Monday, 23 April 2012

Chupke Chupke

Directed by: Hrishikesh Mukherjee
Starring: Dharmendra, Om Prakash, Amitabh Bachchan, Sharmila Tagore, Jaya Bachchan
Released: 1975
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

There used to be a time when while watching a comedy movie you could do so with the whole family from half-deaf grandma to the smallest kids without worrying that a vulgar joke will be said, without fear that in the next moment twenty naked oily girls are going to weave themselves into the limbs of the hero. That was a time of films like Chupke Chupke, which is among the very best of genuine, entertaining and harmless comedies.

Starring the ever so charming Dharmendra as the main lead, the film starts with him (under the name of Parimal Tripathi, a famous botany professor) trying to help out a keeper of a mountain bungalow by pretending to be him. To his horror as soon as he disguises himself and the real keeper wanders off to visit his son in a hospital, a bus loaded with female botany students arrives and he has to fulfill all the keeper´s duties. Among the girls we can find Sulekha (young and fresh Sharmila Tagore), who ultimately finds out the truth about Parimal and the two fall in love.
Love? I´m here to keep the bungalow. I charge more for falling in love.
Nobody objects and so they soon get married, but Parimal´s marital bliss is constantly bugged by a relative he has not even met yet – Sulekha´s brother-in-law (Om Prakash). Apparently whatever he does and says is treated as the Holy word in the whole family, because he is well educated and witty. Finally Parimal is way too annoyed with all the praise on the adress of „jijaji“ and makes a bet with Sulekha: He is going to show her her brother-in-law is just as human and can make mistakes like every other mortal by tricking him. Soon after jijaji employs a new driver for his family, not aware he is no other than Parimal, the new relative he has not yet met.
Jijaji 24-hours nonstop telephone help line. May I share my words of wisdom with you?
Truth is that until some point the whole thing is interesting to watch and after that becomes somehow pointless. The trickery evolves into an intricate scheme organized by Parimal, but using help of not only Sulekha, but also some of his friends, but somehow you never get to know why. After some time it leaves the intention to mislead the poor jijaji and becomes more of a fun game enjoyed by the ones who actually do know what is going on, but causing much genuine distress to those not involved in the plot. And when it comes to that, I always feel rather uncomfortable. Anyway the films manages to overcome its own pointlessness with pure entertainment guaranteed mostly by the one and only Dharam, whose comic timing is perfect and his natural charm just keeps you with a smile plastered on your face throughout.
Can I please have one more uniform? With pinky butterflies, please?

Let´s do some romancing among flower petals first!
The last 20 minutes are weaker than the rest of the movie, mostly because the focus shifts to Parimal´s friend Sukumar Sinha (Amitabh Bachchan) and his love troubles caused by him previously agreeing to pose as Parimal for the sake of the trickery to go on for a while longer. However how to explain to young Vasudha (Jaya Bhaduri) now that he is actually not the married botany professor, but a very much available bachelor? Not that he would act badly, but after Dharmendra compeltely stealing the show and shining in the film, Amitabh doesn´t manage to reach the level expected by the viewer. Jaya Bhaduri stays for what I usually take her – a small gray mouse without much of a screen-presence, and is somehow lost among the powerful Dharam, less powerful but still good Amitabh, and also ravishing Sharmila who is the one to keep the eyes of all glued on her. Sadly, both ladies are underused.

In spite of the silliness of the plot Chupke Chupke is a very enjoyable film and one of the most effortlessly funny comedies that have ever came out of Bollywood. Safe to watch with family, safe to watch with friends, and brightening up your day even if you are alone.
Nerdy Amitabh rates the film with 4 out of 5 Whirpool washing machines.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012


Directed by: Kamal Amrohi
Starring: Meena Kumari, Raaj Kumar, Ashok Kumar, Nadira
Released: 1972
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

I love old Bollywood classics and I have a soft spot for all courtesans and tawaifs and their stories full of woe, yet Pakeezah failed to make any impact on me whatsoever. In fact I found it overall such a weak film I´m convinced it´s cult status and classic label are closely bound with the fact it was Meena Kumari´s last movie. A film, originally opening to a lukewarm response, became a hit overnight when Meena Kumari pulled off the greatest promotional stunt ever – she died. Succumbing to a long illness that slowly took her away, she gained a heart-breaking, tragic image, which lasts till this day.

