Movies We’ve Watched Lately – Dharm, I’ve Loved You So Long, Ronin

* Dharm – A few short hours ago, we watched this 2007 Hindi film.

And now we’re faced with this incredible dilemma – who do you credit for producing such a brilliant work of art.

Do you hail director Bhavna Talwar for delivering an Oscar-worthy classic in her first feature film.

Do you pay obeisance at the feet of Pankaj Kapur (as do most people in the film) for his extraordinary portrayal of a devout Hindu Brahmin priest Pandit Chaturvedi torn between his duties and his unwitting actions.

Do you think (a la Panditji) it’s all preordained, that the stars were in perfect alignment just to provide us immense pleasure on an otherwise dreary Thursday.

Well, who gives a f**k as to who deserves the most credit.

We’re not the kind to look a gift horse in the mouth and we’ll take our scanty blessings where we find ’em.

Set in the holy city of Benares a.k.a. Varanasi, Dharm centers round an austere Hindu Brahmin priest Panditji.

When a young Brahmin woman abandons her baby boy in the hands of Panditji’s young daughter Vedika (Ananya Tripathi), the family’s life changes in ways that no one can anticipate. The fault lines are laid deep for a great eruption four years later amidst a cataclysm of violence.

Folks, returning to our original question of who deserves the credit, the answer is simple – every single person who has touched this film: Director Bhavna Talwar, Vibha Singh (story and screenplay), Pankaj Kapur, his real-life wife Supriya Pathak who is his reel-life wife here, rival priest Dayashankar Pandey who does poojas for NRIs (in America, no less), the little boy Krish Parekh who plays Karthikeya, or Ananya Tripathi (cast as the young boy’s sister Vedika) et al.

But (as Orwell would perhaps say if he were reviewing this film) while all actors excel in Dharm, some excel more than the others. If you thought Pankaj Kapur was great in Blue Umbrella, he soars far higher in Dharm.

Whether it’s the early scenes in Panditji’s encounter with the untouchable sweeper on the steps near the river, the first time he plays with Karthikeya when his wife Parvati and daughter Vedika are out, when he embarks on the hard Chandrayan Vrat, while ringing the temple bell after getting distracted while bathing or best of all as he performs pooja when the little boy Karthikeya is outside screaming to be let in, Pankaj Kapur’s is a majestic performance. Worthy of the highest accolades.

Watching Panditji (Pankaj Kapur) make that rigorous journey from the traditional Dharm with religion as its centerpiece to his ultimate discovery, amidst much bloodshed, that Manavta hi Dharm (Humanity is religion) is to rejoice in the presence of one of the finest film artistes in India today.

There are quite a few fine lines from Dharm. Here’s one (from Panditji to Dayashankar Pandey-Ji):

Janm se Brahman
Kaam se Vaishya
Wo bhi Dharm ke vyaapaar
Badiya, Pandeyji

It’s one of the many travesties of Incredible India that a mediocre junk like Eklavya was picked as India’s official entry to the Oscars in the Best Foreign Film category for the year 2007 ignoring Dharm.

If that’s not a reflection of the rampant adharm in India, what else is.

* I’ve Loved You So Long – Charming French family drama featuring two fine actresses Kristin Scott Thomas and Elsa Zylberstein, who play long-separated sisters here.

One of the sisters is just out of jail after serving a lengthy sentence setting the stage for tension, bitterness and, of course, love.

The movie slowly takes us through a journey that Juliette (Kristin Scott Thomas) makes into the lives of her sister Lea (Elsa Zylberstein), husband, children and social circle.

Why did Juliette commit that monstrous crime and will she repeat it?

Folks, director Philippe Claudel has delivered a gem of a movie here in I’ve Loved You So Long.

* Ronin – An OK action movie featuring Robert De Niro, Jean Reno et al as ex-military men hired by Natascha McElhone to steal a briefcase.

Perhaps, the fact that we had seen this action movie a few years back lessened our joy.

You like good lines in movies, there’s quite a few in Ronin. You can read ’em here but they are more fun with the movie.

There’s a bunch of nice car chases too for all ye hot-blooded ones.

