Posts Tagged ‘ Yashraj Films ’

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)

Piku

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Piku
Release date: May 8, 2015
Directed by: Shoojit Sircar
Cast: Deepika Padukone, Amitabh Bachchan, Irrfan Khan, Moushumi Chatterjee, Jishu Sengupta, Raghuvir Yadav, Swaroopa Ghosh

Ambitiously named after the film’s supposed protagonist Piku Banerjee (Deepika Padukone), the film treats the audience as a member of the immediate family of the characters on screen. So much so that it doesn’t even bother telling you Piku’s bhaalo naam or formal name. The drama between the family is open for a balcony view just like how you amuse yourself by eavesdropping on the loud voices emanating from your neighbor’s house.

There are no elaborate “entry sequences” to signify the entrance of any of the film’s characters, it just starts off right in the middle of a chaotic morning at Bhashkor Banerjee’s house in Delhi. There are conversations about bowel movements that your parents usually have with you, and I even take them as far as to my friends and shy barely of making them public to rank strangers. There are conversations about how marriage is futile if you sacrifice on your existence. Then there are annoying conversations, all of these have Bhashkor (Amitabh Bachchan) actively involved in them.

Bhashkor fluctuates between affable, agreeable and outright intolerable. He perfectly captures the spirit of an attention-seeking senior citizen by being as controversial as he can at dinner tables and anniversary soirees, and as authoritarian in a road journey with his daughter Piku and Rana Chowdhary (Irrfan Khan). Except the purpose of this journey is as ill-founded as its outcome. Piku is overworked and over-irked by her father’s theatrics and wants a break. There’s some ancestral house-selling mumbo jumbo, unclear in its detailing, added to the mix.

There are quite a few verbal references to Piku’s sex life, and they seem forced, given the setting of the characters. But it’s just a layer to add to her acceptance towards casual relationships. Moushumi Chatterjee’s Chaubi Masi is too boisterous to be self-deprecating, at least for me. The film itself isn’t quite about a road trip, nor the story of some major transformation or evolution in any of the character graphs. Perhaps, even too simple a story. What helps is that all of it is majorly character-driven.

The principal cast of Bachchan and Padukone nail their Bengali parts darn well. Deepika, in another young single woman role, takes a great deviation in the in-your-face sex appeal of Finding Fanny and is on point with her playful Bengali diction. The most authentic sounding moment is the one where she mouths off “paachcha” at a dinner table and laughs it off in the most unassuming way. Her chemistry with her onscreen father is absolutely superlative. Bachchan delivers an impassioned performance as the grand old man of the Banerjee family. Whereas, Irrfan’s Rana is a tricky hand. He plays a guy who’s much younger than his actual age, yet not too young to be immature. He’s the middling element between the two different sides and he carries it off easily.

Piku (the film) touches upon small quirks very well, like how we may develop the thickest of skins while dealing with family members, but we guard them valiantly anyhow. It is delightful, sweet and enjoyable, but has little success in the “emotion” department, which is a huge dent on its byline — “motion se hi emotion”. The funny family drama, with all its relatable content, could never make me empathize with it.

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

Dum Laga Ke Haisha

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Dum Laga Ke Haisha
Release date: February 27, 2015
Directed by: Sharat Katariya
Cast: Ayushmann Khurrana, Bhumi Pednekar, Sanjay Mishra, Seema Pahwa

As a kid growing up in the 90’s in a yet obsolete suburb of Mumbai, I watched a lot of Hindi films and I loitered as much, emulating the trends of the films that I saw; often around boys who were much older than me. There were some who had given up education, dropped out of school and didn’t do much. Not very ambitious, not swashbuckling in the slightest of quantities. And my grandfather attended the “morning shakhas” in his khakhi shorts. These are my roots which I see thickly embroiled in the universe of Dum Laga Ke Haisha.

Prem Prakash Tiwari (Ayushmann Khurrana) is just one of those dropouts that I knew, clueless about his life, whiling away his hours at his father’s cassette shop in 1995. Except, he’s in Haridwar. He embodies the ‘small town’ naivete and is a man-boy who still doesn’t get to make his decisions, he’s literally browbeaten to marry a girl he doesn’t find attractive. A girl who’s more educated than he is, a girl who even speaks English well. What’s the dealbreaker, you ask? She’s just a tad too “healthy”, code for ‘overweight’ in middle class families.

Sandhya Verma (Bhumi Pednekar) is the girl in the equation. She’s evidently superior to our irritatingly Ganga Kinaare wala laundaa, in the “nature” and qualifications department. The incredibly shaky institution of arranged marriage unites this unlikely pair, at a community marriage ceremony, where a fifty other couples are also taking the rounds of the sacred fire. I’ve possibly listed a lot of quirks from the film at the risk of spoiling the film, but they are simply so delectable, it’d be injustice to them if I didn’t tell you how much character they add to every portion of the story.

Prem doesn’t understand the gravity of raising a family with his sperm, just like a substantially great number of other Indian men. He’s frustrated at his own insecurities and he piles them on his new bride’s physical appearance. It’s a difficult relationship, and the family members, just like in a majority of dwindling actual Indian marriages, offer their suggestions on how to salvage the situation so that they don’t have to face the stupid/stoneage ignominy of being the bearers of children who couldn’t keep up the charade of a perfect marriage, no matter how miserably, for their entire lives.

