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Love Aaj Kal August 10, 2009

Posted by Shujath in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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When a film turns out to be a rather unexpected blockbuster it could be that it really was that good or it was just able to to successfully tap into the sensibilites of a large segment of moviegoers. For me, Love Aaj Kal clearly fell into the latter category. Imtiaz Ali’s first two films (Socha Na Tha, Jab We Met) weren’t exactly super-hits during their release but today they are considered to be standout films in what is a worn-out genre.

Love Aaj Kal at its core relies on that crappy Hollywood romcom formula about two people breaking up and taking up the entire duration of the film to realize that they “truly love” each other. In this flick, there is an additional parallel story running in an earlier era where “true love” truly was true. This clever narrative does make the proceedings a lot more interesting but looking back it seems like a substitute for lack of content. There is no doubt that Imtiaz Ali has brilliant writing and directing skills this film too is no exception. His previous films were undoubtedly a lot more fun and had characters you could identify with. I might have enjoyed this film more if the “fun” part overshadowed everything else but it seemed to take itself too seriously which is the biggest complaint I have against this one. Even if it did not appeal to me, I must accept that sitting through this wasn’t a bad experience at all.

Saif is wonderful in both the roles he plays. He is probably a bit too old for a part like this – however you forget about this aspect when you watch him perform. Deepika seems to be a pretty bad choice. There is absolutely nothing wrong with her emoting but her dialogue delivery is always so bland that if you were to listen to her closing your eyes – it  sounds like a sonorous speech where the emphasis is on just getting the pronunciation of every word right. Rishi Kapoor gets another nice supporting role in what seems to be his real comeback year. The much kept-under-wraps Giselli Monteiro is cute but that’s about it. Rahul Khanna is unimpressive in a short supporting role. The visuals are beautiful (the period pieces specially) and add a lot to the film. Pritam’s score fits in nicely though there aren’t any great numbers to watch out for.

If you are a sucker for romcoms in general then you can’t ask for anything better than Love Aaj Kal – for the rest it’s just a pleasant but unmemorable film. Imtiaz Ali might not have picked the right film to make but his solid effort nevertheless shows – I am still eager to know what he makes next.

Tashan April 27, 2008

Posted by Shujath in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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One of the most awaited films of this year – Tashan is being thrashed all over the place by most critics and audiences. On the face of it, it is yet another of those “guilty pleasure” flicks like Dhoom 2 or Race but rather than trying to pass off its stupidity as intelligence Tashan revels in its dumbness. That’s what probably put off our “high thinking” critics and audiences. Apart from the forced “coolness” at times, I enjoyed Tashan because it was an honest flick which had its intentions clear and doesn’t deviate too far from them.

Jeetendra aka Jimmy Cliff (Saif Ali Khan) is a call center executive who being taken in by the charms of Pooja (Kareena Kapoor) ends up as an English instructor to her boss Bhaiyyaji (Anil Kapoor). Pooja and Jimmy fall in love and now she wants to get away from Bhaiyyaji; for which these two plan to swindle his money. In comes local goon Bachchan Pandey (Akshay Kumar) hired by Bhaiyyaji to trace his money and wipe off Pooja and Jimmy. A few double crossing interspersed with a couple of filmy flashbacks later everyone’s loyalties fall in place.

Writer-Director Vijay Krishna Acharya (who wrote the Dhoom films before) takes an old fashioned revenge drama, gives it a generous Rodriguez/Tarantino coating and a lot of oomph. The end product is far from the perfect blend but it still works. The locales/set design, the styling of the actors and the music/background score dominate every frame and overshadow everything else. There are 2 major action sequences choreographed by Peter Hein but they fail to impress as he mostly lifts those from some of the more prominent South Indian films he has worked for. Interestingly, in a scene when Akshay sends 15-20 men flying around (Tamil-Telugu movie style) half of the audience started clapping. Special mention for Vishal-Shekhar’s rocking score. The theme song “Tashan Mein” which keeps popping up every now and then especially helps when you tend to get restless during the prolonged second half (trimming it definitely would have helped). Rest of the songs are thumping enough and lavishly picturized. Ranjit Barot is credited for the background score and there is one particular short piece which stays with you for quite a while.

But more than anything else what Tashan relies on are the performances of its lead actors. Akshay Kumar gets the most outspoken and in-your-face role and he does full justice to it. His intro was the best of all his scenes. I would say Kareena is really the surprize package because a role like hers comes with a lot of “irritation quotient” attached and in the past she has played parts where she made even normal characters extremely irritating. Somehow this isn’t the case here and she deserves credit for that (and yes…she does don a bikini too!) We don’t need to talk about Anil Kapoor. He’s mastered these supporting roles so well and and more than his crazy Hinglish it is his awestruck reaction to Saif speaking fluent English that is hilarious. Also, he looks great in the “Lakhan” get-up pulling a rickshaw in a few scenes. However, quite a bit of what he speaks is incomprehensible (should probably have been funny if understood) and I wonder how the filmmakers overlooked this aspect. Despite the pre-release hype of having his role being a secret, Saif is the most subdued of them all but nevertheless makes his presence felt.

For me, Tashan came close to the campy B-movie I was waiting Bollywood to make and it kept me smiling most of the time. Go for it only if you can watch it with this perspective.

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.