Well Done Abba

 

 Well Done Benegal…

Pic: Reliance Big Pictures; Source: Wikipedia

 

Shyam Benegal was never known for comedies but for meaningful cinema that was labeled art-house and alienated mainstream audience. Films such as Ankur, Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda, Mandi, Mammo, Sardari Begum and others may have been extremely good but not money spinners at the box office. Even Zubeidaa featuring Karisma Kapoor, which was almost a mainstream Bollywood flick, pleased only the niche Benegal audience and not the masses.  However, with the evolution of the multiplex audience, Benegal has started dabbling with a genre that he hasn’t attempted before – comedy. Well, actually it is satire and he touches upon a lot of relevant issues through his latest films like Welcome to Sajjanpur and Well Done Abba. This new Benegal brand of cinema is extremely refreshing when all we get today are sexist and vulgar jokes in the name of comedies.

Well Done Abba is set in a village called Chikatpalli, somewhere near Hyderabad and focuses on a number of issues such as corruption, water shortage, illiteracy, emancipation of women, amongst others. Boman Irani plays Armaan Ali who is concerned about his daughter, Muskaan Ali’s (Minisha Lamba) marriage and wants to get a baori (well) dug in his fields under a new scheme by the government. The film traces Armaan’s journey as he struggles with the corrupt government machinery and later his battle against the same, which is master-minded by his fiery daughter.

Boman Irani is simply outstanding in the film and proves that the character and the actor playing it are more important than the star. Minisha Lamba is the film’s surprise package and is extremely confident even with the Hyderabadi accent. Other supporting actors like Samir Dattani, Ila Arun and Ravi Kissen are good but fine actors like Rajit Kapoor and Sonali Kulkarni are not given substantial roles.

The film’s strength is its simplicity and situational comedy while its length is its weakness (nearly two and a half hours). The first half of the film moves slowly establishing each of the numerous characters and the film picks up post interval. The editing could have been much better to make the film crisp and more impactful. Music by Shantanu Moitra is nothing great and the songs were not required at all; why couldn’t they just stick to only background score?

Overall, Well Done Abba is a delightfully refreshing film but requires a little patience due to its length.

My Rating: * * * ½ Three and a half stars on five

Shrey Khetarpal

 

It’s Complicated

 

It’s enjoyable…

Pic: It's Complicated; Source: Wikipedia

It is always a joy to watch Meryl Streep on screen; she defines what we call ‘screen presence’. An otherwise average film, It’s Complicated depends heavily on this talented actor to make it good. Written and directed by Nancy Meyers, it is a romantic comedy that tackles subjects like marriage and divorce in a light hearted yet sensitive manner.

Jane (Meryl Streep) is a divorcée who runs a successful bakery and has finally come to terms with her divorce with Jake (Alec Baldwin), a lawyer. She stays alone happily with her grown-up children away, and bitches about her ex-husband’s much younger wife, Agnes (Lake Bell) with her bunch of girl-friends. Everything is fine till she goes to New York to attend her son’s graduation. She ends up getting into an affair with Jake and secretly enjoys being the other-woman.  To add to the complication, there is another divorcée, Adam (Steve Martin), Jane’s architect who also likes her.

The film has some genuinely funny sequences including one where Jane goes to a plastic surgeon and smokes a joint before attending a party thrown by her children. Though funny, Alec Baldwin’s stripping scenes are not a pleasant sight. Performance wise, Meryl does not disappoint; she is charming, believable and genuinely funny. Steve Martin in a somber character is very good; you empathise with him and want him to get the girl. Somehow, I am unable to digest Alec Baldwin opposite Meryl Streep; while he suits the character well, he is just not charismatic enough to match up to her.

