Review: Deadpool 2, bigger and better

Ryan Reynolds is a funny man, a compulsive quipster and the life of the Marvel Movie Universe party.

Wisecracks jump right out of his mouth at the precise moment they’re meant to and unfailingly do the trick. His effortless sass and chatterbox stamina is tailor-made for Deadpool.

Mostly though, The Merc With a Mouth’s snappy humour, smutty charm and barrels of bad language provide a breath of welcome, winsome lunacy from the holier-than-thou overkill of his PG-13 counterparts.

Deadpool 2, which arrives close on the heels of Avengers: Infinity War may not always have the last laugh, but it’s definitely an improvement on the somewhat one-note origins story.

As irreverent the 2016 offering is, the action and antagonist never posed any real threat.

In the bigger and busier sequel though, its smart-alecky superhero faces serious setbacks, possibly more significant than last one’s cancer and volunteer work triggering off an eternally bad skin and compensatory regenerative powers.

Wouldn’t expect anything less savage from the director who killed the dog in John Wick — David Leitch.

Former Special Forces guy turned full-time mercenary Wade Wilson aka titular hero has a bad case of the blues. And not all of it can be attributed to the third act of Logan, Infinity War or even Barbara Streisand’s singing — gags I laughed my head off to before advancing to hee-haw at its 007-inspired opening credits.

Help from Wilson’s mutant friends Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead may not open many doors (except the ones you want to keep an eye out for) but lead to undeniable mirth.

Throw in a 14-year-old fire-tossing miscreant (Julian Dennison’s ‘industry discriminates against plus-sized superheroes moment is a hoot) in desperate need of Deadpool intervention and Cable (Josh Brolin’s badass run continues post-Thanos), the weapon-armed po-faced soldier from the future eager to bump him off and what have you?

Redemption, revenge and rude humour come together like one big happy family — the kind Deadpool‘s craving for — in this slapdash script, co-written by Reynolds alongside Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, that makes light of a man’s misfortune through his endless capacity to play the fool.

Amidst chaotic prison breaks, rollicking job interviews, mission misadventure gone horribly wrong, surfeit of eye-popping surprises and cameos, zingers and zany action ensues keeping the viewer joyously glued to her/his chair.

Deadpool is bit of a trick or treat wherein you’re constantly split between feeling bad for its anti-hero’s rotten luck and chuckling hard over the frenzy of wit stemming out of his misery.

A big chunk, if not all, of his stand-up comic-meets-slayer appeal lies in slamming the fourth wall or breathlessly babbling a zillion pop-culture references — Panic Room, Terminator, Interview With the Vampire, Batman v Superman, Frozen, whilst decimating a swarm of goons, only of a little more questionable character than he is.

Deadpool is a self-aware franchise and mighty proud of its saucy individuality. But it’s no less ambitious than the ilk it mocks, an observation that’s only cemented by its imminent ‘X-Force’ vision.

Perhaps it’s difficult to expect such conformity from someone so subversive. In the hands of its supremely talented leading man though, it acquires a vision that’s fun even when wafer-thin.

Deadpool started out as a passion project for Reynolds, but now that it has tasted box-office blood, he’s on a course correction. Which means Green Lantern gets yet another jab in the jaw.

The joke’s a bit old now, but the Regenerating Degenerate is only getting started.

This review was first published on rediff.com.

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Super Filmi Week: Getting ready for Daku Ranbir

Ranbir’s daku aspirations, Alia’s magical transformation, Aishwarya’s mommy love and more in my Super Filmi Week.

Monday
The teaser look of Yash Raj’s Shamshera just dropped in.

It won’t be out any time before next year, but Ranbir Kapoor’s fierce bandit face and trite slogan karam se dacait… dharam se azaad is sure grabbing eyeballs after an impressive peek of Sanju. Its uproarious samurai meets Robin Hood meets Rambo meets Baahubali meets Bollywood Daku vibe screams M-A-S-A-L-A to me.

A poster is a curiosity generator. Its most basic purpose is to tell the audience, ‘go watch my movie.’ Shamshera’s appears to be channeling a lot of 13 Assassins and The Wild Bunch, no?

Bottomline, Director Karan Malhotra is sticking to his comfort zone and derivative vision. This is his third project since Agneepath, which worked more as a tribute and that god-awful Brothers remake.

The film-maker may have moved from Dharma to Yash Raj but as far as sensibilities go I don’t see any revolution.

Make no mistake, I am all for pulp as long as it presses all the right buttons and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Malhotra’s last outing may not inspire much confidence, but Ranbir’s presence in mainstream action mode insists I wait and watch.

Tuesday

 

A post shared by SonamKAhuja (@sonamkapoor) on


The world is divided between people cringing about Sonam Kapoor-Anand Ahuja’s minute-by-minute wedding coverage and those devouring it as though it’s their own family affair.

