Bombay Talkies

Celebrating the art of story-telling with 100-years of Indian cinema

Bombay Talkies; Pic source: Wikipedia

Indian cinema is not only about song and dance, colourful costumes and overtly emotional characters. I am glad that the film made to commemorate hundred-years of our cinema looks beyond all these clichés and focuses on story-telling. Bombay Talkies has four interesting short films by four directors who represent the modern Indian cinema (read Bollywood in this case) – Karan Johar, Dibakar Banerjee, Zoya Akhtar and Anurag Kashyap. While a true tribute would have been filmmakers from other regions also participating (think of an anthology with films in Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Tamil and English), it would have been a tough project to sell commercially. Maybe, we’ll see something like that soon but for now I applaud the effort called Bombay Talkies, which is not an outstanding film but is a brave attempt that needs to be appreciated.

My views on the four short films in Bombay Talkies, in order of my preference (minor spoilers ahead):

Star by Dibakar Banerjee

Based on Satyajit Ray’s short story, Patol Babu Filmstar, Dibakar Banerjee’s Star is as much about failed ambitions as it is about hope and happiness. It is a poignant tale about a father who does not have a new bedtime story for his ailing daughter… it is about a failed actor who gets a shot at stardom in his own small way. Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Purandar is simply outstanding and the last two minutes of this short are bound to leave you teary-eyed and in awe of this actor’s talent. It is also great to see Sadashiv Amrapurkar return to screen in a well written cameo. Banerjee’s style is lucid and the story touches you emotionally more than the others in the film. He puts an emu in the chawl to describe the lead character’s failure in business and you see the bird again in another important scene. Banerjee grows with each film and is not afraid to experiment; from Khosla Ka Ghosla to Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye; Love, Sex Aur Dhoka to Shanghai and now Star, he is what the Doctor prescribed for Bollywood’s problem of recycling everything.

Ajeeb Dastaan Hai Yeh by Karan Johar

He who makes multi-million dollar blockbusters that are known for their flamboyance than cinematic artistry, has turned the tables with this small-budget, realistic short film. With this film, we discover a new Karan Johar where he doesn’t have to stress about the three hundred Caucasian dancers in designer Indian costumes or the waist size of his gorgeous leading lady. He is focused on telling a story here, he is focused on dismantling all that is Karan-Joharesque about his cinema… However, he hasn’t given up on the quality and the people he works with; ace cinematographer, Anil Mehta has shot the film, Manish Malhotra has styled Rani Mukherjee, who herself is a Dharma Productions regular. It is also a film where Johar steps out of a cliché ridden world where homosexuality is about effeminate caricatures (Rishi Kapoor in Student of the Year), scandalizing domestic help (Kanta Ben in Kal Ho Na Ho) or Punjabi mothers (Maa Da Laadla Bigad Gaya in Dostana). He takes a bold approach and establishes the main protaganist’s sexuality in the first scene itself. Saqib Saleem is a great new find; I say new as this is the film that will get him noticed and not his earlier outings like Mujhse Fraandship Karoge and Mere Dad Ki Maruti. He is confident and comfortable with the character he plays – an intern at a Bollywood tabloid who strikes an unlikely friendship with his associate editor. The other male actor in this story, Randeep Hooda is also well cast as a serious news presenter who loves old Hindi music and leads a predictable, loveless life. Rani Mukherjee returns to what she does the best… she is natural and relatable. She plays a wife who knows that her marriage is dead but keeps up the appearances. This is Karan Johar that we have never seen before and hope to see more in future.

Sheila Ki Jawani by Zoya Akhtar

It’s a story about a little boy who dreams of becoming a dancer while his strict father (Ranvir Shorey) wants him to do something ‘appropriate’ for a boy. It is also a story about the relationship between a brother and a sister, biases and unfair societal norms – “a boy should be interested in sports while a girl should be happy with a doll”; “it’s better to invest in a boy’s future than a girl who will eventually go away”. The boy finds himself burdened with his father’s expectations but is not willing to give up on his dreams. He gets this strength from his supportive sister, a year or two elder to him and an unlikely guardian angel, Katrina Kaif. Akhtar’s last film, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara was a big hit and it wasn’t only because of the star power and the breathtaking locales; this director knows how to tell stories, which was clear from her critically acclaimed, yet commercially average first film, Luck By Chance. Here, she simply works with an idea and not a fleshed out story, but with her superior narrative style and the lovely performances by the two child actors (Naman Jain and Khushi Dubey), the film works.

