Film: The Nun
Cast: Demián Bichir, Taissa Farmiga, Jonas Bloquet
Directed by: Corin Hardy
Duration: 1 hr 45 mins
Rating: * *
The world of Conjuring seems to be expanding faster than our universe – there have been two Conjuring and Annabelle films (part 3 for both have already been announced) and now we also have The Nun, which will be followed by The Crooked Man. All this has happened in a span of five years, since James Wan made The Conjuring (2013) which was the best of the lot, by a mile. None of the other films have come close and the new installment has absolutely nothing new to offer. Blame it on the Warrens who started it – they invented the stories and have been proven to be frauds, but that is another story.
The Nun plays everything by the book – radio’s that switch on by themselves, people who wander off in the middle of the night (and walk into a graveyard, if you please), crosses that turn upside down, demons that are scared of prayer and holy water (not necessarily in that order), hands that come out of nowhere and grab the neck and the standard shot that is used umpteen times – the camera pans away from a character and when it pans back, there is someone standing behind. A few young adults in the audience gasped – in a few years time and a handful of horror films later, they will know better, hopefully.
The screenplay doesn’t really care about the characters or the story – it is just about cobbling up situations so that jump scares and loud sounds can be used.
The story is set in Romania after WWII, in the 1950’s. The Abbey of St Carta is situated in an extremely remote village in a medieval castle that looks doomed. There is proper signage though in the castle, including one which says in Latin, “God Ends Here”. Somehow all the satanic demons had been sentenced to hibernation but they have made a comeback because the ‘portal’ is open. I even caught a reference to a ‘gateway’ through which demons are coming back – maybe they should have just upgraded their firewall in time.
At the abbey, a nun commits suicide and jumps off the window clutching a key, after a demonic attack.
The Vatican then sends Father Burke (Demián Bichir) to investigate the matter along with Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga, younger sister of Vera, who plays Mrs Warren) who is a novitiate, she hasn’t taken her vows yet but still she is sent to this castle in the forest because of her ‘visions’.
A young villager Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet) provides them with local support – he was the one who found the body. He had left the corpse in the cellar in a horizontal position but defying the laws of gravity, it moves into a vertical position but the trio isn’t particularly perturbed about it. Speaking of gravity, there is also a scene with Sr Irene which is reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal video.
Father Burke’s primary job is to roam in and around the abbey in the middle of the night with a lantern. At one point, he is even buried alive, a bit like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill Vol 2. The good Father has a bell at his disposal though which is conveniently kept for those who were mistakenly buried alive.
Throughout, the scares are of the manipulative type – the sound does most of the work, if you have a hearing problem, you may not feel a single jump scare. Apart from that, there is the mandatory lines like “There is a powerful evil presence here…” and other such gibberish. Valak, the demonic nun, whom my fellow audience member was eagerly waiting for, has a passing reference.
All in all, this is just another brick in the Conjuring wall.
Cast: Tathastu, Ranvir Sheorey, Paoli Dam
Directed by: Nila Madhab Panda
Duration: 1 hr 45 mins
Rating: * *
Halkaa is a children’s version of Toilet: Ek Prem Katha – it is a well intentioned film but the execution doesn’t quite match up to it. Made with the support of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs and the Shiv Nadar Foundation, it is a cross between a corporate film and a feature.
The story is of Pichku (Tatahstu), a little boy from a slum who can’t do his morning job on the railway tracks, or any other place with people around. He lights incense in house to cover up the smell and does his job on a newspaper when no one is around, much to his father’s (Ranvir Sheorey) annoyance.
Like the son, his mother (Paoli Dam) also tries to convince her hubby to build a toilet but he is saving money to buy an auto rickshaw. But Pichku is not one to give up – he single handedly sets out on an endeavor to build a toilet along with partners, another boy Gopi and a quack (Kumud Mishra), all of whom face the same problem of defecating in the open.
Since a couple of corporate are involved with the film, they get their due – it also looks like a pound of flesh actually. While the story and the story telling is rather simplistic, there is the odd nice touch but several that are rather convenient as well.
Love’s Labour Lost
Film: Laila Majnu
Cast: Tripti Dimri, Avinash Tiwary, Parmeet Sethi
Directed by: Sajid Ali
Duration: 2 hrs 10 mins
Rating: * *
Based on the age old Persian poem which has been called as the story of Romeo and Juliet of the east, Laila Majnu is a modern day adaptation, set in Kashmir. Co-written by Imtiaz Ali (the Jab Harry Met Sejal effect has not gone fully) and director Sajid Ali, the film is a slog, thanks to the screenplay which lacks chutzpah.
The story has served as an inspiration to many – there has been a film of the same name starring Rishi Kapoor and Ranjeeta in 1976 (with popular songs like Husn hazir hain and Main tere dar pe aaya hoon) and even Eric Clapton wrote Layla after reading about the star crossed lovers.
