The Dark Knight Rises, but that has a lot to do with all the fluff.

To be honest, I think it’s a victim of the success of the last instalment. But whichever way I look at it, it’s a poorer film than the last one. Not just thematically, but otherwise as well.

The Dark Knight, I thought, was a fantastic film. And while I admit that it would be very difficult for a sequel to live up to that, one would have expected Nolan to have done a better job.

As is often the case, the problem starts with the script. For starters, unlike the last time, when we were confronted with the question of how to deal with Evil that exists purely for the thrill of doing evil, and with no other ambition or motive, this time we are treated to an unconvincing Revenge Drama reminiscent of dhishoom dhishoom Bollywood.

As if this weren’t bad enough, clumsily woven into the narrative from the very beginning is this angst of the 99% against the 1%, starting with Hathaway spouting her equivalent of  the “main chor paida nahin hui milord, mujhe samaj ne chor banaya”  dialogue. That strand is picked up later, culminating in the liberté, égalité, fraternité bits, complete with the storming of the Bastille and Guillotine sentencings.

The characterisations are nothing to write home about either. The whole Bane thing was another throwback to the good ol’ Hindi flicks of the 70s and 80s, where villains like Shakaal, Mugambo, Kancha Cheena and Whatsisname terrorised the local population until they had their comeuppance. That scene in the stadium was reminiscent of Evil Thakur holding sway in Village Square, with Hirsute Henchmen terrorising Helpless Villagers with their Double-Barrelled Guns before spiriting away Voluptuous Village Belle on horseback. Please, Nolan. Been there, done that.

And while it is par for the course today for a movie to have that obligatory twist in the end, must Nolan have fallen prey to that clichéd and desperate attempt of filmmakers to extract some more oohs and aaahs from the audience?  And if it had to be done, it should at least have been done well. As it happens, I guessed the twist(s) fairly early on. Yes, all of them.

Even the action was not as great as it was the last time. Remember the moments leading up to the revelation of the Batpod in The Dark Knight? Nothing close to that here. There’s an extended sequence towards the end with the Batpod, the Bat, a Truck and some other armoured car type thingies that’s good, but not great.

So – not a great script, no great action, mostly pedestrian acting. All in all, a disappointing effort. Coming from a director whom I really admire, the only rationalisation I have is that Nolan is fatigued.

He is fatigued because a franchise kills your creativity. How do you excel in your craft when you are constrained by the specifics of the franchise, hemmed in by the constructs of the initial instalments, and yet under pressure to match not only your own previous works, but also the other I-am-a-Superhero-battling-my-own-demons-and-flirting-with-the-dark-side franchises that seem to be crawling out of the woodwork?

And that’s the problem with The Dark Knight Rises. It’s a product of fatigue. Nolan’s fatigue is evident, as is Bale’s. And when the director and the star both seem to be going through the motions, what more can one expect?

Prakash Jha is a director I like, and amongst all his films, my favourite is Mrityudand, not least for the many themes it so successfully tackled. His later films have tended to be narrower in scope. With Rajneeti, though, he’s taken a very large canvas, and you can see that he’s had trouble keeping all the elements in place. It’s a messy story to begin with, and Jha screws up with the addition of some needless complications. For instance, why is Manoj Bajpai sidelined by his father in the first place? Very unconvincing. As far as a modern-day remake of the Mahabharat goes, I would still rate Benegal’s Kalyug as better than this. Having said that, I am grateful to Jha for at least having the courage to make a somewhat intelligent film. Everytime a movie like Housefull or Wanted works, I feel we have hit rock-bottom, but along comes a movie like Rajneeti that lifts us a few precious inches above cinematic rock-bottom. I suppose we should count our blessings.

