Taare Zameen Par

Alternate Geniuses

Amir Khan just keeps getting better. I don’t really want to talk about him or his direction because it’s rather good. I think more has to be said (but is really difficult) about Darsheel Safary playing the role of Ishaan Awasthi – an eight-year old dyslexic kid.

Darsheel, with his starry eyes and buck teeth, has acted phenomenally well. Many of his simple moves tend to move you completely. I wonder how AK managed to find him. Darsheel has manged to capture the heart, soul, and tears of all the viewers. There is no overacting or underacting -- it's just perfect! Way to go Darsheel.

All the others in the movie have also acted well. He is good!

On the whole the movie is good, but for the few parts where AK has “influenced” by western media. I really did not find any reason for him to include this in the movie – Darsheel becoming Spaceman Spiff (Calvin, of Calvin and Hobbes) during math class and running around the basketball course like Forrest Gump. WHY??? I am just being picky here...go watch the movie!

I give it a 4/5

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The stars come down to earth


Taare Zameen Par

The genius of Aamir Khan shines through in his directorial debut. The star proves his genius is not limited to being on screen alone and another star is born in the form of Darsheel Safary.With a host of relatively unknown actors, Aamir Khan puts together the brilliant Taare Zameen Par which is easily the best of films of 2007 along with Chak De. The two best films of 2007 are Khan films and the films speak for themselves. The host of unknown actors is a common feature of both these films. The comparisons and similarities do not end here. Both movies stand out this year because they stick to the art of honest storytelling, which is what cinema is really all about.

Taare Zameen Par is the story of a 8/9 year old Ishaan Awasthi, for whom the outside world, the colours, the sights, smells and tastes hold more interest than the alphabets, numbers and the monotonous education that all of us have gone through. The one solace is Ishaan's interest in painting. But all is not as desired. With failing marks and constant trouble at school, Ishaan's parents see no other option than to send him to a boarding school where his 'discipline' issues will be resolved and he may turn out to be successful like his older brother Yohaan Awasthi (Sachet Engineer).Ishaan's troubles only continue and Ishaan draws into a shell, a world occupied only by his vivid imagination and bright colours. A temp art teacher Ram Shankar Nikumbh (Aamir Khan) turns up and notices the boy and recognizes the symptoms of dyslexia. Will ram connect with the boy ? Will Ram be able to convince Ishaan's parents and teacher's alike to the true nature of dyslexia and make them realise the talent that lurks within the boy ? The questions are answered only by experiencing this brilliant piece of cinema.

Darsheel Safary puts in an outstanding performance as the dyslexic 8/9 year old. Those eyes of his are more expressive than half a dozen of our so called actors put together. The moonwalk in the school corridor when he is punished, his escapade when he bunks school are so realistic and moving, that you wonder is there was hidden camera in your own school capturing all those moments.

I will not go into the nitty gritty of the movie like an arty-farty critic for there were moments in this movie that made me choke with emotion and the story held my attention and that's good enough for me. Excellent performances by one and all, especially Darsheel Safary brighten up the screen. The music is wonderful especially the - 'Tu hai dhup...' by Shankar, Ehsaan and Loyd.

The emotions expressed especially by the young Ishaan through his large innocent eyes, the tears in the mother's eyes and the quite understanding look in the eyes of the art teacher are moments in Hindi cinema that are extremely rare and cinematically invaluable.The many scenes reminded me of my own school days and the pressure on homework, marks etc etc. The story is treated with honesty with no attempt to dramatise the dyslexic and that is what takes this movie miles above many other Hindi movies which deals with different people and makes them look like caricatures ! I am counting in movies which were an adaption of the world's best know Extra Terrestrial (ET) movie and also a movie named after a dark colour !

This is one movie which is a must watch for every parent, teacher, children and maybe future parents, teachers too ! It is a movie that moves you, a movie that brings tears to your eyes, a movie that educates you, a movie that liberalises you ! What you learn, you realise can be applied at all walks of life !

