Back to a single-screen to watch this one. Caught this at Rex Theatre on Brigade Road, Banglore. Relived my many movie-watching sessions during my college days. Thanks to the ongoing producer-multiplex standoff, movies are far and few.

Absolute pleasure watching this to break the movie-fast !  99, directed by Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK, the movie is an entertaining crime caper. Reminded me of Guy Ritchie at his best. Those of you who have watched Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch and are fans of the movies will know what I mean. I do not wish to take credit away from the makers of 99, but find it easy to describe the style of the movie using the Guy Ritchie reference.

The movie stars Sachin (Kunal Khemu) and Zaramoud (Cyrus Broacha) as  small time con men who get caught in the big game when they steal and wreck a local underworld Don AGM's (Mahesh Manjrekar) car. Forced to work for him, the muscular Sachin and the overweight Zaramoud are sent to collect money from Rahul Vidyarthi(Boman Irani), a compulsive gambler who loses INR 2 million in a bet on a cricket match. The money collection drive in Delhi starts to go haywire from the moment they check-in to a 5 star hotel and meet Pooja (Soha Ali Khan). A series of coincidences and incidents occur and a few more characters enter the tale. There is the cricket bettor and fixer JC (Vinod Khanna), the Delhi bookie Kuber (Amit Mistry), Rahul's estranged wife Jhanavi (Simone Singh) and a few other interesting characters like Kuber's strongman 'Dimple'.  

Set in 1999, with an underlying theme of Cricket the title of the movie signifies that it takes 1 run to make a century and be counted. The theme of cricket and many other references are authentic to the year 1999, including a  conference on Y2K (the year 2000 computer glitch that was the talk of the industry in 1999), match fixing, the coffe shop phenomenon etc. The writers have done a brilliant job of mixing actual news items of the time into their story and as the tag line of the movie says-"Part Fact. Part fiction. Pure Fun", the movie is indeed entertaining especially for a Sunday morning.

The casting is excellent. The screenplay is patchy and could have been far slicker, so could the editing, scene shifts etc. Cyrus is uncharacteristically restrained but puts in a  hilarious performance as the fat man. Khunal Khemu is at ease on screen and very comfortable in his role. the dialogues appear patchy at times and could have done with some better sound editing and mixing. Soha Ali Khan does not have much to do. Boman Irnai too does not have much of role in terms of variety but his presence is reassuring. Mahesh Manjrekar puts in a performance which is not new to him.  This movie and its style augers well for Hindi Cinema. The story format, characters and the linear plot but with cuts to smaller stories and characters coming full circle really plays out well. The background scroe is pretty average but does not harm the movie. An entertaining movie, with some outstanding hilarious moments, 99 is above average fare from the debutant film-makers.

Is it worth watching ? Definitely. 


New Hobby

With most of my movie watching relegated to DVDs now, have taken to a new Hobby- Photography ! Yup. Gave up trying to play the guitar. Will dispose of my aquarium. So streamlining my hobbies. With work getting to be as hectic as ever it was time to make a choice for better time management. 

Movie Watching, Blogging, Surfing, Photography remain on my list of hobbies now. Incidentally my hobby of surfing is helping me contribute better at work and try and take the function I work for at the cutting edge of Web 2.0. 

This blog is on twitter too of course and on facebook.


Other Entertainment

In the lean times (refer to my previous post on the Bollywood producers strike), whats keeping India entertained ?

The News Channels. Yes, with their continous coverage of two mega events. The Indian Elections and The Indian Premier League (20-20 form of cricket being held in South Africa !). The IPL (owned by the Board for Control of Cricket in India) moved to South Africa because of logistical and management issues arising out of the elections. In a sense both of these mega events are closely interlinked. Both are forms of entertainment. both have serious money riding on them. Both have superstars in them. Both events get tons of coverage by news Channels. Both provide employment to scores of people. Both events provide additional employment to other personalities who become panelists of show hosts. With so many channels what else do you expect ?

Most of the panelists know lesser about the subject than the show hosts so the only ones talking sense are the actual participants (politicians or cricketers). On the topic of the IPL, the secret blogger from the Knight Riders team (allegedly) with his blog fakeiplplayer.blogspot.com is providing more entertainment than the actual tournament. With over 4000 followers, the blogger has promised to reveal his identity on the last match day of the Knight Riders. The blog is juicy, tabloid trash but yet entertaining for its style and for its supposed authenticity !

While we await better entertainment, watch the News Channels and keep surfing the blogs !


No Movies Releasing: Whose loss ?

With the strike by Producers in India against the revenue sharing agreement with Multiplex owners, no new movies have released in over 4 weeks. Some multiplexes are running films that were released prior to the strike. Some have re-released some old movies. the latest I hear is that some superhit movies like Rang De Basanti, Ghajini, Dhoom, Dhoom2, Jodhaa Akbar etc will re-release in single screen theaters. Not sure whom and how much it will help though. For example, in Bangalore, the Single screen theaters are fewer in the central areas and more relegated to outlying residential layouts. April-June, the summer months is usu good for the cinemas but this trike puts a spoke in the wheel and audiences have to find other air-conditioned places to spend time in. India has over 750 multiplexes and 1100+ single screen theaters.

It is believed that each Multiplex is losing INR 1.5 lakhs to INR 2.5 lakhs every day on administration costs and other costs. Occupancy is down to below 15% from the normal 30%-40%. The Producers are not technically losing money yet. Just an opportunity cost of not releasing their movies. Some biggies like Kaminey, Kambakth Ishq, Main aur Mrs Khanna, Wanted etc are awaiting their release yet. Are they all going to release it together when the issue is resolved and risk fragmenting the already dwindling audiences and thereby eat into each others revenue ? What will happen to all the other movies on the floor that will soon be completed and be ready for release ? What about all the associated industry that makes money only on film release including the promotions, distributors, etc etc?

The issues at hand include- Revenue sharing, Ticket Accounting, Entertainment Tax & Service Tax issues. 

The producers are holding strong in demanding a 50:50 revenue sharing model and with all the big producers of Bollywood leading the strike it is expected that the multiplexes will cave in to the demands first. It is a battle of who will blink first that has gone on for for 4 weeks now.

Ultimately it is the viewer who loses out, the DVD rentals that gain and IPL viewing gets some benefits ! It is believed that the rental services like seventymm and BIGFlix (owned by Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani  Group) are doing exceedingly better in these times. I know for sure my own video library Habitat (on Church Street, Bangalore)  has had higher footfalls. I contribute a bit to that, of course !

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