Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Zookeeper's Wife : Movie Review

The Zookeeper’s Wife: A Story of Compassion & Courage!
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Reviewer’s Thumb Mark

Niki Caro’s ‘The Zookeepers Wife’ is not only the horrific depiction of what happened in Warsaw, Poland when Nazis occupied that city in 1939 during the Second World War, but also the depiction of a good-hearted couple who staunchly believed in human values above social, religious and racial discrimination. The film is based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Diane Ackerman, narrating how the Jews survived and got rescued from the Nazi invasion. It is the story of how some ordinary people become extraordinary and rise to the occasion during crisis. There are many in the human history like them who have done so and the film The Zookeeper’s Wife is about the Zabinskis and how their Warsaw Zoo became a hideout for hundreds of Jews who were under the radar of the brutal Nazi forces. The Nazi occupation of their city created chaos and turbulence and the Jews were hunted down and captured. The film reveals that only 6% of the Warsaw population survived the war.

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We know how the Germans under the dictatorship of Hitler believed that they are he Aryans of the world and are born to rule the whole world. The holocaust and its aftermath are still a nightmare for those who go through the pages of world history and would pray not to ever witness or hear about it again. But unfortunately the current international scenario and the happenings in Syria and many other countries are not less than what we read in the history. The Zookeeper’s Wife is a gentle reminder for many of us to rise up to the occasion and cease to be ordinary and play our role to safeguard human values and lives in a world of war mongers and religious animosities.

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Jessica Chastain’s Antonina Zabinski is an animal lover and a good soul who not only understands what they say by looking deep into their eyes but also knows how to keep her visiting guests happy around the zoo. She and her husband Jan (Heldenbergh), both are found in a dilemma leaving their Zoo and abandoning the animals at the mercy of the invading Nazi army. Amidst bombings and killings they decide to stay back to take care of the remaining animals who survived the bombings. But destiny had something else in store for them – a greater responsibility that they too didn’t know would be always be remembered for what they did under their limited capacities.

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Niki Caro ensures to convey the gravity of the Nazi invasion and their brutality not through gory scenes and violence but in a subtle way which still leaves a deep impact on the viewers to imagine the plight of the victims and survivors then. Both Jessica and Heldenbergh have given an awesome performance which moves you and also at the same time keeps you alert along with them so that you are not caught by the Nazis. Daniel Bruhl as Lutz Heck the German Head Zoologist of Hitler’s team plays his role to its hilt. His weakness for Jessica and his loyalty towards Hitler are too contrasting emotions he brings on the front with great ease. It becomes difficult to understand him because he is mysterious, cruel and at the same time he appears to be a lover. By the time we decipher he becomes not what we expect him to be and this character of his keeps you on tenterhooks.

The beauty of the movie is that though it depicts one of the most horrific black chapters of human history yet it ends with a ray of hope and positivity. It reiterates the efforts and good intentions of good people in the world who believe that if you fight for justice and compassion with courage you will definitely sail through turbulence and reach the shore of harmony and co-existence despite being different in many aspects for each other as individuals, country, race and religion. Go and watch ‘The Zookeeper’s Wife’ because we are living at a time when the media and the news around us reminds us its high time we play our role to safe guard humanity and brotherhood across the globe.

 Life Connoisseur Movie Rating: 3.5/5

Cast: Jessica Chastian (Antonina Zabinski), Johan Heldenbergh (Jan Zabinski), Michael McElhatton (Jerzyk), Daniel Bruhl (Lutz Heck)

Genre: Biographical War Drama

Director: Niki Caro

Producers: Jeff Abberley, Jamie Atriccof, Diane Miller Levin, Kim Zubick, Julia Blackman

Based on: The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman

Screenplay by: William Wheeler

Music by: Harry Gregson-Williams

Cinematography: Andrij Parekh

Edited by: David Coulson

Production Companies: Scion Films, Electric City Entertainment, Tollin Productions, Rowe/Miller Productions

Distributors: Focus Features

Release Date: 21st April, 2017

Duration: 126 Minutes

Language: English 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Sonata : Movie Review

A Not So Sprightly ‘Sonata’ by Aparna Sen!
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Reviewer’s Thumb Mark

Aparna Sen’s film ‘Sonata’ is stagey and doesn’t enthuse you much. It is quite natural to see expectations soar high when three veterans like Aparna Sen, Shabhana Azmi and Lillete Dubey come together to share a frame but unfortunately you end up sulking to see these women trying hard to make you believe that you are watching a cinema. Sonato is a film made based on Mahesh Elkunchwar’s play with the same name. Aparna Sen’s attempt to transform an otherwise wonderful play into a film fails to have any cinematic appeal.

