Aakrosh – Something’s Burning

Aakrosh stars Ajay Devgn and Akshaye Khanna 2 CBI officers sent to a small village in Bihar to investigate mysterious disappearance and possible murders of 3 Young Delhi men. Investigating possibly a case of caste related murders the 2 cops encounter corrupt local police, corrupt politicians and a village largely divided by caste.

The movie directed by Priyadarshan has all the right intentions. The film reflects the condition of ‘inner’ India we generally do not get to see but just hear about in television channels and read about them in newspapers. It also bears resemblance to ‘Khap’ murders in Haryana which recently shocked the nation. The film has all the right intentions,  a serious enough topic and decent acting from the leads. But the film has one major flaw and that is that it is a frame-by-frame copy of Hollywood film ‘Mississippi Burning’ starring Gene Hackman and William Defoe. The problems between black and white in rural southern America is replaced here by divide between upper and lower castes. The Ku Klux Klan is replaced by Shool Sena and burning Trishuls replace burning crosses and you have a perfectly valid Indian Bollywood film.

Of course, being a Bollywood film it has more flaws then you can count. The love story track involving Bipasha Basu is absolutely needless and somehow Bollywood always manages a space  for unwanted ‘item numbers’ involcing Sameera Reddy. The film is also way too long and is never ending. Some of the portions are also inspired from other Bollywood films including one scene straight out of ‘Mirch Masala’ starring Naseeruddin Shah.

Ajay Devgn looks convincing as the hot headed officer and Akshay Khanna hams a bit as the logical one. There are far too many action scenes and chases sequences and stunts in this serious topic based film diluting its impact. Some of the stunts like Ajay riding on top of the car and jumping from one tree to other and sliding under a  moving express train and park-our type chase are totally misfit in this kind of film. Akshaye Khanna has horrible wig and Paresh Rawal as corrupt Bihari cop is nice and has done an out an out negative role after a long time. Bipasha Basu as Presh Rawal’s wife cannot much act and looks unconvincing. The entire issue of caste based divide in Indian Society is such a serious issue but it seems to have been trivialized a bit and the makers have made an action film out of it.

You can watch this film as it has the right intentions but couldnt the makers have made a serious film on serious topic like this more imaginatively and without copying the Hollywood film so blatantly ?

My Ratings –  5/10 –  Watch it for the serious issue

Books I Read – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I had heard a lot about the ‘Millenium Series’ books since some time and came across them in bookstores at various points of time but never felt like reading the books as at first I thought they would be some ‘preachy- self-help’ kind of books!!  Then I heard about the Swedish movies made from the books and also the fact that Hollywood is coming up with its own version of movies soon and I had to read them now ! The author of this, ‘Millenium Series’ as they call it, is Stieg Larsson and the books are originally Swedish books. Unfortunately the young author wrote the manuscripts of the 3 books and died and never lived to see the International success the books have become.

The first of the series is ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’. The book takes its own sweet time to establish lead characters, relationships, families, back stories, the settings, the crime etc. Once it does that it becomes a great ‘page-turner’.

The story is about a disgraced journalist being asked to find out details of a murder that took place forty years back.  The missing girl being the grand niece of a millionaire grand patriarch of the Vanger family, Henrik Vanger., head of the Conglomerate Vanger Corporation. Henrik suspects that a family member of his large family murdered his favorite grand niece forty years back during a family gathering and is still tormenting him. Mikael Blomkvist is the disgraced journalist of the ‘Millenium’ magazine who is assigned the job to research the truth.  Lisbeth Salander the heroine of the story is a young, antisocial, punk, anorexic of a girl who on first look would resemble a drug addict junkie with tattoos all over the body, dyed short hair, leather jackets, pierced nose and an attitude to match but in fact she is an expert computer hacker with a photographic memory and a passion for retrieving information about anything and anyone at any cost. Lisbeth and Mikael cross paths and together they create a wonderful team.

The interaction and subtle romance  between Lisbeth and Mikael, who is twicer her age is beautifully written.  The settings of the fictional town in North Sweden is described in such exquisite details, that you want to go there and live. The details of the Vanger family with multiple family members having varied back stories and complex realtionships is also described in quite details. The story is at times predictable but then comes up with wonderful twists and turns.

There are quite a few characters in the book, however the story revolves around Mikael first and then Lisbeth. The story moves slowly first but very rapidly as it nears the end and combines the personal vengeance very well with the murder mystery. The story is also about crimes against women , especially crude sexual crimes and the author seems to be simply hating the people associated with such crimes. The Swedish title of the book literally translates to ‘Men who Hate Women’.

