly improbable to prevent its visit, but what you could certainly do is – Mastering the art of getting yourselves out of it, as soon as you get into it.

At the surface layer it would appear that “Dear Zindagi” is trying to give life lessons on how you could help yourselves get out of the phase. But what it does in real is, asking us to identify our own specific ways of overcoming the distress.

Everyone has his/her sources of distress – job, love life, family, economy, social stigma etc. For Kaira, it’s her failed relationships and a childhood deprived of parental love.

Some of us are Kaira, some of us are Jehangir Khan and some of us are both of them. I think, audience identifying themselves with either or both these characters, is Gauri’s biggest victory as a writer and filmmaker

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Performances:

Time and again, Alia has reminded us that she is one of the best actresses that we have got. This movie is no exception. Wide range of emotions that she has brought on the screen, seemingly natural and pulled off with so much of an ease, proves her mettle as a brilliant actress.

Nothing could be more delighting than watching Shahrukh in such performance oriented roles – maintaining a good hand distance from his stardom. I can’t speak for others, but as a die-hard fan of his, I found him excellent in this role.

Angad and Kunal manage to impress in their brief appearances.

Yashaswini as Jackie, is also someone who might stay in your mind for quite some time, for her cute performance.

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MUSIC:

Amit Trivedi has worked magic with some of those numbers – that have shades of his earlier works in Lootera.

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WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN IMPROVED?

It’s of my personal opinion that the cinematographer part of her character has not been effectively written/ brought out. Several forced “superficial” elements put in to justify the cinematographer aspect. But that hasn’t done the movie any damage.

Her “childhood deprived of love” could have been much effectively depicted.

I don’t know if it exists for real – but the melodramatic family that she has including her uncle and aunt, appear far from real. I would discount that, considering it to be a creative liberty taken to entertain the audience.

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Bottom line:

You “might” like this movie, if you have loved – Good Will Hunting, Dead Poet’s society, Highway, Devil Wears Prada, Wake up Sid.

I wouldn’t say that every one of you might love the movie – A family that sat next to me, had their fair share of complaints.

But it’s certainly one the beautiful cinemas that I happened to watch in the recent past.

For the love towards SRK and for the love of Cinema…….!

-Chan