Movie: Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983, Hindi, India)

Movie: Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983, Hindi, India)

Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, a 1983 film produced by NFDC and directed by Kundan Shah, is a dark satire on the the unshakable corrupt ways of Indian politicians, bureaucrats, and the media. It is set in Mumbai and has a pretty simple and outwardly hilarious (sometimes infantile) narrative. Released in 1983, it was not very successful at the box office at that time. Eventually, this movie won many awards, and has achieved a cult status. It generally figures in most Top-100 movies lists of Indian/ Hindi movies.
Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro - DVD Cover Image

Directed by Kundan Shah
Released in 1983
Genre Dark Satire, Comic Political Thriller
  • Naseeruddin Shah as photographer Vinod Chopra
  • Ravi Baswani as photographer Sudhir Mishra
  • Om Puri as builder Ahuja
  • Pankaj Kapoor as builder Tarneja
  • Satish Shah as city commissioner D’Mello
  • Bhakti Barve as newspaper editor Shobha Sen
Music by Vanraj Bhatia
Produced by National Film Development Corporation
Language Hindi
Length 2 hours 12 minutes

The Story

Vinod Chopra (Naseeruddin Shah) and Sudhir Mishra (Ravi Baswani) are young men starting off as professional photographers, who open a studio in a relatively upscale Bombay locality.

Struggling to get business, they fortunately get an assignment from the editor of an investigative journal Khabardar, Shobha Sen (Bhakti Barve). The assignment is to get evidence to expose a corrupt nexus between the city commissioner D’Mello (Satish Shah) and builder Tarneja (Pankaj Kapoor).

The fun starts when Vinod and Sudhir accidentally photograph a murder in action. The rest of the movie is an out-of-control, hilarious story, that sometimes feels like a skit, improvised by brilliant people in some kind of ‘zone’.
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Movie: District 9 (2009, English)

Review of the science-fiction, action movie: District 9 (2009, English)

District 9 DVD Cover

Directed by Neill Blomkamp
Released in 2009
Genre Science FIction
Cast Sharlto Copley as Wikus van de Merwe
Music by Clinton Shorter
Produced by Peter Jackson, Carolynne Cunningham
Language English
Length 1 hour 52 mins

District 9 is a 2009 gritty, grimy, science fiction thriller placed in South Africa. Directed by Neill Blomkamp, the movie uses relatively unknown actors – Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, and David James and adapts a pseudo-documentary style (at least at the start). District 9 was inspired by events during the apartheid era in District Six, Cape Town. The film won many awards and nominations. With a relatively low budget of 30 million US$, it was a box office hit with a collection of over 210 million US$.

“Technically brilliant and emotionally wrenching, District 9 has action, imagination, and all the elements of a thoroughly entertaining science-fiction classic.”

– Rotten Tomatoes

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Movie: Delhi Belly (2011, Hindi-English-Hinglish, India)

Delhi Belly, produced by Aamir Khan, is a rib-tickling, dark comedy with a thriller narrative. It is set in Delhi and uses of a lot of profane language (it was given an ‘A’ certificate). Released in 2011, it received great response from critics as well as movie goers. The movie was later remade in Tamil with the title Settai.
Delhi Belly (2011 movie) - DVD Cover Image

Directed by Abhinay Deo
Released in 2011
Genre Dark Comedy, Thriller, Action
  • Imran Khan as Tashi (Young man-1)
  • Kunaal Roy Kapur as Nitin (Young man-2)
  • Vir Das as Arup (Young man-3)
  • Shenaz Treasurywala as Sonia (Tashi’s first girlfriend)
  • Poorna Jagannathan as Menaka (Tashi’s later girlfriend)
  • Vijay Raaz as Somayajulu (Gangster)
Music by Ram Sampath
Produced by Aamir Khan, Kiran Rao, Ronnie Screwvala, Jim Furgele
Language Hindi, English, Hinglish
Length 1 hour 40 minutes

The Story

Three young men working in the media/ communication industry in Delhi share a dark, dirty, and dingy apartment in a crumbling building in a crowded area. Tashi (Imran Khan) is a journalist, Nitin (Kunaal Roy Kapur) is a photographer, and Arup (Vir Das) is a cartoonist.

