Kick review: Nawaz steals Salman’s thunder!

Salman Khan in KickNever heard a filmmaker say ‘Anyone can direct’ in the vein of Chef Gusteau’s ‘Anyone can cook’ belief. There’s a reason why. Watching Kick, which marks producer Sajid Nadiadwala’s debut as director, explains it with brutal honesty.

Its star, soul and the reason why anyone should care at all — Salman Khan has salvaged many a juvenile plots, which appear as though they’ve been put together on autopilot. Moreover, the sleek trailer of Kick deceives one into believing this could be an engaging, big-scale follow-up to an Ek Tha Tiger.

Except in this remake of another Telugu film of the same name and a wannabe mishmash of Krrish 3, Dhoom 3, Don 2, Salman is expected to fulfil too many roles at once – the sharpness its birdbrained script lacks, the drama its expensive action cannot conjure, the hilarity its flat as fettuccine jokes do not possess.

Punctuating the screen with his superstardom, occasionally referencing it too (lest we forget) with nods to Dabangg, Mujhse Shaadi Karogi, Har Dil Jo Pyaar Karega and Being Human comes naturally to Bhai. But he’s not a Nawazuddin Siddiqui who can instinctively pick the frivolous tone of Kick and snowball his underwritten loony character into a delightfully idiosyncratic fiend armed with a ‘Tock’ and asthmatic laughter. I certainly wish there was more of him and his quirky run-ins with Salman.

Instead what we get is a feeble backstory of how Jacqueline Fernandez, a desi Dr Chase Meridian falls for a 10-year-old nutcase Devi. Nah, she’s neither a paedophile nor a lesbian. Devi Lal Singh is Salman’s name and since he was born on February 29, which falls every four years, he’s still ten.

This, ladies and gentleman, is actually quite amusing compared to what follows. According to Desi Meridian, what makes Devi exceptional is his obsession for kicks –engaging in ridiculous activities for adrenalin rush. Why doesn’t she challenge him to sweep all of Delhi instead? Sanitised city, sane mind, no? No. Kick depends on his stupid fixation to justify its existence.

My suspended disbelief crumbles through the drinking/doping session between Devi and his dad (Mithun Chakraborty dressed like a cross between a truck driver and a snake charmer) and then mom (Archana Puran Singh, a loudspeaker could play her part) feeding him a glass of milk to a disturbing sound of Alle le le les. This is not cheesy, crazy or fun. It’s what-the-hell-just-happened.

A still from Kick.Jacqueline is some psychiatrist. In place of running away from such a weirdo far, far away, she breaks into a dream sequence — shot like those kitschy nineties Sonu Nigam pop music videos — about her brawny, smug hero who roughs up rowdy guys in cafes, doesn’t want to do anything for a living but has enough pocket money to gulp down a 100 shots every night? With that one move Jacqueline just unlocked a new level of Bollywood’s dumb brunettes. Still, the girl looks terrific in her snazzy wardrobe and Gucci sunglasses.

With her flashback taking so much time, potential groom and police officer Randeep Hooda (holds up nicely till he’s playing drunk) hastily narrates his version of Salman now going by the moniker of Devil wearing a mask that looks like a middle-schooler’s invention. Devil is an ace robber and whiz kid devising gadgets we’re familiar from Dhoom 2 and Jeans. He can also ride a bike, bicycle and drive a double decker in Poland. But it’s all for a cause and kick.

After a snoozy first half, Kick stirs from slumber to unleash the spectacle it teased with in its promo. And as much as Ayananka Bose tries to perk up the scenes with his crisp, whitewashed frames, the action isn’t nearly smart enough to enthuse. Merely shooting a film in a fancy European locale or smashing a few cars and CGI choppers doesn’t amount to action, there has to be a certain amount of finesse, audacity, cunning and strategy to it all. As glimpses, it may stand out but as an action set piece, I found the execution absolutely flat.

A still from Kick.Nadiadwala may have the monies to sponsor the action but not the acumen to generate it. To think he employs four screenplay writers (Rajat Aroraa Chetan Bhagat, Keith Gomes) including him to concoct this senseless mess where scenes just cut off and begin randomly never bothering to explain what happened. One moment he’s shot and floating under water. Next, he’s dancing to Vishwatma chartbuster, Saat Samundar Paar in a country bar? This is too daft even for a Salman movie. (Oh, but it IS fun to watch him do a Divya Bharti.)

