Sunday, February 26, 2006

Taxi 9 2 11

Cast: Nana Patekar, John Abraham, Sameera Reddy, Sonali Kulkarni
Director: Milan Luthria
Rating: ** & 1/2
Author: Indo-Asian News Service

As luck and scriptwriter Rajat Aroraa would have it, the two unlikely "heroes" end up lending a shoulder to one another.

Besides the striking lead pair who epitomise the spirit of frictional camaraderie, the best aspect of Taxi No 9 2 11 is its amazing eye for locational detail. Not a moment in the brief and crisply edited (Aarif Shaikh) narrative is confined to a studio.

The camera explores the non-glamorous side of Mumbai with penetrating panache.

The crowded streets, the dingy chawls and the high-rise apartments mingle in a bustle of audio-visual lucidity. But there's no anxiety to bring Mumbai alive. It just happens to come to life without trying.

Patekar and Abraham do the rest. Their interactions and conflicts are cleverly written. We never feel the weight of their combined charisma as it collides and creates the kind of masculine sparks that are rare to mainstream Hindi films.

Director Luthria dares to go against the grain. The profile and contour of the narration are cosmopolitan. And yet at heart, Taxi No 9 2 11 is a purely homespun morality tale about people who choose not to take responsibility for their actions.

Many of the episodes work beyond the spaces that are created so cleverly on screen. John's self-realisation is especially well mapped in the plot. We never know when it creeps up on us and how the grim tone about the compromises that mar the smooth flow of existence, colour the frothy mood of the initial sequences.

To slot Taxi No 9 2 11 as a road caper would be a creative crime. This is a film that goes far beyond the thrills provided on screen. Of course, there's no dearth to the thrills as well. The traffic of stress on the crowded roads of Mumbai, excellently staged by stunt director Abbas Ali Moghul, coalesces effortlessly with the sensitive thought processes that underlines his gently forceful take on the theme of male bonding.

In the deepest recesses of this cannily crafted rage drama, there's a softly beating heart that tells us to love life.

Life in Taxi No 9 2 11 isn't beautiful. Not really. Luthria looks at Mumbai's underbelly with much affection and some regret. He makes optimum use of the spatial disharmony of the metropolis to carve out a story of one day in the life of two absolutely disparate individuals who change each other's outlook in unexpected ways.

The expertly packaged human drama is bolstered and held in place by the two central performances. Nana is a raging volcano of middleclass angst. He has done the clash-act repeatedly. But manages to make it look different once again.

John's take on the tycoon's evolution from self-interest to compassion is very sensitively graphed by the actor. You can see a lot of deliberation going into each moment that John creates on screen. Whether it's his interaction with the obdurate banker or his realisation that his girlfriend (Sameera Reddy) is at the end of the day, just a gold-digger with a prodding mom to boost her materialism, John feels for his character.

And we feel for the characters and environment that the director constructs.

Living in a concrete jungle is a constant struggle. Luthria satirises the struggle of survival and finally makes the seriocomic act of survival a statement on urban morality.

From: HT City


Sunday, February 19, 2006

'Rang De Basanti' Splendid

It is rare that such a well-crafted and beautifully told story is seen in Hindi cinema.

Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s movie ‘Rang De Basanti’ is a must-watch for reasons that the length of this review may not suffice to express. More than just a technically brilliant flick, ‘Rang De Basanti’ has a story that entertains you, makes you think and stirs you deep inside in the end.

The plot of the movie straddles two different time periods – first one, the contemporary setting revolving around a group of friends. The second one is in the pre-independence India, revolving around freedom fighters like Chandrashekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh and Ashfak.

Parallels are drawn between the characters in the two time periods and as the story moves towards its conclusion, the barrier of time begins to dissolve and the characters become one in spirit.

Sue (Alice Patten) comes to India to make a documentary on some freedom fighters about whom she gets to know from the diary of her late grandfather who was a British officer in India before 1947.

