Sunday, February 16, 2014

Bollywood romance and Oscar-worthy performances at the movies

Ram Leela

Inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, it says. The basic premise is  - the feuding families, the star crossed lovers, the tragic end. But Sanjay Leela Bhansali takes a leaf (or rather a tree) out of Buz Luhrman’s book, and gives it a colourful contemporary spin, setting it in Kutch. Of course it’s a Kutch no one has seen - where guns abound and people go around killing each other with little legal consequence. But then it’s Sanjay Leela Bhansali, and who is looking for realism?

I don’t quite know what to make of SLB - I liked his Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (even though I find Salman Khan pretty much unbearable) and loved his version of Devdas; but I couldn’t sit past the first 10 minutes of Saanwariya or Black or Guzaarish.

I can be quite bewitched by the excess in his films - the saturated colour and the large set pieces of song and  dance, the gorgeous clothes and jewellery, the beautiful women (who do show glimpses of spunk, while remaining doll-like most of the time). It’s the melodrama that can be quite iffy.

Ram Leela has all the trademark SLB excess. But what it also has is some crackling racy dialogue. And a lead pair to die for. Ranveer Singh is effortlessly funny and charming. His Ram is an abs-displaying ladies’ man, gun-wielding macho, yet vulnerable. Deepika is beautiful in a real sense, quite un-plastic; and she plays the achingly-in-love Leela with a lovely playfulness in the initial phases and a deep dignity in the second half. And she does share quite a chemistry with Ranveer.

The plot meanders. It has twists and turns and a villain that has no place in an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. There are times when you want the story to get a move on. But Ram Leela is what a super hit Bollywood movie is meant to be - colourful landscapes, beautiful actors, tear-inducing moments, bring-a-smile-to-your face dialogues, dance-in-the-aisles music. In a word, entertainment, rolicking and unabashed. Shakespeare would have approved.

Dallas Buyers Club


Matthew McConaughey deserves an Oscar for this role. He plays Ron Woodward,in an adaptation of a real-life story. Set in the eighties, at the height of the AIDS epidemic, when it was seen as primarily a homosexual disease, Dallas Buyer’s Club tells the story of Ron Woodward, an electrician by profession, who is diagnosed with AIDS and is given a month to live by his doctor. Ron refuses to accept his situation and starts to research treatments available. His research leads him to Mexico where a cocktail of un-approved-by-FDA drugs makes him feel better. He smuggles these into the US and then devotes the rest of his life to  figuring out experimental drugs in other countries, drugs that the FDA has not approved, but which become the hope for dying AIDS patients who really don’t have the time for the regular FDA approval process for drugs. He forms what comes to be known as the Dallas Buyers Club - where AIDS patients come in with monthly subscriptions for these newer drugs, making it an island of hope for patients who have little hope left.

McConaughey is outstanding as Ron. He plays Ron as a rough and unsympathetic homophobe who slowly changes his stand, as he finds his homophobic friends turn against him when he is diagnosed with AIDS. As he continues his research and as he comes into contact with more and more AIDS patients, most of whom are gay, he turns sympathetic, even forming a close friendship and a business partnership with Rayon (Jared Leto in an outstanding portrayal), a transsexual.


The movie is worth watching for an insight into a time when AIDS was a horrifyingly unknown and untreatable epidemic. It is also worth watching for its performances. But for someone with little knowledge of the history, it also leaves some fundamental questions. What is the right process for an organization like the FDA to follow during a time like this? Should it be more lenient towards experimental drugs on dying patients? Should it allow for more flexibility and if it does, would it end up being a free-for-all anarchic situation? I did not get the answers in this movie. And it felt like the Dallas Buyers’ Club was just one part of a much more complex story.

But McConaughy deserves an Oscar for sure.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

a tale of 2 reviews..