Enough has been written about Rajneeti being a sort of shabby cross between the Mahabharat and Godfather. It is. So I shall not touch upon that angle here. Instead, here are the top three reasons to watch Rajneeti:

1. Rajneeti is a ‘must watch’ film if only for the distinction of having the Most Awful Sex Scene Ever. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, ever. There’s an actress called Shruti Seth – she’s really funny, especially when she tries to be sexy – who tries to seduce Arjun Rampal’s character. The scene is hilarious. Even before Arjun touches her, Shruti’s breasts are heaving mightily and she’s biting her lower lip, and grimacing in a manner that she probably thinks is seductive. And then we have what can only be called a WhamMa’am (Arjun dispenses with the Thank You, and was there ever a Bam?), and the brief encounter is over. Shruti’s still heaving and trying to look scowlingly seductive. Hysterical. Well done, Jha.

2. Things get better when Katrina and Arjun consummate their marriage. (The lead-up to that is quite funny too.) Instead of the staple Indian euphemisms for sex (a bright fire, birds pecking, bees on a flower) we have the radically aesthetic shot of fingers clawing their way across the sheets. Hot stuff.

3. Oh yes, there is this scene where a car blows up, killing Arjun Rampal. As Katrina cradles his body in her arms, “Mora piya mohse bolat naahi’, sounding even more mournful than usual, starts blaring…quite loudly too. I remember muttering to myself “That’s ’cause he’s dead, biatch.” Yeah, I know. I am a callous bastard.

I really don’t know why Ranbir has been praised for his acting. What acting? He’s just had to keep one blank expression all through the movie. Katrina Kaif, on the other hand, had a role that required her to be more than Ikea- type furniture. Needless to say, she blew it. Arjun Rampal, surprisingly, was the revelation. For once, he managed to make the transition from Furnitureworld to the Land of the Facially Mobile. As for the woman who plays the Kunti-equivalent – I think her name is Nikhila Trikha –  she’s hilarious. In the tearful scene where she tells Ajay Devgan that she’s his mother, that he’s a bastard, and other such mother-son stuff, many people in the audience cracked up. Not quite the reaction Jha was looking for.

And what is with all the women getting pregnant? Three of the characters in the film get pregnant, just like that. On a whim, almost. Tazeen has touched upon this in her non-review. Whatever happened to safe sex?

Now for the positive bit. Note the use of the singular. The film is accurate in its representation of Indian electoral politics. For example, time and again, we are shown how the electorate falls for the most ridiculous speeches about parivaar, balidan, qurbani, suhaag, and other such shit. And perhaps the most telling moment – and one of the film’s inadvertently-authentic scenes – comes towards the end, where the faithful family chauffeur, the historically maginalised, has to take refuge again at the feet of the dynasty, the very dynasty that put paid to all his dreams and that can still maintain the status quo because his son is now dead. Rubs home the fact that minions like us can rave, rant, blog, tweet and light all the candles we want, it don’t count for nothing in the end. So there is still that touch of authenticity, albeit a very fleeting one, that we expect from Jha.

Finally, while still on the question of authenticity, there’s been a lot of speculation in the media about whether this film is, in parts, a thinly disguised representation of India’s first dynasty. I can confirm to you that all such speculation is unfounded. How do I know? Well, in all the scenes of the party core committee, right from the beginning of the film, there’s this quiet, unremarkable and presumably loyal Sardar present. But finally Katrina Kaif is made the CM. Not the quiet, unremarkable and loyal Sardar. So how’s that real life, huh?

You know what I love about Indian movies shot abroad? The fact that the US, the UK and Australia seem to be predominantly inhabited by Indians, and everyone else seems incidental. And so it is with Kites. An Indian, by his own admission, controls the city of Las Vegas. “Yahan ki business, police, judges, senators, sab apne mutthi main hain.” It’s funny when Indians recreate the world in their own image. And that’s probably the nicest thing I can say about the film. You have been warned.

