State insurance regulators say they have approved rates for 2014 that are at least 50 percent lower on average than those currently available in New York. Beginning in October, individuals in New York City who now pay $1,000 a month or more for co…

South Korean filmmaker Chan-wook Park needs no introduction. Having started his career a couple of decades back with a little known film called Moon Is the Sun's Dream (1992), Park has come a long way in his pursuit of filmmaking excellence. With his sanguinary "Vengeance Trilogy," comprising Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002), Oldboy (2003) and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005), Park not only became a household name in Korea but also managed to carve a niche for himself in the international film circles. And after a very long wait, Park finally brings to his fans his first ever English-language film, Stoker.

Stoker is a dark, deeply disturbing character study with a psychological bent about an introspective young girl who witnesses the loss of innocence following the sudden and untimely demise of her beloved father. In Stoker, Park's fixation for the bizarre and the morbid is once again on full display. But, he is clearly a bit more cautious than usual. He seems to keep his characters on a tight leash for a much longer duration, and this makes the movie's first half appear much slower and less hyper than a typical Park film. But, once the dust settles down, the viewer is treated to sheer mastery of Park's craft.

Stoker can be best looked upon as Park's homage to the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. Those who have seen Hitchcock's 1943 thriller Shadow of a Doubt wouldn't find it hard to draw parallels between the two films. Interestingly, it was Hitchcock's 1958 masterpiece Vertigo that had inspired young Park to become a filmmaker. In Stoker, Park limns a colorful canvas like only he can and his characters tread it like spirits caught in a limbo. While the characters are highly emotional, their strangely selfish actions make it difficult for the viewers to sympathize with them.

Park's longtime collaborator Chung-hoon Chung's alluring cinematography gives the movie a hypnotic feel. The acting of movie's three lead characters viz. Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, and Matthew Goode is quite brilliant, and in that very order. Overall, Stoker is an intriguing piece of cinema, but it somewhat falls short of the brilliance of Park's best work. Despite managing to stoke a strong fire of curiosity, Stoker strangely leaves a keen-eyed, intelligent viewer high and dry. Those accustomed to watching the quintessential Hollywood product may find Stoker both bizarre and disturbing. But, those on the lookout for a breath of fresh air would be thoroughly rewarded.

Rating: 7.5/10

Man of Steel is the first installment in the much-anticipated "Superman" reboot helmed by American filmmaker Zack Snyder. The movie marks the return of the DC Comics iconic superhero to the celluloid after a seven- year-long hiatus following the abysmal show of Bryan Singer's Superman Returns (2006).

Co-written by David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan, Man of Steel stars Henry Cavill in the role of the eponymous superhero—a part that was immortalized by the late Christopher Reeve. The movie's stellar ensemble cast includes the likes of Amy Adams (as Lois Lane), Russell Crowe (as Jor-El), Kevin Costner (as Jonathan Kent), Laurence Fishburne (as Perry White), Diane Lane (as Martha Kent), and Michael Shannon (as General Zod).

Man of Steel takes a departure from the trademark style of the "Superman" films starring Christopher Reeve. Make no mistake! Man of Steel's striking contrast to its predecessors is not merely because of its technical supremacy (3D, Special Effects, etc). Even the makers choose to make a statement by opting for a title that doesn't have the word "Superman" attached to it (not to mention about Superman's new costume). In fact, it would be safe to look upon this rather drastic transformation as a paradigm shift.

Man of Steel serves to be a decent summer flick with truckloads of entertainment value for the casual viewers. But, sadly, for the most part, it remains limited to entertainment. Snyder shows flashes of brilliance but fails to capitalize on those strong moments. Man of Steel offers a lot a promise but falls short of living up to it. At best, it serves to be a run-of-the mill sci-fi adventure that is all style but very little substance. Hopefully, Snyder and team will learn from their mistakes and make a strong comeback with the forthcoming installments.

Rating: 6.5/10

Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino's This Must be the Place is a beautiful film featuring an exceptional performance from Sean Penn. A casual viewer is ought to look upon it as a cocktail of a road movie, a detective movie and a Nazi-criminal-hunt movie. But a keen viewer would be able to see through this facade discovering a deeply meaningful work of cinema. The movie can most aptly be looked upon as a soul searching journey undertaken by an individual (named Cheyenne) overwhelmed by his colossal fear of one day coming face to face with the reality of his own hollow existence. He wears a weird makeup like a mask to hide his true self from the rest of the world (and from himself). Thus, in a way Cheyenne manages to keep himself well protected in this cocoon of his own choosing. His life has a comatose feeling (except when playing handball with his wife) to it. And to watch Cheyenne drag his body (while walking) is like witnessing the drudgery of a man doomed to wander in fetters till eternity.

There is a sequence towards the end of the film where Cheyenne finally manages to exact revenge on the Nazi who had humiliated his estranged father in the Nazi camps. The poetic beauty associated with Cheyenne's revenge not only underlines the true power of Sorrentino's filmmaking genius but also accentuates why most European filmmakers outwit their American counterparts in their ability to deliver strong and meaningful messages that despite the deliberate level of subtlety involved still manage to pack a powerful punch. The movie's slow pace may pose a challenge to some in the early going but the patient viewer will be thoroughly rewarded.

