Thursday, January 22, 2009

Movie Review : Chandni Chowk to China

Producer: Mukesh Talreja, Ramesh Sippy, Rohan Sippy
Director: Nikhil Advani
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Deepika Padukone, Mithun Chakraborty, Ranvir Shorey
Music: Kailash Kher, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Naresh, Paresh, Bappi Lahiri, Bohemia

This film about of ‘maar-saala’ arts, not to be confused with martial arts, which Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan practise with such splendid and subtle skills on screen.

Akshay Kumar cannot be accused of the sins of subtlety. Not at all. He goes from a sweaty cook in Chandni Chowk in Delhi (India) to a cheesy fighter in China with hammers, tongs and indecipherable tongues. What lies between the extremities represented by the two oriental cultures has to be seen to be believed… or not.

When Jackie Chan kicks ass, man… he really kicks! No two ways about it. Akshay divides his time between being an action hero and a comic virtuoso, tripping over the line that divides the two genres with little or no scope to contain the fall as the screenplay plunges lower and lower into the depths of inanity.

Writer Sridhar Raghavan, known for his smart slick cerebral takes on formulas, spins a web of incidents chronicling the journey of Sidhu (Akshay), a cook in Chandni Chowk to the satirical samurai in Shanghai, which is littered with laughable incidents and episodes that appear more to be part of a clumsy sitcom lampooning the Chinese than a purported large-screen spectacle bringing China to Bollywood.

Honestly, if this film had been shot anywhere in the world, it would’ve been just as bland and fatuous. What compounds the woefully inadequate narration is the abject lack of connectivity between the protagonist and the audience.

Not even for a second do we feel a rush of empathetic adrenaline for the culturally-displaced Sidhu who encounters all kinds of emaciated goons, terrorised by a suited, booted and largely-uprooted villain named Hojo (Gordon Lieu), who is no Gabbar Singh or Mogambo. Just an ageing goon in a black suit who doesn’t know it’s bad manners to pee in public, specially in the hero’s face.

The internationally-renowned action directors who pool in their might seem unsure of where to position the action. Perched on the Great Wall Of China, Akshay and his fellow fighters - and that includes the desi Lucy Lieu Deepika Padukone - slug it out like drunken revellers on a rowdy spree.

Elegance is in short supply in the film, except when Deepika, playing twin sisters, waltzes in with a light step and twinkling eye. She seems to have fun. We don’t. And that’s mainly because the scriptwriter forgot to include the audience in his circle of entertainment.

Large chunks of this ‘Adventures Of Sidhu in Blunderland’ saga leave us cold and unresponsive. And when the final fight between the hero and the villain occurs, Akshay decides to turn it into a comic romp. We are more dazed than dazzled by the baffling mood swings in the plot.

Yes, there are moments that hold your attention. Sidhu’s martial arts training with twin-Deepika’s Chinese father are superbly orchestrated.

Most of the time you are looking at a film that does appalling things to Indo-Chinese relations. Not to mention our traditional perception of mainstream ‘masala-maar ke’ entertainment.

Martial arts are turned into ‘maar-saala’ arts. And you leave the film wondering what it was meant to be. A bird, a plane or just a pathetic parody of Jackie Chan’s comic vendetta sagas.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Salman Khan

Salman Khan just celebrated his birthday as he turned 43. He remainder Bellwood’s most eligible bachelor still. He’s confident of the advancing years, of turning grey, the solid and muscled body losing its tone, appear and sex appeal.

Excerpts from an Interview:

You have prepared it a habit on your birthday to run for 20 kilometers at a stretch.

This way, I confirm to see if my ankles, knees, back and other body parts are fit and well,” revealed the actor who will perform that health test today.

Have you planned anything about your marriage?

You are unmarried awaiting you actually perform the nikaah or pheras.

Don’t you fear getting old?

You have heard about your hair dye. I have always had a little grey strands and I am completely fine about that. With age, the hair turns grey, the face gets lined. But if people still have love and respect for you... that’s a realization. I have an great quantity of that to keep me going. It’s natural to understand things in a broader perspective as you grow old but I live by the heart, I never have any regrets, and I work towards retaining my child-like innocence. It’s beautiful to be child-like, not childish.