I read an article in the recent issue of India Today where the cost of Kites was pegged at 130 crores. Too bad for them that despite having shitloads of money, they still didn’t get a writer. And that’s the problem with yet another Indian film. For a movie that’s been touted as a passionate love story, I had to squint rather hard to see the passion, the love was of the “blink-and-you-will-miss-it” variety, and there was no fucking story.

Instead what you got was a terribly boring and pretentious film, where water motifs alternated with shabbily-executed car chases interspersed with some non-existent chemistry between the lead pair.

(Spoilers ahead)

There is – par for the course, again, as far as most Indian films go – the complete lack of logic. Beach house in Vegas? The whole divorce bit? Finding his mobile again? 11 marriages to enable immigration? That whole bit towards the beginning where J has to kill someone to truly bond with his in-laws, and how he gets out of it? Really? The whole escape across at least two states and into Mexico? The repetitive car chases? The cops behaving like a private army? The even-by-our-standards ridiculous escape from both the cops and the bandits at the motel? The I-can-take-a-bullet-in-the-chest-and-drive-for-a-few-hours-until-the-climax bit?

The movie has been called a tragedy. The only tragedy is that it was ever made. If the lack of logic wasn’t enough, there’s the inconsistent characterisation. Like how the bad guys always shoot first and say hello later, even shooting guys at random in Arizona (or was it California) and Mexico, but towards the end, on their own turf (remember that little speech about owning Vegas?), they turn surprisingly chatty. And then there are the moments that make you nostalgic about the spectacularly bad days of Indian cinema – especially when every car involved in a collision flips over twice in the air and then explodes in a ball of fire. And let’s not forget the moments just before the climax, when Hrithik finally gives it back. Very reminiscent of a bad ‘80s film with Mithun Da firing a Sten-gun at the villains and all the bad boys falling to the ground. Luckily it’s been shot at night, and in the rain. The fact that you can’t see much makes it less painful. But that’s essentially the thought process of Papa Roshan and Anurag Basu. “Take a bad and tacky film from the eighties, and make an even worse and tackier remake. Oh, and let’s shoot it in the US and Mexico, with Hrithik showing off his torso, and Barbara stripped down to her underwear. The gullible audience will buy it.”

(Spoilers end)

And even though they still might have the last laugh about the gullible audience bit, the following questions must be asked: What were these guys thinking? What had they been smoking? Who let them out?

Women who just want to watch Hrithik, everything else be damned – be advised, it will be much cheaper, and less masochistic, to just watch all his endorsements on TV. Not much difference. As for the men, well, Barbara Mori isn’t all that hot. What’s that you’re mumbling? The bikini shot? Sorry, dude. The movie still ain’t worth it. Trust me. This is one instance when I wish that what happened in Vegas stayed in Vegas.

This is an Indian movie that has pretensions of going international. Given the lows to which Hollywood has sunk in the recent past (Avatar, Transformers 2, Iron Man 2), one might have thought this was a good idea. But this film makes the three I have mentioned look like classics.

I hear the international version is apparently a trimmed-down one. That’s a good idea. If they trim 129 minutes of its approximately 130 minutes running time, and retain only the first shot of the kites in the sky, the film just might have a chance.

Then again, it might not.

Ram Gopal Varma is well and truly lost in the woods. A gifted film-maker, his self-belief quickly turned into arrogance and over the years, he has bombarded us with abomination after abomination. Rann, unsurprisingly, doesn’t buck the trend. It’s a patchy, hollow effort that jars from the beginning and bores to the end.

But why go any further? Suffice it to say that whatever I said about Dil Bole Hadippa applies equally to Rann.

*

But the weekend wasn’t a total write-off. Abhishek Chaubey ensured that. For once, the glowing reviews weren’t too far off the mark. A brilliant debut and I have to say this – Ishqiya is definitely worth a watch. A decent script, competent direction, good music and some great acting make for a wonderful package.

While all the actors have done well – yes, even Vidya Balan, despite her sometimes stilted dialogue delivery – Arshad Warsi is outstanding.

