Posts Tagged ‘ Aditya Chopra ’

Befikre

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Befikre
Release date: December 9, 2016
Directed by: Aditya Chopra
Cast: Ranveer Singh, Vaani Kapoor, Akarsh Khurana, Ayesha Raza, Armaan Ralhan

Yashraj’s common tropes of using a European destination for chastising the underlying, now sexual, then romantic, experiments of the Indian protagonists; invoking elaborately choreographed dance-offs to ease out tensions in love stories, or making the lovers acknowledge their actual sentiments for each other; and clinging on to straws of traditionalism, while reaching out to the new, morally and culturally progressive; they all find a place in Befikre. In the middle of these cliff notes, there is some humor, much anguish, and an underhanded indie rom-com like “carefree” approach to deliver a film without a hokey antagonist.

The film opens with the much-talked Labon Ka Kaarobaar where innumerable hetero couples kiss, there’s diversity in the kissers’ colors, shapes, and sizes, but not in sexual orientations. Every thing is picture-perfect straight, and then Dharam (Ranveer Singh) lands in Paris, and his flatmates are two very attractive gay women. Dharam being the virile, sex-crazed lad, vividly imagines himself in a threesome with them, winking at the viewers and himself. Could this point to a desi-retelling of a forgotten American Pie sequel, or perhaps something more real that actually turns out an intriguing character study? Sadly, neither.

He gets out to ‘party’ on his first day itself. Even with his well-formed biceps, tailored denims that grip his butt perfectly, and a healthy hairline, he faces rejection. This scene was empowering to watch in particular. More like a soothing Aditya Chopra petting our heads in wistful consolation. Springs in Shyra (Vaani Kapoor), the local, who knows the bars and the city in-and-out. They hook-up over a “dare”, a plot device that’s conveniently brought up again and again to help the protagonists in making bad decisions and some memories for their characters.

Gradually, they decide to live-in together, and mutually pledge that they won’t become the conservative husband and wife, nor do things that conventional lovers do. It is this oath that keeps resurfacing whenever they are consumed with the thought of confronting their feelings for the other. It’s frustrating to watch them see past versions of their younger selves, popping up with a song and dance in French, and yet, commendable, at the commitment to the tomfoolery and the showmanship. If this film had fifteen more minutes of ditty-dancing, it’d qualify as a full-blown musical.

For the lack of any real friends, Dharam and Shyra confide in his professional, cough boring cough, comedy routine and her aloo paraanthe. There’s the usual aggrandizement of grandeur in the way of beach vacations, holiday sea cruises, cosmetic perfection, except for the little black bush of hair in Ranveer Singh’s armpits, leaving hardly any scope for any frame to appear slightly sad, or even melancholic. But can we really blame them for this plastic manufacturing?

Aditya Chopra serves us what he thinks we would like to dish up, at the fag end of the year, in the throes of soft kisses and extremely mellifluous music, a film that is not particularly hollow, just like the millennials that are his target audience and the film’s primary characters. If it weren’t for their superhuman dancing finesse, the baffling excesses, and that mess of a Priyadarshan film-like climax sequence, Befikre could have passed off as a decently watchable experience. A balance that Imtiaz Ali has mastered, Aditya Chopra flounders with this time around.

My rating: ** (2 out of 5)

Fan

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Fan
Release date: April 15, 2016
Directed by: Maneesh Sharma
Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Amin, Yogendra Tiku, Waluscha De Sousa, Shriya Pilgaonkar, Sayani Gupta

First up, there will be people on the internet telling you that this film is inspired by The Fan (1996), and someone might even go as far as claiming that it’s ripped off from Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train (1951), just to get a sensationalist reaction. The 1996 film itself was very loosely based on a 1981 horror film titled, again, The Fan. 

All of the Fan films have a celebrity obsessed fan and the said celebrity at the heart of the plot. Each of the respective storylines depict the fan’s obsession taking a life of its own, and thereby lending a tinge of an antagonistic shade to him when he tries to put himself in the celebrity’s life. The similarities end here. Habib Faisal and Maneesh Sharma turn the basic concept on its head by making use of the Celebrity Junior/Senior lore and giving it a relatable flavor. The “junior” is a fan who impersonates the celebrity that he’s crazy about, going as far as earning a livelihood out of the whole shtick. There are competitions that are aimed at honoring the best junior, or as some would say, the best duplicate (of the star).

