True To Its Name
Ratings: * * * ½
In a particular scene of the movie, a group of soft drink company officials taste Ajit Gurav’s (Subodh Bhave) haapus (a breed of mango). The expressions on their faces after tasting the mango sum up the quality of the film. Abhijit Satam’s directorial debut Haapus offers an experience which is as delicious and refreshing as the fruit itself.
In the Vanarwadi village of Konkan, Anna Gurav (Shivaji Satam), the patriarch of the Gurav family is such a staunch believer in astrology that he doesn’t step out of the house without considering the day’s horoscope. He is always at loggerheads with his son Ajit whose opinion on astrology is contradictory to his father. Ajit grows haapus and is passionate about it. He also wishes to sell the fruit to the other areas of Maharashtra.
Ajit’s tussle with his father increases when Anna doesn’t allow him to trade in haapus because of astrological reasons. Things become tougher for Ajit as he has to face a hooligan trader called Chajed (Vidyadhar Joshi), who will go any heights to stop Ajit from entering the market.
There are also present a bunch of unusual characters like Anna’s twin daughters Amruta and Ankita (Madhura Velenkar Satam), both as different as chalk and cheese, Anna’s mother played by Sulabha Deshpande, Digambar Kale (Makarand Anaspure), son of Anna’s friend and rickshaw driver Subhya (Pushkar Shrotri).
The film works largely because the serious issue of Ajit’s struggle is peppered with large doses of humor. Writers Saurabh Bhave and Subodh Khanolkar and dialogue writer Sanjay Pawar deserve large applause for skillfully creating some rib-tickling moments throughout the film in the simplest of the situations. Having said that, they also make sure that the main issue is not left behind.
It can be a daunting task for a first time director to control such an ensemble cast and manage to get top performances from them and Abhiji Satam does the task with maturity. The way he has shot the film while portraying beautiful locales of the village is sure to keep one glued to the screen.
The only weak link is the length and the climax that should have focused more on the achievement of the characters.
As expected from a veteran like Shivaji Satam, the actor portrays the character with utmost ease. He commands respect as the head of the family and makes the role look tailor-made for him. Subodh Bhave stands apart from the crowd and plays a serious character with honesty and maturity. Madhura Velankar Satam deserves special mention as it’s utterly difficult to play two contrasting characters in the same film. Pushkar Shrotri and Vidyadhar Joshi are perfect.
Sulabha Deshpande, another veteran, proves why she is a respected figure in the Marathi film arena. Over here, she very well speaks with gestures and expressions as she plays a mute character. But it is Makarand Anaspure who takes the cake with a performance that gets you in splits whenever he speaks and appears. He is lovable throughout the film with his brilliant comic timing.
A large number of plus points make Haapus an entertainer with good values that will appeal to people of all ages. Because of the positive opening and mass value, the film is sure shot success at the box-office.
Visual Delight Despite Limitations
Ratings: * * *
Adapting a mythological epic like Ramayana in the present era can never be a cake-walk. Apart from the turmoil that a filmmaker goes through, there is a constant awareness (or fear) of how imbibed the epic is in the audience’s minds. In spite of knowing this, director Mani Ratnam treads on the difficult path and kind of remakes the epic in Raavan. He narrates the story from the point of view of the demon (Ravana) and adds his own interpretation. Although his interpretation goes sorrowfully wrong at the end, he comes up with a visual treat. In fact, Bollywood has hardly seen a film as technically stunning as Raavan.
Beera (Abhishek Bachchan) is the most feared man as the head of a tribal area (Laal Maati) in a jungle district in North India. To settle a score with Superintendent of Police Dev Pratap Sharma (Vikram), Beera abducts his wife Ragini (Aishwarya Rai). Dev starts a desperate manhunt for Beera in order to free Ragini.
To get things straight – Raavan suffers from a weak storyline which becomes quiet illogical when it reaches the climax. However, in a rarest of the rare cases, the film still turns out to be a memorable experience despite the flaws. This is because Mani’s creativity that can be seen in plenty of scenes.
But Mani should be highly thankful to cinematographers Santosh Sivan and Manikandan. The way in which they have captured the jungles, waterfalls, rivers, birds and nature as a whole is nothing short of mastery and something that is hardly seen on Indian screen. Especially in the song sequence of Behne De which is pure delight. It won’t be an overstatement to say that Sivan and Manikandan are the true heroes of the film. Their work when coupled with a powerful and brilliant background score leaves a long lasting impact on the viewer. The fight scene on the bridge will stay etched in your memory throughout your life.
