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Dekh Tamasha Dekh movie review: Naked face of Hindu-Muslim disharmony

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By Subhash K Jha

Film: Dekh Tamasha Dekh
Stars: Vinay Jain, Satish Kaushik, Tanvi Azmi, &  Hordes Of Other Talent
Director: Feroz Abbas Khan
Rating: ****(4 stars)

BOLLYWOOD: Routinely, we love to sweep the truth about Hindu-Muslim relations under the carpet. Or simply sugar-coat it to make the actual volume of  mutual distrust and animosity palatable to a nation steeped in escapism and self-delusion.

Dekh Tamasha Dekh (DTD) directed by theatre legend Feroz Abbas Khan(of Tumhari Amrita fame) is a jolting wake-up call for a nation swept into a slumberous silence by the status quo. Put simply, we don’t want to face the reality about the friction that simmers just under the surface among the two communities.

DTD is perhaps the first Hindi film which ventures into the vista of vitriolic without the fear of offending the more refined sections of the audience who may not be comfortable watching the vanguards and trouble-makers of the two communities addressing each other with the harshest of epithets.

This is not a film about niceties.Director Feroz Khan, who comes to us with a formidable theatre background, doesn’t allow the narrative to nibble daintily at corrosive socio-political matters. Rather, the narrative  chews industriously on the political issues. By using the twin missiles of satire and irony, Khan brings into a play a kind of  pinned-down provocativeness into the plot whereby the characters become real and representational at the same time.

Miraculously, the film is both a parable and a topical comment on communal relations.  This is a film that takes burning headlines and converts them into slices of incriminating illustration on Man and the beast within. The smell of authenticity pervades the  destiny of the political-driven nefariously motivated characters.

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This is literary cinema. The characters and their situations unfold like chapters from an epic novel. This is Govind Nihalani’s Tamas without the recognizable punctuation marks. The director authors the characters’ destiny in scenes that are written like chapters. Amazingly, the context of the scenes are explained to the audience without  the crutches of a voice-over.

Take that lengthy but hilarious sequence where the newspaper editor Mutha Seth (Satish Kaushik, slimy and Machiavellian as can be) summons the newspaper editor and treats him like a pet dog – literally barking orders to both the canine and the editor at the same time.Elsewhere a wife and mother (Tanvi Azmi, eloquence personified) grieves for her dead husband while women of the neighbourhood join in to while away their time while waiting for the taps to supply water.

The cauldron of simmering ideas on the polemics of discontent is  brought to boiling point in the narrative. As danga-phasaad become a nanga façade of organized miscreancy , the director steps back to let the characters assume a life of their own.What we see is  an unadorned dance of demoniacal self-gratification mottled by  sudden  spates of innocence and grace.

A mother-daughter sequence towards the end featuring the lyrical Tanve Azmi and her screen-daughter (Apoorva Arora) reminds us that political cinema need not be dry and emotion-less. As the characters shed their humanism, the plot gathers a sense of tragic redemption that we sense waiting around the corner.

It’s the kingdom of the quirky and the tragic.  Feroz Khan portrays a world that is both bizarre and poignant. Groups of militant religious fundamentalists clash over a corpse using the vilest of insults to strike one another’s ideological arguments down. A police thana goes in a tizzy as their resident bitch has been impregnated by a street dog. A rabid mullah (Sudhir Pandey, giving a slyly cunning performance) denounces soft-liners and urges ‘true’ Muslims to fob off the danger to their religion. An intellectual author sits literally deafened (his hearing aid off his eardrums) as rioters shed blood right at his doorstep.A moderate Muslim journalist gets shooed out of town by sneering rioting hardliners who then burn down his house. A rational non-partisan cop (Vinay Jain) musters courage to stop communal mayhem in  town. A young innocent Hindu-Muslim couple tries desperately to cling to their precious little paradise as everything around them goes up in flames.A mother grieves for a son who has fled from the scene of communal violence….

