Archive for March, 2013

Himmatwala

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Himmatwala
Release date: March 29, 2013
Directed by: Sajid Khan
Cast: Ajay Devgn, Tamannaah Bhatia, Paresh Rawal, Mahesh Manjrekar, Adhyayan Suman, Zarina Wahab, Leena Jumani

By not choosing to waste precious bandwidth, I’ll keep this very short and scathing. Himmatwala, as Sajid Khan claims is supposed to be an ‘entertainer’ more than a film. Heck, Heck, it’s not even as captivating as a cat running after a laser light.

The ghastly duo of Sajid-Farhad are entrusted with providing a “screenplay” and the dialogues and trust them to come up with puerile jokes that are possibly cracked by kindergarten kids. The usual quick-paced delivery of those lines causes you to stay in amazement of how repetitive, unoriginal and uninventive can anyone working at this level be.

One piece of such genius is manifested by this, “Naarayan Das, jitni tum ne saansein li hain, isne (pointing at a killer) us se zyaada jaanein li hain.” Whoa! As unrealistic as what Sajid Khan’s definition of entertainment is. Tamannaah is blessed with unintentionally hilarious catchphrase, “I hate gareebs.” and that pretty much sums up her character’s gist.

Also, all actors were particularly asked to ham it up, cos that’s entertainment! Khan also vociferously negates his claim of creating “Family entertainers” with his regular homoerotic shtick featuring Paresh Rawal and Mahesh Manjrekar. He tries the spoof approach towards the original Himmatwala by constantly making the actors break the fourth wall, “surprisingly” choosing Paresh Rawal –  who handled the job in Mr. and Mrs. Khiladi, to interact with the audience for a major part.

The only small changes Khan makes in this remake are insignificant, but a special one is where Devgn is a “street fighter”, whereas Jeetendra was an engineer in the original. Quite progressive! Not to mention the cheap and immature ‘CG’ where the tiger’s fight sequences look like this:

If you’re going to stare at Tamannaah and/or the five-dance-girls-in-one-item-song novelty, you’ll kick yourself in the nuts and/or ovaries. The entire “entertainer” is irrelevant, boring and outlandishly demeaning to the viewer’s hard-earned hundred and fifty bucks.

My rating:  1/2 (.5 out of 5 stars)

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Aatma

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Aatma
Release date: March 22, 2013
Directed by: Suparn Verma
Cast: Bipasha Basu, Doyel Dhawan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Shernaz Patel, Jaideep Ahlawat, Mohan Kapoor, Dashan Jariwala, Shivkumar Subramaniam

Aatma, as the title suggests, has something to do with souls and the supernatural. A child thrown in the mix along with ghosts, does sound similar to the staple films of the horror genre and Aatma has the same premise.

Maya (Bipasha Basu) and Abhay (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) are a couple with marital problems. Their daughter, Nia (Doyel Dhawan) is a one dimensional, ordinary child character with nothing much to do except for forcibly crying and being just a cute kid. After instances of domestic violence, Maya decides to separate from Abhay.

After the divorce, Abhay’s love for Nia is still the reason why he can’t let go of her and accept the court’s order; as much as outrightly disregarding the law in front of the judge. The custody is rested with Maya and Abhay simply can’t take it. Scared by her husband’s obsession, so much that even after his death Maya has an inherent fear and soon the aatma (soul) business starts.

There’s a strong list of names in the supporting cast category here, but that’s wasted by the sloppy and inconclusive writing which has an absurdly high number of pleasantries exchanged at very awkward junctures. It’s almost as a murder happening in the next room, and you ask them to keep it low, and thank them for obliging. The last example isn’t an exact scene from the film, but you get the gist.

The Hindi dialogue is so vague, and cliché that you just can’t take it seriously. The spooky bits are limited and satisfying, but the plot devices are jaded and repetitive. Nawazuddin’s character, though limited, is well etched. His first frame makes for an impact which is more than  Shernaz Patel, Shivkumar Subramaniam and Bipasha Basu’s combined first thirty minutes.

Suparn Verma’s attempt at developing the emotional aspect rather than just deploying jaw-dropping, cringe-inducing VFX is commendable, but the conversations that take forward the narrative range from absolutely painful to barely passable. Sophie Winqvist’s lingering camerawork creates the much required haunted theme, thus rendering a special touch to the overall mediocrity.