Murabba by Anurag Kashyap

Here’s a filmmaker who is truly changing the face of Hindi cinema. His films are bold, have daring or unexpected themes and usually feature new talent. He is what Ram Gopal Verma was to the Hindi film industry in his prime – a promise of changing the way films are made and watched in India; a promise to break the mold and cross the boundaries to create truly international cinema. Where RGV failed, Kashyap seems to be succeeding… films produced and directed by him are a regular feature at prestigious international film festivals including Cannes; Indian audience is open to buying a ticket for a film made by him despite no big film stars. That is why I was most curious about his short film, Murabba in Bombay Talkies. I liked the film but not as much as I liked the other three. Murabba looks at the Indian film-goers and their connection with cinema. We say cricket is a religion in India and so is cinema; nothing binds our people more than these two passions that most Indians are born with. A young man from Illahabad, Vijay (Vineet Kumar Singh), comes to meet Amitabh Bachchan in Mumbai to offer him a piece of murabba (sweet fruit pickle) as per his ailing father’s wish. He stands outside the mega star’s house and waits for a chance to meet him for two-minutes. He is confident of a warm reception on his arrival as he hails from the same city and colony where Bachchan came from originally. He is let down when the star’s guards shoo him away but he doesn’t give up. The other interesting angle in the film is how we Indians like to brag and tell stories. It is an absurd story that holds your interest till a certain point but then it leaves you unsatisfied unlike the other three stories.

Bombay Talkies is good experiment that largely works and in the hope of seeing more such collaborations and innovation by our filmmakers, I urge you all to buy a ticket and see this film.

PS: Please walk out of the theatre before the terrible title song video featuring about twenty stars comes on-screen with the end credits.

Jab Tak Hai Jaan

This is not how I will remember Yash Chopra

Pic source: Yashraj Films

For me Yash Chopra’s cinema is not Waqt, it is not Deewar… it is Lamhe, Chandni and Darr. I grew up watching his beautifully shot romances where the protagonists holiday in Switzerland and London; women wear gorgeous chiffons in pastel colours and men love passionately. I fell in love with the movies after watching Lamhe as a kid and that love continues to grow strong till date. His films are not about logic, they are not about reality… they are about beauty, about visuals that stay with you and music that plays in your ears long after you have left the cinema. He was the master of drama and emotions… remember the scene where Pooja and Anita meet in a shopping mall and discuss the object of their affection, Viren?  This is not homage to the filmmaker who recently passed away but is what went through my mind right after watching his last film, Jab Tak Hai Jaan that released in theatres today. I will miss Yash Chopra and I missed him in his last film; Jab Tak Hai Jaan is not how I will remember the master of romance.

Jab Tak Hai Jaan is about Samar Anand (Shah Rukh Khan), a man who finds his soul-mate and loses her; his undying love for her keeps him alive and also kills him every day. Meera (Katrina Kaif) loves her man more than her happiness with him and Akira (Anushka Sharma) cannot help but fall for the guy who is hopelessly in love with another woman. All three characters in the film do things that are unexplainable, of course in a Yash Chopra romance you expect people to go beyond the normal for love but situations here seem weak and unconvincing. Aditya Chopra and Devika Bhagat’s screenplay is extremely weak and full of loopholes. In the hands of a lesser director, the film would have been a disaster but Yash Chopra manages to make his characters engaging and for him you stay with the film.

Katrina looks beautiful and is perfectly styled (Manish Malhotra) in true Yashraj tradition… she is presented like a dream but seems a little uncomfortable in the extensive emotional scenes. Shah Rukh is effortlessly charming and romances Katrina like she has never been loved on-screen before.  He is in fact the strongest part of the film and shows he still is the best romantic heroe we have in Hindi cinema. Anushka’s character is a little irritating and she does not get the dream Yashraj supporting actress role that Karisma Kapoor got in Dil Toh Pagal Hai and Rani Mukerji in Veer Zaara.