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The last man on earth is not alone

I am Legend


Imagine you are the last man alive in a city trying to find a cure to a virus to which you are immune, but which has wiped out humanity as we know it. You have your dog for company and everything that's left in the city is yours to take, but keep away from the dark corners and stay indoors, hidden, after dark.


You end up talking to mannequins to keep your sanity, you end up watching movie after movie. You end up watching taped news telecast. You end up broadcasting a message and waiting at a place at the same time every day, all in the hope that there is someone else out there, for you are the only man alive but you are not alone. The darkness brings out the creatures, who were once human.


Does this give you a foreboding preview of the tone of this movie ? I hope it does for words cannot describe the efforts of the director (Francis Lawrence) and the intense performance of Will Smith, as Robert Neville. A strain of measles modified to cure cancer soon mutates to become a deadly virus that turns the infected into vampire like creatures. Like I mentioned about the movie '30 Days of Night', this movie too treats the concept of 'vampires' with a lot of maturity and difference. I say 'vampire like creatures' because there is no delving into the history of their mythic origins, for they are a result of a virus. They cannot fly, change form etc. Yep, sunlight does burn their skin and that's the only thing that keeps them away.

Will Robert Neville find a cure ? Will Robert Neville find other uninfected humans, will he survive the creatures long enough and the discover the power of his own immunity ? If he does, then he will be legend.

For over 45 minutes of the movie the only human like being you see on screen is Robert Neville and the director needs to get credit for the manner in which the story is presented for it holds your attention ! The movie takes you along and you are waiting to see what will happen, before you are led to the tragic end. There are some dramatic moments like the one where Robert Neville is saved from a suicidal mission and the moment with his dog in his lab after a vicious attack by the creatures which tend to take away the greatness of the storytelling but still the movie is worth watching, once !

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Death Sentence

Father's Love

For a while, I hadn't seen a movie with good substance. That was until last night.

Death Sentence, is an amazing movie about Nick Hume (Kevin Bacon) avenging the death of his son! Nick is a happy man with a happy family; perfect! That is until his son is killed by a wannabe gangster as part of his initiation. Nick and his family try going the legal way, but the sentence does not seem good enough. Nick decides to take justice into his own hands.

Towards the second half of the movie, the movie also shows the relationship between another father and son. The difference is so stark; and when you actually think about it, it's hard to see why each went their way.

The director, James Wan, has done a good job in most places. There are few gory scenes too which I felt were influenced by Saw!

I would give it a 4.5/5.
IMDB link

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The Kingdom

When the movie started off on the multiplex screen and five minutes into the movie I knew I was going to like this movie.

I was going to like it because it seemed to be extremely well researched, well made and well scripted movie and it reminded me of other movies like Syriana, Good Night and Good Luck and many other drama and thrillers that I just love watching.

The Kingdom is a nicely scripted and well made thriller. Directed by Peter Berg (also an Actor) and written by Michael Carnhan, starring Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper, Jason Bateman and a host of wonderful actors such as Ashraf Barhoum (an Israeli but playing a Saudi here) and Ali Sulaiman the movie is a tale of a hunt for a terrorist killer in a foreign land by a group of committed FBI agents who soon become the targets themselves. In a land which is a stranger to them, with its clear and committed religious and social customs the group of FBI agents find an alley in the local Police Chief Colonel Faris Al ghazi and the loyal Sergeant Haytham who have to face the anger of the local terrorist whose anger towards the west is expressed by bombs and shooting of US citizens.

The Kingdom being referred to is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the tale starts off with an update on the historic events and then leading on to an immense act of terror on US citizens in the middle of Saudi Arabia, which triggers the FBI team's mission. A mission in hostile territory for they are the westerners seen as corrupting the holy lands.

The FBI team led by SPAC Ronald Fleury (Jamie Foxx) have to put aside their thirst for revenge and focus on the task at hand, which is to find the killers of the most horrific attack on Saudi soil on US citizens.