This Must Be the Place is a testament to Sorrentino's range as a filmmaker. Watching the film makes one wonder whether one is watching only one film or a bunch of different films seamlessly blended into one. Sean Penn is a revelation in the role of Cheyenne, which in my opinion also happens to be his greatest performance till date. It's just incredible how great filmmakers push their actors to the limit and invariably get the best out of them (even when that actor is someone like Penn who has delivered so many memorable performances during the course of his long and successful career). Luca Bigazzi's cinematography is breathtaking to watch and the music by David Byrne and Will Oldham is simply hypnotic. The film is replete with visual symbolism and allegories and it may require multiple viewings for one to be in a position to appreciate it fully. The movie is recommended to all those who appreciate intelligent and thought-provoking cinema.

Rating: 8.5/10

The Master is the latest film by American filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson. The movie comes after a gap of five years following Anderson's highly successful outing in There Will Be Blood (2007). The Master stars Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams in pivotal roles. Anderson is one of the few commercial filmmakers alive today who write their own screenplays. And perhaps that's the reason why he has not been very prolific as a filmmaker—yielding only once every 4-5 years. The Master also marks the return of Joaquin Phoenix from a self-imposed acting break.

The Master is a multifaceted work of cinema that can be enjoyed at so many levels. The Master has a sense of randomness attached to it that makes it a very difficult film to interpret. It may appear to have several interweaved layers to one viewer, and yet appear completely hollow to another—depending purely on the viewer's understanding and interpretation. The Master works well on both the technical and emotional fronts—another rarity for an American film. The movie's cinematography, music and editing are all topnotch, and complement each other really well.

The acting is awe-inspiring to say the least and is quite easily one of the strongest points of the movie. Also, there's enough room for character development. While the relationship that Quell and Dodd share is explicitly platonic in nature, an undercurrent of homosexual impulse cannot be ruled out. Joaquin Phoenix is electrifying in the role of a lifetime. He takes great pains in conjuring up his self-loathing, verminous, reclusive alter ego as he himself gets lot in the role. Philip Seymour Hoffman is outstanding in the role of Lancaster Dodd and steals each and every scene he is a part of. Anderson elicits strong performances from the supporting cast especially Amy Adams who is an absolute treat to watch as Dodd's demanding wife, Peggy.

Overall, The Master is an endlessly fascinating work of cinema that may require multiple viewings to grasp its deeper meanings. The Master is undoubtedly the best film to have come out of the English-speaking world in the year 2012. It's a real shame that the Academy yet again failed to identify a cinematic gem. The fact that the movie has not been nominated in the Best Picture category only substantiates the ineptness of the Academy in segregating topnotch cinema from the heaps of mediocrity. The Master, like most of Anderson's movies, is not meant for everyone. A casual viewer is ought to be disappointed, for he may find it drab and utterly boring. But, The Master will most definitely succeed in satisfying the deepest cravings of an intelligent viewer.

Rating: 9/10

Dead Man presents the bizarre journey of a meek, naive young accountant who, after getting haplessly entangled in a deadly maelstrom, goes through an intellectual and spiritual transformation that changes his life forever. While any typical road movie could have served as an effective vehicle for the propagation of this quaint tale, Jarmusch defiantly opts to make a Western based on his belief that the Western as a genre is "very open to metaphor, and has deep roots in classical narrative forms." But, Dead Man is far from being a conventional Western. Jarmusch basically leverages upon flexibility of the form and its umbilical link to America to concoct a far more complex work of art that not only transcends genres, but also deals with existential and spiritual motifs.

With Dead Man, Jarmusch succeeds in giving the Western genre his personal touch by ingeniously building upon the aforementioned complex motifs to formulate a powerful cinematic treatise enriched with several vital elements of poetry: be it metaphors, symbolism, allusion, or imagery. Depp's character in Dead Man is a namesake of the English poet William Blake. The association obviously is not limited to the name alone. Dead Man has multiple references to the poetry of William Blake. In fact, most of Exaybachay's recitations in the movie are taken from Blake's poems like The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Auguries of Innocence, The Everlasting Gospel, etc. Anyone who has seen the movie would remember the bizarrely sublime (taken from the aforementioned Marriage): "The eagle never lost so much time, as when he submitted to learn from the crow." Thel (beautifully played by Mili Avital), the name of the prostitute who sells paper flowers, is also a reference to William Blake's The Book of Thel. And to top it all, the all-knowing Exaybachay, an ardent William Blake admirer, believes the accountant Blake to be a reincarnation of the dead English poet.