The fun starts when Tashi’s birdbrained and pretty-looking girlfriend, air-hostess Sonia (Shenaz Treasurywalla) unknowingly carries smuggled diamonds hidden in a multi-layered doll. Sonia passes on the doll to Tashi for delivery, who delegates the delivery to Nitin. Nitin gets diarrhea (Delhi-belly) and he passes the doll to Arup along with his stool sample. Arup exchanges the two packets and the stool sample is delivered to the smuggler-gangsters, who are led by Somayajulu (Vijay Raaz).  

The rest of the movie is a hilarious, non-stop, roller-coaster ride. At first, the young men try to recover the diamonds and hand them over to the smugglers. Then they try to encash the diamonds for themselves; and finally they decide to take the matter into their own hands, have a showdown with the gangsters, and finish the whole thing once and for all.
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Movie: The Shawshank Redemption (1994, English, US)

Shawshank Redemption DVD Cover

Directed by Frank Darabont
Released in 1994
Genre Prison Drama
Cast Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne
Morgan Freeman as Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding
Bob Gunton as Warden Samuel Norton
Music by Thomas Newman
Produced by Niki Marvin
Language English
Based On Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption – A 100 page novella  by Stephen King
Length 2 hours 22 mins

The Plot, the Setting

The Shawshank Redemption is a 1994 American prison drama film starring Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, and Bob Gunton. It is about a financial wizard a serving a life sentence for a double murder. The protagonist Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), lives his days and years in prison, through good, bad, and nasty times, while he maintains the hope that one day he will be free.
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Movie: Pushpak (1987, Hindi++, India)

Review of the Indian, silent movie Pushpak (Pesum Padam, Pushpaka Vimana, Pushpaka Vimanam, Pushpaka Vimanamu)

Pushpak (1987 Movie) - DVD Cover ImagePushpak (Hindi), Pushpaka Vimana (Kannada), Pushpaka Vimanamu (Telgu), Pushpaka Vimanam (Malayalam), and Pesum Padam (Tamil), is a movie without dialogues. It was released in multiple Indian languages in 1987 (being a movie without dialogues, the language does not matter; except for the credits/ titles at the start of the movie; the movie is exactly the same in all languages 🙂 ).

Directed by Singeetam Srinivasa Rao
Released in 1987
Genre Dark Comedy, Silent Movie, Romantic Comedy
  • Kamal Haasan as an Unemployed Youth
  • Amala as a Young Lady
  • Tinu Anand as a Contract Killer
  • Farida Jalal as Young Lady’s Mother
  • Sameer Khakhar as The Rich, Drunk Man
  • K S Ramesh as Young Lady’s Father and Magician
Music by L Vaidyanathan
Produced by Singeetam Srinivasa Rao, Shringar Nagaraj
Written by Singeetam Srinivasa Rao
Language No dialogues
Length 2 hours 11 minutes

The Plot

An unemployed youth-UY (played by Kamal Haasan) lives alone in Bangalore. He lives in an old, run-down apartment building (chawl) with common toilets and bathrooms. He spends his day trying to look for jobs, but gives up easily, when he sees long queues, and long waiting times. He also wants to be rich and powerful, while not willing to put in the required effort. At the start of the movie, the UY is down to his last coin.
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Movie: What is Eating Gilbert Grape? (1993, English, US)

Review of the classic 1993 Hollywood movie – What Is Eating Gilbert Grape?

Gilbert Grape DVD Cover

Directed by Lasse Hallström
Released in 1993
Genre Family Drama, Romance
  • Johnny Depp as Gilbert Grape
  • Juliette Lewis as Becky (Gilbert Grape’s romantic interest)
  • Leonardo DiCaprio as Arnie Grape (Gilbert Grape’s brother)
  • Mary Steenburgen as Betty Carver (Gilbert Grape’s casual lover)
  • Darlene Cates as Bonnie Grape (Gilbert Grape’s mother)
Music by Alan Parker and Björn Isfält
Produced by David Matalon, Bertil Ohlsson, and Meir Teper
Language English
Length 1 hour 58 minutes

The Plot, the Setting

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? is a 1993 American family drama film starring Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, Juliette Lewis, and Darlene Cates. It is a gentle, heartwarming film about a dysfunctional family in a small town somewhere in the US mid-west. The protagonist is Gilbert Grape (Johnny Depp), a grocery clerk in his early twenties taking care of his family consisting of his 500+ pound obese mother (Darlene Cates), a mentally challenged younger brother (DiCaprio) and two teen-aged sisters.
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Movie: Johnny Gaddaar (2007, Hindi, India)

Review of the classic 2007 Indian thriller movie – Johnny Gaddaar by Sriram Raghavan. Starring Dramendra, Neil Nitin Mukesh and Vinay Pathak.