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Images of violence and retribution coalesce in Feroz  Khan’s world replete with stark visuals of  the town-people bickering bitterly over  a non-issue that’s been blown out of all proportions by trouble makers .

DTD is a work of many contradictory forces pulling and tugging at the plot as it stretches out in a saga of valour and vitality, caprice and cowardice.

Remarkably,the narrative makes no use of extraneous artificial sounds to create a heightened drama. The natural sounds that pervade the soundtrack add to an eerie sense of a world of fearsome anxieties.Indeed sound designer Baylon Fonseca is one of the heroes of  this film. Sreekar Prasad edits the material to retain the rawness of mood without sacrificing the smoothness of narration. Hemant Chaturvedi’s cinematography sweeps across the town prowling to peep into homes and hearts that are aflame with an anxious identity crisis.

Rarely does cinema take us so deep into the socio-political dynamics of  communal disharmony. Honest to the core, brutal, ironical  and disturbing, Feroz Abbas Khan’s world of Hindu-Muslim strife is cluttered with a compelling tension that erupts into welters of  well-aimed social comment. What we come away with is a film committed to mirroring the murk and mirth of organized religion and a disorganized  system of governance which plays a game of appeasement with religious communities, setting off one group of people against another.

In this scenario of impending catastrophe a cop suddenly discovers unplumbed depths of heroism and tells the  flag-waving saffron and green brigades to back off. There is just that little space where we pause for applause. Stark, real,disturbing , ironical, funny and gripping, Dekh Tamasha Dekh is the film Govind Nihalani would have made if only he had the freedom to call a spade a spade. Not all the truth of Feroz Khan’s cinema is palatable or even fully intelligible. But there is little here that doesn’t provide food for thought.

This is a film that addresses itself to ideas and thoughts buried away from human consideration. We don’t want to consider to what depth human nature can fall if pushed against a dirty wall. To record the dirt on the wall and the blood on the floor with such clarity and honesty is not within the creative powers of every filmmaker.

Feroz Khan comes from theatre. He knows the voices of the actors must be heard in the last rows.
This is an important treatise of our times. It  should not be missed by any Indian.

Movie Review

Arnold’s Terminator Genisys fails to work at box office

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Arnold's Terminator Genisys fails to work at box office

Arnold Schwarzenegger might have insisted that he is “old, but not obsolete” inTerminator Genisys but box office has proved otherwise.

The film, made at an approximiate cost of $155 million, earned only $28.7 million over the weekend in America and totalled $44.2 million over 5 days, according to Rentrak, which compiles box office data.

Internationally, it earned $74 million in total as Jurassic World still went strong after earning $42 million.

The opening box office results for Terminator Genisys were among the worst in the five-movie Terminator series, which began in 1984. The movie did much better overseas, where Schwarzenegger’s star power is brighter.

It has also placed a question on Arnold’s future as his most ambitious film after return failed to work.

Paramount bosses are now keeping their fingers crossed for the film to do well in China, giving their revenue a boost.

Though Chinese audiences often go against the global tide, and there are numerous examples box office recoveries for films that have met disappointing receptions elsewhere like Need for Speed, Escape Plan and Cloud Atlas, but grossed much higher in China, Rob Cain writes for Forbes.

Pictures like Bait 3D and The Expendables 3 were also embraced by audiences in China like nowhere else.

Terminator Genisys has several elements that should count in China, firstly, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who’s remained popular even years after his popularity faded in most countries.

Secondly, China is also known for movies featuring robots, disasters, and machines, which is all there in the film.

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Kick review: No paisa vasool in Salman Khan’s spectacularly dull film

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by Deepanjana Pal

Shaina (Jacqueline Fernandez), a psychiatrist, is pining for her ex-boyfriend, Devi Lal (Salman Khan). Supercop Himanshu Tyagi (Randeep Hooda) is looking for the mysterious, masked thief Devil who goes around pulling of spectacular stunts.