It’s Complicated is smartly written and beautifully shot (Cinematography: John Toll). Special mention for the production designer and the stylists who make the film look great. Overall, it is quite enjoyable and if you like Meryl Streep, you won’t be disappointed…

My Rating: * * * ½ Three and a half stars on five

Shrey Khetarpal

 

Karthik Calling Karthik

 

A good attempt, but…

Pic: Excel Ent; Source: Wikipedia

What if you got a phone call from yourself? Writer-Director, Vijay Lalwani presents an innovative concept with his debut film, Karthik Calling Karthik. Congratulations to his producers, Excel Entertainment (Ritesh Sidhwani and Farhan Akhtar) for always trying something new, whether it works or doesn’t. Karthik Calling Karthik is an interesting thriller that could have been much better with tighter editing and maybe a better climax.

Karthik Narayan (Farhan Akhtar) plays an introvert whose existence goes unnoticed at work unless someone has to shout at him. He likes a girl in his office, Shonali Mukherjee (Deepika Padukone) but is obviously too shy to even respond to her when she accidently acknowledges his presence. In other words, he is a complete loser. His life changes when he gets a call from Karthik Narayan; yes, that’s him only. I have to admit that the basic premise is extremely interesting and throughout the film there are situations that surprise you. I will not reveal the story any further as that would take away from the experience.

Farhan is good as a middle class working professional who aspires to succeed at work and also go out with the most attractive girl around. Deepika looks great with a new hair-do (something that all actors get in a film produced by Farhan… good job Adhuna!); she may not be a great actor but has good screen presence. What is good is her choice of characters of strong, modern Indian women. Shefali Shah has a short role that does not do justice to an actor of her caliber (Gandhi-My Father, Monsoon Wedding).

The music is just about fine (Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy) with ‘Uff teri adaa…’ becoming a chartbuster; it is a nice song and is shot well. Other songs were not really required as they stretched the narrative. In the technical department, editing could’ve been better as the film starts sagging especially in the second half. That’s where I blame the screenplay too; there is a very interesting build up but not so exciting resolution. That’s a problem which a lot of filmmakers face, where they do not know how to conclude a good plot line; Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes is another example where the film completely crashes towards the end.

Overall, you can give Karthik a call but don’t expect to be wowed.

My Rating: * * * Three stars on five

Shrey Khetarpal

 

Teen Patti

 

You’ve got a Joker…

Pic: Hinduja Ventures; Source: Wikipedia

You take first rate actors like Amitabh Bachchan and Ben Kingsley and waste them in a super boring copy of a super interesting English film (though the makers refute the claim but a lot of us have seen Kevin Spacey’s21’); that is what Teen Patti is, a boring film. It is director, Leena Yadav’s second film after Shabd, which didn’t work but was far superior to this dud.  

Teen Patti is about a Mathematics professor, Venkat Subramaniam (Amitabh Bachchan) who comes up with a card counting technique using the theory of probability. He wants to submit the same as his dissertation. He is convinced by his colleague, Shantanu Biswas (R. Madhavan) and a few students (Dhruv Ganesh, Shraddha Kapoor, Siddharth Kher and Vaibhav Talwar) to test the same through practical application. Since we do not have Vegas like casinos in India, the gambling scenes are either presented in dingy illegal gambling dens or at private parties. There are many gambling sequences in the film but none of them gripping enough to hold your interest (remember the card game in Casino Royale). Anyways, there are other twists in the film that becomes a whodunit in the second half. There are many forgettable and unimpressive cameos and actors like Jackie Shroff, Ajay Devgn, Mahesh Manjrekar, Shakti Kapoor, Raima Sen and Tinnu Anand are completely wasted.

Amitabh Bachchan does what he is asked to do in the film and so does Madhavan. Both of them are unable to save the film because of the lousy screenplay and poor acting by the new comers. Leena Yadav clearly made this film for the multiplex audience as an important part of the film is in English (AB’s interaction with Ben Kingsley), that too without Hindi subtitles limiting any chances in the smaller centres. She should have realized that the audience she is trying to reach out to have already seen 21, Casino Royale and the Ocean’s series. And why is Ben Kingsley there? Just because you got him to say yes! If you do not have a proper role for an actor of that caliber, please do not approach him.

Overall, Teen Patti is one of the lamest films I have seen lately and would not recommend it to anyone.

My Rating: * ½ One and a half star on five

Shrey Khetarpal