Bridge of Spies

“Every time I go to the movies, it’s magic, no matter what the movie about”. This from a man whose filmography is rich and immense. He has been prolific. He enjoys his craft. And it shows.

I’ve seen only a handful.

First time I was introduced to his craft when in school, in Kolkatta. I saw Jaws, sometimes in 1985, a decade after it was released. Then Innerspace, when in college in Mumbai sometimes in 1989. Jurassic Park, I saw on TV in 1997. Schindler’s List in 1994. Men in Black and Saving Private Ryan in 1998. Then Juraasic World and now Bridge of Spies, 2015.

Of all the movies listed above, I still see Saving Private Ryan innumerable times. The scale in which this movie treats World War Two and the Normandy Landing is impressive.

However, Bridges of Spies is pretty sedate in comparison to all the Spielberg movie I have been introduced to. In fact, I have seen a better movie which a subject of spies in unfriendly land. That is, Shining Through(1992), Michael Dougles and Melanie Griffith starer.

But, not to be too depressing, this movie, Bridges of Spies, has its own allure. It’s straight forward and matter of fact. No suspense. Just great acting and cinematography.

The movie should be seen just to marvel how, Hollywood creates the life and times of 50’s and 60’s. The alleyways of Brooklin, with cars, shops, and attire of those times. Must say, today, Mumbai looks like that. Hopefully, in fifty sixty years, Mumbai would be like Brooklyn of today.

Even, the creation of those times, when the wall, separating East and West Berlin, was coming up, the Iron Courtain, as we know it, and the distress of the population caught on the wrong side of the divide, is believably shown.

Tom Hanks is to Spielberg is like Sumitra Chaterjee is to Satyajit Ray. Both tell their stories through a character who aptly portrays it.

Bridges of Lies is wholesome viewing and that too, I saw, without subtitles. It has some subtle humor too. I understood what they spoke and I was one with the story.

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Talvar

Honestly, I have never noticed Lady Justice’s sword. I have noticed the blindfold, the scales. But never, the sword. Probably, the sword is held close to the body facing downwards in all the profiles of the statue. Or, probably, it was never a part of any Hindi movie dialogue, haranguing on the utility of the sword.

Anyway, I missed it. And I knew it today. There is a scene in the movie where the sword (Talwar in Hindi) of Lady Justice is discussed. It’s a subtle pointer to the family in question.

The Talvars. Both parents doctors, living with only daughter. A daughter who, if alive, would have grown to be a beautiful lady. Any picture of hers, show her photogenic oval face and beautiful intense eyes.

She was found with her neck slit on 16 March 2008. Her parents, supposedly, slept through the murder, in the adjacent room with loud air conditioner. The prime suspect, their absconding male house helper, is found dead, smothered and his neck similarly stilt, on the Talvar terrace.

With Talvar’s nominated prime suspect dead, an opportunity arose to one and all, to catch the killer. Indians are schooled in the class where evidence all always in search of the investigator. Thus, the eternal desire of open and shut case.

2008 Noida double murder case was a sensation in the prime time media. Every citizen had a theory. They still have. And I have, and while watching the movie, my biases came alive. The treatment of the movie not did change my theory.

The movie starts by showing the police in poor light. Almost dumb. In fact so bad, that I felt, was it that bad. There is a scene towards the end where Irrfan Khan comments on the investigation. He says, “first the crime was fixed then evidence collected to prove it”. I believe, the movie’s premise was first set to show the Talvars as innocent and then the script written to establish that premise.

Silence is not golden when public opinion is concerned. If the public is not given a narrative to chew on, they will attempt to figure it out themselves. That’s dangerous to governance. Hence, a necessity to fire media controlled narratives. The public, unknown to them, are always in control of some narrative or the other, with control strings going right up to media and then governance.

So, in 2008, screaming narratives where given to the public, for them to creep on broadcast opinions. This movie- Talvar – is similar attempt to influence opinions and portray Talvars as innocent.

The movie ends with similar theme. There are two sides, with distinctly different opinions. And it’s a subtle attempt to shore up compassion. The loosing side is rationalised as the right side.

Truth is shown to be sacrificed on the alter of justice, with the Lady Justice’s sword.

Irrfan Khan, the actor who brought life to the show in the second half of the movie, is on the loosing and the right side. He gives credibility to the core premise, that is, Talvars are innocent. Just as the police are shown as bumbling idiots in the first part, in the second and better half of the movie, Irrfan is shown as serious and methodical investigator.

