Monday, October 18, 2010

My itinerary for the Mumbai Film Fest 2010

I expect to have a colossal time this week when the 12th Mumbai Film Festival kicks off - over 200 films from over 60 countries have been packaged to be screened during the event. Watching 200 films in five days would be a tad knotty. Therefore, I shall  watch the following:

1) The Social Network - USA

Hailed by most critics as the second coming of Christ, David Fincher's biographical thriller is guaranteed to be a fascinating, absorbing film. Indeed, an excellent choice by the Mumbai Academy of Moving Images for the opening night.

2) Veettilekkulla Vazhi (The Way Home) - Kerala

I'd never head of this film until a friend posted its trailer on Twitter earlier this week. VV is a terrorist thriller set in Kashmir and Ladakh. Prithviraj stars as a doctor who has lost his family in a Mujahideen attack. In a desperate attempt at self healing he sets off on a journey to find the missing son of the lone surviving member of the suicide attack. Gorgeous cinematography and haunting music. At least in the trailer.

3) Semshook - India/Spain

An Indo-Spanish production, Semshook boasts some breathtaking imagery of Tibet and glowing reviews. This one's about a Christopher McCandless-esque young poet road tripping across the Himalayas, from Dharamsala to Ladakh to find himself. With Thoreau by my side, I shall enjoy this with a large glass of Thums Up.

4) The Untitled Kartik Krishnan Project -

The mind bending trailer of Srinivas Sunderrajan's surrealistic feature was enough to give me the heebeejeebees. Google directed me to a number of bloggers raving abut the film. Apparently this gem was shot on an HD camera in just 30 days with a budget of a third of a lakh. Not impressed? Watch the trailer.

5) Hahaha - Korea

This Korean flick, about a filmmaker's nostalgia trip while traveling from Korea to Canada, won the Un Certain Regard trophy at Cannes this year. Metacritic hasn't been kind to this one, but to Beelzebub with that - I swear by Cannes.

6) Biutiful -Mexico

Alejandro González Iñárritu's follow up to Babel has Javier Bardem in the lead - a gangster plagued with a conscience, and a firm grasp on an Oscar. The only damper is that this film was not written by Guillermo Arriaga.

7)  Last Train Home - China

A powerful documentary covering the journey of  over 200 million Chinese peasant workers to reunite with their distant families. Any film that exposes the underbelly of a superpower gets my nod. The trailer itself is quite spectacular.

8) Bunraku - USA

Easily the craziest pick of the lot - Bunraku is a super-stylized martial arts revenge tale that mashes together genres like western, samurai and noir. Very intriguing, if you ignore the fact that Josh Hartnett, Demi Moore and Ron Perlman lead the cast.

9) Good Night Good Morning - India

Film critic Sudhish Kamath's second film, co-written by Shilpa Rathnam, is a slickly shot experimental independent dramedy that revolves around two characters engaged in a long phone call. GNGM stars the quirky Seema Rahmani (Loins of Punjab) & Manu Narayan (Bombay Dreams). Judging by the promos, this one should make for a razor sharp watch, and a polished vehicle for the leads' talents.            

10)  Winter's Bone - USA

Debra Granik's film is the story of a 17-year-old girl in Alaska forced to track down her meth-cooking father to save her home that's haunted by a bail bond. As the wolves close in on her two younger siblings and invalid mother, the girl channels every emotion outside of happiness as she scratches, scrapes and splashes her way through the unforgiving landscape where helpful words are hard to come by.

11) L'enface du mal (Sweet Evil) - France 

Olivier Coussemacq's thriller chronicles the double life of fifteen-year-old Celine, who is found by a rich attorney sleeping in the garden of his villa.  Despite his wife's disapproval, the man offers Celine his guest room and warm food. The new family member is a welcome change, until her real motives slowly unravel.

12) Another Year - UK

Mike Leigh impressed and gained a rousing applause from the 63rd Cannes Film Festival audience. The story is told through the lives of Tom and Gerri (a clever bit of naming) and Mary - a wreck who was divorced before she was 30 only to fall in love with, and be left by a married man before she was 40. Starring Ruth Sheen, Jim Broadbent and frequent Leigh collaborator Lesley Manville.

13) Mirch - Hindi

Mirch is supposedly a drama crammed with four interweaving stories on infidelity. Starring Shreyas Talpade,  Konkona Sen Sharma , Raima Sen and Shahana Goswami. I'm sold - bring on the offbeat goodness.

14)  The Infidel - UK

 This British satire starring Omid Djalili and Archie Panjabi supposedly features the former's pitch perfect comic timing and the latter's charm. Djalili plays a Muslim cabbie who while marrying his son off to the stepdaughter of a fundamentalist cleric, discovers that he was adopted as a baby, and that his biological parents were Jewish.

 15) I am Kalam - India

Won the Best Film award at a German film festival. Also selected for the Vienna Intl Children's Film Festival. Debutant director Nila Madhab Panda pays homage to Satyajit Ray in this story of a slum kid who yearns for education and works to realise his cherished dreams. If you think an issue like child education need not be addressed, then you shouldn't watch this.

