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Bidding Adieu to Nolan’s Gothic Gotham…

July 27, 2012 Leave a comment

The storm arrived. The fire rose. And now there is calm…

While we all recover from yet another visual delight and an arresting cinematic experience from Chris Nolan, I have mixed feelings. “The Dark Knight Rises” is an almost “purr-fect” conclusion to Nolan’s epic vision of Gotham and his interpretation of the Bruce Wayne aka Batman saga. The internet has been rife with praises from both critics and the audience alike (except for the handful of critics who “dared” to criticize the film…and got slammed by the fans!) since the movie’s release last week.

I had been counting days, minutes and seconds before the movie unfolded in front of me in the theatre…and even though I couldn’t avoid reading some of the critics’ reviews prior to my watching it, I was still amazed. Amazed at Nolan’s storytelling abilities. Amazed at Tom Hardy’s Bane…even though he remains behind a “mask” throughout. Amazed at Anne Hathaway, Joseph-Gordon Levitt and Gary Oldman. Amazed at how good Micheal Cane still is, at this age. Amazed at Hans Zimmer’s stupendous, thumping and ominous background score. Amazed at the jaw-dropping visuals…truly worthy of a superhero film. And amazed at Christian Bale’s wonderful portrayal of both Batman and Bruce Wayne.

Not everyone likes Nolan’s style of storytelling (Jim Emerson details his gripe with the director’s storytelling technique in a fair amount of detail on his Scanners blog…). But for me, its “so-what”?? Every director has a unique style, a method behind his/her madness..be it Martin Scorcese, Woody Allen, Ridley Scott, Quentin Tarantino, Michel Haneke or PT Anderson. And so does Christopher Nolan. So why pick on him…and him alone?

There is no doubt that “The Dark Knight” was a tough act to follow. And Heath Ledger’s Joker a tough villian to compete with. Sure the movie attempts to do too much with too many characters. Agreed that Nolan gives us a dark, grim view into today’s headlines, with Class Wars, Occupy Wall Street, Financial Crisis, Terrorism and what have you. But defying the usual “third movie curse” (Spiderman 3, Alien 3, Back to the Future 3, Jurassic Park 3, etc.), “The Dark Knight Rises” ends the trilogy on a such a high and positive note that you can’t help but stand up and clap in the end…with the rest of the audience…as I did!!

And yet I have mixed feelings now. While Nolan has now put to bed a story that he started eight years ago with “Batman Begins“, I also feel that his decision to do so could not have come at a better time than this. I list below my Top Five Reasons as to why now was the right time for all of us to bid adieu to Nolan’s Gothic Gotham:

5.) Coming up next…A Back-to-Back Nolan Feast

For the past eight years, Chris Nolan has interjected his Batman movies with films like “The Prestige” and “Inception” which gave us a glimpse into the director’s mind outside of the dark world of Batman. With the trilogy now being complete, we wouldn’t have to wait long before seeing more original back-to-back creations of his devious mind.

4.) How much darker can darkness get?

OK…so if “The Dark Knight” was dark, TDKR took us into the abyss!! It doesn’t get any darker than this in a superhero film. Sure we’ve all seen our share of “Seven” and “Dragon Tattoo” movies, but a superhero movie needs to lighten up a bit. This was mass hysteria and total panic and utter chaos and complete carnage. I am not complaining about TDKR but if Nolan had continued the trend with another Batman movie, I would have thrown my hands up in the air, gasping for some air to breathe…

3.) Is that writer’s fatigue?

The Nolan Brothers and David Goyer kept their heads on their shoulders when writing the scripts for all three pictures. It is pretty clear that they knew which direction they wanted the trilogy to go, after “Batman Begins” and the writing kept getting better and more expressive. The characters in the subsequent films were much well drawn-out and the conversations were more intelligent. However, as some would say….it was also dangerously close to become too vague and abstract for a superhero movie. And as a friend of mine rightfully pointed out, it is evident that Warner Bros. arm-twisted them with the ending of TDKR…albeit to a smaller extent. And that is when the originality would start fading.