Overall, Dead Man is an endlessly fascinating work of cinema that is bound to elicit extreme responses from its audience: one would either love it or detest it, no midway affair. The deftly blended humor and suspense gives the movie an eerie tone which plainly reflects the nauseating feeling, as experienced by movie's characters, of being stuck in a limbo. An existential Western with surrealistic overtones, the movie is equally brilliant on both the technical and emotional fronts. It wouldn't be a hyperbole to say that Dead Man serves to be a brilliant showcase of the very best in direction, cinematography, music and acting. Dead Man is not a film for a casual viewer. The patient viewer, however, would be thoroughly rewarded. The movie may require multiple viewings for a clearer and deeper understanding. Dead Man is a must watch for anyone who values intelligent cinema that goes beyond the usual doze of entertainment and makes the viewer ruminate on what he saw long after the movie is over.

Rating: 9/10

Inkaar (which translates to “Refusal” in English) is a 2013 Hindi film written and directed by renowned Indian filmmaker Sudhir Mishra. Inkaar stars Chitrangada Singh and Arjun Rampal in the lead roles. While this is the third Sudhir Misha film that stars Chitrangada Singh in the lead—the other two being Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi (2003) and Yeh Saali Zindagi (2011)—it's the first time that Arjun Rampal has teamed up with Mishra.

In Inkaar, Sudhir Mishra puts the spotlight on the highly contentious issue of sexual harassment in corporate circles. The movie tries to define the term “sexual harassment” by highlighting the complexities associated with it. The greatest challenge is to draw the line between flirtation and harassment. Once that is taken care of the next challenge is to fathom the reality that, contrary to the popular belief, both the sexes are equally prone to sexual harassment. And that's where the subjective element comes into the picture. Who's the victim? Who's the accused? Thus, it becomes a real nightmare situation to deal with. As a senior female lawyer aptly describes in the movie, “It's often much easier to prove rape than sexual harassment”. The story of Inkaar presents one such case of alleged sexual harassment.

As the hearing progresses, it becomes more and more difficult to discern who is speaking the truth and who is not. While the versions of the accused and the victim only differ slightly there is enough deviation to perplex the most astute of minds. The manner of proceedings, though completely alien to Indian cinema, is strikingly similar to Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa's groundbreaking masterpiece Rashomon (1950), which is widely regarded as a cinematic treatise on the subjectivity of truth.

Overall, Inkaar despite its flaws is a commendable work of cinema that brings to the fore some serious issues concerning the corporate culture. Through the microcosmic world of an advertisement agency, Mishra presents to us the pitiful tale of human detachment that's slowly becoming a reality. Inkaar is brilliant from the technical point of view. The editing is absolutely brilliant and the same can be said about its music. The acting is above average. Mishra elicits a remarkably strong performance from Arjun Rampal. Chitrangada Singh is ever so delightful as the dusky, sensual Maya Luthra. Deepti Naval cameo is a major highlight of the movie. Apparently, Naval replaced Mishra's ex-wife Sushmita Mukherjee who, because of her tight television schedule, failed to spare any dates for the movie. Saurabh Shukla makes his presence felt in an interesting item number that he gets to perform in the movie. The lead actors get good support from the supporting cast. Inkaar with its slow character development, ambiguous themes, and deceptive direction is ought to disappoint an average viewer whose sole purpose is entertainment, but an intelligent viewer who is patient enough to wait for the different layers to slowly get unwrapped will be rewarded.

Ratings: 7.5/10

Pedro Almodóvar's Broken Embraces (2009) is a strange yet intriguingwork of cinema. A heartbreaking tale of love, Broken Embraces highlight's the Spanish filmmaker's love for filmmaking as well the medium, which is underlined by the following line spoken by the movie's protagonist: "No, what matters is to finish it. Films have to be finished, even if you do it blindly." Almodóvar is not the first filmmaker to pay homage to cinema. Time and time again, filmmakers have used their films to express their overwhelming love for the medium: be it Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, Federico Fellini, Jean-Luc Godard, Giuseppe Tornatore, Abbas Kiarostami, Robert Altman, or Martin Scorsese.

Broken Embraces (2009) is far from being a masterpiece. In fact, it's not even Almodóvar's best film, but it does have its moments that are enough to make it worthy of a watch. Almodóvar seems to have perfected his unique style by borrowing bits and pieces from the masters of cinema. Those who have followed Alfred Hitchcock's body of work closely would know that sex and humor were two of his major elements. And Almodóvar, a great fan of the Master of Suspense, too relies heavily on these two powerful elements often blending them with an equally potent weapon: social commentary. And like Hitchcock, Almodóvar loves to revisit his old works in an effort to further refine his quaint yet effective ideas. In fact, it is not very difficult for the keen-eyed viewers to spot the recurring patterns in Pedro Almodóvar's films, just like in Hitchcock's. And Broken Embraces is no different in this regard with the ever so ambitious Almodóvar trying to borrow and improvise upon certain ideas from his breakthrough film, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988).

While the comparisons between Hitchcock and Almodóvar are endless, one similarity that just cannot be overlooked is their insatiable love for technical mastery. There is a brilliant sequence in Broken Embraces that that underlines the remarkable quality of editing (and technical excellence) in Almodóvar's films. In the very scene, a rotating CD can be seen fading into a cylindrical staircase as the movie's protagonist climbs down the stairs. The scene is highly reminiscent of the editing techniques employed by Hitchcock in one of his early masterpieces: Sabotage (1936).

