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Bhootwala Serial (2009)
One of the first horror-comedy TV series in India, Bhootwala Serial was a creative attempt by Sab TV to add a new supernatural dimension to an otherwise tried and tested Indian sitcom script. The tropes are all too familiar but most of them are thankfully still funny. Some of the episodes simply stretch the plot. However good acting by most of the main characters is a relief. The show was worth watching, but it's a pity it only aired for some months.
Jaya Ganga (1996)
It's a poem, but not on the river
Jaya Ganga is an apparent tribute to the great river Ganga. The film narrates the story of Nishant, an Indian writer from Paris, and his journey on the river. He undertakes the pilgrimage of the course of the river in search of his fantasy woman Jaya, but he meets Zehra. Nishant falls in love with her and asks her to accompany him for the rest of his journey.
The good parts of the film are the photography and locations. The journey of Nishant starts from the Gaumukh and ends at Banaras. The river and all the sceneries are photographed with pleasing authenticity. But I'm slightly disappointed that the plot could not infuse the rest of the river's course. The secondary Indian characters' appearances and dialogues look and sound genuine.
The not-so-good parts are the very common cinematic elements and tropes that are trademarks of tragic romance and independent art films. The spiritual journey, the mysterious woman and her charm, the beautiful courtesan and ambiguities in her life, the tragic romance, and other allegories galore. You always feel like you have seen this tale somewhere before.
Jaya Ganga has allegorical poetry, but, in the end, it is a rather ordinary film.
Beautiful, Innocent, Touching
A beautiful movie that perfectly captures the feelings of an innocent child living in the Kashmir conflict and a soldier who is helpless yet sympathetic towards the people there. The unbiased representation of the situation and the touching innocence of a child trying to comprehend everything around him makes this story exceptional.
How to Stage a Coup (2017)
Shallow and Simplistic
'How to stage a coup' draws parallels between the rise of historical figures like Caesar, Napoleon, Mussolini, et al. The parallels are interesting but too simplistic. The target audience of such documentaries is usually history buffs. But most of the facts and theories shown here are well known, and history buffs may not find them interesting. The documentary is too short in length to cover a topic as intricate as a coup. And few of the coups referred to in the documentary are arguably not even coups.
In conclusion, if you have an hour to kill or if you just love watching montages of your favorite dictators before bed, then you can find this doc on Netflix.
The script needed a better "look"
Spotlight is the most mediocre part of an otherwise quite engaging and entertaining series. The story is a satire on the blind faith in society and the insecurities of stars. Although inspired by Satyajit Ray's eponymous short story, this Spotlight is heavily modified.
It is hard to deny that a potential clash of two famous insecure individuals in today's technology-powered world can be anything less than entertaining, but here it is. The execution was not up to the mark, and perhaps the writer and director are to blame. The script does not look very developed, the humorous undertones are below par, and the quirky dialogues (and the quirky "Look" of the main character) are usually dull. Many reviews have accused Harshvardhan of giving a poor performance, but given a poor plot and array of stereotypical characters, his performance should be called decent.
But there are some good things as well. The production design was brilliant, like the previous three episodes. The vivid imagery- the use of blue around Didi's character, the display of spiritual elements, the palace hotel set- deserve lots of praise. In conclusion, Spotlight is a moderately entertaining one-time watch (not as bad as many have called it).
X: Past Is Present (2015)
Present Is Past
X is "not an anthology" movie directed by 11 directors, an achievement in itself. The movie is a collection of 11 short films tied by one common link- K, the protagonist. K is a self-righteous, little psychotic, and lonely director who's ready to forego real-life experiences to find inspiration for his movies.
In the first section 'Past is Present' K meets a girl who reminds him of his first girlfriend. And as he spends the rest of the night with this mysterious girl, he has flashbacks of some unforgettable experiences he has had with different women in his life. Every flashback, directed by separate directors, is entangled with the first section.
In the beginning, the movie is a little complex and puzzling, but it disentangles gradually. The film's editing is quite impressive especially considering the film is a fusion of works of 11 directors, each having different working styles and mindsets.
A big issue with the movie is that there are so many interwoven tales to tell in only around 100 minutes. It does not allow the viewer to explore the more engaging encounters of K's past. At times K's character shown at different phases of his life seem like distinct individuals altogether. Perhaps the reason is that four different actors play K at different ages.
Although the story is of a film director visiting the ghosts of his past, the ghosts seem quite relatable. There are also elements of magic and surrealism present in the story as the director's journey is explored. The performances of Anshuman Jha in the part "Knot" and Swara Bhaskar in "Summer Holiday" are remarkable.
X: Past is present is an experimental abstract film and, understandably, many viewers might find it confusing and unsavory. Nevertheless, the movie is, for the most part, entertaining, and the character K is likely to arouse one's curiosity.
Darna Zaroori Hai (2006)
Goosebumps is "not" necessary
Darna Zaroori hai is an anthology horror. There are six stories interwoven into one.
In the beginning, it is surprising and also scary at points, which is very rare for a Bollywood horror film. But as the movie progresses it becomes more and more predictable. The story of the imaginary ghost, directed by Ram Gopal Verma, is arguably the best of the lot. Amitabh Bachchan's portrayal of a disturbed Professor is the most impressive of all performances in the movie. And the honorable mention would go to Rajpal Yadav for playing the psychopathic Insurance Agent in the story Accidents are Never Predicted.