To put more weight, emotion wise, he is shown as performing a thankless task, despite his personal problems. He and wife Tabu has filed for separation. And, to top it up, his partner in investigation, opportunistically becomes a turncoat. These subtle script manipulations are to get the audience invested in Irrfan’s plight, and invest the accrued emotions to agree in his conclusions.

Atul Kumar as Paul, the investigator who takes up the case when Irrfan is kicked out, is impressive. I liked his controlled acting. After the show, I searched him on the net, and found, he is actor-director in theatres. I must complement the movie makers of not replacing the character of Irrfan with a bumbling idiot. Or did they try that? There was an attempt to show Atul as quirky when he was first introduced.

I didn’t like the movie. I felt it’s contrived with some hidden agenda. As I recall the period from 2008 to 2013, when the Talvars were finally convicted, I recollect numerous and frequent periods of bail applications by Talvar lawyers, articulate Talvar-Friends appear on media claiming Talvar’s innocence, and lawyers debunking any court verdict after any courts judgements. It appeared like a game.

Sorry, the movie doesn’t change my sentiments. I still feel they are guilty. The Talvars and there friends, the media, then and now, trying to prove, poor powerless servants as guilty, does not go down well with my line of thought.

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Kis Kisko Pyaar Karoon

Kapil Sharma can act. We already know he can. We saw him on Comedy Nights, that humorous TV sitcom where movie stars showed up to promote their upcoming releases. But with-Kis Kisko, Kapil has impacted the big screen. He has a presence, not that astounding star-like, but he can carry a movie.

In-Comedy Nights with Kapil-where witty wisecracks at every instance was a necessity, in this movie, he added an attribute, which will work well in his future shows. Kapil Sharma can handle melodrama.

Moments where Kapil showed his potential, happened once before interval, then at the end. Just before interval, in an act of drinking binge, he reveals his versatility. He captivates with his drunk act and held tight throughout the performance. This single act changed my perception. He is an all rounder.

Then again, towards the end, when, in most Hindi movies, weepy acts predominate, Kapil shows effective acting. He is a controlled performer, a “Manjha hua Kalakaar”.

In between, Kapil is like, what you see on Comedy Nights. He effectively took his act from small to big screen.

The only other actor whose drunk act makes an impact is Amitabh Bachchan. Though, Amitabh is a “bridge too far” for Kapil, still Kapil Sharma enthralled me and the audience with that one act before interval.

Well, it’s a Govinda type story. Whereas, Govinda had a two-wife plots in few movies, Kapil probably wanted to do better and double the stakes. Though Kapil cannot match Govinda’s flamboyance, but he holds his own Haazir-zawaabees.

Apart from Kapil, whose dialogues and screen presence is well known, the movie is supported by good performance. Arbaaz, though no star power like is brother Salman, has a confident screen presence and delivers his part. Manoj Joshi is a safe bet in a comic role. Manjari Phadnis and Simran Kaur are good and glamorous. Sai Lokur, the third wife, acted well but lacks presence. Eli Evram, surprisingly, is a confident performer.

Jamie Lever, daughter of ace Indian actor and comedian Johnny Lever, is a hilarious performer like her father. Her role on the movie is under promoted. I came to know about her only when, impressed by her acting, I searched her on the net, and was surprised to find this fact. As a bai, (domestic helper) she lights up the screen whenever she appears. Surely, the father has passed on the genes to the daughter.

Irrespective of all the negative reviews which you have read or seen modest star ratings, you can safely disregard those and watch the movie. Throughtout the movie, the audience were enjoying themselves with laughter and claps.

This movie showcases Kapil Sharma’s acting and his attempt to make it on the big screen and big times.

He is successful.

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Piku

I saw it twice. And I might see it a few more times before it leaves the theatre nearby.

Multiple viewings might suggest that I’m in awe of Deepika, which is correct. But what has touched me is the sweetness of the movie. And of course, it’s on a Bengali family and I have a long association with Bengal, having done my school there. Anything Bengali, I relate to it deeper. I know the language, I know the food, I know the people.

The movie is sweet but the characters are not. They are fussy, moody, cantankerous but they are all well adjusted  to take the story forward.

The movie’s chief protagonist is widower Bhaskor (Amitabh). I call him “chief” because, for the entire movie, the rest of the cast is dealing with his problem of constipation. This topic is prevalent from dinner table to romantic dates. The writer and the director took care not to make the topic too indulgent by mixing some seriousness and humour in right measure. The viewers, such as me, became genuinely concerned as to how and when Amitabh will solve this conflict. Constipation is the core of the story.