13 Responses to "Movies We’ve Watched Lately – Dharm, I’ve Loved You So Long, Ronin"

  1. joeantony   September 11, 2009 at 4:32 am

    Ronin is a perfect example of how even an average story and screenplay could make an interesting to watch movie by the cool performance of people like De Niro and Reno.
    I measure movies in to two categories watch and ditch.

    When I tune my set top box for a movie and start watching it for 10 minutes, within that period I put it in to either watch or ditch… if it is ditch I would change the channel or switch the box and go to bed… if it is watch I continue to watch till the end. Ronin fall in to watch of course. Responds:

    Robert De Niro does a fine job in Ronin, as he usually does.

  2. shadowfax_arbit   September 11, 2009 at 4:33 am

    Watch ‘Life in a metro’ pretty good. Responds:

    Will do. We may have the DVD (one of those Buy $40 grocery, get free DVD).

  3. Dr. Lawrence Kutner   September 11, 2009 at 9:01 am

    If you liked Kristin Scott Thomas (or if you are curious about suprasternal notch), you may want to check out the younger version in .. it was brilliant to watch it in theater.. not sure if you’ll like it on your minuscule TV.

    yeah, one of the Ronin chases are ranked very highly among chase aficionados.

    were these on instant play? Responds:

    1. Will watch The English Patient soon, just for Kristin Scott Thomas.

    2. I’ve Loved You So Long & Ronin are on Netflix Instant Play…Dharm is available only on DVD.


    BTW, MSNBC is playing the video of 9/11. Not an excerpt but the full video with Katie Couric as anchor.

    After he was made aware of the incident, George W.Bush went on to read My Pet Goat at a Florida Primary School.

    Were you already here then?

  4. Dr. Lawrence Kutner   September 11, 2009 at 9:02 am

    nevermind my question about instant play.. saw that Dharm was not on instant and the other two were.

  5. Dr. Lawrence Kutner   September 11, 2009 at 10:09 am

    Were you already here then?..

    I was in the west coast then.. one friend (obviously office phone) from India woke me up at 6:30 asking me if I was ok 🙂

    Discovery channel is showing “Attack on the Pentagon”.. I am watching Bhagyaraj’s “Mouna Geethangal” on KTV (some free trial going on). Responds:

    If we remember right, Mouna Geethangal (or maybe we are confusing it with Mouna Ragam) did make waves at the time of its release.

    Still watching MSNBC ‘Live’ coverage of 9/11. The first tower has ‘just’ collapsed in a humongous cloud of dust.

  6. Dr. Lawrence Kutner   September 11, 2009 at 10:13 am

    When I tune my set top box for a movie and start watching it for 10 minutes, within that period I put it in to either watch or ditch…..

    Bad idea with non-Indian movies.. Responds:

    True, 10 minutes is too short for most films, whether Indian or non-Indian.

    Unless, of course, if you see Abhishek Bachchan, Ajith, Priyanka Chopra, Trisha, Nayanthara and Kareena Kapoor on the screen. In which case, 10 seconds is too long to flip the channel or hurl the remote at the TV in frustration.
    It’s 10.28AM ET and the second tower has just collapsed. Watching a rerun of 9/11 coverage on MSNBC.

  7. Aswin_Kini   September 13, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    Sire, kindly watch Shutter and then the recently released Tamil movie EERAM.
    I would specifically want to watch EERAM and give us a review. This is my humble request! Responds:

    1. You write: I would specifically want to watch EERAM and give us a review. This is my humble request!

    Much as we love our readers, this is one request that will be hard to accommodate because Eeram did not have a wide release here. It released only in Chicago and Bay Area (unless we are grossly mistaken).

    Since both Chicago and Bay Area are in excess of 1,100 kms from here, you’ll understand our hesitation in making that trip. 😉

    2. Should Shutter be available at Netflix, we’ll definitely watch it. The 2008 film did not do well both at the box office and at the hands of critics (Source: Wiki).

  8. guruprasad.s   September 14, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    Yes, sending Ekalavya to Oscars was a dumb move, and while Dharm might not have got the honours, it was a far superior way of acquainting ourselves at Oscars.

