Monday, 12 March 2018

Chennai Express: An entertaining journey. So, Ready Steady Po!

Chennai Express - An entertaining journey

So, board the Chennai Express, and have fun. Ready Steady Po!

Shambhu Sahu 

First thing first: Chennai Express is quite an entertaining journey. Rohit Shetty and Shah Rukh Khan have ensured enough funny moments in this film which make it “paisa vasool”. The film has some amazingly beautiful locations captured very well by the cinematographer. Since almost entire film is based on South India, the look of the film is very colorful and bright, and hence peppy and upbeat. The story line is ordinary but SRK and Rohit Shetty have made it funny enough to not even bother about it. You are pleasantly hooked and enjoying, except a few emotional moments which somehow seem out of place in a film like this. I am personally very pleased that they have brought Southern spice to Bollywood. It’s quite a pleasant change from the regular imagery/locales show in most Bollywood films. 
For the first time, I quite liked Deepika Padukone. She is convincing in her role, and has looked amazing pretty in this film in those kanjivaram sarees. This is in sharp contrast to how she has been on the screen till now – in dearth of clothing.
Shah Rukh is Shah Rukh. He doesn’t need to act. He is himself in the movie and he knows audience love him that way. He has learnt it hard way after all – and after a couple of his last films like MNIK and Ra.One which made money but didn't add to brand Shah Rukh. That’s when he went and did JTHJ – an attempted epic love story which I believe wasn't that good. So, he is back to what he does best – a romantic hero. In this film, he has tries to be true to his image of a lover boy (albeit a little more restrained and smart, in keeping with the changing times I guess). So, he is Rahul again and is in his elements (defined by him only over the years).
Rohit Shetty leaves his impact in this film. But this is more of Shah Rukh’s film than Rohit Shetty’s. Still, Rohit has grown further as a filmmaker, and it shows in this film.
I strongly feel they should have given subtitles to the Tamil dialogues (even though they can reason it out that the hero doesn't understand Tamil, and he helped by other and that’s when you get to know what’s happening. Still, I believe they should have given the subtitles).
Songs are nice, and well spaced out in the film. Priyamani is hot in the song ‘1234’. It’s one of nicer item songs which otherwise are sleazy and full of double-meaning lyrics.
I am not a huge SRK fan, still I liked the film. I know you are all a huge SRK fan, so you will like it a lot. So, board the Chennai Express, and have fun. Ready Steady Po!
Rating: 3 and a half.

Bollywood 2015: A Good Year at Cinema

Big films. Good content. Better stories. But some small films still struggled to find an audience.

By Shambhu Sahu

If I revisit 2014, Vishal Bharadwaj’s “Haider” would still be my movie of the year. It was pure brilliance in Hindi film making – from almost all aspects. Looking back at 2015, I am glad we do have some very fine films to talk about. They are reflection of our maturity as a filmmaking nation obsessed with cinema. Also, another remarkable point to be noted is that many of the such films were told stories rooted in Indian ethos (“Masaan”, “Dum Laga Ke Haisha”, “Piku”, “Tanu Weds Manu Returns”, etc) or were inspired by the real life incidents or history or took from incidents happening around us (“Talvar”, “Bajirao Mastani”, “Bajrangi Bhaijan”, etc.). The storytelling got lot more real, with it shedding the trademark (and excessive) melodrama and also annoying sprinkling of song-and-dance sequences. Read on…

Masaan – Hindi cinema at its Best 

If there is one movie that moved me completely with its story and honesty (of storytelling), it has to be Neeraj Ghyawan’s “Masaan”. I remember watching “Masaan” and “Bahubali-The Beginning” back to back that day (and in that order), and I could barely concentrate on the year’s ‘magnum opus’. Set in present-day Varanasi, a holy town in Uttar Pradesh, ‘Masaan’ depicts life with such honesty that it disturbs you, even as it leaves you with hope at the end. It captures lives of two characters. First is Devi Pathak, a poor upper caste girl, who aspires to get a in the Railways. She has been brought up by her father, after her mother’s demise. But their lives are devastated after UP Police “apprehends” her “red handed” inside a hotel with her boyfriend. The police, tipped off by the hotel staff, harass them for “obscenity”, and blackmail them. Second is Deepak, a lower-caste boy, who studies to be an engineer during the day, later helps his father and elder brother in burning human corpse at the ghats. He is in love with an upper caste Baniya girl, Shalu, who is a romantic at heart, doesn’t believe in social hierarchy and loves Hindi poetry. But soon the social realities of the life strike both of them. The interplay of local stories and sensibilities, and Hindi poetry of Dhushyant Kumar, Brij Narayan Chakbast, etc. is a delight. When did we last have a movie so well written, well made, well-acted, and rooted in Indianess?
The film won the prestigious International Federation of Film Critics Award and the Promising Future Prize in the Un Certain Regard section at the 68th Cannes Film Festival. This is the kind of cinema we should be proud of showing off to the West, and back home too.