16) Rizhao Chongqing (Chogqing Blues) - China

Veteran director Wang Xiaoshuai's latest  revolves around a neglectful father's journey in discovering the truth behind the police shooting of his son. This one apparently is a crushing, riveting, non linear tale.

17) When Harry tries to Marry - USA

Another ABCD-based film? Check. Guy's marriage drives plot? Check. So then why bother? The trailer looks good.

18) Kokuhaku (Confessions) - Japan

Twisted, gory and stunning. A Japanese psychological thriller in which a teacher takes a blood-soaked revenge against a bunch of students in her class who were responsible for her daughter's death. I recommend you avoid watching the trailer if you wish to see the film.

19) Harud

Amir Bashir's directorial debut has already generated a heck of a lot of buzz - the film, shot entirely in Kashmir chronicles the struggle of a Kashmiri family coming to terms with the disappearance of the eldest son, a tourist photographer during military insurgency.

Bunch of promising Marathi films

'Burzwagaman: Biography of a farmer' seems like Ghabricha Paus redux, but that doesn't the least bit lower my expectations. Then there's 'Platform' and 'Alif' which I wish watch just because they're Marathi films. I haven't got any plot details; I shall, however, put up their reviews.

20) RED - USA

A comic spy caper starring Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Karl Urban, Mary-Louise Parker and Helen Mirren brandishing guns? Bring it on.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Knock Out Review

Somewhere inside Mani Shankar's latest escapade is a hilarious comedy yearning to break free from the stifling clutches of its over-serious guardians. 'Knock Out' is an endless succession of flashes, quick cuts, and eye roll moments, and looks as if the production team had learnt their art doing work experience under the influence of drugs at an abattoir next door to a nudist camp. Such is the one-dimensional nature of the slabs of meat masquerading as characters that it's hard to care for their fates, and a painfully contrived desh bhakti intrigue coupled with Irrfan Khan's otherworldly hair hardly helps the cause. It's business as usual at plagiarising camp Bollywood, with very little in the way of fresh ideas or an innovative visual style that would revitalize the hokey industry in any way. My condolences to Joel Schumacher, the director of 'Phone Booth'.

 Unless its a  Krista Allen film, watching women playing scantily clad TV journalists with bad accents is not my cup of tea. At the same time, honesty requires me to acknowledge that Kangana Ranaut's Nidhi Shrivastav is a truly well-fleshed out and effective example of something that I don't like.  Armed with an  upper torso exhibiting breathlessness and Shankar's camera lingering on her legs, Kangana's Nidhi is someone straight out of a DVD featuring horny cookie cutter party animals, bare breasted babes and boozers who frolic through ho-hum sex 'n slaughter pathological proceedings. The original and thrilling 'Phone Booth' had a certain low-rent elegance about it, and this over the top, whiplash-edited update slash  ripoff loses that too. Producer Sohail Maklai's idea of  repackaging Phone Booth for the sole purpose of raking in crores from foolish audiences is most noble, but heaven knows why he thought he'd make money by casting a droning Sanjay Dutt. Mr Dutt exudes the same old Mumbaiya charisma, but with all the finesse of a blind choreographer directing an arthritic dancer. Ultimately, 'Knock Out' is destined to become exactly what most Bollywood ripoffs are - a sleepover rite of passage, specifically the moment when discerning viewers realise they can do much, much better.

So here we have banker Irrfan Khan with a wig from Nicolas Cage's basement, held hostage in a phone booth by a napping Sanjay Dutt brandishing a sniper. Naturally, media houses have a field day, with Kangana Ranaut screaming into the mike, unintentionally doling out a most excellent Elmer Fudd impression. Thrown in are Gulshan Grover, Sushant and 'Shootout at Lokhandwala' director Apoorva Lakhia in bit roles, falling over each other in a struggle to hide their paychecks behind their backs. And if that weren't enough, the climax is curiously reminiscent of  the superb 'A Wednesday', thus raising the bar for unoriginality and flat-out atrocity.  True to form, Shankar's editor Shyam Salgaonkar and cinematographer Natarajan have once again worked their signature brand of ultra-stylish, faux-gritty mediocrity, thus stripping Knock Out of any kind of charm.  With this story and budget Shankar and Maklai had all the tools at their disposal to create tense scenes that are both unique and shocking in a desi context, but there is really only one action scene that is remotely notable, and that involves a close up shot of a camera held at the heaving, sweaty chest of Kangana Ranaut.

'Knock Out' is simply a pointless exercise beyond paying off Mani Shankar's sixth mortgage. Although the one thing this Bollywood ripoff - number 984, by my count - does achieve, is it makes the maestro's 'Rudraksh' look like a freaking masterpiece. Even Baba Ramdev, with his prodigious powers of focus and restraint would froth with anger then snooze through this rancid mess.

First published on on October 15, 2010.