Friday, 24 June 2016

Whiplash (2014)

Terence Fletcher: "Truth is I don't thing people ..understood..what it was I was doing at Shaffer. 
I was there to push people beyond what is expected out of them.... 
I believe that is an absolute necessity...otherwise we are depriving the world of the next Louie Armstrong, next Charlie Parker...I told you that story about how Charlie Parker became Charlie Parker, right?" 

Andrew Neiman: "Joe Jones threw a cymbal at his head." 

Terence Fletcher: "Exactly." 

Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller), a 19 year-old drummer at Shaffer Music Conservatory, New York, seeks the attention of Terence Fletcher (J.K.Simmons) a reputed teacher /composer. Aspiration meets reality when he is selected as alternate drummer in the Fletcher-headed conservatory band. Then all hell breaks loose.  

Neiman experiences firsthand why other band members cower like nervous school children at Fletcher's arrival. In his cream-lighted indoor dark room sessions (recurring movie ambiance), the teacher subjects the band and especially Neiman to utter humiliation, abuses and insults. Always wanting to be a great drummer and nothing else, a demonic rush to please Fletcher seizes Neiman. Drumming becomes a sole, life-threatening obsession. Everything else becomes insignificant, even as his love life lies ruptured.    

Intense, Fiery 
There is no escaping Whiplash's well-directed intensity. The major storytelling triumph is the minimalist, straight-forward character-driven approach. The story vein stays with the two main protagonists, both fiery, unyielding, turbulent and riveting. Fletcher and Neiman are the film's metaphorical wrestlers and bookends. Barely a dull moment, barely

Beyond the Music
Whiplash is not dependent on its jazz-based soundtrack for inducing overwhelming emotions from the audience. Instead, unlike many other music-based movies, it banks on revealing the uneasy, stormy, agitated human spirit. That demented spirit behind the seemingly tranquil music making. Top grade performances by Teller and Simmons, a clean screenplay and razor sharp editing (love the abrupt ending) makes Whiplash a mini-classic, a must-watch.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Udta Punjab (2016)

Udta Punjab is as immediate, relevant and contemporary a movie you will see on anti-drugs. No film could be as clear with its 'Say No to Drugs' message as Udta Punjab. The censor board's 89-cut recommendation (cleared by Bombay High Court with one cut, three disclaimers prior to release) seems even more bewildering in that context. An 'A' certificate, minus cuts, would have saved a lot of people a hell lot of time and energy. 

Purely on merit
On sheer merit, Udta Punjab stands on its own as a harrowing, (sometimes) humorous and (mostly) steely portrayal of Punjab's drug-tainted culture. The narrative sears through the lives of its four main characters - corrupt policeman Sartaj Singh (Diljit Dosanjh), Preet Sahani - a doctor dedicated to addiction patients (Kareena Kapoor), addiction-crazed rap star Tommy Singh (Shahid Kapoor) and a hapless migrant farm labourer (Alia Bhatt).

A gritty, balanced and well-set up first half fumbles in its converging of characters for the final act. Splendid performances especially by Alia, Diljit and Shahid (in that order), the crazy swirl of expletive-ridden (essential) dialogues, keeps this one alive and kicking. 

The classic film-making irony
That director Abhishek Chaubey and writer Sudip Sharma take a strong anti-drug stance, rather than just tell the story, lessens the impact. A classic film-making irony. The starkness and reality of its theme both powers and burdens the film.  
The 'change of heart' parts, especially how Tommy Singh turns over a new leaf (though gradual), is contrived as the marathon bicycle ride he embarks on. So is the film's gun-banging culmination. By the end credits, I wished the film to be more forgiving and light. 

But finally, Udta Punjab is a damn sincere film, that entertains and engages with a drab conviction. It is certainly a necessary watch for cinema lovers.   

The stand out moment          
A sportsman flings a drug packet across the border with a matter-of-fact expertise. There is no escaping the invention and wit of this wacky opening scene.  

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Sairat (2016)

A poor boy and a rich girl from rural Maharashtra fall for each other. Girl's parents just hate it, guy's folks act no different. The lovers go on the run then, forced to scratch out a new life in the Hyderabad slums. 

The plot may seem familiar, but Sairat is refreshing and real, thanks to its beautifully etched screenplay. It is easily the Marathi movie of the year. 

The lead pair of Akash Thosar and Rinku Rajguru make stellar film debuts. Rajguru, not yet 16, delivers an astonishing performance. Ajay-Atul's songs and background score are rousing additions. 

This is finally director Nagraj Manjule's triumph of lively storytelling while keeping it all grounded and achingly believable. A heart-stealing movie experience, best seen on the big screen.