Gaurav Chandna is the twinkle-eyed youngster, who has a million cutout pictures of his “God” Aryan Khanna, a Bollywood superstar seemingly past his prime. Gaurav isn’t just an admirer of his acting work, he’s a follower of everything that he does, be it an interview from Khanna’s early days, or his latest fight with a contemporary actor. He emulates his mannerisms, and even his charm off screen. Just like his God, Gaurav also does this only on the stage in talent contests. In his routine life, he’s just another ordinary Delhi boy. He can’t get good grades in college, he can’t woo a girl he has feelings for, quite unlike Aryan’s on-screen persona which he seems to imbibe and worship.

After winning the local talent hunt contest for the bazillionth time, he decides to gift his trophy to Khanna on his birthday in Mumbai. Gaurav is a likeable character with his chirpy demeanor and a permanent joie de vivre; the obsessive layers underneath start to unravel when he does a mini life-threatening stunt while insisting to travel ticketless on the train to Mumbai, just because that is how Khanna began his career. Some of what he does is sweet, even endearing. This enjoyable universe becomes darker when Gaurav doesn’t know where to draw a line between being a good one-sided lover and a lover who feels wronged when his attraction isn’t reciprocated.

Fan provides a constant parallel commentary on the over-interfering and overbearing interest in a celebrity’s life, and the plastic psyche of a star who would go to any lengths to be liked by everyone in the world. One of the film’s most masterful moments is when Gaurav mocks Aryan for repeatedly attributing all his success to his fans, and then later in a press conference Aryan pulls back on his urge to repeat the same favorite cliche. Amongst many firsts that the film manages to achieve, it also becomes one of the only films to be shot at Madame Tussauds in London. The whole sequence in the wax museum is a little exaggerated to be easily believed in, but it has a hilarious millisecond frame of a Salman Khan wax model standing spectator to a situation which could have easily done with some vigilance by an action hero of any kind.

While that’s just a first in aesthetic vanity or marketing, the most commendable first is Shah Rukh Khan’s casting as the 20-something super-fan and the 50-something super-star. Of course, he’s wearing prosthetic makeup and his face is 3D scanned, but the man underneath is the same Khan who has to juggle between an almost autobiographical character and a boy who keeps jumping as if he’s on an invisible trampoline throughout the film. Gaurav is creepy, Aryan is cocky. Gaurav is naive, Aryan is mature. Gaurav is a maniac, Aryan is an unflinching douchebag. There’s so much of Aryan Khanna that rings close to Khan’s career trajectory and the controversies that he’s found himself in.

A violent bust up with a coworker? Check. Being unabashed about dancing at high-budget weddings? Check. Being detained in a foreign country? Check.

Again, the always heartwarming story of him finding stupendous success in a city where he arrived as a vagrant is also inimitable. The stardom of Shah Rukh Khan makes this film greater than it is. The screenplay is too far-fetched at times, and it even tugs at your patience with the number of chase sequences between different sets of characters, and an always predictable outcome. The last act is also not without its flaws, where the fan is always just too smart for his own good. Much of this is compensated by the deft casting of Deepika Amin and Yogendra Tiku as Gaurav’s affable parents, and Waluscha De Sousa as the glamorous star-wife and Shriya Pilgaonkar as the friendly girl next door.

Fan is an out-and-out Shah Rukh Khan masterclass though, with Maneesh Sharma’s beguiling direction and Manu Anand’s occasionally experimentative cinematography.

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

Daawat-e-Ishq

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Daawat-e-Ishq
Release date: September 19, 2014
Directed by: Habib Faisal
Cast: Anupam Kher, Parineeti Chopra, Aditya Roy Kapur, Karan Wahi

A setup so good that you don’t want to hate the bad bits. That is how Daawat-e-Ishq is built up. It doesn’t have much to do with food either.

Daawat-e-Ishq plays up the concerns of a middle-class Muslim family in the technologically advanced and socially spiraling city of Hyderabad, and it warns you right at the start of the film with a disclaimer. Detailing the intricate bond of the single father-daughter duo of Abbu ji, shortened to Buji (Anupam Kher) and Gulrez shortened to Gullu (Parineeti Chopra), down to them having their nicknames imprinted on their coffee mugs, perhaps from a mall kiosk. Gullu drops her father at the Court and talks of her dreams on their scooter rides. Gullu was a state topper in academics and brilliant in basketball, but all of that doesn’t count for anything in the world of matrimony and sales.