Overall, Broken Embraces, at best, serves to be a guilty pleasure. Almodóvar's obsession to experiment with his old ideas in trying to embed them into the new ones ends up overloading the film with at least one excessive plot line. The best ways to savor Broken Embraces is to either treat it as a homage to filmmaking or to look upon it as a exercise in style. Regardless of the excesses, Broken Embraces will prove to be a great film viewing experience for Almodóvar fans and also for those who understand and appreciate powerful world cinema.

Rating: 7/10

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first installment in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit Trilogy—the much awaited prequel series to the ubiquitously acclaimed The Lord of the Rings Trilogy—based on J. R. R. Tolkien's 1937 fantasy novel The Hobbit, or There and Back Again.

The trilogy's second and the third installments viz. “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” and “The Hobbit: There and Back Again” are scheduled to release in 2013 and 2014 respectively. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey presents the first part of the quest undertaken by an artless hobbit named Bilbo Baggins and a band of vagrant dwarves to help the latter reclaim their lost kingdom from the clutches of a fiendish dragon named Smaug. During the course of the journey Bilbo and company must always remain wary of the dangers lurking in the shadowy avenues of the Middle-earth. And the sooner they learn to trust each other's instincts the better would be the odds of their survival.

In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Peter Jackson once again shows why he is hailed in the film circles as an auteur par excellence. When it comes to the fantasy genre Jackson truly has no equal. An Unexpected Journey serves to be a visual spectacle of a very unique kind, one that appeals both to the soul and the intellect. While one is dazzled by the movie's visual sumptuousness, it's quite difficult to overlook the emotional subtext—most evident in Bilbo's homesickness and the plight of the dwarves who have been driven out of their rightful dwellings by a ferocious usurper. It's indeed awe-inspiring to see the way Jackson manages to strike the right kind of balance between style and substance.

Overall, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is an exhilarating cinematic experience for viewers of all ages and groups. Vintage Jackson, the movie serves to be a fine specimen of masterful storytelling. Unlike most modern-day movies of its kind, An Unexpected Journey never lets story take the backseat and while technology plays a pivotal part the real emphasis is always on the movie's plot. Most of the sequences in the movie are beautifully crafted. The one in which Bilbo encounters the ever so spiteful Gollum remains this critic's absolute favorite. While the movie's use of CGI and VFX is quite exemplary in itself the 3D and HFR effects serve to be a real icing on the cake that makes the movie quite unique even in comparison to its predecessors. Jackson manages to elicit worthy performances from his entire cast of actors. An Unexpected Journey has set the ball rolling for the final two installments of the trilogy, but what still remains to be seen is whether it would be possible for Jackson and team to match the success of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, both from the financial as well as critical point of view?

Rating: 7.5/10

Policegiri starring Sanjay Dutt and Prachi Desai released this May just after Dutt was sentenced to three years in prison for the 1993 bomb blasts. The film was aired on television on August 18, 2013 -since it sank without a trace in the theatres. The only reason to watch it is for Sanjay Dutt if you are his fan and do not mind seeing him do the same things for the 200th time.

The film is just one more of the many efforts to show police like a one man army out to clean the baddies with a single pistol. The early scenes show an ageing Dutt beating up 30 bad men alone . He jumps from 30 feet and that scene looks like one of 1970s when such jumps were computer generated. He also enters bomb-making factories where the owner displays bombs as if they were Barbie dolls on display. On one table there are tiffin boxes and the owner says they are tiffin box bombs, those that kill children.

To top all that is the fact that Dutt is a DCP in the movie but a mysterious lonely one too who goes about his mission singularly. It is quite another thing for Amitabh Bachchan to do it in the 1970s when he was considered the voice against the Emergency, these days it is not heroic at all. Dutt is also shown entering police stations in simple disguise to catch the police officers red-handed and going unrecognised. In this age of Twitter and Facebook or just an over-crazy media, a DCP's transfer is no secret mission. And at the police station, Dutt is shown loudly talking about police haftas commission etc. However rampant bribe-taking and giving is in our country, it is still spoken in hushed tones and definitely inside a police station.

The dialogues are as banal. The one in all promos shows Dutt telling the baddie that while the latter may have power and paisa etc, he has public with him. Whether this was added intentionally to resurrect Dutt's career or because of his (then) impending court case is not known but it fails to impress totally. After Deewar and the maa dialogue and the countless parroting episodes, this one just does not work. Prachi Desai is used like a prop like in the olden days - these days with scripts like Kahani and Heroine, this movie would have made same sense without a heroine.

The fights are not astounding - in the age of Krish and Dhoom series, the ol' style dishum dishum fails to excite. Dutt's 'tagda' magic will not work if it is going to be the old wine in the same bottle. Dutt will have to change with time and court verdicts too.

Much hue and cry has been raised recently over the movie Chennai Express; People are raging war of words on every social networking site, engaging in verbal fisticuffs, either in approval or disapproval of the movie or I should say the genre (on the likes of Dabangg 2, Bodyguard etc.). I have also come across a certain group of people with the mind-set that these actors should stop doing such mindless flicks and do a much more mature, and responsible cinema.