Imtiaz Ali – The Don Returns! 

The next notable film of the year would be Imtiaz Ali’s ‘Tamasha’. (Disclaimer: I have not yet seen “Dilwale” (Winks!!) or “Bajirao Mastani”). I know it tanked at the box-office, but if you have seen it (by mistake), I am sure, it made an impact on you. This is perhaps Ali’s best work after “Socha Na Tha” (2005) (my all-time favourite among his films) and ‘Jab We Met’ (2007). In the meanwhile, he made “Love Aaj Kal” (2009), “Rockstar” (2011), “Cocktail” (2012), and ‘Highway’ (2014). But “Tamasha” is quite effective in what it aims to convey. Through a love story, he makes a commentary on the mechanized lives we lead in the cities, including mechanically being in love. The film is about being true to yourself and finding who you are. Ali’s tells you ask yourself – Are you really the corporate guy you portray to be day in and day out? Maybe you are the ‘Don’, out to get ‘Teja’s sona’ with your ‘Mona’? If you haven’t yet, just check it out – first the movie, and then who you really are in this life! (PS: Financially, it did just average business of about INR 65.50 crores. But don’t they say – Whatever is popular may not be right; and whatever is right may not be popular?) 

Movies Moneywise - The Hit List

Bollywood means Box-Office. So, let us have a quick look at the movies that made plenty of money for its producers. Here we are not getting into the quality/content debate. The fact is, we all (or many of us) watched these movies, and they made money. BTW, as per, “Hate Story 3” is second on the list of movies with best RoI (Return on Investment)[1]. Well, I see “Hate Story 4” coming rather soon. Meanwhile, others films in the list include: “Tanu Weds Manu Returns” (Cost 31 Cr: Total earning 152 cr); Hate Story 3 (13.20 cr: 53.50 Cr*); Bajrangi Bhaijaan (90 Cr: 320.34 Cr); Pyaar Ka Punchanama 2 (18 Cr: 62 Cr); NH 10 (13 Cr: 32 Cr); Piku (35 Cr: 79 Cr); Hunterrr (6 Cr: 13.50 Cr); Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (100 Cr: 207.40 Cr); Badlapur (25 Cr: 51.40 Cr); Dum Laga Ke Haisha (15 Cr: 30 Cr).  Meanwhile, here is the list of money-maker movies of the year[2] and an analysis on what may have worked:

B-O collection
Bajrangi Bhaijaan
320.34 Cr

Movie Title + Salman Khan + Story of Bajrangi taking Sahida (Munni) back to Pakistan to unite her with her family.
(To me, it looked like a winner right from the beginning, given the wide appeal of both its ‘secular-populist’ title and Salman Khan)
Prem Ratan Dhan Payo 
208.88 Cr*
Salman Khan + Brand value to Rajshri Production
(Well,  Salman Khan and Sooraj Barjatya made a comeback (after ‘Hum Saath Saath Hain’). People flocked to the theatre thinking it to be a family ‘entertainer’ (was it?), but enjoyed their popcorn more than the film. But in the end, no one was complaining.)
Tanu Weds Manu Returns
150.77 Cr
Story + Kangana Ranaut (in double role)
Bahubali-The Beginning (Hindi) 
118.7 Cr
Visual Effects (what else?).
(But that itself is a big leap as far as Indian film industry is concerned. And this magnum opus came from South, while Bollywood was busy making it usual song and dance stuff. Respect, SS Rajamauli Sir!)
ABCD-Any Body Can Dance: 2
105.74 Cr
Not sure (Perhaps people don’t mind watching DID on 70 mm as well. :)