Overall, the movie is watchable and it would surely give you some momentary goosebumps.
Arab spring came, but Syrian flowers couldn't bloom
This documentary analyzes how the Assad family has ruled Syria for the last five decades. After coming to power in 1970, the Assads have managed to overcome every obstacle that threatened their reign, including the ongoing civil war which had almost brought them to their knees. The power dynamics within the family have been well explored. The tale of the deadly family, undeniable and unbiased.
The Last Seduction (1994)
Unsurprisingly Enjoyable Seduction
The Last Seduction, a conventional neo-noir from the 90s, can be called a thriller with unsurprising twists and turns. The plot is very standard and the viewer should not anticipate a mind boggling narrative, unless one has never seen a movie of this genre.
The protagonist or the anti-heroine, depending upon the viewer's discretion, is a devious seductress, who has run away from her husband with their drug money. She is playing cat and mouse with her husband and also conning gullible men in the small town of Beston. The story is very comparable to other similar Femme Fatale-led erotic thrillers, like the 1981 classic Body Heat. The character of Bridget Gregory bamboozles imbecile men with fabulously unconvincing ease that seems to transcend human logic.
The highlight of the movie is the acting of Linda Fiorentino (playing Bridget). Her portrayal of a egocentric, greedy and despicable woman with a dry sense of humour deserves admiration. Sadly her performance could not get an Oscar nomination because it premiered on HBO before the theatre release. It was initially planned only as a low budget erotic thriller, but it did really exceed those expectations and ascend to the classic neo-noir status.
Fighting Fish (2010)
Although I do not often watch indies, I was certainly impressed by this movie. I came across this movie while reading an article online, and the title got me curious. This movie is really ultra-low budget and really hard to find anywhere which is not unusual considering how little known it is and was also released some years ago. Luckily I managed to find it, and it was worth a find.
The story is about David, his relationship with his family and his sister who returns home after a long absence. How relationships burden the choices we want to make has been explored well. The title 'Fighting Fish' describes both David, played by Val Emmich, and Alice, played by Anna Moore, who are fighting with their inner self and are struggling to cope with the responsibilities. The story seemed really earnest to me and I was particularly impressed by Emmich and Moore's performances.
I do recommend this and wish that good low-budget movies are appreciated by the public. Making a good movie with a very low budget is a tremendously difficult job, these filmmakers deserve appreciation and better reception at box office.
Story of a crippled pawn, a valiant rook and an evil king
'Wazir' showcases a beautiful analogy between the life of a chess player and the game of chess.
A wheelchair-bound chess grandmaster/Panditji (Amitabh Bachchan) befriends a traumatized ATS officer Daanish (Farhan Akhtar). Daanish's life is falling apart after the death of his daughter and the subsequent separation from his wife. Panditji is himself grieving the loss of his daughter who died in a mysterious accident. Panditji believes the Welfare Minister has murdered his daughter. As Wazir enters the game to eliminate Panditji, Daanish fights to protect him.
The plot's central focus is on the battle of the weak pawn, Panditji, with the mighty king, the Welfare Minister. The pawn seeks the help of the rook to defeat the king. The story takes twists and turns as the battle for justice transforms into the hunt of Wazir.
The friendship between the Panditji and Daanish, and the emotional state of a grieving father are the highlights of this movie.
Watch this movie for the climax.
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
This flick will set you free
Few things you probably already know about 'The Shawshank Redemption': it was nominated for 7 Oscars, yet failed to win any, it failed at the box office and it is one of the best movie ever made.
I felt mesmerized watching this movie, and I believe everyone who has watched it must have felt the same. A perfect adaptation of Stephen King's novel 'Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption', this movie stays faithful to the plot of the novella with very minor alterations. Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins have given stellar performances. Freeman's eloquent narration throughout the film provides the description of the events happening over the prison and his friendship with Andy Dufresne over a number of years from his character's perspective.
The main themes of the movie, hope, self-worth, integrity and friendship are beautifully interlocked with the prison-drama. The climate of Shawshank State Penitentiary is painted gray and dull to amplify the intensity of every event. The depiction of institutionalized life and emotions of the prisoners, who aren't only trapped inside Shawshank physically but psychologically as well, are very precise. The character of Andy Dufresne, played by Tim Robbins, displays extraordinary courage and self-worth in the hopeless walls of Shawshank prison. The climax is intricately woven with poetic justice.
This film is Frank Darabont's Magnum Opus. A well deserved #1 on IMDb's Top 250.
Seinfeld: The Finale (1998)
Not the best finale for the "nothing" show
If you are a Seinfeld fan and haven't yet watched this episode, then do not. Larry David screwed it up. Certainly not the best possible ending for one of the greatest sitcoms in the history of television. But if you have tolerance and patience, then you can watch this. The finale will certainly refresh your memories as many guests (probably too many) from the past episodes are summoned to the court for the meaningless trial of Jerry's gang for doing "nothing".
There are a few good punches at the beginning but as the episode progresses it becomes more and more tedious. The episode is overly sarcastic and the portrayal of our beloved leads as cynical beings is difficult to absorb. Even Jerry's final stand up is cumbersome.