The summer vacations have made me lethargic. No, I am not on vacation, far from it actually! But just watching Rohan’s almost 6 foot frame sprawled all over the house makes me feel that I too need to follow suit. Given the mood, I have given up the idea of writing individual reviews, so here is my take on the 3 films we watched in the past week or so. All these films are still running, so do go and watch.

 

Hawaa Hawaai – will leave you smiling and a bit teary, all at once!

 

I have enjoyed Amol Gupte‘s movies, starting from Taare Zameen Par to Stanley Ka Dabba and the latest is no different. It is a predictable story, of a poor boy who follows his dream, through various trials and tribulations. Arjun Harishchandra Waghmare’s (Partho Gupte) idyllic childhood in the village comes to a crashing halt with the untimely death of his father (Makrand Deshpande), a cotton farmer. Arjun moves to Mumbai with his mother (Neha Joshi) and gets a job assisting the owner of a tea stall next to a busy parking lot in a commercial area. His arduous days are made bearable as he makes fast friends with a bunch of urchins; Gochi (Ashfaque Bismillah Khan) who works in a garage, Bhura (Salman Chhote Khan) who makes and sells fragrants ropes of jasmine, Abdul (Maaman Memon) whose nimble fingers weave magical patterns of zari on rich fabrics and Murugan (Thirupathi Kushnapelli) who belongs to a family pf ragpickers.

 

The parking lot is transformed into a skating rink once the last car leaves and it is here that Arjun’s dreams are born. He watches dozens of children flying around on their skates and dreams of skating. He does not know how to approach Lucky Sir (Saqib Saleem) because he does not have money to buy skates or the skill to belong to the group of students. Watch the film to find out more.

 

Partho Gupte has come a long way since SKD and is very competent and entirely endearing in his role. The scene stealers are the 4 supporting kids who keep you smiling.Saqib Saleem brings something so refreshingly honest on screen that you tend to forgive him for not being a great actor…yet! Neha Joshi and  Makrand Deshpande do justice to their roles. Anuj Sachdeva as Lucky’s older brother is extremely wooden and should not be in films. Pretty much the same verdict for Pragya Yadav who plays Pragyananda, Lucky’s budding love interest. Unfortunately they have a fair bit of screen time, which could have been avoided.

 

The music in the film deserves a special mention. Do make it a point to listen to the songs even apart from the film.

 

Manjunath – Another forgotten hero

 

Directed by Sandeep Varma, this is a film that needed to be made. No stars, no marketing and no music, but it is a tale that every Indian should know.

 

Manjunath Shanguman, an alumnus of IIM, Lucknow was brutally gunned down in the Lakhimpur Khiri region of UP when he raised his voice against the oil mafia during his tenure as a Sales Officer, Indian Oil Corporation Limited. Manjunath or Manju as he was fondly called was a music lover and a pouplar figure on campus. His untimely death at the age of 27 created shockwaves through the nation but like most other martyrs, he was soon forgotten. However, the IIM alumni did not forget him.

 

What works for the film is a sincere and honest potrayal of the lead character by debutant actor Sasho Satiiysh Sarathy and a semi decent effort  by most of the supporting cast.Seema Biswas and Kishore Kadam stand out as the parents and Yashpal Sharma is as usual believable as Golu Goyal, the man who orchestrated and executed the murder. However a lot of things do not work, specially the long drawn second half which could have been shorter by a good 20 minutes. What I found most jarring was the casting of some past and present IIM alumnus, specially Jai played by Girish Sahdev who does not have a single spark of intelligence in his face. The Casting Director could have done a lot better!

 

Million Dollar Arm – A true story 

 

An American sports agent whose business is floundering has a brainwave and decides to employ an unconventional recruitment strategy to discover fresh talent in India. Sounds good so far right? The tiny problem being that the agent wants to discover baseball pitchers in a country where most people have not even heard of the sport let alone played it.

 

Directed by Craig Gillespie, this is a fun one time watch. John Hamm plays JB, the agent, ably supported by Aasif Mandvi who plays his partner Aash. The film is based on the true story of baseball pitchers Rinku Singh (Suraj Sharma who debuted with Life of Pi) and Dinesh Patel (Madhur Mittal who played Salim in Slumdog Millionaire) who were discovered by sports agent J.B. Bernstein after winning a reality show competition named the Million Dollar Arm. JB’s evolution from a man who only understood deals to a human being who learns to value people and relationships is brought out nicely, as is his relationship with Brenda (Lake Bell in a delightful role). The 2 actors who deserve special mentions are Pitobash (as Amit Rohan) and Alan Arkin who plays Ray, the taciturn retired baseball scout. I loved Pitobash in Shanghai, but he completely outdoes himself in this film. He IS Amit, the eager to please Indian who loves baseball and is ready to work for free. Whatever I write about Alan Arkin will fall short of his absolute genius on screen, so I will not even try!

 

I just wish the India bit of the film was shot with as much care as the US parts. It would have lifted the movie to a greater level. But all said and done, it is a modern fairy tale that deserves to be watched.

 

 

Copyright © Taraa Vermaa Senguptaa May 2014

All Rights Reserved SW

 

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