Playing armchair critic

I’ve been to heaven and back. And what I really want to talk about is how lovely it was to getaway. How every time that I do, it reinforces my innate need to travel now and again. Even if it is just 70 kilometres away. Because sometimes a little piece of heaven on earth, is really just that close by. But I’ll leave you with a picture that should give you a fairly accurate sense of just how peaceful my weekend was, before I get to the other point of this post.

Right, so armchair critic. That’s me. But this is nothing more than just my very cursory armchair reaction. And the reason for these disclaimers is because watching movies is subjective. I get it. And its better to go with the to-each-her-own approach. So these are my views on watching two of the most talked about films in the last few weeks.

The good: Barfi
I liked it. And because I’ve heard everything from oh-my-gawd-I-cried-right-through-it to am-I-the-only-weirdo-who-thought-it-was-really-stupid (not to mention unoriginal) I feel like I have to put it out there, that I didn’t go in expecting an awesome film. I don’t expect that of any Hindi film anymore. I went in because I love Ranbir Kapoor. I think he’s uber talented, is refreshing in the face of excessive testosterone show that most mainstream male stars have indulged in, in the past few years. And each time I have watched him, he has surprised me and outdone himself a little bit more. Barfi was no different. So yes, I think it helped that I went with low (virtually non-existent) expectations, so there wasn’t much to be let down by. Can’t say the same for the next movie I will talk about.

But Barfi! It was just nice to have a pretty, refreshing, simple, feel good story be told in a nice and simple, old-fashioned slapstick way. And yet it didn’t have the silliness that I assume most Tushar Kapoor and Riteish Deshmukh slapstick sagas do. It was heart warming, because of the subject itself.  What I especially loved is that the movie doesn’t evoke that helpless sense of pity and empathy that one tends to feel for characters in movies like Black or any other movie with a protagonist dealing with autism or blindness, or whatever else. While the condition is central to the character and the movie itself, in parts I almost forgot that Barfi is deaf-mute, and Jhilmil is autistic. And to tell that story with almost no words spoken by the protagonist and his love interests, I thought was a job well done.

From lovely cinematography, to picture perfect lighting, set design and colours, the film left me wanting to go to Darjeeling to see if it is really as pretty as they made it look. Another movie with scenes of Calcutta that leave you longing to go see it for yourself, this one definitely gets full marks for using the cities it is based in, well.

The one thing that has had people going gaga over: the music, left me quite cold. I’m the kind of person that gets hooked and booked on the idea of a movie, by listening to the music long before the movie actually releases. I often decide if a movie is worth watching depending on how much or how little the music has appealed to me. Thankfully, I didn’t apply the logic this time, or I’d have missed out on this refreshingly different movie, in the days of Halkat Jawani and the likes. So no, the music didn’t cut it for me. It didn’t feel like a soundtrack that complemented the ups and downs and twists and turns of the movie. I felt like every song blended into the other, and nothing really stood out. MOre like an inconspicuous background score, rather than a soundtrack, I kept comparing it to the music of Rockstar (only musically) and it just come close. The same happy go lucky accordion led jazz inspired (Amelie-ripped off?) strains rang prominent in every song. Same raspy vocals (Mohit Chauhan, I love you, nonetheless. And Papon, you need to sing in movies more often) in ever song and nothing really memorable. Except for the one song, that didn’t even turn up in the movie for some reason, which I think has stuck in my head more for Rekha Bharadwaj’s vocals, than anything else.

So yeah, I liked the movie all in all. I thought it was fresh, happy and different. It entertained me. It left me laughing in parts, thinking in parts and just with a happy mushy feeling by the end. Ranbir was delightful, Priyanka was lovely. And both of them did a great job, without the support of dialogues or song and dance to fall back on. Some movies are like that, like an escape form reality, without having to communicate with aliens and make fake crop circles in Indian villages, or tell the story of a much-long drawn out family feud, in a movie with a ridiculous name. My only gripe was the horribly aged looking make up for the older characters and bad wigs. I mean how hard is it to get a decent make up job and a realistic wig in 2012? That, and the fact that it was still almost 3 hours long. I really believe that Hindi cinema needs to break out of this 3-hour trap. Because I sincerely believe the same stories can be told in far less time, and still be just as fun and entertaining. But small complaints in the face of the overall movie, which I repeat, made me generally happy.

Did it do the same for many others out there? So many of you that it has now made it to the Oscars? Ahead of Gangs of Wasseypur? Really?

I’m not sure.

The bad, the horrible and the insufferable: Heroine
Oh my gawd I want to erase the Heroine experience out of my mind and reclaim those wasted 3 hours. It is that kind of horrid. Horrid at every level. And once again reminded me how I really ought to really weed out my choices discerningly, when it comes to picking Hindi movies.

I didn’t go with expectations, as usual. In fact, I knew this it wouldn’t be bad, but even that didn’t prepare me for the debacle that unfolded before my eyes, as I sat trapped in my chair, regretting having had that coffee to keep me awake. If I hadn’t I would have just fallen asleep and not regretted it one bit. But I didn’t have that option. I had to sit through yet another display of just how much growing up our film industry has to do before it starts making realistic cinema.

