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Monday, December 5, 2016

Kahaani 2 - repeating circles

Kahaani 2
(The Story, 2)
2016, Hindi
directed by Sujoy Ghosh

Vidya Balan as Vidya Sinha/Durga Rani Singh
Arjun Rampal as Sub-inspector Inderjeet Singh
Naisha Khanna as Child Minnie Dewan
Tunisha Sharma as Young Minnie
Jugal Hansraj as Mohit Dewan

Mohan's Measure ✳  ✳  ✳  

Her name is that of an old movie star, Vidya Sinha.  She lies in a coma in run-down hospital as a cop investigates her story through one of the only good pieces of evidence he can find, her diary.

Kaahani 2 has the same dark, complex setting of Kolkatta for its story, but it is not a sequel. Instead, it is the story of yet another strong woman who makes a tryst with destiny to gain justice.  Vidya Balan is truly brilliant in her role as Vidya Sinha, who turns out to be Durga Rani Singh, ex-wife to the investigating officer, SI Singh.  Through her words, we learn of her strength, her dark secret, and her obsession to heal old wounds, no doubt vicariously, by saving the life of a young girl; a child with her own dark secret eulogized on paper as repetitive circles.

We have to read past the story and the sometimes exaggerated plot twists to see a message here, a powerful message about yet another tabooed discussion in India's propriety-driven society.  For as Ms. Singh tells us, child abusers are normal people to everyone else, educated, cultured, part and parcel of mainstream society.  What is hidden behind their four walls is something only the child really knows and suffers through, over and over again, like the circles in Minnie's drawings.

Over the top top though it may be, much like the original, to end suffering and cruelty, a goddess needs to awaken.  This time, from a coma to save a child.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Ekkadiki Pothavu Chinnavada - keep you in high spirits

Ekkadiki Pothavu Chinnavada
(where are you going to go, young man?)
Telugu, 2016
Directed by Vi Anand
Nikhil Siddharth as Arjun
Hebah Patel as Amala/Nithya
Nandita Swetha as Amala/Parvathi
Avika Gor as Ayesha/Amala

Vennela Kishore - Kishore

Mohan's Measure ✳  ✳  ✳ 

Ekkadiki Pothavu Chinnavada works because it doesn't spare on the scary part nor the humor.

Nikhil plays Arjun, a bridegroom abandoned on the altar, now giving up on the idea of ever meeting the right woman.   He is forced to take his friend to see a witch doctor in Kerala where he meets someone named Amala, and instantly finds himself head over heels in love with her.

The trick - Amala died four years before, and the girl who claims to be her now says she isn't her!

Vennela Kishore and Nikhil are the key to the story's success playing off everything from Chandramukhi, Brindavanam, even Kabali, to bring a humorous overtone to this frightening love tale.

While the two actresses in question are not the best of actors, they are charming enough to draw our attention, creating a love triangle, where Amala competes with herself for a man's love.

Have you confused? The movie will too, and will also bring a lot of chuckles.  Worth the watch.

Dear Zindagi - psyched!

Dear Zindagi 
(Dear Life)
2016, Hindi
Directed by Gauri Shinde
Alia Bhatt as Kaira
Shah Rukh Khan as Dr. Jehangir Khan
Ira Dubey as Fatty
Yashaswini Dayama as Jackie
Rohit Saraf as Kido

Kunal Kapoor as Raghuvendra

Mohan's Measure 

Alia Bhatt can't seem to keep hers in the same bed in Dear Zindagi, an irritatingly long style-over substance movie which continues in the ever-growing line of millennial movies gone overboard.

Alia is Kaira, aka Koko, a young woman who is going through more boyfriends than her friends or family can stand.  She decides to do something so she meets up with strong, silent Dr. Khan, whose less than standard method of psycho-therapy leads her to to find herself and happiness, all in six easy lessons.  He instantly reassures her that boyfriends are like chairs; you've got to try out several until you find the right fit - the amoral solution being the best one for millennials. 

If real-world psychotherapy were this glamorous and this easy, perhaps more Indians would take advantage of it.  Certainly we find ourselves questioning our own sanity when discovering the simple reason that Kaira doesn't trust commitment. 

I should be committed for agreeing to see this movie.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Sahasam Swasaga Sagipo - me and my RE

Sahasam Swasaga Sagipo
(Live life adventurously)
2016, Telugu
Directed by Gautham Menon
Naga Chaitanya
Manjima Mohan as Leela
Baba Sehgal as Kamath
Sathish Krishnan as Mahesh
Krrish as Atul

Mohan's Measure ✳  ✳  ✳ 

To respect the movie, I have chosen not to give away the name of Naga Chaitanya's character.  It is not pivotal, but it serves as interesting added tension to this noir-thriller/road picture.

The road, and particularly the vehicle he travels in, is clearly emphasized as the hero's first love.  It is a Royal Enfield motorcycle, the product of a once British manufacturer of classic-style motorcycles which now finds home in Chennai.  Impressive, but not impressive enough to be the leading love of this movie.

Newcomer Manjima Mohan, however, is that, and more.  There is something compelling about this young actress which draws us to her.  She is not size zero, does not wear skimpy clothing, but actually acts and expresses feelings to the words she lip synchs to.  There is allure in her girl-next-door image, which I hope - for her sake and ours - she will never be asked to change.