The story is very intriguing and is much better than any other thriller mystery novel I have read lately. The book is intelligent, witty and has real smart characters. It is certainly one of the best crime novels of this era.

The characters of Lisbeth and Mikael are very well developed and you really want to know more about them, especially Lisbeth. Hopefully the next 2 books in the series will reveal more aspects of her mysterious life.

The Swedish version of the movies made from the 3 books has already been released and even dubbed in English for worldwide release, however Sony Pictures have aligned with David Fincher to produce big budget Hollywood version of the same books possibly starring Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkwist and Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander. It would certainly be a great watch.

But first, I am reading the other 2 books.

My Ratings : 8.5/10 –  Must Read …one of the most Important Series of this new Millenium.

Khelein Hum Jee Jan Sey – Theatrical Trailer

Here’s the first look and theatrical trailer from Ashutosh Gowariker’s next movie ‘ Khelein Hum Jee Jan Sey’ starring Abhishek Bachchan as revolutionary Surya Sen and Deepika Padukone as Kalpana Datta. Sikander Kher also stars. The movie is based on Manini Chatterjee’s book ‘Do or Die’ based on Chittagong Conspiracy of the 1930s.

The movie looks sharp and seems to be well made and detailed like most of Ashutosh Gowariker’s films. Abhishek looks like he can pull off the role of Surya Sen, he’s got the intensity and the fire in the eye.The movie has the look somewhat similar to ‘Lagaan’.  Finally a movie which wont be totally brainless. The movie releases on December 3, 2010.

The Nervous Hour – Test Cricket at its Best

Couldn’t Eat ! Couldn’t Talk ! Couldn’t Move and certainly Couldn’t Work ! That was the situation with most of us. This was during the final agonizing hour of the Cricket Test Match between India and Australia at Mohali.

For those who do not know what happened today here is the brief overview. India was set a moderate target of 216 runs to witn the first test and had lost 4 important wickets with just 55 on board at end of day yesterday and thus needed 161 more runs to win on a crumbling uneven pitch with Aussies determined to win. With Sachin in the middle we all had hopes that some miracle would happen. Sachin and Zaheer Khan continued the fight with Zaheer falling early. VVS Laxman came on the crease and he and Sachin started playing shots and showing positive intent. They took the target below 100 and the hopes were rising and then the inevitable happened. Sachin fell quickly followed by Dhoni and Harbhajan leaving India tottering at 122 with 8 wickets down and unfit VVS Laxman at the crease with another unfit player Ishant Sharma for support and with just Pragyan Ojha to come, it was all over. People had written the match off, started blaming various people, recalling how India always failed to chase modest 4th Innings target and how once again Sachin couldn’t guide India to a famous victory. It was just a matter of time and people were not even hoping for any miracle now.

But VVS Laxman and Ishant Sharma didn’t give up, slowly and steadily they started scoring runs, one run at a time with an occasional boundary to boost some hopes but in their heart everybody knew this was just a futile effort. The target was way too high for this pair. Till the time the target reduced to about 50 at Lunch I think even the players didn’t believe that they could do it. And suddenly the target reduced to 30 and everybody started having hopesand dreams of snatching victory. Fingers were crossed, toes were curled, no one moved, anyone saying even a word was considered to be jinxing it and was cursed upon by. Flow of messages on Twitter reduced to minimal as everybody was busy concentrating on what was happening in the match.  Every run was then  cheered and the players too started beleiving that they could win.

Australians were getting frustrated and the target reduced to barely 15 and then Ishant Sharma fell to a dubious decision by Umpire Ian Gould. Loud curses blaming everybody from the umpire to  Laxman for giving too much strike to Ishant to BCCI for not getting UDRS system in place were heard. Could it be a case of ‘close but not enough’. Will it be another heartburn? Will Aussies do what they did few years back at Sydney? Will India collapse at the final hurdle? Ghosts of Chennai 2001 against Pakistan were refreshed.

Pragyan Ojha joined Laxman and the next 10 minutes the Channel Neo Sports would have got the highest TRP ever in their entire career. Everybody was glued on to the TV set and those with no access to television were all logged onto the net either on Cricinfo.com website other sports site offering live scores and live feed. The Commonwealth Games and India’s Gold Medal haul were forgotten for that hour.  Life has just paused everywhere, of course possibility of any work was long gone.The Cricinfo servers crashed because of tremendous traffic adding to the chaos. There were few lucky breaks, leg byes, over throws and a doubtful umpiring decision which went in India’s favor this time and India pulled it off. Pragyan Ojha tried to flick the Mitchel Johnson ball to the leg side and it got deflected by his pad and earned 2 valuable legbyes to India resulting in the narrowest of victory in India’s cricketing history.

