Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Review of Fan

Image Courtesy: Facebook Page of Fan
Cast: Shah Rukh Khan (Aryan Khanna and Gaurav Chandna), Shriya Pilgaonkar (Neha), Deepika Amin (Gaurav’s mother), Yogendra Tiku (Gaurav’s father), Waluscha de Sousa (Aryan’s wife), Sayani Gupta (Aryan’s PA)
Direction: Maneesh Sharma
Produced by: Aditya Chopra
Screenplay: Habib Faisal
Dialogues: Habib Faisal and Sharat Katariya
Music: Songs- Vishal-Shekhar; Background Score – Andrea Guerra
Cinematography: Manu Ananad
Edited by: Namrat Rao
Production Company: Yash Raj Films
Release Date: 15th April, 2016
Duration: 143 minutes
Language: Hindi

Fan, a film by Maneesh Sharma (Band Baja Baraat, Ladies Vs. Ricky Bahl and Shudh Deshi Romance fame), explores the relationship between a celebrity and one of his fan. Probably it is all around the world, people do adore celebrities and turn out to be fan of their favourite celebrities. In India too, we are absolutely in love with cricket, music and films, and cricket players, singers and film stars as celebrities turn out to be idols of people. The presence of these personalities attracts lot of attention from the common people like us. Appreciating celebrities for their works, being fan of their works is good, but when appreciation and admiration take the shape of obsession, that is when challenges begin. The film fan is the story of one such fan of a film star, whom he imitated throughout his life. The film star was his idol, his life, rather the reason to live. His degree of devotion to his celebrity star made him have deluded belief that he has a special relationship with the star whereas it did not even exist. Indeed the concept of the film is a very beautiful concept. There is a fan in almost all of us. As fans, we might forget the basic underlying fact that even the celebrities are human beings. They need their own space. But this is also equally true that celebrities need to realize that being a public figure, certainly, they have to compromise with their privacies as well. Fans and celebrities’ status usually co-exist.  Indeed, celebrity-fan relationship gets trickier when the fan wants to get personalized attention from his celebrity idol. Because of the concept, this film had great potential, but somewhere screenplay, dialogues are weak. The story has not been developed beautifully. The decision to keep the film songless is not probably a right decision. Even the famous song ‘Jabra Fan’ does not form the part of the film, which indeed is strange. The film certainly has Shah Rukh’s magic in it, but overall having less of entertainment quotient.

The film begins with a few glimpses from the real Shah Rukh Khan’s journey to stardom (introduced as the superstar Aryan Khanna) followed by Gaurav Chandna’s (Shah Rukh Khan) journey from a child to teenager. He is a great fan of the film star Aryan Khanna. Gaurav very much looks like Aryan, although, the difference is also evident with his protruding teeth. Gaurav is owning a cyber café and the name of his cyber café is inspired by his idol - AK Cyber Chat. His room is full of posters of Aryan Khanna. A die-hard fan, who could not take it, if anyone spoke bad of Aryan Khanna. Even as a child, he fought with his school mates, when someone made a comment. Neha’s (Shriya Pilgaonkar) entry happens when she comes to AK Cyber Chat. Gaurav loves Neha, although never told her so. His parents (Yogendra Tiku and Deepika Amin) understand his love towards Aryan Khanna. Gaurav participates in the local cultural porgramme/ competition where he apes Aryan Khanna and wins prize almost every year. And this year too, he won Rs. 20000/- cash and the trophy. With the prize money, trophy and some sweets, he embarks on his journey to meet and wish his celebrity idol Aryan Khanna on his birthday. The interesting aspect is that he travels by the same train that too ‘without ticket’, exactly the same train which Aryan Khanna had boarded ‘without ticket’.  After reaching Mumbai, he goes to the same hotel and stays in the same room where Aryan had stayed. On Aryan’s birthday, when he reaches in front of Mannat, he is shocked to see millions of fans waiting to catch a glimpse of superstar Aryan Khanna. This is where entry of Shah Rukh Khan as Aryan Khanna happens. When Gaurav fails to manage getting a 5-minute face-to-face meeting with Aryan, he chooses a different means to get attention of Aryan. Ultimately he does manage to get the attention of his superstar idol, but that is where, his disillusionment begins. The meeting which finally happens between superstar and his fan does not turn out to be a pleasant one. Gaurav gets hurt to the extent that he becomes obsessive of his idol, and there starts his journey of making the superstar run behind him.