What’s new in your life?

Maybe it’s time for me to pick up stuff from the others. Aamir and I have been good friends since Andaaz Apna Apna. There’s no insecurity, no malice and competition between us and that makes the base of our dosti strong. Over the last five years,we have also started hanging out more than often.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Movie : 'Hello'

Producer: Atul Agnihotri
Director: Atul Agnihotri
Cast: Amrita Arora, Gul Panag, Isha Kopikar, Katrina Kaif, Salman Khan, Sohail Khan
Music: Sajid Wajid, Salim-Sulaiman

Hello, hello, hello? What is this, boss?

Chetan Bhagat's bestseller "One Night @ The Call Centre" is converted on celluloid to 'One Excruciating Night At A Call Centre'.

The six much-loved characters have a past before they gather at a call centre run by boss Dalip Tahil who dreams, sings and performs bodily functions based on his migration to Boston.

The call centre resembles a large Ekta Kapoor set for a saas-bahu serial. Those at least are less dead at the centre.

Crammed into this word space of telephonic babble are a betrayed wife (Amrita Arora), a girl (Gul Panag) who's being forced by her singing-dancing-demented mother to marry an NRI, a mixed-up frazzled neurotic chick (Isha Koppikar), a senior citizen (Sharad Saxena) who's been deserted by his son and two guys -- Sharman Joshi and Sohail Khan -- who don't seem to know what they want.

Frankly, neither does this film. The filmmaker seems to be confused about the characters faster than we can keep up with their mind space.

What works within a novel's format need not work as a film. The characters seem thoroughly scattered and go every which way that the woozy screenplay takes them. After a while, we just give up trying to make sense of the jumble of characters and their problems.

Sohail as always is what keeps us from walking out.

Staging a walkout would be the mildest form of protest for this urbane atrocity. What Anurag Basu achieved effortlessly in "Life... In A Metro" is here reduced to a mocking pantomime of urbane angst.

The film goes from fretful episodes mimicking the saucy witticism of the American series "Friends", to a cheaply ironic shot at "Conversations With God" when our group of muddled call centre suburban nearly topple over and plunge to their death and are rescued by, ha ha, god.

God saves these ginks. But who will save this weird look-see at longings and eccentricities of people who would rather be unhappy than happy?

A few redeeming moments (like the time when Amrita connects with her long-distance husband and finds out about his extra-marital affair) cannot salvage this hip-and-non-happening disaster, probably the worst film you'll see this year.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Movie:'Welcome To Sajjanpur'

Producer: Ronnie Screwvala
Director: Shyam Benegal
Cast: Shreyas Talpade, Amrita Rao, Ravi Kishan, Rajeshwari Sachdeva, Ravi Jhankal, Ila Arun, Divya Dutta, Yashpal Sharma
Music: Shantanu Moitra

Welcome to Shyam Benegal's world of enchanting social comment. Every character in this village of the damned, the doomed and remarkably redeemed is a stereotype. And yet, miraculously, every character is an individual, eccentric, quirky, blemished and yet so full of vitality vigour and energy that you wonder which came, or life as seen through the eyes of Benegal's camera of innocence, candour and credibility.

This isn't Benegal's first broadly-designed, warmly-panoramic ensemble film. Earlier, the prolific director excelled in depicting the life of a specific community in 'Mandi' and 'Suraj Ka Satwan Ghoda' as a microcosm of a larger reality.

Bad karma nudges delicious satire in 'Welome To Sajjanpur' as a closet-author whiles away his time writing letters for the illiterate, misguided villagers in a sleepy village that comes alive only at election time when a spirited eunuch takes on a local gangster at the elections.

The spirit of the missives, some sad, some satirical, others a bewildering Benegalesque blend of both, comes across in episodic overtures that lead us gently but persuasively from one issue - of widow remarriage (Ravi Kissan giving coy glances to Rajeswahri Sachdeva is a paisa-vasool sight) to another issue of rural migration.

