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Thappad Movie Review


Thappad begins with the routine family life of Amrita (Taapsee Pannu) a happily married housewife and her husband, Vikran (Pavail Gulati).  Vikram works in a reputed company and is aggressively focused on climbing the corporate ladder that will ultimately take him to London, as the head honcho. Amrita is aware of how much his career means to Vikram, and is fully focused on supporting her husband. Her life revolves around looking for his comfort and attending to his mother, Sulochana (Tanvi Azmi)

 

Vikarm is elated when he is selected for the desired role and throws a celebration party to his friends. During the celebration, he gets the news that another white man is deemed more appropriate and Vikram would be reporting to him. Vikram has a heated argument with one of his superiors Rajhans, who was attending the party. When Amrita comes in the middle and tries to stop him for escalating the argument, Vikram’s anger turns on her and he slaps her. This thappad begins a chain of events and forms the core theme of the movie.

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This movie is a MeToo moment for me and is personal for me in several ways, although for me, it wasn’t the first thappad and lack of apology. But after I let go of the first thappad after tearful apologies, the apologies became less frequent and genuine and then disappeared, and thappads became more routine. In a changing India, Amrita refuses to brush off this single incident of violence and public humiliation. When she questions her life choices and finally her marriage, Vikran propelled by anger and bad advice, transforms a no contest, mutual consent divorce into a full blown court battle. That was another MeToo moment for me and a reminder of the time when my appeal for mediation was thrown out and the accusations and fake accusations were launched, casting me as an abuser and mentally unstable.  It is easy to be charming in public and in periods of happiness, but as a society and in family units, we need to ask a question, how do people react under stress and outside of the public eye, and do women get to bear the brunt of family stress and do they lose their right to be happy, one smile at a time?

 

The movie does not make light of a thappad, nor does it make a thappad bigger than what it is. Instead, what the film does is to serve as a thoughtful reminder that abuse should not be an acceptable aspect in a relationship and love, respect and happiness are closely tied together. Amrita says, मुझे वहां रहना नथी जहाँ पे मेरी वेल्यू न हो and she says, “I want to be happy and when I say, I am happy, I don’t want to look unreal”.  Even while making a compelling case for a woman’s right to genuine happiness, the movie does not downgrade into men bashing thoughtlessness. And even when the movie focuses on happiness which would be at a higher level in Maslows’s hierarchy of needs, the film does not fail to show the struggles of women like Amrita’s maid, who are battling domestic violence at home on a daily basis, while working in low level jobs.

 

What is working so beautifully in the movie is that the dialogs are natural and low key.  Huge kudos to Director Anubhav Sinha and co script writers Sinha and Mrunmayee Lagoo to not just stir up passions but make this a strongly worded film of significanceTapsee Pannu is fabulous in conveying the impact of her experience and her dilemma without getting acrimonious, loud or overbearing. Her restrained acting with impactful dialogs serves as moments of reckoning about the assumptions and expectations surrounding women’s roles in Indian society. The entire cast including Kumud Sharma (Amrita’s adoring father), Pavil Gulati (Vikram), Ratna Pathak Shah (Amrita’s mother), Tanvi Azmi (Amrita’s mother in law), Maya Sarao (Amrita’s lawyer) and Geetika Vidya Ohlyan (Amrita’s maid) show the restraint and deliver a powerful film. On a scale of 1 to 5 (with 5 being perfect), I rate the film as 4.9.

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De De Pyar De – Bollywood Movie Review


In Akiv Ali’s Bollywood film, “De De Pyar De”, finally we have a chick flick for men. Fret not; you will see the reason behind this oxymoron very soon.  Movie starts off as a romantic sex comedy between 50 something calm and confident alpha man, Ashish (Ajay Devgn) and about half his age hottie, Ayesha (Rakul Preet Singh). Ashish and Ayesha confidently flirt with each other, then fall in love, and then briefly discuss that gossipers in the community will judge that she is into him for his bottomless wealth (he is an investor in London) and he is into her for her youth and beauty (yes, she is hot) and thus the issue is put to rest.