How and in what condition Gaurav finally gets to meet Aryan? What exactly transpired between Gaurav and Aryan? How does the miffed up Gaurav make his idol Aryan run behind him? How does Gaurav take advantage of his resemblance to Aryan? Is Gaurav able to bring disgrace to the superstar Aryan? If yes, how? How does Aryan deal with obsessive Gaurav? Watch the film to get these answers.

Shah Rukh Khan’s performance is good both as Aryan and Gaurav. Shar Rukh appears more of self as Aryan, and as Gaurav, definitely he has put in lot of efforts. He has indeed played both the characters very nicely and brought out the differences of two characters on screen very nicely. But, somewhere, due to many loopholes in the screenplay, the impact is not created. Since, Shah Rukh is there in every frame, there is nothing much to do for rest of the cast. Shriya Pilgaonkar as Gaurav’s love interest Neha and Waluscha de Sousa as Aryan’s wife have done justice to their brief screen time. Gaurav’s parents’ roles played by Yogendra Tiku and Deepika Amin are just adorable. Sayani Gupta (as Aryan’s PA) is indeed noticeable.

Why the whole film is without a song is beyond my understanding. Apart from some initial scenes, there are hardly any scenes which would bring smile to your face. Such a beautiful concept, if clubbed with some good sense of humour and music could have done wonders. The screenplay could have been developed by giving more depth to the characters Aryan and Gaurav. If Guarav’s love towards Aryan is still developed nicely, the encounters / meetings / chase between Aryan and Gaurav are not developed with much clarity and depth.

Fan, a film with a great concept depicting celebrity-fan relationship went awry due to a screenplay with less of entertainment quotient. My rating 3*** for the film is based on two major parameters: Shah Rukh’s energy as Gaurav and another one is the message of the film – Be yourself. You can get inspired by anyone, but grow to define your own personality rather than merely aping someone.  
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Friday, April 15, 2016

Review of Waiting

Image Courtesy: Facebook Page of 'Waiting'

Cast: Naseeruddin Shah (Shiv Natraj), Kalki Koechlin (Tara Deshpande), Rajat Kapoor (Doctor Nirupam), Suhasini Maniratnam (Pankaja - Shiv’s wife), Arjun Mathur (Tara’s husband - Rajat Deshpande), Rajeev Ravindranathan (Girish), Ratnabali Bhattacharjee (Ishita)
Direction: Anu Menon
Produced by: Priti Gupta and Manish Mundra
Story and Screenplay: Anu Menon, James Ruzicka
Dialogues: Atika Chohan
Music: Mikey McCleary
Cinematography: Neha Parti Matiyani
Edited by: Nitin Baid, Apurva Asrani
Production Company: Ishka Films, Drishyam Films
Release Date: 11th December, 2015 (United Arab Emirates), 27th May, 2016 (India)
Duration: 1 hour 32 minutes
Language: Hindi