Set in Haridwar, the characters converse in country-accented Hindi, mirroring their friendships and the dynamics of the sweet-and-sour nature of closely-knit intricate families of the city. The cassettes are beginning to go out of favour and the Compact Disks are starting to roll in. Kumar Sanu is still hot property though. Anu Malik provides the modern soundtrack with Varun Grover’s whimsical lyrics. They successfully recreate the decade masterfully with Sanu and Sadhana Sargam, and juxtapose them with haunting tunes as themes to Prem and Sandhya. Andrea Guerra’s background score, as a few kids on the internet say, “is on fleek”. Pleasantly rhythmical and not at all over-the-top.

A strong ensemble cast, like the one in this film, can never be a bad thing. A good ensemble, like families, provides the constant badgering and the continuous kick-on-the-butt, which this film’s Tiwari and Verma clans keep doing. There is the mother’s emotionally manipulative BS, and another mother’s insufferable sobbing. There’s one father’s shoe-beating, and another brother’s teenage petty cribbing. Sanjay Mishra and Seema Pahwa, after last year’s Aankhon Dekhi, are just invaluably indispensable additions to any film, in any capacity.

Khurrana’s Prem is a particularly unlikeable lad, often with no redeeming qualities. The maker’s goal isn’t that, they don’t want to cause a turnaround in him, nor the viewer’s perception of him. He tries to pick up his studies from where he left them, but he suddenly doesn’t become the goddamn class-topper with his determination. He can’t conquer every hurdle that is thrown in his path, even though he does manage to overcome some of his prejudices–which is perhaps a bigger victory for him. Again, he isn’t likeable, he’s just real.

Bhumi Pednekar’s Sandhya is the thriving girl who finds herself on her groom’s bed wondering what to do. She’s reticent, and yet makes an exemplary effort in making a move to consummate her liaison. She knows that she isn’t in the right place, but she makes the effort to hang in there. She makes Sandhya real and affable.

Sharat Katariya presents what we know, what we’ve seen around. Dum Laga Ke Haisha is enjoyable and accomplishes well what it sets out to do, it succeeds in telling a story which is relateable and yet novel and effectively original.

My rating: **** (4 out of 5)

Shuddh Desi Romance

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Shuddh Desi Romance
Release date: September 6, 2013
Directed by: Maneesh Sharma
Cast: Sushant Singh Rajput, Parineeti Chopra, Vaani Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor, Rajesh Sharma, Tarun Vyas

Romantic liaisons are as much a part of the Indian youth’s ordinary lives as much as the internet or mobile phones. Or the lack of public bathrooms all over India. Hey mom & dad, no, I’m not a part of that youth. Also, this same public denial of being in a relationship with someone, is rooted to a conscious mentality which makes us look down upon couples just holding hands or even sitting next to each other.

And there are few, who aren’t shy of the stares and glares, they are just scared of being restricted to just one person for the rest of their lives; or the ones who don’t deem the wedlock to be the be all and end all. You could fit into in any of the above categories, I know I do. To go slightly overboard, the same Indian women who dote on Barney Stinson/Charlie Harper’s flirtatious television persona, have very contradicting double standards in actuality.

Shuddh Desi Romance puts some of the above apprehensions in a tier-2 city (Jaipur) setting with its characters desperately trying to break out of their cultural and traditional limits. Raghuram (Sushant Singh Rajput) is running away from a lot of things: his name, his relationship status, and a fixed job. Gayatri (Parineeti Chopra) is independent, speaks out her mind and has trust issues. Tara (Vaani Kapoor) has compromised on her ambitions to get “settled” into a familial discourse.

The three protagonists here depict common dilemmas faced by a major chunk of youngsters all over. It is the same emphasis on the title characters more than the plot that creates interesting dynamics in the otherwise overused love triangle format. Both Raghuram and Gayatri work with Goyal (Rishi Kapoor) and pose as guests at lavish weddings. Thus focusing on the inherent hollowness of grand Indian weddings.

As the emotional conflicts are takeoffs from our ordinary circumstances and so are the lines, Gayatri’s simple “Kya hai?”, Raghuram’s flirtatious “I don’t mind.” and Tara’s relieving “Ek thanda dena” prove to be gems in a situational context. The three have their own defense mechanisms, their own comfort zones and their own vulnerabilities.

SDR doesn’t thrive on being preachy in its conclusion, unlike its promotional posters. Perhaps the film lags in the second half in comparison to the first, but the charm and wit never runs out. Even when an incident of unfaithfulness is encountered, they simply talk it out in a closed room.

There aren’t much stock roles, and that works to the strength of the film. Chopra stands out amongst the lot in her performance, her composure, her grit are both captivating. Rajput is disarming and yet naive at the right moments. The two Kapoors (Not biologically or lawfully related to each other. Yet.) are good foils to the dominating presence of Rajput and Chopra.

More importantly, will Shuddh Desi Romance, with all its favoritism towards live-in relationships, cast a spell on your commitment-obsessed girlfriend or your parents who are insisting you to get married? It may. Or it may not. And that is the whole point here, the makers gradually shift the spotlight from the characters to a basic storyline at the end. It becomes about how two like-minded commitment phobics can mutually coexist.

For me, SDR is an extremely likeable film with a balance of realism and introspection. Extra points for the fresh music score.

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

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