The world of matrimony and sales is painted with caricatures, perhaps in an attempt at keeping the mood light and not too bogged down by the theme. For major parts of the film, right until the halfway mark, they succeed. From the uneducated ones to the ones aspiring for a masters degree in the United States, everyone throws the same condition for marriage. Gullu takes this as a personal insult and begs her father to join her in turning the tables on the suitors around India. Some emotional hogwash helps in turning Buji on Gullu’s side and they concoct a plan to avenge the ignominy imposed upon them by countless families and years of blindly followed stupid tradition.

Many grave realities are dealt with in an offhanded and satirical matter-of-fact manner. All of these realities in themselves can create subplots of their own, but they are kept grounded to make the film seem like a grand con job. And Parineeti and Kher transform into another persona for that con job very well. The real racewinning chemistry is here between them, even the romantic pairings of Chopra-Karan Wahi or Chopra-Kapur fade in comparison.

Ranging between being goody-too goody and compromising their moral fiber, almost all the involved characters have a shade of grey looming around them. The miniscule hints of circumstantial wit is evident throughout the movie, like for when Kapur, a restaurant owner from Lucknow disses the biryani from Hyderabad by calling it zeher and yet licking his fingertips. The delivery and timing of Kher, Chopra and Kapur are laced with local flavors from Hyderabad and Lucknow and they don’t get out of their character for even once.

Out of the songs used, although a bit tedious at times, I loved the placement of the title track and the qawwaali used in a mild chase sequence is a piece of oddball comedy. If I were to give you a review only until that title track, this review would have been a bit shorter and also less critical of the main conflict, which is over-simplified to keep everything sweet, simple and cute, and that only proves to be the film’s undoing. The spunk dies out and cheesy overdrawn cliches unveil themselves towards the end.

Daawat-e-Ishq is a well-intentioned film, which gets only pulled down by its own reluctance at being anything more than just that. It’s your easy watch, only you start feeling too overfilled with it.

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

Aurangzeb

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Aurangzeb
Release date: May 17, 2013
Directed by: Atul Sabharwal
Cast: Arjun Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor, Prithviraj, Sasheh Agha, Sikandar Kher, Tanvi Azmi, Amrita Singh, Jackie Shroff, Deepti Naval, Swara Bhaskar, Sumeet Vyas, Kavi Shastri

Aurangzeb takes comfort in describing itself as an action thriller film, but it’s more of an etched out drama. Encasing an Indian family dispute into a game of power and a fight to the finish, definitely abiding by the long inculcated principles.

Prithviraj’s character Arya Phogat – a police inspector; plays the involved narrator who’s also one of the lead players of the story. His dying father (a brief guest appearance by Anupam Kher) asks of him a promise and Arya unwillingly starts his way towards fulfilling it. His uncle Ravikant (Rishi Kapoor) knows all about this and is also in the police. In fact Ravikant’s son Dev (Sikandar Kher) and son-in-law Vishnu (Sumeet Vyas) are also cops.

This isn’t good cop bad cop. Yet. Arya’s step brother Vishal and his long-lost twin brother Ajay – both the characters played by Arjun Kapoor; are the biological sons of Veera (Tanvi Azmi) and Yashvardhan (Jackie Shroff) who are separated due to some incidents and now they are required to swap themselves and convince the world around them. Sasheh Agha plays Ritu, Ajay’s girlfriend who is now used to his sadist tendencies.

The first half starts out with heavy drama and a few theatrical introductions, eventually building some intrigue at the halfway mark. Being the film that it is, the number of people in the cast is extensive but abused at times. Like Deepti Naval portraying a nameless wife to Ravikant, faces a shock that their son-in-law’s death wasn’t a suicide. She has a brief reaction in the background, probably aimed for greater consequences but sheared at the editor’s table.

That wasn’t the only awkward cut in Aurangzeb though. There are a few more loose ends and you begin to lose hope that this is just another semblance of family reunion fluff of the seventies, but the makers decide to emphasize on the builder-government-police corruption angle in Gurgaon’s ‘booming’ infrastructure sector and a beckon for the cops to act with a backbone and opt out of the influential cut.

Arjun Kapoor in his double role is flexible in ranging his emotions from the demure Vishal to the outlandishly cocky Ajay. Rishi Kapoor is entrusted to utter the forced Aurangzeb ideologies here and he doesn’t disappoint. What you take away with you after the film has ended, are the individual performances. Amrita Singh and Jackie Shroff shine here as well.

All in all, Aurangzeb has a story to tell, and with very less light moments, it does accomplish to make you believe in the what-is-he-going-to-do-next moments. For a film that takes itself so seriously, it flounders with technical absurdities at important junctures. (I haven’t specified because they could result in being spoilers)

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

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