Heroine

 

What’s with the tackiness, ‘babes’?

Pic source: Wikipedia

Madhur Bhandarkar made his name with realistic films like Chandni Bar, which got him critical acclaim, and Page 3, which got him both critical and commercial success. He then decided to focus on doing his brand of exposé films like Traffic Signal, Jail and Fashion. He had found a template, which seemed to work for him as well as his actors. However, there is this tackiness that is clearly visible in all his work, with the exception of Chandni Bar. Despite having A-list actresses doing his films and big corporate houses backing them, his films look like B-grade productions. Same is the case with the much talked about Heroine, which is tacky and in some parts, purely down-market.

Heroine traces the journey of a Hindi film star who struggles with the ever-changing power dynamics in the film industry, her limitations as an actor and perils of fame and the lack of it. Kareena Kapoor was possibly the best choice to essay the role of Mahi Arora, a film star full of insecurities. She lights up every scene she appears in and her real life persona of a star rubs off on the film. Her look, designed by Manish Malhotra is another highlight of the film; he makes her look great and from what I read in the papers, spent 10% of the film’s budget on her costumes alone! This possibly explains why the rest of the film looks tawdry and like a college project, put together by amateurs. The dialogues are cringe-worthy and half the film’s characters love calling each other ‘babes’! The gay characters in the film are once again reduced to over-the-top caricatures who either gossip or sleep around. Small time actors are given roles of superstars and big producers; and they all do not fit the bill. There are some interesting characters like Arjun Rampal who plays a superstar and Divya Dutta as a public relations queen (I will not call her a professional). Arjun suits the character as he has the screen presence and Divya acts well as a ruthless ‘brand maker’.  Randeep Hooda as a cricketer is also cast well but who did his hair? Then there are actors like Sanjay Suri, Harsh Chhaya, Lilette Dubey, Shahana Goswami and Ranvir Shorey in two bit roles along with a huge crowd of extras with garish make-up, outfits and over the top performances.

Coming to the story (Madhur Bhandarkar with screenplay by Anuraadha Tewari and Manoj Tyagi), Heroine is a mish mash of gossip that gets published in the entertainment section of newspaper supplements. From a popular 90s’ actress throwing wine on her husband’s ex to a model-turned-actress’ link up with a playboy cricketer; to the chappati counting, stingy wife of a big producer-director; there is enough masala for those who enjoy Bollywood gossip. However, there’s hardly any story apart from a string of these incidents. Mahi Arora, a successful star starts fading in her career and her personal life; she tries to resurrect it and then fails… haven’t we seen all this before?

Music by Salim-Sulaiman is just about ok and nothing that you’d like to play again after the film. Cinematography (Mahesh Limaye) contributes to the B-grade look and feel of the film, which required a lot more brutal editing (Deven Murudeshvar).

Watch Heroine only if you are a Kareena fan or Bhandarkar’s template is acceptable to you, otherwise there is plenty of good stuff in cinemas or on TV.

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Ra.One

Pic: Ra.One; Source: Wikipedia

Open letter to Shah Rukh Khan…

Dear Shah Rukh Khan,

Firstly congratulations for the spectacular opening of Ra.One and hope you manage to recover all the money you spent on the film. Not because it is a good film, but because you dared to dream and put your might behind a risky venture. You said it right, if you don’t make mega budget blockbusters in Bollywood, then who will?

Coming to the film, it is a major disappointment but don’t worry the masses in India are used to watching not-so-great or even silly films as long as they have their favourite stars; take the example of the recent Salman starrers, Ready & Bodyguard, and Rajnikanth’s Robot. Also, your film is a lot better than Shirish ‘Fizzle’ Kunder and Farah Khan’s masterpiece, Tees Maar Khan and Bollywood’s last sci-fi outing, Love Story 2050 (how I shudder at the thought of that film!)

You must praise your marketing team that kept the buzz alive around the film for over seven months. They did their job a little too well, as by the end of it, the whole country said, “Please stop, we’ll watch Ra.One”. They deserve a bonus. Others who deserve praise are your special effects team for creating some good sequences; I particularly like the scene where Ra.One regenerates with little Lego like digital cubes (too big to be called pixels). The few action scenes in the film are also nice and I hope the folks at Volkswagen are happy the way their cars were smashed. Kareena Kapoor did her best to look good and sizzle the screen in the Chammak Challo song; I believe that was the brief to her! Her make-up artist went beyond the brief to make her look smashing with blow-dried hair after she is rescued from a train wreck. Your villain, Arjun Rampal deserves a big fat bonus too as he proved to be the best thing about the film. Pity he didn’t get too much screen time.