It does baffle me to a certain extent because; at the end of the day those guys are actors. Acting is their source of earning, of living their life. They will do, and I feel they must do, what it takes to lead their lives. Everyone puts in their share of hard work and to those who say that they don't really have to work for such kind of movies; I would certainly like to know when they have portrayed any kind of role in any movie. What I intend to say is quite simple, if you don't know what it is to be in someone else's shoes, then you don't have any right to comment on them.

Secondly, my point is that why should not they do such kind of 'mindless' movies, as they say. Let me take an example to make things a bit clearer. You all must have heard about the upcoming movie 'Madras Cafe' and how it has mired up in controversies, which are inherently risking its release. Now, when these actors go out and do such socially responsible or 'different' kind of movies, they face problems. Now put yourself in their position. You have worked really hard for a project, invested your time and money in it, but then it cannot come to fruition just because a certain sect or class of people has a problem with it! How would you feel then, when you won't be able to foresee the return of your investments? Wouldn't your life, life of those dependent upon you get affected? Next time, you would surely come up with something that wouldn't raise any eyebrows. Same goes for them. When they would see that on making a masala-entertainer, they are getting a good return on their investment, why wouldn't they do it? Why wouldn't anyone do it?

'Madras Cafe' was just one example. Surely, if his movie gets affected in any manner possible, be it cuts in the movie scenes, change of scripts or anything, John would much prefer doing Dostana-esq movies rather than such stuff.

So, no wonder CE goes on to bag more than 100 crores in the first week. Everyone is happy, no controversies...isn't that what we want from our life...

And for those who can't digest CE, there is always an option of Ship of Theseus (no disrespect to the movie though).

“Everything I learned, I learned from the movies.” ― Audrey Hepburn

Believe it or not, I identify with this as do many more like me. Movies have taught me a hell of a lot. Throughout college, I watched a lot of English movies and considering that it's not my mother tongue, movies improved my English a lot. Not to say that I have mastered the language.

For me there were four phases of watching movies.

1) Idiot Box phase

2) 6 in 1 DVD phase

3) 70 mm phase

4) The Torrent phase

The first phase is ultra common in Indian households. Be it a black & white Tv , Color Tv , Flat Tv , LCD/LED or 3D Tv , all of us have experience watching movies on TV. And this phase has no age. It's evergreen. No matter how poor , rich , busy or free you are. This phase will be there forever. Period.

The most fun part about the DVD phase is that it shows you're not addicted to Internet(Or may be you don't have enough resources to access internet). Whatever the case this phase last for at least 3 years in my life. The experience is worth sharing. During my school days I used to stop at the CD stall and looked out for the "yet to see" movies. The rent of the DVD was varied from 5-10 rs. It depends on the quality of the DVD and Movies too. At the end of this phase what I'm left with are a one ripped off DVD player and hundreds of DVDs.

The 70 mm phase played a little role in my life till now. I can actually count the number of movies I've seen in theaters/plexes. Frankly speaking I feel deceived when I watch movies in theaters. Still people can enjoy a lot if they have their buddies or loved ones with them. It's like a party in theater.

It was my first year of college when I came to know about this beautiful phase. The Torrent phase. I came to know that one can actually download a full movie (with great print) from this website. And then there's no looking back. I said NO to Multiplexes , DVD player and TV to some extent.

It took me no time to get used to with . I started feeling that why the heck people go to plexes and wasting their bucks. One can download the bollywood , hollywood and all other wood's flicks totally free. As the day passed I realized that one has to wait for some months to get the original copy of the flick. And that's the sole drawback of this phase.However one can download the scamrip , camrip , cdrip (actually ripped) print of the movie within a couple of hours of its released.

[email protected]

A dark drama. As an audience you would leave with a grimace on your as if someone had kicked your balls. Ajay Bahl does not leave anything to imagination; he is blunt and never waits for a second invitation to showcase his raw take on cinematography and direction. Shadab Kamal(as Mukesh) delivers a masterpiece, Shilpa Shukla(as Sarika) epitomises promiscuity like never before, Rajesh Sharma's(Sarika's husband, as Khanna) portrayal of a cuckold is fabulous. Bahl's cinematography is par excellence and direction too is gripping. He saves the best for the climax and post-climax stage of the film which leaves one bolt-struck and in a deluge of melancholy.

The dark, ghastly, traumatising story ends and you are left with a numb sensation with one plaintiff: can fate be so ruthless? Recipient of umpteen awards, Ajay Bahl stands out as a unique tragic drama director. Dark drama has a new name: B.A. Pass.