We first get to see Meena Kumari as Nargis, a tawaif with golden hair and light eyes, who is dying out of shame over her profession. Hoping for a new life she runs away with her lover and they get married, but get a shock when his family refuses to acknowledge their union. Nargis thus without a word flees from her husband and settles in a cemetery of all places, where she intends to live without letting anyone know about her whereabouts. She gives birth to a child and shortly after that promptly dies. As we will see, her daughter, dark eyed and dark haired but again with Meena´s face, inherits not only her dancing skills but also her confusing way of thinking with no sense of logic, reality or self-respect. Why Nargis never tries to contact her husband – only sending him a letter knowing she will be dead by the time he will get it – or anyone else, even though she apparently has a sister who loves her dearly? It is just one of the loopholes that you encounter in the film. The sister however finds the child and raises her to also become a tawaif.
"We don´t want a whore in our house."
"WTH just happened?"
Eighteen years later the letter from Nargis finally reaches her husband (so stop complaining about your local post service), who decides he wants his daughter back, but before he can take her away from the brother her aunt secretly smuggles the girl out of town. And once the girl falls asleep in her train compartment while traveling, one of the weirdest and least believable love stories I´ve ever seen starts. And drags till the very end. What else do you expect though, considering it is about a relationship of a well-situated man and tawai´s feet. For the rest of the movie you only watch Meena lying down all over the place (indication of her poor health, but very uneffective for the character) and mope, and her moping doesn´t cease at any point, not even when she meets the guy with feet fetish whom she fell in love with through a short written note (mentioning her feet of course), not even when he takes her away with him and tries to marry her, and frankly she doesn´t even look happy at the very end, which is meant to be happy. 
"I´m singing a song...."
"About this creeper on the train..."
"Who gives me the inspiration for some serious moping."
The character is so frustratingly confused it makes it difficult for the viewer to feel pity for her. There is only one scene that I would label as a highlight – when Meena returns to her kotha (after running away with screams from the man he wants to marry her) she holds a short speech about tawaifs being in fact just dead and breathing bodies. We can blame her illness for what seemed a rather half-hearted performance in the rest of the film to me, but at this moment she is brilliant. Even though I cannot agree with the content of her outburst. The only tawaif who seemed a dead body was her, and just moments ago she could have easily get out of there forever. I had a feeling she doesn´t even want to try and be happy. How am I suppose to like a character who has no sympathy whatsoever for herself? She is painfully, annoyingly weak. Her refusal to dance for the guests at one point is not a protest of any kind, she just feels mopy so she doesn´t feel like doing it. There is absolutely no sign of struggle in her, she is just completely resigned and at times even masochistic. Her dancing on the broken glass at the end is no way meant to show her inner strength or desperation. Instead it feels she just wants to inflict more and more suffering upon herself. 
"But it feels so good to feel bad!"
There is no thrill (in spite of a wild elephant attack) and hardly any emotions that would manage to reach out to the viewer. Meena had next to no dialogues and was really just looking sad and more sad throughout, the role of a dancing miracle was also not fit for her as she has to be one of the most awkward dancers ever on screen – and same goes for Padma Khanna, who was her double for the long shots. The male characters are all unsympathetic loosers, but women hardly fare any better. 
"Tss. I´m FABULOUS!"
The film only deserves a shot as the last film of a famous actress, and if anything, it is a sadness over the knowledge the woman you are watching was singing her swan song. And another good reason is the music, very beautiful music. The visual part of the film too deserves some plus points. The pink palace, Meena´s long hair in a fountain, play of colours, that all was beautiful to watch. In the end though Pakeezah was a big disappointment after all my desperate searching for a good copy with subtitles. I did not get an engaging story, I did not get an amazing performance, and I did not get another favourite tawaif. 
But this shot is a classic.....