Amrita Rao, in loud parrot-coloured saris and mannerisms suggesting an unspoilt naivete, is the bride-in-waiting whose husband has been gone to Mumbai for four years.

Shreyas Talpade is the letter writer given the task of informing Amrita's husband that the bride can wait no more. In a spurt of blinding self-interest, Talpade goes from detached letter-writer to attached Romeo and then to the penitent martyr with an ease, fluency and sauciness that the actor seems to muster up with a magician's flourish.

In a film flush with accomplished performances, Talpade holds the plot together like a voluminous book's spine - giving his bucolic character heart, charm and chutzpah.

This is Talpade's coming-of-age film. You really can't imagine any other leading man achieving the same level of connectivity with the character, plot and audience.

All the Benegal regulars - from Ila Arun to Rajit Kapur - show up in Sajjanpur with gratifying humility and warmth. Ravi Jhankal as the election-contesting eunuch and Yashpal Sharma as the eunuch's uncouth opponent stand out, if 'stand out' is the right term for a film where the actors become one with the characters in a seamless design celebrating life's most recognisable and basic emotions.

The costumes (Pia Benegal) tend to get a little touristy at times. And the dialogues (Ashok Mishra again) sometimes lean towards the lewd to salute the boorish rustic ambience. These are not traits you would expect in Benegal's film. But then he needs to keep up with the times. A fact that seems to have bypassed the soporific slumber-dwellers of Sajjanpur as they battle between hand-written postcards and sms communications, finally allowing the former to rule the roost until further notification.

This is a film where every character - big or small - stands tall in his or her naive insularity from forces of corruptibility that threaten to break down their doors.

Sajjanpur echoes a 1977 film 'Palkon Ki Chaon Mein' where Rajesh Khanna played the village postman trying not to get too involved with the local people's domestic problems. Talpade doesn't try that hard.

This is not Benegal's most subtle work of his prolific career. But it is one of his warmest, funniest and raunchiest pieces of cinema - where every character is a human being you'd bump into if you visit a Sajjanpur. Not too many films do that these days.

Movie:'Saas Bahu Aur Sensex'

Producer: Jayshri Makhija
Director: Shona Urvashi
Cast: Tanushree Datta, Ankur Khanna, Kirron Kher, Farooq Sheikh, Masumi Makhija, Lilette Dubey
Music: Randolph Correa, Bipin Panchal, Blaaze

To be fair, putting together saas-bahu sagas and the sensex seems a good concept, but director Shona Urvashi fails to use it effectively in her film.

In recent years, Bollywood has been generous to directors who experimented with novel concepts and the audiences too accepted their films. 'Saas Bahu Aur Sensex' dares to be different as it tells the story of middle-class housewives playing the stock market.

The director inter-weaves a love triangle into the main plot.

Nitya (Tanushree Dutta), Binita's daughter, shifts to Mumbai with her mother and meets Ritesh (Ankur Khanna) who helps her in getting a job at a call centre. Ritesh is in love with Kirti (Masumeh Makhija) who lives in the same society. But Kirti has other plans, she wants to marry a millionaire.

Despite the presence of the two veteran actors, Kirron and Farooque, the film fails to hold the audiences' attention. The reason being that the director fails to execute the story deftly and characters aren't properly etched.

Farooque, who had almost disappeared from the big screen, chose a wrong movie to make his comeback. As far as Kirron goes, in the recent past she has chosen all the wrong films and her talent is not utilised in this film either.


Producer: Amita Bishnoi, Bhagwati Gabrani, Surendra Sharma
Director: Vikram Bhatt
Cast: Adah Sharma, Raj Zutshi, Rajneesh Duggal, Vallab Vyas, Vipin Sharma
Music: Adnan Sami

After 'Phoonk', you'd think the possessed woman was a thing of the past. But wait, it's time for another lady to elevate far beyond her bed in a horizontal high that gives you a crick in the neck.

'1920' is 'Phoonk' in Scotland (or whichever foreign scenic spot), where the devil catches hold of the leading lady as she rests her head on the rattling bed, moved back by almost a century.

