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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!

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.

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.