You know the whole apne Anil ke beti ki shaadi hai yaar sentiment.

Here’s what I noticed about #SonamKiShaadi:

My Twitter timeline is finally talking about something other than Avengers: Infinity War‘s final scene. The bride looks stunning, but not the high priestess of fashion that magazines would want you to believe. The easygoing groom is handling the media circus rather well. The family is looking stronger and closer than ever after a difficult time in their personal lives. The film industry is ecstatic to be part of #EverydayPhenomenal. The photographers are doing a fine job of documenting it round the clock. As is its celebrity guest list and their overactive Instagram accounts. News channels, Web sites, social network accounts are gushing over the newly weds like South Delhi aunties. Schmucks are comparing how the couple fares next to another celebrity pair Anushka-Virat and wondering why the groom wore sneakers to his reception.

Across continents, Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone are walking the red carpet for the Met Gala in New York City.

The whole idea behind this event is to comply with whatever the year’s theme is (this time it’s Heavenly Bodies: Fashion & The Catholic Imagination) and NOT hold back.

Deepika’s look is nice for any other day, but for the Met Gala it’s the very definition of meh. PC gets points for trying, but her costume doesn’t stick out like Blake Lively or Zendaya’s does.

Wednesday
Raveena Tandon once told a magazine that she’s so professional; she’ll even romance a broom if her director asks her to.

Maybe she got the idea after seeing Kumar Gaurav lip sync to the lovely RD ditty Dil Ke Aasman Pe Gham Ki Ghata Chayi holding a mop and bucket in Romance.

The sight is so hilarious you almost don’t notice the wooden leading man’s stuck sneeze expression.

Thursday
I am at a Raazi screening in PVR Juhu and the film’s director Meghana Gulzar is standing right across me. I don’t notice her immediately because of the lack of fuss.

Even the most random celebrity here makes it a point to attract attention by dressing up to the nines or being loud and conspicuous. Meghana’s humble, approachable, aura is a welcome relief.

Minutes later, Alia Bhatt emerges. She’s taller than I expected and gladly obliging for pictures with fans in a pale pink salwar kameez. There’s nothing snobbish or sensational in the way she wears her stardom. Alia is surprisingly low key. 

But the minute the credits rolls and she appears on big screen, it’s like complete domination. She is magical and larger-than-life. In Raazi, her plain, genial, face acquires complex understanding of a character that needs to be conflicted and compelling.

Like I mentioned in my review, ‘I feel dizzy thinking about the heights she’ll attain in future.’

Friday
Thank God it’s Friday and what could be better than watching Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr discover true love in Only You on Netflix.

I can’t believe I hadn’t seen it until now. Now that I have I can see how much of it Rahul Rawail ripped off it to rehash into half his Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya, which marked Aishwarya Rai’s Hindi film debut opposite Bobby Deol.

Here’s the common bit — Girl is looking for a guy with a specific name, said guy shows up, they flirt, fool around and fall in love, guy admits he faked his identity, girl is angry and breaks up, then another guy of the same name shows up, turns out the first guy only asked him to masquerade as the guy she’s chasing so that she’s turned off, girl finds out and is super upset and confused but all’s well that ends well.
Except in Only You these developments transpire around scenic Italy with a lot of zany wit and sexy chemistry. Whereas Aur Pyar Ho Gaya turns this about warring families and exhausting melodrama relying on Ash’s sartorial elegance and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s mellifluous soundtrack to keep us around (and awake).

Saturday
There was a time in Bollywood when all stars had to do was look into each other’s eyes and they’d land in Kashmir and Switzerland.

Or just twenty topsy-turvy shots of Lord Shiva idol inside the temple would rescue the hero from half a dozen bullets. Pregnancy was confirmed on first attempt and it would rain any time the director cried A-c-t-i-o-n.

Rishi Kapoor’s 1983 fluff, Bade Dilwala is a relic of these times. But that’s another story. Here’s what I noticed only now.

Throughout the film, his co-star Tina Munim is seen dressed in hip Western wear. She appears in a sari only once in a scene where she’s kidnapped by a bunch of goons. That too because there’s no rope, only one wide-open window, in the room and the director must have thought what can be more ingenious than using the heroine’s sari for the same. And so Tina has her Eureka moment while sobbing into the pallu when she miraculously realises she could use this as a bait to escape. After the said episode, she goes back to her regular wardrobe of dresses and dungarees.

So much for suspension of disbelief.

Sunday
It’s always take-our-kid-to-work day when Aishwarya Rai Bachchan arrives in Cannes with daughter Aaradhya.

The six year old seems to enjoy the attention quite a bit. Is that unusual?

My first response is slightly judgmental in nature until I remember accompanying my mother to every single event she was invited as chief guest or judge a school’s annual day function. It was so thrilling then, limelight by association. And when it wasn’t possible for me to go, I’d anxiously wait for her to return and give me the welcome bouquet she’d always receive.