The movie is well directed and tightly scripted(like I said before) with quite a few entertaining dialogues, some excellent performances and does have a deeper meaning to it than made obvious . This meaning strikes you as a dialogue at the end of the movie . A dialogue spoke by the FBI agent of his colleague when the bombing occurs and dialogue that is reverberated by the dying terrorist mastermind to his grandson at the end of the movie and that makes you think. What is the root cause of terror ? Does terror beget terror ? Jennifer Garner looks as good as she did on Alias but obviously the star of the movie is Jamie Foxx who puts in a controlled performance and receives excellent support from the other actors. Ashraf Barhoum actually steals the show as the Saudi Police chief who portrays an intensity as the police chief having torn between different dimensions of his life which including having to bear the brunt of inter-departmental politics, being impressed by the investigative capabilities of the FBI, believing in their purpose and also having a family to look after.

Watch this movie, for its one of the few terror related thrillers in recent times that does its job well.

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Dus Kahaniyaan

The eagerly awaited new format movie produced by Sanjay Dutt's Whitefeather Films and by Sanjay Gupta which features 6 Directors (Sanjay Gupta, Meghna Gulzar, Hansal Mehta, Rohit Roy, Apoorva Lakhia, Jasmeet Dhodi), over 30 actors (will give more on these a few lines down), 4 music directors and for obvious reasons 10 writers.


True to its name (and no twist there) the movie has 10 stories each roughly around 10 minutes and focuses on multiple topics from relationships to perceptions to the supernatural. This format is pretty unique although most of us have been exposed to it with Darna Mana Hai and Darna Zaroori Hai which again featured an ensemble cast and multiple stories. While these two movies featured short stories with the common theme of fear, Dus Kahaniyaan fatures no particular theme other than a twist in the tale, which possibly is the among the only few shortfalls in this movie.

The movie has stories with different titles like matrimony (Arbaaz Khan, Mandira Bedi, Sudhanshu Pandey), Lovedale (Aftab Shivadasani, Neha Uberoi, Anupam Kher), Rice Plate (Shaban Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah), High on the Highway (Jimmy Shergill, Maumeh), Gubbare (Rohit Roy, Nana Patekar, Anita Hasandani), Zahir (Manoj bajpai, Dia Mirza), Pooranmashi (Amrita Singh, Minisha Lamba, Parmeet Sethi), Strangers in the Night (Neha Dupia, Mahesh Manjrekar), Sex on the Beach (Dino Morea, Tareena Patel) and Rise & Fall (Sanjay Dutt, Suniel Shetty). Whew ! That too me quite some time to compile and as you can see the stories and cast in each of the stories are diverse and that is what makes this format interesting.

Each story has its own plot and sticks to it and each director brings in his/her own flavour which becomes evident as you sit through the movie. My favourites were:

Matrimony, the tale of a wife who accepts a gift from her lover and tries out a way to bring it into her house but then finds out that all is not as it seems.
Strangers in the Night, a tale that a woman tells of her encounter with a man in a lonely railway station and you realise how cliched our thoughts are.
High on the Highway, a tale of two youngsters who are high and walking on the highway. I liked this fun for its style more than the story.
Rise & Fall, a tale of a king of the underworld and his lieutenant and of two young boys on their first hit (or supari). this tale has the typical Sanjay Gupta styling and that's what I liked.

In spite of all this largeness to the movie, I felt disappointed and let down, not because of the direction but because of the stories themselves. We have been exposed and overexposed to tales and twists be it of suspense, drama or crime and this movie lacked what I commonly refer to as soul. That's because not all the stories were up to the level of the others and some of them like Rice Plate were based on commonly forwarded email stories. for the most part the actors put in a decent performance. the background scores are above average and add value to the storytelling. Does the fact that there was no common theme to the 10 stories matter ? Well.... Yes and No. The lack of the common theme can make this format interesting if each of these stories were new and had a depth to them that holds you for the 10 minutes or so that you are present in. Sadly, this wasn't the case and that's why while this movie could have been a roller coaster ride giving you a high, it turns out be a drive with a few potholes which take away the fun of the drive !

