PK: Mixed bag of spunk and schmaltz!

PKAmong showmen and whiz kids, game changers and auteurs resides a genial filmmaker, a fairy godmother the disenchanted audience badly needs.

Rajkumar Hirani could easily be mistaken for that kindly neighbour in one’s building, the sort who greets you in the lift with a warm smile and offers to help you with the grocery bags.

But mostly he’s the genius generator of best-selling philosophies like jadoo ki jhappi, Gandhigiri and all izz well — persistently seeking some good in an unthinkably dark world through oddball protagonists driven by curiosity and a desire to repair dated, defective mind-sets. It’s the foundation of all his features, be it Munnabhai MBBS, Lage Raho Munnabhai, 3 Idiots and, now, PK.

Somewhere through the frolic, in playing society’s self-appointed conscience, Hirani has fallen in a monotonous, pattern-predictable rut. In PK, he tackles the widespread evils of religion-dictated farce in this country, the bizarre rituals it entails whilst acknowledging the distinction of a divine presence from idol worship.

Previously Paresh Rawal-starrer OMG-Oh My God, a satire I quite relished — in fact a tad more than PK — raised similar concerns through hard-hitting rationality and an element of mythological fantasy. Part comedy, part drama, PK opts to share its genre specification with science fiction.

To get across his point, Hirani appoints Aamir Khan to play PK, a freakier, flashier version of 3 Idiots’ Rancho. The actor, given his newfound comfort in the socially aware, is on the same wavelength as his director resulting in a performance that’s flamboyant enough to make a splash. One sees a lot more of him than is accustomed to in PK. While it’s certainly not pin-up material, refreshing to see a mainstream star in such an uninhibited space.

During the course of his zany quest to return home, filled with madcap discoveries regarding God, fashion, music, language (watch out for one hilarious achha scene), social etiquette and self-defence (who knew Hanuman stickers could come in so handy?), PK bumps into a pixie-haired television journalist Jaggu Sahni with daddy issues (Anushka Sharma) and they join forces to blow off the whistle on a flimflam Godman (Saurabh Shukla is a hoot).

Before arriving to the story’s simplistic and lacklustre conclusion that points out to Hirani’s chronic weakness – schmaltz, PK moves at a blithe, buoyant pace save for the Aamir-Sanjay Dutt (a special appearance credited as a lead role) track, Tharki Chokro, which feels needless and punctures the narrative momentarily.

Music, as in the case of most Hirani offerings, is not a strong point in PK. His fluency shines in storytelling where even the most mawkish moments scrape through largely on his conviction and his actors’ charm.

PKMost of the initial film is centred on Aamir’s drollery and unique logic, wherein he uses a cycle lock to safeguard his chappals from temple thieves, pees on the walls of Delhi’s Red Fort (the notoriously picky censor board did not mind?) and tries to barter food for Gandhi’s pictures presuming it’s the man and not the moolah that carries worth.

Considering how rare it is when the hero and heroine do not romance one another, the dynamics of a high strung Aamir and sunlit Anushka’s animated chemistry are more Lilo and Stitch than, say, Shrek and Fiona.

Beneath its vibrant bouts of humour, PK mocks at the societal arrangement we have grown apathetic to. Those jokes are ultimately nothing but PK spewing sarcasm at the expense of our collective banality and desperation that wagers to chance and dubs it a miracle, rejoices in disparity, exhorts fear and has forgotten their fundamental right to question.

When PK works, it does with great merit, spunk and surprise. When it does not, it meanders, sermonises and guilt trips exactly in the tone of the one it reproaches.

Stars: 3.5

This review was first published on rediff.com

 

 

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The Annie & Anya Foodie Trail: Dips: Roasted beetroot hummus

Theme: Dips

What I have to offer: Beetroot hummus with generous topping of toasted pistachios.

Because: It’s healthy, it’s colorful and one of the only few times I don’t mind consuming beetroot. :P

Roasted Beetroot Hummus

Roasted beetroot hummusAnd here is Anupma’s take of my favourite Creamy avocado dip. Can wipe off an entire bowl of this in no time.

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
Week 4: Let’s Bake: Rosemary, cherry tomatoes & black olives focaccia
Week 5: Element Broccoli: Broccoli kebabs
Week 6: Surprise Me: Mini donuts
Week 7: Intimidating recipe: Pyaaz ki kachoris
Week 8: Beverages: Strawberry margarita mocktail
The Annie & Anya Foodie Trail

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Review: The final Hobbit is a thumping, thrilling success!

The Hobbit There’s a bit of Gandalf in Peter Jackson.

Not just because he makes magic with CGI but like the wise wizard, the filmmaker follows his reliable instincts and is game for impossible challenges.

Such gamble may not lead to consequences as significant as restoring peace in Middle-earth but the epical complexity and meticulous artistry of his Tolkien adaptations, their inspired journey from books to screen over a period of 13 years and six memorable films has earned him a rightful place in movie history.

Even if Jackson’s treatment of a tiny book as The Hobbit into three sprawling volumes is a contentious decision, the final instalment to the Lord of the Rings prelude is a thumping, thrilling success. Quite marvellous when you’ve used both your trump cards – Gollum and Smaug in the first two.