Complimenting Amitabh is his marriageable age daughter Deepika who is the Piku of the story. Piku is single and looking but her attempts are defeated by her father who is scared of loosing her care and nurturing. Hence he concocts narratives to dissuade her to find a partner.

Amitabh and Deepika have a terrific chemistry in this movie. And Deepika is just fabulous. I’m enthralled by the range of her expressions. There are many scenes where the way she looks or the way she talks or the way she displays anger adds tremendously to the emotional value of that shot. The casting of Deepika in this role is one major reason for the success of this story.

Piku comes out as an antagonistic character but with a good heart. There are a few words in the movie to state this point. She is opinionated and stands her ground. But she’s unable to break free or create her space. The father-daughter relation is shown as close but overwhelming. There is a need to create diversion and bring in another dimension.

That’s where we see Irrfan (Rana “non-Bangali” Chaudhury). He opts to drive father-daughter from Delhi to Kolkatta. If there could be another character to match Amitabh and Dipeeka, it is Irrfan. In his characteristic way, his mannerisms, he is like a balm. By the time the family reaches Kolkatta, you really want Irrfan to rescue Piku from her father. There is one striking scene where Irrfan scolds Amitabh and Piku just looks on. That expression is of a very accomplished actor. 

There comes from time to time, movies with stories which are so right in many ways. In last five years, the last movie in this class, in my opinion, was Dhobi Ghat. Well, watch on to catch the next.

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SHAMITABH – To much Amitabh

If you’ve seen early Amitabh movies like Sholay, Deevar, Namak Haram etc., to name a popular few, you will know that Amitabh was not the only actor in those movies yet he was the key factor in the success of those movies. Amitabh’s character moved the story forward and the story and his character and of others in the movie complimented each other. Amitabh’s height, voice and his acting added to the scale of the movie. In his later movies where he looked old but still worked has a young hero, his character lent to the story. And there was balance.

But in Shamitabh, there is just, too much Amitabh. I had a feeling that the movie was contrived to provide him footage more than the story and his character deserved. Either Amitabh is too obsessed or the director R. Balki is in awe of him and his voice.

The entire movie is to cash in on , The Voice. And a story is developed to use the voice on another face through use of technology.

The concept is good. And taking mercy on the cine-crowd’s intelligence quotient, there is a half-hearted demo to explain the voice transfer technology. The dumb, Dhanush, gets the voice technology hardware thru a few easy coincidences. All he needs now is a software, “voice” and stardom waits round the corner.

In drops a drunk, a waste, the longest running aspiring hero- Amitabh. Dhanush, the dumb face and Amitabh, the voice, hit is it off. But a few scenes down the line, the Voice turns into a headache. The Voice wants his due recognition and the dumb face is on an ego trip. So far so good.

But not so good. Mostly, I found myself checking my mobile for some interesting message miraculously appear thru aeroplane mode. Saw a couple walk out of the hall probably to ask for the money back. I mean, the movie pacing is in question. And mostly it happened when Amitabh was dominating the screen with his solo overacting. The story was sacrificed to display gurgitated dialogues which connected with no one.

I have good words for Dhanush. He has presence and in front of the wizened Amitabh he held his own. He is far from being a heart throb but he will have his own followers.

Akshara Hassan is like photo copy of her mother Sarika. For people of my Palaeolithic age, you’ll know what I mean. But I hated her hairstyle. Time and again, I was tempted to get a big scissor and clip those locks which invariably dropped and covered the right side of her face. But, she is good refreshing face and she has years to develop in the field.

The story idea is compelling. The movie is not. Though there are snippets of interesting moments and that’s about it.

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Govinda!

Today was long. Today I saw three back to back movies. I started with a hindi “Happy Endings”, then two English- “Intersteller” and finally “Equalizer”. It was like doing a 9 to 5 job, but with a smile on my face and beign charged at the end of it all.

I always saw a Govinda-Movie irrespective of ratings. His movies are pure unmitigated entertainment. This can be said for most of his earlier releases. His gaudy mismatched outfits, his dancing like a jelly and those expressions on his face when he stricks rhythm and topped with great acting. In his hey-days, he carried almost anything. He was a treat to watch.

But, sadly, not this time. His comeback after a long leave is pretty sedate. This time, it was only a nostalgia value resident in me which forced the warmth out to appreciate this once-upon-time superb entertainer.