Sure, Abhishek makes the same mistake that Vishal Bharadwaj made in Kaminey. (Though I must say that on the whole, Kaminey was a much weaker film) Which is to say that the ending unravels a lot of the good work that goes before it. The end does leave a lot to be desired. But you still leave the theatre satisfied. I do hope Abhishek lives up to the expectations set by his promising debut.

By the way, for those who have seen the film, did the end leave you with the feeling that a sequel is a very real possibility?

*

It’s a little ironic that a politician talks about not tolerating “a single instance of graft in the army”. Don’t get me wrong, the sentiment is unexceptionable, and, while rumour has it that the person who made the statement has retained his integrity despite being a politician, the fact remains that politicians talking like that about anyone at all simply brings to mind the words “pot-kettle-black”.

And why is it that we, the citizens of India, expect members of the judiciary and the armed forces to adhere to a higher standard of morals and accountability than the politicians who sit at the top of the pecking order? Why must the cross of honesty and the burden of integrity be borne by everyone but the politicians?

We have enough instances of politicians abusing their power and position. I don’t remember seeing any politician being held accountable. But when it comes to any other occupation or profession, we set the bar very high. So you cannot become a clerk in a government department if you have a criminal record of any kind against your name. But you can become a Chief Minister even if you have been convicted of murder. You can continue as Minister even if the actions of your ministry have allegedly resulted in the government losing thousands of crores. Yet we are ready with the tar and feathers when it is an army officer that has committed a misdemeanour.

None of this is to say that all members of the armed forces or the judiciary are above board, untouched by scandal and uninfected by the rot that is the hallmark of Indian public life. None of this is to exculpate the officer in question. If he is guilty, he should be punished. I just wish that our political leaders show the same zeal in their quest for justice and ‘cleaning the system’ when it comes to one of their own.

As long as we allow men of dubious merit and questionable integrity to crowd the ranks of our elected representatives, it is hypocritical of us to expect anything but the same from any other branch of government.

*

On the other hand, isn’t Lt. Gen. Prakash now eligible for a Padma Bhushan?

I have been a fan of Shimit’s since Ab Tak Chappan, and while disappointed by Chak De, still went into this film hoping he’d redeem himself.

The story is fairly simplistic – and I shall get to its flaws later – but writer Jaideep Sahni sticks to what he knows best – the realistic middle-class Punjabi milieu. Note the phrase ‘realistic middle class’. As in Khosla Ka Ghosla. This explains why his worst efforts have been set in Sarsson-da-Khet-land, populated by Chopra-esque Punjabis. Fortunately for us, this film has none of that.

The characterisation is good, and the casting is perfect. The porn-addict Giri is brilliantly cast, as is Nitin Rathore. Gauhar Khan slips into her role of Koena Shaikh with ease. Boss Puri is good. Even the other salespersons are outstanding, right down to their attire. Ranbir is superb. The only sore thumb is the Padamsee girl, but if you can accept her as a flaky SoBo (sorry, SoMu) type, she passes muster. So what if she’s a Dadar girl in the film.

It is a story that most of us will identify with – we’ve all had to sell something at some point in our lives, and we’ve all had to deal with pesky colleagues and a prick of a boss. While Shimit initially captured the office politics perfectly, the politics quickly changed into more of middle-school-classroom-type bullying. And you kind of wonder at HP’s (as Ranbir’s character is known) restraint, till you realise that the full effects of any incident hit him with a lag. And is that why the otherwise calm HP gives in to some late and uncharacteristic ranting? You feel for HP, but you wish that Shimit had dared to attach some questionable morals to the character. In my opinion, that would have raised the film to another level. He’s tried a middle-of-the-road approach that works in parts but leaves you wondering about what might have been. But – and this is saying a lot – even when you know how this is going to end, you still wait for it to happen, to reach its very predictable conclusion, because the character works for you. And I also felt it was paisa-vasool just because of the great dialogue and witty lines.