Filming a modest origins story after unleashing a beast of a trilogy populated with a stunning assortment of heroes, villains, creatures, landscapes, legends, enchantment and warfare was never going to be an easy job even/especially for a man with experience of the same. The comparisons would never stop. (And in all likelihood never will.)

This is where Jackson’s wizardry comes into play. He expands the contents of one script into triple tome by filling it with back-stories from Tolkien’s obsessive inventory, his own vivid imagination and turning casually mentioned passages into full-blown sub-plots.

What have you?

A clear disclosure on the mysterious Necromancer preceding the LOTR saga. A welcome female presence in the form of warrior elf and non-Tolkien creation, Tauriel (Evangeline Lily). And a complicated amalgamation of Boromir and Aragorn’s anxieties in Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage at his mesmeric best), I’d like to think of him as Jackson’s third ace.

The Hobbit Those not familiar with the book may choke over their popcorn with the film’s first major action piece. Even if you know its contents inside out, there’s ample to awe about in an ominous Gandalf-Galadriel (Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett) sequence aside from the nimble reflexes of the golden-haired super archer Legolas (Orlando Bloom doing what he does best).

Following a yearlong interval between The Desolation of Smaug and The Battle of Five Armies, the story jumps straight into the mouth of action.

A furious Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch is the voice behind the magnificent dragon) is driven out of the Lonely Mountain and is taking out his ire on the inhabitants of Lake-Town. Thorin has called dibs over the mountain’s inestimable wealth though it’s a dazzling white gem called Arkenstone he wildly desires. The dwarves though perturbed by their leader’s growing fixation remain a loyal lot whereas Bilbo Baggins (a flawless Martin Freeman), their devoted companion and the tale’s titular protagonist still has his part to play.

Gold begets greed and triggers a battle of five armies for the sake of honour, power, defence or destruction. Almost one hour of the feature’s 144-minute duration is dedicated to lavish combat and a crucial turnabout in allegiance — a rather awkward stage in the narrative– handled with great tact by its quick-witted director.

The Hobbit Realising the risk of orc fatigue and wartime déjà vu, he paints an emotional texture around the fantasy with a slightly Shakespearean impression of the Kili-Tauriel romance whilst elaborating on the mutual affection between the dwarves and Bilbo, unlike its vague source, that’s grown deeper over the course of their prolonged interaction.

Sounds a lot like how I feel about Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth epic. Sitting on a dreary old chair inside a dark theatre, I have felt the exhilaration of embarking on an unexpected adventure, revelled in the company of merry new friends and treasured every bit of this eventful journey there and back again.

Stars: 4

This review was first published on rediff.com

Related reviews:
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: Return of the epic.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: Enter the dragon!

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The Annie & Anya Foodie Trail: Beverages: Strawberry margarita mocktail

And the next theme on the food meme reads: smoothies/milkshakes/beverages. All I knew is I want to concoct something colourful.

So here’s a blend of fresh strawberries, orange juice with a dash of this and dose of that.

Fresh, fruity and fabulous!

Strawberry Feast

Strawberry feast

Strawberry feast
Now if only that delicious looking cuppa of Hot Apple Ginger toddy by my meme partner Anupma could be teleported here, I’d be super happy.

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
Week 4: Let’s Bake: Rosemary, cherry tomatoes & black olives focaccia
Week 5: Element Broccoli: Broccoli kebabs
Week 6: Surprise Me: Mini donuts
Week 7: Intimidating recipe: Pyaaz ki kachoris
The Annie & Anya Foodie Trail

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Jogan: Sublime Nargis, irresistible Dilip Kumar!

JoganWhether their romance is realised or not, there’s a surety in the manner most man-woman relationships emerge in films. But in Kidar Sharma’s Jogan, it’s the unlikelihood of alliance right from the onset that both defines and dignifies their connection.

A love story of complex proportions, the 1950 black and white drama starring Dilip Kumar and Nargis is an exploration of an atheist’s encounter with a divine monastic and how it tests and challenges one’s will and another’s commitment.

Sharma, one of the most eminent filmmakers of his time and, sadly, most unsung too, got this idea from his prolific producer Chandulal Shah of Ranjit Movietone Studios.

Amusingly enough, the opening credits display a conspicuous question mark under the writing accreditation. Years later, in his autobiography The One and Lonely Kidar Sharma, the director revealed the mystery behind it. Apparently, Shah was inspired after watching an English film where a man develops feelings for a nun (Black Narcissus perhaps?). “It was his (Shah’s) dream to produce this movie and he gave me the special honour of directing it, in spite of all the directors (Nitin Bose, Mahesh Kaul) he had on his staff,” he writes.

Dilip Kumar plays Mumbai-based Vijay who’s visiting his native place for some property settlement; his occupation is neither mentioned nor of much significance to the plot. What is notable though is how instantly he’s attracted to a trance-inducing rendition of the Meerabai bhajan – Ghungat ke pat khol tohe piya milenge coming from the local temple.