Waiting, a film by Anu Menon, showcases the journey of two individuals who are in midst of turbulence and going through most difficult phases of their lives. Anu’s previous feature film was London, Paris, New York. Anu has successfully dealt with the human emotions in this film. The griefs, uncertainties, turbulence, and frustrations of the protagonists are handled so sensibly that in spite of the negative situations in the film, the flavour is very much positive. The film had its world premiere in Dubai International Film Festival, and also at Indian Film Festival at Los Angeles (IFFLA 2016). I had the privilege to watch the film at IFFLA 2016 on 10th April, 2016. One can very well relate to the situations in which protagonists are in the film. Most of us face such situations in our lives, where our dear ones suffer and are in hospital due to old age, or some accidents or some critical illness. When we are sure that our dear ones would be fine with the treatment, we are certainly able to gather the courage to deal with the situations. But what if, there are just uncertainties, one is not sure, whether the medical treatment is going to work or not in their favour, how does one handle self? What if, one has to just ‘Wait’, how does one respond towards that ‘Waiting’. Here is the film of Anu menon, which connects two individuals during their crisis and ‘Waiting’ period in the hospital. A beautiful relationship develops between them, who are from two different backgrounds, two different schools of thoughts, two different age groups, one social-media-savvy and the other doesn’t even know what twitter is, one easily using ‘F***’ and ‘S***’ words, whereas the other is uncomfortable even listening to it. The film does deal with negative situations but it talks about our copability as human beings to cope with the adversities. I think, the plot of the film can be simply conveyed in one sentence, but the beauty of the film is that how the screenplay is developed for this film by Anu Menon and James Ruzicka, which in spite of handling tragedies, is so much positive, full of hope, with so many scenes bringing smile to one’s face and above all with a realistic tone.  A beautiful film indeed about a special relationship between two protagonists who meet in the hospital nursing their respective spouses in coma. The story is conveyed in a very light-hearted manner with lot of banter and insights, which instantly engages the audience.

The film begins with the lens focused on a table clock, where alarm is set for 6 AM and then the focus moves to Naseeruddin Shah, who is already awake on bed and in a thoughtful mode. He switches off the alarm in the usual mode, gets up to be ready. One is unable to anticipate where he is heading to, until the vehicle stops in front of a hospital Aster Medcity (Kochi, Kerala). On his way inside the hospital, he exchanges pleasantries with the doctor, the tea / coffee vending machine in-charge Panickar, asks in regard to the well-being of his daughter, picks up coffee and gives it to the receptionist saying that she is working very hard. Naseeruddin Shah reaches a ward and he appears to be well-versed with medical terminologies, asks the nurse in regard to the vitals of the patient. He instantly feels the need of blood test for the patient. These scenes create a notion that he is a doctor in that hospital. But, when the nurse leaves the ward, he sits beside the patient and addresses her as “So? How is my favourite wife?” That is when we realize that he is there to take care of his wife Pankaja (Suhasini Maniratnam), who is in coma since eight months after a brain stroke.

Entry of Kalki happens in a very interesting sequence (in Mumbai), where she is showing a feminist music video to her friends. The video has her promoting sanitary napkins with a song – ‘Be free’. Both the friends make fun of her. They do share light moments over here.

I felt that these two scenes through which lead protagonists are introduced, are very thoughtfully written and edited, since it gives the audience an insight into the personalities of the two main characters - Shiv Natraj played by Naseeruddin Shah and Tara Deshpande by Kalki.  Shiv’s maturity (a retired professor) and medical awareness and young Tara’s (in her twenties) free spirited nature is shown through these scenes. Tara is shown to be very happy in fast-paced life.

The happy-go-lucky Tara’s world gets upside down, when she gets a visitor Bharat from her husband Rajat Deshpande’s (Arjun Mathur) office, who informs her about Rajat’s accident and his being critical and admitted in Cochin hospital. Tara, absolutely in shock, flies from Mumbai to Cochin. She reaches Aster Medcity where she finds her husband in coma after brain injury.