The film plays out at more or less a low level and we thankfully do not have the melodrama that most Indian directors love to resort to. And no songs!

And just in case you were wondering, of course it has its flaws. The whole romance bit, even though its tone was low and even, seemed grafted on as an after-thought – and Padamsee’s lacklustre performance only makes it worse.

Let’s look at the glitches in the story. There’s the bit where HP refuses to bribe a Purchase Manager and even puts in a written complaint against him. For some unfathomable reason, he’s not sacked, but let off with a tongue lashing, and is even given time to complete his training! Convenient, and, in a film that relies simply on the power of a realistic script, it struck a very jarring note. As did the part in the second half where Boss Puri discovers the secret of the phone numbers. So far so good. But why would he keep calling the numbers when it is clear – especially to him – that the office is empty? The reveal was such that it would be clear even to a moron that the receptionist was involved. Why the drama? Why the pathetically amateurish attempt at suspense and entrapment? He could have simply called in the morning. More effective, greater probability of success and, as far as the audience is concerned, more plausible.

Then, the ‘evil’ Boss finally gets his comeuppance, but his resultant change of heart is so mysterious, it comes so suddenly and silently that you go “What the fuck made that happen? What epiphany, what catharsis?” And the explanation seems contrived, inadequate. But I suppose God and Indian film-makers work in mysterious ways.

Having said that, I would still recommend you watch Rocket Singh to see a different kind of Hindi film. Refreshingly low-key. Free of hyperbole, item-numbers, mustard fields and Manhattan. It’s quite likely that you will watch the film in a near-empty theatre, and that will make you truly understand just how painful the tastes (Love Aaj Kal, De Dana Dan) of the Indian movie audience are. I am one of the harshest critics of the Yash Raj School of film-making, but I wish we had given this film a chance. And that’s the unfortunate lesson the fate of this film teaches all of us, including Shimit – in real life, nice guys do finish last.

But for a couple of hours in that dark and depressingly empty theatre, this film made me wish that weren’t true.

*

Poonam, Vee, Vimal and the rest have come up with the Avant Garde Bloggers Award 2009. Please visit Poonam’s blog or Vee’s blog to learn about the categories and the rules. There’s just a week left before nominations close, so get over there and nominate your favourite posts!

Utter Fucking Crap.

What can you write about a movie that’s two hours too long and interminably boring? That it is verbose. That it tries too hard. And that it does have two or three moments. Finis.

One expected much more from Imtiaz Ali, even if it was pretty much par for the course for Saif. After Socha Na Tha and Jab We Met, the expectations were huge. Hell, after being terribly disappointed by both Ice Age 3 and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, I actually thought LAK would end the movie drought. Wishful thinking, as it turned out. It’s a film that tries too hard to be smart, too hard to be trendy, too hard to live up to its own hype.

The biggest takeaway is that there’s too much friggin’ talk in the film. Yap Yap Yap. Yackety Yak. Blah Blah Blah. Yada Yada Yada. And then more of the same. The interval came and I asked myself, “So what’s happened so far?” The answer was: Jai and Meera had just broken up. That’s it. The rest was all talk.

There is some kind of plot. Just barely. Boy meets girl, they hit it off, they carry on for some time, they break up, they discover that they’re still very fond of each other, and even though they each enter into a different relationship that doesn’t quite make the grade, they continue to be friends along the lines of Sally Albright and Harry Burns, and after a couple of predictable twists, they figure out they’re fated to be together.

It just doesn’t have enough meat for a two hour film. While even Jab We Met was thin on plot, it was high on moments. It was high on laughs. And the actors never overshadowed the characters, and the setting never overshadowed the film. But in this one – all that could go wrong, did.

