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Ta Ra Rum Pum April 29, 2007

Posted by Sai in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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If you have liked films like Veer-Zaara, Fanaa and Mujhse Dosti Karoge in the past, read no further because this film might make a decent watch for you. This film will appeal to a certain section of the audience that makes films like Fanaa and Raja Hindustani super hits.

Unfortunately, I am not a part of this section and I am quite irate after watching this one. I would be willing to try my best to keep away as many people from this film as possible.

I could have almost cried from watching this film because it was so excruciating. There may have been worse films than this but there rarely has been a film that has incensed me so much.

Rajveer Singh/RV (Saif Khan) is (probably) an orphan who makes money by changing tyres at a race track. Though he doesn’t seem to have too much money or a career, neither is he willing to plan nor is he willing to save. He is the kind of guy that can pay a cabbie (Javed Jaffrey) a hundred dollar bill (when twenty dollars would suffice) to let him drive and break all the laws on the road (in New York when the NYPD is probably dead) to reach his destination (where he does not have any work apparently). On one such occassion, he meets Radhika (Rani Mukherjee) and damages her IPod while falling in love with her at first sight. Luckily for him, the real cabbie is not really a cabbie. He is the manager of a racing team and he invites RV to his team, considering his skill at risking his life while driving like a madman. RV agrees and wins his first race itself not to mention everything else after that while Radhika is watching from the stands (and he magically manages to maintains eye contact with her whenever he looks out of his car window). Radhika marries him despite the protests of her father (Victor Banerjee) who realises he is an idiot (without taking into account money or social status – RV is already rich and famous by then). RV buys a car and a home without informing Radhika and then they also have two kids (whom, unfortunately, he cannot produce without informing her – thankfully though, the production is left out this time).

Everything is fine till Rusty enters the picture. A new bad boy racer who doesn’t mind injuring his opponents to win (did I mention that anything goes in this race including cornering and crashing your opponent). He targets RV and causes an accident putting him out for a year. Though RV’s physical injuries disappear, the mental scars still do not leave him and he ends up last on ten races continuously upon return (it would seem that Bollywood doesn’t know any positions apart from first and last). His dinosaurian ego cannot take the fact that he is a loser. He doesn’t accept the fact himself and neither does he let his children know for fear of falling from the hero status in their eyes. He loses his job and everything else because we are told he owns nothing (he buys everything on installments). He is officially poor. When the time comes to move to a desi slum in New York, he and Radhika lie to their kids that they are in a reality show about being poor and they need to be happy (or at least act that way) while they try to exist with only $2000.

Now I just cannot understand why there is a need to lie to your children about being poor? Do you want them to live in their dream worlds without ever facing reality? Do the children think everyone has a rosy life that is only filled with smiles? And pray tell me why is being poor so despicable? Is it that poor people don’t have lives or is it that their lives aren’t worth living? We already live in a society that gives undue importance to money, power and fame. Do we need movies to further emphasize these unfortunate ideas? Escapist flicks are fine but films that promote living in denial just cannot be accepted.

If that was a bad enough start to the second half of this film, some of the sequences that followed made it even worse. The pig-headed egoistic ass that Saif plays is willing to beg or cheat people for money but cannot accept help from a friend because he did leave his job and come away with him as he also has a life and a family to consider. The stupid pseudo-Bharatiya Nari that Rani Mukherjee plays in the film can beg and almost steal for her children but isn’t willing to take money or any help from her father because he points out the blatant fact that her husband cannot plan for the future or save money. Between fifty thousand dollars and living a lie (not to mention living in denial), she chooses the latter. This and much more including the complete lack of any logic and the presence of the irritating girl who plays their daughter (Angelina Idnani) was reason enough for me to squirm in my seat throughout the second half of this film almost to the point of tearing my hair out.

Like some of the other films from the Yashraj stable, attempts to milk the audiences’ emotions are in full force. This is headed by the scene where the kid is shown to be eating out of a dumpster. I am sure there are people who were moved by this scene and even a few who may have cried.