Well, Rohit Shetty’s “Dilwale” is almost there in Top 5, with 102.65 Cr* already in its credit. What worked? That’s simple: SRK, SRK, and Kajol.
(*Movie is still running in threatres)

The Write Cinema

There were many films in 2015 which deserve a mention for their stories and their success in telling those stories. They are can be put in the bracket where we celebrate “good content” (against the blind money chase, via star powers). It begins with a good story. And we did have some interesting slice-of-the-life stories on 70 mm, thanks to some excellent works by Varun Grover (“Masaan”) Juhi Chaturvedi (“Piku”), Himanshu Sharma (“Tanu Weds Manu Returns”), Imtiaz Ali (“Tamasha”), etc.

1. Varun Grover: He wrote (with Neeraj Ghyawan) that touching story of “Masaan”. He also wrote lyrics for the film, and also for “Dum Laga Ke Haisha” (remember ‘Sundar Shusheel..’ and ‘Moh Moh Ke Dhaage…’) and “Gangs of Wasseypur” (who can forget – ‘Jiya Ho Bihar Ke Lala, O Womaniya, and I am a Hunterr?).  

2. Sharat Katariya: For ‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha’. The second half of the film was completely flawed, but first of the film was quite great. Greatly rooted in Indianess, it brought on screen a slice-of-life take on two lower middle class families of late 90s, and the era of music ‘cassettes’. (PS: Hope Yashraj Films will not do another experiment of uniting lovers via contests. In “Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi” it was a dance competition, and in “Dum Laga Ke..” it was wife-carrying. Quite “heavy” stuff!)  

3. Juhi Chaturvedi: “Vicky Donor” was successful primarily for its story written by Juhi Chaturvedi. And “Piku” is no different. Delivering a hit film revolving around ‘shit’ (or ‘no shit’) has to be a writing wonder. Kudos, Juhi!

4. Himanshu Sharma: “Tanu Weds Manu (Returns)” returned this year, and so did the writer of original “Tanu Weds Manu” (2011). The sequel was sheer writing genius, except for the climax which was most disappointing and unconvincing given the rest of the movie. Sharma did a fantastic job of creating a Tanu look alike and then revolving the story of rediscovery of love between Tanu and Manu in the second instalment. He, along with Kangana Ranaut’s super performance and Anand L Rai’s direction, took the film to another level. The film received critical appreciations from most critics, and made over 150 crores. What a wapsi, it was! (PS: His “Raanjhanaa” was a good attempt too. But it meandered in its effort to include too many things at once – unrequited love, activism, contemporary politics, etc.)

5. Imtiaz Ali: Well no one represents contemporary love on cinema like he does. But with “Tamasha”, he went beyond. The film is not just about two contemporary lovers, but about the so called ‘modern’ (read ‘mechanised’) lives we live – with time scheduled for everything, including love. It’s an apt commentary on the times we live in and it stirs & shakes you to question yourself for not doing what you love. 

Brave New Bollywood

Few years back, it would have been hard to imagine a Bollywood film without a song-and-dance sequence which irritatingly break the pace of story. But things have changed, with a few unconventional filmmakers breaking the rules in the film industry. Here are a few films (besides those mentioned above) which deserve a mention for their exception efforts to redefine Indian cinema.

1. “Talwar”: For creating a convincing crime thriller on India’s biggest ‘whodunnit’ –Aarushi-Hemraj double murders. Written by none other than Vishal Bhardwaj himself and directed by Meghna Gulzar, the film meticulously captures two versions of the case – that of the police and the parents’.   

2. “Detective Byomkesh Bakshy”: For giving us our own detective saga, after years. Though it was a bit over dramatic and dark (lack of light, I mean), still a good attempt, helmed by Dibakar Benerjee. 

3. “Badlapur”: Sriram Raghavan’s gripping revenge drama – with a fine performance by Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Quite a thriller it was.

4. Hunterrr”: Produced by Phantom Films (of “Queen”, “Lootera” fame) and written and directed by Harshavardhan Kulkarni, this Indian adult comedy looked like a good attempt in the genre. Was this better film than “Kya Kool Hain Hum”? Well, perhaps. But nowhere close to “American Pie” series.