Monday, 9 April 2012

Chalte Chalte

Directed by: Aziz Mirza
Starring: Shahrukh Khan, Rani Mukherjee
Released: 2003
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Sometimes I am simply in need to see something with Shahrukh Khan, no matter what it is, no matter what bad things I´ve heard about it. There was nothing particularly bad (or good for the matter) that I´ve heard about Chalte Chalte, and people hardly ever mention it, if they are not talking about the infamous Aishwarya bussiness. After seeing the film I know why. Because there is really not anything that would 1. stay in mind 2. make one go gaga (except for several shirtless SRK scenes) 3. irritate you.

Raj and Priya are both extremely attractive people from two completely different social classes, with different views of the world, life and just about everything, so they naturally fall in love. They get married after just several days. And then they realize it may not have been the best idea, as they keep fighting each other everyday over most trivial matters. They go from heartbreak to heartbreak only to realize love conquers all in the end. That´s it.
SRK hota hai.... to pyaar hota hai.
If it aims to be a love story, then the plot fails, even though the first twenty minutes are pure romance with all the naivity and fluff of Bollywood films, including infatuation at first sight, singing  instead of talking and also washing cows in the country. But as the film progresses one can see that the romancing at the beginning was just an excuse for showing us the story of man´s ego and pride. And the portrayal of it, with all the sudden ups and downs of Raj´s mood and nearly violent outbursts of anger is very real (I know some people who are exactly like that). Unfortunately the role and the film had nothing to really offer to SHAHRUKH KHAN, and Rani is even more wasted. They are both absolutely terrific actors, but here the script lets them both down - and most of the time Rani was on screen I kept imagining Aishwarya in her place, because ironically her more OTT acting and more OTT crying just might have, in the result, have greater impact. Serious lack of chemistry between the two characters doesn´t really help to save the day. And when the end comes, you cannot detect any change at all - neither in Priya nor in Raj, and one has to ask why did you have to endure this whole teary/screamy journey if it is, most likely, going to repeat again.... and again..... and again......
Welcome my bride! I have just killed the last bug in out new appartment.
There is another irony as both Shahrukh and Rani had previously done films dealing with basically the same issue – marital problems. Rani did Saathiya and Shahrukh Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam, which both had their share of success. Chalte Chalte is more polished (and technically more relevant) HTHS and slightly more mature version of Saathiya. Which leaves you with another problem. You have seen this before. And with the same actors. And as it happens just one year before.

There were little thing I loved though. First is the memorable scene of Priya coming for the first time into Raj´s appartment as a bride. The way how he quickly improvizes to finish all the rituals was absolutely sweet and well done - and Priya´s expression as she looks around and sees all the guy´s mess make you honestly laugh. This is also probably the first film where I did not see Johnny Lever being the fun part of the movie. On the contrary - it was almost painful to watch him, and I must say he was incredibly convincing and I wanted to know more about him and his character then about the whole main plot!
Johnny Lever steals the show?
But I tried so hard.
When it comes to music, again - nothing makes you excited and nothing makes you roll eyes. It is "normal", if you get the meaning. And "normal" is the whole film. I wouldn´t recommend it to a person who is not in love with either Rani or Shahrukh, and even though I love them both, it is not a film I would need to see twice.

Saturday, 7 April 2012


Directed by: Karan Malhotra
Starring: Hrithik Roshan, Sanjay Dutt, Rishi Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Om Puri
Released: 2012
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Agneepath is definitely one of the best films to come out of Bollywood in the past several years. To have a reference point I watched the original first, and I can without a second thought say that this is, together with Don, the best remake I´ve seen.