I went for Govinda. But came back with Ileana D’Cruz. I had pre conceived bias. The name D’Cruz evoked a ma-ka-pav epithet in hindi texture and I expected an anglicized lady with phoren accent. But she’s a surprise package, gorgeous and has a screen- presence. Normally, a women cast in hindi movies are known by there tear-jarring performance. On the contrary, she is subtle and leaves an impact in a low volume. She is a girl to watch.

Saif is as he is. He is comfortable in his role. He is another Rishi Kapoor, meaning, beign on the wrong side of Forty, he is still boyish and carries a romantic character with élan.

On the whole, the movies is watchable. My advice is- please club is up with a viewing of “Intersteller”

I’m afraid, “Intersteller” in India is like another “Inception”. Difficult to grasp if you can’t follow the dialogue. I saw, towards the end, many audiences leaving the hall with their girl. I can understand.

Fortunately, the movie is with English subtitles. This is a boon. It has great dialogues where the concept of love is explained in terms of space and time. Well, if you are not too enthralled by this, at least watch it for the experience of Space. But let me confess, I liked “Gravity” more than this movie. So, if you have seen “Gravity”, you wouldn’t mind one more in that class.

Frankly, “Equalizer” is like a Ajay Devgun movie, only better. This movie dwells with the concept of one-man-demolition-squad and Denzel Washington, on a threshold of sixty, has given an intense performance. But I suggest, Indian audience to wait for Ajay Devgun’s “Action Jackson”. It will be all the same, only lesser.

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Modi, Modi, Modi..As we call ourself.

Every age loves an icon. And Indians are not immune to this. Pre-history lineage demonstrates that we need it from time to time. We need it as a peg to hold all our great age old cultural philosophies like simple living and high thinking even though our actual trajectories have one-program-in-60-year rule.

The last time I had this similar feelings towards a leader was in 1990 when V.P. Singh fought against corruption and later became Prime Minister. I still remember hearing his speech after his swearing in ceremony where, wearing his fur cap, almost like a Fez, he impressed a world of “Twenty Year olds” with ideas of “Corruption Free” India.

V.P. Singh soon ejaculated his “fan following” by implementing the Mandal Commission, where, he attempted to shore up votes of strong Yadav community, by including them in other backward castes and reserving jobs for them. The decision was more intended on effect than delivery.

He finished himself. Quite coincidently he died on 26-Nov-2008, the day Mumbai was attacked by Jihadis. Unfortunately, I couldn’t celebrate his death. It was not his regressive caste-based reservation but his letting down of my hopes, (some adolescent hope) that I was distraught about.

Now I love Modi. I don’t like Modi because of his development agendas. I have not seen Gujarat. I don’t know what all he has done there. I simply love him because his words are just what I have always thought within myself. He has articulated my feeling, ideas. He is following my Flight Plan.

When Modi says, “I don’t do things for Muslims, I don’t do things for Hindus too. I do things for India”. Also, “it’s not the business of the government to do business. Government should act as facilitators.” These things offers hope. And also his thrust towards cleanliness.

In 2004, the first time in my life (and only time since) I had an opportunity to visit some countries. Not much stay. Just transiting experience. I must say and I also believe ardently that transiting thru Airports of countries says a lot about that country. And I know how I felt when I arrived back in India. Believe me, I wanted to run back to Amsterdam.

You don’t realize how bad you are till you compare. Though, comparing two children is never good, but India is a more than Half a Century old. And in my view, it doesn’t deserve an appraisal. This country is just too delinquent. It’s not even up-to basics.

Modi holds out a hope that this country has longed for ages. But, we Indians are Indians. We are masters of filibuster. So we say, “let’s see how Modi does it”. We are all waiting for him to take out a magic stick and bestow India with all the wherewithal. Surreptitiously, they want him to fail.

I get this from the media-print and visual, that we, regressively, punitively, have chosen to become hands-off. We seem to imply- Dear Mr. Modi, it’s now your controls. Show me the money. Let’s see what you can do.

This is despite ourselves. That’s the float of the Indian feelings. This is what I get- Captured Crabs are waiting for the dynamic one to catch and sink him back.

But Modi is Modi. A fanboy like me can’t stop gushing. This is particularly catching. We want to see him deliver. So, it’s all up-to his many varied admirers, his soulmates, the investors, to do his good work and make Modi a success.

I loved his speech in Madison’s. The same sentiments I’ve heard from a Hindi teacher when I was a child. – Gandhi created a revolution by joining all work as work for freedom.

Your good work is work for Modi.

Modi has not only invested in us. We have also invested in Modi.