5. “Margarita, with a Straw”: Well it’s not another “Sparsh” (Sai Paranjpye, 1980), still its writer-director Shonali Bose deserves applauds for making a ‘mainstream film’ about a teenager with cerebral palsy, played by Kalki Koechelin.

6. “Baahubali – The Beginning”: For the sheer guts and vision of S.S. Rajamouli to give to the world India’s visual magnum opus.

7. “Drishyam”: Well it arrived a tad too late in Hindi, but Nishikant Kamat’s film was good and received well by the audiences. First made in Malayalam in 2013 by the same name, it was quickly remade in Tamil, Kannada and Telugu.

8. “Manjhi-The Mountain Man”: Well, after a point it got repetitive (Manjhi going to break the mountain), and the progress of his feat was not captured well, but Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s performance made it worth a watch. Director Ketan Mehta deserves praise for attempting such a subject, from India’s hinterland, on the big screen.

9. “Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2”: Well, I am a super fan of this anti-love film franchise. The first one was amazing, as the concept itself was unique. But the second instalment, by director Luv Ranjan, was not bad either. In fact, quite enjoyable. Yes – ‘Liquid’ was missed, but then it kind of was fine. 

10. “Baby”: When you watch English films like “Argo” (Ben Affleck, 2012), you wonder why we don’t have our own action-thrillers like that. Our own “Baby”, quite an edge-of-the-seat thriller (sans any major song-and-dance), come close.  

Afterword: Where did that small beautiful film go?

In present-day maddening marketing scenario, where big films and big stars scream and shout about their films, it’s time we thought seriously about how to promote our indie films. For big films, there’s actually a rush among people to catch their earliest shows. But that’s not the case with small but good films. We need to have a sustainable exhibition schemes for smalls films so that people can catch them even after a week of their theatrical release (by when the word-of-mouth build up). Can big stars or production houses ensure one or two shows of such films keep running at a few cinemas? Not some fancy cinema halls with elite ticket pricing. Even not-so-elites should be able to watch these indies. Or do we all believe that only a section of the society can understand such cinema? I don’t think so. Also, these films hardly find takers among TV channels, who otherwise make a beeline for bog films like “Bajrangi Bhaijaan” or “Dilwale”. So, there is no chance of catching these on TV. Can state-run Doordarshan (DD) give a slot to them? The films I am pointing towards are Chaitanya Tamhane’s “Court”, Ananth Narayan Mahadevan’s “Gour Hari Dastaan”, Kanu Behl’s “Titli”, Anup Singh’s “Qissa”, etc. What’s the point of a good film sitting in a film can?
Here’s looking forward to even better year at Cinema in 2016.

© Shambhu Sahu, 2015. All rights reserved. Written: 25th December, 2015 Feedback at:

Haider Kick(s) in Happy New Year

Haider Kick(s) in Happy New Year
Bollywood 2014: A round-up of important (and not so important) films released this year

By Shambhu Sahu

Big Films, Bigger Stars
The five biggest grosser of the year featured big Bollywood stars: Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Akshay Kumar and and Ajay Devgn. As per the box-office (BO) collection data* on entertainment portal, the top five grosser of the year include: Salman Khan’s Kick (233 Cr), Shah Rukh Khan’s multi-starrer Happy New Year (over 203 Cr),  Hrithik Roshan and Katrina Kaif’s Bang Bang (181.03 Cr), Ajay Devgn-Rohit Shetty’s Singham Returns (141 Cr), and Akshay Kumar-A.R. Murugadoss’s Holiday - A Solider is Never Off Duty (113 Cr). This in a way also gives us the current ranking of these Bollywood stars (for those who believe in such stuff!). And of course Aamir Khan is yet to arrive at the scene. He is all set to storm the BO on 19th December with Rajkumar Hirani’s PK, and is likely to shake up this “Top Five” order. 
Meanwhile, lists Jai Ho (116 Cr), Salman’s other release of the year and a remake of Telugu film Stalin (2006), at number 5 and Holiday - A Solider is Never Off Duty at 6. These figures, however, may not be a correct reflection of profit made as the production cost of all these films vary.  