The symbolism in those words is hard to miss. Vijay scorns at the concept of God and idol worship. Yet one glimpse of that beatific face (Nargis) behind the sound is enough to start shaking those beliefs.

An enamoured Vijay is both disturbed and drawn in by his inappropriate lust. While he still doesn’t step foot into the temple, he cannot resist studying the melancholy in her eyes and the pining intensity of her devotional bhajans — Ghayal ki gat ghayal jaane aur na jaane koi.

No wonder when he finally speaks to her, his foremost inquiry is why she (he addresses her as Devi) decided to renounce the world at such young age. Her austere temperament doesn’t entertain interaction, however gracious, but the increasing frequency of his appearances disturbs the inner peace she went through great degrees of perseverance to achieve.

Eventually, she lets her guard down and shares details of her carefree life before turning sadhvi.

This bygone facet of Nargis brims with colour, mischief and vivacity. A dreamer, a poetess, her Surabhi’s life is full of songs, games and a book of handwritten verses before her alcoholic brother and bankrupt father resolve to marry her off to a wealthy old bloke for money. The spirited girl runs away and takes shelter in an enlightened soul’s ashram.

Between compromise and celibacy, she opts for the latter convinced she’s past worldly desires. Only the fluttering passions of her heart, denoted in the imagery of wing-beating dove against her, prove otherwise. As does Vijay’s analysis, “Aapki aankhon mein yeh jo dard hai, ghor niraasha hai, meethe sapno ki ek samadhi hai, ek sehmi hui fariyaad hai.”

Profound attraction at first sight is a far-fetched idea but flawlessly conveyed in Jogan because of its remarkably insightful leads and their engaging debates around moh (attachment) and prem (affection).

Half of the screenplay’s job is done the minute Dilip Kumar’s hypnotising gaze falls on an immaculate Nargis. The screen bubbles with intense chemistry and sexual tension every time this incredibly handsome pair converse from a distance. Their equation might not have the obvious ardour they conjured around Madhubala and Raj Kapoor respectively but it’s marked by an intelligence that’s virtually extinct now.

On most occasions, they don’t even look into each other’s eyes but the enormity of their affection comes through. It’s like Dilipsaab explains to Rajendra Kumar (in his first and brief appearance as Vijay’s friend) in context of a brothel girl he rescues, “Aurat aur mard ke talukat hamesha wohi nahi hote jo tum log sochte ho. Kuch aur baatein bhi aisi hoti hain jinmein kashish hoti hai.

If Dilipsaab’s innate sensuality and familiarity with forlorn roles works favourably for Jogan, Nargis is a picture of sublime restraint in a performance she would rate even above what most believe to be her career best — Mother India.

Apart from these two stars, there’s also an adorbale baby Tabassum playing a chirpy maid and helper to Nargis, who’s all pally with Dilip Kumar.

There’s a charming anecdote from the making she recounted in an candid interview to rediff.com recently: “In one scene I had to say, ‘Om Prabhu Shanti.’  As a child, I could not pronounce ‘Ra’ so I kept saying ‘Om Palbhoo Shanti’. Kidar Nath Sharma got angry and yelled at me. After three takes, I started crying and said, ‘Hum mal (mar) jayenge agal hum se leetake hogaye’ (I’ll die if you make me do another retake). Dilip Kumar saw this and said, ‘Aap kyun malengi (marengi), malna (marna) toh chahiye Sharmaji ko jo chhote se bachche se jabardasti ‘Ra’ bulwaa rahe hain. Beta, tu palbhoo bol, wahi achcha lagta hain. (Why should you die? Sharmaji should die for forcing a small girl to say ‘Ra’. You say ‘palbhoo’, it sounds nice.)’”

JoganApart from its taut direction, superlative acting and unusual plot, Jogan offers a gem of a soundtrack. There are about 15 songs in the film but at no point does the script, with its less than two hours running time, drag or feel overstuffed with needless melody.

Known to have a great ear for music, the multifaceted Kidar Sharma (also a lyricist) ensures every single composition by Bulo C Rani, penned by Pandit India, C R Sharma and Himmat Rai alongside many of Meerabai’s famous bhajans takes the story forward and underlines the moods of its two characters.

Whether Geeta Roy (before she married Guru Dutt) is crooning the merry tunes of Main toh girdhar ke ghar jaon or struggling with her emotions in Dagmag dagmag dole naiya, Shamshad Begum’s stirring rendition of Kahe nainon mein naina daale re or Talat Mehmood’s compelling Sundarta ke sabhi shikari, every song of this rich album is crucial to the storytelling.

Shot in barely 29 days, Jogan is much too assured and able in its ideas, artistry and execution to feel like a hastily finished job.

Perhaps the ideals of its story, the solemnity of its romance, the refusal to act on basic impulses and its beautiful albeit sad conclusion, which places soul above sensory pleasure, may sound too surreal for this era. But grace is timeless. And so is sacrifice.

This article was first published on rediff.com.
Also read:
Jo Jeeta Wohi SikandarParakh| ArjunAnand Math| Khubsoorat| Andaz Apna ApnaKala Bazaar|Salaam BombayShaukeenSaaranshAmar 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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