Waiting in the hospital canteen, she meets Shiv, almost diametrically opposite in nature. Shiv appears balanced, whereas Tara a bit impulsive. Shiv’s composed nature with sense of humour manages to convince Tara to take care of herself atleast till Rajat is in ICU, since it is like taking care of Rajat and asks her not to stop three things - eating, sleeping and bathing. Tara, whose marriage to Rajat (hardly six weeks of marriage) was not supported by either parents, and in spite of having some odd 1400 friends on facebook, followers on twitter, finds herself literally alone while she awaits some positive developments in Rajat’s case. Shiv, who fondly talks about his wonderful 40 years of marriage to Padmaja, also does feel lonely at heart. Shiv feels that people of Tara’s generation are so impulsive, want quick fixes to solutions. In spite of being different, a beautiful relationship develops between Shiv and Tara.

Both Shiv and Tara reach a pivotal point where they have to take crucial decisions (although those decisions don’t guarantee 100% recovery of their spouses). Shiv doesn’t know, how to live without Pankaja and Tara does not know how Rajat would live his life if physically crippled.

Rest of the film is about how Shiv and Tara handle the most difficult phases of their lives. Are Shiv and Tara able to find answers to the human predicament bound to suffering and grief? Are they able to shift their own ideas of attachment and love for their beloved? Are they able to reexamine their own individual ideas of love and attachment? How two different individuals unknown to each other evolve to become kindred spirits and help each other out? How such a grim situation of hospital is handled in the film, what magic the sense of humour creates in such a crisis? The film highlights and makes us ponder over a very vital point: What does it really mean to love someone – is it to let go of your beloved in spite of your emotional need for them or is it to unconditionally accept them in whichever shape or form they are. Are they able to develop a mutual emotional support and be emotional anchor to each other? How do they move forward? How is their journey of inner transformation, when on one side, their world is falling apart externally?

Kalki has captured every emotion of Tara beautifully, be it initially free-spirited nature, or grief-stricken, frustrations dealing with uncertainties, emotional vulnerabilities and outbursts on feeling helpless, lonely, non-decisive. Kalki has done complete justice to Tara.

Naseeruddin Shah is a veteran, and this is another spontaneous and natural performance from him as Shiv.

Rajat Kapoor as Dr. Nirupam becomes a very important part of the story, where he plays a thorough professional and remains unfazed by expectations of Shiv or Tara. He keeps the power of discretion in regard to his patients to himself and is very assertive to decide to do the best for his patients. It is interesting to see him teaching junior doctors to convey bad news to the relatives of the patient. It is always a delight to watch him on screen.

Another treat in the film is the presence of Rajeev Ravindranathan as Girish, an employee of Rajat’s local office of Cochin. He is awesome with his South Indian accent. There are some very good moments of laughter with Tara and Girish on screen. His expressions would leave you in splits.

Ratnabali Bhattacharjee as Ishita, Tara’s close friend, is instrumental in the film to make Tara understand that everybody has their own priorities through her whirlwind visit in the hospital.

There are lots of scenes in the film, which need special mentions but a few of them (without revealing much of the story) are:
  • Tara crying soundlessly seeing her husband Rajat’s terrible condition in ICU
  • Tara asking Doctor Nirupam: Is Rajat going to die?
  • Tara calling up Rajat’s mobile just to hear his voice mail message
  • Tara wearing Rajat’s watch and t-shirt when she gets his bag from Girish
  • Shiv helping Tara to understand different stages of grief – Denial, Anger, Bargaining (Give and Take with God), Depression, and finally acceptance
  • Tara’s bursting out into laughter when Shiv spells out ‘S***’ word for the first time
  • Shiv, when being asked by the doctor to call family members, saying that Pankaja is his only family

There are many more moments in the film. Watch the film to explore them.

The song ‘He zara zara, ab asar hua zara zara…’ gave me goosebumps.

Dialogues by Atika Chohan makes the film interesting. One must appreciate cinematographer Neha Parti for capturing various scenes so beautifully. Editors Nitin Baid and Apurva Asrani have brilliantly edited the film. There is no single moment in the film, where you feel disengaged.