Johnny Gaddaar (2007 Movie) - DVD Cover ImageJohnny Gaddaar, based in Mumbai and placed in 2000s, is a tightly-crafted, crime-based, suspense-thriller that turned out to be a surprise hit in 2007. The movie was later remade in the South India in other languages.

Johnny Gaddaar has a James Hadley Chase feel to it. The title has some connection to Vijay Anand’s Johnny Mera Naam of the 70s.

Johnny Gaddaar is loosely adapted from Stanley Kubrick’s black classic The Killing.

Directed by Sriram Raghavan
Released in 2007
Genre Crime, Thriller
  • Dharmendra as Sheshadri ‘Seshu’
  • Neil Nitin Mukesh as Vikram
  • Zakir Hussain as Shardul
  • Vinay Pathak as Prakash ‘Pakya’
  • Dayanand Shetty as Shiva
  • Govind Namdeo as Inspector Kalyan
  • Ashwini Kalsekar as Varsha (Prakash’s wife)
  • Rimi Sen as Mini (Vikram’s Girlfriend and Shardul’s Wife)
Music by Shankar Ehsaan Loy
Produced by Adlabs Films Ltd.
Written by Sriram Raghavan
Language Hindi
Length 2 hours

The Plot

Seshadri/ Seshu (played by Dharmendra) is an ageing criminal in Mumbai, who gets an opportunity to do a big drug deal. He ropes in Prakash (played by Vinay Pathak), Shardul (played by Zakir Hussain), Shiva (played by Dayanand Shetty), and Vikram (played by Neil Nitin Mukesh).

The deal is to deliver 2.5 crore rupees to a cop – Inspector Kalyan, pick a drug consignment from him, transport it from Bangalore to Mumbai and sell it for double the money in Mumbai.
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Movie: Kalyug (1981, Hindi, India)

Review of the classic 1981 Indian movie – Kalyug by Shyam Benegal. Starring Shashi Kapoor, Rekha, Ananth Nag and Victor Banerjee.

Kalyug, based in the late-1970s/ early-1980s, is a taut and powerful story of fierce rivalry between two business families (related to each other) in the days of the license-raj in India. The story has very direct parallels with the mythological epic Mahabharta.

Directed by Shyam Benegal, Kalyug has an array of stars – from the mainstream/ popular movies as well the arthouse/ parallel cinema. Kalyug, released in 1981, received critical acclaim and was a box-office success as well.

Kalyug (1981 Movie) - DVD Cover Image

Directed by Shyam Benegal
Released in 1981
Genre Drama, Thriller
  • Shashi Kapoor as Karan Singh
  • Rekha as Supriya
  • Anant Nag as Bharat Raj
  • Victor Banerjee as Dhan Raj
  • Raj Babbar as Dharam Raj
  • Kulbhushan Kharbanda as Bal Raj
  • Sushma Seth as Savitri
  • Om Puri as Bhavani Pandey
  • A K Hangal as Bhisham Chand
  • Supriya Pathak as Subhadra
  • Akash Khurana as Sandeep Raj

and many more known names like Amrish Puri and Vinod Doshi.

Music by Vanraj Bhatia
Produced by Shashi Kapoor
Written by Shyam Benegal, Girish Karnad, and Satyadev Dubey
Language Hindi
Length 2 hours 32 minutes

The Plot

Two business families (related to each other) run heavy engineering/ fabrication firms and often compete with each other. Orders from government bodies are coveted by both the business families.

The first family (Puranchand family) – let us call it the P-family, has three brothers in their 30s and 40s. The third brother, Bharat Raj (played by Anant Nag) is ambitious, sharp, and competitive and activily runs the business. The eldest brother, Dharam Raj (played by Raj Babbar) is more interested in his race horses. The second brother Bal Raj (played by Kulbhushan Kharbanda) is a cheerful person, still besotted by his wife.
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Movie: Fargo (1996, English, US)

Review of the classic 1996 Hollywood movie – Fargo

Fargo, a 1996 crime thriller with black humor, is based in Fargo (Minesotta, USA) and a nearby town – Brainerd. The events in the movie take place around 1987.

Here is a quote from the movie:

“So that was Mrs. Lundegaard on the floor in there. And I guess that was your accomplice in the wood chipper. And those three people in Brainerd. And for what? For a little bit of money. There’s more to life than a little money, you know. Don’t you know that? And here ya are, and it’s a beautiful day. Well, I just don’t understand it”.

