Sunday, December 25, 2016

Dangal movie review : Daddy’s dream,Daughter’s achievement,Son of a Gun-Dangal!

Behind every successful man there is a woman goes the conventional saying. Well what if we rephrased it to say, behind every successful woman there is a man! That's exactly what this movie Dangal is all about. Redefining the conventional norms associated with gender.

The setting is Haryana, a state with one of the worst sex ratios in India today. Where khap panchayat is stronger than most courts or governments. Patriarchal to an extent that most villages do not have brides for their gabru jawans (young men), since most girls get killed in their mother’s wombs.  And to think that in such a society, a guy dreamt of making his daughters sporting heroes is somewhat surreal. Add to that the traditionally male dominated sport of wrestling and one might say in Haryanvi “Bawla hai key!”
But then that is what defines a true wrestler. Not the daav or the wrestling move that he throws in the ring but the fights that he withstands in real life. And Mahavir Phogat is one such persona. Played by the perfectionist Aamir Khan, as a budding wrestler he's forced to give up his dream of winning a gold medal for his nation, due to his poor economic condition and absolute apathy from a system which wants athletes but won’t nurture one. However he keeps his fire burning and dreams that one day his son will do what he couldn’t. In fact the fire burns so wild in him that he sires four daughters in his quest for a son!  Not to mention the ‘friendly tips’ he gets from the entire village on how to father a son. But when all his efforts to produce a patriarchal heir go in vain, Mahavir resigns himself to fate and a boring life until a scuffle that his girls get into changes his life.
Looking at the manner in which his girls have thrashed the neighborhood male pranksters, Mahavir realises the fact that achieving a dream, is all that matters. Putting a gender stereotype to a dream is in fact insulting it. After all the human spirit of excellence has no gender. It belongs to anyone who strives hard for it. And that makes the fact 'Maari choriyan kisi choron se kam hai key' dawn in him. A belief which he drills, first harshly and then sensibly into both his daughters and makes them convert his dream into theirs.
In the story department, Dangal offers few surprises because both Geeta and Babita's historic wins at the Commonwealth Games and following championships is common knowledge. However, what it does is beautifully bring to life is their arduous journey, the steely resolve of their father and finally their triumph against the odds of gender stereotypes. A lot of critics to this plot would say that Mahavir only made his daughters instruments to his dream. Didn’t give them a choice for an alternate career. However that is not entirely true. As depicted in the movie, there were enough and more stages in the children’s lives where they refused to see his dream as theirs, even rebelled. But then when better sense prevailed, their journey to becoming champions began to see the light under the able tutelage of their father.
The semi final wrestling bout, the final five pointer slam that Geeta scores to win the gold, the intense dangal match with her father, where tradition wrestles with modernity are some scenes that stay with you. The film does have some bollywoodish moments too, like Mahavir ruling over the instructions given by the coach of the NSA to Geeta during the championship bout, being locked up during the final etc but then what is bollywood without some liberties.Nitesh Tiwari, the director of the film is able to extract some spirited performances from his younger actors, be it Suhani Bhatnagar and Zaira Wasim who play the younger incarnations of Babita and Geeta respectively. The show stealer however is Ritwik Sahore who plays their cousin Omkar, and the source of much amusement in the film, courtesy his role as a reluctant sparring partner for the girls in their growing up years. Sakshi Tanwar as Daya, the wife of Mahavir does a good job. Sanya Malhotra (adult Babita) lends good support but the one who goes hand in hand with the main lead is the character of Geeta played fiercely by dimpled Fatima Sana Shaikh.  A good blend of beauty with brawns, she breathes this role to life and is only left behind in performance a ‘hanikarak bapu’ Aamir Khan (22 kilos heavier) with grey hair and a daddy paunch. Throughout the film, not for once you feel it is Aamir and that shows the actors commitment to play characters and not himself. The songs too blend in nicely with the plot, but the ones that deserve special mention are ‘Dhaakkad’, the soft track ‘Gileheriyan’ and  Daler Mehndi’s soulful rendition of the title track ‘Dangal Dangal’ which gets the adrenaline pumping right from the start of the film.
Go get muddy in this Dangal, for in many ways it stroked the change in the patriarchal Jat mindset of Haryana. Where now behind many successful wrestlers and budding talents there is no man or woman but only a dream! A dream fuelled by the success of many families like the Phogats. 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Loretta Play Review: Loretta- Go..A for It!