What sells – Stars, and Maar Dhaad?
Interestingly, all the Top Five movies above belong to Action or Action/Comedy genre, and have a Bollywood Superstar in the lead role, while there isn’t anything great to rave about as far as their content is concerned. Look at the rating these films received from some of the popular film critics:

Rajeev Masand
Raja Sen
Saibal Chatterjee
Shubhra Gupta
Happy New Year
Bang Bang!
Singham Returns
Holiday - A Solider is Never Off Duty
(Ratings and review comments accessed from
Reviewing HNY, Saibal Chatterjee wrote on “There is no dearth of gloss in Happy New Year, but everything else in the film, including the content and its treatment, are allowed to go for a toss. Kick got many recommendations as an entertainer, but not much praise for its content. Rajeev Masand wrote on “…the pursuit of logic in a Salman Khan film is a rather fruitless exercise, even his die-hard fans will agree. The actor admits as much in a telling dialogue at the end of the film: “Mere baare mein itna mat sochna. Dil mein aata hoon, samajh mein nahin.” Chatterjee wrote: “Kick provides a kick only sporadically. For Salman Khan fans, that should be good enough.”
Raja Sen thrashed Bang Bang! in his review: “This is a stupid, stupid film trying to be slick, a B-grade film made on an A-list budget.” “How many times have you ordered a dish that looks terrific photographed in a menu, but disappoints when it shows up on the table? Bang Bang is that kind of meal,” wrote Masand.
Anupama Chopra wrote, “Holiday - A Solider is Never Off Duty is a superstar vehicle without a brain or a heart.” “The script does not allow Akshay Kumar to be the no-nonsense action hero that would have held the film in better stead,” Chatterjee wrote.
As for Singham Returns, Gupta commented: “The sequel to ‘Singham’ is chock-full of the usual car-on-jeep action. Explosions go off at regular intervals. Shoot-outs—one really well-shot– occur frequently.” Masand wrote: “At 2 hours and 22 minutes, Singham Returns feels long and occasionally plodding. There are some nice scenes that inspire police pride, but the predictable story tires you out eventually.”
This may explain what really works at the BO – a Star, a beauty and lotsa Maar-Dhaad!  

The Other Winners- Super Hits & Hits:
As per, the other successful films of the year include: Ek Villain (105 Cr), 2 States (104 Cr), Queen (61 Cr), and Yaariyan (40 Cr) which are declared Super Hits. Its list of Hits include: Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania (76.81 Cr), Mary Kom (64 Cr), Heropanti (55 Cr), Finding Fanny (35.91 Cr), Khoobsurat (25.87 Cr), Creature 3D (20 Cr). Interestingly, these lists have three directorial debuts – Vikas Bahl (Queen); Divya Khosla Kumar (Yaariyan) and Omung Kumar (Mary Kom) – and two acting debuts - Jackie Shroff’s son Tiger (Heropanti) and Pakistani TV star Fawad Khan (Khoobsurat).    

Who Cares for Content?
Well, the customer doesn’t – or so it seems. Take a look at the Top Five films of this year, none of them was an original. Of these five films, three were remakes, and the other two included a sequel and an allegedly inspired filmKick was a remake of a 2009 Telugu film with same name; Bang Bang! was an official remake of Tom Cruise-starrer Knight & Day, and Holiday - A Solider is Never Off Duty was a remake of A.R. Murugadoss’s own Telugu film (Thuppakki). The other two include Singham Returns, a sequel to Singham, which too was a remake of a Suriya-starrer Telugu film Singam (2006), and HNY, a reportedly inspired film. Shubha Gupta of The Indian Express wrote: “Happy New Year turns out to be a cross between an Oceans 11/12 and Flashdance and a whole bunch of movies that topline Mera Bharat Mahan sentiments”. Masand referred to it as a film “borrowing ideas from such contrasting films as Ocean’s Eleven and The Full Monty”.
Haider, an adaptation of Hamlet and last of Vishal Bhardwaj’s Shakespearean trilogy, was one of the better films this year in terms of story, plot, performances and filmmaking. However, in terms of BO collection, it is reported to have managed only 58.30 Cr and is in the “Plus” category -- a “film which recovers investment & yields some profit”. Dedh IshqiyaAbhishek Chaubey's sequel to his hit debut film Ishqiya, and Vikas Bahl’s Queen are the other major contenders for this year's good films overall. They had new/refreshing stories and excellent performances by the leading ladies (Madhuri Dixit-Nene and Huma Qureshi and Kangana Ranaut respectively). Kangana carried Queen on her shoulders. She was Queen and the film was hers. 

