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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…

Delhi-6 February 23, 2009

Posted by Shujath in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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The experience of watching Delhi-6 goes something like this – Imagine that Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra promised to take you on a trip to the moon. This wonderful trip through space seems to be going fine and when you finally see yourself approaching the destination, he jettisons you off into outer space (the advantage in this case being that you can actually come back home). Now no matter how much you want to curse him for throwing you off you still cannot discount the unforgettable journey till that point. That for you is Delhi-6 condensed in a few lines – the must-watch disappointing flick of the year.

The film for most part is a satirical black comedy centered around the family and friends of an NRI Roshan (Abhishek Bachchan), who agrees to accompany her dying grandmother (Waheeda Rehman) to Delhi where she wants to live with her kith and kin until her final moment. This extended circle of family and friends incidentally turns out to be one amazing ensemble of a supporting cast who bring the streets of Delhi alive. The main premise makes use of the (in)famous “Monkey-man” (Kala Bandar) series of incidents which occurred about 6 years back. You realize as the film progresses that the use of this peg is mainly to take a dig at communalism but meanwhile there are a lot of other issues touched upon with a mix of playful reverence and biting satire like religious beliefs/rituals, casteism, oppressive families etc. with a dash of the usual NRI-finding-his-roots thread. The multiple sub-plots reminded me of last year’s Welcome To Sajjanpur but they are completely different and commendable in their own way.

What seems to have gone terribly wrong is the communalism thread – which is so hackneyed, preachy and completely out of line with the tone of the film. Still, when the film seems to be getting back on track towards the climax you are given another bitter (or rather bizarre) pill to swallow. No wonder it is receiving brickbats from all corners. Apart from Mehra another person to shoulder the blame has to be Abhishek Bachchan. On one hand he should be commended for accepting a role which is little more than a narrator where the only thing expected of him is just to “be there”. Now whoever gave him the idea of using that irritating fake accent – the worst part being he uses that only when conversing with characters who don’t seem to understand English otherwise he absolutely has no issues mouthing heavy duty dialogues in shuddh Hindi. Apart from pissing you off this only seems to make his character appear so disinterested in what is happening around him. If it weren’t for that wonderfully filmed song – with Times Square juxtaposed on Delhi’s crowded streets; his character’s existence in the film would be completely unjustified.

You might say these are small details but these stand out more so because the rest of the cast is flawless to the core. I can only mention the people whose names I know – Waheeda Rehman (my favorite onscreen mom anytime), Rishi Kapoor (whose true “second innings” finally seems to have kickstarted this year), Sonam Kapoor (a similar giggly role like Saawariya which nevertheless suits her so well), Vijay Raaz, Pawan Malhotra, Om Puri, Divya Dutta, Atul Kulkarni, Tanvi Azmi and the ones who play Rajjo Bhabhi and Rama Bua.

The cinematography (Binod Pradhan) and artwork (Samir Chanda) are top notch and there is a fine balance between the use of real locations and set-pieces. If the cast and crew make Delhi come alive then to top it all is the man of the moment A.R Rahman who arguably delivers one of his best scores ever and to his fortune he has a director who knows how to use it to maximum effect.

As the end credits rolled with the mesmerising “Arziyan” track I was feeling so exhilarated yet equally sad – for having seen a film which rises to magnificent heights yet screws up so badly in the last lap. But I strongly recommend every lover of cinema to still check out Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s brutally flawed masterpiece for it has too many great things about it which you’d struggle to find in any so called “good” film you generally come across.

Singh is Kinng August 25, 2008

Posted by Shujath in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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There have been quite a few so called “comedies” which have bombed at the box-office this year which made me think that moviegoers have finally gotten tired of those not-so-funny blockbuster comedies which had a good time at the box-office last year. I was wrong because I forgot to take notice of the fact that none of those bombs this year featured any big stars. Singh is Kinng is the first one to feature a saleable star and (unsurprisingly) despite its content has gone on to become a blockbuster.

The filmmakers had quite an interesting concept on hand but they haven’t exploited it properly. Happy Singh (Akshay Kumar) is a bumbling do-gooder who has his intentions right but always courts trouble with his actions. His village is fed up of him and they pack him off to Australia on the pretext of getting King (Sonu Sood) – an infamous Don in Australia – back to Punjab so that their community would no longer be badnaam because of his activities. Accompanying Happy is his friend Rangeela (Om Puri). However, in Australia things go haywire as King gets afflicted with a condition “which Shahrukh Khan had in Anjaam” and Happy has to take his place. And that’s when the fun begins (actually supposed to begin).

Coming from Anees Bazmee, whose last outing Welcome was quite inconsistent from being outrightly irritating to some hilarious laugh-out-loud moments, Singh is Kinng is consistently average – neither making you smile much nor making you feel why you actually paid to sit through this. The biggest complaint I have is how he could waste actors like Javed Jafferi (hardly comprehensible) and Ranvir Shorey (a role probably written with Sunil Shetty in mind). Akshay Kumar is a huge star so can afford to be repetitive but this trait of his doesn’t appeal to me much (I wouldn’t say the same about other “superstars”) but still good enough to carry the film through. The best perfomances come from the supporting cast of Om Puri, Sonu Sood (once he becomes paralysed) and Yashpal Sharma. Manoj Pahwa and Kirron Kher also lend good support. Katrina and Neha are just hanging around to look good.

Watch it if you’ve liked similar mindless (purported) comedy flicks before otherwise there is nothing you’ll lose by giving this a miss. The two title tracks were really the only things which I enjoyed the most.