There’s absolutely no chemistry between the lead pair. Zero. As for the actors themselves, I have never thought too highly of Saif and he did nothing to change my opinion. Deepika looked good, but her dialogue delivery was stilted. Luckily for her, most of the film seemed to be a lengthy monologue by Saif and so she didn’t get too many chances to show off her poor acting skills. But I must say that one of the three good moments in the film – for me – was a Deepika moment. More on that later. Rishi Kapoor was good.

I am not sure how the film will do. The theatre was packed, so that means it’ll probably do well. The audience laughed at all the wrong places, and that could also make the film the surprise comedy hit of the year. The music’s quite decent, and it has been well received. But given that it’s Pritam’s music, I figure one will not have to wait too long before the ‘inspiration’ behind these tunes comes to light.

For me, there were three good moments in the film. The best, by far, was when Veer Singh goes to Calcutta to ‘meet’ Harleen (extremely well-cast). A beautifully done moment, with no dialogues (phew!) and a very nice song in the background. Conveyed everything one wanted to know about the characters and their relationship.

The second was when a drunken Jai escorts a sloshed Meera to her apartment. As has been the case with all of us who have been that drunk, one always has the urge, at that point of time, to show the world one is normal. So I identified with Jai when he nonchalantly asked the watchman “Aur bhai, sab theek-thakk hai?” – or something along those lines.

The third moment – the Deepika moment – was when Jai finally seeks out Meera, and, while she pretends to be normal, casual even, she does quietly give in to her emotions for a brief moment – but when Jai can’t see her.

But three moments do not a film make, and therein lies the rub with Love Aaj Kal. As Meera says to Jai early on in the film – when he tries too hard to be hot, he doesn’t succeed.

Imtiaz should have listened to that bit of advice from his own script.

I finally watched Gulaal. And I’m not quite sure what to make of it. It’s a decent film, but clearly nowhere near Anurag’s best.

Anurag’s maturity as a film-maker has grown with every film. Having watched every one of his films, including Paanch (courtesy a friend), it’s easy to pick Dev D as his best work. So far.

Anurag is perhaps the most (frighteningly, maybe even the only) original mind Bollywood has. The sheer audacity and re-contextualisation of his interpretation of Devdas was spellbinding. No Smoking is perhaps the most mind-numbingly original script ever seen in Bollywood. It is also a very well-shot film. And while it is an extremely complex and convoluted film, albeit with a certain consistent logic of its own, it is also criminally self-indulgent.

And that is Kashyap’s greatest flaw, his weakest spot, one that dilutes his genius on screen – his extreme self-indulgence. And the fact that he is too clever for his own good. In every film of his, there are certain ‘trademarks’, if I may call them that. The college/hostel lingo and the assorted jokes. The little ideas he gets carried away with and over-executes, like the Ranvir –John childhood spoof, or the Cuban cigar interlude, in No Smoking. Even the name (Infidel Castrated) reeked of a certain smugness. Another example is Paro, in Dev D, chasing the factory-worker and finally burning his clothes. He’s also exceedingly fond of the neon-lit pub look – as seen in Dev D, Gulaal and No Smoking. And then there’s the sermonising. The overt preachiness of both Gulaal and Hanuman (the animation film he co-directed) is annoying. In my assessment, as he has jettisoned some or all of these trademarks, his films have got better. And that is why I rank Dev D as the tightest film of the lot.

Gulaal also suffers because he has tried to pack in too much. It is a political allegory at many levels. It is a commentary on the betrayal of the idea of India and on the politics of identity. It is a representation of student politics in India. It is, somewhere, a dark coming-of-age film. It cleverly cocks a snook at gender stereotypes. It is a metaphor for the rise of the dispossessed and the marginalised, and how they end up propagating the very system that excluded them. It has a Foucaultian mad artist (a self-reference perhaps?) as the sole voice of reason. And it tries – obliquely – to comment on the state of the post 9/11 world. Whew! And I’m sure I’ve missed a few. And that’s still too much to pack into a little over two hours.

