Super Nani: This one’s a Super No-No!

Super NaniSuper Nani is called Super Nani because a submissive housewife, (Rekha) prodded by her US-based grandson (a soppy Sharman Joshi speaking in a terribly fake NRI accent), reinvents herself as a glamorous diva to teach her thankless family a lesson in gratitude and humility.

While braving this outmoded farce, directed by Indra Kumar and starring Rekha in the title role (and the only reason anyone would even bother), I thought of many other befitting titles it could have opted for.

Super Makeover
Makeover is Bollywood’s favourite pastime. Whether it’s for the sake of romance, revenge or retrieving a straying husband, the underestimated heroine often ditches her girl-next-door avatar to transform into a superficial picture of smouldering charm.

Rekha has an abundant experience of this recreation. Whether it’s her famously documented metamorphosis off screen or glitzy turn from plain to polished in Khoon Bhari Maang, it’s always served her in good stead.

The veteran adopts this old formula once again for Super Nani and indulges her love for dolling up in kitschier versions of Anarkali (Mughal-E-Azam), Rosie (Guide) and Radha (Mother India). Here’s an occasion where a wink of self-referencing — a sprinkle of Umrao, a dash of Chandni — would have laced the scene with impish humour. Instead it comes out all bland and bumbling.

Super Glycerine
It’s like the director’s only brief to his cast, specifically Rekha and Sharman Joshi, is to sob, sigh, weep or wail with glistening eyes as if their life depends on it.

Every single frame of this tearjerker tests a viewer’s tolerance for extreme schmaltz.

Bottomline: Super Nani comes pretty close to breaking the record rona dhona in that Juhi Chawla melodrama called Saajan Ka Ghar.

Super NaniSuper Regressive
When Rekha’s on screen daughter broadcasts her intentions to marry a divorcee-to-be, the earth-shattering tone of the background score suggests a catastrophe akin to Deepak Parashar uttering ‘Talaaq, Talaaq, Talaaq” to Salma Agha in Nikaah.

That’s not all of it. If the divorce doesn’t come through, the couple intend to opt for a ‘live-in’ arrangement. At this point, the background score is dangerously close to exploding both ears.

Yeh paap hai,” squeals Rekha. “Yeh bimaari hai,” sneers Sharman.

Aamir Khan, please ask your Dil director to explain himself whenever you shoot an episode of Satyamev Jayate on live-in relationships in India.

Super Bokwaas
While cohabitation without marriage is a complete no-no, begging a matchmaker to find a suitable boy for your daughter because she’s in her late 20s is what makes for a Super Mom.

Super Nani is quite clear about what qualities make for a good woman – religion. She regularly prays and frequents temples. She believes in astrology and mannats.  What’s more she plays this  pati-parmeshwar advocating doormat out of the sheer magnanimity of her heart. But, of course, everyone else around is painted into an outright villain so that her greatness stands out even more prominently.

Remember those preachy family dramas Ghar Ho Toh Aisa, Biwi Ho Toh Aisi and ilk designed to discipline a haughty Bindu? Only Super Nani, with its hair-dye fixated dialogues (Baalon ki mehendi jeevan ka anth nahi shuruat bhi ho sakti hai) and hammy performances does not possess an iota of wit to render the shaming or turning new leaf any amusement.

Super Shor
In the contrived and mawkish universe of Super Nani, nothing happens for a reason.

There’s no real conviction in why Rekha attracts such negativity from her husband or brood. It’s just that their characters are written to be nasty to her without any subtext and to squeeze out sympathy.

Super NaniThe easiest way to achieve that is for the characters to scream along with the film’s cacophonous background score.

Super Saris
What I found to be singularly notable about Super Nani are the beautiful woven saris worn by its gorgeous leading lady.

Of red lips, flowing tresses, impeccable make-up and kohl-ed eyes, the camera loves Rekha and her rich demeanour.

Sadly, the attitude and ada that makes her so timeless is dumbed down in a role and film so behind its time.