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Buying Apps on iTunes Store

The key to online business success is the return and refund policy. But Apple iTunes does not follow this strictly. In fact, purchase on iTunes Store has an opaque return policy.

Let me explain.

During purchase, the credit card which is configured in the iTunes account is charged immediately. But the bill is emailed after a day or two. The email has a link, “Report a Problem”.

So, in case you are unhappy or have an issue with the product, you click the link, which takes you to your account on the Apple website. There you choose your options on the drop-down menu. If you choose the option with an intention to return and get refund it is then that you will be informed if your purchase is eligible for refund or not. Many times you will be surprised.

Some free version of apps looks great but the paid version many times fall short of the expectations.

iTunes recently asked for feedbacks. So I wrote this.

———-————————
When buying Apps on iTunes the buyer should know beforehand if the purchase is returnable and refundable. There are apps which do not have trial period and it’s an outright buy. So there should be a fixed time period within which it can be returned with full money back. Or, while making payment it should be clearly stated on iTunes that “this purchase will not be refunded”. What I see is iTunes is following unethical trade practices and cheating the buyers. This must stop.

Regards
Neeraj
nshrivastav@gmail.com
—————————

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Letter to Jeff Bezos

Sir,

I’m mainly a book buyer. Mostly I buy the kindle version but sometimes I buy books that are important to me and are rare and are only available on print.

I’ve had two recent experiences where the delivery is not proper. The delivery is skipped stating strange reasons. The support is supportive but not creative and proactive. They are enthusiastic to refund the amount rather than find the root cause and resolve the issue.

I get a feeling that skipped delivery may not be impacting the costumer, because of ever enthusiastic and prompt refund offer, but it is in some way benefiting the logistics of delivery. They may be getting paid irrespective of whether they deliver or not.

Significantly, I’ve encountered this with Amazon Fulfilled orders promising same day delivery.

There is seriously something wrong here at Amazon India.

I’m not someone who is happy with refunds. If I get an item in my hands and then if I return it, then of course, prompt refund is welcome. But Amazon India support had only one solution to missed deliveries. REFUND. What about finding out the status of the shipment, where is it stuck, what has happened? Can it be resent? The support seems to have no answer to this.

I want order fulfilment. This doesn’t seem to be a motivation with Amazon employees in India.

Unethical trade practices, order defaulting and bluffing is the culture which has gained prominence on Amazon India online purchase.

I’m writing to you because I don’t have faith with support. This lacunae will never be highlighted to you. The culture is to sweep it below the carpet and bury the issue locally.

In this case(Order: 404-9504736-6222739), I got an SMS and website update that the package is delivered, when I didn’t receive it. How did this happen? How can anyone in Amazon India update the status and send me SMS? On querying support, I got information that it’s delivered to fulfilment and the package is damaged.

I’ve never encountered this before that the package is delivered to fulfilment and the buyer gets Delivery SMS and that too with a strange name that the order is delivered to so & so.

It’s time you crack the whip. I’m not buying furnitures. I’m buying books.

And you know what it means.

Regards
Neeraj
(nshrivastav@gmail.com)

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Bollywood Cycle

It was in 1988 when the transfer of power started, Hindi Movie-wise. Aamir Khan arrived thru Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak. The long name was more prevalent as QSQT. And Amir Khan was the first of the Cuties of the late eighties. In 1989, Salman Khan made his entry. By 1991/92, Akshay Kumar, Saif Ali Khan and ShahRukh Khan (etc) gave the industry a new economics.

But the old-timers were still selling. Prominent stars like Mithun, Dharmendar, Jeetender, Amitabh Bachchan (etc) strategically propped themselves against heroines half their age.

The new crowd might idolize the old stars but there is an identification issue. A Fifty-ish Hero, looking like thirty-ish, can kiss a twenty-ish Heroin on screen. But still. The audience knows. And the after taste is not zesty.

Presently, Khan and Co. are all pushing late 40’s. The demography who grew with them have also aged similarly. And, who knows. The aging fans might be switching to the younger side. Also, the demography who were born during late eighties and early nineties are the new crowd. Clearly, they will want a face and body to romance.

So the time has come for the new order. Ranbir Singh has made his mark. He is good. But yesterday I saw “Hasee Toh Phasee”. And I must say, Sidharth Malhotra has a presence.

The scope of this blog was to discuss the Hero side of the movie ecosystem. My idea is to make guesses on who all will replace the Khan and Co. In other words, who will get the Deepikas and the Parineetis.

P.S. Remember, a decade or so back, we had similar dilemma- Who will get Aishwarya, Salman or Vivek!

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