Where did he go wrong as a writer-director? Let’s start with the preachiness. Given the scope of the film, the easiest thing to do was to have the characters give us their views as if standing on a soapbox. Uncharacteristically, Kashyap does exactly that. So we are, at various points, made to hear speeches (including the Duniya song) on the betrayal of Indian democracy, on the venality of our leaders, on the death of the idea of a nation. (No Smoking, a clever defence of the smoker’s right to choose, had no such preachiness. The message was woven into the film.) Then there is the too-clever-by-half Ranaji song. I expected Kashyap to do better, since he is a director who does not like to spoon-feed his audience. My grouse is that these views needed to be better integrated into the storyline, rather than thrown at us as if they were political speeches on a news-channel. Overt, undisguised and moral preaching is best left to the Films Division and to religious channels. And to lesser directors like Rakeysh Mehra.

There is also the utter pointlessness of the Jesse Randhawa track. It added nothing to the film, and could’ve easily been done away with. Or the character could’ve been modified somewhat. She was truly not in sync with her settings. Piyush Mishra, in the role of the madman as the only voice of sanity was, well, clichéd. And I couldn’t understand the point of Piyush Mishra’s sidekick, the Ardh Nari character. If there was a point, it eluded me.

To me, Ayesha Mohan was the true protagonist of the film – along with her brother; but Aditya is more the puppet-master. Ayesha lets herself be used and uses others, as long as that takes her closer to her goal. And she’s not afraid to admit it. And while we see a reversal of stereotypes in her relationship with Raj, Anurag seemed to be trying too hard to ram that point home; like when he showed Ayesha smoking in every scene with Raj.

On the whole, though, the positives outnumbered the negatives. So I would call it a decent film, but would definitely stick to my view that, perhaps, had the post-Dev D-Anurag directed the film, we might have seen a much better product. Dev D saw Anurag kicking a lot of his pet addictions, and I feel that made him a better film-maker. I hope we see more of that in his forthcoming works.

I have one very real fear, though. A lot of the power of his work has come from the fact that as a marginalised film-maker – remember, in the commercial sweepstakes, he ranked abysmally low, though we loved his films – his passion, anger and sincerity shone through. He was a rebel, his cinema displayed that, and we loved what we saw. I hope his gradual assimilation into the mainstream and his new found ‘respectability’ do not lead him to commit a betrayal similar to the one KK Menon so hammily ranted about in Gulaal.

I can understand why Bond fans have had mixed feelings about QOS, Daniel Craig notwithstanding. For the reinvention of Bond in today’s competitive scenario has taken away many of the attributes and quirks that defined 007 – at least the cinematic 007. This is not to say one wishes the present Bond were a throwback to the androgynous Roger Moore, but, somehow, a lot of characteristics that we came to see – rightly or wrongly – as defining Bond are not there in Craig’s 007. On the other hand, I have to hand it to the makers; it is not easy taking a well-known but fading brand, and in the face of increased competition in the last few years, being able to re-invent the formula successfully. At least in the commercial sense.

Darker times, I suppose, demand darker heroes. And so, the once suave hero, among whose peccadilloes one could list an overactive love-muscle and some endearing superciliousness, is now transformed into a brooding and emotionally scarred killing automaton (yes, that’s a cliché!) for whom the end completely justifies the means……and it’s not even one of those ‘larger-good’ ends…..it’s personal. And you get the distinct feeling that had MI6’s and 007’s interests not coincided – however imperfectly – 007 would pretty much have turned rogue to get what he wanted. The morally ambiguous hero has been notably successful of late, as Jason Bourne, Tony Stark and most spectacularly, Bruce Wayne, would testify. And it was a no-brainer that 007 would, perforce, have to follow suit.

