Agneepath

Outdated and unintentionally funny…

Agneepath; Dharma Productions; Source: Wikipedia

Hrithik Roshan starrer Agneepath was an unintentional funny film for me. No, I am not really a big fan of the original (1990; directed by Mukul Anand) starring Amitabh Bachchan but if we are talking remakes then the earlier version still wins. Karan Malhotra’s new Agneepath is full of plot holes and has the 80s-90s film-making sensibility that makes you cringe. I am a big fan of the original masala style of Bollywood film-making but the new Agneepath seems more outdated than the original one. Of course, the new film is also set in the 90s (1992 to be precise) but in a thriller made in 2012, one expects the filmmaker to respect the intellect of the audience. Let me list down a few gaffes to illustrate my point (spoilers ahead).

Before I do that let me share a brief synopsis for those not familiar with the plot. Agneepath is a revenge drama that begins in a tiny island near Mumbai called, Mandwa. A greedy landlord cum goon, Kaancha Cheena (Sanjay Dutt) falsely blames a conscientious school teacher and village leader, Deenanath Chauhan of rape and murder. Led by Kaancha Cheena, the village mob lynches the teacher whose pregnant wife and young son, Vijay escape to Mumbai. Years later, Vijay returns to extract revenge and to win back Mandwa. And here are some of the goofs that did not allow me to take the film seriously:

  • Inspector Gaitonde (Om Puri) makes a presentation on the gang wars in Mumbai and in the slide show, presents a photograph of an emerging young gangster, Vijay Deenanath Chauhan (played by Hrithik Roshan). Unfortunately, the picture is not the latest one but of a 12-year-old Vijay (Arish Bhiwandiwala) as they haven’t been able to get a recent photo of him (he is now shown to be 27-years old). Gaitonde goes on to describe everything about the gangster, down to his address and the charitable trust he runs. 10-minutes later, Vijay pays what-seems-like a regular visit to the inspector at the police station. But, they haven’t been able to get a picture!
  • Inspector Gaitonde in his detailed slide show also talks about Mandwa, which apparently is run by Kaancha Cheena like Hitler’s concentration camp. Really! And the Government of India sits pretty? As per him, they do not raid Mandwa as last time they tried, it led to many civilians dying in cross fire and human rights commission created a ruckus. So, now they decide to let Mandwa be.
  • In the second half, Vijay’s mother, Suhasini Chauhan (Zarina Wahab) while watching TV recognises a gangster murdered by Vijay as Surya from Mandwa. Please note when she left Mandwa, 15-years-ago, Surya was a kid and did not look anything like his grown up version. Neither did Suhasini stay in touch with folks in Mandwa who’d send her photographs (also Facebook wasn’t there in 1992). Heck, she didn’t even stay in touch with her own son!
  • After recognising Surya on TV, Suhasini for some reason goes to the police station to explain Vijay’s revenge plan to Inspector Gaitonde. Why? I don’t know. Why does she explain it to the first police man she sees (who is on pay rolls of Kaancha) I don’t know!
  • Hrithik has abs made of steel! In a fight with Kaancha, Vijay gets stabbed by at least a 12-inch long and 2-inch wide knife but after his shirt is torn (yes ladies, the abs are on display) you only see a hint of blood and lots of black soot.

Let’s leave all this aside and agree that the director wanted to make a 90s style film and didn’t care much about logic. After all Bollywood is about taking a leap of faith! Even then the film doesn’t shine much as both the build up and the climax are long and tedious (screenplay: Karan Malhotra, Ila Dutta Bedi; editing: Akiv Ali). Cinematography by Kiran Deohans is excellent but the production design lets it down. Sabu Cyril’s sets are so unbelievable that you forgive Omung Kumar’s over the top designs for Bhansali films. The fake banyan tree and Kaancha Cheena’s den look silly and well… fake! Music by Ajay-Atul is just about ok and the songs hinder the narrative (lyrics by Amitabh Bhattacharya). The much talked about item song, Chikni Chameli (featuring Katrina Kaif) does what it was meant to – help in film marketing and support a dragging second half. Being an action film, you’d expect some memorable stunts or fight sequences but you get none; there is just a lot of blood and gore (action: Abbas Ali Moghul).

Coming to the acting department; I think Karan Johar did well by choosing Hrithik Roshan over Abhishek Bachchan, son of the original Vijay Deenanath Chauhan. Hrithik does a good job and is believable in a local, gritty character that is cunning and opportunistic. Priyanka Chopra as Kaali is forgettable; she had a small role in Kaminey also and we remember Sweety but here you don’t connect with her, you don’t care for her. Sanjay Dutt as Kaancha Cheena is menacing and looks-wise reminds you of Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now and Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort in Harry Potter. The real star of the film however is Rishi Kapoor who plays Rauf Lala, a ruthless drug lord in Mumbai. His is a new character that did not exist in the original film but leaves an impact.

Watch Agneepath if you’re a Hrithik fan and also for Rishi Kapoor.