The Tiatr setting
Loretta. The papers described it as a goan play based on the popular Tiatr form. Ab Theatre toh suna tha, but yeh ‘Theater mein Tiatr’ pehli baar sun raha tha. Googled  and found out that this Tiatr is a type of musical theatre popular in the state of Goa since colonial days, the  language mainly being Konkani. The drama consists of 6 or 7 acts called pordhe . The acts are interspersed by songs which need not be directly linked to the content or the issues of the main drama. There are 2 or 3 songs between each of the acts. In case you find that too much to comprehend, guess for the lesser mortals one can say,these are like Nautanki fillers! Short and maybe not so sweet for some but definitely effective!
Goa, with its free flowing culture and charm, always  lifts up your spirit in more ways than one. Now a goan charm combined with this folk or Tiatr style of storytelling, was a potent cocktail. So decided to give it a shot over the weekend. Now a shot in Goa will have a different meaning depending on whom you are talking to. Anyways before venturing into details and getting this article censored let’s stick to the main dope, I mean play review.
Language is nothing but a pure form of human expression. What is its importance if it can’t help us communicate. It’s just a facilitator for humans to come close and that’s about it. Just not worth giving it more importance than us, isn’t it?  And where is it found? In the books or the grammer texts or in the simplest of words,songs and sounds that echo amongst the common folk that touch your heart ? The later I guess, is where the answer lies. Sunil Shanbaug through this musical Tiatr of Loretta drives home this simple point, quite grammatically, I mean dramatically!
My bad luck. Coudn’t get a goan beauty to accompany me so had to settle for a beauty from a different geographical location of India. But a beauty nevertheless! That’s why i love our country. There is so much potential everywhere. Bharat mata ki Jai! Jokes apart it was her birthday just a couple of days back  and since we coudn’t meet up that day, had planned this day out as a return gift. After all what can you give a girl who can afford diamonds, only priceless memories.  Was smart enough to figure that out and if it kept the friendly spirits soaring, so be it!
Right from the entrance to the waiting hall, the mood was spot on. Goan music, folks songs and goan food stalls dominated the proceedings. The singer was good and she definitely got the tempo going before the show began. Set in an old goan town on an island in Barthemelow the plot opens on the life of Mr Antonio Moraes(Abhijit Bhoir), more popularly called Konkani Moraes, because of his fanatical obsession towards the Konkani language. Being a landlord he wields enough clout amongst most folk on the Island. He is determined in his objective to keep the culture and the language on the island pure and from this obsession of his, stems up his decision to keep the island secluded. If that means the only way to reach is through a ferry , so be it.
Enter his son Rafael (Satvic)with his live-in partner Loretta(Rozzlin Pereira) . Rafael is back not to spend time in his village or with his father but for his own selfish reasons of wanting a job in Portugal, for which he needs a Portuguese passport.Easily available to Goans. Antonio aware of this is least excited when he sees his son back. But what strikes him is Loretta and her love for everything Konkani. In love with everything that the island has to offer, from its fields to the trees, to its people and their dialect, Loretta feels she has found true home on this island.  Her morning wake up call is the song of the toddy tapper Miguel(Kailash Waghmare ) . Her interactions with the paowala Pedro (Shailesh Hemjadi) and the fisher woman Audu( Shilpa Sane ) keep her day occupied. And then there is the ever reliable Caitu (Danish Husain) , Man-Friday to Moraes, now transformed into Ms.Bai  Loretta’s best friend, who lights up the stage with a meaty role scene after scene.
Rafael wants to go but Loretta wants to stay for as long as she wants. Moraes throws a challenge – learn the language of the island to stay on the island or else go back to where you came from. Loretta takes it up and thus begins her sincere effort to learn Konkani. With her buddy Caitu in tow along with Audu, Pedro and Miguel what begins next is a roller coaster ride of music and emotions. Whether she manages to come clean in this test and how her relations with the other protagonists evolve, then forms the crux of the play.
The casting is spot on and all the actors enact their roles well. The live music and the Tiatr acts by Asif Ali Baig and one even by the director Sunil Shanbaug keep you well entertained. What you take back is a memorable evening and maybe some words of Konkani .
Apart from Loretta, played with sincerity and liveliness by Rozzlin and Caitu ,portrayed with a flair by Danish ,the characters of the pint sized dynamo fisherwoman Audu and the toddy tapper Miguel ,whose body language is mastered by Waghmare stay with you even after the show. In Audu’s case the scene where she blushes on hearing Rafael’s  praise for her  is priceless. In Waghmare’s case his own physique is priceless! One look and you know he is the toddy tapper or your very own neighborhood friendly…nariyal pani wala. So much for spiderman i say!
Enjoyed the show and it is definitely a different experience. My partner-in-crime for the evening also liked it, which was pretty much evident in her almost ‘man-like’ laughter on a couple of occasions during the show. For all those speculating more on what happened after it, well we went our ways which just goes to show that Loretta can be safely enjoyed with kids too! The content is absolutely generic with just a 'blink and you miss' peck towards the end. For other outcomes well there are different kinds of plays. But we’ll get to that some other day.
Till then go for this Taitr whenever you find it playing at a theater near you. Konkani or no Konkani, go for it for the love of Goa, go for Loretta!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Movie review: The Jungle book.Niklo chaddi pehenke!