Now coming to those whose payment you should put on hold. The director, Anubhav Sinha; firstly why did you hire him to lead a 150-crore project? His last film was called Cash, which didn’t earn any cash at the box-office! If it was because he wrote the story, that’s not an acceptable excuse as the story was nothing great with a concept borrowed from Hollywood (yes, we all watched Tron Legacy if not the original Tron). He did even worse with the screenplay where he had three accomplices (Kanika Dhillon, Mushtaq Sheikh & David Benullo); patchy writing peppered with crude jokes and lines that fell flat! You hired an Academy Award winner, Martin Walsh (Chicago) who edited all the wrong things (read action) from the film; part of the blame on the Indian editor, Sanjay Sharma; the film dragged and could’ve been good 20-minutes shorter. If you are thinking of a sequel, please do not work with any of them.

Regarding music, please give a show-cause notice to Vishal-Shekhar as well for doing a half baked job. One hit song does not create a great album but they just managed to save themselves with Chammak Challo, which became a bigger hit because of Akon and Kareena. Raftaarein and Dildara were also good songs but not smash-hits that are expected for a film like this. And what was that Criminal song? Choreographer Ganesh Hegde made it look like a B-grade party number focusing on everyone’s bum! Also, I hope you didn’t pay for any of the special appearances as all of them were disappointing. Priyanka Chopra, Sanjay Dutt and Rajnikanth, all were wasted in their cameos. If you did pay, please deduct from Mr. Sinha’s pay package.

Your charm worked in the film and made it watchable but your decision to wear that horrible wig in the first half is beyond me. I understand that you tried to please everyone with this film but that’s not possible. But keep trying different things, some will work and some won’t but that’s how generations will remember you, apart from the guy who brought romance back to Hindi cinema.

Sincerely,

A fan

My rating for the film: ** ½ Two and a half on five

Raajneeti

 

Lust, Power & Deceit

Pic: Raajneeti; Source: Wikipedia

It is one of the greatest stories ever told and writer-director, Prakash Jha along with co-writer, Anjum Rajabali manages to narrate it again in a fascinating manner. Raajneeti takes its inspiration from Mahabharat and the current state of politics in India; from caste based politics to dynastic rule to horse-trading, the film touches upon a lot of issues. Having said that, Raajneeti is not a boring issue based film but a riveting drama-cum-thriller.  At 2 hours 45 minutes, the film moves at a breakneck pace from the word go, only faltering towards the end. You can predict what is going to happen overall but the clever screenplay still manages to surprise you with sudden twists.

Raajneeti is not about the battle between the good and the evil; it is about the lust for power and how far people can go for it. The first half of the film is taut while the second half has a lot of ups and downs as the director tries to pack in a lot. Those looking for the Gandhi family saga will be disappointed as the film only borrows the dynastic politics theme from the family and Katrina’s look from Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Vadra.

The real winner in the film is its characterisation; there are no heroes or villains but strong characters that are superbly written and enacted (barring a couple). Nana Patekar makes an impressive comeback with a restrained yet powerful performance (no banging his head business happening here); while Ranbir Kapoor once again proves that he is going to rule the Hindi film industry in the years to come. Arjun Rampal, Manoj Bajpayee and Ajay Devgn, all deliver impressive performances along with Katrina Kaif who fits in the character well with her accent. Special mention for Shruti Seth who manages to shine in a brief role that is completely new to her sensibilities. Nikhila Trikha whose character is inspired by ‘Kunti’ from Mahabharat seems uncomfortable in her role as she is supposed to be at least 20 years older than her real age. In one of the critical scenes towards the climax, her exchange with Ajay’s character is actually funny, while it was supposed to be an emotional one. One actor who didn’t get his due in the film is Naseeruddin Shah who has a guest appearance like role but was promoted like one of the leads.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the film, I have one issue with the script; there is just too much violence as if the police and the judiciary do not exist. It would have been more interesting to see further Machiavellian mind-games and attacks rather than shootouts and bomb blasts. The production design is quite elaborate and you get to see palatial political homes to rallies with thousands of extras braving the heat and dust. Sachin Krishn’s cinematography is impressive and Santosh Mandal’s editing could have been a bit better in the second half. Thankfully, the songs are mostly in the background and do not hamper the narrative except one silly item song featuring Barkha Bisht (why, Mr. Jha, why?) that lasts around a minute only. ‘Mora Piya…’ composed by Aadesh Srivastava and ‘Dhan Dhan Dharti…’ composed by Wayne Sharpe on Vande Mataram theme are two songs to remember.

Raajneeti may not be Prakash Jha’s best work (my favourite is Gangajal) but is definitely his biggest and most commercial film. With the film getting a good opening at the box office, I sincerely hope that we’d get to see more political films in India. Since we are talking politics, my favourite film on the subject is Mani Ratnam’sIruvar’ (The Duo) (1997, Tamil), which was based on the lives of Tamil Nadu politicians, M. G. Ramachandran and M. Karunanidhi. The film bombed at the box office but is considered a masterpiece amongst film lovers. If you haven’t watched it, do try to find a DVD (it is difficult to find one with subtitles, but a big DVD store can get it for you on order. In Mumbai, try Landmark at Palladium); till then do catch Raajneeti on the big screen… it is worth a watch.

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

– Shrey Khetarpal