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Lest we still become judgmental, their flirty tête-à-tête includes sweet caring (she makes dal for him, he says he does not like dal so as to not hurt her feelings) that indicates they are truly into each other and despite deciding to stay away from one another, they just could not. Singh is sexy but also expressive and caring. But that’s not where the film ends with 50 something guy romping with a young hottie. That is just the beginning. The movie wants us to give a stamp of moral approval on this relationship. And that is where the film takes a turn from romantic comedy to family drama. Ashish takes Ayesha from London to India to meet his ex wife and kids and parents.

The problem is —- ok there are many problems that can’t but make us feel a tad judgmental.  First of all, the problem is the girl. She drinks hard, parties hard, doesn’t blink an eye when she passes out and finds herself (undressed) in the morning, in a man’s house. In fact, she is incredulous (perhaps also mildly disappointed) that he passed up on rape and did not take advantage of her. While it is supposed to make the audience look with awe at Devgn’s character, one wonders about Singh’s character and her lack of readiness for a serious relationship with a man with a past. Then the problem is the boy. He does no planning and shows no confidence in any of his past or present relationship decisions and they are all marked by irresponsibility, half truths, hypocrisy and deceit. He takes a girl the age of his daughter to India, without adequately preparing everyone, embarrassing them all.

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The beauty of the movie that makes it all worthwhile emerges in the few short scenes with Tabu (Ashish’s ex-wife). I am sure her dialogs touch the heart of every woman, when she speaks of being tired of always having to be the responsible one and mend relationships. Tabu as a mature mom who listens to all sides and resolves key issues with her daughter’s in-laws, the glue that keeps the family together, admonishing her kids when they get bratty are all beautiful knockout scenes. But it is Tabu’s short speech to her family to stop being judgmental and take responsibility for their decisions, asking them to stop blaming her ex-husband, is phenomenal.  And finally, Tabu’s dialog with Ayesha, her rival for her ex’s attentions, is an absolute gem; although one wonders how realistic it is to expect a wife who is still into her husband, to be so very generous and understanding and go out of her way literally, to bring them together; especially a husband who has been so irresponsible and his girl-friend who is simply too young to grasp all the complexities of a blended family with children her age. But in this movie, after a few speeches, such familial complexities are quickly and conveniently resolved, so Ashish can have his cake and eat it too, without any repercussions. So here it is, finally a chick flick for guys.

De De Pyaar De reviews

If you are willing to ignore complex realities of stormy, messy relationships, simplistic moralizing, and long term lack of wisdom of the characters, overall the film is entertaining and fun.  Tabu and Singh both put on stellar acts. I rate the movie 3.2 on a scale of 1 to 5 (with 5 being excellent).

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The Journey to Her Smile – Movie Review


Rangmunch screened the film, “The Journey To Her Smile” at ICC, Milpitas, CA by playwright, producer and director, Suchita Phule. This film was screened in Jakarta’s famous festival, the International Film Festival for Women, and was most recently screened at Cannes Film Festival, to great accolades.

Image may contain: 2 peopleThe film focuses on girls’ and women’s abuse in India. Young middle class couple, Revati and Aditya Deshmukh (Girija Oak and Aastad Kale), with their 5 year old daughter, Anaya were living a picture perfect life, before calamity struck. Mother, Revati Deshmukh (Girija Oak) says, “our little world was filled with small joys”. After eight years of marriage, spark was not only alive but was constantly lit between the young couple, and little Anaya was the center of their life.

But Revati’s world falls apart one day. Unable to express her deep anguish and feelings of guilt, Revati is hovering on the edge of a psychological disorder. As a husband and father, protector of the family and Revati’s soulmate, Aditya feels helpless.  Aditya tries his best to help get Revati’s and his family’s life back on track. Meanwhile Revati’s own struggle on this path is — The Journey To Her Smile.