With Rajat Aroraa (Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai, The Dirty Picture) at the helm of dialoguebaazi, I was hoping for something campier than “OMG, my cat mujhi pe attack.” On the other hand, it’s scenes like the one where Nawaz, about to deliver a seemingly mega villainesque line decides against it and simply directs, “Arre yaar…maaro isse” or unconsciously plays pop-the-bubble wrap from the same sheet he used to kill a man seconds ago — that steal the scene.

Kick is most enjoyable in its last 25-30 minutes. And mostly because of an antagonist who delivers the hammiest performance of his career with a relish that outlines the appeal of Prem Chopra, Amrish Purish and Ranjeet. As for its devilish hero, Kick is undecided about whether it wants to add anti on his resume. So while he conveniently blows off cars and planes (ghosts drove/flew them, right?) and damages public property, he’s also a large-hearted philanthropist, the proverbial Robin Hood, a human being who’s just being human.

Sorry Salman, but I am unsubscribing.

Stars: 2

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Khubsoorat: Of pranks & prejudice!

A still from Khubsoorat.What impresses me constantly about Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s films is his composed, blithe perspective of society and its workings. Where the unpleasant nature of conflict is most concentrated to harvest drama, he’d look at the same reality with a sense of humour and render it ultimately trivial.

Such rare dignity and transparency of views, even if I never saw him in life, forged a fond relationship between the two of us. And the reassuring feel-good ambiance, a home within a movie that he provided without an ounce of artifice is what I keep returning to.

The gentle filmmaker creates one such notable space with Khubsoorat starring Ashok Kumar, Dina Pathak, Rakesh Roshan and Rekha, which tries to seek a middle path between discipline and defiance.

I find the contrasts and parallels between this 1980 film and Hrishida’s other fine offering, Bawaarchi (1972) most fascinating. By examining both the sides of the same coin through two completely unlike but charismatic personalities, he gives us two entirely different films and viewpoints.

Both centre on a seemingly picture-perfect family. Both involve the entry of a free-spirited individual who brings about a change. Only while the topsy-turvy, cantankerous household of Bawarchi is in need of solace and bonding, the overtly controlled and stern setup of Khubsoorat pleads for loosening up a little. On both occasions, balance is the running theme.

What’s truly khubsoorat is how Hrishida never takes any sides.

There are times when Rekha’s shenanigans to incite rebellion might seem attractive in face of Dina Pathak’s dour-faced authority. But beneath the sternness of the latter’s tone, there’s well-meaning rationality too.

Pathak simply doesn’t want her close-knit family of a gardening-loving husband with a history of heart trouble (Ashok Kumar), four sons (Vijay Sharma, Amarnath, Rakesh Roshan, Ranjit Chowdhary), two daughter-in-laws (Shashikala, Aradhana) and a grand daughter (Baby Komal) to disintegrate and engage in internal politics like the joint family in Bawarchi.

A still from Khubsoorat.What’s problematic is that her Nirmala Gupta goes so overboard with her bossy conduct she not only distances herself from the joys of day-to-day wonderment, aptly named nirmal anand, but balks at everyone else who can.

In her introduction breakfast table scene, one gets a good glimpse of Mrs Gupta’s existent terror. First she admonishes her doctor son Inder (Roshan) for conversing loudly, and then sizes up her youngest Jagan (Chowdhary) for not wearing a vest under his kurta and showing up with his hair in a mess.

“Kanghi kyon nahi ki?”

“Ki to thi…,”he mumbles.

“Toh phir baal khade kyon hai?,” she growls.

“Darr ke maare.”

A still from Khubsoorat.Priceless. Gulzar.

We’re not done. It’s time for the genial significant other to get a scolding from his missus no thanks to the muddy imprints his footwear leave on the recently wiped floor.

Truth be told, everyone deals with that rigid someone like Dina Pathak in their own lives. And that’s where Hrishida’s mastery lies; every aspect of his cinema is believable, relatable.
On the other side of the spectrum is David’s happy-go-lucky brood. Having raised his daughters Anju and Manju (Aradhana, Rekha) single-handedly, the reliably endearing David indulges and encourages their carefree spirit by rhyming kaafiyas with gusto. It’s the sort of vibrant home where even the domestic help (Keshto) is part of the inner circle.

