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Table No. 21

Table No. 21
Release date: January 4, 2013
Directed by: Aditya Datt
Cast: Rajeev Khandelwal, Tena Desae, Paresh Rawal, Hanif Hilal

Table No. 21 starts with a disclaimer about the Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. That is the only spoiler that I’m letting out in this review, and you better not Google it if you want to keep the underlying plot hidden. Aditya Datt presents a semblance of a psychological thriller with this film.

Vivaan (Rajeev Khandelwal) and his wife Seeya (Tena Desae) have won a contest and are on their way to an all expense paid trip to Fiji. They have their moments and a few twitches in their relationship along the way. As their tour package is about to get over, their marriage anniversary approaches and they plan on celebrating it.

They receive an anonymous gift and are invited to another exotic island in honour of their anniversary. The couple willingly accepts them both and are accosted to Abdul Rasheed Khan’s (played by Paresh Rawal) luxury resort. He charms them and lures them into participating in an truth-based reality show. AND THE PRIZE IS 10 MILLION FIJI DOLLARS! The plot gets murky when the rules of the game prove to be life-risking and eventually fatal.

Rajeev Khandelwal’s character is shown to be very sensitive and makes him a boring drag in the flashback sequences, while the end reveals a much contradicting side to his role’s persona making it hard to be believable; but at the end that’s what this film pretty much sums up. There are corny lines and a few witty ones as well, but the resounding piece of dialogue that keeps resurfacing is “If you lie, you die.” The game format of ‘truth-and-dare’ gets ludicrous at certain points.

The imagery is pleasant and a lot of voyeuristic cameras are used, given the format of the reality show. The climax of the film gives a message but at times appears to be very long. Music is limited and tolerable and the background score creates intrigue and suspense. The impending suspense isn’t a “Did the butler kill the mistress?” but interesting and entertaining. There aren’t any loose ends and there are hints all along to place the pieces in the jigsaw puzzle slowly as the story proceeds.

For a film that primarily revolves around three characters, Khandelwal and Rawal keep evolving gradually, hence keeping the viewers interested. Tena Desae is fairly good (can’t blame her for she’s shown to be incessantly weeping) Table No. 21 tries to cover a few social messages along the narrative and that makes the entire film more relevant. But the ultimate motif of the film may seem bit out of place as India is enraged with a whole bunch of other issues, which could ultimately make this film lost in the shuffle.

At the end, Table No. 21 is entertaining and smartly ropes in the societal shtick.

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

Jab Tak Hai Jaan

Jab Tak Hai Jaan
Release date: November 13, 2012
Directed by: Yash Chopra
Cast: Shahrukh Khan, Katrina Kaif, Anushka Sharma

Placed in the midst of ginormous expectations and sour comments over the initial release of its videos, Jab Tak Hai Jaan had a lot of roadblocks as challenges in its way, even before hitting the screens. Did it live up to the expectations? Sure, read on!

Set in London around 10 years ago, Samar Anand (Shahrukh Khan) is a youngster who’s looking for a job to break his family tradition of being an officer in the army because his mother doesn’t want any more military deaths in her family. Or so he says. He does odd jobs and tries to earn as much as he can. And while doing one such cleaning job, he comes across Meera Thapad (Katrina Kaif) heading into a church. She’s got her own way with God where she asks for things and gives up a thing in return to please him.

After a song and a rare smoking sequence featuring our lead actress in her engagement dress, Meera and Samar have their first real conversation. Along the way they pull off the brilliantly captured dance sequence preceding Ishq Shava and the scenery around it. Katrina dances with much oomph and you are pretty much shocked. This is where the protagonists’  feelings get convoluted and the much obscure hurdles now start surfacing. There are no tyrannical fathers and uncles, but there are spiritual (?) issues.

Akira (Anushka Sharma) is a peppy, self-proclaimed ‘heartless bitch’ who bears a stark contrast to Samar and Meera’s approach to love and relationships. She’s not scared of jumping out of relationships and doesn’t care about anything beyond sex.  And she isn’t scared of jumping into ice-cold water for a dare too! Uh, okay. Akira is acquainted with a much calm and serious layer of Samar’s personality as now he defuses bombs without protective gear. But he has his reasons for that. She’s intrigued about him and decides to share this story of a fearless man who’s diffused 98 bombs so far.

What you see in this plot isn’t hunky-dory bubblegum material crap, you get to watch people in their actual habitats: cussing, enjoying, kissing and sharing private humor. Which is where the strength of the film lies, the women aren’t insecure about their man’s choices, and independent in their own element. Meera is grounded yet confident about her decisions, Akira flirts to the extent of picking up Samar to make him get into his element. Yes, there’s the part where Samar calls Akira by ‘Kurosawa’.

Anil Mehta’s cinematography is brilliant and so artistically pleasing that sometimes, you forget there’s also a floundering story playing on the same screen. More than the music, the instrumental theme of JTHJ is more catchy and melodious. Even Challa isn’t a video capturing London’s scenery, it serves a purpose and yes, Shahrukh strums the guitar when the guitar’s playing in the back, unlike the cutsized promos. Saans shows you immaculate chemistry between the characters and I’ve already praised the entire Ishq Shava sequence. There’s light witty comedy as well, but it’s only subtle.

Yash Chopra shows how he’s evolved since his last film Veer-Zaara, he doesn’t hold back from letting his characters cuss like youngsters usually do and making them unpretentious and more real. There is no dancing around trees in chiffon sarees for the heroines and no cringe-in-your-seat moment. Shahrukh shows the shift in his character’s evolution with charm, Katrina looks like a million bucks and retains the grace associated with quintessential Yashraj heroines. Anushka plays her chirpy and upfront brash character smoothly.

Finally, Jab Tak Hai Jaan is a love story based on the conflict between a woman’s beliefs and love, and a man’s undying passion. It’s a film laced with its own imperfections and pivotal flaws with the screenplay, although perfectly finished in many departments. Yashji’s final outing as a director is quite watchable.

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

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