• Identity Crisis
    shan | August 17, 2012, 2:04 AM | 29 comments | 0 views

    While watching Ek Tha Tiger, the thought that kept hitting me again and again was that throughout the making of the film, the makers faced a dilemma and were unable to decide what kind of movie they wanted to make. Did they want to make a realistic story of spies and their world, or did they want to make a full-blown, no-holds-barred, quintessential Salman Khan entertainer which defies logic and earns whistles and claps in abundance? They couldnt decide, and finally, they ended up making a movie that is neither here nor there.

    Don’t get me wrong. Ek Tha Tiger is not a bad movie. In fact, far from it! It has a decent plot, it maintains its tone and tempo and even has some stunning action scenes. But it is not a very entertaining film. At the same time, it is not the best Salman Khan film ever, as is being touted. Nor is it the best Bollywood action film yet. Heck, it is not even the best spy movie to come out of Bollywood this year. But before we get into comparisons, let’s talk about what worked and what did not.

    The story concept, although not terribly complex, is interesting. What happens when a spy decides he/she wants to lead a normal life? Can someone who has been trained and who has sworn to put country before self for all his or her life revert the decision at some point of time in life and start a new life afresh? There are so many possibilities there and Ek Tha Tiger pretty much skims over them. The screenplay is quite dull and underplays everything. The stakes dont rise high enough – not in the emotional scenes, not in the funny scenes and surprisingly, not even in the high voltage action scenes. The action scenes are excellently choreographed though, and do appear slick and sophisticated. They are fun to watch but the experience continues to be underwhelming, because the stakes arent high enough, and as an audience member, you dont feel the action has an end purpose that you care about. The culprit here is the direction, which underplays everything and ends up making the entire movie look like a ho-hum effort. The background music is apt and does improve the impact of the scenes in places.

    Music is a mixed bag. Banjara is the weakest of the lot and is picturised very typically. It also comes at a point where the momentum of the film is already low and acts as a speed-breaker. Laapata is easy on the eye and comes as a refreshing change in the movie. Saiyaara is perhaps the best placed song, but lacks good visuals to accompany it. Maashallah comes off as the best of the lot, especially since it appears at the end as the credits roll, and there is nothing it can do to spoil the effect of the movie. It is easily the most energetic song of the album and, in spite of an uninspired display of dance moves by the lead pair, manages to entertain. Cinematography is excellent and every frame looks beautiful and adds to the scene. The direction by Kabir Khan, who gave us the very interesting Kabul Express and the fine-till-the-muddled-climax New York, is confused and, for lack of decision, makes a meddle of a good story idea and opportunity. (more…)

  • ISHQIYA: Qalandar’s Mini-Review
    Qalandar | February 8, 2010, 8:46 AM | 2 comments | 0 views

    Ishqiya is better than most films the Hindi film industry makes, even if its pleasures weren’t the ones I was expecting. I went into the film looking for a taut, erotically charged thriller about a femme fatale manipulating two saps over a pot of gold, film noir in a bhaiyya-setting as it were. What I got was a compelling evocation of a small-town U.P. milieu (the (in)famous badlands of Gorakhpur district, along the Nepal border), a locale debutant director Abhishek Chaubhey has presented even more naturally than his mentor Vishal Bhardwaj ever managed with his out-of-the-way settings in either Maqbool or Omkara(that is to say, Chaubhey does it “simply”, such that the presentation of the milieu (to “outsiders”) does not itself become the point of the film). (more…)

  • A word on NADODIGAL (Tamil; 2009)
    Qalandar | January 17, 2010, 10:54 AM | one comment | 0 views

    I recently saw Nadodigal, and after all the hype, was quite disappointed. The film is quite well-made in terms of ambience, but uneasily straddles the line between old-school masala and “new” tamil cinema — and ends up with neither the energy and enthusiasm of the former, nor the rawness and “street cred” of the latter (not to mention that the film’s protagonists, chief among them Sasikumar, are not well adapted as far as the masala-end is concerned.

    What I did appreciate about the film — which centers on a band of friends who help a couple elope in the face of fierce parental opposition — was that this was the one film where the “heroes” were the characters who are peripheral in most love stories: the friends, siblings etc. who help the lovers run away from oppressive parents. Nor is any of this costless: in the typical potboiler, one never sees the consequences, be it the violence or the heartache, that accompanies such filmi romances. Nadodigal certainly does not suffer from that problem, but goes too far, draining truth in yielding to the temptation to be maudlin (not to mention that the film’s (un-ironic) representation of the politics of friendship, the violence that such love can itself entail, is highly disturbing; sure, other Tamil films might suffer from the same worldview, but the stakes are higher in the supposedly “realistic” terrain of the “new” Tamil cinema, and there is no escapist hatch one can resort to). I only wish director Samuthikarani had followed his impulse — to do justice to the marginal — through to the end, instead of trying to make a Bigtime movie out of it…

  • Film Review: PARIS (NY Times)
    Qalandar | October 17, 2009, 7:56 PM | no comments | 0 views

    September 18, 2009
    A Sick Man Embracing a City’s Life, Just as His Own Is Threatened

    In “Paris,” Cédric Klapisch’s sumptuous Gallic comedy, the camera, whether surveying the landmarks from on high or peering out of an apartment window at the passing parade, becomes a surrogate for a first-time visitor to the City of Light. Both a Parisian answer to Woody Allen’s “Manhattan” and a multicharacter mosaic in the mode of Robert Altman’s “Short Cuts,” the movie sprawls invitingly across the screen like a glowing Impressionist painting. Instead of George Gershwin, Erik Satie supplies the signature music.