Is Haider Film of The Year?
In Haider, Vishal Bhardwaj successfully (and brilliantly too) re-created Kashmir of 90s when insurgency in the valley was at its peak. And in that background, he placed Haider (Shahid Kapur) a youth unsure of taking inteqaam from his conniving uncle who got his father killed and married his mother. The film was well made, had an original story and was packed with stellar performances by Tabu, Shahid, Kay Kay Menon, Irfaan Khan, Narendra Jha, and others. Most reviewer applauded the craft and cinema of Bhardwaj. Film critic Raja Sen wrote on “Bhardwaj, now more than ever, seems assured of the power of his content, and knows when to pull his punches and doesn't fall for obvious temptations. The result is a knockout, a film that makes you smell corpses, that makes you shudder with melancholia, and a film that points accusing fingers. A film that doesn't flinch.” Anupama Chopra wrote in Hindustan Times, “There is much in Haider that deserves a standing ovation. Let’s start with the courage of director Vishal Bhardwaj…Hamlet in itself is a beast to be tamed… But I can guarantee that you will emerge from Haider shell-shocked. And when was the last time a Hindi film did that to you?”  
Could Haider be the best film of 2014? May be ...not. We all know contenders for the film of the year are: HNYKick, and may be Bang Bang! as well. If things go horribly wrong, Haider has a chance, and Dedh Ishqiya and Queen are there too. And Aamir Khan’s PK is yet to hit screen.

Movies, Served with Regular Masala
2014 boasts of many masala movies that managed to get viewers who kept the cash register ringing. Some of these could safely include:
1. Varun Dhawan-Alia Bhatt starrer (Karan Johar-produced) Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania – a modern take on DDLJ packed with (useless but glossy) song-and-dance, action and romance as per Yash Raj’s formula.
2. Singham Returns, with your regular dose of new angry-young-man Ajay Devgn as Bajirao Singham and Rohit Shetty’s “'car'ma”.
3. With Main Tera Hero, David Dhawan seems to have found a masaaledar Govinda at home in his son Varun.
4. In Bang Bang!, Siddharth Anand (who?) mainly cooked masala (excessive action and stars power of Hrithik and Katrina) and sprinkled a bit of story and plot in it.

Stars of the Year
Alia Bhatt with three big films - HighwayHumpty Sharma Ki Dulhaniya and 2 States – and Arjun Kapoor with his three films – 2 StatesGunday and Finding Fanny – lead the list. The other major stars of the year will include Salman Khan with his money spinners Kick and Jai Ho; Priyanka Chopra (Mary Kom and Gunday); Deepika Padukone (HNY and Finding Fanny); Akshay Kumar (HolidayEntertainment and The Shaukeens); Sidharth Malhotra (Ek Villian and Hasee Toh Phasee); Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Kick and Miss Lovely); Varun Dhawan (Main Tera Hero and Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhaniya).

Disappointments of The Year
1.      Imtiaz Ali’s HighwayDays before her wedding, Veera (Alia Bhatt) is abducted for ransom by a gang led by rustic Mahabir (Randeep Hooda). As he takes her to different location to escape cops, she begins to develop a strange bond with her kidnapper. Quite unconvincing. Masand wrote on “Veera's quick transformation from helpless victim to enthusiastic co-traveler is nevertheless unconvincing. It's meandering and indulgent in many parts, tiring you out well before it's over. I'm going with two out of five for Highway. A beautiful mess, but a mess nonetheless.” 
2.      Habib Faisal’s Daawat-E-IshqFaisal showed immense promise with his Do Dooni Chaar and Ishaqzaade (which has a poor ending), but this film was just too and dry as far as story goes. Sonali Cables, a small-budget film about local business vs big corporates, or Ekkees Toppon Ki Salaami, a satire about two brothers’ resolve to restore honor of their father implicated in a false corruption case, arguably had better stories/plots!  
3.      Tigmanshu Dhulia-written The ShaukeensWhy attempt a remake if you can’t break a few clichés? The film depicts three aging chaddi-buddies pursuing sexual pleasure outside marriage. Fine. But then why end the film on a moralistic note – three men feeling guilty of their pursuit and a star defending their “innocence” so that they are accepted back in the very lives they wanted to escape?
4.      Yash Raj's Kill/DilWhy would Shaad Ali (of Saathiya and Bunty aur Babli fame) attempt something as clichéd as this. The film’s trailers gave up the plot and it was quite uninspiring.  
5.      Saif Ali Khan's Happy EndingWell a rom-com that’s “a comedy about romantic comedies” and stars Saif Ali Khan, Ileana D'Cruz, Govinda, Ranvir Shorey, Kalki shouldn’t ideally be disappointing. This one was. It was no Cocktail or Love Aaj Kal – better rom-coms from Saif’ own production house.

