Super filmi week: Picking jedi skills from Amitabh Bachchan!

Big B’s jedi skills, Bebo’s Greater Kailash aunty antics and Deepika’s red-hot moment for the ages, my super-filmi week marks a star-studded start to the year.

Monday


Hello 2017!

New year, new movies, new hopes, something so upbeat about starting things on a new slate except Om Puri’s demise continues the despondent streak of losing legends one after another.

And so in some ways, the glittering glamour and giddy smiles at the 74th Golden Globes come somewhat as a relief.

High on emotion, glamour and Donald Trump-wary sentiment, the event’s biggest high point is Lifetime Achievement honoree Meryl Streep’s rousing speech — ‘Disrespect invites disrespect; violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose as well.’

No less effective is Best Supporting Actor recipient Hugh Laurie’s sparkling sarcasm, ‘I suppose this is made more amazing by the fact that I’ll be able to say I won this at the last ever Golden Globes. I don’t mean to be gloomy. Its just that it has the words Hollywood press in the title. I suppose to some republicans even the word ‘association’ is a bit sketchy.’

On lighter, less political note, Ryan Reynolds steals Ryan Gosling’s thunder by mock making out with Andrew Garfield, the latter claims it right back with a touching tribute to his wife Eva Mendes after nabbing Best Actor for La La Land.

That jubilant response of Team Elle after Isabelle Huppert is announced Best Actress just warmed my heart.

The ‘S-U-R-P-R-I-S-E’ moment when co-producer Brad Pitt surfaces from a difficult divorce battle with Angelina Jolie to present Moonlight and the crowd is an undecided mix of ‘wait a minute, wow and whee.’

Finally there’s Priyanka Chopra and her golden, glittery presence. Not much scope to twirl in the metallic, cleavage-centric Ralph Lauren, which found its way on both — best and worst dressed — lists of fashion police.  As vivacious as PC is, Blake Lively, Lily Collins and Millie Bobby Brown get my red carpet vote.

Tuesday
Amitabh Bachchan in Kabhi Kabhie

I am in Delhi these days and it’s unbelievably cold. Even if you do not hail from Mumbai, where 22 degree Celsius is cool enough to declare winter, you will think twice before stepping out of three layers of razaais. And I just did.

Whenever I need to endure harsh weather, I try this exercise I picked from Amitabh Bachchan. (Actually, Anupam Kher was the first to mention it.)

While shooting Aakhri Raasta in Chennai, the air conditioner in his van conked off and though it was exceptionally hot, AB sat in a corner, wrapped in a bristly shawl and heavy disguise, preparing for his character without a word of complain.

‘I feel hot only if I allow myself to feel so,’ he explained to Kher who till then hadn’t stopped grumbling about the same.

To hold control over your response, I am attracted to this Jedi-like discipline.

No soon have the infamous North Indian chill begun to envelop me, I close my eyes and think of Amitabh Bachchan taking those solitary strolls in cold Kashmir bundled inside beautiful woolen coats and cashmeres, hands slipped in their warm, roomy pockets enjoying poetry, generating warmth and saving me.

Wednesday
Deepika Padukone and Ranbir Kapoor in Tamasha
Deepika Padukone is pulling out all the stops to promote her Hollywood debut opposite action hero Vin Diesel in xXx: Return Of Xander Cage, a project many of us would have little interest in if it not for the Piku star.

Her stunning red avatar in a sleek Stella McCartney at the film’s London premiere is yet another reminder of how much the colour suits Ms Padukone.

Only last week on her 31st birthday, I asked Twitter folk to share a movie scene of hers that flashes foremost before their eyes. Answers ranged from the Dreamy Girl wave on Om Shanti Om red carpet, another appearance blowing bubble gum in the second half of the same film, her lingering scenes with Bachchan and Irrfan Khan in Piku, her possessed Meenamma in Chennai Express, her sensual glow in Goliyon Ki Raas Leela: Ram Leela, the list goes on.

But it’s the throbbing, tender conflict between a distraught Deepika and distant Ranbir Kapoor leading to Tamasha’s Agar Tum Saath Ho inside Hauz Khas Social that occupies a special place in majority of memories.

Not just the actress but also the frames and emotions filling them are wearing the warmest shade of red.

Thursday
Bina Rai in Anarkali

It’s legendary composer C Ramchandra’s birthday.

