Raavan

Much hyped. Eagerly awaited. Mani Ratnam's magnum opus made in both in Hindi and Tamil hit the screens this last Friday. I watched it in Hindi.

Raavan is depicted by Beera (Abhishek Bachchan) an outlaw who kidnaps Ragini (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), wife of the Superintendent of Police Dev Pratap Sharma (Chiyaan Vikram) for revenge. Supported by the locals, living in the dense jungles Beera and his crew of men carry out daring raids on the police.

Dev is obsessed with capturing Beera and rescuing his wife. Mani Ratnam brings a tale which has many similarities to the Ramayana, be it the changing moods of Beera depicting the 10 headed Raavana. This made me think whether the 10 heads of Raavana depicted in mythology were nothing but representations of his 10 different personalities ? In the movie though Beera comes across as a moody and crazy outlaw. The 10 moods or personalities do not come out strongly. Dev as Rama is shown not as a principled good man, although his wife claims him to be but a result oriented police officer.

While there are a lot of incidents and circumstances symbolically similar to the Ramayana, the essence of Good vs Evil is lost in the spectacular cinematography and the contrived acting of Abhishek Bachchan. Definitely not his best performance till date. Aishwarya looks good and tries to emote through her eyes as much as possible, fairly succeeding. Thanks to Mani Ratnam and Santosh Sivan (Cinematographer) she appears in much better light as an actress than I would imagine she really is. Vikram as Dev is perennially angry and I would guess he has done much better in the Tamil version of the movie where he plays the Beera character. He has great screen presence. The music of A R Rahman gains a lot more value once you have seen the movie. The songs Behne de.., Beeraaa.. and Ranjha Ranjha really stand out.

The representation of incidents from the Ramyana be it the tale of revenge, Raavana kidnapping Sita, Rama gathering an army to rescue Sita or Raavana's obsession with Sita etc may remind you of the Ramayana but the core essence goes missing and the enigmatic Raavana is reduced to a caricature of a man who makes strange faces and is grimacing for no reasons. There are various references to what one would perceive as the naxalite movement etc. I had a feeling this movie would be far better in its Tamil version.

Is it worth watching ? yes, for the in-film music, the cinematography.

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The Karate Kid

You know how the movie is going to end. You know what the story is. You have seen the story before. Some of you would have watched 3 different parts of it before. Yet, this version entertains you because of the wonderful performance of Jaden Smith and the presence of Jackie Chan.

Directed by Harald Zwart, The Karate Kid is the contemporary version of the older Karate Kid stories. Dre parker (Jaden Smith) and his mother Sherry Parker (Taraji P Henson) move to China after Sherry gets to shift due to work. There among all the cultural differences seen through the eyes of Dre especially to do with the language and people, he gets to meet Mr. Han (Jackie Chan) a maintenance man who other than his tools also seems to know Kung Fu. After a few run-ins with a local group of boys and a challenge from their Kung-Fu teacher, Dre convinces Mr. Han to be his teacher and teach him Kung-Fu. In all the Karate Kid movies what always interests you is the training sequences more than the actual fights.

In this movie too, the visit to Wudang and the training thereafter is entertaining and you wish you had more of that. The climax and fights are pretty predictable. Like I said, the journey to the climax is what you will enjoy in this movie and any version of The Karate Kid which is made. Jaden Smith shows a maturity beyond his age in his acting and reminds you of his father Will Smith. Jackie Chan has aged gracefully and brings to the screen his quirky humor. The Chinese cast does well too.

An enjoyable movie. Is it worth watching ? Yes.

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Robin Hood

Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe return together to the big screen. Bringing to you the tale of Robin Hood.

Watched this on a lazy sunday afternoon and followed it up with Karate Kid so expect some of the comparison to seep through in my review. Russell Crowe plays Robin Longstride (later to be know as Robin of Loxly and then Robin of the Hood). If you are expecting to see the matching of wits and battles between Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham which kept you enthralled in your childhood ays, you can forget about it. This movie deals with the making of Robin Hood, from being a soldier in the army of Richard the Lion-heart to becoming the lord of Loxly and finally the beginning of the 'Prince of Thieves'.

The movie does not really stand out. While the performances are as commendable as they can be what is missing is the element of one man against the system. while the essence of Robin Hood is that, here it becomes more of a lesson in history. While that by itself would have been good, not with a character like Robin Hood. Russell Crowe's accent stands out as being not english in comparison to his co-characters. Cate Blanchett plays the role of Marion Loxley.

The battle of fight scenes do not really thrill you. All in all a pretty average piece of work from the Ridley-Crowe combine.

Is it worth watching ? Maybe when there's nothing more important to do.

