Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Wednesday

Neeraj Pandey, 2008, India (9.2*)
This is a tightly plotted, finely crafted thriller from India, in fact, perhaps the best modern drama I’ve seen from there. The story is very timely: a police commissioner (Anupam Kher) receives a phone call from a common man, as he calls himself, brilliantly played by Naseeruddin Shah (whom you never suspect of being an actor), who claims to have planted five bombs throughout the city. As a show of good faith, he tells the commissioner the first bomb in the police station across the street. When that bomb is found, the authorities decide the man is serious, and they start meeting his demands, beginning with bringing four deadly terrorists together who are being held seperately. This story becomes a battle of wits, and of two computer experts: the ‘common man’ terrorist and a hacker the police bring in to pinpoint the location of his cell phone calls to the police.

I can’t reveal much without spoiling the surprising story, which should hit home with audiences around the world. Suffice to say that: (a) there are no music videos in this film (b) the running time is actually under two hours (c) a&b make this film unique among Indian films, at least in my experience! This is a much tighter story and better film than the top-grossing Ghajini, the previous review here.

10 comments:

Shubhajit April 21, 2009 at 11:19 AM  

I have reservations regarding your statement that this is the best modern drama you've seen from India, because I can name you numerous movies from here which are far better than Wednesday (in case you're not aware of it, even though Hindi movies, i.e. those made in the Bombay Film Industry, popularly known as Bollywood, earn more money, those made in Calcutta, in the Bengali language, are on average of far higher artistic value though not as widely seen). You'll be surprised to not that 'MTV-style music videos' (an apt description!) form a part of 'popular' or mainstream movie. The 'good' movies usually either completely do away with it, or have songs played in the background.

However, having said that, there's no denying the fact that this is a well made, and above all, a very honestly made movie. The story is taut and very relevant of our times. Interestingly, the infamous carnage at Bombay (Mumbai) by Pakistani terrorists took place a few days after this movie was released.

You're absolutely right in your observations about Naseeruddin Shah - he's one of the most respected actors in this country. His character perhaps represents the voice of many a people.

So which movie will you be reviewing next?

Jose Sinclair April 21, 2009 at 4:18 PM  

Hi Shubhajit - please recommend a few of the non-bollywood movies! I'm new to Indian films, we've always had Japanese and Chinese films available but not Indian. Of course, they need to be available as dvd rentals.

I have the Indian "Taxi Driver" in my queue, is that worth seeing? (diff't story from the Scorsese, I assume).

Too bad they can't copyright a title, the U.S. "Hero" is mediocre, the Chinese "Hero" by Zhang Yimou is a favorite film of mine; I can watch it over and over.

ps - If you want, I'll publish a guest post of yours at Worlds Best Films for Indian films "for westerners" to see!

ps2- Read your Dr. Mabuse, Gambler article, didn't know there was a silent one (ouch- those are painful for me! and four hours??)

thanks!! -- Jose

Shubhajit April 30, 2009 at 11:15 AM  

My apologies for the late response. Thanks for the offer for guest posts. I'll let you know some really good Indian movies of recent years that I feel you should see.

Indian "Taxi Driver"?!? Can't figure out which movie you're referring to. Could you tell me the original name of the movie?

Dr Mabuse, Gambler article?!? Are you sure you visited the right blog? The name of the movie blog I maintain is Cinemascope (http://cliched-monologues.blogspot.com/).

The offer for writing on the best Indian movies sounds to be an interesting proposition.

Shubhajit May 1, 2009 at 9:10 AM  

Ok I remember. Taxi Driver, the movie you were referring to, doesn't have any resemblance that I know of to the Scorsese masterpiece (though I haven't watched the movie starring Dev Anand, the then superstar of the Bombay film industry). It was anyway made way before the De Nero starrer. It was a romantic noir, as far as I know, and a big hit. Maybe you could watch the movie and let me know if I should watch it too :)

अभिषेक पाण्डेय July 11, 2010 at 1:14 AM  

I suggest you watch movies of "Guru Dutt"...mostly black-and-white but amazing movies. Also, Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Gulzar, Mani Ratnam. Few movies of Raj Kapur, earlier movies of Ram Gopal Varma. As of the music videos, watch Paakeezah, truely classic! :) The latest breed of Indian film-makers are also turning out to be good, after a long dry season!

Lime(tte) December 22, 2010 at 9:26 AM  

Didn't know that this one ought to be that good... The Bollywood scene didn't write too much about it.

