Friday, May 05, 2006

Mistress of Spice: Review

This eagerly awaited Ash starrer directed by Paul Meyeda Bergeshas a unique premise indeed, and one can visualize the promise that the storyline offers its ethereally beautiful and expressive lead actor. ‘The Mistress of Spices’ is an enchanting and sensual fable about the romantic and personal conflicts that face Tilo, a beautiful young woman, trained in the ancient and magical art of spices. Ordained with special powers to help those that come to her, Tilo can sense people’s problems with a startling ability to look into their past and future!

Tilo works in a small San Francisco store called the ‘SPICE BAZAAR’, where, with the guidance of her spices, she finds the perfect remedy for anyone who walks through her door. For her powers to work she must obey three simple but strict rules she must only use the spices to help others, she must not touch another human’s skin and she must never leave her store. When Doug, a handsome, enigmatic architect crashes his Harley Davison outside her San Francisco store, she has to tend to his wounds, and her life is changed forever.

For the first time Tilo’s own desires are stirred is there more to life than helping others? Tilo knows the rules and her spices warn her to stay away. But Doug doesn’t have any spices telling him what to do and soon returns with flowers to ask her on a date.

No matter how hard she resists him, his persistence, honesty and friendship draws them closer and closer to each other. When they accidentally touch, another rule is broken and the spices are enraged. The spices are in no mood for either leniency or romance but Tilo is captivated by the force of love and agrees to go on a date leaving her spices behind.
The spices begin to punish her the more she falls in love and defies the rules, the more her customers suffer. All Tilo wants to do is carry on her work helping others and fall in love as well, but she is forced into a painful dilemma. If she turns her back on her way of life, all the people that she has helped will suffer, but if she doesn’t, she will lose Doug forever!

Tilo must now confront her past, her friends, her desires and ultimately the spices to decide if she can fight for a new life of her choosing or must return to the old one. So here’s looking forward to Paul Meyeda Berges’ eagerly awaited next film, which the following characters being played by a cast that’s a mix of excellent Indian and international actors. Character Tilo Played by Aishwarya Rai, Doug by Dylan Mc Dermott, Haroun by Nitin Ganatra, Geeta’s Grandfather by Anupam Kher, Jagjit by Sonny Gill Dulay, Doug’s Mother by Nina Young, Young Doug by Toby Marlow, Myisha by Caroline Chikezie, Geeta by Padma Lakshmi, First Mother by Zohra Segal, Kwesi by Adewale Akinnuoye - Agbaje, Satish Played by Paul Bhattacharjee, Hameeda Played by Ayesha Dharker, Bougainvillea Girl by Rebecca Bowden, Geeta’s Mother by Harvey Virdi, Doug’s Ex-Girlfriend by Cosima Shaw, Jagjit’s Mother by Shaheen Khan, Doctor by Anthony Zaki, Young Tilo by Bansree Madhani.


Gangster: The Movie

‘Gangster’ is not really a “gangster” movie, but a touching love story about a girl torn between her two lovers – one of them is a gangster on the run and another is a man who promises her a decent life. She makes a choice between the two, albeit a wrong one.

Presented by Mahesh Bhatt and directed by Anurag Basu, Gangster introduces newcomer Kangna Ranaut in a role that is doubtlessly difficult and challenging for any debutante. Shiney Ahuja and Emraan Hashmi are the movie’s leading men.

Simran (Kangna Ranaut) spends her days and nights drinking whisky and seeking emotional comfort in the company of Akash (Emraan Hashmi), a small-time singer in a Seoul club. Akash knows something is eating Simran deep inside. The truth is revealed to him one night by Simran herself.

The movie goes into flashback. We learn that Simran was a bar dancer living in a Mumbai chawl. One day, a gangster named Daya (Shiney Ahuja) runs into her house and hides there while escaping from the cops on his trail. No words are spoken between Daya and Simran. But a connection is made.

After that night of unspoken words, Daya begins to go to the dance bar just to watch Simran. One day he saves Simran from a couple of unruly guys, holds her hand and says out his first words – “Ghar Chalein”.

From that moment Simran starts living with Daya. But it is not the life she had dreamt of. Being a criminal, Daya is always on the run and she has to run with him. Even Daya’s godfather Khan (Gulshan Grover) warns him to dump the girl, but Daya refuses to ditch Simran and instead earns the wrath of Khan.

Simran tries to have a semblance of normal life by foster mothering an adopted child named Bittu. But one day, Bittu is shot dead in an encounter between cops and Daya.

Daya goes into hiding in Mauritius, while Simran lives a dysfunctional life of an alcoholic in Seoul.

After hearing Simran’s story, Akash begins to love her even more and promises to take her out of the mire she is wallowing in. He promises her a decent future. In a moment of weakness, the two end up making love in the bed.

It is then Daya makes an entry and bashes Akash. Daya confesses his true love to Simran and promises he would quit his crime world for her. On the other hand, Akash wants her to come with him to India.

Simran now has to make a choice.

Director and screenplay writer Anurag Basu must be commended for making an interesting movie without having any big names in the star cast and without resorting to unnecessary gimmickry stereotypical of commercial cinema.

The backbone of ‘Gangster’ is its story, which though not unusual, still keeps you riveted to the screen until the end, solely because of the way it has been presented by the director. An equal credit should be given to the movie’s actors for delivering fine performances.

Kangna Ranaut makes an impressive acting debut, particularly considering she has hardly had any acting experience save for a bit of theatre she did in Delhi. Although there is a scope for improvement in her dialogue delivery, she does impress with her emotive range. She excels playing an alcoholic, living a dysfunctional life, passing out on the streets of Seoul, and later on burdened by the remorse of the wrong choice she makes.

Shiney Ahuja speaks only a few dialogues in the movie. But his stoic presence throughout the film is quite imposing. He is particularly superb in one sequence at the movie’s fag end when the cops catch him at the Seoul station.

Emraan Hashmi delivers a fine performance. He doesn’t overplay himself.

Right from the opening shot, the movie raises a few questions. There is a shootout in which Simran is shot before pumping bullets into someone. Who is this other person? The link is made at the movie’s end, when director Anurag Basu completes the circle of this love triangle.

Eminently Watchable.

By Nikita Desai (