    BTW, Pankaj Kapoor was also a contender for Best Actor award for the recently announced National Film Awards, where he was pipped by Prakash Raj.

    Pankaj Kapoor has carried many serials/movies on his shoulders. Long back (1985-87), he was the carrot-chewing detective Karam Chand in the TV serial of the same name. It was enjoyable stuff.

    Other serials like Fatichar, Zaban Sambhal Ke, Neem Ka Per, Kab Tak Pukaroo, all had Kapoor in good form.

    More recently, he brought credibility to Dus (2005) and Hulla Bol (2008).

    BTW, your friend Siva Natarajan, who owns some eateries in the USA, had a small part in Hulla Bol, where he was totally unconvincing. You could make out that he was there because he had paid some money to the producer. Otherwise, Pankaj Kapoor instilled belief in a story that the director himself did not appear to believe in.

    Watch Sehar (Arshad Warsi, Pankaj Kapoor), a cop story shot in the hinterlands (I dont know what that means 😉 of UP. It is a very watchable movie, although nothing new.

    Shiva Natarajan Responds:

    Occasional Bollywood actor and NYC restaurateur (owner of Dhaba, Chola, Tadka, Jaipore, Malabar Hill et al) Shiva Natarajan is incensed over Guruprasad’s whiplash comments that his (i.e. Shiva’s) acting is so ‘totally unconvincing’ in Hulla Bol that he must have forked out money to land the role.

    In a lengthy conversation today, Shiva had plenty to say about Guruprasad’s unflattering remarks about his lack of acting talent, his theatre background, his passion for acting, about himself, his father’s stage days, bad Karma et al.

    Here are excerpts from our telecon with Shiva:

    * If I had to buy somebody, I’d pay a few $$ more so I’d be in the lead or the main villain. Everything is sad. Nothing is truth. Why are people after me?

    * Ignore this guy [guruprasad]. Ignore him.

    * Acting is a passion for me. I’m doing three films.

    * One should not talk about others without knowing. These are all very cheap talk. I’m the last person on earth to give somebody money to get a role….Even if I had a million dollars I wouldn’t do that.

    * Are they actors [referring to Guruprasad]? Have they achieved success in life. A successful person would never talk like that. There has to be a second reason for that. No normal, sensible person will talk like that.

    * If I consider myself a bad actor, I wouldn’t be in movies.

    * In this world, people don’t get opportunities. Maybe he knows me.

    * My father has directed 200 plays. Since childhood, I’ve been an actor.

    * If you ask me about the Hulla Bol producer, I don’t even know his name. I saw him only once on the sets.

    * Maybe, he [Guruprasad] is getting his two-minute of fame through me. He’ll enjoy his two minutes of fame.

    * The director [Raj Kumar Santoshi] had no complaints with my acting. He increased my scenes. The people on the sets never said throw him [i.e Shiva] out or cut his scenes.

    * 90% of the role is defined by the director. You cannot do any other way.

    * A connoisseur of films will never say that [earlier we told Shiva that Guruprasad is a connoisseur of film, both Bollywood and Hollywood].

    * Hulla Bol is a good film. If you enjoy it, I’ll be happy.

    * I’m not a bad person. I’ve never hurt a person knowingly.

    * I am not a loud actor. I’m a quiet actor.

    * There are a lot of people in the world who don’t like others’ success.

    * Movie acting needs time. You have to leave the restaurants. If I start acting from morning to night, I’ll be a different actor. Naturally.

    * I don’t like to talk bad about people. it’s bad Karma.

  9. guruprasad.s   September 14, 2009 at 11:50 pm


    Mr Shiva is right that I spoke about him without knowing him. After reading his comments, I tender my sincere apologies to Mr Shiva. My remark was an off-the-cuff, ill-thought (or not-thought-at-all) one. I am also going to be equally hurt if someone made such remarks about me, without knowing me or my work. I have nothing personal against Mr.Shiva, and I did not think of all the possibilities listed by him when I made the remark.

