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.

Ladies vs Ricky Bahl

This is no Band Baaja Baaraat…

Pic: Yash Raj Films; Source: Wikipedia

From the makers of the super-fun, Band Baaja Baaraat (BBB) comes a not-so-fun film, Ladies Vs. Ricky Bahl (LVRB). The latest Ranveer SinghAnushka Sharma starrer promised the same energy, attitude and excitement as the last year’s surprise hit, BBB but sadly failed to do so. It is certainly not a bad film but disappoints by being mediocre, coming from the same team that presented a crackling entertainer not so long ago. I hate to compare the two films but that’s how this film was promoted.

Directed by Maneesh Sharma, the film has an interesting first half where the stories of three women getting conned by the same guy are presented (story, Aditya Chopra; screenplay, Devika Bhagat). However, the second half gets predictable as these three hire another girl to con the original conman. While the plot is nothing new, the treatment could have made the film more engaging and fun. Ranveer Singh as Ricky Bahl who appears in the film in many other characters is good and his hard work shows on screen. Anushka (as Ishika Desai) is her usual confident, bubbly self but needs to break out of this mould in her future films as we’ve seen her do the same thing many times now. The supporting characters include three other actresses who have been cast well. Dipannita Sharma as a successful career woman, Raina Parulekar from Mumbai is good and so is Aditi Sharma who plays a soft spoken widow from Lucknow. But the real star of the film is Parineeti Chopra who owns every scene she appears in; she plays Dimple Chaddha, the spoilt daughter of a rich estate agent from Delhi. Habib Faisal (dialogues) has given her the best lines and she says them in an endearingly tacky manner (what we loved about BBB). I can promise you that the internet term for laughing out loud, ‘LOL’ will not remain the same for you once you’ve seen this film.

Another thing that does not work for the film is its music (Salim-Sulaiman). None of the songs are above average and act as good concession stand / loo breaks. Ladies Vs. Ricky Bahl is a half baked attempt at a con film as the love angle ruins it. Bollywood or Yash Raj Films, can we not have a mean con artist film that is funny but without a sappy love story?

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

– Shrey Khetarpal

 

Band Baaja Baaraat

 

Shaadi Mubarak –Wedding Planners of the Year

 

Pic: Yash Raj Films

Super bored of the designer romantic comedies released this year (read my earlier column, Rom Com Gone); I was looking forward to Yash Raj Films’ Band Baaja Baaraat (BBB) as the promos looked tacky (in a nice way) and fun. The film thankfully lived up to its promise of ‘Fultoo Dhamaal, Mother Promise!’ Yes, that’s the copy they’re using in the film’s promotional material. And that’s the kind of writing the film has, which makes it enjoyable. Written by director, Maneesh Sharma (story) and Habib Faisal (screenplay), the film’s strength lies in its middle class Delhi feel and the lack of polish making it so endearing.

About the lead pair, BBB has Anushka Sharma who reprises the simple yet feisty girl character again, two years after her debut as Taani in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. She plays Shruti Kakkar, a middle class girl from Delhi who has the dreams and the drive to make it big. Opposite her is Bittoo Sharma, played by newcomer, Ranveer Singh; a student in Delhi’s North Campus who wants to do binnesse (business) so that he does not have to manage his father’s sugarcane fields in Sahranpur. Shruti and Bittoo start a wedding planning binnesse in partnership called Shaadi Mubarak and achieve great success by leveraging each other’s strengths. However, the dream run does not last long as they break one major rule of binnesse, mixing vyaapar (business) with pyaar (love). Just like the plot, the film is great fun in the first half but loses steam towards the second only to have a predictable ending.

Anushka is impressive and appears extremely confident, while Ranveer nails the character of Bittoo with his look and mannerisms; Bread Pakore Ki Kasam like he says in the film. A special mention for the supporting cast, mostly unknown actors who fit the characters well; a flower vendor who looks like a flower vendor and not Anupam Kher type actor in bad make-up.

Coming back to the writing, the dialogue is sharp, witty and colloquial; all Dilliwallas can relate to the wrong use of English and Punjabified pronunciation. A large part of the film is shot in Delhi’s residential areas, making it look more relatable. Come to think of it, this kind of depiction of the city is not new but we have loved it again and again in films like Khosla Ka Ghosla, Oye Lucky Lucky Oye, Do Dooni Char and now Band Baaja Baaraat. Special mention for the production designers, Sonal Choudhry and T P Abid for retaining the Delhi feel and designing the kitschy wedding sequences, the USP of Shaadi Mubarak. Camerawork by Aseem Mishra is nice and some of the wedding sequences look like actual shaadi videos only. A big disappointment is the music by Salim Sulaiman, which fails to match the film’s energy.