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Beowulf

As Mayur has said in his post below, Beowulf is a complete CGI feature based on an epic English Poem of heroism by an anonymous author. The tale is of a hero Beowulf, a Geat warrior who goes on become a great king and whose tales of heroism are sung all through England.

This tale of heroism brought to life (or almost real life) by Robert Zemeckis begins in the Netherlands where a monster named Grendel terrorises the mead hall of the king Hrothgar (Anthony Hopkins animated). There comes ashore the great hero Beowulf (Ray Winstone animated) who slays the monster in a well animated action sequence. That's not all, Grendel has a mother (Angelina Jolie animated) who is the cause of all evil in the land and has her way with men using her magic and seduction. That's how Grendel came into being for Grendel is the son of Hrothgar and when her son is killed she looks for another man to bear her a son.

With Grendel dead all is well yet not so Beofwulf, to add to his heroic tale enters the cave to slay Grendel's mother and returned alive. But is Grendel's mother dead ? Did Beowulf make a pact with her so he may be the greatest of Kings and rule over all in return for the son she desires ? Will Beowulf remain king ? What will happen to Geatland (present day Spain I think), will it be forver free from any evil ?

Therein lies the real story of Beowulf, a heroic and strong man, but man enough to be weakened by desire and lust. The movie is brilliant in its execution and those of you who haven't watched it yet, do watch it but don't take kids along for although animated, the movie is extremely graphic and yes, you do get to see a nude Angelina Jolie in all her animated glory.

Since the epic poem spoke of Beowulf, not much is revealed about Grendel's mother, where she came from or what her purpose is but the character is a pivotal and enigmatic one and has more influence on the tale of Beowulf than the many other characters in the tale.

I always enjoy tales of heroism, battle, magic and intrigue. Possibly the kid in me is still alive and I enjoyed this movie although I am not a great fan of animated movies. I enjoyed it because it did not seem animated at all and I guess that's the power of technology applied to creativity !

The animation is outstanding. Even the very hair on the faces of the warriors appears real and that's the kind of detail that attention has been paid to. W .M Creations gets the credit for the life casting mold of the various characters. All this reality created without reality makes me wonder- What if animation gets so good that it appears real, then we wouldn't need real actors would we ?

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Saawariya


Ira Pradhan tells you all about the one film I will not watch.


Mass media was created for two reasons which has in the recent times become one – infotainment. The movie, the features, the serials have to give you some information or entertain you.

Sawaariya entertains you and contrary to the popular belief is fantastical and ports you immediately to a world much different from our own. And this is a good thing specially on a weekday, when you feel like going for a massage or a pedicure and you can’t. Sawaariya is like that, like a gentle head massage, easy on your senses and you will also get a nice sleep afterwards. You just have to make sure to go with the flow and not return to reality immediately. In short it is a stage on 70mm!

The story is run-of-the mill but hey, almost all movies have stories that can be predicted. It does not make you think and that is such a relief for a change. There are some directors who think that they are doing a great job, or making us think, but they aren’t!! It’s like someone telling you old stories with visual treats.

I realized from this movie that we no longer feel deeply. Or else we would have felt sad for this case of unrequited love. But lo! I did not hear a sigh of empathy, which is why I said, if nothing, Saawariya does entertain you!

With this Sanjay Leela Bansali graduates to another level – me thinks he can direct the next Harry Potter!!

Watch it, because a change will do you good.

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Beowulf

Realistic CGI Heroes

Beowulf, an epic poem by an anonymous poet brought to life by Robert Zemeckis in the form of an animated movie. The CGI is modeled on real actors -- Anthony Hopkins, John Malkovich, Angelina Jolie, and Ray Winstone.

The movie is not about Beowulf and how he slays monsters, at least most, to become king. I felt the movie is actually about Grendel's mother (Angelina Jolie) and how she uses her beauty to get things done. The actors/characters bear a very close resemblance to their real life appearances. Some of the effects are unbelieveable, especially in 3D. There is a scene where you are taken from the mead hall to the cave...that was awesome.