This is an excerpt from my blog.Since number of words is a constraint here, could not write the complete stuff. Here's the link to my blog:


Jalsaghar (aka "The Music Room") is a 1958 drama film directed by master Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray. Based on a short story of the same name by Bangla writer Tarashankar Bandopadhyay, Jalsaghar presents the tale of decline of a feudal lord in the pre-independence India. Jalsaghar stars veteran Bangla actor Chhabi Biswas in the lead role of Huzur Biswambhar Roy. Huzur is the last of Zamindars—a dying breed of landlords who once formed the very basis of the Indian Feudal System. Huzur's glory days are over but his sense of superiority remains intact. He lives in the past neither acknowledging the present nor anticipating the future. He continues to be a servant of his refined tastes even as his coffers are getting empty.

Jalsaghar was Ray's fourth film which he made after the commercial failure of Aparijito—the finally film in Ray's much acclaimed “The Apu Trilogy”. Ray had initially thought of making a commercial film, based on some popular work of literature, which would incorporate popular Indian music. But, what eventually transpired was something that was totally different. It was more of an art-house work than a commercial movie that Ray had initially intended to make. The movie failed to do well at the Indian box-office. But, it received both critical and financial success in Europe and the US and helped Ray earn international reputation. The music of Jalsaghar was written by the Indian composer and sitar maestro Ustad Vilayat Ali Khan who was encouraged by Ray to compose musical pieces that would gel well with the movie's dark and gloomy tone. The movie's melancholic musical composition and sombre art direction—the sublime use of mirrors, chandeliers, etc.—gives it a gothic feel in the vein of American Film-Noir films of the '40s and '50s.

In Jalsaghar, Ray highlights the perpetual conflict of tradition versus modernity while simultaneously examining the Indian caste system. Jalsaghar is a sublime work of cinema that, having stood the test of time for over five decades, continues to inspire the budding filmmakers as well as enthrall the audiences worldwide. Jalsaghar is widely regarded as Satyajit Ray's most evocative film. It serves to be a great means of getting acquainted with Ray's oeuvre. Jalsaghar with its universal motifs is also the most accessible of Ray's films, especially for foreign viewers. Jalsaghar is not a movie that would woo a casual viewer. Restless viewers should best stay away from it. But, a patient viewer would be thoroughly rewarded. The movie owing to its slow pace may pose impediments to the uninitiated viewer. Jalsaghar is a deeply thought-provoking work of cinema that demands multiple viewings. The movie is a must watch for every student of cinema. an essential watch for all Satyajit Ray fans as well as those who understand and appreciate intelligent cinema.

The full review can be read at:

“Seven deadly sins, seven ways to win, seven holy paths to hell, and your trip begins Seven downward slopes seven bloodied hopes seven are your burning fires, seven your desires.” ― Iron Maiden

The 1995 psychological thriller, Se7en is one of the most outstanding works of David Andrew Ficher (Director), who also credited for directing movies like The Social Network, Curious Case of Benjamin Button etc.

The central plot of the movie revolves around the seven deadly sins (or the cardinal sins) of the Christian faith. These sins include lust, glutton, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. These sins were derived from the works of the 4th century monk Evagrius Ponticus, however the movie is set in modern day America. The movie has two protagonist, homicide detectives David Mills (Brad Pitt) and William Somerset (Morgan Freeman). Mills is recently transferred to homicide whereas Somerset is a veteran and nearing his retirement. But just days before Somerset's retirement, the city witnesses a gruesome murder.

The crime scene is strewn with clues and Somerset soon finds the reference to the first deadly sin – Glutton. Somerset realizes that this crime is done by no low life, but a methodical cold blooded killer. He extends his retirement, so as to solve this case. The antagonist sends messages to Somerset and Mills, stating that it is just the beginning and in 7 days seven people would die a gruesome death.

The Antagonist, John Doe (Kevin Spacey), is probably one of the most incredible movie villains to grace the silver screen. Doe is a psychopathic serial killer obsessed with the seven Deadly Sins, and he kills his victims in symbolic murders representing in an attempt (at least in his own mind) to remind the world about the inevitability to avoid these sins.

The movie is a neo-noir with dark undertones and atrocious crime scenes. However the movie is not completely bleak and spiteful. Through its characters the movie portrays that all is not lost for humanity. One such instance is the relationship between Mills and Somerset. Mills is a brash young cop who can be impatient at times whereas Somerset is a mellow but wise character. At the beginning of the movie these characters are uneasy in each other's presence, but as the story line progresses the work together in a very cohesive manner. Tracy (Gwyneth Paltrow), Mill's wife, is a very tranquil character who helps Mills and Somerset get over their differences and work together, to catch John Doe.

The strong point of this movie is definitely the story-line, but for me the casting was impeccable. All the actors have done justice to their roles and command appreciation! If asked to pick my favorite character it would be Somerset played by Morgan Freeman - class act!

Se7en has its fair share of twists and turns. It is thoroughly gripping and keeps the viewer on the edge of their seats throughout the 125 minute run-time.

Rating : 8.7 / 10

Whoa! What? Did you say Q? Yes, it's The Q (Qaushiq Chatterjee), the maverick, the radical, the insane, the genius. Like his name, his films too are bizarre. This particular flick is his adaptation of Rabindranath Tagore's novel of the same name. And as expected, Q leaves no stone unturned in leaving his audience perplexed, and make them hunt desperately to find even the most obscure clue to comprehend his story. Frankly, let me shamelessly admit, I did not understand the story. Q's take was beyond comprehension except in the second half where he sparingly tosses digestible nuggets to his literate audience.