My rating: * * * Almost three on five

– Shrey Khetarpal

 

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Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

Philosophy, fun and travel porn… 

Pic: Excel Ent; Source: Wikipedia

Zoya Akhtar (director) gave us Luck By Chance, a beautiful and sensitive film that sadly not many watched… I guess she realized that her off-beat sensibilities need better commercial sheen to appeal to a wider audience in India. Her next film, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (ZNMD) is not a regular potboiler but is packaged like one (smarter though) with beautiful people who travel first class, buy Birkins and drive through exotic locations in vintage cars.

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara is a film about friendship and discovering what you want from life… after all you only get to live once. It is a story about three friends on a road trip that changes their lives; it is a simple plot but the way it is presented is what makes all the difference (screenplay: Zoya and Reema Kagti).  The film has a light mood, many fun moments and you are constantly reminded that there’s one life to live. All this is packaged beautifully in an extended Spain Tourism show-reel! No, I am not complaining. It is almost like travel porn where beautiful images just keep coming on the screen and you start dreaming about visiting the place (cinematography: Carlos Catalan); from bright yellow corals in blue waters to wild horses running along your car; art galleries, charming cafés to the world’s biggest food fight, La Tomatina.

At about 135 minutes, the film is a bit too long and a little bit of brutal editing would have helped (editing: Anand Subaya); but at the same time the film’s relaxed pace lets you enjoy the moments and the visuals. Dialogues by Farhan Akhtar are witty and bring a smile to your face; a lot of the scenes remind you of your conversations with your friends. That’s where ZNMD wins, the film doesn’t try too hard to make you laugh or cry; it just involves you in what’s happening.

The actors have all done a fine job with Kalki and Katrina emerging as surprise packages. They fit the characters perfectly; Kalki of a SOBO girl who loves her Chanels and Hermés and is possessive of her fiancé; and Katrina of a half-Indian fashion student cum diving instructor. Both the girls appear quite natural and you don’t mind their accents as well. Amongst the boys, Farhan walks away with the coolest lines, except the poetry that wasn’t really required; Abhay is cool and Hrithik is alright. I say alright, because he’s done a fine job except a few scenes where you wonder if the brief to him was to over-act (look out for a scene involving a video-call with a Japanese client). Spanish actress, Adriana Cabrol has a small and likeable role.

Music by Shankar, Ehsaan & Loy grows on you (lyrics: Javed Akhtar); while ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’, ‘Ik Junoon’ and ‘Senorita’ songs have become extremely popular, ‘Khaabon Ke Parindey’ is a beautiful track that stays with you (vocals: Alyssa Mendonsa and Mohit Chauhan). The only funny piece in the otherwise likeable background score is a little instrumental piece from ‘Saare Jahan Se Accha Hindustaan Hamara’ that plays right before the lead actors go for sky-diving.

Overall, ZNMD is an enjoyable film if you don’t get irritated with the whole lifestyle-of-the-rich-and-famous presentation. It has an interesting theme and of course the USP, the breathtakingly beautiful, Spain. 

Nos vemos en España amigos.

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

Pic: Excel Entertainment

 

Guzaarish

 

Lost in search of perfection

Guzaarish; Pic: SLB Films, UTVMP

When the promos of Guzaarish first came out, everyone expected it to be in the league of director, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s last film, Saawariya, which sank at the box office. The reason for the comparison was the whole gloomy look and feel that the director created for the new film despite the last one giving the audience blues (literally). If Saawariya was blue-green, Guzaarish is red and black… each frame of the film is highly stylised and put together with artistic finesse. Each image can be exhibited in a gallery as art; however, these frames together fail to ignite the magic that Bhansali’s earlier works created (Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Black). While most disliked the film, I liked Saawariya for what it was, a moody musical and closer to a play than a film. Guzaarish once again falls in the same category and doesn’t hold together as a film as it could have. How I wish, the perfectionist filmmaker obsessed a little less with the way his film looks as little imperfections make things a bit more real.

Guzaarish tells the story of Ethan Mascarenhas (Hrithik Roshan), a renowned magician who gets confined to a wheel-chair after an accident during one of his acts turns him into a paraplegic. Despite his condition, Ethan leads a dignified life running a radio programme on how life is so beautiful and being a role model for many. One fine day he decides to say adieu and files a petition for euthanasia or mercy-killing to end his suffering. His decision puts a question on another person’s life that revolves around him, Sofia D’Souza (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), his nurse and caretaker for the last twelve years. Sofia’s life has only one motive, which is to look after her master/patient/object of affection, Ethan and with him that may also disappear.

The film mainly revolves around Ethan and Hrithik has done a good job of creating a character who is eccentric, genius, funny, bitter and romantic in equal parts. However, there is one thing that is missing that makes a lot of difference to the film… you are unable to connect emotionally with Ethan the way you did with Michelle in Black or Rizwan in My Name is Khan. In fact, you feel more for Sofia which says a lot about the character and the way Aishwarya has portrayed it. Aishwarya emotes well and says a lot through her expressions without many dialogues; only her loud costumes distract (Sabyasachi). This is one of her best performances and I am beginning to feel that roles that require her to speak less and emote more, suit her better; case in point, Guru and Jodhaa Akbar. There is an interesting supporting cast in the film that completes the picture – Shernaz Patel as Devyani Dutta, Ethan’s lawyer is good and so is Rajit Kapoor as the public prosecutor; Aditya Roy Kapoor as an aspiring magician is as impressive or unimpressive as his last outing in Action Replayy; Nafisa Ali as Ethan’s mother is graceful and Suhel Seth as his doctor is just about tolerable (better than his prime time news appearances). Model, Monikangana Dutta’s much talked about debut in the film as Estella Francis, Ethan’s ex-girlfriend pans exactly three and a half scenes; and she doesn’t shine in them.

