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Film review – Sachin Chatte

Love on the run

Film: Sairat (Marathi with English subtitles) , Cast:  Rinku Rajguru, Akash Thosar, Tanaji Galgunde, Arbaj Shaikh, Directed by: Nagraj Popatrao Manjule, Duration: 2 hr 54 mins, Rating:  * * * *

After his smashing debut with Fandry a few years back, director Nagraj Manjule has followed it up with yet another winner with Sairat. While his first film revolved strictly around the caste divide, this time the canvas is marginally bigger. The story is still set in the hinterlands of Maharashtra, a milieu that Manjule understands and knows how to depict with remarkable finesse.

In a very loose sense, the basic plot of Sairat- poor boy falling in love with a rich girl (there is also a caste angle to it) is something that Bollywood has done to death. But the devil lies in the detail and Manjule’s superior writing and direction which makes all the difference – in fact this is a master class in visual storytelling.  It is all the more credible because Sairat, which premiered at the Berlin film festival this year, has a more commercial approach and yet it makes some telling comments about society.

Prashant aka Parshya (Akash Thosar) is a first year student who belongs to the fisher folk community – he is good in academics, a champion cricketer and loves to swim. He has eyes only for Archana aka Archie (Rinku Rajguru) the daughter of an influential local politician who belongs to the upper caste. Parshya is ably assisted by his friends (Tanaji Galgunde and Arbaj Sheikh) to pursue Archie but she is in a league of her own. She rides her brothers Royal Enfield and he father’s tractor and is a strong willed young woman who never cows down. She even orders the boys swimming in the well to get lost from there because the girls want to swim. She reciprocates in no uncertain terms after Parshaya makes his feelings obvious to her. After all, in the matters of the heart, caste has no role to play. Again, as an example of will and independence, it is she who takes the lead in their courtship.

But they are star crossed lovers – all hell breaks loose when the girl’s family finds out – you can mess around with anyone but the worst thing one can do in villages is to take on the high and mighty. They decide to elope but soon they discover that life is not a bed of roses.

The first half of Sairat is extraordinarily brilliant – it raises the bar so high that in a film that runs for close to three hours, it would be difficult to sustain it. That is not to say that the second half is a letdown – far from it, Manjule gives us a reality check in the latter half.  His writing and direction have a surgical precision to it.

The director also makes good use of various visual techniques- take the scene where Parshya sends a love letter with a little boy to Archie, the camera keeps panning from one side to the other as the responses fly thick and fast. Slow motion is a technique that is often misused in our films but even that is used marvelously in Sairat, especially in the songs.

I can’t remember the last time I was actually looking forward to songs in a film – Manjule has filmed them with a zing that only be compared to Mani Ratnam. Ajay-Atul’s music is one of the best in contemporary times and the whole the visuals plus music combination makes one heck of a package.

The director also has a knack for extracting eye catching performances – Akash Thosar and his friends are aptly cast and Rinku Rajguru delivers a noteworthy performance as Archie.

In sum, Sairat is another triumph for director Nagraj Manjule.

 

A Taut Thriller

Film: 10 Cloverfield Lane, Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, John Gallagher Jr., Directed by: Dan Trachtenberg, Duration: 1 hr 43 mins, Rating: *  *  *  *

Although it was not meant to be linked to the 2008 film Cloverfield, 10 Cloverfield Lane serves as a prequel to it. You don’t have to know about the previous the film, though, to enjoy this debut by Dan Trachtenberg which is one of the better original films we have seen in recent times. Unlike Cloverfield, there are no shaky cameras, it remains steady and for most parts, it stays within the four walls of a bunker.

Backed by a very clever script that relies more on psychological drama rather than gimmicks, 10 Cloverfield Lane is riveting right from the word go. Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) meets with a nasty accident on a lonely highway in the middle of the night. When she wakes up she finds her leg chained in an IV drip and a room that doesn’t remotely resemble a hospital. With a big iron door and a minimalist room it looks like she is kept captive. The man in question who keeps her there is Howard (John Goodman), he speaks softly and politely to her but at the same time there is something creepy about him. He tells her not to fight with him and her only chance of survival is to stay with him in the bunker.

His reason is most fascinating – after her accident, there was a chemical attack by aliens which wiped out humanity and the air outside is not breathable anymore. The third person in the bunker is Emmett (John Gallagher Jr) who believes that every word of Howard is true. But Michelle is not convinced initially. It appears that Howard is a one of that doomsday conspiracy theorist but then an incident makes them believe that he may be right. Besides, he appears to be a very sympathetic character at times but the question mark remains.

Even though there are just three characters locked up in a bunker, there is sufficient tension in the air to keep you riveted before the climax which has a JJ Abrams (he is the producer) touch to it, hits you.

As the audience, it also plays on your mind as to what the truth might be. What was also impressive, the screenplay skillfully creates situations and resolves them adding layers to the whole situation. Given that the film takes place in just a couple of rooms, the feeling of claustrophobia becomes apparent.

The performances help considerably – John Goodman is a seasoned actor and he portrays the creepy Howard as well as the good guy conviction. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is an underrated actress but this role gives an opportunity to show her prowess.  The film apparently cost barely $ 10 million to make, it packs in far more thrills than most big budget Hollywood flicks.