Stars: 1.5

This review was first published on rediff.com

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The Annie & Anya Foodie Trail: Let’s Bake: Rosemary, olive & cherry tomato focaccia

The last couple of weeks were a no show on the food meme front because I got busy with the 16th Mumbai Film Festival and Anupma was holidaying with family in Europe.

Resuming the challenge with the next theme ‘Let’s Bake’ I thought I’d bring together the yummy flavors of rosemary, cherry tomatoes and black olives to bake focaccia based on a Gordon Ramsay recipe.

Warm focaccia with soft butter or just on its own with tea is one of my favourite meals.

Focaccia

Focaccia

Meanwhile, my partner in this food challenge, Anupma Bakshi has created a baked version of all-time favourite comfort food: Baked Fusilli & Cheese Bonanza. So very yum, yes?


Related Links:
Week 1: Pasta: Four cheese ravioli in butter sage sauce
Week 2: Mexican: Homemade nachos and salsa bar
Week 3: Exotic India: Valval

The Annie & Anya Foodie Trail

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Happy New Year: More drab than droll!

Happy New YearIf absurdity is the definition of humour, I’d rather see pigs fly.

Instead I am watching Happy New Year, Shah Rukh Khan’s big-budget Diwali release this year.

Here, a group of six Indians aspire to win an international dance competition as well as steal prized diamonds from a high-security vault in Dubai. Of course, five out of this aforementioned lot are non-dancers and part of the meticulous master plan is to strip and stand on a pile of cast clothing if one cannot reach the height of a vault wall screw.

One (Shah Rukh Khan) is a graduate from, no kidding, Boston University and (I don’t know) a victim of recession? Two (Sonu Sood) is an ex-armyman and hard of hearing, a complaint that miraculously vanishes in the second half of the film. Three (Boman Irani) is a Parsi bachelor still living with his nagging mom (Daisy Irani) and suffers from 30-second fits every now and then. Four (Vivaan Shah) is a computer geek who can ‘hackofy’ anything. Five (Abhishek Bachchan) is a street-smart lout and drunkard with a superhuman capacity to vomit, in slo-mo, no less. Six (Deepika Padukone) is a sizzling cabaret dancer who cannot speak English ‘eajeeeily’ but fancies anyone who does.

Despite the silliness of its premise and convenient absence of CCTVs in an upscale hotel’s elevator, there is a potentially fun story somewhere in this clutter, which is completely lost to accommodate choreographer-turned-filmmaker Farah Khan’s love for excesses.

Revenge, dance-offs, patriotism, romance, Parsi humor, tapori gags, gay jokes (Anurag Kashyap and Vishal Dadlani like never before), bar dancer with girl-next-door values, high-concept heist, triumph of underdogs, product placements and countless Bollywood references — Happy New Year carelessly packs in everything in sight but fails to substantiate it with the zest or repartee that made the over-the-top buffoonery of Main Hoon Naa or Om Shanti Om amusing.

Crowds hurling rotten fruits on characters, the ancient face-smashed-in-cake shtick, grownup guys stumbling all over in tutu skirts or a trivial dig on a Saroj Khan clone, the slapstick horseplay here is akin to a parent making a fool of one self to pacify or distract his/her kid. Yet the liberal use of double-entendres isn’t exactly child-friendly.

Happy New YearLow on wit, quirk and imagination, Happy New Year wears stupidity like a medal — embarrassingly content with its self-congratulatory tone that references Farah’s own films as well as Dharmendra’s sleek diamond quest caper Shalimar, Rajesh Khanna’s Kutti cheez catchphrase in Raja Rani, Amitabh Bachchan’s ‘chor baap’ woes from Deewar, Don’s invincible ‘mushkil hi nahi namumkin’ charisma, SRK’s ‘Sattar Minute’ speech in Chak De! India, Madhuri Dixit’s iconic Mohini from Tezaab and brother Sajid Khan’s “Ha Ha Hee Hee” brand of cinema in a manner so tedious, it’s a waste.

For a script that gives solid importance to spectacle and boasts of a director who’s among India’s prominent choreographers, the showmanship leaves a lot to be desired.