At one point, David remarks about former Deputy Prime Minister Y B Chavan deserting former PM Indira Gandhi’s Congress (post-Emergency aftereffect) to form his own party while emphasising on the need to stay united. Perhaps in the same manner Rekha sticks by Dina Pathak’s side despite her overbearing tendencies?

A still from Khubsoorat.Having quickly established the difference in their Mumbai-Pune lifestyle, Hrishida decides to play matchmaker between the two.

The idea of a boy coming over to check out his potential bride, understandably, distresses Anju’s firebrand kid sister. “Dekhne aane wale hain? Tu kya teen suron-waali ladki hai ya maut ke quvein mein chalnewali motorcycle jo tujhe dekhne aayenge?”

Atta girl Manju.

Anju marries Guptas’ second son, Chander and settles in her new life. Depressed in her absence, Manju decides to pay her a surprise visit. And thus begins Hrishida’s delightful tale of pranks and prejudice.
Manju is an instant misfit. Her boisterous, informal manners, cheeky repartee and appetite for nirmal anand (and apples) puts off Mrs Gupta but amuses and amazes everyone else in the family.

Realising how desperately these folks need a chill pill, Manju embarks on a sly ‘Saare Niyam Tod Do’ mission and develops an individual rapport with every single member. (Though she playfully addresses Ashok Kumar as boyfriend –it would have been cooler if she’d maintain that ritual till the end instead of going for the bahu route — Rakesh Roshan is the one fulfilling the designation.)

A still from Khubsoorat.The insightful director here deftly imparts how needless restrictions on a family makes liars out of them. And so Manju learns about everyone’s secret interest – dance, music, cards, concealed from their disapproving mom.

Arguing the importance of ‘nirmal anand,’ Manju convinces everyone to yield into temptation and stages an entertaining skit (which comes alive through Gulzar’s fertile imagination) for the family by the family on their residential terrace.

Sneakily conducted activities usually meet with a terrible end. And so does Manju’s in-the-closet revolution. But an unexpected hour of trouble at this decisive juncture falls in her favour after she proves there’s more to her than fun and games. Mrs Gupta too realises that all that giggles is not vain.

In Khubsoorat’s unpretentious, clean-cut storytelling (D N Mukherjee), there’s no room for needless distractions, hyperbolic reactions and every single actor is tailor-made for the part. There’s a lived-in feeling about the sweet ‘n’ sour interactions between the family as well as freshness when Rekha shows up as a first-time guest.

Dina Pathak strikes a perfect balance between humourless and responsible. She’s as crucial, if not more, as Rekha to the script. And Ashok Kumar plays her accommodating husband exactly like the adorable patriarch softie he’s known to be.

A still from Khubsoorat.An underrated Rakesh Roshan is exactly what Khubsoorat’s hero ought to be – accessible, restrained and likeable. His banter high chemistry with Rekha delivers well-timed breathers from an on-going clash of strict versus spirited.

Rekha, sporting two French plaits, plays Manju like a star. She has to exhibit a leader’s aura, potent enough to draw awe and followers. But her reference point seems to be more Amitabh Bachchan than Pied Piper. In one scene, she even utters ‘Main’ as ‘Maii’ in unmistakable Big B style.

Magnetism aside, like I said before, Hrishida doesn’t take sides. Manju’s chirpy disposition can get a bit exasperating too. What’s with her creepy loud laugh? It has the potential to turn cringing Mrs Guptas of us all. To her credit, Rekha brings out that niggling facet of Manju’s personality rather well. Not too surprisingly, it won her a Filmfare trophy for Best Actress.

That year, Khubsoorat nabbed the awards for Best Film and Best Actor in Comic Role (for Keshto) as well.

A still from Khubsoorat.While Rahul Dev Burman’s mellifluous score, especially the Asha Bhosle sung beauties — Piya Bawri and Sun Sun Didi infuse further cheer in Khubsoorat’s mood, Gulzar’s words (especially dialogues) gratify with their marvellous piquancy.