    I admit that my comment (of Mr Shiva having paid the producer) is in poor taste, and I should not have made it in the first place. I request SI to convey my apologies to Mr.Shiva. I want him to believe that it was a mistake, and that I hope not to commit such mistakes again. Responds:

    1. You write: I have nothing personal against Mr.Shiva,

    We’ve already mentioned this point to him, and also that the chances of you knowing him and having a vested interest against him were remote.

    2. You write: I request SI to convey my apologies to Mr.Shiva. I want him to believe that it was a mistake, and that I hope not to commit such mistakes again

    Shiva has said on more than occasion that he reads the SI blog regularly. So, he’ll most likely read your note.

    But just to be sure, we’ll also e-mail him a link to this comment.
    Shiva Natarajan is a devotee of Swami Shivananda (perhaps Shiva’s father named his boy after the renowned spiritual guru) and comes across as a well-mannered person on the phone. We haven’t met him in person but have had a few lengthy conversations with him over the last 18 months or so.

    But when Shiva starts whining (about our reviews, what else) he’s like a runaway train. Hard to stop him. We guess whining is alright compared to the more serious threats of ‘finishing us off’ that other readers have made.

    Overall, Shiva seems like a nice bloke. Diners at his restaurants include the likes of Mel Gibson (very recently at one of his CT restaurants), the late Ismail Merchant et al.

  10. SRINIVAS   September 15, 2009 at 1:38 am

    i have not watched Eeram or Shutter …but stories of both seem to be different from what I read in the net …..maybe some scenes are the same ?

    Eeram has recieved good reviews ….waiting to see …if it releases in Mumbai in a week or two or i will catch it on the net …

    Here are the links Responds:

    Thanks for the ChenaiOnline review. Hadn’t seen this before. For those too lazy to read the full review of Eeram, here’s the summary:

    Eeram, a crime thriller that steals down into a horror flick, lives up to the expectations….The lengthy second half mars the effect to some extent….good show by the star cast, cameraman, and the director makes the movie watchable….Eeram has come as a big relief amidst a lot of routine stuff in Tamil film scenario.

    Unfortunately, we haven’t seen the movie because it hasn’t released anywhere nearby.

  11. Dr. Lawrence Kutner   September 15, 2009 at 11:19 am

    I have nothing against Shiva, but this image seems doctored.. like someone cut and pasted Ash inside..
    Seems like a lucky dude.. living a dream posing with all Bollywood stalwarts

    Agree with Srinivas.. I don’t think Eeram is a remake of Shutter.. Shutter was mediocre.. I read somewhere that “Sivi” is the remake of the Thai original.. Responds:

    1. You write: I have nothing against Shiva, but this image seems doctored.. like someone cut and pasted Ash inside..


    But we think it’s original. Shiva doesn’t seem like the kind who’d go off on a photoshopping expedition. Plus the lady to the right of Ash looks like her mother.

    2. Shiva is going to remove all the pictures soon. So if you want to see him with the Bollywood celebrities, now is the time before he yanks them all away from prying eyes. He’s already removed the link on the Dhaba web site after we mentioned it in the Dhaba review.

    3. Since we haven’t seen Shiva, can’t help wondering which one of them is Shiva in this picture. 😉

  12. ridwan326   September 19, 2009 at 11:00 am

    ///Do you hail director Bhavna Talwar for delivering an Oscar-worthy classic in her first feature film.///

    Oscar-worthy classic? 😮

    Does your critic team really thinks, Its worth an Oscar? Nah!!! Responds:

    Pankaj Kapoor in Dharm was superb.

    It was an extraordinarily well crafted movie.

  13. ridwan326   September 19, 2009 at 11:03 am

    ///Folks, director Philippe Claudel has delivered a gem of a movie here in I’ve Loved You So Long.///

    Yeah, Your team is so right. It’s an awesome movie. I came to know about the movie when I just happened to stumble upon the flick in Rotten Tomatoes website. Responds:

    Glad you liked I’ve Loved You So Long.

    Most Indians in India seldom get access to foreign movies (particularly non-English languages like French, German, Italian, Spanish et al).

    Our Indians in India see Ajith, Abhishek Bachchan, Amitabh Bachchan, Vijay or Kamal Haasan prancing around like monkeys and they think they’ve seen the acme of acting.

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