Carefree and free spirited, running around the Jungle in a yellow chaddi with the song playing the background-“jungle jungle bath chali hai pata chala hai, chaddi pehenke phool khila hai… phool khila hai…” the images of Mowgli and his friends are still sharp in my mind.  Have lost count on the number of Sundays this animated series entertained us on the idiot box on Doordarshan during our childhood days. Mowgli’s friends were our friends and we all hated, some even feared Shere Khan. Even in our group all of us had names. I, for one was Bagheera, the panther. Mowgli’s trusted friend/mentor guide .Missed out on being Mowgli since I was big for my age amongst my peers and on Baloo because there was someone bigger!
Was awaiting this one and when the movie released in India this week, was amongst the first to catch it over the long weekend. The plot is nearly the same. Mowgli, a man cub is discovered by Bagheera and handed over to Raksha and Akela, the wolves who raise him up as their own. The boy grows up and considers him to be a proud member of the wolf pack until things change. Summer is at its peak and a water truce is called. No hunting,No bloodshed during the truce, is the law of the Jungle. Enter the menacing tiger with a grudge for humans and especially Mowgli–Shere Khan. The tiger threatens that once the truce is over he will come for the man cub and that’s when the wolves under Bagheera’s advice decide that the man-cub is safer amongst his own. They ask him to go to the man village and stop at nothing in the way.
What beacons then is a roller coaster adventure that Mowgli draws us into. From escaping Shere Khan’s ferocious attack to being enticed hypnotically into Kaa’s world rather her stomach nearly, only to be rescued by Baloo.  He strikes a great comrade with the bear. The character of Baloo provides great comic relief in the film and is an interesting one. But once Mowgli learns that Shere Khan has killed Akela to get to him, revenge burns in his heart and he comes back with the red flower! The divine knowledge of fire, the power that made man supreme in the animal kingdom.
The film is a visual treat .The computer graphics breathe life into the jungle. Even though Neel Sethi (Mowgli) may be the only living, breathing entity but by the time the movie is over, you feel the entire Jungle is alive from the smallest of animals to the main ones of Bagheera, Baloo, & Shere Khan. The effects are so real that you are transported into the Jungle right from the first frame and you experience Mowgli’s life. Frame by Frame the detailing laves you spellbound. One of the most chilling scenes in the movie is that of the snake Kaa. Her hypnotic moves almost leave you asking for more.
There are some diversions from the main story, at least from what we saw on Doordarshan as kids. In that Mowgli from the jungle actually finds a second home in the man village and a soul mate in Radha. As he grows a bit older is when he comes back with the knowledge of fire and avenges his father’s death by killing/torching Shere khan with it. In this film even though the director stays true to the eventual ending, the situations leading to it are redefined.  Also while the monkey gang or the Bandar log in the animated series owed loyalty to Shere khan, here they are a separate entity in themselves. Their king Louie is shown as more interested in controlling the jungle and hence seeks the knowledge of the red flower from Mowgli.
Apart from the graphics, the other hero in the movie is the voiceovers. Saw it in English and am tempted to watch it in Hindi too just to see how it has shaped up.
Shere Khan (Idris Elba), Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), Bill Murray (Baloo) etc give it all and breathe life into their characters. But Scarlett Johansson as the mysterious Kaa with her husky voice stands out and creates an impact in just one scene and how. Truly amazing. All in all, a perfect casting choice to compliment the wonderful effects.
Neel Sethi as Mowgli is lovable from the first frame and carries one with him throughout his adventures in the jungle. He will win hearts for sure. Jon Favreau, take a bow for adapting the heart rendering tale of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle book and presenting us with our childhood memories refreshed and how!  His efforts have made this one of the best animated movies to come out from the house of Disney.
The only spoiler is the U/A certificate given by  Pahlaj Nihalani- censor bored ,oops board chief of India!  That for me was the only piece of ‘over the top CG’ in this film!
Go for it guys . This is a must watch and one of the best films this year.
Chaddi pehenke phool nahi , pura Jungle khila hai!