“Surinder, Chander, Inder.. ke baad Bandar nahi,” jokes Ashok Kumar while introducing his sons to David.

“Khadi bhandar mein rakhi hui gudiya,” is Rekha’s review of her sister, dolled-up in traditional attire.

And when Dina Pathak scoffs about Rekha munching on a paratha with unwashed hands. “Munh toh dhula hua hai,” comes the reply.

Now where have I heard that before?

Certainly not in the recently released promo of its upcoming remake.

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Transformers Age of Extinction: 165 mins of yawns and headache!

Transformers Age of ExtinctionMichael Bay must thinks he’s some kind of a Geppetto and Blue Fairy combo who can turn a toy into a real boy (or bot). But if Pinocchio’s nose became longer every time he lied, Bay’s unleashed a long line of films by manufacturing one noisy extravaganza after another around a series of fancy car cum figurines out to save mankind. What’s crazier is how much wealth these silly excuses to sell more Hasbro toys have accumulated.

To be fair, the first Transformers movie was rather enjoyable. Bay took the puerility on face value and delivered a zesty battle between good versus evil, signified by the warring alien robots Autobots and Decepticons respectively.

What made it engaging is a socially inept teenager’s (Shia LaBeouf) link to the fracas as well as how they unravel from unsuspecting machinery into towering metal warriors. But its sequels — Revenge of the Fallen and Dark of the Moon — are so brazen about their intentions — box-office; it’s hard to assess a business model like a product of cinema.

Is Bay’s fourth film in the Transformers series — Age of Extinction any better?

What? Can’t hear you? Can you repeat that please?

Yep, that’s the aftereffects of Age of Extinction. In this relentless clang-clang of metallic scrap and flying bullets, where there are more explosions than an entire day’s production of popcorn at a multiplex, there’s a strong possibility that you may experience some difficulty in hearing even the voices of your much-assaulted, still recovering head.

While sound and stupidity dominate the final one and a half hour of this 165 minutes-long ordeal, sluggishness and stupidity dictates the first half. The pacing of Age of Extinction is like a prom party in the reverse where slow songs go first and dance music wraps it up.

And so, out of gimmicks and novelty (the ‘transforming’ bit is old hat now), in a summer heaving with blockbuster vehicles selling every version of ‘meta,’ Bay tries to do something he’s not done in a while — write — a plot about the reemergence of Autobots led by their heroic leader Optimus Prime (voice of Peter Cullen) around troublemaking intelligence agents (Kelsey Grammer), a conceited scientist faintly modeled around Steve Jobs (Stanley Tucci), a malicious Decepticon named Lockdown (Mark Ryan), his badass spaceship, some missile-like seed they’re all after and a faltering Texas mechanic (Mark Wahlberg), his rebellious teenage daughter (Nicola Peltz) and a boyfriend (Jack Reynor) he doesn’t approve of. Wahlberg is basically playing Bruce Willis with half the snark/charm and one-take involvement in his role.

The upshot is outdated filming cramming in every conceivable cliché where characters blabber lines like, “My face is my warrant” and “I am not here to help you get your daughter, I am here to help you help me save my girlfriend,” or some such drivel.

And that’s where praise for Tucci and Grammer comes in, they play out the cheesy, wicked tone of their characters exactly in the vein it’s meant to exist and perk up the scenes with some B-glee in complete contrast to the yawn-inducing stiffness dampening the father-daughter-boyfriend chemistry.

For all its attempts to shove an X-Men: Days of Future Past brand of extreme philosophy under the pretext of human rescue, Age of Extinction’s overpowering dimwittedness – women who look they jumped out of a Grazia spread — overrules it completely. Buildings collapse, machinery comes apart, bombs are ticked off, relentless devastation, car chases and alien abduction ensue but Wahlberg’s daughter wears disaster-proof make-up, her lipstick NEVER wears off.

What’s good, as always, are the cars and the sleek CGI but it’s so excessive, it’s gaudy, really. It gets to a point, like the China set piece (oh yes, regional chestnuts too), where every solitary thing –cars, people, trains, bridges, buildings are tossed mid-air and bang against each other amidst maddening levels of mindless blasts, needless fireworks, indistinct Autobot chatter (all I could understand was some threatening yang yang) and, believe it or not, noodles, lots and lots of noodles.