That isn’t all though. I am disappointed with a part of the audience too. When Saif almost demands $65,000 (for the medical expenses of his child) from his ex-boss who obviously is not going to part with that kind of money like almost everybody in the audience, the boss suggests that he could give him a few hundred and that he should start collecting similar donations from some of his other acquaintances. Even if he didn’t give the money, the “bad” man at least gave him a decent piece of advice, something that is commonly done in an extreme situation like this (and remember that Rani Mukherjee can’t get the money from her father who we are told is the owner of the 3rd or 4th largest database consortium in the USA or was it World?). But obviously, Saif is too big to beg from the villain. At the point when the boss starts to give him a few hundred, the lady beside me started calling the villanous man a bastard. Multiple times. Why? Why? Why?

Rusty, who causes Saif’s accident is obviously the main villain in the piece. The audience hates him for doing this. However, towards the end, Saif pays him back in the same coin and he also (presumably) dies and a part of the audience started clapping for Saif. Is something wrong with me or does the meaning of “wrong” change in your mind depending on the person who commits this and how much you like him/her or care for him/her?

Finally, I wish nobody talks about Roberto Benigni’s Life Is Beautiful while referring to this film even if Siddharth Anand took some inspiration from that film. As far as I can see, lying is the only piece of inspiration, and in that case, this film is as inspired from that brilliant effort as it is from a film like Kareeb.

If you want real positives, I don’t think there are any. Of course, the whole racing setup is new for the Indian audience (even as New York is starting to bore) and some of the racing accident sequences look good, though they are completely devoid of logic. The soundtrack (Vishal-Shekhar) and background score (Salim-Suleiman) are alright. Saif and Rani are better in the second half (Rani is particularly irritating in the first half). Among the kids, the boy (Ali Haji) is better but nothing to write about. Jaaved Jaffrey is likeable even if he isn’t as funny as he was in Salaam Namaste (and I couldn’t figure out some of his accented dialogue that was uneven through the film). I wish he had danced to a complete song instead of doing a couple of moves. That would have made at least a few minutes of this worthwhile. Victor Banerjee in a very short role actually does the best job of the lot and he seemed to be the only person from the film that could actually be real. Most of the dialogue (Habib Faisal) is raddi. The humor is only sporadically funny (I was laughing more for unintentionally funny stuff during the first half and was just too shocked/irritated/disturbed/pissed/depressed to laugh in the second half).

The main culprits for this horror are writer Habib Faisal and director Siddharth Anand. Siddharth didn’t do a bad job with his first film Salaam Namaste that he also wrote. I liked the energy and humor in that one and he did show some style (even if it wasn’t exactly original or unique). However, with this one, he joins my list of directors to keep away from that is headed by Dharmesh Darshan, Suneel Darshan and Kunal Kohli.

I believe it takes almost the same amount of talent and effort to make a money-making film that is bad and a money-making film that is flawed but worth a watch or at least entertaining. I wonder why there are a lot of folks who seem to prefer the former.

I wished for a while that I was in some reality show and that this distasteful film was not the actual one. Alas! Useless dreams like that can only be true when you are in a Yashraj film.

Vettaiyadu Villaiyadu (Raghavan) March 28, 2007

Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, Tamil, Telugu.
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After I fell in love with the music of this film, I was waiting for its telugu version which was rumored to be titled ‘Magadheera’ or ‘Ventaadi Vetaadu’. Since that one doesn’t seem to releasing anytime soon, I caught the tamil version.

Gautham Menon claims that this is “Another episode in the life of a policeman”. That seems to suggest that this a follow up to Kaakha Kaakha in his series of cop films. However, this is a disappointing follow up to Kaakha Kaakha. The film is superficially very similar to that one in many ways and after watching this, I think Gautham Menon shouldn’t do any more “episodes” as he doesn’t seem to have anything fresh to offer.

