RUBINA’S RADAR | JULY HIGH

RUBINA’S RADAR

The world’s been running on a baller adrenaline rush during FIFA 18 that finally came to a head with France winning the coveted trophy against the very able Croatian football team in Russia. Life seems to be quieter without the hysterical screams and words like game, Alireza, Portugal, goals, Ronaldo, England and the like being thrown about like chump change. While on sports, 18-year-old Hima Das from Assam won a gold medal at the IAAF Under-20 World Athletics Championship in Tampere, Finland clocking the 400m event in 51.46 seconds. Das made history as the first Indian woman to win gold at an athletic meet on a global level. This Indian girl is definitely going to run the world!

A chance encounter with a Bond girl in an elevator turned into a whale of a good time. Her name is Bond, Lisa Bond, and she works with Whale Watch in Kaikoura, New Zealand. Whale Watch was formed in 1987 at a time when Māori were casualties of Kaikōura’s declining economy. At the time, Ngāti Kuri leaders like the late Bill Solomon believed the local sperm whales held the answer to the unemployment problems of the Māori community. The Māori community’s ancestor Paikea had journeyed to a new life in New Zealand on the back of the whale Tohorā. It seemed appropriate for Paikea’s descendants to again ride on the back of the whale to a new life and prosperity. Due to the phenomenal success of Whale Watch, Kaikōura is now one of New Zealand’s leading eco-tourism destinations. Bond is in love with her job, her country and whales obviously.

Bond’s travelling in India with a Tourism New Zealand contingent, Kiwi Link India, that started with Mumbai and went on to Bangalore, Delhi, Nagpur, Kolkata and Ahmedabad  promoting their beautiful country. “It has been amazing to travel to India over the years and see the changes that have been taking place especially in regards to taking steps to caring for your environment especially with the recent move towards reducing the amount of plastic being used. New Zealand is a very sustainably-minded country so to see this is wonderful. Two highlights from this trip were taking part in an Indian cooking class – 24 of us did this and it was so much fun and so delicious. Then 10 of us took a day trip to the Taj Mahal on Saturday which was amazing! What an incredible piece of architecture,” says Bond.

It was wonderful talking to Bond about my love for whales as I reminisced about my time whale watching on the Nā Pali coast in Kauai, Hawaii. I can still hear the humpbacks singing from that trip – it’s a sound like no other. But the best memory of my life in Hawaii was watching a humpback blow under me whilst I was parasailing in the Kewalo Basin in Oahu (Honolulu) about 750 feet in the air. I don’t need a picture to remind me of the serene silence in the sky and the gush of water from the magnificent blue Pacific that thrust heavenwards towards me. I love humpbacks and I’m aiming for a “whalefie” the next time I’m in the Pacific waters.

Filmmaker Anubhav Sinha, he of Ra.One directorial fame, sent me the trailer of his latest film, Mulk, that sees a theatrical release on August 3. Rishi Kapoor has lent his stellar acting skills to the film alongside Taapsee Pannu.

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“I thoroughly enjoyed playing Murad Ali in Mulk. The film is about the atrocities Muslims are facing the world over and the repercussions. It’s a voice waiting to be heard all over. People have taken to the trailer in a big way – at least we have made a bang which was necessary. Rest, of course, is upto God. As a matter of fact, this is the right kind of film that can be called an ensemble film. All the actors in it contribute to the film; none are hanging about loosely,” says Kapoor of the film even as Sinha takes on naysayers on social media.

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

©Rubina A Khan 2018

RUBINA’S REVIEW: PADMAAVAT IS THE NEW PADMAVATI

Padmaavat, with Deepika Padukone playing the valorous Queen Padmavati of Chittor, finally releases on Friday with a gender swap in its title from the original Padmavati to Padmaavat. From a film on periods (Padman) being pushed to a February release by its lead actor, Akshay Kumar, to give the period drama that is Padmaavat more theatre play due to the fiscally debilitating off-screen histrionics around it, the ongoing PMS (Padmavati Movie Stress) hasn’t abated just as yet.

I saw the film on Tuesday evening at journalist and author, Shobhaa De’s screening in Mumbai. 120 minutes into the film, I simply couldn’t fathom why the director, Sanjay Leela Bhansali would even call his film Padmavati in the first place; he very well could have called it Khilji as it’s a glorified, and almost one-directional ode to Alauddin Khilji’s insatiable lust for immortality, battle and sex. And, his relentless desire to possess Queen Padmavati of course. The film highlights the Rajput and Kshatriya codes of honour and living in a manner most celebratory, Bhansali’s chandeliers, diyas and picturesque frames notwithstanding. In no way does it demean Indian culture and its customs, and no Indian will be affronted with the film. Though Bhansali does seem to unnecessarily lionise Khilji beyond his omnipresent pillaging fame.
imagesAs the antagonist Khilji, Ranveer Singh looks menacing and monstrous physically, but his wavering accent that switches from Arabian to contemporary Hindi to Afghan, along with an inept enunciation of the language of his Sultanate, makes it difficult to believe he’s a 14th century imperial Sultan. Singh’s performance is flamboyant, loud and open to interpretation sexually, but he is not convincing as an erstwhile ruler or wannabe Alexander the Great in the making in the least. And, as for the costumery, when Singh ascends the throne of his slain uncle, Jalaluddin Khilji (Raza Murad) he wears heeled boots with the royal regalia on his person! Sure, high-heeled boots for men were in use as early as the 10th century for equestrian sports, but it seems highly unlikely that Khilji would have had access to those during his time in India.