Within the first half hour, the only ones who don’t know that Devi Lal is Devil are Shaina and Himanshu. What follows for the next few hours is a procession of shots showing Khan walking, Khan driving, Khan dancing, Khan in a hoodie, Khan in a colourful kurta, Khan in black, Khan with a beard, Khan without a beard, Khan with tears in his eyes, Khan striding, and Khan’s ass being kicked.

That’s Rs 100 crore in Sajid Nadiadwala’s kitty, apparently.

A Nadiadwala film starring Khan isn’t expected to throw up surprise twists, which makes it easy to write a spoiler-free review of Kick because everyone knows who’s going to win the cop versus robber game, when the robber is played by Khan. If Robin Hood and Mother Teresa had a lovechild and that child was raised by Mithun Chakraborty, his name would be Devi Lal Singh.

Devi Lal, is a genius and a daredevil, so much so that his back story has to be shown as an animated sequence. Real people can’t do justice to his awesomeness (and no one is going to let any child do the frightfully dangerous and idiotic stunts that little Devi Lal pulls as a kid). There are even a couple of scenes in which we see Devi Lal grow up so that we are treated to an animated version of Salman Khan doing a few tricks. It looks more credibly real and has more expression than Khan himself manages, but maybe the cartoon was just being human. (There’s something almost poetic about the animated Khan possessing expression and the human Khan looking like a statue stolen from Madame Tussaud’s.)

Kick is supposed to be the story of an adrenaline junkie who’s constantly looking for a new and better high. Instead, all we see Khan do is beat people up and dance badly, which may well be how he gets an adrenaline rush. In actuality, Kick is an attempt by Khan to show himself as a heroic good samaritan. Devi Lal in Kick doesn’t enter the world of crime because of greed, but because he has a cause that is expected to make cherubs clap and angels weep with gratitude. In reality, it’s a little creepy but we’ll get to that later.

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There isn’t much by way of suspense in this film, but it does raise a few questions. Like, for instance, how much were the real actors in the cast paid for being in Kick? If they’ve negotiated well, then this is what we hope acting in Kick has earned the following:

Nawazuddin Siddiqui: a house
Randeep Hooda: a house and a car
Sanjay Mishra: a luxurious vacation
Rajit Kapoor: the right to demand a better wig.

Predictably, the only ace up the film’s sleeve is Siddiqui, who manages to have some fun as Devil’s arch nemesis. The one scene in Kick that has some crackle is Siddiqui’s final encounter with Khan.

Ironically for a film about a guy who is bored and whose only ambition in life is to feel a heady rush of pleasure — yes, boys and girls, that’s what Devi Lal means when he says he’s looking for a ‘kick’ — Kick is a spectacularly dull film. Nadiadwala is clearly aware of this because why else would Salman Khan as Devi Lal make his grand entry and then, within seconds, remind us he’s also Dabangg’s Chulbul Pandey?

Devi Lal enters the film, driving a curious vehicle that is part bike, part car and completely ridiculous. He whisks a bride, groom and bride’s friend out of a wedding, and as he is making his exit, one random member of the wedding band lands on the bike’s bumper. Instead of howling in agony at the pain that one imagines follows a man’s crotch hitting unyielding metal, the man sees Devi morph into Chulbul Pandey. HIs eyes glaze over and he plays the Dabangg tune.

That’s basically what Nadiadwala expects audiences across the country to do: see their beloved Bhai (who is, helpfully, also called Bhai in the film) and not notice anything else, least of all how painfully idiotic the script, acting, stunts and twists in Kick are. No one expects the writing to be good in a Nadiadwala film, but Kick is just terminally lazy.

For instance, Himanshu grimly informs his team that Devil’s three crimes show a pattern: Devil targets people who have made headlines and the robbery is done on holidays. Who’s victim number four? A peon who hasn’t made headlines. So much for pattern. More absurdly, Devil sends a handwritten note to the police along with a mug shot of the man he says he’s going to rob. What do Himanshu and the rest of the police force do? They erupt in a frenzy of investigation to find Mr Mugshot. Why use the handwriting to catch the criminal when you can go hunting through the haystack of Delhi’s population to find the man in the mugshot?