Vishal-Shekhar’s soundtrack doesn’t hit a single winning note and the choreography is shockingly lacklustre. Just putting up a garish visual palette, which throws every variety of gold and tinsel on screen doesn’t translate to opulence. Even Dubai’s majestic Atlantis, where Happy New Year is predominantly filmed, is barely exploited to its full potential.

Happy New Year is watchable in parts but its three hours and plus running time (it’s 179 minutes actually but feels like eternity) makes it woefully difficult. I looked at my watch and about 70 minutes are purely spent in introducing its six main protagonists.

On their part, the cast does its best to make up for the scarcity of technical finesse and zany sense of humour with their affectionate chemistry. As the leader of the pack, SRK looks completely home. His wardrobe may resemble a disco ball (when he’s not flaunting a sickeningly sculpted torso) but the actor is unusually restrained for a Farah Khan sensibility.

A suave Jackie Shroff, as his nemesis, exudes quiet menace but Happy New Year doesn’t seem to care. Too little of him, too inconsequential.

Deepika Padukone is way better styled than the movie and makes most of her presence. Though, I admit, I have gotten used to seeing her in better stuff.

Happy New YearIf Boman Irani is repetitive, Sonu Sood is overtly excitable, both get on the nerves.

Vivaan Shah keeps it normal but doesn’t have much to do.

It’s Abhishek Bachchan, free from the expectations of hero or sidekick, who has the most fun with Happy New Year. He’s least conscious and goes all out injecting some droll action in an increasingly drab movie.

Stars: 2

This review was first published on rediff.com

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Haider is a bewitchingly clever retelling!

HaiderBy its very virtue, melancholy is a lonely, lingering, tedious and consuming emotional state. It simply cannot be hurried. Except if you persist sympathetically by the side of the man devastated by its grip, the upshot is more heartfelt than ‘words, words, words’ can articulate.

In Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider, an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Kashmir’s trials are mirrored in its eponymous hero’s ruin and rude realisation of betrayal from the ones he perceived his own.

A retelling so clever, so bewitchingly clever, a further validation of Bhardwaj’s deep-rooted understanding of the Bard that gets more and more intimate with every passing Shakespeare he tackles. After testing his mettle in the dark guilt of Maqbool (Macbeth) and honing it further in the regrettable impulses of Omkara (Othello), Bhardwaj not only recreates Hamlet but also takes the liberty to rewrite it — such a bold move but such a darn beautiful one.

There’s a line, “I must be cruel only to be kind. This bad begins and the worse remains behind,” which is attributed to Hamlet in the play but refreshingly redefines the motivation of someone else in the adaptation.

Bhardwaj plays with Hamlet‘s structure and timeline to inspiring results and so before it becomes a full drawn saga of indecisive avenging of a father by his son against his uncle and mother, Haider familiarises the viewer, with generous help from co-writer Basharat Peer, to the hostile, early 1990s atmosphere of the snow-covered paradise (captured to delight in Pankaj Kumar’s sweeping frames).

Peer, who I have a fleeting memory of in rediff.com’s office, strokes the script with unflinching scenes of terror and tension that afflicted the population of Kashmir, caught in the crossfire between militants and army. I haven’t read his acclaimed Curfewed Night but I do recall this heart-breaking diary, which offers a disturbing glimpse of the horror he encountered personally. He even appears in a brief cameo doing what may seem amusing at first but is mostly a painful reminder of scars left on a tortured psyche.

For those constantly living on the edge, madness seems like a foregone conclusion if not a much-needed escape, Haider plays on it shrewdly. Even when its delicately carved walnut wood décor, crewel-embroidery namdas and drapes colour the screen with prettiness that belies its reality, so potent is the film’s distrustful vibe, even a warm gesture to embrace seems like an unfriendly move to frisk.

Only this is Vishal Bhardwaj and his signature whimsy and chutzpah, which acts as both — an attitude and pun, is highlighted in Haider’s light-hearted departures where Salman Khan is the only glimmer of cheer in this war-torn hell.

