Archive for review

Qalandar Reviews MANMARZIYAN (Hindi; 2018)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 16, 2018 by Qalandar

This review contains spoilers.

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Manmarziyan opens with a shot of the Golden Temple, the sort of thing that in recent times has been one of the lazier clichés in Hindi cinema: if Sikhs are involved (and sometimes even when they aren’t), Amritsar’s sacred shrine is a given.  However, the vantage point here is a bit different, enabling the viewer to take in not only the iconic building, but also an incongruous neon sign perched on top.  One is almost tempted to say it doesn’t belong, except that in India, it sort of does.

That opening shot, if re-visited after the end credits have rolled, tells you a lot about director Anurag Kashyap’s aims in taking up one of the most hackneyed Bolly-genres of all – The Love Triangle – and in trying to give it his own twist.  That is, Kashyap scrupulously adheres to the genre’s conventions in several respects Continue reading

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Qalandar on MAHESHENTHE PRATHIKAARAM (Malayalam; 2016)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , on February 28, 2018 by Qalandar

EXCERPT: “The charms of Maheshenthe Prathikaaram, Dileesh Pothan’s 2016 directorial debut, cannot be reduced to its plot, fresh though this is: the tale of everyman Mahesh Bhavana (Fahadh Faasil), worried about his father’s advancing age, passed over by the woman he has long loved in favor of a groom with better prospects, publicly humiliated in an un-related village brawl, and Mahesh’s vow to forego slippers until he has avenged his insult, never lost my interest as it wended its way through the contours of its lead protagonist’s life, and on to a resolution. More importantly, the plot never becomes farcical, not even that last bit about Mahesh’s vow: in the context of the film, it seems quite organic, the self-inflicted wound of a modest man at the end of his tether.

Pothan intuitively grasps that for contemporary Malayalam cinema to thrive, it must be …”

Complete review HERE

Rangan Reviews VIKRAM VEDHA (TAMIL; 2017)

Posted in the good with tags , , , on July 22, 2017 by Qalandar

EXCERPT: “An ordinary masala movie would pit a god against this demon – and indeed, the first half of the title (R Madhavan) does come across like the scourge of evil, a saviour. He’s an encounter cop, but he’s able to sleep guiltlessly because he’s convinced the men he’s pumping bullets into are bad men who deserve to die. But slowly, the paint starts peeling away. Rather, the colour of his tees undergo a change. During the first meeting of Vikram and Vedha, the former is in white, the latter in black. By their last meeting, Vikram is in grey. He knows now that it isn’t a clear-cut line between good and evil.

The notion that cops and gangsters are but two sides of the same coin isn’t new: Michael Mann’s Heat is a brilliant exploration of how a cop who thinks he is doing good may be more messed up than the gangster. But Pushkar-Gayatri have decided to tell their story through the prism of the Vikram/Vetaal folklore – hence the title. The film opens with an animated stretch with the king Vikram high up in his castle, and soon, in pursuit of the vampire Vetaal, he plunges deep into a lake, a metaphorical hell. The creature latches onto his back and begins to narrate stories that are the old-world answer to a grey T-shirt: there’s a moral conundrum at the end.”

Complete article HERE.

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