What is a change is the story-line, the mobster element serves only as Mcguffin to a story about travel, India, and the values of the middle class.  We are whisked away to exotic locations, but also to the simple, unkempt roads of Tamil Nadu's villages, where homespun people offer unconditional affection to weary travelers.

Affection, however, is not what the villains offer, and they are the usual suspects - politicians, corrupt cops, and their goons who are ought to kill our two lovers for the usual reasons.  But, to fight them back, even our vagabond hero has to have a name.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Inferno - the road to hell

directed by Ron Howard
Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon
Felicity Jones as Dr. Sienna Brooks
Ben Foster as Bertrand Zobrist
Sidse Babett Knudsen as Elizabeth Sinskey
Irrfan Khan as Harry Sims

Mohan's Measure ✳  ✳  

If you compare it to the last two movies I reviewed, Inferno would  qualify for the Academy Award.  A good critic cannot do that, but we do have the right to compare it to other movies in the series, and this is where Inferno fails.

It is American film feigning to be European, and as such giving the impression it is looking down upon the audience in weaving its tale around Dante, the Inferno, and the death mask. The point is confirmed in one scene in which Langdon introduces the young Sienna as his niece.  "This is Italy, Dr. Langdon", comes the response, "there is no need to call her your niece."

The condescension continues in failing to share the story of Dante,  or his artistic descriptions of Heaven, Hell and Purgatory which became the hallmark of Western art and Western religion.  As such, we find ourselves waiting for that telling moment, as in Da Vinci Code, when an elderly scholar ties together everything for us, and the heroine discovers why she is stuck in the middle of all of this.

We discover for ourselves why she is, and it throws an interesting twist to the story.  But, it is not enough to make us cling to our seats to figure out how the movie ends; a predictable story in a not very enjoyable popcorn film gives it away far too soon.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil - Love, Not Quite

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil
(The heart is complicated)
2016, Hindi
directed by Karan Johar
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as Saba Taliyar Khan
Ranbir Kapoor as Ayan
Anushka Sharma as Alizeh Khan
Lisa Haydon as Lisa
Imran Abbas as Faisa
Fawad Khan as Ali

Mohan's Measure शून्य (zero)

In the West, "love is a many splendored thing".  It is revered, worshiped, and considered to be as close to God, if not God Himself.

For Director Johar, it seems, love is anything but that.  It is painful, tragic, at best unrequited, and miraculous if fulfilled.  His Indian world is one of many broken hearts, epitomized by the iconic king of broken hearts himself, Ranbir Kapoor.

His 3 day old beard and drugged-out eyeballs suggest a man on the verge of madness, an innocent victim to that awful, wicked thing called love.  So, then why have him in a love story?  You got me, and you got the rest of the audience who could barely keep themselves from groaning in agony while watching Ae Dil Hai Mushkil

Ranbir's character is a rockstar (where we have seen this before) who in flashback tells his story of how he loves Alizeh, who loves him, but not in the "let's get under the sheets" way that he would like.  He just gets to be physical to edge of platonic with her, spend nights in rooms with her, move in with her, and eventually be the last one to see her alive.  Huh?

Disappointed with his lot, he winds up sleeping with an older woman name Saba, played by an aging, almost AARP member Aiswarya Rai.  Does he love her? No, he loves Ms. Platonic-with-certain-exceptions. But, she loves with him, so Johar's rules say they have to break up. Again - huh?

So, Ayan runs back to Alizeh, but she still isn't ready for romance.  Besides, there is this little thing called 4th stage cancer which is in the way.  Time for a 3rd - HUH?

By this point, the plot is running out of energy, I am running out of patience, and the movie is running shallow on reasons to watch it.

L'amour, l'indienne!

Kaashmora - A Head of the Game

(evil spirit) 
Tamil, 2016 
Directed by Gokul
Karthi in a dual role as Kaashmora and Raj Nayak
Nayantara as Rathna Mahadevi
Sri Divya as Yamini
Vivek as Kaashmora's father
Sharath Lohitashwa as Minister

Mohan's Measure ✳

Horror movies work if they are campy, scary, or an effective combination of the two.  Kaashmora is neither, making it certain to be a flop in eyes of critics, including myself.

Karthi is a con-artist having the title name from a family of con-artists who works his way through the system convincing people he is a mendicant, exorcist and psychic.  Yamini is a college student who is trying to prove he is a fraud, and is following him around like a lost puppy dog to prove it.  Is it a setting for romance?  No, there isn't enough time because we have to fit other worthless stories into the plot.

Because, meanwhile, in Cambodia, a Nepali Kumari is meditating on Kaashmora, whom destiny reveals is going to save the world from ruin.  It turns out the young goddess is none other than the reincarnation of Rathna Mahadevi, a princess from centuries ago who rid the world of the evil Raj Nayak, another character brought to life by Karthi.  It is the spirit of the evil Raj who now controls a mansion at the Andhra/Tamil Nadu border.   Why? The movie never says, nor do we really care.

A careless plot setup brings all the characters to the same place, for what we think will be horror/comedy but wind up instead seeing a tragedy, replete with amateur CGI.  Bad introduction of characters, the worst acting; Nayantara dressed up like a princess; this isn't horror, it's just plain horrible.