India has recently gained notoriety as one of the most dangerous places for women and girls. It bears repeating that little girls are often victims of horrendous and lewd behavior from men. And sometimes little girls are victims of rape by old men, as indicated by recent case of #ChennaiHorror where a young girl was raped for several months by 22 men, some as old as 60. But while the world reverberates in shock at such news, sometimes victim gets some needed help, but we rarely pay attention to family members who have a difficult journey of their own to mend their broken hearts, to pick up the pieces, to move on, to proclaim their own smiles back, and thus their control over their lives back.  Sometimes, a victim herself may be able to move on, but a family member, often a mother, may sink deeper into the anguish.

 

Suchita Phule has done absolutely fabulous job in what began as a short film and ended up as a full length feature film, in depicting the far reaching impact of abuse that goes beyond the victim who is directly targeted by the perpetrators. Girija Oak plays her role, part bubbly joyous young wife and mother, and part her melancholy woman role, with great aplomb. Flecked with sadness and steel, desperation and determination, she makes her difficult journey to claim her smile back, because in the end, “no one else can do it for you, you have to stand up for yourself and move on”.  Kudos to Rungmunch (www.rungmunch.org) Theater with a Cause and organizers Smita Karhade and Madhav Karhade for organizing this fabulous screening and for supporting quality live theater and film events in the bay area; because story-telling has a power to change the world.

Also sharing link to my little poem here http://bit.ly/WyY4zf

 

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Lipstick Under My Burkha – Movie Review


Directed by Alankrita Shrivastava, 2017 Bollywood film, “Lipstick Under My Burkha” gives an intimate, powerful glimpse into the lives of four women; Rihana (Plabita Borthakur) draped in burkha at home, helps her parents in sewing burkhas, but outside she does a quick identity change and steps into her jeans and sings Led Zeppelin songs; Shireen (Konkona Sen Sharma) lives the story of a submissive wife with her chauvinistic husband at home and excels at her secret job as a saleswoman during the day,  Leela (Aahana Kumra) works as a beautician and finds solace in sex, and Usha (Ratna Pathak Shah) is the respected Buaji to her family but in the lonely hours of the night, dreams of men and has clandestine phone sex.

Image result for lipstick under my burkha movieStories of these women unfold in the midst of a background narrative of Rozi, a fictional heroine in one of the racy romance novels that Buaji hides in her religious tomes and reads in her spare time. These four women live their lives on the the thin line between reality and dreams. They have to routinely lie, cheat and steal to rob few moments of joy from their unbearable lives.

Their stories are poignant and touching and at the same time, ordinary. For the most part, Indian society exhibits a great deal of hipocrisy. While hipocrisy in Indian society extends to practices and observances around religious rituals, behavior around elders, and observance of class and caste, most prominent and often shocking hipocritical norms and double standards are observed in expectations and prescribed rules of behavior specific to each gender. While a man lusting after a younger woman or having an affair outside his marriage may be looked down upon, it is considered much less severe than if a woman may have committed these offences; and how a society punishes a woman for the same offense if often far more harsh. Similarly, while most boys and men have freedom to wear clothes they choose, and have wide degrees of professional freedom, it is simply not so for women.

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This movie offers a window into the lives of ordinary women who strike deals with societal restrictions on a daily basis with alternating periods of acquiescing to the norms and restrictions and determinedly enjoying periods of bliss when they can. But the beauty in this movie is that it is also poignant in where this journey ends for these women, in the movie. While it is unclear how life will eventually unfold for each of these women, these ostracized women come together as comrades; they talk, laugh, and read and discuss Rozi’s fictional story. What is abundantly clear is that it is not the system that will change to accommodate them. The change will have to come from them and from their greater understanding and support of each other; that change only begins with dreams but it will take enormous commitment and courage on the path to greater fulfillment of the promise.

As Rihana reads last few pages of Rozi’s story, she comments
ye story bhi juth bolti hai, hamari life kharab ka deti hai
Translation: this fictional story also tells us lies
and Usha responds ……………
juth bolti hai shayad sapne dekhne ki himmat deti hai
Translation: It tells lies but gives us courage to dream
And  narration continues……….
Khidki ki salakhe ab rozi ko rok nahi sakti. Rozi ne bar savare, aansu ponche aur chokhat ke bahar kud padi.  pinjde me bandh sapno ki chabi akhir rozi ke dil ke andar hi thi.
Translation: Bars on the window can’t stop Rozi any more. Rozi combs her hair, dries her tears and jumps out. Photo of dreams locked inside the cage was after all inside Rozi’s heart.