Sometimes I think we’re such a regressive people. Our idea of telling realistic stories about a field that is assumed to be controversial, cannot be told without the formula of 1 alcoholic, 1-2 gay men, 1-2 affairs, everybody smoking, 1 messed up main woman who is always on the verge of either jumping off a balcony or drinking toilet cleaner. What’s worse, Madhur Bhandarkar for all his self-confidence about making realistic cinema that is a window into the truth, cannot seem to portray a single gay man without having to 1) make him wear that ridiculous gamcha-type scarf in every scene 2) have him deliver dialogues like a cretin 3) make some crass references about his willingness to jump into bed with the second gay man in the movie. And it only proves that some Indians really do believe gay men are all promiscuous, willing to sleep with just about anyone, are only relegated to professions like hairdressing, fashion-designing and are not to be taken seriously beyond that. How delusional, for a film maker to portray this and many other stereotypes, reinforce them, and only display his stupidity over and over. Really, is that what our understanding of reality is?

And really, I’m so done with Madhur Bhandarkar’s set formulas that depend on nothing else but typecasting. So don’t even get me started on the story. Because there wasn’t one. It was a three-hour long ordeal that consisted of a thoughtless mish-mash of some of the worst parts of the lives of a handful of actresses. Every mistake, every mishap, every controversy, all mashed into one story with no head or tail. And then it just ended. Thankfully.

So no, this one wasn’t realistic. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t entertaining. And I want my three wasted hours back.

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23 thoughts on “Playing armchair critic

    1. I get so riled up, I cannot think anymore. Which is probably why I hated the movie even more. Because said gay character showed up in the first 5 minutes, and from then on I just couldnt look past it and stop being angry and watch the damned thing in peace.

  1. i cannot get myself to watch barfi though I’ve heard really good things being said about it cos I (for NO reason, cos I know zilch abt her, I don’t even know her name, though someone told me, but I’ve forgotten already) immensely despise the RK’s love interest. There’s no logical explanation for it, none that I can think of anyway.

    And yes, will steer clear of Heroine. I disliked most of Madhur Bhandarkar’s movies (except chandni bar and page 3). And that song… main heroine hoon… ridiculous! It reminded me of that “bhoot hoon main” song :p

    1. Eh what ya, eleana dcruz.. shes so pretty :) better than fake-o PC.
      But dont even bother wasting your time with heroine. They might as well have named the film Bhooth. Now, this woman, I cant stand. And she oscillates between looking scorching types and downright scary ugly. I wonder how thats possible in one film.

  2. I agree with you 100%.. i regret going to watch Heroine on a weekend, spending crazy money at the multiplex for a storyless film. I expected more from heroine.. But all i felt was i am seeing Chandni bar, Fashion and Page 3 all over again.
    You are echoing my thoughts here.. I hate how he stereotypes all gay men. And i hate how he makes everyone in the industry look so mean and manipulative.
    I am sure there are good people everywhere…just as there are bad people everywhere.

    And barfi.. was so awesome. I went with least expectations, expecting a blooper… but it was so beautiful. Especially that scene where they make dolls from wheat dough and pass them off for rotis ;)

  3. Roxana

    I got why I came back unfeeling, after Barfi. I went there, hoping to watch this unbelievably awesome movie and like you said, while it was beautiful in parts, the length of the movie killed it for me. That said, is Ranbir Kapoor a brilliant actor or what. And oh, I find Ileana so pretty too. That PC, is another story altogether!
    The cinematography was beyond brilliant – some part of the countryside reminded me so much of Kerala and a lush-er Tamil Nadu. It’s all that green – in every shade possible, made me so happy.
    You know those planter’s chairs in your first pic (we call them easy chairs at home)? They are standard fixtures in my grandparents’ houses and seeing that pic brought back some happy, happy memories.

    1. The unnecessarily dragged out 3 hour formula has ruined many a good hindi movie for me too. I tend to switch off in parts, as I did even in Barfi. I didnt go into details about how I felt it didnt do justice to a non linear plot that it attempted, perhaps that also left you disinterested?
      I have more pictures of the place. It was stunning, with a plan and architecture done in total harmony with the location. Wooden cabins tucked away between the trees, reading out over the hillside, so the view from my bed was vast openness of the valley, with nothing to interrupt it, not even a grill. beyond the lone log of wood that separated our balcony and the valley was just a drop down.. we spent most of our time there, in those chairs reading.. but i’ll leave the whys and hows to the next post.

  4. I totally agree with you that weekend getaways are the best. Gavin and I used to do a lot of outdoor stuff in Scotland when we were living together in Edinburgh. For the last few years its been a bit more random because we were in different countries but now we are back to planning weekend getaways. In fact, went to France on Saturday and had an absolutely smashing time. I’ll write about it this week on my blog. Found a really good vineyard chateau and a castle to stay in.

      1. But you will come next year, you said, and that is only three months away. Are you coming in summer or winter? Summer is the best but also really busy in popular tourist places. Let me know if you need any help with your itinerary.

    1. Hehe yes i love vigil idiot. I tend to enjoy his review more than the movie also sometimes. Been reading him since he had his own little blog before he got all commercial and all.

  5. I too loved Barfi and I adore Ranbir..He is one fantastic actor. I also went and saw Heroine and have reviewed it on my blog. Madhur Bhandarkar cannot move away from his movie making formula unfortunately. I thought Kareena acted really well in spite of the stupid script.

  6. Pingback: 3 movies in 3 days | hAAthi

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