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

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ROBOT

For Rajni Fans Only…

Pic: Robot; Source: bollywoodworld.com

10:30 pm: Excited about watching Robot, have heard so much about the special effects and of course the Rajni mania surrounding the film…

10:35 pm: At Big Cinema’s IMAX theatre in Mumbai, now super excited about watching the film on the gigantic screen…

10:40 pm: The movie begins with big alphabets appearing on screen one by one to form the words – ‘S.U.P.E.R.S.T.A.R’ ‘R.A.J.N.I.K.A.N.T’. Though the theatre is half empty but two groups of boys are cheering… I point out that Aishwarya’s full name is spelt wrong (Bachan instead of Bachchan) in the credits; get told off by a friend to stop proof-reading. Okay! Ready for ROBOT to activate.

11:40 pm: Funny, ridiculous, endearingly tacky… am having fun!

12:40 pm: Ok, another hour to go… seems like a task, can we fast forward the songs please?

1:15 am: Very nice fight, not 1, not 2, not 10, hundreds of Rajni Robots getting into a sphere formation. Wait a minute, they are in snake mode now.

1:30 am: Ok! I want to go home NOW…

1:40 am approx: Yay! Movie over, I am tired…

Pic: Robot; Source: endhiran.org

First things first, I am not a Rajnikant fan but am always game for a good film… Was pretty excited about Shankar’s Robot; however, was left disappointed with what I saw last night. I was not looking for logic here and was expecting a lot of silliness but it was funny and enjoyable in parts only. The film was largely disappointing due to its tiresome length, over the top production design and special effects that get tacky and amateurish at times, patchy writing, forced songs with below average music and lyrics.

The film is about a humanoid Robot that is developed for military purposes but develops human feelings (Iron Man meets Bicentennial Man meets I, Robot). There is a lot of masala in the film with romance, action, comedy all thrown in together, unfortunately the final product is not that tasty. Rajnikant as the robot, Chitti and his creator, Prof. Vasigaran;is no doubt good but I’d like to see him in roles that suit his age and stature. I usually like Aishwarya Rai but I have nothing to say about her shockingly ineffective performance in this film; she was so much better in her debut film, Iruvar back in 1997. It was good to see Danny Denzongpa playing a baddie once again.

Robot is the most expensive film made in India, then why wasn’t any attention to detail paid? Rajnikant’s beard and wig look… fake! You can actually see the edges peeling slightly. The robot in the film is shown to know all languages that are programmed by his creator. I want to know how he could understand what the mosquitoes were saying, certainly no human knows that. Yes, you read it right there is a sequence where Chitti talks to a colony of mosquitoes.

Talking about the special effects, there are some impressive sequences especially in the climax where there are hundreds of lookalike robots. However, there are many poorly executed sequences that can only be termed, shoddy. The film could have been a good half hour shorter (editing – Anthony Gonsalves) as it gets really boring in the second half. Regarding make up and costumes, the less said is better; maybe going ‘over the top’ was the brief but it shouldn’t be at the cost of making your actors look silly. Mr. Manish Malhotra didn’t expect this from you…

Music by A. R. Rahman is below average but I will not give up hope and wait for the maestro to come back with another rocking album (after Jhootha Hi Sahi of course). Lyrics by Swanand Kirkere are bizarre and I prefer ‘Telephone Dhun Mein Hasne Wali’ from Hindustani to his ‘Neutrons, Electrons’ in Robot.  In true Shankar style, the songs are shot at exotic locations and the song, ‘Kilimanjaro, Mohenjadaro’, which incidentally is shot in Macchu Picchu, looks nice. The ‘Neutrons, Electrons’ song that is shot in a Brazilian desert could have looked breathtaking if the makers didn’t decide to ‘enhance’ the visuals with so called ‘special effects’.

Overall, Robot is a very average film that doesn’t really live up to its promise of being a complete masala entertainer. Ask Rajni fans and they would trash this post citing the author’s lack of understanding of Tamil cinema or specifically Rajni cinema. I understand their point of view as even I was criticised for overlooking My Name Is Khan’s flaws and going simply by what I felt after the film in my review. Robot is for Rajni fans and they will love it. If you are not a fan, don’t go with any expectations and you may like it.