Overall, Band Baaja Baaraat is a fun watch and if you’re looking for a light entertainer this week, then go for it.

My rating: * * * Three stars on five

– Shrey Khetarpal

 

Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year

 

Yash Raj Ke Pocket Mein Rocket Hai!

Pic: Yash Raj Films

 

Remember the wonderful films of the 70s about the hopes and struggles of the middle class man, often played by Amol Palekar? Basu Chatterjee’s ‘Chhoti Si Baat’, ‘Baaton Baaton Mein’ or Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s ‘Golmaal’? The beauty of these films lies in their simplicity and the relatable situations, away from the glitz and glamour that Bollywood often piles on to its films. Yash Raj Films’ latest offering may not be in the league of the classics I just mentioned above but it does have its heart in place. ‘Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year’ is an entertainer which shows that simple can be special and it pays to be good. Congratulations to the team of Shimit Amin (director) and Jaideep Sahni (screenplay, dialogues, lyrics) for welcoming the simple salesman into our imagination.

The film is about Harpreet Singh (Ranbir Kapoor), an aspiring salesman who is aware of his abilities as well as his limits; he is confident of his persuasion skills and does not let his not so good mark-sheets affect his dream of earning Rs 40,000 a month. He joins as a sales trainee in a computer firm called AYS (At Your Service) and hopes to reach the top through dedication and hard work. He soon realizes that life is not that simple and is mocked, ridiculed, insulted and threatened for being honest. After a point, he decides to get even in his own unique, ‘good’ way.

With Rocket Singh, Ranbir once again proves how watchable he is on-screen and puts a lot of sincerity in Harpreet’s character. The other key characters are also very well defined and the actors do full justice to them; Mukesh Bhatt as the peon and Naveen Kaushik as the go-getter salesman are both good. D Santosh as the download obsessed, IT support guy is brilliant and Gauhar Khan shines in a stellar performance as a firebrand receptionist. Debutante, Shahzahn Padamsee, sadly has nothing much to do except to cook Maggi for an unknown salesman (see, good people are still out there). Prem Chopra makes a rare on-screen appearance and adds authenticity to the Sikh/Punjabi household setting. Overall, it is a character driven film and full marks for Jaideep for writing it, except the climax which is a little disappointing.

It is an offbeat film that attempts to showcase a slice of life – life of a salesman and other regular employees in a regular office. It is not a laugh riot as I expected it to be but is not a let down either; the humour is subtle, the performances sincere and the situations close to real. It is definitely worth a watch.

Question for the makers: Why is the ‘Pocket Mein Rocket Hai’ song NOT in the film?

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

Shrey Khetarpal

  

Kurbaan

 

It is not about Saifeena alone…

Pic: Dharma Productions; Source: planetbollywood.com

Rensil D’Silva’s directorial debut, Kurbaan thankfully goes beyond the pre-release hype created by the film’s posters and the saree presented to Kareena Kapoor by some Shiv Sainiks. It is a film about the discord between the western world, specifically the USA and the Islamic world. Does it do full justice to the subject of ‘Islamic Jihad’? I don’t think so but it does manage to come out as a gripping thriller with a message.

Kurbaan is about Avantika (Kareena Kapoor), a Psychology professor who marries Ehsaan (Saif Ali Khan), a professor on Islam and its influence on the modern world. Avantika is extremely happy with her life till she discovers a disturbing truth about her husband. From this point onwards the film transforms from a love story to a thriller. The director takes the first forty-five minutes to set up the love story and introduces the other characters; by this time you start getting tired of the slow pace and suddenly the film picks up. There are many twists in the plot, some predictable and some surprise you, leading up to an action packed climax.

The film has many similarities with Kabir Khan’s New York; apart from the basic premise, there are similarities in the plot, however the treatment and the circumstances are quite different. I could not help but compare the two films. While Kurbaan manages to keep the tension alive throughout and the climax is several notches superior; New York scores in creating an emotional connect with the lead characters.

Saif and Kareena are both good in their characters and have a good supporting cast of Viveik Oberoi, Kirron Kher and Om Puri to complete the picture. Kirron’s Afghani accent is not convincing but the fanaticism displayed by her character is. Viveik worked hard on his American accent, which again is a bit annoying but he does a decent job.

Technically, Hemant Chaturvedi’s cinematography is good and so is SalimSulaiman’s music, which does not interrupt the narrative. Screenplay by Rensil D’Silva drags a bit in the beginning but maintains the tension of a thriller in the rest of the film. There are a few loopholes in the storyline and certain decisions taken by the lead characters seem extremely unrealistic but that’s a Bollywood film for you.

Overall, Kurbaan is one of the better films released this year. It leaves much to be desired as far as cinematic excellence is concerned but is a good one-time watch.  

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

Shrey Khetarpal