Anil Mehta’s cinematography is breathtakingly beautiful but that’s no surprise… Yash Chopra knew how to set up elegant scenes. Editing by Namrata Rao is not the best as the film gets tedious in the second half. The other big disappointment in the film came from the music department. With names like A R Rahman (music) and Gulzar (lyrics) attached, one expected magic but we got a mediocre album at best keeping in mind the genius of these two artists.

Overall, Jab Tak Hai Jaan disappoints which can be attributed to the sky-high expectations and the unbelievable story. Watch it for Yash Chopra but I am sure you will remember him fondly for his earlier work… jab tak hai jaan.

Ek Tha Tiger

Hit Hai Boss!

Pic source: Wikipedia

To be honest, I did not expect much from Ek Tha Tiger. Of course, it was in my must watch list like most Bollywood movies but I was skeptical about a Salman Khan film directed by Kabir Khan. Don’t get me wrong, I do not doubt the director’s ability to make a nice film; his Kabul Express was quite good and New York was also nice. However, I had my reservations about him combining the mindless fun of a Salman blockbuster with that of a thriller. Could he create something ridiculous yet fun like Wanted that fans of Salman Bhai love? Could he stay true to the romantic-thriller genre and avoid the silliness of a regular Salman blockbuster? I was worried that the filmmaker will try to combine both and fail miserably.

Fortunately, I was proved wrong and Ek Tha Tiger managed to reach the level of a decent entertainer. The plot is less ridiculous than usual Bhai films, but there are big tiger sized loopholes (story by Aditya Chopra; screenplay by Kabir Khan & Neelesh Misra). One has to keep shunning out logic and common sense throughout the film but the director has built in enough applause worthy Bhai moments to make up for that. There are enough thrills like the elaborate opening fight sequence shot in Iraq where Tiger (Salman) sledges down the stairs in a marketplace while shooting at the enemies; or when he stops a tram from crashing, using his blazer alone! Coming back to the story, the first half is quite predictable but the chemistry between Salman and Katrina make it watchable. The real fun starts post interval where our desi James Bond, RAW agent, Tiger decides to fight for his love instead of his nation.

Katrina Kaif as Zoya is quite good in the film and you can’t help but applaud at her stunts and parkour skills (of course, there was a body double but that’s not the point). There are more exaggerated stunts that make you jump in your seat – no they’re not the most sophisticated ones but most ridiculously fun, like the usual Salman stuff. The film is shot across the world at picturesque and exotic locations like Ireland, Cuba, Thailand and Turkey. Aseem Mishra does justice to all these locations and the good looking lead pair with his cinematography. However, I fail to understand why so many slow motion sequences were there including milk being poured in a vessel!

The biggest let down in the film is its ending. The film almost ends abruptly while you’re having loads of fun and expect it to continue for fifteen more minutes. But I guess there was nothing more left to say or show so the director decided to just wrap up after a masaledaar sequence. The final montage of Salman and Katrina at popular places around the world is hilarious and could have been avoided. Music by Sohail Sen is disappointing and there is not one song I can say I liked; the one popular number, Mashallah is also done by guest composers – Sajid-Wajid. Background score by Julius Packiam is interesting with music elements from the respective countries where the scenes are set in; and also the introduction music piece for Tiger.

Ek Tha Tiger is definitely a onetime watch and if possible go in a large group to a single screen theatre to enjoy the ceeties and the hooting.

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

 

Mere Brother Ki Dulhan

Like Flat Cola…

MBKD; Source: Wikipedia

Let me begin by confessing that I have been a big fan of Yash Raj brand of cinema with beautiful people dressed in designer wear, great locales, melodious music, large family celebrations and of course a love story somewhere in all this. Having said that, I also applaud the innovative ideas and fresh concepts they’ve been presenting on-screen over the last decade. However, their latest offering Mere Brother Ki Dulhan doesn’t live up to the high standards of Yash Raj romances, nor it stands out based on an innovative concept.

The film’s title gives away the basic plot, the leading man falls in love with his brother’s bride-to-be; which is something we have seen earlier in Sorry Bhai (2008) and The Family Stone (2005). Of course, all three films are different in their treatment and Mere Brother Ki Dulhan (MBKD) appeared to be a light entertainer; it is light, yes; but entertainer? No.

