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London Dreams November 6, 2009

Posted by Shujath in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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When I was glancing around reviews for this film I came across many people complaining about how this is an awful “rip-off” of Amadeus. Agreed, that the basic characterizations of Ajay Devgn and Salman Khan are inspired from the latter film’s protagonists but calling that a remake or a rip-off makes me wonder if they actually have seen that film. Another recurring complaint is about how it fails to match Rock On!! – well…why on earth does one expect it be a Rock-On!! when the makers never promised anything like that.

Anyways, Vipul Shah’s latest directorial venture is a suprisingly effective old-school tale about friendship and jealousy. It doesn’t take much time for anyone to realize that the whole rock-band thing is nothing more than a backdrop to this story. Arjun (Ajay Devgn) – an extremely ambitious guy whose sole aim in life is to perform at Wembley. However, as he comes closer to acheiving his dream his limelight is effortlessly stolen by his carefree childhood friend Mannu (Salman Khan) – who ends up dealing a double blow by wowing the crowds and wooing his girl. Arjun decides to get back at Mannu by bringing him down in everyone’s eyes – albeit he also has guilt pangs for doing the same.

Most of the film is quite breezy and a lot of fun while not deviating much from the main plot but it gets rather inconsistent (and ineffective) when things start getting a bit serious. Yet, one has to applaud Vipul Shah for the mature way in which he handles the last portions of the film (especially if you’ve seen in his last two films how cringeworthy he can get when it comes to melodrama). If London Dreams fails it is only because the writing in the second half (the emotional scenes) does not do justice to the intensity of the actors involved – which is why those portions don’t seem so heartfelt. Shah admitted in an interview about excising a lot of those scenes due to the runtime which answers to an extent why that part didn’t work.

Another thing is probably Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s score which has its share of great and not-so-great tunes. This aspect is rather glaring because all the average numbers turn up only in the concerts (with the exception of the wonderful “Khwaab” track which I must say covers most of the failings of the second half).

But it is hard to keep picking flaws when you have the powerful duo of Ajay Devgn and Salman Khan in superb form. Ajay’s grudge in the movie is that everybody loves Salman – it’s no wonder the latter’s role is written keeping that aspect in mind. Whether you love or hate the film, you cannot but be charmed by Salman. The box office still has not been completely kind to him but the superstar has truly begun to shine again. Asin, Rannvijay Singh and Aditya Roy Kapoor are just passable.

For me London Dreams worked completely because I haven’t seen a film in a very long time which had such an authentic “feel-good” vibe about it. It could have been a lot better but given its merits the flaws are very easily forgivable. Go for it…

U Me Aur Hum April 13, 2008

Posted by Shujath in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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It’s just a few months back that Aamir Khan debuted as a director, naturally Ajay Devgan’s plunge into the director’s seat will undoubtedly have to bear the burden of high expectations and comparisons. But if you actually look at it…Ajay is only the third person in his family to direct. Remember “Hindustan Ki Kasam – A dream by Veeru Devgan”? the unanimous verdict for which was that it should have remained a dream. Then came brother Anil Devgan’s “Raju Chacha” – one of the most expensive flops of Bollywood which wasn’t outrightly a bad film but a good concept squandered away. With “U Me and Hum” one can easily conclude that Ajay has lived up to the standards set by his family and dared not to go beyond.

But you still have to appreciate the bold choice of the story – a lady suffering from Alzheimer’s and the painful daily struggles she and her husband have to come to terms with. But then you should also know that “sometimes the greatest journey between two people the story and the movie is the distance screenplay between them”. The first half of this flick is as bad as a first half can get. The absolutely pathetic and cringeworthy dialogue/situations/conversations that I encountered made me forget all the bad films I’ve seen in the last couple of years. Believe me….it really is that bad – and if you liked it and thought it was cute and mushy then God save you! (You might want to blame Devgan for this but then you might recall that in the opening credits this department was credited to a certain Ashwini Dhir – this is the guy who’s receiving brickbats since last week for his directorial debut “One Two Three” and even this week’s other release “Krazzy 4” receiving equally bad reviews is a product of his pen). Only before the interval the actual story begins and gives you a ray of hope. I wouldn’t say that the rest of the movie is great but because I’d been through the previous 80 minutes or so, it did look like a masterpiece compared to that. Again don’t get your hopes too high…the movie tries to make a point but when you expect to see the actualization of that it rather abruptly ends.