Am I being snobbish? Yeah. You might feel I am being supercilious because of my usage of “literate” audience, but believe me; I count myself among the very few “literate” cinema goers who would dare to visit a theatre and watch Q's esoteric stuff. Taasher Desh is not for the masses, it is for the classes, and that too the hardcore intellectual class that has the “eye” to appreciate cinema this bizarre. Bizarre, not in a deprecating sense, but in an ingenious sense. As admitted, I hardly understood the stuff presented on celluloid, but a few things that touched (read bruised) me were: cinematography, sound, abrupt blending of episodes, dicey narration. Have you ever seen a movie where the main credit is shown suddenly in the middle of the film? It gets even stranger when a deliberate digital aberration is tailored where you feel the reel has accidentally got stuck or the projectionist of the theatre has made the worst possible mistake of his career. Loud, jarring sound effects, weird video graphic angles, eerie lighting, unpredictable storyline, it's all there. Abrupt, sudden appearance of any of these attributes haunts throughout the film that it almost hurts the senses.

The first half is an absolute ambiguity; the over-the-top phenomenon re-visits again and again to the point until it becomes a sore for the logical half of the human brain. But in the second half the mist clears and a prominent silhouette appears. I am not the right person to elaborate the story as it would not do justice to Tagore and obviously Q's “bizarre” creation. See it for yourself as you need to experience it if you really want to get the feel (read pinch) of it.

This is supposed to be a work of fiction. But there is only one way to genuinely enjoy this film: by treating it as an authentic recreation of a very important though unfortunate event of contemporary history that we know nothing about. Besides that a woman with a bomb strapped around her waist, in the presence of thousands of people at a political rally, blew up a gentleman who was soon to be re-elected the Prime Minister of India in 1991.

The facts leading up to his assassination make you believe that the filmmakers may have recruited a spy as a screenwriting consultant in here who has supplied details hitherto unknown about how and why the militant Tamil separatist organisation LTTE (represented as LTF) killed Rajiv Gandhi, referred to throughout as the “Ex PM” here. The film partly fictionalises but mostly dramatises the events, laying out a crisp, compelling docu-drama.

John Abraham (strikingly sincere, both as producer and actor) plays an Indian spy. He enters the scene when Rajiv's government, perhaps to undo the wrongs of his mother's, is in the process of bringing some serenity and sanity into Sri Lanka.

As the head of LTF, Prabhakaran is known as Anna in this film. John is Vikram, whose short-term assignment is to ensure an election in Sri Lanka's Northern Province. The only way he can do this is by playing dirty with Prabhakaran's LTTE itself. There is a huge, impressively hand-picked cast of characters placed around the top Indian Army sleuth. While setting up base for his swift operation, he comes across a foreign journalist of Indian origin (Nargis Fakhri, hired for her hotness alone).

This is probably the first Bollywood film that looks closely at India's political involvement outside of its own shores. The director (Shoojit Sircar: Yahaan, Vicky Donor) ably spins this as a war film, visually referenced to near perfection.

Santosh Sivan's The Terrorist (1998) on the same tragedy was a more personal film, a cinematographer's take. This one is a researcher's delight. The ultimate baap of this genre is Oliver Stone's JFK (1991). Through inferences and strong evidences, using classified documents, it categorically proved to regular public the CIA's role in the death of its much loved US President. It shook up America.

This film doesn't conclusively establish a new angle or fresh motive behind Rajiv Gandhi's death, besides merely pointing towards western corporate interests. But it makes you search deeper. It's been over 22 years since. Who the hell gained so much from Rajiv's assassination? The LTTE is practically defunct now. After the film, we sat and discussed these things for a couple of hours. I've bookmarked a few articles on the web already, can't remember the last time a Bollywood film made me do that.

This post was originally published here.

With the movie Chennai Express entering the elite "Rs 200 crore club", I wonder if its content is really worth that much. I leave that to you to decide. However, there is one thing we should not miss noticing amidst the euphoria. That the success of this movie is in large parts due to a massive marketing blitzkrieg and not the content alone.

1. Rajnikanth

What has Rajnikanth got to do with this movie? Honestly, nothing. But what can he do to bring the crowds? Absolutely everything. Those who watched the movie in Chennai cinema halls say, "Not a single person left the theatre when the movie ended. Everyone was waiting for 'The Talaiva' song at the end. They enjoyed the song more than they did the entire movie." That is what Rajnikanth can do.

2. Mobile Game

Smart phones are pervasive now. The movie producers launched a mobile game called 'Chennai Express - Escape from Rameshwaram' alongside the movie. The game is nothing extraordinary; just an approximate replica of Subway Surfers with a few user interface modifications. Not surprisingly, the game had been downloaded more than 50,000 times during its early release. What else could be a better way to reach the crowds.