Even a five-year old would show a little more restraint with his toys than Bay does with visual kinetics.

Moreover, <spoiler alert> for folks who haven’t watched the promos, those massive dinobots we saw in the trailer, which led me to hope of improvement, well let’s just say, there’s more of Katrina Kaif in Agneepath than these guys in Transformers 4. <end of spoiler alert>

Given the unexplainable draw the Transformers brand has, I won’t be surprised if this one works too. But nearly three hours divided in yawns and headache prompts me to repeat what Optimus Prime says in the end, “Leave Planet Earth alone.”

You hear that, Bay?

Stars: 1.5

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Still timeless, still terrific: Vijay Anand’s Kala Bazar

A still from Kala Bazar A bus conductor gets into a fisticuff with an uncouth passenger, loses his job and is tempted to pursue a career as a black marketeer of cinema tickets. How he yields to the dark side is most compelling.

Badi kadki hai. Kutte ki maut maroge agar Bambai mein paisa nahi hai toh, samjhe?” cautions a typically harsh-but-true voice around him. Disheartened, he walks back to his dilapidated house and greets his gravely ill mother (Leela Chitnis) flanked by her two younger children (Nanda, Sushil Kumar).

Nobody to share his troubles with, the intense contemplation in his dejected eyes convey every single cry in his head even as the haunting slogan of Paisa Babu Paisa plays out against hectic sights of Mother India’s posters and salesmen baiting off cheap bargain.

Desperate yet determined, he robs an affluent lawyer (Chetan Anand) and accumulates his team of fellow black marketeers who’re as needy, spurned and down on luck as him. From calling out “utro, utro” in the bus to chanting, “savaa ka do, savaa ka do” outside movie theatres, the turn of events is significantly dramatic.

The first ten minutes of Navketan Films’ Kala Bazar reveal a lot about the doddering post-independence socio-economic climate and how it impacts the disillusioned common man and its reluctant hero.

Written, directed and co-starring Vijay aka Goldie Anand along with elder brothers Dev and Chetan, the 1960 black and white drama is yet another fine example of his timeless filmmaking. If there’s one director who could play with the traditional Hindi film narrative as nimbly — enriching it with wholesome details, technical wizardry and defined emotionality — it’s Goldie.

A still from Kala Bazar.Kala Bazar inspires awe on many levels. What lends it socialist theme greater subtext is how he makes a convincing case of a man (Dev Anand) who takes up an illegal route to success and then renounces it on realising dishonest money can’t buy him dignity of labour, a peaceful conscience or respect from his near and dear ones.

While it may sound too righteous or preachy — not such fancy expressions in today’s scheme of sentiments — Kala Bazar’s belief in reform and refusal to embrace corruption is most refreshing, especially in today’s scheme of decayed morality.

Even if he’s a tad too stylish for a man running a black marketing business, Dev Anand’s Raghuvir exudes an air of leadership most crucial to this story. As is what, rather who, brings about this change of heart, namely, Waheeda Rehman.

Their initial encounters, even if indirect, are quite intriguing as he discreetly eavesdrops on Rehman’s delightful chemistry, based on sweet banter and mutual fondness, with Vijay Anand.

A still from Kala Bazar.Rehman’s Alka is a portrait of scruples with an uncompromising sense of right and wrong. Her classmate and fiancé, Nandkishore (an endearing Vijay Anand) is a liberal nerd doting on her but doesn’t share her rigid attitude. Their conversations — the argument outside Marine Lines’ Metro cinema or a heart-to-heart about the future of their relationship after he goes abroad for further education – leave a powerful impression on Raghuvir.

Suave on the surface, he realises his lack of education lends him no real standing. When Raghuvir bumps into a knowledgeable gentleman, he seizes the opportunity and devours book after book offering intellectual insight and progressive thinking. How it truly revolutionises him is underscored in the final few scenes of Kala Bazar.

On both occasions, the mastery of Vijay Anand lies in creating clever plot motifs and unveiling their beauty at perfectly timed junctures.

Even through its pensive disposition, Kala Bazar is not a dark film by any standards. Its vivacity bubbles in Vijay Anand’s portrayal of Mumbai’s love for cinema and its once throbbing single screens’ culture of selling sought after tickets in black. There’s nothing exaggerated about the moment when the wealthiest beseech Raghuvir for tickets of the Mother India premiere like school boys gathered outside Liberty theatre at its glorious best.