The worst part of Kick isn’t that Nadiadwala and Khan take themselves seriously, but that they think their audiences are fools. The audience won’t notice that the characters and plot twists make no sense. Devi Lal, who is supposedly a gold medallist engineer and has made headlines with inventions like hyper-real holograms, becomes a thief because he needs Rs 11 lakh for a medical emergency. Really? He couldn’t get a loan? Sell his hologram technology? Or here’s a radical thought: get a job.

The audience won’t care that Shaina essentially kidnaps a patient from a hospital because he’s her ex-boyfriend and she wants revenge on him because he’s forgotten her. As far as she knows, he’s got “retrograde amnesia”, but why should she, a doctor, care about those details? He didn’t recognise her. He must be punished. How? By “healing” him so that he remembers her, and then dumping him. She doesn’t realise that all Devi Lal wants is to get into her home. Once she figures out she’s been a pawn in his plan, you’d think she’d be doubly mad, but no. Shaina and her need for vengeance are conveniently forgotten. And of course the audience won’t care about details like if a man jumps out of a building in Poland, it’s highly unlikely he will land in London, the only city that has red double decker buses and a place called King’s Cross.

Will the audience find anything creepy about the fact that Devi Lal feels a “kick” because a little girl, lying in bed, smiles at him? Only if they’ve read about Woody Allen. How does this girl end up in Devi Lal’s care? She has a “chest tumour” and because her parents can’t find the money for her treatment, they leave her in a children’s home and jump off a building. How is getting orphaned supposed to help a sick little girl? Because their suicide note will waft to Devi Lal, naturally. So now this girl has the guilt of her parents’ suicides and a guardian who gets a “kick” when she smiles at him. If that doesn’t turn her into a violent psychopath, maybe she’ll grow up to star in the Indian remake of Kick Ass.

But there are two wonderful, heartening and life-affirming things that one can take away from Kick. Early on in the film, you can see Khan being kicked on his bottom by Mithun Chakraborty. Unfortunately, we aren’t shown Chakraborty’s foot making contact, but the suggestion is plain and this is one illusion that we’ll gladly buy. More importantly, this is the last time we’ll see Salman Khan in a film in 2014.

That gave us a kick.

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Jal is an epic of Shakespearean proportions

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By Subhash K Jha

Film: Jal
Stars: Purab Kohli,Tannishtha Chatterjee, Kirti Kulhari, Mukul Dev
Director: Girish Malik
Rating: ****

MUMBAI: It’s a never-before experience. Tapestried and tempestuous, the tides of Girish Malik’s narrative rise and swell like the  frequent sandstorms in the desertscape that Sunita Radia’s camera captures so evocatively  in this saga of raging ragas.

There is more than just a little bit of Shakespeare in Girish Malik’s directorial debut. Jal leaves you with many fluttering strands of thought swimming in the tormented tides of humanity’s most deprived and financially challenged part of civilization where drinking water is more precious than gold.

Malik’s richly layered narrative sweeps across the Rann Of  Kutch landscape in an exhilarating  arched sweep that subsumes poetic beauty and human squalor, all in one mesmeric range of vision. In terms of sheer visual grandiosity, Jal is next to none. Women swathed in black running after a woman who has dared to drink from their village well, the offending hero being dragged across the desert by animals like a wolf that forgot its jurisdiction, cyclones and rain conspiring to create an aura of distracting unpredictability… These are the images that etch themselves in the audiences’ mind.

Going by the director’s mastery over the medium you’d find it very tough to believe this is his first film. Malik exercises an enormously flexible yet firm grip over his epic plot. Jal is many things at the same time. The narrative moves in mysterious ways coiling and snaking through circumstances that appear more destined than designed. And yet—here lies the paradox of a work of  art—there is a grand design at work here.