– Police Chief Marge Gunderson, talking to a kidnapper, after apprehending him

Fargo Movie DVD Cover Image

Directed by Joel Coen
Released in 1996
Genre Crime, Black Humor
  • Frances McDormand as Marge Gunderson (the Police Chief)
  • William H. Macy as Jerry Lundegaard (the Car Dealership Manager)
  • Steve Buscemi as Carl Showalter (a kidnapper)
  • Peter Stormare as Gaear Grimsrud (another kidnapper)
  • Harve Presnell as Wade Gustafson (Jerry’s father-in-law)
  • Kristin Rudrüd as Jean Lundegaard (Jerry’s wife)
  • Tony Denman as Scotty Lundegaard (Jerry’s son)
Music by Carter Burwell
Produced by Ethan Coen
Language English
Length 1 hour 38 minutes

The Plot

Fargo, a crime thriller with black humor, is based in Fargo (Minesotta, USA) and a nearby town – Brainerd. The events are placed  somewhere around 1987.

Jerry Lundegaard (played by William Macy), is the manager of a car dealership belonging to his rich businessman father-in-law, Wade Gustafson. Jerry has low capability and high ambitions.

He is also in money trouble, and is desperate to get a large amount. Jerry plans out an harebrained,  criminal scheme to get some money out of his father-in-law. He hires two goons to kidnap his wife, so that he can extract the ransom money from his father-in-law. He promises to share the ransom with the thugs.
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TV Serial: Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister (1980s)

Yes, Minister (and Yes, Prime Minister) – Extremely watchable, hilarious BBC TV serial from the 1980s – Review

I had enjoyed this BBC tele-serial in the late 80s. So, when Swapna (my wife) noticed the DVDs of the complete collection in a bookshop, I said “let’s buy them.” Though I was looking forward to seeing them again, I had a lingering suspicion that with the passage of time and a different context, I may not enjoy them as much (like many other books, movies, TV programs, and places that were great some years ago, but disappointing now). But my suspicion was unfounded, and I enjoyed watching all the episodes once again – maybe more than I enjoyed them when I saw them over 25 years ago.

So here are the details, for people who may want to indulge in nostalgia, and also for those who never saw the original series.

I believe that the series have been revived in 2013 with a new cast, but I have not seen any episodes, so I will not comment on the 2013 version.

BBC TV Series
Genre Political satire, British comedy TV
Created by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn
Original Run Feb 1980 to Jan 1988
[The series was revived in 2013, with a different cast]
Cast Paul Eddington as Jim Hacker, first as a Minister and then as the Prime Minister of Britain
Nigel Hawthorne as Sir Humphrey Appleby the main civil servant through whom Jim Hacker has govern
Derek Fowlds as Bernard Woolley, Hacker’s Private Secretary
Deborah Norton as Dorothy Wainwright, Hacker’s political advisor in his stint as the PM
Music Ronnie Hazlehurst
Produced by Stuart Allen, Sydney Lotterby, and Peter Whitmore
Language English
Episodes Yes, Minister (22 episodes; 1980-7; 1981-7; 1982-8)
Yes, Prime Minister (16 episodes; 1986-8; 1987-8)The episodes are 30 min each.

Yes, Minister ImageAt the start of the series, James (Jim) Hacker’s party wins the general election in Britain and Hacker is appointed as the Minister of Administrative Affairs (I believe that such a minitry did not really exist in the 1980s).  Minister Hacker’s department is run by Sir Humphrey Appleby, the Permanent Secretary, a senior civil servant. Hacker’s Principal Private Secretary is Bernard Woolley, another civil servant, but not as senior as Sir Humphrey. After a few years, due to some fortunate circumstances, Jim Hacker becomes the prime minister, and Sir Humphrey and Bernard get elevated along with the minister. Sir Humphrey assures his colleagues in the civil service that they have a ‘house-trained’ Prime Minister.

Extremely watchable and Hilarious

Each hilarious episode of 30 minutes focusses on the working of the British government – the central theme being the relationship between the politicians and the bureaucrats. Hacker usually comes up with (or supports) idealistic proposals that will bring in change but may diminish the power of civil servants. In the early episodes, Sir Humphrey usually manages to put Hacker in a spot, so that he is forced to withdraw his proposal in exchange of being saved by Sir Humphrey or one of his senior colleagues in the civil service. There are other episodes where Hacker and Humphrey have to reluctantly support one another.
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