3. Combo offer

You get a third free ticket if you buy two tickets as part of Raksha Bandhan festival promotions. At a time when the price of everything from jewellery to onions is hitting the roof, what better gift for your sister than a blockbuster movie ticket?

4. IIFA awards

Shah Rukh Khan, while hosting the International Indian Film Academy awards this year, mentioned the movie innumerable times. He went to the extent saying (in a light note) that he will advertise Chennai Express for the next 45 minutes as his co-hosts left the stage.

The movie content itself has its share of force-fitted product placement marketing about other brands. At least twice in Chennai Express, SRK explains all the technical details of the Nokia Lumia smartphone despite it having nothing to do with the plot. It all adds up: SRK owns the Kolkata Knight Riders cricket team, of which Nokia is the sponsor.

But in the end, he has managed to make money for everyone behind the movie, have Nokia marketed, and reach the South Indian audience all in one shot. Life is good.

The film starts with Ajay Devgan visiting a small town for his best friend's wedding. The best friend's dad (Amitabh Bachchan) is a siddhantwadi, who used to be the principal of a local school. Over a dinner at home, the best friend's father (let's call him BFF) asks Ajay the usual stuff, what his future plans are etc. Ajay merely tells him that he wants to set up his own business after studies. Boy, this provokes the BFF enough to launch into a minor tirade accusing him and others of being greedy.

So far as I could tell he was only going to be pursuing a master's degree at this point. Later in the night while young Ajay is sharing a drink with his best friend, the BFF lands up on the terrace, lectures him some more, convinced that his son is keeping bad company. By the end of the night, young man Ajay takes an auto-rickshaw and heads home even without attending the wedding he had come for. This sets the tone for a hyperbolic, simplistic talkathon that follows for the next two and half hours where we're not sure exactly what is everyone being all so self-righteous about.

Within three years, Ajay is worth over Rs 6,000 crore, his best friend is no more. The father is in the lock-up for slapping the district magistrate. Within a few minutes, in a turnaround, Ajay starts a movement to free his BFF.

A journalist from Delhi (Kareena Kapoor) pretty much sets up base in a small town. She is a persistent reporter, you can tell, from the number of missed calls she gives: 17 to a minister, 203 to Ajay. She turns down an assignment to interview the PM, the editor can do nothing about it, she even officially joins the anti-corruption movement, never mind the basic ethics of her profession.

By now you know this film is a political thriller. It's directed by Prakash Jha, who is by now a genre of his own. The location is Bhopal. People speak in a quasi Bihari accent. Almost like a sequel to Jha's Aarakshan, Amitabh Bachchan plays the calm, conscientious man whose heart bleeds for the concerns of his poor audiences.

The anti-corruption movement you see before you on the screen mirrors the one championed by Anna Hazare in 2011, for passing the Lokpal (Ombudsman) Bill. You get the point about corruption. But what exactly is the plot? Lost, while looking for one, the filmmakers go around searching for the murderer of Ajay's friend, a character inspired by Satyendra Dubey.

Unable to find much meat in there either, we're back to more public rallies and homilies and simplicities on bhookh, garibi and bhrashtachar. At some point, you hear yourself go, “Ab bas bahut ho gaya yar. Bandh karo bak bak.” We get a lot of this on TV anyway, and at least we know what's going on there.

This post was originally published here.

The Great Gatsby is a 2013 drama film directed by Australian filmmaker Baz Luhrmann, based on a 1925 novel of the same name by the great American novelist F Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald's novel is best remembered for its hallucinatory portrayal of the Jazz Age through the microcosmic world of glittery opulence, kaleidoscopically enveloping the extravagant-but-hollow way of living that underlines the ethos of the American dream. Fitzgerald's scurrilous satire on the zeitgeist of the tumultuous 1920s, The Great Gatsby explores several conflicting motifs like love, materialism, sacrifice, self-indulgence, extravagance, idealism, stagnation, upheaval, ostentation, modesty, etc. And Luhrmann's movie, to its credit, succeeds in capturing the novel's motifs in essence, if not in totality.

The Great Gatsby presents the tale of a young, enigmatic, seemingly profligate millionaire named Jay Gatsby whose ideals of love come across to be so virtuous and pristine that they seem to be modelled upon none other than Don Quixote himself. The Great Gatsby despite its flaws proves to be an unforgettable cinematic experience for the intelligent viewer. The Great Gatsby, being the quintessential Luhrmann extravaganza, is high on style but fortunately there's enough substance to keep a keen-eyed viewer interested throughout. Fitzgerald's masterful storytelling seems to gel quite well with Luhrmann's showmanship. The manner in which the movie blends elements of drama, suspense, romance and tragedy is indeed exemplary. Simon Duggan's breathtaking cinematography brings the movie to life. Tobey Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Carey Mulligan are brilliant in their respective roles and in that order.

The Great Gatsby is neither a typical Hollywood product nor an art house movie. It is for this reason it is difficult to categorise as a film. And perhaps that's why it opened to mixed reviews in Cannes early this year. If anything it's a movie that requires patience and would most definitely satisfy the cravings of the patient lot.

Originally published here.