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Three college friends who are at the autumn of their life goes on rambling about life, sex, poetry, Beethoven, Rabindranath, marriage, family, sex reassignment surgery, marital abuse, and what not. And all this happening in a Mumbai apartment surrounded by other high rise apartments where two friends Professor Aruna Chaturvedi (Aparna Sen) and banker Dolan Sen (Shabhana Azmi) are roommates since 20 years. To make the verbose more painful and superficial they are joined in by another old friend Subhadra Parekh who is a journalist. A chirpy Subhadra and a feisty Dolon gulps glasses after glasses of wine and opens a Pandora’s box on many topics and tries to pull in a restrained and self-disciplined Subhadra. Each one of them have their own story of relationships and its failures, loneliness, unfulfilled dreams, pains and their share of guilt.

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Sonata would have definitely kept appealing and held our attention if it remained as a play but a hurried and not so skillful approach to transform the same into a movie makes it an average movie.  Having said this, there are moments these talented powerhouse actors do pull your heartstrings but that is so momentary that it doesn’t linger on and therefore you feel the drag.  

The climax of the movie is inconclusive and leaves you wondering what the filmmaker actually wanted to say. Well, if you want to see these veterans together go and watch otherwise forget it and hear some other melodious and sprightful ‘Sonata’. Aparna Sen dished out an average movie and left us go through the pain of watching it and she stays ‘Nirlajjam Sada Sukhi’!!!

Life Connoisseur Movie Rating: 2/5

Cast: Aparna Sen (Aruna Chaturvedi), Shabhana Azmi (Dolon Sen), Lillete Dubey (Subhadra Parekh)

Genre: Drama

Director: Aparna Sen

Producers: Vinod Lahoti, Anjan Ghosal, Dipankar Jojo Chaki, Aloke Vohra

Based on the play: Sonata by Mahesh Elkunchwar

Screenplay: Aparna Sen

Cinematography: Shirsha Ray

Music by: Neel Dutt

Production Company: Vinayak Pictures, Ghosal Media and Entertainment, HK Studios Production

Production Design: Tanmoy Chakraborty

Date: 21st April, 2017

Duration: 104 Minutes

Language: English

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Mukti Bhawan (Movie Review)

Mukti Bhawan: Salvation Knocks at its Will!
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Reviewer’s Thumb Mark

The universe is ruled by bipolar law – if there is life then there is death. Though, the whole world knows this fact, many of us ignore or avoid thinking about death as if it will never happen to us. Subhasish Bhutiani’s debut feature film ‘Mukti Bhawan’ (Hotel Salvation) is a subtle attempt to remind us the often ignored and avoided reality of life and death. The film depicts the story of a patriarch Dayanand Kumar (Lalit Behl) in a family who feels his time has come and constantly requests his son to take him to a lodge called ‘Mukti Bhawan’, which houses people like him who wait there to welcome their impending death. There are instances, where we may also relate with to have come across many elders in our family who shared their willingness to leave their body because they felt there is nothing more left here to cling on to or fascinates them anymore. As any one of us would have reacted, the patriarch’s son Rajiv (Adil Hussain) too rubbishes his instincts and tells him to continue to live with him happily.

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A reluctant son and an old father willing to die makes the plot very interesting and keeps us glued to our seats leaving us moist eyed. What is more exciting is their stay in ‘Mukti Bhawan’ and how the inmates and the caretaker of the lodge opens up a whole new world in front of us which unveils different dimensions and aspects of life and death. The filmmaker and his team definitely deserves to be applauded for such a deft handling of a sensitive and emotional subject with excellent finesse. There are moments that we come across that makes us realize during the journey of ‘Mukti Bhawan’ along with the lead protagonist that sometimes its ‘death’ that makes us realize the importance of relationship than ‘life’. The last scene of the film leaves us emotional - both happy and sad.
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Choosing Banaras to talk about ‘life and death’ is so apt because the Ghats have witnessed so many souls depart happily as well as with pain. Lalit Behl as the patriarch plays his role with great conviction and remains within you as a character even after you exit the theatre. Hussain is one such actor who just lives his role on screen. He as a distressed and at the same time a concerned son touches us. Navnindra Behl as Vimla, an old inmate in ‘Mukti Bhawan’ adds more value to the whole theme of the movie.It’s a sheer joy to watch her play her role.

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I would like to say that ‘Mukti Bhawan’ is entertaining in a different sense because it celebrates both life and death. Go and watch with your family and do ensure to take your elders together to watch this soulful movie with a tinge of humour, may be you may also want to look up ‘reborn’!!! Mukti Bhawan reminds me of the monologue, spoken by the melancholy Jacques about the seven ages of human life in Shakespeare’s drama ‘As You Like It’:

All the worlds’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,

Life Connoisseur Movie Rating: 4/5

Cast: Adil hussain (Rajiv), Lalit Behl (Dayanand Kumar), Geetanjali Kulkarni (Lata), Palomi Ghosh (Sunita), Navnindra Behl (Vimla), Anil K Rastogi (Mishraji)

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Director: Shubhasish Bhutiani

