Film: Titli, Cast: Shashank Arora, Ranvir Sheorey, Amit Sial, Shivani Raghuvanshi, Directed by: Kanu Behl, Duration: 2 hrs 2 mins, Rating: * * * *
In Titli, three brothers who are into carjacking pull all stops to ensure that their endeavour is successful. At some point, one of them realises that they need a female accomplice to pull off their deeds. They arrange the marriage of the youngest brother so that the new bride can be a partner in their crime. Titli is about a family, but not so much about loving them, in fact, it is the anti-thesis of a Barjatya family. It is more of a family that eats together and beats together. Directed by debutant Kanu Behl, it is gritty, powerful and stays with you long after you have left the theatre.
Set in a part of Delhi that you don’t see often in Hindi cinema, Titli (Shashank Arora) is the youngest of the three brothers living in a shanty neighbourhood. His plan is to break free from the world of crime and do something worthwhile. Little Titli wants to fly, but can’t. The eldest brother (Ranvir Sheorey) works as a security guard, but his main livelihood is carjacking. He is hot headed and violent and hence his wife, along with a kid, has left him and now she is living with a ‘friend’. The other brother Bawla (Amit Sial) is calmer and calculating, but when the time comes he can also literally go hammer and tongs. The father meanwhile is a mute spectator to all that has been happening around him – he gave up violence years ago after a trip to Vaishno Devi.
Neelu (Shivani Raghuvanshi) is the new bride. Their hopes of her joining them in their criminal demeanours are dashed when she comes up with an agenda of her own.
Whether it is the men or the women, there are no happy souls in Titli. The women also have to bear the brunt of being dominated and manipulated by the men.
The family is dysfunctional for sure, but individually, in a city whose aspirations are touching the sky, their survival is at stake. This is a dog eat dog world.
There are several elements that come together in making Titli an extraordinary film. The writing by Kanu Behl and Sharat Kataria gives us characters that are very finely etched. Whether it is the ex-wife, the father or the main protagonists, we know exactly what they are and where they stand in the scheme of things. Come to think of it, there could be one film from each of the characters perspective.
There are several scenes to marvel – the metaphoric climbing of stairs in a loop, or the scene where the newlywed couple broker a deal, the outcome is rather shocking. In the next scene we see shots of the city and high rise buildings, indicating the evil that the city makes people indulge in.
This is one of the most finely edited films and Namrata Rao has done her job with surgical precision. Take the scene where the couple has a tiff over how a particular matter of delivering a birthday present should be handled – the next shot quickly cuts to the gift hanging on a scooter, resolving the debate they were having.
The performances are terrific. Newcomer Shashank Arora is utterly convincing in portraying the desperation of his character and Shivani Raghuvanshi as the woman chasing her dream is impressive. Ranvir Sheorey shows his prowess as an actor in this meaty role.
Titli is a film that will leave you shaken and stirred.
Old wine, old bottle
Film: Paranormal Activity – The Ghost Dimension, Cast: Chris J Murray, Brit Shaw, Ivy George, Directed by: Gregory Plotkin, Duration: 1 hr 28 mins, Rating: * 1 / 2
The tag line of Paranormal Activity – The Ghost Dimension says ‘For the first time, you will see the activity’. The ‘activity’ is actually something we have seen in a zillion horror film. This genre of films from Hollywood are really getting scary, but not for the reason that they are intended to be. They are an ordeal to sit through and this sixth edition of Paranormal Activity is no different.
Since 2009, virtually every year there has been one Paranormal Activity film and it is hard to keep a track of all that has been happening. This one is supposed to be the last, and that is a relief.
This time around too a family moves into a house where they discover strange things happening. In real life I haven’t come across any but these people like to put a camera on when anything bizarre happens in the house. The young girl starts talking to an imaginary character called Toby and the rest of the film pretty much moves on auto pilot.
There are the usual jump scares and characters behave like they do only in such horror movies.
It is amazing how the same stuff is dished out year after year – there must be enough takers and Paranormal Activity has been one heck of a cash cow.
Film: Goosebumps, Cast: Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Directed by: Rob Letterman, Duration: 1 hr 43 mins, Rating: ** 1 / 2
Those who grew up on R L Stine’s books will have mixed feelings watching Goosebumps. Instead of adapting one of his stories the filmmakers have opted to go for the jugular by doing a mash up of as many characters as possible.
Those who haven’t read the books will wonder why the film is in a loop, where one creature goes and the next one comes and this process is repeated again and again.
The story is about a teenager Zach (Dylan Minnette), who moves to a new neighbourhood along with his widowed mom (Amy Ryan). He takes a liking for the girl next door (Odeya Rush) ignoring the father (Jack Black), who eventually turns out to be R L Stine.
But not before Zach and his friend opens one of his books, which has the power to bring alive the monster mentioned in it. It starts with the Abominable Snowman of Pasadena and one by one the other characters are unleashed.
From there on the chase begins as they all keep running. The creatures even attack a school ball. The CGI works overtime and the chases scenes are neither scary nor exciting. It then gets to a point where you want it to be over and done with.
Jack Black at times looks unsure of what his facial expressions should be. At times he tries to be funny and the next moment he has a serious face. All in all, Goosebumps is passable.