Aatma also cuts down on the usual screaming by not sticking to a jarring background score. The minimalistic approach could have led to a better product, which the entire horror genre could have referenced for a new direction, but it’s just another misspent venture.

My rating: ** (2 stars out of 5)

Mere Dad Ki Maruti

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Mere Dad Ki Maruti
Release date: March 15, 2013
Directed by: Ashima Chibber
Cast: Rhea Chakraborty, Saqib Saleem, Prabal Panjabi, Ram Kapoor, Ravi Kishan

Situated in a peppy, vehicle and song-dance obsessed Chandigarh, Sameer (Saqib Saleem) is the relatively inexperienced lover-boy in college who can ‘lock and pop and drop’ and the literal drop of hat. His friend Gattu (Prabal Panjabi) is also a copy of Sameer, except that his English is better and his name rhymes with Fattu, forcing him to be the wiser of the duo.

Sameer and everyone else in his college drools at the very mention of Jasleen (Rhea Chakraborty), or as she likes to correct everyone by responding with an “Itz Jazzleen”. Tej (Ram Kapoor) – Sameer’s loud and stereotypical dad has a family tradition of buying a new Maruti car for every major milestone. He buys a new Ertiga to gift his daughter for her marriage.

Sameer decides to impress the college queen in his dad’s new Maruti by sneaking it out at night for a party. This creates a scenario where the protagonist loses the car and keeps finding ways to not let his dad know of this escapade.

The writing is very witty, modern, and very high on twitter-sms lingo. There’s the usage of hashtags, twitter usernames and the very awkward condition of our youth who like to flaunt their grammatically incorrect English. And no, they’re as frigid as proposing their love by a “Baby, I’m not like you, I’m love you.” Cheap, real and funny!

The makers exploit the quintessential Punjabi machismo by making the leads step out of rotating cars, dress up to the nines with a hole in the head and the types. There’s an unnecessary focus on the film’s music, as the background score also consists of actual songs and there’s never a particularly silent moment. The camera work isn’t flashy, but it is compelling at the right moments.

There’s a small dampener, in the form of a heavy Punjabi feel to each department of the film, from Tej’s angry mouthings or Sameer’s “waste fail gayi” to all the sound mixing. If you’re not high on that, you might not buy into the film. The actor who shines out with his every shot is Prabal Panjabi as Sameer’s sidekick. The comedy flows in at all vital junctures and the screenplay, however simple it may be, never appears dull.

The individual performances along with the ‘hip’ dialogue make up for a very good film, with no major expectations. This Maruti is much like the ‘Life Utility Vehicle’ (sic) with its sincere effort.

My rating: ***1/2 (3.5 out of 5)

Jolly LLB

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Jolly LLB
Release date: March 15, 2013
Directed by: Subhash Kapoor
Cast: Amrita Rao, Arshad Warsi, Boman Irani, Saurab Shukla, Manoj Pahwa, Mohan Kapoor

Jagdish Tyagi Jolly (Arshad Warsi) is a lawyer in a small district court of Meerut, Uttar Pradesh. His career is floundering  and he’s looking for ways to make it big. Soon he encounters another small time colleague getting mainstream media coverage for filing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL).

A hit and run case accused is let off and Advocate Rajpal (Boman Irani) is the savior for the typical rich boy. Jolly moves to Delhi for bigger prospects and explores the same PIL alternative for a chance at fame. Rajpal is an accomplished and snobbish bigshot who wears exemplary suits and sips whiskey while discussing cases.

Presented with a moral dilemma, catalyzed by a few plot devices, Jolly has to now make a decision if he’s going to fight for justice or for his earlier goal of attaining a formidable status. Amrita Rao plays the protagonist’s cute and supporting love interest, Sandhya. She’s a teacher in middle-school (that’s what I am guessing) and not hesitant to correct him.

Jolly LLB employs a great satirical theme which keeps you consistently entertained with its lines and quirky characters. Saurabh Shukla does his crony shtick finely with his burps and farts. The sequence where he finally takes a strong stance and asks Rajpal to “shut up” is specially hilarious. The two conventional song-and-dance numbers are short but not too relevant, perhaps placed to legitimize the film as a completely commercial venture.