 

Fractal Numbers

Film: The Man Who Knew Infinity, Cast: Dev Patel, Jeremy Irons, Toby Jones, Directed by: Mathew Brown, Duration: 1 hr 48 mins, Rating: * * *

Based Robert Kanigel’s 1991 biography he Man Who Knew Infinity is about India’s most celebrated mathematician, Srinavas Ramanujan. In India, leave alone elsewhere, little is known about him except that he was a genius at mathematics and that he died young.

In a gist, his most important works were under the tutelage of the British mathematician G.H. Hardy, during the First World War and his contribution has been significant in the field of number theory, continued fractions and partitions.

We are first introduced to Ramanujan (Dev Patel) when he young man obsessed with Mathematics. No one took him seriously because there was no one who could understand his work, or have faith in him. His newly married bride (Devika Bhise) is supportive of him, especially when he gets an opportunity to travel to England after Hardy (Jeremy Irons) is impressed with his work. His mother though is not particularly pleased but Ramanujan lands at the Trinity College (the film was shot on location), Hardy takes an instant liking to him and also recognizes his potential. Not everyone is friendly though, there was a lot of hostility that the young Mathematician faced in that period.

The friendship was rather unusual – Hardy was an atheist while Ramanujan was a very spiritual man – an equation has no meaning unless it expresses a thought of God he says.  Their approach to their subject was also different, being an academic Hardy firmly believed in the proofs not just the conclusions drawn and since the Indian mathematician was not formally trained, for him, the results mattered more than the proof.

Even though the conversations may not always be enlightening, whenever Hardy and Ramanujan are having a conversation, it is engaging.  The story though cuts back and forth to his family back in India where mother and daughter-in-law are battling it out.

Given the nature of the subject, it was not easy for the screenplay to integrate Ramanujan’s achievements in a way in which everyone could understand, sadly that gets relegated to the end credits.

In the lead role Dev Patel is sincere but Jeremy Irons steals the show here with his commanding performance as Hardy.

 

Oh No, Ma !

Film: Mother’s Day, Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Julia Roberts, Jason Sudeikis, Directed by: Garry Marshall, Duration: 2 hrs, Rating: * *

First they designed cards for such occasions and now they are making films.

Director Garry Marshall made Pretty Woman in the early 90’s and that remains his claim to fame. Since then he has also made eminently forgettable films like Raising Helen, Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve.

With Mother’s Day, he is clearly out of his depth because the story has so little to offer. There is a line-up of big stars but beyond that, there is nothing going for it.

With Mother’s Day around the corner this is just another gimmicky film to get you all sentimental. The only feeling that I could in those two hours was of sheer boredom.

There are a bunch of characters in the films starting with Sandy (Jennifer Aniston), a single mother of two boys. She is amicably separated from her husband and turns out he has just remarried, this time to someone who looks half his age.

Jesse (Kate Hudson) is married to an Indian but her parents don’t know about it while her sister is married to a woman. Jason Sudeikis plays a single dad to two teenage girls, his wife who served in the army is long gone. Then there is Kristen and her aspiring stand-up comedian boyfriend who live with their toddler daughter, he is desperate to marry her as if Armageddon is around the corner.

More: Julia Roberts is a home shopping host and a rather popular one not to mention rich.

They all have some kind of issues but none that will engage you. Moreover, the culture is presumably so typically American, that you can’t quite relate to it. In fact, even if you could, the film still remains a dud. You are better off staring at a Mother’s Day card for two hours.

 

Action Jackson

Film: Baaghi, Cast: Tiger Shroff, Shraddha Kapoor, Sudheer Babu, Directed by: Sabbir Khan, Duration: 2 hrs 10 mins, Rating: * *

The trailer of Baaghi gave an idea of the body count in this Sabbir Khan directed film, I can’t quite recollect  the exact number but suffice to say that a record number of bones are broken in this film inspired by the Telugu hit Varsham (2004) and the climax is reminiscent of  the Indonesian flick The Raid: Redemption (2011).

But Baaghi primarily caters to the lowest of lowest common denominator. The screenplay is cobbled up to have some bone breaking action sequences with of course the all important romance. Whenever the lovers meet, it rains. Or wait, was it the other way around? Either way, you couldn’t care less.

Ronny (Tiger Shroff) falls in love with Sia (Shraddha Kapoor), thanks to the Indian Railways. That is the first time it rains although there is bright sunshine around. The next time they bump across each other is in Kerala. His father sends him to learn the Kalaripayattu – a 14th century form of martial arts which we are told was a precursor to Kung Fu in China. Guruswamy played by Shifuji Shaurya Bharadwaj a Kalaripayattu exponent himself, trains the Ronny who already has countless abs but no discipline in life.

Guru’s son Raghav (Sudheer Babu, badminton player turned actor) deals with all sorts of nefarious activities in Bangkok. He also falls in love with Sia complicating matters further.

After the baddie kidnaps Sia and takes her all the way to Bangkok, Ronnie decides, love ke liye kuch bhi karega.  In a mansion that resembles the one in Raid: Redemption, he has to break many bones and skulls, we even get to see the xray of the broken bones as they are broken. Not to be left behind, the lady also gets to show are skills.

Tiger Shroff is clearly more comfortable with action rather than romance or emotion. While some of the action scenes are well done, the lame story doesn’t hold your interest. There is some standard comic relief as well in the form of Sanjay Mishra who certainly deserves better. And so do you.

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