The (3D) graphics of beowulf are awesome enough to compensate for the loose plot it revolves. The movie doesn't hit the mark! You should watch it if you are a sucker for Angelina, you like epic tales, or CGI movies.
I give it a 3/5.
IMDB Link

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She still rules the Screen !


Watched Aaja Nachle on its first day of release and came back happy ! Madhuri Dixit's back with a bang and is extremely attractive and rules the screen with a power that can give any of the current day heroines a run for their money and careers. All it will need is some good scripts and some courageous producers and directors, and yes some not insecure lead actors !

Political controversy (yes, in India some state governments have banned the film claiming a few words in the lyrics of one of the songs is injurious to the sentiments of some community or the other ! Whew ! Wish that much attention was paid to other developmental issues, law & order and infrastructure as much as they do in deciding what the free people of this country should or should not watch) has kept this movie in the limelight for the wrong reasons (sadly !).

When will political interference and manipulation of non-political matters stop ?

I like Madhuri ! That's all there is to it + a great supporting cast and a good music score make sure this average (could have been slicker Mr Jaideep of Chak De scriptwriting fame) still stays warm in your memory long after you leave the theatre and that million dollar smile is back !

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30 Days of Night

Went to watch this movie not really knowing what it was about. Neither was it heavily promoted, nor had I read about it. All I has seen was part of its trailer someplace. the multiplex seating was half full and I had dragged along two friends who had'nt heard of this movie at all. Most of you wouldn't have heard much either and if you check at your local multiplex, it will be in in its last shows !

WATCH IT !


It is a tale that is very different (for the most part) and does give you the creepies (again for the most part). Directed by David Slade (who also directed this gem of a thriller called Hard Candy) and based on a graphic novel, the movie surprisingly has some known names and faces like Josh Hartnett (Hollywood Homicide, Lucky Number Slevin), Ben Foster (Alpha Dog, X-men 3, Hostage) Melissa George (Amityville Horror, Derailed) and a few others.

The tale is set in Borroughs, a town in Alaska which is just about to enter its 30 days of night, yes 30 days of absolutely no sun during the winter and this happens every year-the 30 days of night and not the story. On the last day of the Sun, The Stranger(Ben Foster) comes to town off a eerie ship, and who knows whats in the ship. You will, soon enough. Cellphones are stolen and burnt, the sled dogs are brutally killed, the phone lines go down, the power goes off. The atmosphere darkens, the Sun goes down not to appear again for another 30 days.

With this creepy atmosphere built up come the creatures. They cannot be shot, they cannot be stopped and they feast on the blood. Yup, they are the vampires who have been trying for centuries to hide the fact that they exist. This is a nice touch in this story and makes it seem so believable. the town Sheriff Eben (Josh) and his wife Stella (Melissa) now have to save the town and its people for the vampires have 30 days to feast, till the Sun comes out.

The bloodfest begins ! Those of you weak hearted at the sight, smell or sign of blood and gore, keep away. The story is delightful in the manner it builds up the atmosphere and the base to the story. The cast puts in a decent performance and you are entertained (if you consider being frightened or startled a form of entertainment). But, what pulls this average movie that could have risen above average is the emotional sidetrack between Eben and Stella with regard to their post marriage separation and the predictability that the movie ends up with. Except for this and a few other glitches the story writers and the Director do a good job. This movie is possibly the best after the Underworld series (Kate Beckinsale any day will pull up a vampire movie !) that deals with the vampire theme in seriousness and gives it a sense of credibility through its treatment of the myth of vampires.

This movie should be watched, at least for the first 3/4th of the movie. The Director is definitely going places (watch hard Candy and you will know why ). The ending disappoints, is overtly dramatised and drags quite a bit possibly because the writers were taking a 30 day (of nights) break to figure out how to end it !

The film makers (Ghosthouse Pictures) are coming out with another horror flick called The Messengers, the trailer of which we got to see before this movie and that looks interesting too. It stars Kristen Stewart (Panic room), Dylan McDermott (My best friend's wedding) and looks at the theme-Children are highly susceptible to paranormal phenomena. They see what adults cannot. They believe what adults deny. And they are trying to warn us. They are The Messengers !

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