Nautanki Saala

The joke is on us…

Nautanki Saala
Pic Source: Wikipedia

Really! Vicky Donor is a big hit? The lead actor, Ayushmann Khurrana has become an overnight star!
Women like him and men relate to him. Let’s make a film with him. Story? Ok, let’s sign him first and then we’ll find a story. Ok.

You remember the makers of Bheja Fry adapted a French comedy?
Let’s do that and make a fun, small budget film with Khurrana… it will be our little-big film of 2013.

Heard of this funny French film, Après Vous? It means After You. It’s about a guy who saves another guy from committing suicide. The one who wanted to die is a total train-wreck and our hero decides to help him by giving him work and winning his girl back. Ok, what else? A love triangle! Ok, that sounds good; we can throw in some songs. Perfect.

So Ayushmann plays the nice guy; who plays the loser? Kunaal Roy Kapoor, remember his ridiculously funny performance in Delhi Belly? Perfect. And the girls? Anyone will do really as our film is about these two guys. Ok. In the French film, the lead character was a restaurant manager… that’s not very exciting in India, what do we do? We’ll make him a theatre actor and director. That way, we can play with the costumes and create a more whimsical mood. Sounds like a plan. Let’s start shooting. Done.

Lights, camera, action.

“Nautanki Saala” – a new comedy starring Ayushmann Khurrana and Kunaal Roy Kapoor

Selling proposition – a bromance… a comedy of errors… a film for all… a multiplex hit!

Premiere.

Film review:

How much can Ayushmann do to save a drab of a film?

Didn’t they see Après Vous’ Rotten Tomatoes rating before remaking it? Rotten at 57%

Dear Mr. Rohan Sippy, did you think you can make a good film inspired by a mediocre one?

Actually, why blame you when the Indian viewers help mediocre films become big hits.

Look at Dabangg 2… it was essentially a collage of left-over scenes from Dabangg.

Coming back to Nautanki Saala; the film has its moments, has a few jokes to laugh at. First forty-five minutes are good but then the next ninety are painful. Why didn’t they make an hour-long tele-film instead?

Ayushmann Khurrana plays Ram Parmar or RP, the Good Samaritan. He acts well and is likable but tries too hard to save the film. And those Angry Bird slippers!

Kunaal Roy Kapoor plays Mandar Lele, the loser. He is a talented actor and will do better with good scripts.

Other good stuff – Using “So Gaya Yeh Jahan, So Gaya Aasman” from the film, Tezaab in a remix version. Sulbha Arya as Ajji, Mandar’s brutally honest grandmother.

Girl 1 – Chitra played by Gaelyn Mendonca. She can act but is quite irritating in the film.

Girl 2 – Sita played by Evelyn Sharma. The brief to her was to look hot and she did.

Girl 3 – Nandini played by Pooja Salvi. Her scenes can be used in film school to show what not to do.
Check out the scenes where she tries to cry.

Cameo by Abhishek Bachchan – bleh!

They made a comedy film keeping in mind our intellect. Dear Hindi film audience, the joke is on us.

Dum Maaro Dum

Style bhi, thoda substance (abuse) bhi…

Pic: RSE, FOX Star; Source: Wikipedia

I like Rohan Sippy’s (director) style of filmmaking… whether it’s Bluffmaster or Dum Maaro Dum (I am going to ignore Kuch Na Kaho as a debutante’s mistake); he brings that effortless style to his cinema, which is the USP of Dum Maaro Dum. With an impressive ensemble cast, uber stylish look and no other decent Bollywood flick for over two months, Dum Maaro Dum had everything going for it. The film obviously opened well and thankfully is not a damp squib. It has what it takes to be a decent entertainer but that’s about it; it does not wow or blow your mind, it is a good time-pass affair at the most.

I will come to the story and acting later but will talk about the film’s style that makes it what it is. Starting from the teaser poster with Deepika Padukone’s tattooed waist to the well cut first promo; the film looked stunning (only Dabangg promos looked as exciting before this one). Well done the production design team (CROP) and the art director, Shazia Zahid Iqbal; you nailed it! There were some cool lines in the film that were funny and extremely smart (dialogue, Charudutt Acharya)… Styling by Falguni Thakore was a little over the top at places, especially with the women but nothing really to complain about; they all looked good (with the exception of Aditya Pancholi who is so 90s and didn’t fit in this stylish flick). The camera work by Amit Roy was great and he managed to give the film a feel that suits the title.

All good, except a few places where they over did it… like in the song ‘Thayn Thayn’, which may have appeared cool to the makers but could have been done away with. Similarly, the much talked about title track with Deepika (she never looked better) had some stunning moments that were ruined by tacky lyrics (Jaideep Sahni you are way too good to dole out such stuff). The background score was quite nice and the original Dum Maaro Dum (from Hare Rama Hare Krishna, 1971) guitar riff was incorporated well; kudos to Midival Punditz and Karsh Kale. Otherwise, the original music by Pritam was below average and most songs could’ve been done away with.