Shahid Kapoor as Maharawal Ratan Singh of Mewar is ineffectual in the film. But in his regal dhoti/lungi, he makes for an exquisite kohl-eyed, eight pack ab-fab model that Calvin Klein needs to add to its brand new Kardashian-Jenner spread immediately! As Queen Padmavati’s paramour and subsequent husband, he is rather rigid and impassive, which is very unlike Kapoor’s able celluloid skills. Padukone is flawlessly beautiful (more so in 3D) serene and poised in every single frame, looking as cinematically desirable as she possibly can, but Kapoor meets her stellar, restrained performance with a face bereft of any emotion, romantic or otherwise. There are no subtle layers or nuances to his performance as a royal in command and especially so in the intimate scenes with Padukone. And no one does the neck quite like Shah Rukh Khan, in Khan’s own words. The only time Kapoor shines in the film is during his duel in the desert with the lust-lorn Sultan. His quiet resolve and aggressive battle moves speak volumes here.

Padmaavat plays on Khilji’s self-serving megalomania and his obsession with Padmavati’s beauty. Padmavati is his unattainable dream in the film till Padukone takes on her role as queen in the last hour of the film’s screen time. In effect, the film is a take on Khilji and his obsession with her luminous beauty that is a mere catalyst to his narcissistic lust. The battle scenes are reminiscent of Troy (2004) as is the story line pertaining to the quest and conquest of a beautiful woman. The dialogues are rife with varying language styles – in some scenes, Kapoor says waqt in a Rajasthani accent when the word samay would have worked just as well for his character. The Ghoomar song is basic, nothing extra really. It is just another well-choreographed Bollywood number and incomparable to the greats Bhansali has orchestrated in the past in films like Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999) and Devdas (2002). But then, who knows what the uncut version of the song looked like! The film is based on the legend of Khilji and Padmavati, assuming everyone is aware of this historical obsession, and that does not suffice for 180 odd minutes on film. The screenplay does not offer any backstory to Khilji’s temperament or his dynasty’s reign, or take cinematic licence with Maharawal’s and Padmavati’s romantic interludes or add more authenticity to the time period the film is set in, besides heavily embroidered clothes and Bhansali-esque sets. Language, both verbal and body, is terribly askew in the film.

Padukone is the only actor who stays in character, in language and poise, and costume throughout Padmavati-turned-Padmaavat’s over three hour runtime. It is her aura and acting prowess that Padmaavat will be remembered for, not to mention also taking home the highest fee for any Indian actress to date for the film. And just for that, I am glad the film was named after her central character, with or without an “I”.

Did I like the film? Well, let’s just say I was forced into a massive historical throwback and it’s not even Thursday yet!

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

©Rubina A Khan 2018

RUBINA’S REVIEW: TIGER ZINDA HAI

It’s been half a decade since Salman “Tiger” Khan’s romantic action thriller Ek Tha Tiger hit theatres on Independence Day in 2012 to a resounding ka-ching at the box office, that Yash Raj Films is all too familiar with. The film ended with India’s most indispensable RAW agent Avinash Rathore aka Tiger vamoosing off to Havana, Cuba to live a life of quiet anonymity (hah!) with his Pakistani ISI agent love, Zoya (Katrina Kaif).

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The sequel’s title says it all – he’s alive and kicking up powder in Austria with his son, Junior, fighting off packs of wolves (without killing them) unarmed with bare hands, skiing down the slopes, without taking off his winter jacket even once in the sequence. It cannot get any more real than that in Bollywood. And when he’s not busy playing dad or a spy in voluntary retirement, he spray-paints his love for wife Zoya on snow-capped mountain slopes to Atif Aslam’s Dil Diya Gallan in big-eyed wonderment. Nothing much has changed for Khan and his indomitable cinematic appeal since Ek Tha Tiger, though the same cannot be said for Kaif, despite her enviable pilates lean body. This Tiger is burning brighter than ever and Khan wings the film with indefatigable ease, never mind a couple of awkward supporting cast members and an askew, inconsistent pace of the film which could have been sharper and faster.

What I loved about Tiger Zinda Hai:

  1. Sheer girl power in the film. Where in Bollywood films does a wife rescue her husband in a war-struck country and drive him around without him switching to the wheel mid-save? The said wife, Katrina, is a bad-ass Bhabhi from her current location in Austria who swivels guns better than rolling pins in Ikrit, Iraq.
  2. Salman Khan skiing on the Innsbruck slopes, fully clothed.
  3. What’s better than a shirtless Salman? A bloodied warrior Salman toting double guns saving 39 Indian and Pakistani nurses!
  4. I loved Iranian born and UAE resident, Sajjad Delafrooz’s consummate performance as the antagonist Abu Usman, but for a verbose sermon he had to give Tiger at the tail end of the film. Restrained and confident acting on his part.
  5. Horses in the action sequences remind you why fast cars and bikes use horse power units of measurement in the first place and with Salman riding one, it’s a cinema freeze frame for life.
  6. Not using divisive political tactics in the film’s narrative, but humanitarian ones.
  7. The White House representative with an uncanny Sarah Huckabee accent, sans any Trumpa Loompa.
  8. The film only has two songs picturized on the lead cast of Khan and Kaif – Dil Diya Gallan in the beginning and the second, Swag Se Swagat at the end.
  9. What Khan’s presence in the Liwa Desert does for Abu Dhabi tourism is incomparable to anything they could have envisaged for themselves. And Khan wasn’t just another mirage!
  10. I had fun watching Tiger Zinda Hai and wanted to clap in all of Katrina’s bad-ass Bhabhi scenes, and most of the cool sequences.

©Rubina A Khan 2017

First Day Of The Mumbai Monsoon At Haji Ali, In Pictures

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First day of the Mumbai Monsoon at Haji Ali | June 2015