A still from Kala Bazar.The euphoria among the amassed crowd is worth noting:

“Didi ne kaha tha Bambai jao toh Liberty cinema andar se zaroor dekhna. Lekin sahab yahan toh bahar khade hone ki jagah bhi nahi hai.”

“Mehboob (Khan) miya ki film aur pehle din na dekhein?”

When one fellow snidely remarks, “Koi gaana chala nahi,” he’s immediately censured with an “Abbe picture chalne de, daudenge, daudenge,” by another.

But the coolest bit is when the celebrities emerge out of their swanky cars to walk down the red carpet amidst deafening sounds of cheers and claps– Dilip Kumar, Guru Dutt, Rajendra Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar, Nadira, Kishore Kumar, Mohammad Rafi, Sohrab Modi, Baby Naaz, Mehboob Khan, Raaj Kumar and, of course, Nargis.

In his autobiography, Romancing With Life, Dev Anand writes how his ingenious brother perched himself on a “high platform” behind a zoom lens to shoot this star-studded event. Manmohan Desai’s Naseeb, Ashutosh Gowarikar’s Pehla Nasha and Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om adopted a similar approach in later years to choreograph their individual tributes.

A still from Kala Bazar.Another cheery facet of Kala Bazar is the breezy romance between Raghuvir and Alka in Ooty. It’s also one of the film’s most weakly set links. There’s a sense of hastiness to their friendship even if its not met with instant approval from Alka. Like the appearance of the flirtatious S D Burman melody, Saanjh Dhali Dil Ki Lagi follows too soon after the exquisite train ditty Apni Toh Har Aah Ek Toofan Hai.

Having said that, lyricist Shailendra and SD weave sheer magic through the compositions, which is most fruitfully realised in Mohammad Rafi’s flawless rendition of Khoya Khoya Chand. As is the loveliness of Asha Bhosle and Geeta Dutt’s distinct flavours in Sach Hue Sapne Tere and Rimjhim Ke Tarane Leke Barsaat respectively.

Even if the Ooty episode slackens the pace a little, this is Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman after all. The evergreen hero drips with charm and the Chaudhvin Ka Chand lady’s presence lights up every frame with that inexplicable something no one before, no one after can boast of.

Rehman is a sprightly young figure, a welcome relief from the self-sacrificing, docile, touch-me-not prototypes. Like she tells off Nandkishore in one scene, “Main Sati Savitri nahi hoon jo chup chap sehti rahoon aur maaf karti rahoon.” And when Raghuvir finds himself dangling from a mountain’s edge, she wastes no time in taking off her sari to pull him right up. What’s even more remarkable is the filmmaker makes no fuss about her daring deed (for that time).

Note how rationally Vijay Anand handles the scenes between his Nandkishore and Alka in the second half following his return. Again, no needless melodrama, no sullen close-ups and no lingering background score to imply whatsoever.

A still from Kala Bazar.Kala Bazar’s visual finesse is an added bonus. Every scene, under V Ratra’s meticulous lighting and creative angles, brings out a dual view. Every single shot is a beauty but the one of Dev Anand resting against a poster of Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest and the leading pair taking refuge under a single umbrella during Mumbai’s classic downpour lingers on.

Speaking of posters, Vijay Anand punctuates many a scenes with their symbolism — be a conscience-challenged, freshly fired Dev Saab with a poster of Do Aankhen Baarah Haath gazing through his back, him outwitting the cunning Madan Puri with a huge Dilli Ka Thug board looming behind or selling lyrics booklets in the same spot he once sold tickets in black against a freshly pasted poster of Talaq.

The prospect of making a clean living to stand tall in Waheeda Rehman’s eyes makes a good man out of Dev Anand. But the path of salvation is tougher than it seems even after The shifts his fortune and his company through ethical means to, what else, Safed Bazar. And some eloquent disputes in the climatic courtroom scene boosted by Chetan Anand’s persuasive monologues highlight the need to acknowledge and respect a man’s willingness to become better and inspire the same.