Screenwriter Vikram Bhatt attempts to thrust a weight over the theme of exorcism by taking the supernatural theme to British India. So we have soldiers, mutineers, rebels and renegades popping into the Scottish scenario like random guests at a outdoor masquerade party.

And then we have a doctor mentioning a certain 'Dr Sigmund Fried' who is doing research somewhere far away from this film's horrific domestic tussles, researching on the human psychology.

There's something terribly artificial about implanting a historical element into a tale that essentially wants to tap the most primitive and primeval fears of the audience. Rather than going into a tale of betrayal during times of cruel colonialism, Bhatt's narrative should have just stuck to its gory guns.

Then maybe, just maybe, the B and C centre audiences who got the jitters watching 'Phoonk' would've trembled at the diabolic toss and turn that the love birds experience in a verdant castle that is supposed to be situated somewhere in India in the year 1920.

So panoramic and National Geographic is the view that we often want the lead pair (both wooden and uninspired even when the ghouls provoke them into animated retaliation) to just move out of camera range.

Alas, '1920' has a scary story to tell.

We are scared all right. Though for reasons other than the ones Bhatt would want us to be.

Movie:'Ru Ba Ru'

Producer: Percept Picture company
Director: Arjun Bali
Cast: Randeep Hooda, Shahana Goswami
Music: Sameeruddin, Satyadev Burman

The most unreliable thing in life is life itself. This, the protagonist of this sweet little concoction discovers when he wakes up one morning to find that his live-in girlfriend, perfect in manner and devotion, might have to die.

A simple premise based on the theory of deja vu, 'Ru-Ba-Ru' derives its slender strength from the conversational tone that the the debutant director brings to the romantic comedy, a genre that remains largely over-used and under-sensitised in Hindi cinema, thanks to the florid dialogues, over-the-top performances and incessant flow of song-dance.

Here the exuberance of the melodramatic melee that crowds the love in our (e)motion pictures is kept at a believable and urbane decibel. The couple, Randeep Hooda and Shahana Goswami look like a well-matched if strife-torn couple. Their chemistry is certainly not strained.

Randeep confers a casual colloquial sardonicism to the role of a man who has seen tomorrow and would rather enjoy today. Shahana, who gets to smile and giggle after frowning and complaining her way through 'Rock On', provides Randeep with ample scope to refurbish and revise the rituals of romance as they go from dream to a nightmarish reality where we know death is the evitable finale.

Though the plot and its negotiation through a labyrinth of well-charted courtship games are interesting enough, the film finally crumbles under the weight of lightness that comes from portraying love as excessively fleeting, fugitive and fragile.

And to believe that the man who knows he'll lose his beloved at the end of the day would go around joking, dancing ang playing the saxophone as the clock ticks away is stretching the frontiers of romance to the brink of parody.

Nonetheless the narration done in that wispy twinkle-eyed tone that suggests a deep bond between cinema and Elizabethan poetry does prod us gently into watching Randeep and Shahana portray a very contemporary couple bustling through a day of seduction and strife, eventually thrown into a situation that psychiatrists would enjoy analysing on the couch.

Borrowing generously from films like Peter Howitt's 'Sliding Doors', 'Ru-Ba-Ru' makes it a notch above mediocrity for its subtly superior performances and production design.

But the second half is too loose-limbed to qualify as compulsory deja vu. The nadir of storytelling occurs when Randeep and Shahana visit the former's estranged mom (Rati Agnihotri) and stepfather (Jayant Kriplani). In about 10 minutes of playing time here the director makes every father-son reconciliatory gesture prescribed in the book of social etiquette.

Still, the Thai locations and the generous display of stealth in the man-woman relationship redeem what would otherwise have been a film that never crosses the realm of sweet possibilities. While Randeep and Shahana hold up the lead with much casual realism, sturdy support comes from Jeneva Talwar as the heroine's best friend and Kulbhushan Kharbanda as a mysterious angel of death driving a taxi.

'Ru-Ba-Ru' has a delicious subtext to its romantic surface - don't leave the task of displaying emotions to a later time. You may never get there. 'Ru-Ba-Ru' barely does. It just about makes it through the 'Sliding Doors'.