Woh con tha
Film: Main Aur Charles, Cast: Randeep Hooda, Adil Hussain, Richa Chaddha, Directed by: Prawal Raman, Duration: 2 hrs 5 mins, Rating: * *
Main Aur Charles is a film based on the colourful life and intriguing personality of the serial killer Charles Shobraj. Unfortunately, the film ends up being neither a thriller nor a biopic, thanks to a flawed script. It is not a complete washout though because the period drama element works well
A simple Wikipedia reading tells us that Shobraj had a very eventful life. He had a magnetic personality so it was easy for him to befriend people and then he killed or duped more than a handful of people.
The film opens in the late 60s in Thailand and moves into top gear right away. In fact, it moves way too fast. A dead woman is found and then another one followed by another one. The culprit Charles (Randeep Hooda) is arrested in Delhi and sent to jail from where he escapes. All this happens in a jiffy. The Delhi police led by Amod Kant (Adil Hussain) try to hunt him down and the Bombay cop Sudhakar Zhende (Nandu Madhav) is hot on his heels. Richa Chaddha plays a law student who is in love with Charles, in spite knowing his past.
During the trial, through flashbacks some of the incidents that happened in a hurry in the beginning are explained in a somewhat lame attempt to infuse the thriller element. The bane is the script that tries to be cleverer than it is. There is too much of an effort to dramatise it – for instance there was no electronic media in the 70s and 80s to shove their mikes around and yet we see them more than once.
Some of the exciting moments, like Charles’ famous arrest at a restaurant in Goa should have been a thrilling sequence but it ends up being a cop out. Among the positives, Amit Trivedi’s retro music score works well.
On the whole, Charles disappoints, but not terribly.
Lives of others
Film: Khwada (Marathi with English subtitles. Showing at Z Square Cinemas), Cast: Shashank Shende, Bhau Shinde, Anil Nagarkar, Directed by: Bhaurao Karhade, Duration: 2 hrs, Rating: ****
Someone should quickly bag the rights to make a film on the director Bhaurao Karhade. Hailing from a village, he has studied up to standard IV and is the most literate person in his family of farmers. He is just his 30s and he sold off part of his ancestral village land and pawned the rest to get a loan to make Khwada.
This year, the film won a Special Jury prize at the National Awards along with another prize for best sound (Mahaveer Sabbanwal).
But it is not the personal story of Bhaurao Karhade that makes the film great. It is his understanding of human ethos, the shifts that are taking place and the portrayal of it that makes the film stand out.
It has the anger of a Shyam Benegal’s Ankur and the rustic style of Kazakh filmmaker Sergei Dvortsevoy’s award winning Tulpan (2008).
Set in a village, this is the story of a nomadic Shepherd community. Raghu (Shashank Shende) is the patriarch, who lives with his family. They keep moving from one place to the other along with their livestock. The son Balu (Bhau Shinde) fancies wrestling and getting married – both with equal zest. In passing, a court case is mentioned where the forest department has acquired their land and the father is fighting to get it back.
We are given a background about their simplistic lifestyle and the conflict follows later. The title of the film after all means ‘obstacles’. They get into a row with a local politician (Anil Nagarkar) leading to an unexpected rousing climax – desperate situations need desperate measures.
The strength of Khawada lies in the fact that it keeps it simple. Neither is there any preaching nor is there any forceful attempt to evoke sympathy. You do feel for the characters, but that comes naturally. All they want is to be left alone but even that is asking for too much. Karhade not only has an understanding of the problems and travails that the community faces but also puts the same across in a very effective manner.
The performances are serviceable. The talented Shashank Shende looks every bit of the character that he plays and Bhau Shinde, though he doesn’t speak much, gives a sincere performance.
Khwada is a telling tale about the lives of others.
The raw and the cooked
Film: Burnt, Cast: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Daniel Bruhl, Directed by: John Wells, Duration: 1 hr 41 mins, Rating: ** 1 / 2
Burnt can be best described as a formula film. John Favreau made the endearing Chef last year (there was also The Hundred Foot Journey) and Burnt is a film that has come too early after that. It isn’t a bad or a boring film, it is just way too predictable and plays it by the numbers.
Bradley Cooper plays Adam, a chef whose motto is ‘if the food isn’t perfect it has to be thrown away.’ The audience could also perhaps use the same yard stick while judging this film.
Among other notions that he has is that the food has to be so good that one should have an orgasm after tasting it – sort of.
He may be a good chef, but he has had his share of problems with drugs and sex. He wants to make amends now by targeting the much revered three-star rating by Michelin. He bullies Tony (Daniel Bruhl) into handing over the kitchen of his fine dine restaurant and handpicks the staff. One of them is Helene (Sienna Miller), who gets the short end of the stick when the opening night doesn’t fare too well.
There’s Emma Thompson, who plays his shrink, and Uma Thurman is seen as a food critic in a cameo.
We learn that the job of a chef is a high pressure job and that perfection is everything when it comes to cooking.
The romance between Cooper and Miller has been filled in just to add some more screen time, given their individual lifestyles they are like chalk and cheese, never mind if, as a chef, he sees a bit of him in her.
Close ups of food (mostly non vegetarian in case you want to know) and a lot of hustle bustle in the kitchen doesn’t necessarily make an enchanting film. But then if you are a foodie you might come out feeling famished after watching those close-ups.