Tag Archives: reviews

Haraamkhor (2015)

Haraamkhor review.

written by Souranath Banerjee

My Ratings: 4/5.

Haraamkhor recently won the Silver Gateway Award at the JIO MAMI 17th Mumbai Film Festival and according to it’s producer Guneet Monga of Sikhya Entertainment, the film is all set to release in the theaters very soon.

It is a rural tale of a teacher-student liaison.

Till now Bollywood has always played the safe game while portraying the ‘sacred’ emotions of a teacher-student relationship; such relations have always been handled delicately, from a safe distance and that too often dipped in deliberately dramatized dignity.

Haraamkhor-poster1But in the film Haraamkhor, the only emotions that are taken into consideration are unprocessed and raw, intense, realistic, and devoid of any kind of sugar-coating for sure.

Set in a small town of Gujarat, a school teacher named Shyam (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) is said to be having an affair with one of his student Sandhya (Shweta Tripathi).

At the initial stage though, it all seems to be just a rumor, a small-town gossip but as the film reveals itself along with it’s characters, it soon becomes pretty evident that Shyam and Sandhya’s relation is way beyond the usually expected tutor-pupil correlation. It’s a strange mix of lust and passion, of naive innocence and also a bit of love.

And then, Sandhya being underage (15-year-old) and Shyam being a 35-year-old married man makes their relationship more of a taboo!

The premise is simple but the execution is savagely precise and gritty and very entertaining as well.

Now of course, Nawazuddin Siddiqui is the selling point of the film as undoubtedly he is the most gifted actor of our recent times. And yes, he has done a tremendous job with his character in Haraamkhor; the cunning, libidinous, occasionally violent school teacher who at the same time is desperate to maintain his reputation!

But this film is not a one man show.

Haraamkhor-posterThe stage is been shared by another very talented actor Shweta Tripathi, who already appeared earlier in a soulful film called Masaan, and yet again in this film has proved herself to be one of the best upcoming talents of our industry.

Along with the two child actors who added enough humor to the script, Trimala Adhikari‘s performance is also much creditable as Sunita, the wife of the flirtatious school-teacher Shyam.  

Written and directed by debutant Shlok Sharma, the film is an unique combination of serious adult drama and numerous fun-filled moments. An awesome debut film!

Though the ending is not the part to be particularly proud of but overall the film is based on a taut script, beautifully portrayed emotions, attention given to every little details in preparing the characters and superb acting.  

If you prefer realistic films and aren’t shy of looking into an illicit relationship between a minor girl and a much older married man, this film is definitely worth a watch.

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Noah (2014)

Requiem of a dream, Wrestler, Black Swan – in most of Darren Aronofsky’s films the protagonist goes through a nerve wrecking psychological trip where lines tend to blur in between sanity and insanity. Oh – and they must have difficult relationships with their family members.

His latest film Noah is no exception.

A Paramount Pictures presentation, the mega budget film Noah is certainly a visual treat where often the dream sequences are more interesting than the real ones, and the beliefs of individual characters get more prominence than the overall theme.

Ok, I hope we all are familiar of the Biblical story of Noah – the ‘chosen one’ who followed God’s orders, built a boat (ark) and smuggled a wide range of species (all in couples) before God flooded everything else out of existence. (It’s an interesting fact that similar stories exist in both Islam and Hinduism as well).

Now the film ‘Noah’ does respect this basic Biblical story line but … but …

The director Aronofsky (who claims to be an atheist) gallantly declared that his film is “the least Biblical Biblical film” of all times.

In the film the word ‘creator’ is used instead of ‘God’ to give it an universal appeal and it has many characters and sequences which are not to be found anywhere in the Bible. As a result there were/are enough controversies and debates on such deliberate diversions from the religious text.

But for me it’s ultimately a cinema – a medium of story telling with the sole purpose of entertaining us. We should watch it only as a film and nothing else.

And thus the real question arises – is Noah entertaining enough?

I feel that the film looses its intensity as it tries to tell too many stories at the same time; massively depending on visual effects Noah is entertaining only in bits and pieces.

Russell Crowe’s performance surely gives a new dimension to this well built, crew cut, new-age Noah, but still in some ways we loose focus on him as other characters and their stories constantly distract us.

The character of Noah is portrayed as a psychologically disturbed ecologist who cares only about his dreams (the orders from the creator) to establish an eco-friendly planet devoid of all sins (no sinner no sins theory).

In order to serve his creator and to attain the desired goal Noah can go to any extremes; he kills thousands of people who according to his vision seem unworthy of a new beginning. Noah even decides to kill his own family members to underline his point of eradicating potential sinners. He eventually fights a battle against his own will to survive and being loved again.

The secondary characters are there just to fulfill their specific purposes in the film.

Anthony Hopkins becomes the old, wise grandfather clock (a magician) in love with berries. Ray Winston plays ‘Tubal-cain’, the alter ego of Noah (probably the only interesting character) who in order to justify his superiority over other animals eats away quite a few species to extinction. Emma Watson fulfills her purpose by delivering twins (though her timing seems to upset Noah). And Jennifer Connelly plays the role of the dutiful, teary-eyed, supportive wife.

