Archive for review

Qalandar Reviews PHILLAURI (Hindi; 2017)

Posted in Refugee with tags , , , , , , , , on April 4, 2017 by Qalandar

There is a certain magic to Phillauri, Anshai Lal’s directorial debut for actress-producer Anushka Sharma, and it isn’t because of the supernatural element (Sharma plays Shashi, the ghost of a woman from 1919 who haunts nervous Kanan (Suraj Sharma), on the verge of his wedding to Anu (Mehreen Peerzada) a century later in the same village).  It’s because the old-fashioned virtues of focused storytelling, memorable characterization, strong casting, and above all fresh dialogues and lyrics by Anvita Dutt, elevate what could so easily have been the hackneyed Punjabi love story of Shashi and Roop Lal (Diljit Dosanjh), making of it a story about two individuals, not mere instances of the Bollywood hero and heroine, and in a particular time and place, the Jalandhar village of Phillauri on the verge of the Indian national movement.

Unusually for Hindi films, both members of the pair (not just the male half) are imbued with strong personalities, and this isn’t accidental.  A gentle current of feminism runs through the film, brought to mind by an initial effacement: Continue reading

Why I Have Nothing to Say on Dangal

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 18, 2017 by Qalandar

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I more than enjoyed Dangal: it was fantastically well-made, uniformly well-acted, and pulled off the difficult feat of making wrestling interesting, even deeply engrossing – that’s creditable, when you consider that most sports movies rely on the built-in appeal of sports that are already popular, with great cultural resonance. Heck, to even make a sports film – i.e. a film in one of the most hackneyed genres – half decent, let alone excellent, is pretty darn impressive.

And yet, when I (more than once, and over a period of a few months) sat down to write a review of Dangal, I found I had nothing to say. Which might make this piece nothing more than a narcissistic exercise in my writer’s block, but I’d like to believe there’s more going on here. The “nothing” is symptomatic of a wider issue, namely that Dangal is a very impressive film – just not a very interesting one. Continue reading

Gomorrah box set review – a grimly authentic tale of Naples gangsters (THE GUARDIAN)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , on April 29, 2016 by Qalandar

Earlier, related piece HERE.  I’m very interested to see this TV series — I hadn’t liked the movie Gomorrah all that much the first time I saw it, but liked it a whole lot when I re-visited it last year (it is suffused by the sadness of cruelty and meanness, by the sheer sordidness of these criminal enterprises, un-redeemed by the frisson of glamor, by the glamor of power; Gomorrah the film never lets us forget that the power glorified in other gangster films is the power to humiliate, brutalize, and steal, nothing more). The review from The Guardian in this post is from a couple of years ago, and it’s great news that instead of a re-make the series will be broadcast in the USA this year on the Sundance Channel – Qalandar

Excerpt: “The Camorra are a real-life outfit, Secondigliano an actual suburb. That’s what marks Gomorrah out from the cops-and-robbers herd: its roots in reality. And there’s nary a peep from la polizia. Roberto Saviano, who co-developed the show, is a decorated Neapolitan investigative journalist whose fearless 2006 bestseller about the Camorra put him on the mob’s hit list; the government assigned him a bodyguard.

As such, Gomorrah feels grimly authentic, recalling not just The Sopranos but perhaps more vividly The Wire, with its from-the-hip shooting style, drug-trade plot and Bodymore-style cornerboys. Much of the action takes place amid a notorious failed housing project, the Vele di Scampia, which resembles a pair of giant, dirty sneakers dumped on a brownfield.”

Complete review HERE.

 

A Note on BANGALORE DAYS (Malayalam; 2014)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 12, 2016 by Qalandar

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Everything about the way Bangalore Days begins, it turns out, is a bit misleading: the opening frames introduce us to the narrator, a dorky, newly-minted software engineer called Krishnan P. P. (Nivin Pauly) with dreams of the big city, and then to his cousin Divya (Nazriya Nazim), who puts her dreams of a MBA on hold after meeting the man her parents have set her up with, the aloof America-returned executive Das (Fahadh Faasil); and finally to a third cousin, the free-spirited biker Arjun (Dulquer Salman).  The cloying “nativist” sentiments of those opening scenes, or what felt like par-for-the-course sexism, weren’t promising, and it seemed the most one could expect was a breezy film, insubstantial coming-of-age fluff of the sort Bollywood has made us gag on for some years now, rendered bearable by the likable Dulquer Salman.  By the time she was done, though, writer and director Anjali Menon had made me swallow every single one of those presumptions, with this measured, charming, emotionally resonant film, one that is quite a bit cleverer than the plot — the love stories of these characters, present and (in one case) past — would have one believe. Continue reading

Abzee on KATYAR KALJAT GHUSALI and going back to the movies

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 7, 2016 by abzee

I couldn’t have asked for a better cinematic experience to return to watching movies on the big screen again than the Marathi language Hindustani Classical Musical KATYAR KALJAT GHUSALI (A Dagger through the Heart). My last outing at the cinemas was the fifth installment of the M: I series on the 27th of August, 2015… before a freak motorcycle accident rendered me put at home, recovering slowly but steadily. To a cinephile such as me, more debilitating than the injury even was being robbed of the almost religious ritual of the weekly visits to the cinemas. Good, bad or plain ugly… there is a certain incompleteness without the movies. And TV just doesn’t match up. Anyways… after watching a dozen or so releases that I was looking forward to come and go, I finally got the green signal from my orthopedist to watch a movie at the cinema hall! My choices were Bajirao Mastani, Star Wars: The Force Awakens or Natsamrat. And then, while going through the listings, one saw that KATYAR KALJAT GHUSALI was still playing… well into its 9th week at a few select screens.

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KATYAR KALJAT GHUSALI is an adaptation of the famous Marathi natya sangeet (musical theatre) of the same name. The play had a phenomenal run of more than 1,000 shows back in 1967, most thronging to the theatres to catch the live jugalbandi of Pt. Jitendra Abhisheki and Vasantrao Deshpande, both stalwarts of Hindustani Classical Music. One hears from those having experienced the play back in the day that such riveting and rapturous the experience was that the running time of 4 hours would never be felt.  But Marathi theatre is, and has always been, multi-faced.

Continue reading

Qalandar on BAJIRAO MASTANI (Hindi; 2015)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 29, 2015 by Qalandar

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There are really two films in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Bajirao Mastani: Continue reading

Pynchon’s Blue Shadow (NYRB)

Posted in Refugee with tags , , , , , on August 7, 2015 by Qalandar

[On Inherent Vice, I definitely agree with the fantastic piece below — one of the best I’ve ever read on an adaptation — that the film is not less than the book. It truly does illuminate aspects of the book for me (and vice versa!) such that I arrived at a deeper appreciation of both. Qalandar]

Excerpt: “Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice (2009)—his extravagantly convoluted version of the private eye novel, set amid the detritus of the end of the 1960s—is the kind of verbal construct that at first glance seems inherently unsuited for filming, certainly not as a widescreen spectacle with an all-star cast. To say that Paul Thomas Anderson has faithfully and successfully adapted it to the screen is another way of saying that he has changed it into something entirely different. Perhaps the novel really was crying out for such a cinematic transformation, for in its pages people watch movies, remember them, compare events in the “real world” to their plots, re-experience their soundtracks as auditory hallucinations, even work their technical components … into aspects of complex conspiratorial schemes.”

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