The original, as impressive as the one man show by Amitabh Bachchan was and as endearing Mithunda was, did not really leave much impact in my mind, and although it is revered as a classic by many, it is not a movie I would watch again from my own choice. As far as I know it gained its cult status by handling in an interesting an innovative manner of revenge more than anything else. The new Agneepath takes all the best out of the old one, moulds it with more action, more thrill, more glamour and produces a cinematic piece full of passion and emotions. Agneepath has a mysterious kind of wild beauty, and that even during the scenes that (as far as content is the matter) are actually nail-biting and even disgusting. It concentrates less on the underworld plotting and more on the persona of Vijay, there is less of motherly scolding and rejection but that doesn´t mean it´s less painful. The love track, although still secondary, is better understood than in the original, where it somehow happened out of nowhere (the old Bollywood-way), while in the new one it has a background and reason. 

Hrithik as Vijay is perfect (and so is Arish Bhiwandiwala as a young Vijay, one of the best child performances since Ayesha Kapoor in Black). I am not talking only about his stellar performance, but about his overall look, his presentation - and age! He was exactly what Vijay should have been. His natural interaction with all the characters seemed completely effortless from his silent love for Kaali, protectiveness of his sister to disdain he felt for Lala and finally the utter hatred for Kancha, all was there, mixed together and always painfully real. His eyes speak without words, but his dialogue delivery, especially the poem recital uttered in pain in the moments of bitter victory, is wonderful. 
His brilliance is only rivaled by Rishi Kapoor, who conquered a new base. From teenage lover boy to Lala, Rishi proves he is no less than the more appreciated names like Amitabh Bachchan or Dharmendra. I dare to go as far as to call his villanious act iconic. Sanjay Dutt, of course, gives also a very impressive performance, but is given a raw deal and his screaming scene at the beginning does not leave the desired impact. Special mention to Om Puri, who never fails. After seeing the original film I was somehow wary because from the start it was heralded the new adaptation will not have one of the chief characters – Krishnan Iyer, played by Mithun Chakraborthy. I could not really imagine how that could be done as he had quite a prominent role that held importance in all the lines of the story, but the script of new Agneepath surprised. Krishnan was definitely not an ungrateful and meaningless character, but I never felt his absence in the new film. That also leaves Mithun Chakraborthy the only actor from the previous cast who remains unsurpassed.

The highly impressive villains.
Priyanka Chopra as Kaali looks beautiful, but she is one actress you know can act the pants off of almost everyone, and so one is bound to feel disappointed at the lack of screen time she gets as well as lack of character development. She is lovely, of course, but anyone at all could have done the role. Both Vijay´s mother and sister are actually characters with more impact on both his life and the viewer, in spite of also being sidelined. The last notable female appearing in the film was of course Katrina Kaif as Chikni Chameli, but oh my! Whatever looked good in the promos looked completely out of place in the movie. The editing with special fading effects made it seem like the film switched to MTV for a while. Not even Katrina´s dancing was good. I recall how I was impressed by the promos early this year, but after seeing the whole thing I must say Katrina can move, but that was not a dancing. The blame should be put mostly to the choreographer of course, but Katrina doesn´t ad anything positive to the whole thing either. Her expression doesn´t change throughout, and if you notice she hardly ever does two different moves in one take. The shot is always cut when it should come to a change. Chikni Chameli so became my least favourite part of the movie and definitely one of its rare weaknesses. The best song - and dance - must be for me Gun Gun Guna. Also the wedding song right before the interval was excellent, it helped to build the tension and thrill wonderfully.

The visual part of the movie ads to its beauty. It´s wildly colourful, but not sugary or over the top. The play of colours and shadows are used brilliantly to portray the difference between the hell that is Mandwa and a peaceful place it used to be. The symbolism finds its place (we all like it, don´t we) when Vijay literally steps into Lala´s shoes, when a tree Kanha uses for executions witheres seemingly without reason and more.

People call the old Agneepath a classic, but to me personally this label doesn´t really fit. I guess it is one of those cases when a movie needs to be viewed in the frame of its own era. To me it was a fine film with fine performances, but way too many loopholes, subplots, and let´s face it but Amitabh Bachchan as Vijay was a miscast. I still recommend to watch it first, so you can truly appreciate the new Agneepath. It really impressed me more than I even expected (and my expectation were indeed very high).

