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Welcome to Sajjanpur October 8, 2008

Posted by Shujath in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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Owing to lack of creativity on my side, I am lifting a few lines from an older post on this blog to describe this film. “A small minority of films manage to put a smile on my face from beginning to end. When I say smile, it isn’t due to the funny events on screen but due to the sheer joy that I experience from everything put out on the screen. This is one such film.” Welcome to Sajjanpur is the kind of film which is so hard to write about because you can’t really slot it into a genre. Call it a simple comedy or a social satire or an engaging drama….it works on every level. Maybe films of this kind have been made in the past but none which I’ve seen.

Mahadev (Shreyas Talpade) is the only literate guy (more accurately..the only one who can actually write stuff) in Sajjanpur who aims to be a novelist but has to settle for being a letter-writer. Due to the uniqueness of his profession everyone in the village has got to use his services at one time or the other. The myriad letters he composes include complaints to the district collector, appeals for money from relatives, missing father search requests, love letters (of course!) and probably the most ingenious of them all – farmer generated spam mail. Short vignettes of the people’s lives who he comes in touch with and how he inadvertently (or otherwise) gets involved forms the crux of the movie. For Mahadev however, most important of them all is Kamala (Amrita Rao) – a childhood sweetheart now married and dying to correspond with her husband who is out in the city for work since the last four years. Mahadev senses an opportunity for some subtle manipulation to get closer to her.

Filled with ample humor and tongue-in-cheek references to social issues all and sundry; Sajjanpur is a treat to watch. I’ve noticed at few places the music of the film receiving much flak but I fail to understand why. Shantanu Moitra’s tunes blend so well with the film and I had absolutely no problem with it. Shreyas Talpade absolutely rocks. As the letter-writer with a troubled conscience when seeing injustice happen or the clever trickster when it comes to his love; his is a character you’ll simply adore. Shyam Benegal’s genius is most apparent in the fact the he made Amrita Rao shine in a role like that. Given the stuff she has done before, this really is a giant leap. The supporting cast is also wonderful – Yashpal Sharma, Ila Arun, Divya Dutta, Daya Shankar Pandey and Ravi Jhankal to name a few.

Shyam Benegal’s previous mainstream ventures in the last ten years or so like Zubeida and Bose didn’t justify his reputation but with Sajjanpur he is back and how! Welcome to Sajjanpur is a film which defines the phrase “wholesome entertainment”. It’s a pity if you miss this!

Bachna Ae Haseeno August 18, 2008

Posted by Shujath in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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As Ranbir Kapoor kick-starts the proceedings with his dad’s energetic title song you can’t help but acknowledge again (if you have seen Saawariya) that this guy is absolute star material. And if you thought he showed some promise in his debut what you’ll see him doing here is miles ahead. Also, YRF seems to have made a conscious effort here to project him as their successor to Shahrukh Khan. Alas, one only wishes if the film could have been as good.

Bachna Ae Haseeno is about the quintessential playboy Raj (Ranbir Kapoor) who with his “Rajgiri” gives a massive heartbreak to two women at different times in his life. The first one – Mahi (Minnisha Lamba) is a DDLJ freak who is on the lookout for her “Raj” in Europe and finds one in our Raj. But Raj leaves her after a night’s fling. The second one – Radhika (Bipasha Basu) is an aspiring model who has a live-in arrangement with Raj but is ready to give up everything and get married to him when Raj has to relocate to Australia. But he gets the jitters and slips away on the day they were supposed to get married. Years later when he’s truly fallen in love with Gayatri (Deepika Padukone) and proposes to her, he is rejected (and extremely dejected)….and then he realizes what the other two girls might have felt. Following which he sets out on a redemption tour asking the earlier women in his life for forgiveness. Seems that both ladies haven’t yet gotten over him and as a result screwed up their lives in different ways. Would Raj’s forgive-me mission set things right for them and will he win back the love of Gayatri? – Of course yes! What else can you expect from a Yash Raj Film.

The good things abruptly come to an end once Raj reaches out to Radhika in the second half. Whatever happens from thereon till the end is pretty silly. The most glaring flaw however is the inconsistent handling of Gayatri’s character. In one scene she claims she doesn’t believe in marriage and doesn’t need a man in her life, a few minutes later she is singing a duet with Raj and then when Raj proposes to her she rejects him saying that she won’t marry because he might not let her drive a Taxi during nights to pay for her B-school expenses! And as we come to know towards the end she immediately realizes that rejecting him was wrong and instantly reconciles….how convenient! Looks like Aditya Chopra and Siddharth Anand just wanted to say “When good people dump someone they start feeling sorry asap and try to bring them back into their lives”.

I am pretty sure no one is going to come out this film satisfied but there are lots of factors which still make it worth a watch. For once, the casting and performances are perfect – Minnisha stands out among the ladies more so because hers seems to be the only well-defined character and she has this very cute Punjabi accent. Hiten Paintal as Ranbir’s sidekick is also impressive (apparently both their dads had similar roles in the original film featuring the “Bachna Ae Haseeno” track). Kunal Kapoor (quite unrecognizable at first) appears in a nice cameo. Vishal-Shekhar’s score is apt. The “Khuda Jaane” track stands out and works very effectively when used as part of the background score. Ditto for the trumpet piece from the title track. The foreign locales are exploited quite well too.

Bachna Ae Haseeno could have been a great flick but fails to reach its potential due to some uninspired writing in the second half. But I’d still recommend it to anyone looking for a light-hearted entertainer.