Films We Missed, But May Not Be Missed

1.      Finding Fanny: An old man in Goa embarks on a journey to find his lost love after he discovers a letter written to her decades ago. Watch it at leisure. “Finding Fanny is a charming film that starts off slowly but draws you into its drama. At a crisp 105 minutes, it's a perfectly satisfying watch unlike so many disposable comedies today,” wrote Masand on
2.      Rang RasiyaKetan Mehta’s biopic on 19th century painter Raja Ravi Verma, starring Randeep Hooda and Nandana Sen. Was supposed to be released a couple of years back, but finally released this year.  “…given the timelessness of the story it tells and the crucial issues it addresses, it has lost none of its relevance. Strongly recommended,” wrote Chatterjee on “…I’m relieved that at least films like these are being made and…that we’re getting to see them,” wrote Sen on
3.      Sulemani KeedaA film about two writing partners and roommates who dream of making it big in Bollywood. They get an offer to write an out-of-the-box film for a star son, but are questioned for their choice. Masand recommended it, saying: “Slickly shot, capturing a real, lived-in feel of the city, this is a charming little indie that manages to say something important, while never forgetting to make you laugh.”
4.      Miss LovelyA take on C-grade movie-making business in 80s’ Bombay, featuring Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Niharika Singh: “I'm going with three out of five for Ashim Ahluwalia's Miss Lovely. Selected to play in the prestigious Un Certain Regard section at the Cannes film festival in 2012, it's an unconventional watch, yes, but it's also refreshing to see a different kind of Indian cinema make its place in the world,” Masand wrote.
5.      Kya Dilli Kya LahoreActor Vijay Raaz’s directorial debut film was about two soldiers on an Indo-Pak border post, soon after the partition. “As an actor, Vijay Raaz seldom lets down a film. Here, he takes on the added responsibility of direction. He keeps the proceedings even-paced and free of techno-generated upheavals. The two actors (Manu Rishi being the other) are mostly left to their own devices. The end-result is a film of tremendous warmth and wisdom,” wrote Subhash K Jha for IANS.

The Return of the Original Blockbusters
Lastly, two of the biggest Bollywood blockbusters ever made, Ramesh Shippy's Sholay (1975) and Aditya Chopra's cult romantic saga Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge or DDLJ (1995) got re-released this year. While the former was re-released in 3D format, the latter hit the theatres once again on the occasion of completing 1000 weeks at Mumbai’s Maratha Mandir. This sure was a treat for all Bollywood lovers - an opportunity for youngsters (born after 80s) and elders (who got old before 1999) to catch iconic Sholay and DDLJ on the big screen respectively.

(* Data accessed on the website on 14.12.2014/Images used for representational purposes only)
© Shambhu Sahu, 2014 

Friday, 30 December 2016

This new year, don't be Coach Kadam from 'Dangal'. Be a real mentor.

Is the era of mentoring over? Does the Wrestling Coach in the Film Represent the Hollow Leadership We See Around Us at Our Work Environment?  'Dangal' hints at how a coach/mentor should not be.

Shambhu Sahu

Besides the much talked about social issues Aamir Khan's latest film "Dangal" raises, there is a much nuanced take on what mentoring has become in recent years. "Dangal" is the story of ex-wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat who informally trains his eldest daughter Geeta to become state wrestling champ. Thereafter, she has to be 'formally mentored' by a 'professional' coach Pramod Kadam for the national and international championships.

(If you have seen the movie, it will be easier for you to relate to points raised here.)