HaiderHaider’s first fifty minutes are like a prologue allowing us to form an opinion, a first, second or third impression of its key characters and their reasoning through teasing imagery but isn’t quite neutral where its politics is concerned. But if you agree to Haider as a poignant account instead of a comprehensive study, the somewhat one-sided picture may not offend.

I found myself a little restless by its initial pace but Haider’s deliberations are essential and, eventually, rewarding because it sensibly concerns itself beyond its titular man.

Some of the most classic scenes (and verse) from the play are faithfully reproduced but Bhardwaj’s true calibre shines in his reinventions that lend Haider an ideology and individuality that is entirely its own. (It also makes complete sense to have released on October 2.)

Its visual narrative is just as significant, like how Haider’s prelude to wild behaviour finds an eye-catching metaphor by way of gray langur in the backdrop. Whether it is intentional or not, I do not know. If not, what a breathtaking coincidence.

Though never taking precedence over the spoken word, sound –as melody, as design, as background bears a thoughtful presence in Bhardwaj’s film. Its stirring songs by Gulzar and Faiz and a background score dominated by violins (the most human of all instruments, in Louisa May Alcott’s words) and sirens require a certain experience with sorrow if not the sensitivity to understand or appreciate.

Bhardwaj is an actor’s dream. And the cast, so many wonderful actors even in five-second roles, realise this opportunity in different ways.

I liked the benign tempered Narendra Jha as Haider’s wronged father and Kay Kay Menon’s composed rendition of the corrupt but not completely deplorable uncle. I enjoyed the three elderly gravediggers as well as the Salman fanboys (Sumit Kaul and Rajat Bhagat) and a certain carrier of a plot twist I will not mention. I found radiant Shraddha Kapoor’s depiction of fair Ophelia a confused mix of gullibility and guts. And her (needlessly) ill pronounced English spoiled two good scenes.

I was impressed by the crescendo of Shahid Kapoor’s performance. He doesn’t talk often but his eyes do. Sometimes pale like a ghost, sometimes burning with hysteria and insanity; sometimes tender with moist tears that are recipient of gentle kisses from the women he loves. The lattermost is a subtly explored territory in Haider.

He’s absolutely electrifying in the scene where he goes all out to pronounce his madness. His work as Haider is a challenge well met, a film to be proud of. Kapoor’s younger avatar, played by Anshuman Malhotra, is quite a find as well.

HaiderBut the one I am going to bow to is Tabu. Tabu, oh my god, Tabu. A world is said without uttering as much as a word. She plays us through her slightly puffy eyes and enigmatic, cold smile. Occasionally, the veil of steely composure slips and her insecurities come through.

Gertrude is almost impassive in Hamlet but as Haider’s young mother, Ghazala, she is granted the benefit of mystery. And Tabu lets on the secret in a manner that will haunt you long after you’ve left the theatre.

Stars: 4

This review was first published on rediff.com.

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The Annie & Anya Foodie Trail: Exotic India: Valval

This week’s foodie theme is Exotic India.

Honestly, what may seem exotic to a person of one region might be routine for those hailing from the region it belongs to. Ambiguous description notwithstanding, the idea is to cook something not too mainstream but out of our familiarity zone.

Initially, I wanted to prepare the Kashmiri delicacy, Nadru Yakhni but I couldn’t find the seasonal lotus stems in any vegetable market close home. Then I recalled having this fun conversation I had with Namrata where she shared a recipe of a Mangalorean style curry she relishes.

Basically it’s pumpkins (red and white), colocasia and beans cooked in coconut milk.

What I like about this dish is that there’s nothing severe about it. Not too many ingredients, not too many spices — it’s all about the vegetables soaking in the minimal seasoning, the fragrant coconut milk and how the combination of it all comes alive in your mouth.

Valval Valval Valval valval5

And here’s a look at what Anupma Bakshi rustles up this week: Mambazha Pulissery & Thoran Rice Platter.

Related links:
Week 1: Pasta: Four-cheese ravioli in butter sage sauce
Week 2: Mexican: Homemade nachos and salsa bar

The Annie & Anya Foodie Trail

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