2.) Beware! Tired actors ahead.

Stars get tired. Period. They want to move on to another life…to another role…to another character. Eight years is a long, long time…especially for a talented cast like this one, who have the ability to play wide-ranging roles. (See Bale in “The Machinist” and “The Fighter“…or Morgan Freeman in “The Shawshank Redemption” and “Million Dollar Baby“.) And it would be very hard for me to imagine Nolan’s Gotham without Christian Bale donning the Batman garb…without Micheal Cane’s Alfred or without Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon.

1.) A Graceful Exit

It just was time. Its as simple as that. With the trilogy at its peak of innovation, with the storytelling and direction as its best and with all the actors giving their best, there could not be a better time to quit and end the story here than now. And Nolan has ended it with a bang!

The Summer of 2012 has seen the superhero movies graph go higher and higher as the months passed by. It started with the pure popcorn introduction of “The Avengers“, went on to show us a new and more humane “Amazing Spiderman” and has now ended with the scarily lofty “Dark Knight Rises“. It will be a summer to remember for comic book fans and for avid moviegoers. I will surely miss this Dark Knight and  never seeing Nolan’s Gotham City again. But I thank him for bringing a fitting superhero end to a superhero summer.

Why so serious, folks? Just Rise!!

Categories: Hollywood

The New Age Lyricists…

July 15, 2012 Leave a comment

Gulzar Saab Rocks!! I had to, of course, start this post by stating the obvious.

Anyone who can move from “Mora Gora Ang Leyee Le” to “Woh Shaam Kucch Ajeeb Thi”, from “Naam Gum Jaayega” to “Dhanno Ki Aankhon Mein” and from “Chhod Aaye Hum Woh Galiyaan” to “Kajra Re” this effortlessly is no ordinary writer. And the way he continues to move even today, remains unsurpassable.

A mention is also necessary for his colleagues, from the likes of Raja Mehndi Ali Khan, Sahir Ludhianvi, Shahryar and Anand Bakshi, who mesmerized us for decades with their wonderfully penned songs…from “Lag Jaa Gale” and “Main Pal Do Pal Ka Shaayar Hoon” to “Seene Mein Jalan” and “Mere Dil Mein Aaj Kya Hai“.

However, it is now also time to acknowledge the new generation of lyricists who are writing Bollywood songs that we play and listen to every day either in our cars, during our mehfils…or simply on Saavn. The jury may still be sharply divided, as I’m sure that avid listeners do not consider anyone who writes Sheila, Munni and Anarkali songs to be even worthy of a mention. But we need to look a bit more closely at the body of work that these new age lyricists have amassed over the past years before passing the verdict on them.

While one single post cannot do justice to what the current lyricists are capable of, I strongly feel that lyricists of today have a lot of potential and if given the credit and love from their listeners, they can ably lead bollywood music into its next era of meaningful melodies.

The first modern day lyricist that comes to mind is Dr. Irshad Kamil. Anyone who listens to bollywood music has heard the terrific numbers penned by Dr.Kamil for Ranbir Kapoor’s “Rockstar“. It was Dr.Kamil strong lyrics that gave a much deeper meaning to Jordan’s songs – the character portrayed by Kapoor. From “Phir Se Udh Chala” to “Tum Ho” to “Nadaan Parindey” to the anthemic “Sadda Haq“…every single track of the film was worth listening to, not just for AR Rahman’s music but for Dr.Kamil’s powerful lyrics. However, one cannot overlook his other recent works which have been equally noteworthy, including
Ishq Risk/Madhubala – “Mere Brother Ki Dulhan
Yaariyaan/Tumhi Ho Bandhu – “Cocktail
Rabba Main To Mar Gaya/Sajh Dhaj Ke – “Mausam
Tera Hone Laga Hoon/Prem Ki Naiyya – “Ajab Prem Ki Gajab Kahani
Chor Bazaari/Twist – “Love Aaj Kal” and
Bhaage Re Mann/Sajnaa Ve Sajnaa – “Chameli

Note how I have listed two very different tracks from the same movie in the list…to show the extent of Dr.Kamil’s versatility and his ability to win the hearts of both the classes and the masses.