The strengths of Jolly LLB are the realistic depiction of a court and the shady fake witness nexus with a much sophisticated connection, and the apathy of the law-holders and caretakers. The said apathy transcends into a few fairly ludicrous scenes, like where the judge asks the lying driver to get down on his knees in the court. Also the collective applauds at the end of Rajpal and Jolly’s ‘speeches’ inside the courtroom nullify the said realism.

Arshad Warsi does well in his underdog portrayal and Boman Irani is just the exact amount of smug and pompous for his character. But it’s not the monologues at the end that I object to, it is the placement of a fun-filled flashy promotional music video where all the actors do a red carpet dance juxtaposing the end credits that I feel is patchy and dampening to the mood of the climax. It’s almost as “Hey,  that was only a movie and now stop thinking about what we just delivered ‘cos we’re simply entertainers.”

Again, it is not the makers’ message that I have a beef with, it’s just the suddenly serious and similarly sudden laidback approach that I find not fitting. Jolly LLB is a good film with its own flaws, but it has a heart and you simply can’t resist being all smiles where the film flaunts its charm.

My rating: *** (3 stars out of 5)

Saheb Biwi aur Gangster Returns

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Saheb Biwi aur Gangster Returns
Release date: March 8, 2013
Directed by: Tigmanshu Dhulia
Cast: Jimmy Shergill, Mahie Gill, Irrfan Khan, Soha Ali Khan, Raj Babbar, Sitaram Panchal, Pravesh Rana, Deepraj Rana, Rajesh Khera, Rajeev Gupta

Saheb Biwi aur Gangster, the prequel was charming, arousing and scintillating. The task of maintaining the earlier film’s integrity and matching up to its levels was real tough, but there are many loopholes and cover-ups in this sequel.

Continuing from the first film, Sahib (Jimmy Shergill) has survived, but is paralyzed and wheelchair-ridden. Even with a handicap, his influence or rather mean imposing nature hasn’t diminished. With his wife, Biwi (Mahie Gill) serving political office, he decides to marry Ranjana (Soha Ali Khan) forcibly. Ranjana is another former king, Birendra Pratap’s (Raj Babbar) daughter. Pratap is promised other royal gains in return for a hushed engagement ceremony between his daughter and Sahib.

Inderjeet Singh, the Gangster (Irrfan Khan) gets involved in the plot as Ranjana’s lover and goes on to become a part of the larger plan. With romantic allegiances forming and crumbling, it is the same powerplay of Sahib Biwi aur Gangster that eventually takes the center stage. The writers devise contemporary topics into the narrative, like a localized version of Anna Hazare’s fast or the actual proposal of dividing the state of Uttar Pradesh in 4 smaller states.

The smart deployment of politicized gimmicks along with witty and the much sought after impactful lines provide the foil for the faults in the repetitive double crosses and lack of depth to one of the film’s major players, i.e. Mahie Gill’s character. She’s incredibly sexy but lacks the punch. The individual performances also try compensating for the mentioned drawbacks, wherein Irrfan and Shergill stand out.

Out of the repeated ensemble cast, Rajeev Gupta’s dumb minister is perhaps the best. And this is how the film sets up, there are exclusive flashes of brilliance but they never translate into a collective display of overall excellence. Sahib Biwi aur Gangster Returns’ valleys leave you tepid and drowned out even with its constant peaks.

My rating: **1/2 (2.5 out of 5)

Hand in Hand (Main dans la main)

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Hand in Hand (Main dans la main)
Release date: French Film Festival 2013, Mumbai
Directed by:  Valérie Donzelli
Cast: Valérie Lemercier, Jérémie Elkaïm, Béatrice de Staël, Valérie Donzelli, Sébastien Noiré, Serge Bozon, Philippe Laudenbach, Lyn Thibault

Valérie Donzelli presents a lively dramedy where she tries to establish an epic relationship of sorts between its protagonists with a backdrop of dance. It’s love at first kiss and the eventual revival of the lost fizz of the lead couple’s dynamic.