The tale unfolds in a multiplicity of  enigmatic dimensions, many of them ironical. The very basic idea of a water astrologer in the parched desert who wins and loses his fellow-villagers’ faith , is used in the plot as a device to defiantly mock what we call destiny.

The opposition between man and machine and between design and destiny is scripted as a series of anecdotal incidents that serve as pungent punctuation marks in a tale so vivid with characters you want every one of them to have a  happy ending. Alas, life is not about rounded denouements.

And Bakka (Purab Kohli)’s adventures with love and life consummate in a sticky tragedy that leaves most of the characters dazed , if not dead.Vividly, Jal moves from one level  of articulation on the relationship between Man and Nature to another. At some point, the chameleon-like narrative assumes the shape of a Rann of Kutch Romeo & Juliet, when Bakka, power-drunk and prophecy-prized, falls in love with the neighbouring enemy village’s chieftain’s daughter (the sultry and enchanting Kirti Kulhari).Bakka insists on marrying the enemy’s daughter, thereby triggering off a chain of catastrophic events that leave the village poorer even as we the audience come away enriched and nourished by the experience .

The director’s deft defiant and  untameable vision knits a blanket of  lucid emotions embedded in  a well-told narrative that hides a  wealth of surreptitious surprises. The scenes are edited to accentuate the uncertainty of a people who don’t know when and where their next drink of water would come from.

Water is war in Jal. This premise gives Girish Malik the chance to create images that convey the immediacy and intimacy of a sudden eruption of gunfire at a sensitive border area. There is a constant sense of doom permeating the canvas. And yet Jal is not an unhappy film. The male characters  are vividly played by artistes who seem to  merge and blend in the realm of the registaan .

You wish the women were more fervently fleshed out. The only two women in Bakka’s  life played by Tannishta Chatterjee and Kirti Kulhari, come across as sensuously silhouetted shadows. Tannishta does have her moments  towards the end when she jumps into the climactic point with determined gusto. But make no mistake. This is a guys’ film. The male actors in their Rann Of Kutch clothes and demeanour are  splendidly in-sync with their characters.  While Yashpal Sharma as the Russian activist’s obnoxious guide creates a cringe-worthy portrait of overzealous hospitality,  Ravi Gossain and the other actors too are completely credible as local villagers.

Purab Kohli in his career’s strongest role presides over the maelstrom of operatic overtures exercizing  a resolute grip over the shifting-sands of his characters attitude and time. At one point he’s the village’s elected saviour tapping water reservoirs like a magician conjuring rabbits. The next moment he is a cunning traitor and finally a doomed victim whom Shakespeare’s Hamlet would have recognized. Jal makes you wonder why Purab hasn’t made a better place for himself in Bollywood.

Equally stunning as his filthy slimy opponent is Mukul Dev. This neglected actor plays the kind of horny scumbag who would make you puke, if only he were not so honest about his diabolism.

The accents are thick, and so is the tension.  The plot constantly searches out humour in the grim waterless deserts. A Russian activist bird-watcher(Saidah Jules)  fascinated by dying flamingos provides the villagers of all ages a chance to pant in erotic ecstacy.

The activist wants to save birds in the district.But who is going to save the human beings? The question echoes in the deserts in accusatory spasm. Girish Malik has designed a film where the characters are constantly on  the brink of doom and yet liberated from the scourge of self-pity.
Jal is a work of remarkable resonance. The sheer visual mastery of Girish Malik’s directorial debut takes your breath away. Very rarely does a film spin such a beguiling web of drama and fantasy. The sheer velocity and spatial harmony  of the intrinsically disturbed desertscape , the incredibly nuanced sound design and the powerhouse performances by actors who forget the camera is watching them, make this a work whipped into eternity by vast stretches of unchained artistry.

The vividness of the images and the composition of the shots stay with you even when the lights go on. There are some lives that seem designed for the drama of cinema. See Jal. You will know what I mean.

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