Like his colleague Raj Kapoor in Awara, there’s no leeway in the matters of law but as Dev Anand’s no longer reluctant hero points out what’s truly important is the awakening of one’s conscience. While the socialist dream still lives on, Vijay Anand’s idealistic Kala Bazar is certainly a creation everyone associated with can feel proud of.

 This column was first published on

Also read:
ShaukeenSaaranshAmar PremMeeraLamheHero | Daddy | Kora Kagaz | Khamoshi | Awaara | Qurbaani | Half Ticket | Khel Khel Mein | Shakti | Gharonda | Junglee | Johny Mera Naam | Khamosh | Ittefaq | Lal Patthar | Chashme Buddoor | Umrao Jaan | Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak | Sikander | Ram Aur Shyam | Teesri Manzil | Mili | Yaadein | Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa| Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron| Aag | Chaudhvin Ka Chand | New Delhi | Taxi Driver


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Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow is mighty fun!

Edge of TomorrowWhat I loved most about All You Need Is Kill is its breakneck, breathless momentum. The action-packed, high-concept imaginings of this Japanese light novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka are a complete page-turner and tailor-made for a big studio screen adaptation.

When I read it would be adapted by director Doug Liman into Edge of Tomorrow, a science-fiction fantasy headlined by Tom Cruise in a role of a 20-year-old UDF (United Defense Force) soldier, stuck in a Groundhog Day-meets-Starship Troopers/Halo brand of setup, I was curious but ambivalent.

Surmounting inexperience and weaknesses is central to Sakurazaka’s narrative; the script deviates substantially from the original story to accommodate its 51-year-old hero and its distinctly Japanese setting to a more Western one but retains most of its core plot points except the all-important one.

Frankly speaking, the payoff is characteristically Hollywood but it wont bother those who haven’t read the book. And even if otherwise, Edge of Tomorrow has enough aces up its sleeve to bungle its prime objective – entertain the hell out of you, it may not be a faithful adaptation but it’s a damn energetic one.

Books provide us the luxury of reading into a character’s thought process with utmost clarity. Films breathe life into descriptions through faces and imagery leaving the rest for its viewer to figure.

What lends Edge of Tomorrow its vigorous kineticism is how it rolls out the same scenario repeatedly, of a war between military officers and Mimics, the alien xenoformers after Major William Cage (Cruise), a media relations expert is flung in the middle of a raging battle on France’s Normandy beach (it’s actually a massive set and a marvellous one at that).

With zero combat experience; he’s killed on the spot only to find himself caught in a mysterious time loop — he dies daily yet not quite. Expectedly, Cage struggles to understand this bizarre development and finds unlikely support in the sinewy war pin-up Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) aka Full Metal Bitch. How they emerge from this unstoppable hoop of die-try-die wherein Cage makes countless new memories of the same day and Vrataski reacquaints herself is, oh yes, worth the price of admission.

Because, for once, Cruise plays second fiddle to the luminous talents of Emily Blunt for a good chunk of the movie. Even at his best, he’s a worthy equal but never superseding her swashbuckling charisma. Best part? She never tries too hard. Secondly, Cruise hasn’t looked this comfortable in his skin since what Major Cage would’ve called “eternity.” They may strut around in bulky armour jackets and fire ammunition like popcorn but his metamorphosis and her vulnerability is marked by restraint and believability.

Edge of Tomorrow The actor’s fought aliens and saved the world earlier in Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds but the Mimics are way more high-speed than the Tripods. Whereas they resemble a creepy cross between an octopus and giant spider their frantic movement is akin to an unruly Diwali firecracker.

The Mimics don’t rise beyond the generic nature of their gimmicky depiction as opposed to the book where their behaviour is explained with engrossing detail. Nor does Edge of Tomorrow probe into the dark philosophy of death and war. Even when possible, it doesn’t aspire to be the kind of movie that would encourage its viewer to draw parallels between Cage and Scotland’s King Bruce and his repeated endeavour in real time.

Liman’s attracted to the more robust portions of its source. And so he enlivens the monotony of a time loop with sprinkles of humour and heart but it’s the badass action setpieces — more immersive than ever with befitting use of 3D — and the sight of Emily Blunt plying her battle axe that makes Cruise’s Groundhog drill both entertaining and epic.

Stars: 3.5

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