MBKD is a story about two brothers, Luv (Ali Zafar of Tere Bin Laden fame) who is based in London and Kush (Imran Khan), an Indian film maker. The two brothers love and understand each other so much that the elder one, Luv asks the younger one to find him an Indian bride. Here we are treated to Tanu Weds Manu style scenes where Kush and family go from town to town meeting weird girls and their families over samosas and jalebis. Finally he’s able to find a suitable match for his brother, the beautiful and rebellious, Dimple (Katrina Kaif). Luv and Dimple approve the alliance after a short video chat and the two families move into a guest house in Delhi to simultaneously plan and celebrate the wedding. Kush and Dimple immerse themselves into the wedding preparations and having loads of fun before Luv arrives. You can easily guess what happens next so I will stop here with the plot.

The problem with the film is not only the predictable story (writer, director: Ali Abbas Zafar; not the actor) but lack of any excitement and fun. The crackling chemistry we saw between the lead pair in Yash Raj’s last shaadi style film, Band Baaja Baaraat is completely missing in this one. There are good looking actors in the film but they don’t light up the screen together; plus they all appear to be trying too hard to be funny. Even the songs that usually set the tone for a wedding themed film are completely flat and boring (music: Sohail Sen).

Watch it if you are a Katrina fan as she gets maximum scope in the film; though I’d recommend watching Band Baaja Baaraat again on DVD.

My rating: ** Two on five

 

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

 

Bollywood Wishlist

 

Expectations from the Hindi Film Industry in the next decade

Tabu in The Namesake

A lot has changed in Bollywood in the last decade and most of it for good. While bad films continued to pour in like a plague, there were many innovations and experiments that took the ‘industry’ to the next level…

Good writing finally gained the importance it deserves; casting started happening according to the characters and not based on the star power, and of course the technical improvements; Bollywood flicks covered a lot of ground in the last ten years. Specifically in 2010, the industry woke up to the power of small films that shadowed the biggies and hope this trend continues where content is the king. However, with so many improvements, there are still some irritants that we can do without.

Here’s my wish-list for Bollywood in the next decade:

Better roles for better actors: There are many good actors but a lot of times they do not get the right roles to play due to silly factors like star camps, favoritism and the actors’ own choices. Case in point Rani Mukherji, a supremely talented actress who did not get any powerful roles post 2005 when she was seen in Black, Bunty aur Babli and Paheli. Hopefully No One Killed Jessica works for her and she gets better films than the Hadippas andChunari Ka Daags of the world.

Similarly for Amitabh Bachchan, it is time that he only takes up quality work and avoids films like Teen Patti, Aladinand God Tussi Great Ho. Another fine actress, Tabu deserves better roles; her performances in Maqbool, Cheeni Kum and Chandni Bar were outstanding and with The Namesake, she garnered international acclaim. She has been signed on by none other than Ang Lee for his ambitious 3D project, Life of Pi; let’s hope that Bollywood also wakes up again to her talent.

Click here to read full post that appeared on nowrunning.com on January 3.

 

Celebrating the Duds

 

The worst of Bollywood in 2010

Pic: Tees Maar Khan

Every year Bollywood churns out hundreds of movies and hundreds of them flop; only a handful of them get acceptance and are lauded by the viewers, and even fewer by the critics. Sometimes even the bad ones work at the box-office and nobody has any explanation for that, except maybe Sajid Khan as he manages to do that every time with his films (Heyy Babyy, Housefull). While the good ones will get felicitated at the multiple award ceremonies (the eternal optimist in me still believes in them a little bit); the bad ones are forgotten except by the financier or the distributor. This article is dedicated to the worst of Bollywood in 2010. Nobody really wants to make bad films or do bad work but maybe the filmmakers and actors learn something from these disasters.

Declaration: This column is the author’s expression of the pains he suffered by watching poorly made films, badly enacted scenes and other forms of torture deployed by the Bollywood-wallahs this year. The author payed through his nose to watch these films at expensive multiplexes and thinks that it is his right to give back. Should you disagree, please read no further; if you agree, do share your views on the worst of Bollywood in 2010.