Ajay and Kajol (who look good together for the first time on screen) have put in really earnest performances and despite the maudlin sentimentality which creeps in at times they did effectively convey the agony and anguish of someone in a situation like theirs. There are also a couple of noteworthy moments – especially the ones where Kajol has a blackout in rather dangerous situations. The same cannot be said of the horrible supporting cast – mainly Karan Khanna, Isha Sharvani and Divya Dutta. The only other person who stands out in this movie is Vishal Bhardwaj with his mellifluous tunes – the title track and “Jeele Ishq Mein” (wonderfully rendered by Adnan Sami) are the best.

There are far more negatives than positives in this film but Ajay and Kajol still manage to give it a certain amount of respectability and they are purely the reason you might want to watch this one…better sleep through the first half and wake up just before the intermission – am sure you’ll then have a much better experience.

Sunday February 25, 2008

Posted by Shujath in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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I haven’t seen Chandrasekhar Yeleti’s Anukokunda Oka Roju – the film on which Sunday is based. But after watching the latter I can rightly take a guess that those who have seen both would no doubt have few good things to say about this one.

It’s supposed be about this lady (Ayesha Takia) who keeps forgetting stuff but trouble starts when certain people she doesn’t seem to recognize are after her. It turns out to be that all those are connected to a series of incidents which happened the previous sunday. Sounds interesting enough but when you actually watch the movie it rather turns out to be a bunch of gags (which thankfully work most of the time) strung together by a lame mystery plot.

Director Rohit Shetty treads the same path as in in previous film Golmaal. He is effective in handling some funny sequences but that’s about it. The guys who make the most impact here are Arshad Warsi and Irrfan Khan who complement each other extremely well and manage to bring a smile to your face even with mundane gags. It would be quite interesting to see them together again in the upcoming Krazzy 4. Vrijesh Heerji and Mukesh Tiwary are also quite hillarious at times. Ajay Devgan who generally has trouble doing comedy somehow manages to get his act right in Rohit Shetty’s films. Ayesha Takia is given another role (though a lengthy one) which doesn’t do full justice to her talent. Also, there are five songs composed by five music directors which aren’t great except “Pyaar Ko Ho Jaane Do”. The action sequences seems extremely out of place.

Apart from the comedy the only other thing I liked is the way the architectural beauty of Delhi is captured on film. Rohit Shetty’s Sunday ultimately manages to be a watchable flick purely for the laughs but only for those who haven’t seen the original.

Halla Bol January 17, 2008

Posted by Shujath in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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Angry Protagonists + Old Fashioned social drama + strong screenplay + hard hitting dialogue – that’s roughly the formula Rajkumar Santoshi used in the nineties for his films like Ghayal, Ghatak, Damini and China Gate. Somehow after that he never has been able to recreate the magic of those earlier films. If there is one reason to watch Halla Bol it has to be to see Santoshi return to form doing what he does best.

There have been too many criticisms labelled at this film….as being too outdated, preachy, melodramatic etc. To a certain extent it seems justified only because in recent times the theme of public apathy has been brought on screen/highlighted in the media quite a few times. Yet this is a very honest effort on a very relevant theme. An unscrupulous superstar Sameer Khan/Ashfaque (Ajay Devgan) is a witness to a murder at a high profile party. However, he denies seeing anything there (and so do the other celebs present there). However, his conscience hits him hard when he reminisces his past – his conscience-keepers being his guru Siddhu (Pankaj Kapur) and his wife Sneha (Vidya Balan). Now against all odds Sameer then has to bring the killers to justice.

There are so many direct and indirect references to real events and people – a straightforward invitation for controversy; no wonder I read a couple of days back an article about a friction between Devgan and the Khans. Maybe during the sequence mocking film stars doing ads, Devgan could have been more sportive by not excluding products which are endorsed by him. If this film would have worked at the box-office you sure would have got to read more gossip.

The film abounds in “punch” dialogues combined with whistle-worthy moments and this is precisely what makes one feel that Santoshi is back in form. Despite it’s box office performance, Ajay Devgan should be more than happy for he has delivered yet another fine performance and which should hopefully make people forget Cash and Ramgopal Varma ki Aag. Pankaj Kapur gets a meaty role in a mainstream film after a long time and he is brilliant as usual. Vidya Balan and Darshan Zariwala have nice supporting roles too. The few songs (Sukhwinder Singh) are well placed in the movie and are of short duration enough not to slow the pace of the film.

On the whole Halla Bol is a very commendable piece of work which I enjoyed watching….the reason for its failure is mostly because theme isn’t novel enough and the fact that Santoshi’s style of film-making (old school but powerful) may not appeal today to a large proportion of the audience.

Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag (Ram Gopal Varma Aggi) September 5, 2007

Posted by Sai in Hindi, Movies, Reviews, Telugu.
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Fans of Sholay should keep away from this film. For the uninitiated, this is director Ram Gopal Varma’s re-imagination of the most popular masala action flick that Hindi cinema has seen. The title is intended to give the feel of the revenge sagas of the seventies and eighties while the name of the director himself indicates that this is his version of the film for which he intends to take the credit/blame for. Individually, I would say that half of the scenes in the movie work while half fall flat completely. However, as a whole, this is an unmitigated disaster. It leaves no impact whatsoever despite occasional flashes of technical brilliance.

In Varma’s defense, I would like to say that I have watched every one of his films and though he’s hurriedly made a few, none of them suffer from such a lack of continuity as this one. Considering that he claims to be the No.1 fan of Sholay and it was one of his dreams to remake this, one wonders if he had to cut out a lot of the scenes due to the court case that also required him to change the names of the characters (it could also be that cutting down the overlong Sholay was a difficult task). Despite that there are many other flaws. Foremost in my list is the highly inconsistent tone of the film. While part of it is like a seventies movie in terms of humor, action and romance, the rest of it is serious drama (more Varma’s style than the style of the Westerns that inspired Sholay) where almost none of the emotions manage to strike a chord. This seriously mars the film. The audience who like the dramatic moments loathe the seventies style humor and missing logic. The audience who watch this film hoping for a masala film are bored to death by the slow moving drama and dialogue. RGV seems to have focussed on some aspects of the film while neglecting some others. This results in a half-baked product that is a definite no-no at the box office from the word go.

Continuing further, the setting of the film doesn’t work at all. The setting of the original really gelled well with the film but the shift to the city loses what was essentially a character itself in the original. The back stories added to the film as a result of Ramu’s imagination seem arbitrary and add nothing whatsoever to the film. Another major drawback for this film is the comparisons with the original. These are inevitable but the standalone product is bad in any case and the comparisons bring it down further. The soundtrack of the film is of the catchy variety that sounds fine on screen (unless you dislike loud music) but you probably wouldn’t remember it a few months from now.

Amitabh and Mohanlal are super. Sushmita is good. Though he is raw, newcomer Prashant Raj (a huge improvement over the initial choice, the man with no expression, Mohit Ahlawat) has a good screen presence and does respectably well in his debut (without any comparisons of course). Nisha Kothari does a decent job (but I’m sure there are many who disliked her role and end up blaming her performance for it). I had issues with Ajay Devgan’s performance. Devgan doesn’t pull off the style of humor which Dharmendra managed to do so well in the original Sholay. He is miscast. Sushant Singh is good. Rajpal Yadav is extremely irritating and puts you off right at the beginning of the film.

The film does have a few things going for it but the abundance of flaws means that most critics haven’t even mentioned any of those. So here is my limited appreciation. The re-imagination of Gabbar as Babban is quite good. I liked the design of the character, his henchmen and the sets. It seems that Ramu has spent considerable time on this. Since the intent is different, the effect of this character is also quite different from that of Gabbar. I liked most of the sequences involving Babban. Many of the scenes featuring Inspector Narasimha are well executed as well. It is these sequences that make you sit through the film despite a lackluster start compounded by the boring romantic track and unfunny humor ending with a dismal climax. The Mehbooba song is well shot, choreographed (Ganesh Hegde), composed (Ganesh Hegde) and performed (Urmila and Abhishek). I especially loved the set for the song (Nitin Desai). The only other song that works to an extent is the Holi track while the rest of the songs are quickly forgotten. Technically, this film definitely has the RGV stamp all over it but technique alone isn’t enough for this film to appeal to even hardcore Varma fans.

Considering the dismal remakes of Shiva and Sholay, one would be tempted to assume that Ram Gopal Varma isn’t very good at adapting or re-imagining films. But you have films like Sarkar (inspired from The Godfather and Ramu’s own Gayam that was his first take on the classic), Bhoot (re-imagination of his own Raat/Raatri), Satya (a superb gangster film that was a much better reworking of his flop, Drohi/Antham) and on-the-run films like Anaganaga Oka Roju, currently being remade as Go (using the same formula as his classic, Kshana Kshanam that also inspired the dud, Daud) that show his versatility for the task. This time though he has gone horribly wrong and I would blame it on the fact that this is not so much a re-imagination (I had hoped it would be) as it is a remake with a few back stories, minor changes in characters and a change in tone (inconsistent one at that). RGV seriously needs to focus more on each of his projects instead of devoting his time to so many at once. One wonders what would be the fate of his other venture Darling that is releasing this weekend (some doubt if he actually directed it). I hope that his next project currently under production, Sarkar Raj is a worthy successor to Sarkar and brings back Varma at his best.