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

– Shrey Khetarpal

Avatar

 

James Cameron does it again, but…

Pic: 20th Century Fox

James Cameron’sAvatar’ was probably the most awaited film of 2009 with all those special effects to bring alive the master director’s vision. A lot has been said about the 300-500 million dollars spent, the new language developed and the special stereoscopic cameras used to film it. The same hype probably works against the film and you feel a little disappointed while the end-credits roll. I am not saying that it is a bad film; Avatar is a good film and is a visual treat; it’s just that the expectations were beyond imagination.

Avatar is a simple film, mounted on a huge canvas to tell the age old story of good versus bad. While the theme is old, it is very relevant to us today as we face the global warming crisis that threatens our very existence. The film is set sometime in the future when there is nothing green left on our ‘dying’ planet. However, the human greed has extended to a moon called Pandora, 4.3 light years from Earth. The aliens (humans in this case) are after a precious mineral called Unobtainium and want the indigenous population of blue coloured species called Na’vi to co-operate, by hook or by crook (read forcibly). The story is about the clash between the Na’vis who worship nature and the aliens who after destroying their own planet, are after theirs.

Cameron successfully manages to create a bond between his audience and the Na’vis who are referred to as the ‘hostiles’ or ‘blue monkeys’ by the invading aliens. He encourages you to look and feel, the life at Pandora through the eyes of the Na’vis and you take in the awesome flora and fauna that seem to be inspired by the legendary Garden of Eden. This is where the director wins; all the technology and the imagination create a new world and experience to remember.

The film essentially belongs to the technicians and the director; kudos to the actors who deliver extremely believable performances. What does not work well in Avatar’s favour is the predictability of the story and its length (162 minutes). Also, the special effects may seem quite regular if seen in 2D (a plus on Jurassic Park maybe) and there are not enough 3D cinemas around the world. I am not too sure if people will go back to the theatre again and again like they did for James Cameron’s last outing, Titanic. Avatar is no Titanic, and may not achieve that success but it is a film that deserves to be watched.

Go watch it, but only in 3D.

My Rating: * * * * Four stars on five (Three for the film and one extra for the special effects)

Shrey Khetarpal

 

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

 

Hugh Jackman delivers an entertainer, but is it the best X-Men film? Nah!

Picture Courtesy: www.moviepostr.com
Picture Courtesy: http://www.moviepostr.com

Good, bad, average… whatever critics have been saying, I quite enjoyed myself and so did five others who watched the film with me (leaving one friend who is not exactly an action movie fan). I think a lot of credit goes to the previous X-Men films, which were fantastic and left everyone asking for more. On its own, Wolverine is not a great film but everyone I know was quite excited to know the story behind one of the most popular and enigmatic characters, Wolverine, played by Hugh Jackman. Packed with a lot of action and special effects, we have an entertainer on our hands.

The film starts in Canada in 1845 where we are introduced to young James (Logan / Wolverine) who is unaware of his mutant abilities. Unknowingly, he ends up killing his father and escapes with his brother Victor Creed (aka Sabretooth, played by Liev Schreiber). Both brothers fight a number of wars as part of the US Army and are finally inducted into a ruthless group of mutant warriors by Colonel William Stryker (Danny Huston). They part ways as James wants to live a peaceful life away from the cruelties that seem to attract Victor. From brothers to enemies, both Victor and James are used by Stryker for his evil motives. The film reveals a lot about Wolverine’s past including how he got his metal claws (the Weapon-X programme), the reason behind his amnesia and how he got his name.

A lot of revelations and a lot of action, the film was fun but I did miss that GOOD vs BAD theme that formed the base for the earlier X-Men films. I was also a bit disappointed by the CGI (computer generated imagery); some sequences clearly looked fake or animated. The climax was one such disappointing sequence where the fight did not look original.

I am told that the producers are making another edition of X-Men Origins, this time focusing on Magneto. It sounds exciting but what I am really waiting for is getting back to the original track and see the follow-up to ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’ which ended with the possibility of another edition. Till then, back to X-Men, X-2 and The Last Stand DVDs 😉

My rating: * * * Three stars

– Shrey Khetarpal