Here we have a Kashmir ki Kali Laila (Tripti Dimri) who bumps across Qais (Avinash Tiwary) after he, gulp, pees on her sister. I would like to add hastily, that it is accidental. Like most admirers of Maine Pyaar Kiya (1989), her idea of romance is a bit filmy. The story also takes a filmy turn as the parents of the boy and girl are at loggerheads- they will not accept an alliance.
In the second half of the film, his mental health goes down as he severely afflicted with Loveria. Not being able to see his lover, drives him crazy, literally. But as an audience you don’t feel much as to how he got there. You can empathise once he is already there but that’s about it.
There is only so much you can see of lover who has lost his mind and has conversations with an imaginary person. We get the point that he has gone mad in love – what’s next? The story moves around in circles without engaging you.
Avinash Tiwary as the Majnu fares much better than Tripti Dimri as Laila – she does look a bit conscious and awkward in a few scenes. The Kashmir backdrop looks beautiful, far more beautiful than the love story. And that is rather tragic in a way.
In The Army Now
Cast: Arjun Rampal, Sonu Sood, Harshvardhan Rane
Directed by: J.P. Dutta
Duration: 2 hr 35 mins
Rating: * *
Director J.P. Dutta struck gold with Border (1997) which was 20 years ago – after that he made Refugee (2000) and LOC: Kargil (2003), both sank without a trace followed by his last film Umrao Jaan, which was in 2006.
He returns with another war movie, this time on the other side of the border, China. The skirmishes between Indian and Chinese troops took place at the Nathu La Pass and if you go by the film, the impasse was created as a bunch of kids and not soldiers were bickering with each other.
The screenplay is full on filmy – there is no depth to the characters and even the proceedings look far from convincing. The Chinese are made to look unintentionally comical at times and on the whole, this is more like an action rather than a war film.
Jackie Shroff plays a Major General who occasionally pops in to see if everything is okay at the Nathu La Pass. He participated in the 1962 war against when India suffered heavy casualties; hence he is a bit weary of the Chinese. Arjun Rampal is a Lieutenant colonel who is entrusted with the guarding that strategic pass and he has a bunch of soldiers under his command – including some hot headed who can’t wait to attack the enemy. Some of our soldiers even love to roam shirtless in freezing conditions – the director primarily wants to show that they could walk the ramp at a fashion show.
In flashbacks, most of them dull but not too long, we are told about the personal lives of the central characters. All of them have loved ones behind, some also have lovers.
There are very few redeeming factors in the storytelling – most of it is dreary. When everything is reduced to black and white, the story doesn’t seem real anymore. The climax has some loud booms and bangs and we are told about the perils and destruction of war – too little, too late, in the context of the film
Mind And Matter
Film: Gali Guleiyan
Cast: Manoj Bajpayee, Neeraj Kabi, Om Singh
Directed by: Dipesh Jain
Duration: 1 hr 52 mins
Rating: * * * *
Once in a while you get a little gem like Gali Guleiyan (screened at various festivals as In The Shadows) a film that keeps your faith in good story telling. Written and directed by debutante Dipesh Jain, it soaks you in its atmospherics making the characters and the setting as authentic as it can get. The story is set in a maze of by lanes in Delhi where a zillion wires and cables hang in the air, the noise is like that of a rock concert and the walls of houses are either crushing or embracing each other.
In that chaotic world lives a loner, Khuddus (Manoj Bajpayee, another stellar performance) and the film begins with quote from William S Burroughs’s – “There are no innocent bystanders, what are they doing there in the first place?” Khuddus has no social life, in fact he hardly interacts with human beings. His only friend is Ganeshi (Ranvir Sheorey) who comes to see him once in a while and the fact that he also brings groceries and lends money, shows that our loner is not well off. Khuddos lives in his shanty room with old electronic equipment lying around. His fascination is with hidden cameras which he has put around the neighborhood, he sits and watches their lives go by. He is a voyeur but not the sexual type.
A parallel story that runs is that of Idu (Om Singh), a teenager who doesn’t quite like his father (Neeraj Kabi) who is a butcher, and the boy has a good reason to dislike him – he is violent man and a terror at home. Idu’s mother (Shahana Goswami) is also at the receiving end but she does her best at all times to protect her son.
Through flimsy walls, Khuddus learns of the little boy’s torments and sets out on a mission to ‘rescue’ him. The interiors and exteriors, both are fascinating. German cinematographer Kai Miedendorp’s camera makes that part of Delhi come alive without being obtrusive. The use of sound is also very cleverly used, particularly in that scene where Khuddus sets out to follow the boy.
While the hidden cameras give an indication at the start that this might have thrilling elements, this one turns into a psychological drama and a very engaging one.
The supporting cast of Neeraj Kabi and Shahana Goswami fit in their roles comfortably; Om Singh does very well as the boy who is looking to break free. Manoj Bajpayee delivers yet another stupendous performance – he makes you feel that little extra for his character with the manner in which he plays it.
Pity there is only one show of this film running that too late in the night – but it is well worth the time.