MrNarci August 19, 2011 at 2:10 AM  

Some films I'd suggest you could watch are 'Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year' which according to me had a neat script. 'Udaan' which is the best Hindi film I've seen in years. 'Ishqiya', 'Johnny Gaddaar' and 'Kaminey': Good thrillers, all. Dev.D: a modern retelling of the novel Devdas. 'Swades': a long film about coming back to your roots, but found it quite good. 'Love, Sex Aur Dhokha': which makes innovative use of a camera and has a good storyline too.

If you're looking at directors specifically then anything by Anurag Kashyap, Vishal Bhardwaj and Dibakar Banerjee, a few films by them I've mentioned above.

MrNarci August 19, 2011 at 2:11 AM  

There are many more which do not get attention to. Would be happy to suggest some.

cass22,  September 6, 2011 at 3:12 AM  

Hi.. I am a big movie buff from India and I love googling about movies. It is one of my hobbies (apart from watching movies of course :)). That is how I stumbled upon your blog and found this great warehouse. I must appreciate that this a relly great blog.

While browsing through your blog I realized that there is a lot about Indian cinema which this blog is missing. Present day's Indian cinema is highly stereotyped as what we call Bollywood.. but there is a good enough history and presence of movies (Bollowood or beyond) which redefine Indian cinema completely. It is unfortunate to see some very pathetic Indian movies in the list which people suggested in the comments in some of your blogs. Actually there is a huge diversity in Indian films just like the diversity we see in Indian people, food and culture. So what defines a good Indian movie is not just the story, acting, direction etc.. it's also about the culture, habits, incidences, history, regions which contribute to it. So for some western audiences who are not aware of such factors, Indian movies will sound boring and out of place. But still there are some great movies which defy all such factors and can be appealing to anybody who has a great eye for a good movie.

India has around 20 official languages and great movies are made in all these languages. And since I understand only Hindi and English and my knowledge of other regional language movies is very less, I am presenting only a list of some of the must watch Hindi movies here.

Note : This does not include the movies which I found on your blog already.

Old Movies :

1. All Gurudutt movies - Pyaasa, Kaagaz Ke Phool, Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam
2. Raj Kappor's movies - Must watch ares - Jaagte Raho, Teesri Kasam
3. Guide
4. Do Bheega Zamin by Bimal Roy
5. Shatranj Ke Khiladi from the great Satyajit Ray
6. Arth
7. Masoom (1983)
8. Saraanch (1984)
9. Raakh (1991)
10. Maya Memsaab (1993)
11. Rudaali (1993)


Recent Ones :

1. Khosla Ka Ghosla : Directed by Dibakar Baneerjee, it is a masterpiece (my personal favourite).It is as close to the a real life middle class north Indian as it can get. The people, language, places, dialoges are very real and close to life. Though the genre is marked as comedy but is a satire on present day corruption in India.
2. Oye lucky lucky Oye : This too by Dibakar Banerjee is inpired from the life of real time thug in Delhi. A must watch again
3. Love Sex Aur Dhoka : Again by Dibakar Banerjee. It is an experimental movie with three independent and slightly interconnected stories.
4. Dev D - A masterpeice by Anurag Kashayap. A modern day take on epic novel Devdas written by Saratchandra Chatterjee.
5. Udaan - Movie on young mind
6. Chak De India - inspirational movie
7. Peepli [Live] - Satire
8. I am Kalaam
9. Maqbool
10. Omkara


These are just a few.. the list is huge :)

Jose Sinclair September 23, 2011 at 4:58 PM  

Thanks for the suggestions CASS22!
I have some of these on my Netflix Q, many others aren't available through them, so I'm not sure where to rent them in the U.S.
Unfortunately they don't have many of RAY's films, especially lacking is the APU TRILOGY, which is ranked about 32nd all time on the compendium of all film polls that I put together using Excel, and posted at http://worldsbestfilms.blogspot.com

Unfortunately, only about 10-12 Indian films made the top 1000 on that poll, so I've asked for visitors from India to post their own selections, I know there are more good films from there. Unfortunately we almost aren't offered any that aren't in English or Hindi, I've only seen a slight few of Tamil films.

Too bad, I assume we're missing a lot from the good ones I've seen (A Wednesday, Mr. and Mrs. Iyer, Water, Salaam Bombay, The Namesake, which is actually in English, and others).

The Bollywood musicals are pretty much a dime a dozen, very formulaic, but non-Mumbai based films seem to offer some great stories worth sharing with the world (like Deepa Mehta's works: Earth, Water, Fire)

There have to be many more like these were not getting here; the selection at Netflix leans toward the popular, and therefore "average" by definition, films like bollywood romance-musicals.

Thanks for the list! I'll check these out! -- JOSE

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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.



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