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Cinema Scope

A fitting end to the legend

22nd Jul 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

Director: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine

Batman's my favourite superhero because he's self-made, sans superpower. And the near-dystopian The Dark Knight Rises, emphasises the human nature of Gotham's saviour. A primal movie that takes us back to Ra's al Ghul (Liam Neeson) and The League of Shadows, the last film of the Batman trilogy does have gaps in logic. But none of that matters for the powerful sweep of its storyline, for the expertise with which social commentary is slipped in, and for the empathy we feel for each of its many characters.

The story begins with a remembrance event for Harvey Dent, where Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) considers telling the people of Gotham the truth about Harvey Two-Face. We see the shadowy figure of Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) hobbling on a terrace, lonely and crippled in the eight years since Rachel's death. We're then thrown into high-voltage action, and introduced to the villain of this film – Bane, a muzzled hulk, played with panache by Tom Hardy, who projects a terrorising presence, despite only having the use of his eyes.

With locales ranging from Mehrangarh Fort to New York, and echoes of real events, it's easy to forget that these are the imagined scapes of a graphic novel series. And that may lead us to wonder at the relevance of an Occupy-like movement in a city destined for annihilation.

The film introduces a host of characters, including Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) and Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard). The first half rests mostly in dialogue, while the second half is strangely slow-paced, despite some dizzying action sequences. But this is a film of nuance, and missing its subtler moments could make one dismiss it as ordinary. If you pay attention, and have read enough DC comics to know Talia's story, you may be ahead of the film. Or not – I was taken in by the twists every time.

The story has more Bruce Wayne than Batman, and justifiably so – the point of Batman, the film says, is to be a symbol. The scenes between Alfred (Michael Caine) and Wayne are elevated from maudlin to poignant by formidable performances. It does have its fair share of clichéd comebacks and gimmickry, but the lovely timing compensates.

After despairing for over two hours, the viewer has to choose between being idealistic and pragmatic, just as Batman has done all his life. And you know when you see it that the film shouldn't have ended any other way.

The Verdict: The Dark Knight Rises is one for fans of Batman, not of action. If you have the patience it demands, you'll consider it a fitting finale.

Dafa Ho, Driver!

Challo Driver

Director: Vickrant Mahajan

Starring: Vickrant Mahajan, Kainaz Motiwala, Prem Chopra, Manoj Pahwa

The filmmakers likely chose to release Challo Driver on the same day as The Dark Knight Rises in the hope that some of the crowd that failed to get tickets to the Batman movie will lumber over to the crappy one playing in the next screen. Chances are that they will never come out. Yes, it's that awful.

If you want to make a low-budget film and don't care how it does, you might as well do all the work yourself. And that's the only point Vickrant Mahajan, writer, director, lyricist and lead actor, scores. That, and convincing Kainaz Motiwala, who'd managed to make something of an impression in Raagini MMS, to work with him, and prove to the world that she can't act either.

Challo Driver is the love story of an idiot who takes up her friend on a dare to apply for the job of driver, and another idiot, who takes up his driver on a dare that makes for the skimpy plot of this flabby film. This is the six-point philosophy the film seeks to foster:

  • Driving is "different" and "daring" and "unassuming"
  • The best way to cure a chauvinist is to fall in love with him
  • The best way to drive is to wear a cleavage-popping tight shirt and a grumpy expression
  • Women drivers get salaries of Rs 50,000 + perks, as long as they look like they want to star in item numbers
  • When in doubt, wear garish eye makeup
  • Music and air-conditioning are essential to a driver's dignity

I knew cleaning cobwebs at home would have been more intellectually stimulating than watching the film when the lead actress makes this point: "If men can be makeup artists, why can't women be drivers?" That's when the feminists in the hall died.

As if to rouse them, the film harps on the dubious fact that women are involved in 37% fewer accidents than men. And then, to kill the audience again, it uses this line: "Mujh mein bhi feelings hain. Special feelings." Let the forgettable songs begin.

The only tolerable thing about the movie is Manoj Pahwa, and he's entertaining mainly if his Punjabi-isms remind you of someone you know.

The Verdict: The movie served to convince me that Saudi Arabia has the right idea about women drivers. And as I walked out of the theatre, I wished I lived there – this film would likely be banned for its immoral premise.

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