After having auditioned many in vain for her movie, Sue, aided by Sonia (Soha Ali Khan), meets a group of friends in whom she sees the characters of her documentary. The group consists of DJ (Aamir Khan), Aslam (Kunal Kapoor), Karan (Siddharth) and Sukhi (Sharman Joshi).

DJ is originally Daljeet Singh from a Punjabi family consisting of a loving mother (excellently portrayed by Kiron Kher). A beer guzzler who is never serious about anything in life, DJ starts hitting on Sue the minute he sees her.

Aslam comes from a Muslim family and refuses to endorse the opinion that Muslims ought not mingle with Hindus.

Karan is the silent one. He is rich but has a dry, loveless life. He smokes heavily and seeks happiness among his friends.

Sukhi is full of fun and frolic. He has no girlfriend and rues (quite portentously) that he would die a kunwara.

Also part of the group is Fl. Lft. Ajay Rathod (Madhavan), the love of Sonia (Soha). He is the only one in the group who has dedication to serve the country.

None of the friends is serious enough to be a part of Sue’s documentary. To them values like patriotism, sacrificing oneself for the sake of country are just beautiful words they cannot relate to.

But Sue can see the characters of her movie in them. In DJ she sees Chandrashekhar Azad. In Karan she sees Bhagat Singh and in Aslam she sees Ashfak.

Even as the five friends agree to be a part of her movie, they still cannot accept the virtues of the characters (of the freedom fighters) they play. But then, Ajay dies in a MiG crash and is labeled as a rookie pilot by the Defence Minister who is unwilling to accept shortcomings in the MiG aircrafts.

DJ, Aslam, Karan, Sukhi, Sonia, Ajay’s mother (Waheeda Rahman) and Pandey (Atul Kulkarni) lead the protest against the Defence Minister to get Ajay the honour he deserved. But they are beaten mercilessly by the cops. Ajay’s mother goes into coma.

DJ and friends decide to bring the truth to light. But they choose a very extreme way to do it.

Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra deserves full praise for making a movie that certainly raises the bar for filmmakers in Bollywood. There is not a single dull moment in ‘Rang De Basanti’. The movie begins on a light note and there are humourous moments aplenty in the first half. The second half gets serious after the death of the character played by Madhavan. From then on, the story takes a grave turn and ends on a tragic note.

The most remarkable part of the movie is the parallel that Mehra draws between the freedom fighters and DJ and his group of friends. The movie keeps transposing the same actors into characters from the past. And then, as the story draws to its conclusion, even these differences in the characters disappear. The modern, city-bread ‘young guns’ of the twenty first century become one in spirit with the revolutionaries who sacrificed themselves for the country’s freedom.

Very interestingly, Mehra has even kept the same locations in the two time periods. The DAV college of Lahore in pre-Independence India becomes the radio station in the contemporary setting.

Only Aamir Khan could have enacted the role of DJ, the good-humoured, bike-riding ex-graduate who is afraid to go beyond the life of college campus and friends. Aamir speaks his dialogues with a Punjabi accent, spicing his lines with an expletive here and there. Particularly notable is his performance in the scene after the protesters (him included) are beaten by the police and he weeps helplessly in Sue’s apartment.

Alice Patten is perfectly cast. She delivers a flawless performance and even shows that she can swear in Hindi.

Kunal Kapoor, Soha Ali Khan, Atul Kulkarni are up to the mark. Sharman Joshi is a delight to watch. Siddharth gets his moments of acting at the movie’s end.

Cinematography by Binod Pradhan is top notch. The editing is slick. The songs in the movie are so indiscernibly placed in the narrative that they don’t hamper the pace at all.

For the sake of concluding this review, let it be said that ‘Rang De Basanti’ is an impressive movie that definitely ought to be seen once, if not more.

A Must-Watch.

By Naresh Kumar Deoshi
Film critic, ApunKaChoice.Com