The other characters (the battalion of Noah’s sons) along with huge, ugly rock figures called the ‘watchers’ are there to divert your mind from the main plot (the effect isn’t always charming).

If you are a die-hard Russell Crowe fan – go for it.

And be prepared to experience a completely twisted version of the good old story of the old man with a long white beard; like it or not its time for the emergence of the new age Noah with his own dark tale of the deluge.


Nebraska (2013)

Nebraska review.

My ratings: 4/5.

Nebraska is a fusion of a person’s present, past and future. It’s about an old man’s present journey that takes him to his past in the hope of a brighter future.

nebraska-poster1An Oscar nominated film (nominated in six categories including ‘best film’ and ‘best director’) where simple human relations are portrayed sensitively sans all dramatic exaggerations; a special journey where faith and dignity walks on a tight rope.

The whole idea revolves around Woody Grant’s belief (a rather stupid belief) of winning a million in a lottery. Now Woody can’t drive, he is too old and frequently drunk, often a tad slow in his head but on the positive side he is determined to go to Nebraska and collect his million dollar winnings.

Played to perfection by Bruce Dern, the character of Woody Grant is probably best described towards the end of the film through a conversation between Woody’s son David and the receptionist.

Receptionist lady: Does he have Alzheimer’s?

David: No, he just believes what people tell him.

Receptionist lady: That’s too bad.     

Here director Alexander Payne makes fun of our current society (in his own tongue-in-cheek style) where the general norm is to disbelieve others. In that case Woody is an exception who foolishly enough dares to have faith in people.

nebraska-posterWoody makes it clear to everyone that with his million dollars he wants a new truck and an air compressor. Latter one night he confesses to his son David that with the rest of the money, all he wants is to leave it for his children. ‘That’s for you boys. I want to leave you something’ he insists.

At the very start of the film Woody’s foul-mouthed wife Kate (superbly enacted by June Squibb) along with his elder son Ross keep talking about putting Woody in a hole (a mental institution).

The younger son David seems to be the only sympathetic one (played by Will Forte). Though David’s own personal life is not at it’s peak (he recently broke up with his girlfriend) he decides to take his dad to a trip to Nebraska knowing perfectly well that the money part is a fantasy as he latter explains to his mother ‘what’s the harm in letting him have his own fantasy for a couple of more days?’

nebraska-poster1Alexander Payne in an interview at the BFI London Film Festival said something very interesting about the issue of taking care and trying to give enough dignity to our aged parents. According to him making our old parents happy is an act which is both selfless and selfish. Selfless for obvious reasons but selfish because by doing so we ourselves feel so noble-hearted and happy; in a way we are doing it for us.

Probably considering both these reasons David (who looks sad and tired throughout the film) plans to drive his father to Nebraska. A few times in the film David is accused of being just like his father; but the truth is that David’s love and patience towards his dad is the glue that holds everything else in the film.

nebraska-poster2Woody’s little road trip turns out way more exciting and nostalgic than he ever imagined. Starts with a quick tour to Mt.Rushmore, then Woody hits his head in a drunken accident, his teeth lost and found, and then a visit to Woody’s old neighborhood at Hawthorne where his brother Ray still resides, meets up with old friends (even girlfriends), a big time family reunion, and then Woody’s sudden fame in the small town as a would-be-millionaire and finally the moment when Woody shows his receipt and demands his million dollars. For the old man the journey is much more amusing than his final destination.

Cast and Camera:

Beautifully shot in black and white by Phedon Papamichael, the vast wide landscapes and the neatly framed indoors make the film a treat to watch.

Casting of the main characters are obviously well done, two of them (Bruce Dern and June Squibb) were nominated for their roles in the Oscars. But it’s the secondary characters that make the film look so realistic, Aunt Martha, Uncle Ray, Bart and Cole (the lazy cousins), Ed Pegram, Peg Nagy … just to name a few, all – every single one of them look so authentic and believable. I think for this film’s success casting played a huge role and John Jackson, the casting director did a splendid job.

Music and the straight-faced comedy:

Long drives in the picturesque wide roads are well taken care of by the soulful music of Mark Orton.

The comic situations and dialogues in this film are never too loud or forcefully ticklish but they will sure make you smile enough. Bob Nelson’s script is slow paced and subtle where even ordinary, day-to-day conversations seem funny and enjoyable.

And finally:

Dreaming of a million dollars; people congratulating him, singing songs, cheering and clapping for him – Woody relishes it all. It’s the great feeling of being the talk of the town; probably first time in his life he has become somebody important. Even at the end when he shows off his new truck and the compressor (both gifts from his son David), as he confidently drives by wearing a ‘prize winner’ printed cap (his consolation prize), he looks radiant and satisfied. Not rich but content.

Many people perceived Nebraska as a story of an emotional father-son bonding – well, yes evidently it is exactly that but again the film is also about basic human nature, their beliefs and relations; their lust and selfishness and about their courage and selflessness.  For those who haven’t seen the film yet, believe me you are missing out on something rare and classy.

Who cares for a million dollars after all, it all boils down to – as Woody instructs David ‘Have a drink with your old man. Be somebody!’