Coming very close to Dr.Kamil is my personal favorite, Amitabh Bhattacharya. Bhattacharya leapt to fame writing some strongly worded songs for musician-partner-in-crime, Amit Trivedi, for off-beat gems like “Aamir” and “DevD“. But it was only a matter of time before he made it into the big league with a awesome variety of songs that have never since ceased to amaze me. Bhattacharya’s talent and his ability to play with words is wonderous, and makes you think how a single person can switch modes and write songs that are so damn diverse in nature. Here are a few examples to support my claim:
Raabta / Pungi – “Agent Vinod
Abhi Mujh Mein Kahin / Gun Guna Re / Chikni Chameli – “Agneepath
Tonight / The Mutton Song – “”Luv Ka The End
Bhaag DK Bose – “Delhi Belly
Aitbaar / Dilli – “No One Killed Jessica
Azaadiyan / Udaan – “Udaan

Amitabh Bhattacharya has proven with every film that he has the ability to outdo himself with the next outing. And I, for once, look forward to deciphering the meaning of every song he writes.

Which brings me to two other lyricists who don’t write often but are equally noteworthy. Swanand Kirkire is a master of words and has penned memorable songs for films like “3 Idiots“, “Yeh Saali Zindagi“, “Paa“, “Lafangey Parindey“, “Parineeta“, “Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi” and “Lage Raho Munnabhai“. Who can forget songs like All Izz Well, Kaise Kahein Alvida, Mudi Mudi, Man Lafanga Badaa, Kaisi Paheli Zindagi and Baavra Mann. They all move you and stir emotions that few other songs are able to. The impact is similar to the works of Prasoon Joshi, the mind behind absolute gems from films like “Ghajini” (Kaise Mujhe Tum Mile Gayee), “Fanaa” (Dekho Na), “Teri Meri Kahaani” (Mukhtsar), “Delhi-6” (Arziyaan…and everything else!!), “London Dreams” (Mann Ko Ati Bhaave), “Taare Zameen Par” (Maa) and above all “Rang De Basanti“. Enough said!!

Lyricists have always been shoved into the background when it comes to the final credits for any Bollywood film. The audience remembers the stars of a film, the director, the musicians…even the locations where the filming took place. But hardly anyone asks for the name of the writer whose songs they have been humming even since they were released. Its time we started giving credit to where its actually due and recognized the lyricists who give that much needed color to any situation, through their words…sometimes spoken and at times unspoken.

So while we all ponder over these thoughts and begin to appreciate our new-age lyricists, I need to go back and listen to my favorite song of 2012 so far…”Tore Bin” from “Kahaani”…written by Anvita Dutt. Or dim the lights and float with Amitabh Bhattacharya’s magical words from Raabta

Phailee Thi Siyaah Raatein…Aaya Tu Subah Leke
Bewajaa Si Zindagi Mein…Jeene Ki Wajaah Leke
Khoya Sa Samundaron Mein…Tanha Safina Mera
Saahilon Pe Laaya Hai Tu…Jaane Kis Tarah Leke

Categories: Bollywood

Of Facehuggers, Chestbusters, Xenomorphs and Trilobites…

July 11, 2012 1 comment

…And the “Prometheus” debate rages on.

You must all be scratching your heads, wondering what these names represented. All of you, except for perhaps the die-hard fans of “Alien“!!

For the past six weeks, ever since Ridley Scott’sPrometheus” hit the big screens, the Internet has erupted with discussions on the film, its relevance to “Alien” and the hidden questions on the origins of mankind that it attempts to raise. Not once since watching the Sean Penn directed “The Pledge” (starring Jack Nicholson..but more on that one some other time) have I personally spent so much time reading about a single film, its so-called “sequel” and about its visionary director. Sure, its just a film and obviously all questions put forth by “Prometheus” are a figment of the writers/director zany imagination. But they have forced me to stop and think.