‘Waiting’, a film by Anu Menon, instantly engages the audience by conveying a grim story of tragedies in a very light-hearted manner with lot of banter and insights. The film highlights and makes us ponder over a very vital point: What does it really mean to love someone – is it to let go of your beloved in spite of your emotional need for them or is it to unconditionally accept them in whichever shape or form they are. Wonderfully captured on screen by cinematographer Neha Parti Martiyani and deftly edited by Nitin Baid & Apurva Asrani makes this story of tragedies a delightful watch. A must watch film.

Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

My Experience: Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA 2016)

When I sit down to write this piece on my experience on attending ‘Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA 2016)’ at Los Angeles, USA, I am still carrying the hangover of this wonderful event. Indeed it was a dream come true experience for me. The very atmosphere of film festivals does mesmerize me. Literally I can ‘eat films, drink films and sleep films. I have witnessed a few film festivals in India too and every experience gave me new insights into the world of cinema.

This film festival is special to me due to many personal reasons. Yes, as the first love matters, the ‘first time’ matters. There are many ‘firsts’ in this film festival. This was my first ever International Film Festival. This was my first film festival where I had the Press Badge with me. This was my first International Solo Trip. So, with so many ‘firsts’, this Indian Film Festival at Los Angeles has become a very intriguing experience for me, which I am going to cherish forever in my life. Let me try sharing with you a glimpse of the happenings at IFFLA in the best manner possible, so that I can take you through the corridors of my experience of this wonderful film festival.

Three days spent with lot of excitement

I would like to begin with my first interaction with IFFLA officials which was followed by their connecting me to their PR firm officials Mitch, Karen and Tiffany. Oh, I must say that what a prompt response I got from IFFLA as well as their PR team. I am really impressed with the swiftness with which my all queries were responded, issued me the Press Badge. Witnessed an epitome of professionalism from IFFLA as well as their support team.

My Press Badge
About IFFLA: This was the 14th year of IFFLA. It is a non-profit organization devoted to a greater appreciation of Indian cinema and culture by showcasing films. It has the reputation of its commitment towards supporting and celebrating the new wave of Indian Cinema, promoting a multitude of cinematic perspectives from India and the Indian diaspora, and bridging the gap between the two largest entertainment industries in the world – Hollywood and India. In Christina Marouda’s words (Founder and Chair of the board): “We are thrilled and proud to present an eclectic line-up that reflects the diversity of Indian Cinema, as well as the future of Indian film-making, with cutting-edge filmmakers taking bold risks, defying convention, and responding to injustice.”

The Venue: The venue was ArcLight Hollywood, IFFLA’s home since its inception. A grand venue for the film festival. It is a 14-screen multiplex with great infrastructure.

Image Courtesy: Click Here
Dates: The dates of the 14th Indian Film Festival at Los Angeles were 6-10th April, 2016. Due to my preoccupations, I could not attend initial 2 days, but could attend from 8-10th April, 2016. 

Line up of Films: This festival showcased some of the best films. This year’s programme celebrated women filmmakers as well as regional cinema including films in Tamil, Marathi, Malayalam, Punjabi, Bengali, Urdu and Assamese. The schedule at a glance.

Opening Night Gala: Opening film was director Pan Nalin’s film ‘Angry Indian Goddesses’ - Refer this link, which has gathered rave reviews in India too. 

Image Courtesy: Facebook Page of Angry Indian Goddesses
Opening Night Gala: Image Courtesy
The films shown in the IFFLA are listed below. Links for synopsis of various films are also given. The synopsis' courtesy is  official web page of IFFLA i.e. http://www.indianfilmfestival.org/film-guide-events/film-guide-2016/ 

Hindi Films:                
Aligarh                (Click here for synopsis)     
Island City           (Click here for synopsis)
Masaan                (Click here for synopsis)
Parched               (Click here for synopsis)
Sujata                 (Click here for synopsis)
Umrika                (Click here for synopsis)