Coming to the technical department, music by Sanjay Leela Bhansali is termed soulful by many but I find it very average; a better soundtrack could have lifted the film a few notches up. Screenplay by Bhansali and Bhavani Iyer is extremely laidback making the film seem long even if the duration is only two hours. Sudeep Chatterjee’s cinematography is beautiful and Sumit Basu’s art direction is good as per the director’s brief; however, the heavy Portuguese hangover does not quite go with the times we live in today. Same with Sabyasachi’s costumes for Aishwarya that look beautiful for a ramp show but on a nurse, they look outlandish. I am not saying that she should have been dressed in drab clothing but the Indo-Spanish look made her look a little unbelievable.

Guzaarish has its moments and I enjoyed it in parts… the opening sequence that shows Sofia’s daily routine with Ethan is one such part and drive outside the house is another. Unfortunately, the whole here is not greater than the sum of its parts. On another level, I think that we, and I mean the audience here, do not understand the artist called Sanjay Leela Bhansali, perhaps the same way he doesn’t understand us anymore. Do watch Guzaarish if you like any of the lead actors or the director or have the patience to appreciate each picture you see on screen. Once again, Guzaarish is not a bad film but is certainly not a master stroke.

My rating: * * * Three stars on five

– Shrey Khetarpal

 

Kites

  

A mish-mash tribute to Hrithik

 

Kites; Pic: Filmkraft, Source: Wikipedia

 

Indian critics have ripped it apart, while American critics have been kind to the film… Hrithik Roshan’s much hyped crossover flick, Kites fails to soar but is it really that bad? I don’t think so. It certainly is not a good film but is also a victim of too much hype and extremely high expectations. Filmmakers should really be careful about marketing their films; too much or too little does not work… coming back to the film, Kites is a tribute to Hrithik Roshan, his physique, his dancing, his green eyes and even his singing, which by the way is not that great. It may work well for the actor as a PR exercise in Hollywood as his international looks have been fully exploited here. The film’s leading lady, the much talked about Mexican actress, Barbara Mori also manages to get some screen space alongside Junior Roshan. She is undoubtedly hot and manages to hold your attention.

Kites is actually a brave attempt by director, Anurag Basu and writer-producer, Rakesh Roshan; while they have tried to reach out to the global audience, they have alienated a large chunk of Hindi speaking viewers as over 60 percent of the film is in English or Spanish and there are no Hindi subtitles. The film tries to offer a bit of everything… romance, action, comedy, dancing but does not manage to excel in anything. The promos said ‘passion knows no language’, and how I expected the film to live up to that. Stealing shy glances and a few kisses here and there do not define passion. Passion is what Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem displayed in Vicky Christina Barcelona or Jonathan Rhys Myers and Scarlett Johansson shared in Matchpoint, both Woody Allen films. Talking of Matchpoint, Kites shares a similarity in the plot where two gold diggers attach themselves to rich siblings but end up falling for each other. Another film with striking similarities is Thelma & Louise; Kites heavily borrows its second half from this Ridley Scott classic. Having said that, Kites lacks the edge and the chutzpah of both these films.  

I have a major problem with the dialogue in the film as well; who in this world talks like this: “Don’t leave me my love… stay with me my love”, are we thinking of modern Romeo & Juliet here and that too in Vegas! The lead pair looks stunning in the film thanks to their natural good looks and breathtaking cinematography by Ayananka Bose. However, they are shabbily dressed for most part, which is unpardonable in a film that is supposed to be high on the style quotient (fashion director – Suneet Varma with additional styling by Anaita Shroff Adajania for Hrithik). The supporting cast seems straight out of a Feroz Khan film in the eighties (Kabir Bedi, Nick Brown)… fake accents and names like Tony and Bob (what breed, I wanted to ask). Kangana Ranaut hardly has a role and does not get to say ‘You Besterd’ even once.

Coming to the dancing. Hrithik plays a dance instructor and one expected some hot moves in this supposedly ‘passion’ driven film. Here also, we do not get much; there is a dance sequence with Hrithik and Kangana but there are so many cuts in the shots that you can’t follow an impressive move completely (they could’ve taken some inspiration from Dirty Dancing as well). Rajesh Roshan’s music also disappoints and I wish there was a lot of fusion of Spanish and Indian sounds. Anyways, once again Bollywood teaches us a lesson, leave your expectations out of the cinema hall.  

Overall, Kites is a below average film but do watch it if you’re a Hrithik fan.

My rating: ** two stars on five

– Shrey Khetarpal