Subconsciously, it made me value my mother, her achievements and place in the world even more.

We tend to scrutinise everything about stars from a cynical perspective. Sometimes it’s uncalled-for. Sometimes we have reason to. Sometimes it’s better not to.

This column was first published on rediff.com.

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Raazi review: Sympathy for the Spy

These are insincere times and one takes anything remotely nationalistic in nature with a pinch of suspicion. But in Meghna Gulzar’s Raazi, its mechanics are put to force as well under a microscope to understand how war is waged and the sacrifices it entails.

Jung mein sirf jung hoti hai,’ explains a hard-nosed intelligence expert to a freshly inducted recruit. The unsettling implications of his plainly worded logic is gradually disclosed, elevating Raazi from a slick, tense thriller to a timely human story. 

Fighting for one’s country may be a matter of great honour and pride, but the road to it isn’t one of scruples or integrity. Most of the times our cinema is so preoccupied in showing the jingoistic face of such pursuits that it neglects to notice the disadvantages of the job or acknowledge its executors as flesh and blood.

Not Raazi. Meghna Gulzar tactfully lays out the irony believing her audience will show the good sense to recognise the duality that alternates between governing its central protagonist’s impulses and assailing her conscience.

The journey, experienced through a college dropout, feels personal and daunting.

Alia Bhatt’s Sehmat is a young, rose-cheeked, Kashmiri girl studying in Delhi when her dying father (Rajit Kapur doing some of his best work in a brief but important role) summons her back to replace him in the family business: Espionage.

As absurd the notion is, it’s still 1971 and Bobby‘s teenage rebellion is two years away from rubbing off on many impressionable minds. With the threat of Indo-Pak war looming large, the general mood is defined by catchwords like ‘desh‘ ‘mulk’ and ‘watan‘.

Playing the illness card has emotional manipulation written all over it, Meghna Gulzar doesn’t even pretend to deny it. Rather, she highlights its effectiveness in a moment of masterstroke judgement.

Though hesitant, Sehmat obliges in the tradition of dutiful daughters and signs up to be a Research and Analysis Wing agent. It’s easier said than done, she soon learns while getting the hang of surveillance trade from a deadpan, hard taskmaster (jackpot delivery from Jaydeep Ahlawat).

Unable to take it one day, she snaps back and cries at the sheer unfairness of expecting miracles out of her on such short notice. It’s the way it is, he tells her curtly. These sharp edges stand Raazi‘s patriotism is professionalism view in good stead.

And yet, there’s something almost Shakespearean about the intense guilt haunting Sehmat’s soul following her political marriage to an army man (Vicky Kaushal pales to Alia’s charisma) across the border.

Spying and sex aren’t mutually exclusive. The genuineness of being and behaving is something only an individual can know. How much of a weapon can a person be without the human interfering with it? Raazi lets you decide.

Despite its meticulous storytelling, it is one of the most open to interpretation scripts in terms of characterisation. Sehmat’s occupational hazards lead to much despair but her obligation is greater than her compassion. 

Alia’s greatest triumph is to sink under Sehmat’s anguish while also feel the horror of her cold determination when she announces ‘Watan ke aage kuch nahi.’ As Sehmat, she looks at us straight in the eye, dares us to find loopholes in her resolve and see through her panic. Confidence is a mask her kind face wears round the clock and drops only to catch a breather. If anything, her vulnerability makes her even stronger in our eyes. Alia’s metamorphosis from squirrel saviour to savage soldier is what acting is all about. I just feel dizzy thinking about the heights she’ll attain in future.

Based on former Indian naval officer Harinder Sikka’s novel Calling Sehmat, it is the true story of a spy responsible for providing information that foiled Pakistan’s plan to sink the INS Vikrant

I am yet to read the book, but Raazi is told entirely from Sehmat’s perspective. And it is as balanced as Meghna Gulzar’s direction, which looks at heroism as an afterthought and Indians and Pakistanis as people at work, not messengers of peace, doom or mischief. It is what makes the casualties of Sehmat’s objective all the more tragic.

The sensitivity that marked her direction in Talvar is further reflected in the way Meghna Gulzar highlights the strength of silence and symbols to create an atmosphere of nail-biting claustrophobia and hostility.

Raazi‘s grave premise doesn’t make it any less spellbinding. Espionage tactics like surreptitiously installed wires, hastily typed Morse code, reading between the lines in code speech, moles in disguise, the works — are fun even in their predictability. Besides its crisp editing (Nikhil Baid), sharp camerawork (Jay I Patel) and poignant music (Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy/Gulzar) aid its storytelling, as areas of technique ought to.

Raazi is a rarity. It is intense, riveting, clever, dark, sad, lyrical, heartfelt, relevant and understated. So many movies labour to create flag-wavers and compel us to care. This one only tries to tell a story and succeeds.

Rating: 4 stars

This review was first published on rediff.com.

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