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99 May 18, 2009

Posted by Shujath in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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Thanks to the Film Producers-Multiplex Owners stand-off, there hasn’t been any new Bollywood offering for a while now. Citing the relevance of it being released during the IPL season, the producers of 99 somehow managed to get it out. 99 claims to be the the “coolest crime comedy of the year” – a claim which it admirably lives up to. I noticed that in a few reviews/articles about this film, the directors Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK have been mentioned as debutants. For those who are not aware, a few years back these guys made a wonderful “crossover” film called Flavors which you should definitely watch. Their latest effort just proves that they are here to stay.

The basic narrative of 99 is similar to Guy Ritchie’s caper flicks – so you have people chasing money, people chasing other people and money jumping places before everyone finally gets what they deserve. The crime backdrop in this one centers around betting and match-fixing in cricket – that’s why it is set in the year 1999. A rather interesting insight which the film constantly seems to allude to are the nascent birth of now ubiquitous pop cultural phenomenon like mobile phones, the Internet, Coffee shops and Bhojpuri Films! 99 is smartly scripted with great humor and unlike similar themed flicks is a lot more believable as there is quite a bit of time devoted to detailing individual characters and their actions. Some have complained about the long runtime resulting because of this but I had absolutely no problems with it.

Most importantly, the primary reason everything in this film works so well is its delectable cast. Kunal Khemu and Boman Irani have the greatest screen time and are delightful. The former is also looking quite good sans his long locks. Mahesh Manjrekar as the local gangster AGM impresses once again – this is the only kind of role he seems to excel in effortlessly. Cyrus Broacha is quite hilarious with his usual brand of humor. Despite having short parts Vinod Khanna and Soha Ali Khan are very impressive. The best accolades should however be reserved for newcomer Amit Mistry who never fails to bring the house down. His scene with Kunal (a glimpse of which is seen in the promos) is the highpoint of the movie.

Technically too the film looks good. The musical score (Roshan Macado, Mahesh Shankar, Shamir Tandon) suits the tone of the film perfectly. The title sequence seemingly inspired from Watchmen is also quite catchy. Going by Bollywood standards 99 is an almost flawless work which is immensely entertaining and equally clever – go for it!

Jannat – In Search of Heaven May 18, 2008

Posted by Shujath in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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A day before its release, Mahesh Bhatt said in an interview that “Jannat will be Emraan’s Naam”. During his heyday, Mahesh Bhatt made films like Naam and Gumraah which dealt with the theme of vulnerable people caught in a world of crime in a foreign land, unable to let go of it and end up paying for it dearly. There are some other films of his (or from his production house) which have dwelt on the same thing (Gangster and Awarapan being the recent) but the two films I mentioned before are the ones which made a strong impact on me.

So, Jannat ventures into familiar Bhatt territory and indeed it is watchable and quite engaging at times. But somehow it lacks the emotional impact I’d expected and doesn’t stay with you too long after you’re done watching it. Arjun (Emraan Hashmi) is a compulsive gambler who gets drawn into the world of cricket betting once he discovers his “sixth sense” for predicting events in any match. Meanwhile, he has also fallen for Zoya (Sonal Chauhan) and woos her with some stupid Bollywood tricks. A bit of digression here – For anyone who has trouble believing that Emraan Hashmi is a “superstar” in his own right – here is the acid test. If someone can pull of absolute crap in style on screen and still make you like him he qualifies to be a real “star”. Watch Emraan do the same here and you’ll know what I am saying. Coming back to the story, Arjun climbs his next step on the ladder of success by becoming a “match fixer” for an famous underworld kingpin Abu Ibrahim (Jawed Sheikh) in South Africa. Now, there’s also a cop (Samir Kochhar) in hot pursuit of Arjun.

Firstly, if you decide to watch this film then please don’t have any misconceptions that this one revolves around match-fixing and that you’ll get to see how it all actually happens. It’s just that there had to be a crime backdrop for this story in this case it happens to be match-fixing. Of course, there are references to real life personalities thrown in for some masala. The weakest link and the reason Jannat falls short of being a really nice film is the love story….to be more specific it’s the leading lady – Sonal Chauhan. What she does is okay for the regular romance in the first half but she totally screws up the heavy duty moments later. The audience couldn’t help chuckling whenever she cries. In fact, in hindsight I think it would been better if the plot was something like – Arjun and the cop chasing him were brothers on opposite sides of the law. I am saying that because the interactions between Emraan and Samir are one of the highpoints of the movie.

Anyways, there are other good things which salvage Jannat – Emraan Hashmi being the primary one. This is his most uninhibited performance till now. Nothing new in the kind of role but the way he emotes and his dialague delivery is so believable and natural. He gets to play different shades in the film and he impresses in every way. Way to go Emraan! Two other performances stay with you and they belong to Samir Kochhar and Jawed Sheikh. As the young sincere cop Kochhar is top notch. One wishes he had a longer role to play here. Jawed Sheikh is there for only a few scenes but is so good – we’ve seen him before but looks like he’s finally gotten a role which suits him the best. Then there’s also the now popular “Zara Sa” number with the tradmark Bhatt-camp “Who Oh O….” strain. “Jannat Yahaan” is also nice. The male version of “Lambi Judaai” is surprisingly missing – I thought it’ll show up in the end credits but it doesn’t. Debutant Kunal Deshmukh (credited for both writing and direction) is promising.

Jannat is yet again a good offering from the Bhatts. It definitely could have been lot better but the lack of a good Hindi film in recent times makes this a nice watch.