Coming to the screenplay, it is the strength as well as the weakness of the film. Shridhar Raghavan mounts a great plot that reminds you of Nat Geo’s Jailed Abroad as well as Bolly-thrillers of the 70s. Till the interval, the film moves at a breakneck pace and then falters, only to come back with a killer twist (in true Raghavan style, remember Khakee), which I really believe could have been handled better by the director and the editor (Aarif Shaikh).

Performance wise, it is the return vehicle for Abhishek Bachchan who is very convincing as Kamath, a fearless cop on a mission to get Goa rid of the drug mafia. Bipasha Basu as Zoe fits the bill but doesn’t shine; how I wish Zeenat Aman was younger enough to do this role. Aditya Pancholi as Biscuita (yes, you read it right) is ok but we could have done with a much smarter and meaner baddie here (think Ajay Devgn in a meatier role). Prateik Babbar aka Lorry is brilliant as a young, innocent guy stuck in the drug trafficking mess. He is an actor to watch out for as he is able to comfortably change basis the character. Finally, Rana Daggubati, the Telegu film-star who made his Bolly-debut with this film… he is good and the girls seem to love him; guess a star is born.

Overall, Dum Maaro Dum is worth a watch but don’t expect too much… Aapki Sewa Mein Janhit Mein Jaari…

My rating: * * * Three stars on five

 

Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey

 

Good intentions may not result in a good film

Pic: Ashutosh Gowarikar Productions

Lagaan’s Bhuvan, Swades’ Mohan Bhargava, Jodhaa and Akbar are some of the most memorable characters seen in the Indian cinema in the last decade. All these characters were created and brought alive by the same man, Ashutosh Gowarikar who became one of the most sought after filmmakers because of these characters and films. This is where the director fails with his latest offering, Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey (KHJJS). The film’s screenplay is adapted by Gowarikar himself from the book, ‘Do and Die’ by Manini Chatterjee, which is based on the Chittagong (in Bengal) Uprising of 1930. KHJJS presents the facts and happenings that led to the historical incident and what happened after that. In trying to cover these events with so many characters, the filmmaker does not focus on a few leading ones and as a result you do not connect with any as a viewer. It is not that he does not set the context but he tries to do that with all the characters and there are over twenty-five of them.

If Surjya Sen (Abhishek Bachchan) is the central character, then very little time is spent on building his story; it is revealed in the beginning that he is the leader of a freedom fighters’ group but in the rest of the film he just appears in between the sequences passing orders or looking somber. Kalpana Dutta (Deepika Padukone) is another revolutionary but again it seems that the director forgets about her in the middle of the film. If only some time was spent on developing these two characters, probably one would have related to them more. What kind of people were they; were they angry or scared or hurt at different occasions; all that is left to the viewers to decide. The uprising began with a group of sixteen teenagers approaching Surjya Sen to help them get their play-ground back, which the British soldiers had taken over. They want the freedom to play and in the bargain willing to help free Chittagong and the country. The first half of the film is all about introducing all these characters and them getting ready for the attacks on British establishments; the second half focuses on the attack and then what happens to each of the characters. Despite the two-hour fifty-five minute running time, the film does not do justice to any of them and makes for a tedious watch.   The good thing about the film is that not many people were aware of the Chittagong uprising and it has helped create that awareness; however as an entertainer the film does not work.

Performance wise, Abhishek and Deepika are very average and from the rest of the grown up supporting cast, only Vishakha Singh who plays Pritilata shines; Sikander Kher as Nirmal Sen is also fine except he doesn’t have many impactful scenes. The teenagers are very good and are the only ones you feel connected to, more because of their innocent motive and age.

Music by Sohail Sen is not very memorable and the only song you remember is the title track as that got played in the promos all the time. In the technical department also you do not see anything spectacular, cinematography is fine (Kiran Deohans) while editing is abrupt at times (Dilip Deo). Neeta Lulla’s costumes seem sponsored by a washing powder brand as they are very clean and white for the most part. Imagine a group of teenagers playing football and their dhotis stay absolutely white! However, in one scene you can notice a deliberate ink stain on Abhishek’s kurta as he is shown writing on his desk. The only thing that comes to your mind is, “Daag acche hain”. The dialogues are in flawless Hindi with the actors using a few odd Bengali words here and there and pronouncing ‘a’ as ‘o’ while taking names. Of course the film could not have been in Bengali keeping in mind the commercial aspect but at least their manner of speaking Hindi could have been adopted well. Maybe they really spoke good Hindi back then but am not aware so would not comment any further.

KHJJS is not what I’d like to remember Gowarikar for and like his last year’s disastrous film, What’s Your Rashee? I’d like to forget this one also.  I hope the director of Oscar nominated Lagaan comes back with a film worthy of this tag.