After becoming state-level wrestling champion, Geeta gets enrolled at the National Sport Academy (NSA), Patiala. Kadam is the wrestling coach at the academy, entrusted with the job of training or mentoring athletes like her, who would then bring laurels to the country. But is 'Coach Saab', as Geeta addresses him in the film, is fit to lead the team and shoulder such a responsibility? Does he represent some of the managers or leaders or mentors we see around in corporate office?

Let's have a look at some aspects of coach Kadam's personality, which might resonate with many of us who work in corporate offices:

1. Background (does it even matter?): It is not clear what this coach saab's background is. Did he play the sport himself? Did he have a successful stint? Film doesn't show anything about it, which in itself is a statement that it doesn't matter. To lead a team or to mentor people in a particular domain, you have to have some background in that specific or allied field. It will certainly help you understand what goes in the mind of workers and what hurdles they may be facing in their day-to-day work.

2. Insecurity: This coach is so insecure that he shouts and uses his official authority to ward off any possibility of 'being challenged' (or exposed). Remember that scene when Geeta's father very politely approaches Kadam with a request to 'nurture her talent'? Feeling threatened by this former wrestler, he snaps rudely at Geeta, to show Phogat that 'he is the boss' now. His sense of insecurity and inferiority is quite evident there.

3. Power without Substance: Well, Kadam was a state-appointed mentor/coach, so he sure had all the powers. Geeta came to believe that he not only had the powers but his techniques were better than her father's. Since Kadam was sitting at 'the official throne' even she forgets that it was only basis her father's mentoring that she could make it to the prestigious sport academy. However, after a series of losses over three years, Geeta reverts to her father's mentorship and techniques. So, what USP did Kadam had as mentor?

4. Taking Credit for Other's Work: The coach, who himself lacked any major accomplishments in life, wanted to use his 'brightest student' to add a few feather in his cap. He wanted to be called a 'successful' coach (and perhaps win a Dronacharya award), on the basis of his pupil's achievements. That's why in the movie he is rushing to take credit at post-match press conferences. Moreover, when he realises that Geeta is not going to credit him for her possible win at the Commonwealth Games wrestling finals, he conspires to lock up her father, who was successfully guiding her from audience stands, in a store room. He wanted to ensure that the world, particularly media, doesn't spot her father; thereby implying that he is the ONE who 'coached' her to victory.

5. Inspiring figures no more? “Dangal”'s wrestling coach is a stark contrast with the hockey coach in "Chak De! India", played by Shah Rukh Khan. In “Dangal”, while training the athletes for international events, and after a series of failures, he tells Geeta, "I want at least one medal from you." (Mujhe tujhse kam se kam ek medal chahiye). In "Chak  De!", SRK inspires his team to achieve it for themselves. His famous "Sattar Minute" (70 minute) dialogue is about inspiring the girls to go out there and give their best for themselves. Before the final match, Geeta's father, says only this much to inspire her: "If you win Silver, people will forget you. But if you win Gold, you will become an inspiration... and people never forget an inspiration".

Geeta, of course, wins the wrestling final against a mighty Australian opponent, following only her father's training and mentoring and ignoring her coach's adverse advices.
Kadam thus become an interesting case study as a (inefficient) leader or mentor of a team. He asks Geeta to "unlearn" all wrong techniques she has learnt in the past. "Unlearning the Past Learning" is a jargon we all have come across quite often in our professional lives. But did his "new techniques" work? No. Did he inspire his team? No (in spite of Geeta being in an awe of him in the beginning).

Did he for even once introspect at his pupil’s failure? No. Do leaders/mentors need not introspect?
No amount of accomplishments or qualifications should stop a leader from introspection; revisiting strategies and playing to the teams strengths.

Finally, the importance or value of a good leader/coach/mentor will never go out of fashion. Youngsters, generations after generations, will need that mentorship to reach new heights. I personally have seen few leaders who have the mantle of being a good mentor.
The leaders at the top or those in the making need to pause a bit, and reflect on the kind of leadership they are offering. Do they inspire people in office (or it's just the position)? Do their words, guidance, mentorship change anybody’s life for real (discounting the personal favours)? Did they help someone really rise from ground? And lastly, who will cry when they die?

PS: Mahavir Singh Phogat may not qualify as a real mentor as he was coaching his daughters for his personal dream.