The screenplay may be basic with the crisis in it, but the basis and and approach of the plot is vividly fresh. A glass artist by profession, Joachim Fox (Jérémie Elkaïm) starts his introduction by skateboarding through the streets of Commercy. He lives with his sister Vero (Valérie Donzelli) and her husband JF (Sébastien Noiré) at her crowded house. She’s about to contest at ballroom dance competition in Monaco with her depressed neighbour Jean-Pierre (Serge Bozon) and the siblings’ relationship is a much cherished one.

On the other hand, Hélène Marchal (Valérie Lemercier) is an aging head instructor at the Ecole de Danse of the Paris Opéra, but she’s pledged to never dance on stage because she doesn’t like to be seen. She is the senior minister’s (Philippe Laudenbach) favorite and is accompanied by Constance de La Porte (Béatrice de Staël) 24 by 7. Fox is on a job in the same building and a weird kiss gives birth to a very weird affair between him and Hélène. The connect between them is so strong that they simply cannot stop being with each other.

The affinity, rather joint-at-the-hip syndrome between the protagonists, as hard it is to be believed on paper, forms the most entertaining part of the film. The chemistry builds and there is no separating the two. Constance and Vero, who have been by the duo’s respective sides for so long, find it difficult to adjust to this. The subplots eventually lead to the temporary problem in paradise.

From that point, the film starts to drown. The reason for Joachim’s frustration is not defined and there’s no answers because the supporting cast then decides to subside so that the lead pair gets together. As much as the film’s narrative tries to conquer the tough task of convincing the viewers of the strange connection, the inherent flaws cancel out the great performances by the actors.

Sébastien Buchmann’s cinematography is strikingly beautiful and realistically natural simultaneously. Be it Paris, New York or the suburbs, the imagery is brilliant. The editing is to be blamed for majorly spoiling the film, along with the shoddy writing in the latter half. Hand in Hand (Main dans la main) could have been much more, but it stops itself of attaining the depth for that.

No rating

Zarafa

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Zarafa (animated)
Release date: French Film Festival 2013, Mumbai
Directed by: Rémi Bezançon and Jean-Christophe Lie
Cast: Vernon Dobtcheff, Max Renaudin, Thierry Frémont, Simon Abkarian, Clara Quilichini, Francois-Xavier Demaison, Ronit Elkabetz, Roger Dumas, Mohamed Fellag

Zarafa is a dark fairytale, and it creates the said antithesis in a poised manner. It’s a children’s film and it manages to deliver the social background of the story’s life in the Nineteenth Century.  Not resorting to mind-numbing 3D, the makers create a pleasing yet sketchy animation.

Maki (voiced by Max Renaudin) is a Sudanese boy captured by the evil French slave trader-cum-hunter Moreno (Thierry Frémont) He’s trapped with Soula (Clara Quilichini) at Moreno’s ‘boot camp’, he manages to escape and on the run, Maki befriends a giraffe. The giraffe’s mother is killed by Moreno and the latter promises the younger herbivore’s mother that he will take care of her.

Hassan (Simon Akbarian) saves Maki from being recaptured and fends off Moreno. He accosts Maki and they name the young giraffe as Zarafa (Arabic for ‘giraffe’) They travel the deserts and this is where Hassan imparts the lesson of “looking to the stars whenever you’re lost in a desert or sea”. On reaching Alexandria, we get to know that Hassan was on a mission to find a giraffe so that the Egyptians can provide the strong French with a gift in lieu of their help to fight off the attacking Turks.

Bad things happen, and we get to see a satirical take on the racial fascinations of the French, in form of King Charles X (Roger Dumas) and his three queens. Along the course of the 78 minute long film, there’s betrayal, redemption, longing, joy and the plain satisfaction of a ‘happy ending’. The fringe characters like, Baboulina (Ronit Elkabetz), the female pirate or the sole white ‘positive’ accomplice-adventurer Malatere (Francois-Xavier Demaison) or even the outspoken trader Mahmoud (Mohamed Fellag) and his twin cows Mounh and Sounh offer more depth and help to connect the loose ends.

Zarafa is fun for kids and insightfully entertaining for the adults. I’m not going with ratings here since it’s futile to rate a film that released over a year ago, but I’d put it as a watchable experience.

No rating

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