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Shutter Island

Martin Scorcese and Leonardo DiCaprio return together to bring to you a thriller and psycho drama-Shutter Island. Based on the novel by Dennis Lehane, Shutter Island is the tale of US Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leo DiCaprio) who along with a new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) visits the Ashecliffe Sanatorium for the criminally insane on shutter island.

Their visit is brought about due to the disappearance of an inmate from a closed room. The institution is run by the quiet and unnerving Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley). In an institution where no one seems who they are, Teddy has his own demons from the World War and memories of the concentration camps to battle and the loss of his wife in a fire. As the day goes by and a storm brews on the horizon, it appears that all is not well on shutter island and all is not definitely as it seems. Three wards, with a ward C out of bounds to all. A lighthouse no one is allowed to enter, the disappearance of a patient. Teddy has pushed to get this assignment and for reasons of his own. This and more adds to the thrill, drama and chilling horror of this tale set in 1954.

As the tale unfolds you are moved to the edge of your seat for each person, each corridor, each tree, each moment fills you with the chilling fear that something is about to happen. As the clues unfold you are taken on a journey along with teddy in deciphering the mystery. The entire island is covered in misty haze and the camera angles and lighting only add to the effect. Ben Kingsley, Leo, Mark and all the supporting cast put in remarkable performances. The movie ends up being a tad too long and many of you will end up guessing the end. The background score is perfect. Leo shines as the US Marshal who sniffs a conspiracy on Shutter Island.

The movie is a departure from the usual Scorsese style of movie making in that it does not take time building characters and then bringing them together for the plot to climax. Instead right from the start every character, every shadow plays a role making you almost bite your nails. But, like I said if it wasn't dragged so much it may have ended up being immensely unpredictable and therefore horrifyingly chilling. Of course, at the end you will realize all the clues were there right under your nose.

Is it worth watching ? Well, if it is a Scorsese movie, it definitely is. Although in this one a tinge of disappointment is sure to creep in. Do watch though.

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Eagerly Awaited: Udaan

Produced by Anurag Kashayp and UTV Motion pictures. Do we need more reasons to await this movie ? I think not. A coming of age movie.

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Rajneeti

Rajneeti. For once the very impressive trailer almost lived up to the film and the expectations it created. Prakash Jha is brilliant at unfolding his plot, characters and keeping you hooked.

Rajneeti is the tale of a political family told against the backdrop of elections. Trust, brotherhood, betrayal, love, lust, sex, wisdom, illegitimacy, money, fear, blackmail- all these and more are the key characters in Prakash Jha's thrilling political drama. Largely incorrect to call it a political drama though since it is more focused on a family and the politics just forms the backdrop. What Prakash Jha does is put together an ensemble of some very good actors, takes parts of the Mahabharata, parts of the godfather, some resemblances to real life Indian politics, puts this all together in an almost seamless fashion and gives you about 3 hours of entertainment worth the price of a ticket.

The tale is of two parts of a family who are part of a popular party. When the elder brother is stuck with paralysis, Vir Pratap (Manoj Bajpayee) believes it is his birthright to lead the party. When the position of leading the party in the elections is given to Prithviraj (Arjun Rampal), Vir Pratap's vengeful self comes to the fore and to gain support he brings into the party Suraj (Ajay Devgn), the illegitimate elder sibling of Prithviraj and Samar (Ranbir Kapoor). Yup, those of you familiar with the Mahabharata (and if you are an Indian you better be familiar with it. After all, it is the longest epic in the world and has everything to do with life and politics explained in it) will recognise Manoj Bajpayee's character showing shades of Duryodhana, Suraj showing Karna, Arjun depicting Bheema (or Sonny Corleone in godfather) and Ranbir Kapoor depicting the crafty Arjuna (or Michael corleone from the godfather). Katrina Kaif as Indu displays shades of Draupadi who is sacrificed for power and yet is powerful enough to bring about destruction. There is the very impressive Nana Patekar as the wise, calm Brij Gopal (depicting lord Krishna- shrewd, powerful but who never took to arms in the war). A host of other characters remind of the greatest ever epic told in India. By now it must be obvious to you how much I admire the Mahabharata and therefore this movie.

The movie is well paced and unfolds well. There are a few loopholes in the plot and many sequences are bang on from The Godfather including an assassination, the character of Sarah (sarah Thomson Kane). Considering that the Godfather is among my all time favorites, and the way Prakash Jha has Indianised it, I could only admire it here. Some good performances from Nana Patekar, Ranbir Kapoor, Arjun Rampal and Katrina Kaif. Manoj Bajpayee is pretty impressive in some scenes and you wonder at the industry's loss in not grooming this fine actor. What finally bursts the bubble of this wonderful movie is the climax and prior to that an extremely pivotal scene between Suraj and his birth mother.

In spite of that, a movie worth watching and a must watch.

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