Monday, 2 April 2012


Directed by: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Starring: Hrithik Roshan, Aishwarya Rai, Aditya Roy Kapoor
Released: 2010
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Do you remember that scene from Om Shanti Om where Shahrukh Khan is supposed to play a suffering deaf and blind lover with no functional limbs? And what his reaction is? „This film will be critically acclaimed, it will win awards..... but this film will flop!“ Of course we all remember that scene. But I suspect Sanjay Leela Bhansali never saw the film (that by the way beaten his own Saawariya hollow, releasing at the same day). Had he watched the movie and saw th scene, he probably wouldn´t have made Guzaarish – or perhaps would treat it bit differently. SLB is responsible for some of my most favourite movies. In fact right from Khamoshi to Saawariya I cannot rate them lower than 9/10, that´s how perfect they are to me. Guzaarish however, made me unwillingly put my bias toward the director aside and admit that what they say is true. Sanjay Leela Bhansali is a megalomaniac who boasts a lot and the more he is trying to create a perfect film the more annoying he gets. Guzaarish in the end feels wanna-be-ish and rather pretentious.
Strong Saawariya deja-vu....
Just like Black and Saawariya (and to an extent Devdas), Guzaarish too takes place in some unnamed reality, which seems familiar enough, but yet it is impossible to pinpoint it in space and time. That is, after all, SLB´s vision of making „timeless“ films. However while his previous films (filled with overwhelming gorgeousness) had feelings to live, strong messages to shout and intriguing characters to meet, Guzaarish lacks the magic. Perhaps because it never evolves beyond the idea introduced at the very beginning and doesn´t take the opportunity to speed up and sweep you off your feet in the whirlwind of emotions. It is definitely not the Bhansali I know. Maybe he also fails because for the first time ever he was not making an ode to love? Sure, love is present, but demands no attention.
"I lied! I want everybody´s attention!"

The films touches a rather sensitive matter of euthanasia, but (fortunately) does not state the ultimate opinion, neither is the point of view forced to the public. It doesn´t get preachy, or not too much. In the end it is a simple story of a man, who wants to leave life, that is slowly slipping away from him anyway.
"LOL let´s die today!"
What saves the movie are the performances. Hrithik as a disabled magician, who is in dreams still haunted by the adoring applause of the audience, was amazing. His facial expressions were spot on and there are very few actors, who could have done better, maybe not even the same. From deeply desperate to maniac-like joy, he gives his all to the character. The show-stealer in a beautifully subtle role is, however, his devoted nurse aka THE Aishwarya Rai I love and always dreamed of getting her back after the disasters of Raavan and Action Replayy (sadly it only confirms the theory about her needing Bhansali or Mani Ratnan to bring out the best in her). Their interaction is interesting to watch, although the unending verbal sexual innuendos in between them seem cheap and Aish´s moaning scene pure awkward. It almost ruined the film for me at the very beginning. Yes, after watching it whole you understand why Ethan talks like that and why she responds, but it simply comes a a complete shocker and not everybody will be as understanding and willing to understand as I am. 
She was amazing... but even if she was crap you´d forgive her because... look at her face!
All the supporting cast was very good too, although Aditya Roy Kapoor seems destined to be the new age comic side-kick. A new generation Johnny Lever in a way. What irritated me BIG TIME was the constant slipping into English by all the characters, beyond the limit of tolerable. Too much of it. Music is beautiful, but it does not live up to standarts of Devdas, HDDCS or Saawariya soundtrack´s quality (and again – English songs in Hindi films are just not done).

In the end I was quite confused. By Ethan, who preaches about living life to the fullest, but wanting to die. By Sophia, who doesn´t want to let him go, but is the one to kill him with his consent. By depressingly beautiful visuals, that actually creeped me out instead of bringing the sense of enjoyment. Something was simply missing. Guzaarish is not a bad film by any means, however coming from Sanjay Leela Bhansali it is a huge disappointment and his weakest work as yet.
"True story!"