Producers: Sanjay Bhutiani, Sajida Sharma

Screenplay by: Shaubhasish Bhutiani, Asad Hussain

Music by: Tajdar Junaid

Cinematography: David Huwiler, Michael McSweeney

Production: Red Carpet Moving Pictures

Release Date: 7th April, 2017

Duration: 99 Minutes

Language: Hindi 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Poorna (Movie Review)

Poorna: Sometimes Choices Make You!
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Reviewer’s Thumb Mark

Poorna Malavath’s (Aditi Inamdar) life, a 13 year-old poor girl from a nondescript village in Telangana district who became the youngest girl ever to scale Mount Everest, can be summed up in one sentence - “Sometimes you make choices in life and sometimes choices make you” (By Gayle Forman an award-winning internationally bestselling author in one of her books).

What Krishna was to Pandavas, Bhishma to Kauravas and Dhuruyodhan to Karna, an IPS turned Social Welfare officer PraveenKumar (Rahul Bose) became to Poorna. Kumar a Harward return IPS officer makes many eyebrows raise because of his choice to take up the least preferred profile of a Social Welfare Officer in remote places of Telangana. His first task was to deal with the challenge of addressing the school dropout rates of girls in the age group of 12 to 13 in state run schools. Kumar’s official visit to one such school makes him come across a girl who runs away from her school because she gets disillusioned about the school and its tall claims she read in one of the leaflets shared to her by her cousin Priya (S Marya). When Kumar meets Poorna on the wayside he asks her a life changing question – “If you run away from school, you set an example for the rest of the girls in school. Just think what kind of example you would like to set for others in life”?

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It is questions and the sincere search for answers that led Poorna from the dusty road of a remote village to the snow-clad challenging peaks of Mount Everest one day. Nothing has such power to cause a complete mental turnaround as that of a question. Questions enable us to change our destiny, to change our unfavorable circumstances, to change the way we look at ourselves and to change the world. Kumar at a crucial juncture of selecting Poorna Malavath for official training of mountaineering asks her to tell why she want to climb Mount Everest? Poorna says she doesn’t have an answer then. But when she finally got a compelling answer what that question did was cause her to see the same situation from a new angle of view, and in doing so, created a new reality. The reality of creating history of being the first youngest girl at the age of 13 to scale the peaks of Everest.

Rahul Bose second directorial venture ‘Poorna’ is a well-intentioned and inspiring film. Having said this, it needed some more homework and smart work. The film’s screenplay is flawed and cinematography is good intermittently. Poorna doesn’t match the craft and beauty of many other Bollywood biopics like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Aligarh, Budhia Singh – Born to run which will leaves you in awe. Rahul Bose as PraveenKumar has done a good job and is impressive.

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The actors who win your hearts are the two lovely natural actors Aditi Inamdar and Mariya, who even over shadow versatile actors by their camaraderie on screen. Their talks about their dreams, love for freedom, equality and the right to have a good life are so inspiring and moving. Aditi Inamdar and Mariya fits the bill. They look so real on reel that it becomes hard to believe they are just playing characters offered to them. But then that’s all about the movie, the rest is average show.

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Harsha Vardhan as the Chief Minister, Dhritiman Chattterjee and Heeba Shah as bureaucrats are disappointing because their roles are not fleshed out properly and are found doing nothing significant. The dialogues between Rahul and Aditi sometimes appear to be not real and believable in terms of age and background of the child. The rock climbing sequences and training look laughable and staged. The Everest expedition scenes are pathetic and less convincing.  This is so evident that it pains to see a movie of great possibility reduced to an average show.  The songs and music by Salim-Sulaiman are average.

Nevertheless, Poorna a movie made with good intentions deserves to be watched once because even with all its flaws it still has the power to motivate you and your children. Go for it, so that you realize that it’s not the mountain that you conquer but your fears!!!

Life Connoisseur Movie Rating: 2.5/5

Cast: Aditi Inamdar (Poorna), S Mariya (Priya), Rahul Bose (R S Praveen Kumar), Harsha Vardhan (Cheief Minister), Dhritiman Chatterjee (Alexander), Heeba Shah (Meena Gupta), Dr. Rayala Harischandra (Priya’s father), Lakshmi Kotla (Poorna’s Mother), Arif Zakaria (Col. Khan)

Genre: Biopic

Director: Rahul Bose

Producers: Anil Patni, Rahul Bose

Writers: Prashant Pandey, Shreya Dev Verma

Music by: Salim-Sulaiman

Cinematography: Subhransu Das

Edited by: Manan Mehta

Production Company: PVR Pictures

Distributor: AA Films

Release Date: 6th March, 2017

Duration: 105 Minutes

Language: Hindi

Saturday, April 1, 2017

उगता सूरज (Hindi Poetry)

"तुम्हारी आँखों में उगता सूरज
देखा है मैंने,
पलकें ना झुकाना,
मैं सूरज को ढलता
ना देख पाऊंगा "