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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…

Halla Bol January 17, 2008

Posted by Shujath in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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Angry Protagonists + Old Fashioned social drama + strong screenplay + hard hitting dialogue – that’s roughly the formula Rajkumar Santoshi used in the nineties for his films like Ghayal, Ghatak, Damini and China Gate. Somehow after that he never has been able to recreate the magic of those earlier films. If there is one reason to watch Halla Bol it has to be to see Santoshi return to form doing what he does best.

There have been too many criticisms labelled at this film….as being too outdated, preachy, melodramatic etc. To a certain extent it seems justified only because in recent times the theme of public apathy has been brought on screen/highlighted in the media quite a few times. Yet this is a very honest effort on a very relevant theme. An unscrupulous superstar Sameer Khan/Ashfaque (Ajay Devgan) is a witness to a murder at a high profile party. However, he denies seeing anything there (and so do the other celebs present there). However, his conscience hits him hard when he reminisces his past – his conscience-keepers being his guru Siddhu (Pankaj Kapur) and his wife Sneha (Vidya Balan). Now against all odds Sameer then has to bring the killers to justice.

There are so many direct and indirect references to real events and people – a straightforward invitation for controversy; no wonder I read a couple of days back an article about a friction between Devgan and the Khans. Maybe during the sequence mocking film stars doing ads, Devgan could have been more sportive by not excluding products which are endorsed by him. If this film would have worked at the box-office you sure would have got to read more gossip.

The film abounds in “punch” dialogues combined with whistle-worthy moments and this is precisely what makes one feel that Santoshi is back in form. Despite it’s box office performance, Ajay Devgan should be more than happy for he has delivered yet another fine performance and which should hopefully make people forget Cash and Ramgopal Varma ki Aag. Pankaj Kapur gets a meaty role in a mainstream film after a long time and he is brilliant as usual. Vidya Balan and Darshan Zariwala have nice supporting roles too. The few songs (Sukhwinder Singh) are well placed in the movie and are of short duration enough not to slow the pace of the film.

On the whole Halla Bol is a very commendable piece of work which I enjoyed watching….the reason for its failure is mostly because theme isn’t novel enough and the fact that Santoshi’s style of film-making (old school but powerful) may not appeal today to a large proportion of the audience.