Like most Mani films, even Raavan has an impressive musical score by A R Rahman. The songs go well with the theme of the film and for this lyricist Gulzar deserves equal credit. Tracks Beera and Behne De stand out. Having said that, some songs also hamper the narration.
After Yuva and Guru, Mani ones again succeeds in making Abhishek give a powerful performance that will be talked about. However, his character of Beera doesn’t evoke much terror or threat that one expects from a demon like Ravana. But as this is a writing fault, Abhishek shouldn’t be blamed for he does his task with perfection.
Aishwarya’s performance is another plus point of the film. She excels in the role of a kidnapped wife (Sita). Her character had a difficult task of showing fearlessness despite being kidnapped by a bunch of ruthless tribals and she succeeds in it. Also, she portrays her change in feelings towards Beera through perfect expressions. But Vikram (supposed to be Ram) doesn’t look impressive mostly because he speaks Hindi in a South Indian accent although he is playing a guy from North India. Ravi Kishan, Govinda and Priyamani are likable in support roles while Ajay Gehi amd Nikhil Dwivedi show promise.
Despite the several plus points, Raavan ceases to be a perfect movie because of a weak script, non-acceptable events in the second half and a poor climax. This will ensure the film will suffer badly at the box-office after the first weak. But, as stated earlier, the mesmerizing visuals and some breathtaking cinematography do manage to overshadow the weak points. Watch it for the visual treat it offers.
Ratings – * * * ½
As his last two films, Gangajal and Apaharan, dealt with the issue of politics and that too impressively, director Prakash Jha earned the title of being a specialist in the subject. And with his next film Raajneeti dealing with the same issue, expectations are sure to rise high especially because of an ensemble starcast. Thankfully, Jha succeeds very well in fulfilling the expectations although the climax doesn’t look 100% convincing.
Inspired largely from the Mahabharata, the film starts off with the story of Bhaskar Sanyal (Naseeruddin Shah) a leftist leader who is ready to challenge any political leader. However, he is forced to disappear from the scene following a grave mistake.
Years later, in the present era the story deals with the family of Bhanu Pratap, the head of the Rashtravadi Party. Following a heart attack, Bhanu becomes bed-ridden due to paralysis. This naturally makes his son Prithviraj Pratap (Arjun Rampal) as the successor of the party. This doesn’t go well with Prithvi’s cousin Veerendra Pratap (Manoj Bajpayee). In order to stop Prithvi from acquiring power, Veerendra uses Sooraj Kumar (Ajay Devgan), a fiery youngster from the Dalit caste. Following the consequences, Prithvi’s brother Samar (Ranbir Kapoor) is forced to land in the ruthless game of power although he has always kept himself away from politics.
To present the above mentioned story on celluloid can be a hell of a task for the writers and for this very fact, Anjum Rajabali and Jha deserve all the accolades. The level of viewer’s interest doesn’t fall even a bit throughout the film. In fact, because of the tight screenplay, one doesn’t even realize the close-to-3-hour length of the movie largely because of some thrills and twists.
Naturally, directing such a film is a daunting task too especially the numerous political rally scenes. Jha not only carries the task with maturity and perfection, he also makes sure that the goings create a terrific impact on the audience. Plus, he makes sure each and every actor enacts his or her part with perfection.
Dialogues are a vital ingredient in a film like Raajneeti. Even in this department, the film scores brilliantly. Each and every line is involving, impacting and long-lasting. Technical departments like the background score and cinematography add icing to the cake. Crisp editing also plays a major role in the favor of the film. Each and every scene is non-lengthy and to the point. But the major relief is that the songs appear only for a few minutes or even seconds, which makes sure the narration isn’t disturbed.
The performances of the huge star cast make it difficult to pick one or two of the best since all the major names, Ranbir, Devgan, Bajpai, Arjun and Nana Patekar give a flawless act. Still, one can say that Ranbir and Bajpai make heads turn the most. However, it’s Rampal who is a surprise package. People will surely rate him higher after this performance. Katrina’s performance should be appreciated largely because her character needed someone with a firang accent. Sarah Thompson does well too and so does Naseeruddin in a cameo.
As stated earlier, the climax falls on the flipside. It’s surprising to see the film being concluded in an underworld thriller manner. Plus, the secret related to the character of Devgan doesn’t have much to do with the main story. But the biggest drawback seems the disappearance of Naseeruddin’s character in a highly questionable manner.
However, these factors don’t stop Raajneeti from being a powerful political thriller. The inclusion of commercial elements and the above mentioned high points will make sure the film earns a good sum at the box-office at least in the first two weeks.