And I don’t mean think about the questions…but about how wildly talented this entire production team is!! “Prometheus” is a haunting experience…the more you think about it after it ends, the more you appreciate it (However, not in the “Inception” kind of way, though…where you would reach a different conclusion every time you would think about it). Here is a film that looks absolutely stunning on the big screen (I did not watch the 3D version, which I’ve heard, simply rocked.) and has some very fine production values. The cast is an absolute hoot, with Michael Fassbender blowing you away with his version of the Android….and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo doing it yet again. Noomi Rapace IS Dr. Elizabeth Shaw and it is hard to imagine any other actress enacting that role.

Is Dr. Shaw a fitting predecessor to Sigourney Weaver’s Dr. Ripley. Yes, in my opinion. But one needs to extremely careful and ensure that “Prometheus” is not treated as the prequel to “Alien“. At least not yet…although we may get there eventually, if its sequel is made. The film needs to be viewed as a stand-alone sci-fi thriller and viewers should slowly let the “Alien” elements creep in….rather than starting the movie expecting it to be an Alien-like horror flick. “Prometheus” is a thriller…but not a horror thriller. Sure, the creatures are there, but they are not the central part of the film and therein lies the primary difference between the two films.

For those of you who have seen…and remember “Alien” (I mean who hasn’t…and who doesn’t!!), “Prometheus” attempts to answer the questions that were staring at your face throughout “Alien” but never got raised because the horror kicked in. Questions like “Who were those Space Jockeys“, “Where was that runaway spaceship going“, etc. Ridley Scott and his writers take us into the same universe and yet create a special world on its own. The difference are genuine and yet the similarities are staggering.

Ever since the first look trailer hit the Internet, the ominous thundering music has had me glued…but it also sounded faintly familiar. Until I checked out the 1979 trailer of “Alien“….which had the same ominous musical montage!! The “Alien” trailer also shows you glimpses of things that you see in “Prometheus“. Check out the two trailers below and judge for yourself.

Prometheus:

 

Alien:

Yet, I maintain that “Prometheus” stands tall on its own, thanks to Ridley Scott’s clarity of vision. Without giving away the plot, I would just say that the end of “Prometheus” leaves you gasping for more. Even though you know that a “Prometheus” sequel may or may not happen. Scott not only has the knack of extracting wonderful performances from his actors (“Alien“, “Gladiator“, “Thelma and Louise“, “Matchstick Men“, “Body of Lies“) but he also knows the pulse of his sci-fi crazy audience…irrespective of which decade his movie is being produced in. Surely this one has been met with mixed reactions from the audience as well as from the critics….but the overall verdict on the film being a strong thriller remains fairly consistent.

Which brings us finally to the FacehuggersChestbustersXenomorphs and Trilobites. 🙂 For the benefit of those who may or may not have seen “Prometheus” and “Alien“, these are the names of the different “Avatars” of the alien creatures. Facehuggers were our first introduction to the alien species in the 1979 film, as they clung to the faces of their human victims and impregnated them via the mouths…only to erupt out of their chests as the Chestbusters. (The chestbuster sequence in Alien involving John Hurt remains a horror classic in itself!). Xenomorphs are the fully-grown aliens that we saw in all the films of the Alien Trilogy while a Trilobite is first seen when Dr.Shaw pulls it out of her in yet another heartstopping scene that will be talked about for years to come.

It is indeed amazing to read about how much thought and work has gone into just coming up with the names for the species. And into introducing us to the “Space Jockeys” and the “Engineers”. And as if this was not enough, Ridley Scott has now decided to move on to the reboot of his other sci-fi classic – “Blade Runner“. Damn you, Mr. Scott…because I don’t think I am ready to see how the Blade Runner replicants came into being…or who invented the “lie-detecting” Voight-Kampff machine. And yet, I will be there when the movie comes out in a couple of years. All because of that maverick named Ridley Scott and how he plays with his…as well as our imagination!!

Categories: Hollywood