MOVIE REVIEW: Aarakshan: Based on a true, inspirational story!

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Director: Prakash Jha

Key Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan, Deepika Padukone, Manoj Bajpai

Music: Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy

Rating: 4/5

Plot Summary: Amitabh Bachchan plays the anchor role of the legendary college professor who single-handedly grows and runs a privately-run institution. His values of sincerity, honesty and giving equitable opportunities to deserving students from all sections of society land him in a situation where he is caught in the midst of a society torn apart by the issue of reservation. Set in the backdrop of the Supreme Court judgement affirming 27% of reservations in favour of OBCs (Other Backward Castes), the movie tells the story of a few lives, their interactions and the solution of a people’s conflict.

REVIEW: There are 3 things that stand out about the movie. Firstly, iconic performances by Amitabh Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan and Manoj Bajpai. In fact, one thing I have observed and appreciated throughout is Manoj Bajpai’s uncanny ability to pull of a negative role with immense finesse. If you remember the movie “Aks” you would love how one would get repelled everytime he got onto the screen. I see milder shades of that negative streak in his portrayal of the character o the corrupt educationist ‘Mithilesh Singh’ in Aarakshan.

The second thing that stands out about the movie is Prakash Jha’s signature style and approach to bringing out an issue into the open. He does it in a way that touches the masses and forces one to think about it and have an opinion. After all, how many Indians can avoid taking a stand on ‘Reservations’, if they see a figure as recognized as Amitabh Bachchan playing the role of the confused protagonist who, despite his sincerest efforts, is literally shunned by society for taking a stand and sticking to it.

TRUE STORY: Incidentally, a part of the movie is based on a real-life story of mathematician Anand Kumar who started ‘Super 30’ in Patna, Bihar. Anand Kumar, thanks to his deep love for mathematics, started a ‘Super 30’ coaching class in 2002 – where he would admit 30 students every year from economically backward families and train them to clear the IIT-JEE. THe first year (2003) saw 18 out of the 30 students gain entry into the IITs, but the team struck gold for 2 years in a row from 2008, 2009 and 2010 when 30 out of 30 made it into the IITs. Of course, the icing on the cake is that these classes are offered FREE of cost to the 30 selected students.

The institute has received praise from all quarters. United States President Barack Obama’s special envoy Rashad Hussain termed it the “best” institute in the country.[4]. Newsweek Magazine has taken note of the initiative of mathematician Anand Kumar’s Super 30 and included his school in the list of four most innovative schools in the world.

My third and final observation is that in typical Prakash Jha style, the movie is centred around the ‘Hindi heartland’ of the country. Most of his movies – Gangaajal, Apaharan, Rajneeti and (now!) Aarakshan are based in the central states of Uttar Pradesh & Bihar. Aarakshan is shot entirely in Bhopal. In fact, one thing that strikes you about the movie is the way the song-and-dance sequences blend seamlessly with the movie.

I will end the review with the song “Mauka Toh De Do” – ‘Ek channas toh de de meri jaan tu, phir udaan dekhna.’ It forceully drives home the point in a very ‘grasroot’ kind o a way – just as it is. On the ground. Hats off Jha-ji – We need more like you to open our eyes and think more deeply about the issues that surround us. The video follows..

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MOVIE REVIEW: Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (3/5) – NO SPOILERS

The title of the movie keeps reminding me of the phrase (and the tune) from the title song of Rock On which quite non-co-incidentally was directed by Farhan Akhar. No wonder then that ZNMD, twin sister Zoya Akhtar’s second initiative (the first one being after Luck By Chance) has strong influences of the man himself. One of the “the musketeers” in the movie, Farhan as an actor complements the other two – Hrithik and Abhay very well. In fact, if impact of performances are anything to go by, it would be fair to say that Abhay Deol is dwarfed by Hrithik’s enigmatic screen presence and Farhan’s captivating dialogue delivery.

The movie has a central theme which is communicated through each of the threads in the movie – “You have just one life, Live it to the fullest!” Another message which is powerfully delivered is that there is no wrong time to make the right decision. Although in a slightly subtle manner compared to the former.

The plot flows wonderfully well and is clearly intended at the chic, urban audience – I can’t imagine any other segment in India appreciating the concept of “bachelor trips”. On a more technical note, there are two things that stand out about the movie:

1. DIALOGUES – Subtle, spontaneous and humourous. Truly, the stuff that movies like Dil Chahta Hai and Rock On are made of. And there are few people who can do it better than Farhan Akhtar.

2. CINEMATOGRAPHY – Its easy to delight an audience if the movie is shot in the best locations in Europe. Particularly, there is a sky diving shot in the movie – If you are the sort who takes frequent loo breaks between movies that tend to grad, make sure you don’t take one when this it is about to approach.

Like countless (perhaps most) other Bollywood movies, actresses are relegated to the back seat. ZNMD is no different. Katrina Kaif and Kalki are purely there for eye-candy value in the movie. Though a point to note is that Kalki Koechlin (who recently turned Kalki Koechlin Kashyap!) is seen appearing in a vanilla ‘commercial’ cinema for the first time.

The music i felt, is good only in parts. Although Senorita is a haunting melody kept playing at the back of my mind as I was on my way back after watching the movie. Having said that, the rest of it is pretty average. One would expect better from Shankar Ehsaan and Loy.

Overall Rating: 3/5

MOVIE REVIEW: Udaan: Flies, Soars, makes it to Cannes!

While we’re all busy getting ‘INCEPTION-ed’, let us not miss a brilliant offering from Anurag Kashyap. Check out the ‘UDAAN’ trailer. I saw the movie last night – and it is very, very fresh .. and perhaps pretty relevant socially! The gist of the story will is relevant form the trailer. Teenage boy – part of a mischevious ‘gang’ in school. Has a lot of fun – not all of it something parents would encourage – but I guess it is all a part of growing up. Adult Movies, running out of hostels, getting caught by the warden, running.. stumbling!
Udaan takes off in style, flies with a pace that is a little slow, but keeps you glued thanks to brilliant performances by Rajat Barmecha (plays ‘Rohan’ – lead role and our ‘man in question’), Ronit Roy (the Dad), Ram Kapoor (Chacha – another brilliant piece of characterisation) and Aayan Boradia (the little kid who plays ‘Rohan’s brother). The movie is centered around 3 themes:
  1. Paternal instincts (and expectations) of a father who grew up in a different generation
  2. Dreams of a son brought up in an entire diffrent generation – one that is also relevant to the stage INDIA is at right now.
  3. Hope – The battle against ‘FEAR’ to convert your ‘DREAMS’
When I say the theme is ‘relevant’ to the ‘stage India is at right now’ – I mean it. Because I feel it. The new symbol of the Indian National Rupee (INR), the world-class “new” New Delhi Airport or the CommonWealth game that we are hosting – We are roaring and soaring. Which is why Udaan is relevant.. relevant to NOW!
Technically, the movie is made with the audience in mind. The typical audience that would not want a song-and-dance sequence which appears out of place. The typical audience that can appreciate the value and the power that ‘silences’ command in a movie. And the sort of audience that would not whistle when ‘Kantilal ke Angoor’ is being shown in the movie. Because it is a part of the movie and not intended to tantalize your senses!
Anurag Kashyap continues to impress us all with his movies. He makes you sit up and take notice – time and time again! Vikram Motwane shines in his directorial debut – as do all the actors, and the entire cast. Being India’s only official entry into Cannes this year is no mean feat. We NEED more movies like this – to enthuse, inspire and charge the generation that is us! 🙂
Like a friend of mine remarked, “Udaan does not fly, it soars!” – It is about soaring to freedom!