There’s an amusing anecdote around one of his most famous melodies from the period romance, Anarkali – Yeh Zindagi Usi Ki Hai Jo Kisi Ka Ho Gaya, which I believe plays thrice in the movie.

Released in 1953, the Pradeep Kumar-Bina Rai starrer was a big success. Around that time, my grandfather was teaching Physics in Meerut College. One of his students who lived right across, if I remember correctly, Nishat theatre in Begum Bagh, could not only hear the film loud and clear but also time his study schedule around the song, an alarm of sorts.

When it played the first time, the student opened his books and started studying. When it played the second time, he would take a tea break. And on the third occasion, he would take a nap. He followed this routine through the three shows Anarkali ran every day and eventually topped his class dedicating his achievement to Yeh Zindagi Usi Ki Hai.

Now this is what I call cinema at its most constructive.

Friday
A still from Ok Jaanu

And I am back to braving Delhi chills to review Shaad Ali’s remake of Mani Ratnam’s Ok Kadhal Kanmani.

So OK Jaanu is not something you need to watch if already familiar with the original, which hits you hard with its infectious charm and Nithya Menon’s lively energy that seems to shoot out from every pore.

For me, the script isn’t about live-in relationships at all, it’s about connection, cluelessness and Ratnam’s eye for details, which don’t surface so magnificently under Shaad’s direction and actors placing glamour above gusto.

Saturday

The 62nd Filmfare Awards are in full swing and I am busy grabbing a glimpse of who wore what.

And there’s fashion queen Sonam Kapoor looking absolutely dreamy in a delicate Elie Saab gown.

Talking about her Filmfare journey on the red carpet, the actress who won the Critic’s award for Neerja, momentarily abandons her ladylike demeanor to babyishly inquire, “Raaahul (presumably Nanda), you know how many times I’ve been nominated?”

Her entitled tone just screams STAR KID.

Sunday

A photo posted by Star World (@starworldindia) on

In complete contrast is the boringly guarded Sonam Kapoor of Koffee With Karan.

Her savoir-faire is all the more conspicuous, jarringly misplaced considering the show’s gossipy format and fellow guest Kareena Kapoor Khan’s impish impulses. The episode shot while the latter was still pregnant has since given birth to baby boy Taimur.

What the ho-hum episode tells us:

KJo can get away calling Kareena a Greater Kailash Aunty!

Priyanka Chopra speaks really well.

Vegetarianism is hilarious.

Karan Johar, Ranbir Kapoor and Kareena form Bollywood’s unofficial tattletale triangle.

‘Ah-mazing’ is the new ‘vaatavaran.’

Arjun Kapoor is a Koffee With Karan stalker.

Sonam is not dating some businessman from London and loves to say ‘very’ very, very, VERY much.

This column was first published on rediff.com

Previously:
Mera wala Shah Rukh
Ranbir-Ranveer, sigh sigh!
When Tabu struggled with a 500 rupee note
Of post-festival blues and toilet titles!
Finding links of life in Dhoni’s Ranchi and Madhuri’s Mujrim!
Inside Dharmendra-Hema’s intensely private world
Power of Pink
The irrepressible cuteness of Pooja Bhatt
Indradhanush was our Stranger Things
When Saif Ali Khan wore Rishi Kapoor’s sweater
Getting nostalgic about the 1980s, Winona Ryder & Kishore Kumar
Rediscovering Gulzar’s Ghalib & finding Free Love
Applauding NTR’s Superman on screen!
Tripping on A R Rahman
A millipede and Kimi Katkar’s monsoon romance
Udta Punjab, worst casting decisions, and naheeee…!
Of warring Khan bhakts and meeting Mogambo!
Ranbir’s forgotten romance in Bachna Ae Haseeno
Funnier than Aishwarya’s lips
Clashing superheroes and crying Khans
OCDing on Neetu Singh’s LPs!
Garam Dharam, Mantrik Origins, Rockstar Cruise

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Ok Jaanu is okay, nothing more, nothing less!

A still from Ok JaanuRomance prompts labels and rules.

There’s always a ‘type’ to describe both the individuals in a couple, the arrangement they agree upon and the guidelines they hope to set and follow for the sake of perfection or peace.

But the heart is no slave to system and gives precedence to impulse above anything else.