    But “Paris” is much lighter fare than either “Manhattan” or “Short Cuts.” The film glosses the psyches of its likable characters. Even when tragedy strikes, its outlook remains buoyant. People die, but life bubbles on.

  • A Note on Two Satyajit Ray Charmers
    Qalandar | September 25, 2009, 12:54 PM | 3 comments | 0 views

    [Image courtesy the Goodearths blog.]

    One of my great pleasures is exploring a master’s minor work — often it is only in the latter, especially when one has attained canonical status, that some vestiges of the whimsical remain. Strictly speaking, this is only partly true of Satyajit Ray’s work (he actually seemed to get more whimsical with age and directorial maturity), but nevertheless, an acquaintance with the Ray of less serious subjects is highly rewarding. One isn’t overawed, but most decidedly charmed.

    Read the complete piece HERE.

  • Qalandar Reviews WANTED (Hindi; 2009)
    Qalandar | September 20, 2009, 11:14 PM | 21 comments | 0 views

    The passage of time does strange things, but not even Marcel Proust could have dreamed it would have this effect. I’ve spent most of the last two decades disliking Salman Khan. I mean, really disliking him, and everything about him: from his wannabe vibe, his faux-Bambi eyes, his breathless dialog-delivery, his weird English accent, and his non-existent acting skills. Needless to say, I wasn’t much convinced by his occasional half-assed attempts to do masala actioners; he was — and there’s no polite way to put this — just too puny for the likes of Garv, especially given that he was playing it straight, as opposed to using the sort of explanatory gimmick Aamir Khan deployed (namely, that he was a raving lunatic) in Ghajini.

    But then, a funny thing happened on the way to 2009…

    Read the complete review HERE

  • Qalandar Plugs CHAMKU (Hindi; 2008)
    Qalandar | September 15, 2009, 12:57 AM | no comments | 0 views

    The first sequence gets you. It’s aboard a train — as so many of the best action sequences are — and Bobby Deol, his hands bound, is being escorted to an unidentified gangster, along with a young woman supplied from Varanasi for the gangster’s pleasure. Her bright-red shalwar qameez simply underscores her nervousness; not the the gangster cares, pulling her to him even as he yells at his men to kill Deol’s character and throw him off the train. At that point, a cell-phone — within the woman’s brassiere — rings, and all hell breaks loose, as the narrow passages of the train erupt in gunfire and good ol’ action. Can’t keep a hero down, even with his hand bound.

    Read the complete review HERE.

  • Qalandar’s Music Review: BLUE (Hindi; 2009)
    Qalandar | September 11, 2009, 11:20 PM | 56 comments | 0 views

    Outright fun, not to mention silliness, has long been a casualty of A.R. Rahman’s recent Hindi oeuvre. Unlike in Tamil, Rahman simply hasn’t done very many soundtracks for “ordinary” Hindi films of late. That is, the typical Rahman Hindi album this decade has been a Swades or a Jodha-Akbar, or a Delhi-6 — not a Rangeela or a Daud. The last year might well be the beginning of a shift, with Ghajini, and now Blue. No song in either album will ever make a list of Rahman’s best, but equally, no-one can doubt that at their best, these albums feature a more playful Rahman, the sort of souffle-lover one missed in the likes of Jodha-Akbar. On the down-side, at its worst, the likes of Blue do give the impression of a composer who hasn’t lavished much care on his work. Luckily for us, the balance comes down on the side of buying the album.

    Read the complete review HERE.

  • Qalandar Reviews DEKH BHAI DEKH (Hindi; 2009)
    Qalandar | September 3, 2009, 4:14 PM | 2 comments | 0 views

    Rahat Kazmi’s Dekh Bhai Dekh (apparently re-named Dekh Re Dekh at some point; my DVD carried the older name) is a refreshing little film: it hearkens to the cinema of old, albeit in the streamlined garb of the contemporary “little” film. Refreshing because this look backward isn’t by way of ironic distance or homage, and nor does it fall prey to the stale rehashing of older Bollywood tropes that is the hallmark of B-grade cinema. In other words, Kazmi’s film isn’t set in a small-town in U.P. because he wants to make a point about crime and violence in the heartland (the usual vehicle for representations of U.P. and Bihar in contemporary Hindi cinema), nor is he trying to depict a world impossibly remote from the (imagined) “us” in cities like Mumbai, Delhi, or London. Rather, his film just happens to be set in U.P., and does not purport to stage its setting.

    Read the rest HERE.

  • Baradwaj Rangan Reviews POKKISHAM (Tamil; 2009)
    Qalandar | August 30, 2009, 3:41 PM | no comments | 0 views


    “I wanted to shake these bratty SMS-era youngsters by the shoulder and tell them that this story needs this pace – if it’s a slow film, it’s because it isn’t set in a fast world. I wanted to tell them that this was, after all, the 1970s – an India of tonga carts and unsliced loaves of bread and two-rupee notes, and when people had to wait for days to hear from one another, either through letters or the tiresome mechanics of booking a trunk call over staticky communication lines. How easy it was, back then, to lose touch with people, who didn’t leave permanent footprints of their journey through life on, say, Facebook. (Today, you cannot shake off even the friends you want to lose.) It wasn’t unusual to graduate from school or college and have an entire set of people – and along with them, an entire part of your life – vanish into the ether, oftentimes without the comfort of closure. That’s the era this film attempts to evoke. When Lenin does not hear from Nadheera for weeks or months, we need to feel the length of this time elapse on screen – and the noonday-lethargy pacing of Pokkisham is very much a part of its design.”

    Read the complete review HERE.

Back to Top