Sometimes dream is a genie that is hard to push back in a bottle. As Dr. Martin Luther King famously said, “I have a dream” that started the process of change in the American society. Dreams help us imagine the possibilities and pave the path for courage and commitment required to change what has been until then normal.  This is a beautiful movie and on a scale of 1 to 5 (with 5 being excellent), I rate it 4.8. This review is slightly late for women’s day but still in the window of women’s history month :).  Wishing all warrior women who drive the change on a daily basis and all courageous men who dare to dream of fair and inclusive society, a very happy women’s month.

 

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Badshaho – Movie Review


Image result for badshahoDirected by Milan Luthria, film Badshaho is set during India’s emergency era of 1975, about 27 years post independence, when a few laggard prince and princesses were still struggling to hide their collections of gold, silver and other precious artifacts. During that time Rani Gitanjali’s (Ileana D’Cruz) palace in Jaipur is raided and she is arrested for withholding gold without declaration.

Rani Gitanjali is a political maverick and she understands how the game is played in politics. She believes that despite government seizing her gold, it is more likely to fall in the hands of corrupt political leaders, especially the one she has spurned. She gets the news that the gold is to be transferred via road to Delhi in a truck. Gitanjali arranges with her trusted prior bodyguard Bhawani Singh (Ajay Devgan) to intercept the transfer and seize it back from Major Seher Singh (Vidyut Jamwal), the officer in charge of the transfer. Bhawani Singh recruits help from Gitanjali’s trusted friends and helpers, Sanjana (Esha Gupta) Guruji (Sanjay Mishra) and Dalia (Emraan Hashmi).

Image result for badshahoThe journey between Jaipur and Delhi is marked by many twists and turns, obstacles, and revelations of heart thumping secrets. Emran Hashmi has done a fabulous job and keeps us riveted with his banter and jokes. Esha Gupta and Sanjay Mishra also give great performance. As always, Ajay Devgan’s performance suits the role of more serious, slightly angry, goal focused hero. So focused he is in serving, he says, जुबान और जान सिर्फ एक ही बार जावे. Ileana’s performance is also good. Specifically telling is her slightly awkward, distant stance every time she interacts with her subjects. Story is fast moving and holds the interest. Unfortunately, it seems like the budget ran out before this riveting drama can be brought to a meaningful climax. The end feels abrupt and takes away from what could have been a thrilling end where not only corruption meets justice but trust and friendship are rewarded. Perhaps the waiting airplane could have been put to good use to create such an end!

On a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being excellent, I rate this movie 4.2  

 

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2014 in review – Blog summary — Gift from WordPress!


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 19,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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“Foxcatcher” – Movie Review


The movie directed by Bennett Miller, from a script written by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman, is based on actual grim events, surrounding the story of eccentric multi-millionaire John du Pont’s life.  Award winning and nominated cast includes Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Sienna Miller, and Vanessa Redgrave.

Although painfully slow in the beginning, the movie slowly builds a rhythmic air of suspense.  John du Pont (Carell) is desperate to gain the respect of his stern, disapproving mother and begins coaching an olympics-worthy team of wrestlers.  Among his early recruits is Mark Schultz (Tatum), a former Olympian, going through a rough time and living in circumstances of dire poverty.  For du Pont, as may be the case with SOME super wealthy people, riches are not enough, he wants his team to win and he seeks to get immortalized in history.

 

 

 

Du Pont wants to bring in Mark’s brother, Dave Schultz (Ruffalo) to coach his team, but Dave refuses to uproot his family and join him.  At first, it is Mark who joins du Pont on his estate and becomes his new “best friend”.  Underneath immense wealth, Du Pont’s is a life of loneliness and despair and possibly of extreme ups and downs, resulting from his mental illness.  Du Pont buys his friend, expensive things, also lures him into his drug habits, and confides to Mark that while growing up, his only best friend was the son of his mother’s chauffeur and when he turned 16, he found out “my mother was paying him to be my friend”.