Filmmaker Mani Ratnam is the master of whimsy and impetuous love, where the reeling state of two besotted protagonists is the only high and heart his storytelling needs. One of its most dazzling examples in recent time is O Kadhal Kanmani, which is about a young pair, at the threshold of pursuing their careers in two different continents, opting to live-in.

Perhaps it’s only a case of commitment blues or not wanting to get entangled in the snags of serious relationships. What comes across though, and also the reason why it works so well, is it feels like a story of connection, not arrangement, where the process of falling in love surpasses the condition it’s founded on.

Ratnam’s script is fail-safe only elevated to giddy levels of spunk and sentimentality by his sublime collaborator A R Rahman and a flawless cast led by two extremely riveting actors –Dulquer Salmaan and Nithya Menen.

With Ratnam and Rahman holding fort, there’s little Shaad Ali can get wrong in his faithful Hindi remake titled Ok Jaanu. Jaanu doesn’t sound nearly as sweet as Kanmani but when belted out of Rahman — jaanu, joker — it ceases to matter.

Except Ok Jaanu cannot shrug off the identity of a remake. It’s like two people who’ve watched the original consciously recreating it for an audience unfamiliar to the original.

Shaad Ali, who previously remade Ratnam’s Alai Payuthey as Saathiya, sticks to the script but leaves out some finer details, which are crucial to the essence of Ratnam’s screenplay. Like two Tamilians bonding in a home away from home scenario or their somewhat touristy vision of Mumbai, a local would rarely share.

In Ok Jaanu too, both Adi and Tara aren’t originally from Mumbai yet come across as unrealistically indigenous.

Rather every single frame of this glossed-up version, captured through Ravi K Chandran’s lens and painted in hues of orange, maroon and sunshine, is a nod to the virtues of refined production design. Rains and landmarks solely exist to provide all the drama and opulence the script rigidly refrains from.

Every hurdle in Adi and Tara’s path is tackled with calm and decency. They are playful and gracious at all times, people in support of them are fuss-free, even people opposing the live-in nature of the relationship are generally harmless.

Ok Jaanu may not always bubble up the urgency and anxiety of a knotty romance but its restrained tone engages, as does the freewheeling intimacy between Aditya and Shraddha.

They aren’t the best picks to play the tenacious Adi or passionate Tara and there are times when Aditya and Shraddha struggle to inhabit the fanciful surface and suppressed emotionality of these two. Thankfully, they don’t try too hard to flex beyond their limitations and stick to a successful vision. The upshot is acceptable, okay — nothing more, nothing less.

They don’t burn the screen with passion, even though there is a lousy attempt at foreplay in the form of the wishy-washy Humma Humma remix, but there’s a pleasant sense to their togetherness. Or even the camaraderie around an elderly husband and wife duo (Naseeruddin Shah, Leela Samson) whose large and lavish roof they live under, something of a poster couple for inspiration.

Samson, reprising her role from the original, steals the show as a witty and tender picture of Alzheimer’s even as Naseer gracefully steps back to dazzle as second fiddle.

Ok JaanuOn the other hand, the otherwise lovely Kitu Gidwani, wearing dark glasses and a dangerous scowl, seems more mafia than mom.

Adman Prahlad Kakkad pops up to grin needlessly and spout ‘Balle Balle’ at every chance he gets as the boss of a game developing team Adi works for. Other than suggest an unconventional profession for desi viewers, the gaming clips vaguely but never effectively mirror the conundrums plaguing its creator and is, ultimately, an ineffective ploy in the narrative.

Ok Jaanu raises but doesn’t resolve questions about juggling professional and personal life, the dilemmas it poses for a woman. But it does address the changing face of modern-day relationships and the alternate arrangements it’s looking at in a wishful way.

In Ok Jaanu, characters live in a bubble that doesn’t burst till the end. Who wouldn’t be OK with that?

The review was first published on rediff.com

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Saluting Om Puri: Face of reality!

Om Puri in Jaane Bhi Do YaaronOnly few days ago, I was quoting Om Puri from Kundan Shah’s Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron.

It all began with having a good laugh over the feisty little nephew’s treatment of a toy archery set and my recollection of the 1983 classic’s hilarious Mahabharata parodywherein, among many other antics, a sloshed Om Puri further disrupts an ongoing play fast turning it into full-blown mockery.

Puri’s Ahuja is as devilish as they come but he infuses his boorishness with such unembarrassed irreverence, it’s impossible to not enjoy it.