RGV Ki Aag Memorial Award for the Worst Film: and the nominees based on the author’s personal views and a quick and dirty survey, are:

  • Anees Bazmee’s No Problem – Because the audience cannot be ‘Welcomed’ in ‘No Entry’ again and again
  • Farah Khan’s Tees Maar Khan – Because Khan Khan hota hai aur Kumar Kumar
  • Mani Ratnam’s Raavan – Because we had great expectations, Sir
  • Anurag Basu’s Kites – Because the controversy around the lead pair was more interesting than the film itself
  • Leena Yadav’s Teen Patti – Because you shouldn’t try to make desi ‘21’
  • Ken Ghosh’s Chance Pe Dance – Because the dancing was so bad
  • Sajid Khan’s Housefull – Because in reality Mr. Khan it is NOT your Titanic and you can NEVER make Avatar (Sajid Khan had compared Housefull to Titanic and promised Avatar on Komal Nahta’s show on ETC Channel)
  • Priyadarshan’s Aakrosh – Because if you can’t get it right then should leave Prakash Jha to make such cinema

And the award goes to Farah Khan for Tees Maar Khan. Recognition for ‘borrowing’ the story-line of an old, Italian flick (After the Fox, 1966) and ruining it with jokes that are not funny and scenes that are just randomly put together. However, I must mention the only good thing in the film – Katrina’s item song, ‘Sheila Ki Jawani’.

Click here to read full post that originally appeared on nowrunning.com

 

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

 

Blue

 

This is no Indiana Jones…

Pic: Blue; Source: planetbollywood.com

You get foreign technicians to work on your film, give itsy-bitsy bikinis to your leading lady to wear, shoot at some breath-taking locales and spend a bomb on under-water sequences… you definitely get a good looking film (except Sanjay Dutt’s paunch). Directed by Anthony D’Souza, Blue is just a good looking film, that’s about it. Pegged as an underwater treasure-hunt adventure flick, Blue disappoints with its weak script. It lacks the edge-of-the-seat thrills and the mind-games expected of a treasure-hunt film.

The film starts with the one of the cheesiest lines I have heard on-screen this year, it goes something like this, ‘Paisa, samunder ki macchli aur ladki ka dil… in par kisi ka naam nahin likha hota’ (no one’s name is written on money, fish and a woman’s heart). Immediately I knew that I am not to expect anything smart from the film. Leave aside the excitement of National Treasure or Indiana Jones, the film’s screenplay doesn’t even match up to the 1992 treasure-hunt film, Daulat Ki Jung starring Aamir Khan and Juhi Chawla.

Akshay Kumar plays Aarav, a rich businessman in Bahamas who wants his friend cum employee Sagar (Sanjay Dutt) to help him find a lost treasure in the sea. Sagar apparently knows the location of the treasure but for some reason is not willing to go and look for it. Zayed Khan plays Sam, Sagar’s brother (poor guy, till when he would have to play kid brother characters) and Lara Dutta plays Mona, Sagar’s love interest. All characters are poorly developed and you hardly relate to any of them. The film has a few twists in the end but all predictable, so the climax is also extremely thanda.

Akshay is quite irritating in the film as he once again reprises his Kambakkht Ishq like Casanova character; honestly, isn’t he tired himself? Sanjay looks quite old and you want to look away from the screen when he appears in his diving gear with his stomach clearly outlined. I pity Lara who has a brief role with two and a half songs and maybe three dialogues, it seems that she wasn’t shown the script (whatever was there); even Katrina’s cameo has more importance attached to it. Regarding Zayed, he was all right in the role he had but a little too enthusiastic.

Another big disappointment in the film is A R Rahman’s music; not that it’s bad but certainly not Rahman standard. The title track ‘Blue’ is shot extremely well with some great under-water footage; while another hyped song, ‘Chiggy Wiggy’ with Kylie Minogue is just not up to the mark. Cinematography by Laxman Utekar is good and so are some of the action sequences.

Overall, Blue has more style than substance and I would recommend Abbas-Mastan’s Race, which had both in true Bollywood masala way. Regarding the film’s USP, its under-water sequences, go watch an infotainment channel instead, you’d get a better deal.

One thing that I could not understand in the film, please explain if you can. A group of angry goons enter Sanjay Dutt’s house in a scene and start shooting at everything in his living room; Sanjay who is having coffee with Lara in the dining room, decides to wear his sunglasses after hearing the sound of the bullets. Any idea why?

My Rating: * * Two stars (on five)

Shrey Khetarpal