My rating: * * ½ Two and a half stars on five

– Shrey Khetarpal

 

Raavan

The master falters, but…

Pic: Raavan; Reliance Big Pictures

A lot is being said about Mani Ratnam’s Raavan and the movie’s fate has become front page news material… it almost seems like everyone was waiting for the master film maker to fall once to rip him apart. Critics and fans blamed Ratnam for losing his maverick style by focusing more on the commercial aspects and staying away of any direct political undertones. Raavan may not be what an Iruvar or Roja or Bombay or even a Guru was but it is a film that took a lot of effort to make, which went completely unnoticed. I am not saying that we should like a film because it was a difficult one to make but let’s not be so harsh on a filmmaker whom we have revered for so long. Mani Ratnam is one of the finest filmmakers we have in India and that is indisputable.

Based on the Ramayana, Raavan is set in a fictitious town called Lal Maati, surrounded by dense rain forests and is unofficially ruled by a tribal leader named Beera aka Raavan (Abhishek Bachchan). Beera fights against the system and the forces for the injustice done towards the locals who worship him like a god. The conflict resembles the Naxalite movement; however the director steers clear of any direct reference. Beera abducts the local police superintendent, Dev aka Ram’s (Vikram) wife, Ragini aka Sita (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) to extract revenge. While Dev embarks on a search for his wife and her kidnapper; Beera finds himself drawn towards his beautiful and brave hostage.  Raavan is partly a love story and partly a story about the good and the evil that resides inside all of us. The concept is interesting, however the screenplay gets too literal at times, such as the sequence where Govinda’s character (Sanjeevni Kumar aka Hanuman) is shown jumping from tree to tree.

Raavan is a visually stunning film and the two cinematographers, V. Manikanandan and Santosh Sivan have well captured the natural beauty of the locales as well as the harsh conditions faced by the actors. Music by A. R. Rahman with lyrics by Gulzar is a winner too with the songs presented in a breath-taking manner, especially ‘Kata Kata…’ and ‘Thok De Killi…’ What does not work very well is the film’s editing (Sreekar Prasad) and the screenplay (Mani Ratnam) as the first half moves at an extremely slow pace and the climax not that impactful. The actors have all worked very hard and it clearly shows on screen. Abhishek is good but does not seem menacing enough that one would expect from a character based on a demon; Aishwarya emotes well, while Vikram only grunts. Nikhil Dwivedi in Lakshman’s character is good and so is Ravi Kishen as Beera’s brother; Govinda in Hanuman’s character does not work very well but that’s probably because his character is not that convincing in its modern avatar. Priyamani as Jamunia (Beera’s sister) is an important find for the Hindi film industry this year; she has great screen presence and I am looking forward to seeing her more often in Bollywood.

The film may not match up to the high expectations we have from Mani Ratnam but I agree with what I read online, ‘his worst is also better than the best works of some other directors’.

My rating: * * ½ Two and a half stars on five

– Shrey Khetarpal


Paa

A rare film about a rare child…

 

How do you define a good film? For me, it is the way the film involves you, engages you and impacts you; if it is a comedy, does it make you laugh non-stop or if it is an emotional film, does it move you? Rarely a film completely lives up to the promise made through its promotion / publicity machinery. Paa lives up to the promise but with a slight difference; it was promoted as a very rare father-son / son-father story but what shines through is the relationship between Auro, a 12-year old child suffering from a rare genetic disorder called Progeria and his mother, Vidya. You connect with Auro, the moment he makes his first appearance and from that point onwards you laugh with him and cry for him.

Amitabh Bachchan is re-discovered in this film as Auro, not only because he has acted extremely well but also because you do not notice him in the film. There is no Amitabh Bachchan in the film but only Auro, who is a happy child despite his medical condition because of which his body has aged to that of an 80-year old. His mother, Vidya (played superbly by Vidya Balan) is extremely proud of her son and is not embarrassed or adversely affected by his situation; in fact she calls him ‘lucky’ in one scene. Abhishek Bachchan as Amol Arte, a young conscientious politician, delivers an extremely confident and restrained performance. His scenes with his son, Auro as well as his father (played by Paresh Rawal) are excellent. Performance wise, the film belongs to Auro and another actor who is a real surprise package – Arundhati Nag, who plays ‘Bum’, Auro’s maternal grand-mother and friend. She has an extremely strong character and proves that screen time has nothing to do with the impact made.

Despite the serious subject matter, writer-director, R. Balki (Cheeni Kum) has given the film a very light feel without losing the grip on the emotions. However, there is too much focus on Abhishek Bachchan’s political endeavours that move away from the main plot. Ilaiyaraja’s music is outstanding and completely involves you with what is happening on screen, especially the violin theme. ‘Halke Se Bole’ and ‘Hichki Hichki’ are two wonderful numbers in the film and credit also goes to the lyricist, Swanand Kirkire. Talking about the technicians, I cannot miss out the prosthetic make-up team that helped bring the character of Auro to screen as well as the brilliant cinematography by P. C. Sriram.

After Taare Zameen Par, Paa is a film that manages to connect the audience so well with the protagonist. In a nutshell, it is a beautiful film that deserves to be watched.

My Rating: * * * * Four stars (on five)

Shrey Khetarpal