As I remember the same scene today, following the news of Om Puri’s demise, all I can do is sadly wonder, ‘Yeh sab kya ho raha hai?’ Only it’s not in the least bit comic.

How uncomfortable it is to witness such wonderful artists, ones I’ve grown up admiring, depart one after another.

Among the finest Indian actors, voices and smiles to grace the stage and screen, Om Puri’s uniqueness, always so fluid and natural, cannot be summed up in a few words.

One we probably took for granted, as we tend to with fine actors of modest star appeal and generous access — blissfully assuming they’ll always be around to dazzle and deliver.

What I liked most about the legend is he how never let the odds get to him. He refused to let his underprivileged background or conspicuous unconventionality kill his passion or dreams. Instead in an industry driven by superficiality, he compelled the audience to look past the surface and discover an intense presence and complex soul.

Even if the last few years were smeared in controversy over an ugly marital tiff and movie projects that belittled his genius, Puri’s overall contribution to his art is too significant to get diminished.

ArohanTo list every single memorable performance from his vast body of work is impossible. But it’s safe to say these 15 instances below showcase his creativity at its most accomplished.

Arohan
In a National-award winning turn, Puri slips into the skin of an anguished farmer struggling to retrieve his land in a manner that’s so credible, the upshot is disturbing and heartbreaking.

aakroshAakrosh
Nothing makes a crushing statement like a soul-stirring cry after prolonged silence of a repressed, tortured soul and Puri conveys it most hauntingly in the Govind Nihalani-helmed milestone.


ardh-satyaArdh Satya

Anyone in need of a masterclass in realism and intensity ought to watch Om Puri’s brilliant portrayal of a fair, frustrated cop in Ardh Satya.

Sadgati
In Satyajit Ray’s made-for-TV adaptation of Munshi Premchand’s short story highlighting the evils of caste system, Puri is scarily convincing as the meek farmer adhering to the diktats of a hierarchal society till he’s met a forlorn conclusion.   sadgati

Bhavni Bhavai
Puri’s aptitude for ‘sutradhar’ roles and free flowing soliloquy is highlighted aplenty in Ketan Mehta’s quirky folk drama in bhavni-bhavaiGujarati.

Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron
Kundan Shah’s entertaining satire hits another level of hilarity every time Puri’s drunk, business-minded builder shows up.

jaane-bhi-do-yaaronMirch Masala
Some of the most nail-biting moments of Mirch Masala come about in Puri’s pitch-perfect histrionics as mirch-masalathe sage, valiant guard of a local chili factory.

Tamas
Just that image alone of Om Puri trying to put away a pig in Nihalani’s volatile and tense Tamas, depicting the horrors of Partition, deserves a place in movie history.

bharat-ek-khojBharat Ek Khoj
Apart from providing Shyam Benegal’s magnum opus for Doordarshan its rich, elegant narration, Puri is reliable as ever pitching in as the show’s recurring actor as Aurganzeb, Ashoka or Duryodhana.

city-of-joyCity of Joy
Often representing the exploited, downtrodden section of the society, Puri renders a vulnerability and disquiet that never once feels manufactured as evident in his international stint headlined by Patrick Swayze, namely City of Joy.

dharaviDharavi
Om Puri shows a complete grasp of the hopes and schemes of Mumbai inhabitants effortlessly alternating between the real and surreal workings of Sudhir Mishra’s fascinating offering.

chachi-420Chachi 420
Cellular ki kasam, there’s not one wrong note in Puri’s take of the sneaky, sycophantic and doltish manager in the Kamal Haasan vehicle.

east-is-eastEast is East
A terrific Om Puri succeeds in humanizing the rather disagreeable Pakistani Muslim patriarch too rigid in his ways to understand the culture identity plaguing his mixed race kids.

om-puri-maqboolMaqbool
In casting long-time friends and colleagues — Puri and Naseerudin Shah as the creepy, cackling cops, Pandit and Purohit — in his version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Vishal Bhardwaj pays a befitting tribute to their magnificent chemistry.

100-foot-journeyThe Hundred-Foot Long Journey
Om Puri’s real-life love for cooking is delectably expressed as the desi cook in countryside France charming Helen Mirren and the audience in Lasse Hallstrom’s lighthearted drama.

This article was first published on rediff.com.

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