Hindi and English Films:
CRD                     (Click here for synopsis)
Khoya                  (Click here for synopsis)

Punjabi and Hindi Film:
Beeba Boys          (Click here for synopsis)

English Films:
Brahman Naman  (Click here for synopsis)
The Tiger Hunter (Click here for synopsis)

Tamil Film:
Kirumi (Virus)      (Click here for synopsis)
Visaaranai (Interrogation)  (Click here for synopsis)

Tamil and English Film:
For the Love of a Man  (Click here for synopsis)

Assamese Film:
Kothanodi (River of Fables)  (Click here for synopsis)

Malayalam Film:
Ottaal (The trap)   (Click here for synopsis)

Short Films:
Playgrounds (Hindi and Tamil)

Love comes later (English)

Shorts Programme 1(Click here for synopsis)
Ashrut (Silent Voices) (Bengali)  
Bunny (Non Dialogue)                
Daaravtha (The Threshold) (Marathi)  
The Manliest Man (Hindi and Bundeli)  

Shorts Programme 2 (Click here for synopsis) :
Babu’s Dilemma (Hindi and English)     
Chhaya (The shadow) (Non-dialogue)  
Leeches (Urdu and Dakhani)               
Mast Qalandar (Punjabi and Hindi)       
Mochi (The Cobbler) (Hindi and Marathi)  

Closing Night Gala: Closing film was director Anu Menon’s film ‘Waiting’ (Refer here), which is going to be released in India on 29th April, 2016.

Image Courtesy: IFFLA's official page
A beautiful film which touched my heart. Click here for its detailed review.

The Filmmaker Roundtable: Another highlight of this film festival was ‘The Filmmaker Roundtable). Nine filmmakers participated actively where discussions revolved around the independent cinemas getting more visibility, acceptance, Indian censor board policies and collaborating as a community to grow and evolve further. This was moderated by John Nein (senior Programmer, Sundance Film Festival) – Extreme left in the photograph below. The filmmakers who made this a very interesting discussion were (Left-right in the photograph) : Anu Menon (Waiting), Q (Brahman Naman), Ruchika Oberoi (Island City), Leena Yadav (Parched), Sami Khan (Khoya), Hansal Mehta (Aligarh), Kranti Kanade (CRD), Bhaskar Hazarika (Kothanodi), Vettri Maran (Visaaranai)  

My personal favourites: Since I could attend only 3-days film festival, my personal favourites don’t cover two-days’ films. Out of the films I watched, my favourites are : Aligarh, Masaan, Waiting, Parched, Visaaranai. Please do read my reviews of Aligarh (Click here), Masaan (Click here) and Waiting (Click here). I would certainly be posting review of Parched too.

The film festival ended on 10th April, 2016 with a grand dinner and cocktail party organized at Spice Affair, Beverly Hills. DJ created a perfect environment and the filmmakers as well as film lovers danced together.

The Award winners: Grand Jury Awards as well as Audience Choice Awards were declared.

Grand Jury Awards:
Best Feature: Visaaranai (Interrogation)
Best Actor: Sanjay Mishra (Masaan)
Best Actress: The Cast of Parched – Tannishtha Chatterjee, Radhika Apte, Surveen Chawla, Lehar Khan
Feature Honourable Mention: Aligarh
Feature Honourable Mention: Masaan
Best Short Film: Playgrounds
Short Film Honourable Mention: Leeches
Short Film Honourable Mention: The Manliest Man

Audience Choice Awards:
Best Feature: Parched
Best Short: Daarvatha (The Threshold)

My personal feeling: I really feel elated with this opportunity of getting to attend IFFLA. And as always, I really get delighted to meet the film makers and film personalities in person, interact with them, to know regarding their challenges and highs of film industry. And yes, as always, my selfie-spree continues.

Indian Film festival at Los Angeles certainly could bring the best films to its platform. A very well organized film festival. Kudos to IFFLA team.