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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…

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Ghajini January 4, 2009

Posted by Shujath in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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Nobody needs a review to decide whether to watch the biggest blockbuster of the year or not. But for those who haven’t yet seen this yet, it would do good to set your expectations right especially you have seen the original. If you haven’t seen the original then still please don’t go in expecting in some masterpiece like what it is made out to be.

Ghajini is more like a Bollywood viewer’s initiation into the world of South Indian action cinema. Thanks to the hype around this flick, everyone by now should atleast be aware of the plot – an anterograde amnesiac on a revenge mission – to be precise. Right from the title sequence, Ghajini for most part is a faithful scene-to-scene, dialogue-to-dialogue reproduction of the original. In fact for the portions not featuring Aamir Khan and Jiah Khan, they could actually have reused footage from the Tamil version and still no one would have noticed. What seemed to have worked well especially here are the action sequences. One section of the audience (presumably the exclusive Bollywood viewers) kept getting visibly excited whenever Aamir screams ala Sunny Deol and bashes up multiple guys at once. Those who didn’t seem too excited (including me) were (probably) thinking – ok…now we have to start getting used to this in Hindi too!!!

Aamir Khan – playing an action hero after a long time is great as long as he is bashing up people. When compared to Surya, he goes over the top sometimes – especially when he screams in anger. Surya was a lot more consistent in maintaining that bewildered and confused look throughout. But I couldn’t come to grips with loverboy Aamir (especially in comparison with Surya). Maybe he’s too old for this now and most importantly his styling for this part is hard to digest. He is supposed to be the CEO of a huge firm and he is dressed like a cross between a waiter, a bouncer and a bodyguard. It looks all the more ridiculous in those scenes when he is surrounded by his assistants all dressed in dapper suits. Asin again successfully reprises the part which really made her career down south. It’s one of those extremely crowd pleasing roles which still hold appeal on repeat viewing. Jiah Khan and Pradeep Rawat are alright.

In what is probably his most prolific year, A.R Rahman comes up with another successful score – though this would be of lesser significance when you compare it with his other soundtracks earlier in the year. Not sure if he actually did the background score because during the climactic sequences the theme which you get to hear sounds very familiar. The picturization of the songs is excellent nevertheless. There was also this huge thing about Aamir Khan rewriting the climax of the original for this one. If you go in expecting some drastic change/twist you’ll be sorely disappointed. It’s just been simplified to do away with the villain playing a dual role here.

Honestly, I was bored for most part as there is absolutely nothing in it to hold the interest of those who have the Telugu/Tamil version still fresh in their minds. For first timers planning to watch this, Aamir Khan playing the tough-as-nails 8-pack action hero should be good enough reason not to miss it.

Dasavathaaram June 15, 2008

Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, Tamil, Telugu.
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The loonnnng wait is finally over and the reviews are out. Some have called it magnificent while others have called it disappointing. It’s actually both – magnificent being the effort and disappointing (relative to the hype and hoopla) being the outcome. And yes, Kamal Haasan is responsible for both. Dasavathaaram could have been a brilliant chase thriller set in the backdrop of the age old philosophical debate about the existence of God. However, along the way Kamal’s high ambitions come in the way of his self-indulgence and the the latter dominates most of the movie (add to that some extended uninteresting bickering scenes between Asin and Kamal) after the highly interesting first half.

Firstly, when you expect to see him don ten different roles you also rightfully expect each of them to be memorable. But half of the avatars (or maybe more) are totally redundant to the movie – a couple of them border on ridiculous…in the last category especially being the Sardar pop singer and the unusually tall Pathan – which in large part can also be attributed to the awful dubbing by S.P Balasubramanyam in the Telugu version. Also, his English lines for the scientist avatar (the main hero) are equally bad. In the beginning of the movie, I had to scratch my head for a while to figure out that “Khayaas theory” was actually “Chaos theory” when he explains the butterfly effect. I am sure Tamil viewers wouldn’t have to complain about this aspect of the movie because when you see how brilliantly Kamal dubs for “George W. Bush” and “Chris Fletcher” you cannot but assume that he’s done a similar job for the rest of the characters too.

Incidentally, Dubya and Fletcher are two of the most memorable characters in the film. I never expected that Kamal would actually incorporate Bushisms too….Nice job at that! The ex-CIA assassin Fletcher avatar has been wonderfully conceived and special care has also been given not just to his appearance but also his lines. However, these two characters make an impact only if you understand the language and the context (in the case of Bush). What everyone ultimately will remember from this movie is the bumbling Tamil cop Balaram Nader…in the Tamil version it’s supposed to be a Telugu cop called Naidu. After a couple of scenes simply his appearance on the screen makes you crack up. Kamal has played memorable oddball comic characters in the past and now he can prouldy add this one to his list. I strongly felt there should have been more screen-time devoted to this character. The rest of the avatars don’t strike a chord at all.

Apart from this one-man show, the VFX team needs to be given a standing ovation. Now don’t come to the conclusion that this film is devoid of the tacky SFX so prevalent in South Indian films. The thing is they get it right most of the time and when they don’t; the tackiness still gels with the tone of the film without descending into ridiculousness. The thing which they’ve achieved to perfection (and which you might not take notice of) is the seamless amalgamation of the scenes featuring multiple Kamal Haasans. There are lots of them in the movie and mind you…these are not scenes where one character is simply talking to the other with his back facing the audience or just two characters coming face to face with each other in the left and right frames. Only on watching this can one realize why this one took so long in the making – even a simple scene can become extremely complex because of the presence of multiple avatars. Also, the camerawork (Ravi Varman) is splendid…especially use of zoom-in and zoom-out shots. Himesh Reshammiya can get away with his forgettable tunes only because songs aren’t an integral part of this film. Devisri’s background score is really good – notwithstanding the fact that the main theme is lifted from the first theatrical teaser of Spider-Man 3.

Dasavathaaram fails to be the masterpiece it was intended to be be only because the not-so-interesting avatars eat into the interesting premise in the second half of the movie, but I strongly feel this one be given a fair chance purely for the efforts of Kamal Haasan and director K.S. Ravikumar.

Ghazni August 17, 2006

Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, Tamil, Telugu.
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Ghazni, which was dubbed into Telugu with the same name and is also to be remade in Hindi with Aamir Khan, was inspired by Memento. When I say inspired, I do not mean that it is lifted. The narrative style and complexity of the original is not suited for the common man. Director Murugadoss has taken the basic theme about a guy with short-term memory loss taking revenge for his wife’s death and made it a good commercial film for the audience in question. The presence of Surya and Asin in the film is a case of excellent casting. Their performances were deservedly loved by most audience members. The love story which was quite enjoyable was supposedly lifted from an old Nagarjuna movie (according to TeluguCinema.com). Though the climax is a bit of a letdown, this film works and Murugadoss should get most of the credit for the adaptation suitable for the target audience. The performances of Surya and Asin alongwith Harris Jayaraj’s music (my favorite is “Oru Naalai” or “Oka Maaru” while I hate the overly sweet “Suttum Vizhi” or “Hrudayam Ekkadunnadi” which I unfortunately had to hear a couple of hundred times at least, thanks to my Tamizhan friends) added to the success level of the film. Though it would rate very low, in comparison with Memento, this is an enjoyable watch for anyone who likes commercial films or thrillers.

I’ve always wondered why this movie was called Ghazni. Wikipedia gives me the following reason: “Ghajini (Ghazni) Mohammed was the man who tried to invade India 15 times, failing miserably on every occasion. Finally, on the 16th time, he was successful. Similarly, the protagonist in Ghajini fails many times in his attempts to murder the villain, yet ultimately succeeds.”