The film starts off with a stupid action episode where Kamal Haasan beats up tens of goons singlehandedly. You can’t help but notice that Kamal Haasan seems a tad too old and a bit too fat to portray an invincible action hero. This is followed by the Karka Karka song which is imaginatively shot but due to the preceding sequence, it loses its impact. What happens next seems promising. Prakash Raj’s daughter is brutally murdered and Kamal is called to investigate. Though he finds her body, the killer is still on the loose. Few months later, Prakash Raj and his wife are killed in USA leading to suspicion about a serial killer. Kamal now moves to the US to track the killers with the help of the NYPD and thats exactly when things start going wrong with the film.

As far as I am aware, Kamal Haasan doesn’t have an action image that Gautham felt the need to oblige. Hence, the decision to portray him as one is perplexing. The easily noticeable logic-defying moments, some over-the-top dialogue and the overdone background score put me off to a great extent. Coming from Gautham Menon, one expected better.

Gautham does a few weird things in trying to show that Raghavan is very intelligent and can solve things which the NYPD doesn’t manage to. Setting the film partly in America adds to the problems of credibility and logic. Also the film manages the be unintentionally funny quite a few times and features some particularly pathetic dialogue. My favorite is undoubtedly the time when Kamal Haasan mouths “Back home, they call it the Raghavan Instinct”. Is it just me or did a lot of people crack up on that one?

The romance which worked very well in Kaakha Kaakha fails here. Neither the story of Raghavan’s first wife nor his current romance manages to strike a chord. Though the love story doesn’t succeed, some of the dialogue brings back memories of Kaakha Kaakha.

If Gautham does succeed at something, it is at the portrayal of the serial killers. Their psycopathic nature will manage to scare members of the audience. Saleem Baig (Kaakha Kaakha), who portrays Ilamaran and Daniel Balaji (Kaakha Kaakha), who portrays Amudhan do a superb job. The gritty portrayal of some of the incidents also adds to the impact. This part of the plot does work despite flaws and that is what holds the audience appeal.

Apart from the these two actors, the others don’t have much scope to perform. The role of the cop doesn’t make much use of Kamal’s histrionic capabilities. An easy outing for Kamal. Jyothika gets another typical role while Kamalinee Mukherjee doesn’t get much to do.

Harris Jayaraj’s soundtrack is outstanding while his background score leaves a lot to be desired. Manjal Veyil and Uyirile had caught on so much that I know the words to both these songs by heart (and I don’t understand much more than conversational Tamil). His background score, on the other hand goes completely wrong. It is pumped up at the weirdest of places like Kamal boarding the plane to New York. Other technical areas like cinematography (Ravi Varman) are strong.

Gautham’s picturization of the songs was a total disappointment for me, not to mention that they seem to be repetitive. Manjal Veyil, which I had great hopes for, features Kamal and Jyothika walking around in New York with some glimpses of some African-Americans ‘breaking’ in between and some extras including Gautham singing the chorus part (the young boys singing in the back reminds you of a similar bit featuring girls in Jyothika’s introduction song in Kaakha Kaakha). The initial parts of Paartha Mudhal remind you of Ennai Konjam and the later parts bring back memories of Ondra Renda from Kaakha Kaakha (the bike sequence is dreadfully done). There is also an item song as was the case with Kaakha Kaakha. Uyirile is quite a standard duet picturized abroad. Karka Karka has some stylish sequences in it but following the ludicrous fight sequence, it seems laughable at times.

Wikipedia tells me that this is the biggest grosser among tamil films in 2006 and is the biggest hit in Kamal’s career. I am not sure if that is true, considering that it wasn’t dubbed into telugu. If you have seen a few serial killer films from Hollywood in the past, this might not hold your interest. If you aren’t too familiar with the genre this might appeal to an extent despite its shortcomings. Those who’ve seen Kaakha Kaakha and liked Gautham’s work very much might want to stay away from this one.