And the reincarnated Bond could not have found someone better than Daniel Craig to carry it off. The man is outstanding as the New (Improved?) Bond, and after watching him play 007 in QOS, one realises there is actually no doubt as to whether this avatar of Bond is the ‘correct’ one or not. Is Daniel Craig’s character more relevant, more in-sync with our times? Undoubtedly so. Is he more believable in this high-octane action set-piece than his predecessors, displaying flair and remarkable athleticism? Again, emphatically yes.

Let’s look at the film now. Marc Forster was perhaps handicapped by the lack of a strong script. Because the story is infantile. And that is being charitable. The action, though, is breath-taking, comparable to any other film of the same genre. Nevertheless, one did get the feeling that in his zest to take the fight right to John McClane, Iron Man and Bourne, Forster made the cardinal error of taking his eyes off the plot. And the result is QOS, really nothing more than a spectacular collection of this year’s The World’s Most Extreme Sporting Videos, interspersed with Cultural Primer 101, la National Geographic, but not as good), some standard Environmental Platitudes and some done-to-death Third-World Corruption and Human Suffering.

During the course of the film, you realise that Bond and Bourne now have far more in common than Fleming, Ludlum, Forster or Greengrass intended – and this is even if I ignore the roof-top chase. And that’s when you understand the gripe Bond loyalists have.

If you don’t have predetermined notions of what 007 should be like and if you feel a credible plot has no place in cinema, you will enjoy the film – if nothing else, at least for the mindless yet dazzling action (land, sea and air…..); for some sardonic lines, again not from Bond (though he has one, as far as I remember), but from M; and for the smouldering Daniel Craig and the hot and delectable Olga Kurylenko.

You may also want to check out Shefaly’s review.

Begin review. In the beginning there was darkness. And then there was a hen-chase. And then there was a headache. And then there was darkness again. But the headache refused to go away. End review.

Here’s my choice for “THE scene of the film”: We’re in a penthouse kinda place in Oz, celebrating Lucky (Sonu Sood) aka Kinng’s birthday. There’s an attempt on his life. The assassin escapes on a bike. The Kinng decides to chase him and so – gasp! – jumps off this really, really tall building.

But voilà – he has a parachute. Why does he have a parachute? Now that’s a stupid question. It’s his birthday and the party is in the penthouse of a high-rise, so it makes perfect sense that Kinng’s strapped a parachute on his back. Duh!

Assassin’s on a bike and Kinng chases him, gently floating along on the parachute, but not coming down to earth. Assassin tries taking winding streets – no luck; Kinng is still miraculously slightly above and behind him. The bike’s subject to the vagaries of traffic and traffic-lights, while the parachute simply floats above all the chaos in the streets. What an idea, sirjee!

Anyway, after what seems like an eternity (the second time one feels this, after the oh-so-sublime pursuit-of-the-hen scene), the director decides to cut to the chase (as you can see from this incredibly corny line, today’s not a good day) – so Kinng manoeuvres himself above Assassin’s bike, bobs, steadies himself, dips, lifts Assassin off the bike and, in an elegant solution worthy of Lucius Fox, and all those who think gravity is a con, ascends again, parachute, Assassin and all. And when Kinng figures he’s at a reasonable height, Assassin gets his just desserts.

This sets the tone for the rest of the film, where you sit through an agonising two-and-a-half hours of excruciatingly puerile crap, ridiculously contrived situations and disastrous attempts at humour. The film is not funny (there are a couple of decent lines, though), Akshay Kumar’s wasted (he is capable of so much more when it comes to comedy or action) and any script is conspicuous by its absence.

A lot of people may disagree with me, arguing that movies such as this are best seen after “leaving one’s brain at home”. But why should it be so? Why are we so easily and willingly entertained by such unforgivably horrid bilge?

On the other hand, I’m obviously in the minuscule minority – the film’s been raved about, been lauded, is a candidate for ‘Block-buster of the Year’ and is clearly going to make a lot of money.

Either I’m stupid. Or stupid sells.

Call me finicky, but neither answer makes me happy.