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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…

Guru (Gurukanth) January 17, 2007

Posted by Sai in Hindi, Movies, Reviews, Tamil, Telugu.
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Being inspired from real-life incidents (Bombay, Kannathil Muthamittal/Amrutha) and characters (Iruvar/Iddaru, Nayagan/Nayakudu) isn’t new for writer-director Mani Ratnam. Despite what he says, his latest film is definitely inspired by the life of Dhirubhai Ambani. Though Mani makes sure that this is an inaccurate biopic, it includes characters (including the journalist played by R. Madhavan, as my Dad pointed out) and incidents reminiscent of the life of the Polyester Prince. The film spins an interesting yarn on the astonishing rise of a common man to a position of great importance, focusing on his moral dilemmas as well as the social, political and legal repercussions of his actions. This is an engaging film that is pretty good but I would think twice before calling it great. The reason it falls short of being great is that it tends to get cinematic at times when realism would have kept me much happier.

That Mani Ratnam’s screenplay and direction are superb, goes without saying. I greatly enjoyed the conflicting relationships between Guru and Nanaji and their respective families. The one issue that I had though is with the songs. The Ek Lo Ek Muft song felt unnecessary and I would have liked it if the Tere Bina song wasn’t shot as it was. The rest of the songs are used to forward the story or used in the background. Though the well-shot Barso Re number seems repetitive for Mani, Aishwarya’s bicycle accident necessitated this song and hence that can be overlooked.

Another important factor in the effect of this film is the dialogue by Vijay Krishna Acharya (who also provided the dialogue for Pyaar Ke Side Effects and wrote the screenplay along with dialogue for Dhoom and Dhoom 2). Mani Ratnam being a Tamilian with relatively low capability of understanding Hindi needed someone to accurately translate his vision into words and Vijay does a very good job (though sometimes one feels that the dialogue is a bit more dramatic than necessary). Being a period flick, the art direction (Samir Chanda) and costume design (Ameira Punvan, Sai, Nikhar Dhawan, Anu Parthasarathy, Aparna Shah) becomes very important. Mani Ratnam being the master that he is seems to have taken extra care of the detailing. The one thing that is easily visible in the film is the vehicles used for the different periods. I was quite surprised with Aishwarya’s backless blouse in the Barso Re song that seemed out of sync for that period. However, that is just my ignorance. Apparently, women in Gujarat wear such outfits due to the weather and not for sex appeal (source: IndiaFM.com).

Though the film never paints Guru as the nicest human being, some members of the audience seem to think that Mani has shown Guru’s misdemeanors lightly through the somewhat happy climax. This isn’t exactly a children’s storybook to have the most politically correct climax. I would like to ask these people if they have always taken a legally correct path in their lives (and don’t tell me that we break the law only when it seems unreasonable). Most of us have bribed someone or the other at some point in our lives and therefore furthered the rampant corruption in the country. We have committed our share of mistakes and so has Guru (or Dhiru) and as one character in the film points out these are things that we cannot be executed for (yet). The most practical (not to mention realistic) solution is punishment with a hope of reformation and that is what happens in the film. The good part though is that Guru’s tryst with swindling and smuggling does help the shareholders of his company and this is not forgotten.

Abhishek Bachchan, who plays the main protagonist, delivers a stunning performance. If Mani’s last film Yuva provided him the platform to be noticed as an actor, this performance will make sure that he will be remembered as an actor. Aishwarya Rai once again shows that she can deliver a good performance under the guidance of a capable director. Mani brings out the best in the newly engaged couple both in terms of acting and chemistry that seemed to be lacking in their earlier outings together. Apart from these two the film boasts of a splendid supporting cast. Mithun’s national awards (for Best Actor in Mrigaya, Tahader Katha and for Best Supporting actor in Swami Vivekananda) might have been forgotten by the common audience but thankfully filmmakers like Mani haven’t forgotten him and he delivers a performance that does justice to his talent. Madhavan and Vidya Balan, both capable actors, do well in supporting roles. Arya Babbar (Raj Babbar’s son who made his debut in the forgettable flick called Ab Ke Baras) makes an impression in a short role as Aishwarya’s brother.

A.R.Rahman has done some of his best work for Mani Ratnam’s films and he once again comes up with a brilliant soundtrack and background score. Gulzar’s lyrics provide the poetic imagery that makes these songs even better (though I won’t claim to have understood them completely). My favorite numbers are Jaage Hain and Shauk Hai (sung by Soumya Rao, this song is a part of the background score and is expected to be included in the new CDs of Guru alongwith the Gurubhai Aaya Che number that has become synonymous with the film) followed by Aye Hairathe and Maiyya Maiyya. Barso Re and Tere Bina are very good too.

This film is aimed primarily at the intelligentsia. There is a lot of dialogue in the film that is going over the heads of well-educated people. Mani makes no effort to explain things in detail as is the norm in Hindi cinema (and I believe that should be the way to go). Thanks to the multiplex and overseas audience, this movie might do well but its prospects in the interiors are bleak. Those looking for mindless entertainment could watch Dhoom 2 again while the others should try and catch this one.