The world erupted. Loud screams, crackers on the road and twitteratis were back furiously tweeting and life was restored in the metropolises and towns across India. India had pulled off one of the greatest come-from-behind victories ever with 9th wicket pair of VVS Laxman and Ishant Sharma adding close to 90 runs. Zaheer Khan was named man of the match for fine display of bowling although my personal choice would have been Ishant Sharma for doing something which was totally unexpected of him and to stonewall charging Australian bowlers is a massive task for a number 10 batsman and of course how can we forget VVS Laxman, the biggest thorn in Australia’s path. It was a team effort and almost everyone contributed to the victory.

Ishant Sharma had done it, Very Very Special Laxman had yet again mauled the Aussies. Rickey Ponting was denied victory once more. He has never won a test match in India as Captain of Australia in 3 visits. The terms VVS, Laxman, Ishant, Sharma, Test Cricket all were trending at the same time on Twitter and thus proving the large support the match had on the Internet and I have no fingernails left to chew now, need to regrow them before the Bangalore Test in 3 days.

This was Cricket at its best. This match has reminded again to all cricket lovers and everyone that this was the real form of cricket and not the slam-bang variety of T20 and ODIs. This was the battle where warriors fought over 5 days and true  winner earned the victory not with only luck but with skills, temperament and a will to win. This was Test Cricket at its peak.

I am writing this few hours after the match is over and I can still recount the final hour, the minutes , the seconds, the loud heartbeats and have today experienced one of the best cricket matches of my cricket watching career.

Anjaana-Anjaani – Strange Stuff

Anjaana- Anjaani stars Ranbir Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra in a journey across America reliving a journey of their life.  The movie directed by Siddharth Anand is ‘inspired’ from several films including a French one ‘Girl on the Bridge’ where the lead characters meet on a bridge while attempting suicide for different reasons and also inspired from ‘The Bucket List’ when they decide to live their last few days of life happily but then like most Bollywood ‘masala’ films they ‘live’ happily ever after. Even the poster of the film was blatantly copied from ‘An Education‘ as pointed out by me previously Here.

The director is confused at times and the storyline has no clear path. The reasons for committing suicide also looks flimsy. Question is When two persons feels ‘low’ enough to commit suicide, how come in next scene suddenly starts celebrating like a teenager in college party ? No logic to the film plot. But then thats how ‘yash raj – dharma- johar’ brand of Bollywood is. They even treat a dark subject like suicide in candy-floss way !! The director is trained in Yash Raj school of film making, so no surprises there.

The Movie is more about chemistry between the lead actors as most romantic movies are. Ranbir acts very natural and suits the role while Priyanka is okeyish but many a times looks unnaturally fake and goes over the top and almost irritating to the core. The movie has absolutely no other characters worth remembering and when wooden Zayed Khan is your surprise, you are in serious trouble. The supporting characters are just there to fill up some scenes. The movie has what every ‘yash raj’ brand of cinema has targetting captive NRI audience.

The locales of major USA cities and highways is nicely captured and the movie at times looks like a travel guide across America but was so boring that I was hoping for Shah Rukh Khan from My Name is Khan to show up on one of the roads asking for lift.  There is customory Las Vegas Casinos, Golden Gate Bridge and New York skylines. There is also discos, strip joints, standard gay humor, fat white americans, stupid thieves, medical emergency kinda scene etc etc. High time to realize that just good photography, good stars, fancy clothings but not much depth in story dont make good cinema. NRI audience and yuppie South Mumbai Under 25  crowd  might lap up such movies and hare-brained plots but the movie has nothing to offer to anyone. The music by Vishal-Shekhar and background score at times are decent and I did like some of the songs as well especially the Lucky Ali one ‘Hairaat’. But then there were too many songs one after the other in 2nd half.

Watch it for Ranbir Kapoor, the emerging superstar and a good actor too, although needs to choose roles carefully else would be type-caste in certain kinds of roles only. Priyanka needs to control herself, she is in her prime years, should not waste good opportunities to prove herself as better actress then most around.

My Ratings –  4/10 – Avoidable barring Ranbir Kapoor