Ultimately, du Pont does manage to lure Dave to come and work at Foxcatcher Farm.  Carrel’s performance is so low key crazy-like, that a sense of dread is already beginning to seep in the film and you almost hope that something would make Dave leave du Pont.  At this point, Mark is already disappointed, has fallen out with du Pont, and leaves the Foxcatcher farm.

When the violence comes, even though we know the events as they unfolded, it makes you feel incredibly sad, not only because there is no reason for it and it is totally incomprehensible, but deeply loving, loyal family man is the last person you want to see being hurt.  This is also a story of deep brotherly love.  Upon seeing the movie, Mark Schultz recalled that when he first received the news of his brother’s death, miles away, he trashed his office in anger and spent weeks in mourning for his brother.

The film struck a chord for me because I have an experience with highly eccentric person, in my multi-generational, extended family network.  The tragedy is that he is immensely wealthy, and therefore gets away with incredible number of insane actions that ordinarily people would not get away with.  It seems, society gives a very long rope to someone with wealth and power at their disposal, to behave crazy, ruthless, mean, mad, and sometimes to do things that are immoral or illegal.

Unfortunately, the movie misses an opportunity to invoke any ideas beyond portraying real-life events.  Especially given that this story had extremely lethal combination of immense wealth and slow burning mild insanity, along with Mark du Pont’s relationship with political extremists, it would have provided a perfect platform for further exploration.  It is nevertheless a fascinating story with excellent acting, and based on my rating of 1 to 5 with 5 being excellent, I rate the movie as 4.6.

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Kahaani – Hindi Movie, Review


Kahaani is a Bolywood film that opens with a terrorist poison gas attack, in Kokata train compartment, that kills all the passengers on board. Two year after the incident, there arrives Vidya Balan, as a London-based pregnant software engineer Vidya Bagchi, in search of her husband Arnab, who she claims was supposed to have recently arrived in India from UK for work, and then suddenly disappeared. A young police officer Rana, supports her in following the leads that take her to National Data Center, where an HR Director trying to help her trace another employee, Milan Damchi, who she claimed closely resembled Arnab, from the photo that Vidya showed her, is suddenly shot dead. Another lead takes Vidya and Rana to a hospital where a doctor might have treated someone with similar and rear blood group as Milan Damchi, is shot dead, after Vidya made some inquiries. Vidya is relentless in her search for her husband and after couple of attempts on her own life and some information she discovers, she comes to realize that Milan Damchi might be the terrorist responsible for the gas attack and because of her husband Arnab’s close resemblance to Milan Damchi, Arnab’s life might be in danger. She steps up her efforts to find him, with the help of the police officer, Rana. Vidya is unaware that Khan from higher echelons of the investigation bureau has asked Rana to use persistent Vidya as a bait, to lead them to the terrorist, Damchi. As the plot thickens, there is more shoot-out, other deaths, computer hacking and towards the end the story takes an unexpected turn.

This thriller film is directed and co-produced by Sujoy Ghosh, Vidya Balan’s acting is once again superb, and not surprisingly the film has been a “super-hit” at the box office. This is yet another film that strikes a chord among people, who have endured terrorist attacks and often find the efforts by the government, lacking in ensuring safety and effectiveness. Most of the police officers, with the exception of Rana, demonstrated callous attitude to the plight of the pregnant woman initially, and when Khan arrived to investigate the issue, on behalf of the federal bureau, the callousness intensified. Khan felt little compunction in using Vidya as a bait, to lure the terrorist, even if it might endanger Vidya’s own life. Lack of compassion on behalf of the keepers of the law and safety of the citizens, clearly renders them less effective. When the force cannot preserve and protect goodness, then it becomes less effective in fighting against the badness, as people have less trust in them and are not willing to communicate with them, and share early signs of trouble.

This was an interesting thriller that keeps the viewer engaged and riveted as the plot thickens and the story takes many unexpected twists, with the trump card revealed at the very end. Highly recommend it and on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 as excellent), I rate it a 4 – simply because I like movies with social themes, better.

 

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