Tuesday, 26 November 2013


Directed by: Sajid Khan
Starring: Ajay Devgn, Tamanna Bhatia, Paresh Rawal, Zarina Wahab
Released: 2013
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

When I reviewed the famous (and overrated as hell) 1983 Himmatwala some time ago, I expressed a thought that any remake can only be better. I am not going to eat my words. At least not entirely. It is bad, quite bad actually. Maybe even as bad. But worse it is not. And frankly while it deserved severe criticism, I don´t think it was as horrible as critics made it sound. I don´t think they even try to be fair when it comes to Sajid Khan, who has never been their favourite thanks to his overconfident attitude that understandably rubs them the wrong way (me too, but he has yet to insult me personally.) In the end Himmatwala flopped – very much deservedly, but at the same time it is not the worst film of the year by far – something many have been trying to prove.

There are things that are different from the 1983 film (I don´t want to say „original“ since I am not sure it was „original“ - more like a remake of something too) and there are things that remain untouched. Unfortunatelly the elements Sajid Khan decided to keep are often what makes the whole movie seem regressive instead of initiating an avalanche of nostalgia among 30+ audience. And so a wife has to stay with her abusive husband, because you know – family honour! And evil women wear mini-skirts, so when they suddenly shift to sarees you realize they mended their ignoble ways. And an attempt at morally „right“ approach towards rapists may be understandable from a certain point of view, but again it is just violence and violence only. Threw in a gay joke or two, just to be sure you are funny. And if the audience did not get it, make it really obvious, that you are making fun now. 1-2-3-laugh!

I was glad that Ravi (Ajay) did not suffer from a memory loss, unlike his predecessor, and I liked how they changed his identity. Unfortunatelly Ajay Devgn may be a great action hero, but his attempt at comedy don´t go well. He is, much like Jeetendra, too old for the role, and if not that he is definitely too old for his heroine. Tamanna Bhatia, whom I really like and adore, have been making waves down in the South, but she is yet to make her mark on Bollywood map, and for her sake (and the fangirl in me who is ready to love her) I hope her next Hindi venture will offer her more scope. She does well in her small role, her expressions are delightful and she dances beautifully. Paresh Rawal in ridiculous get-up is not funny. And Zarina Wahab as the new-age suffering Maa has nothing on epic crying Maas of the past.

That the film is over the top, ridiculous and just full of loopholes goes without saying. Sajid Khan is hated by critics also because of making most ridiculous movies that, as many feel, are made to mock their intelligence. But my peeve against Sajid is a bit different: I don´t think he is a good story teller. Even simplistic, silly cinema can be worth your money if it keeps you entertained, but not this. Himmatwala is an example of lazy filmmaking, trying to ride the masalla wave, that, however, can only end up in a blind alley after a while.

The marketing line of „80s will be back“ did not lie, but who in the world wants Bollywood 80s back? It is actually quite depressing to think that 30 years have caused a very little progress in the minds of some people (quite a few people – Himmatwala may have fopped but it still earned around 60 crore). Oh - if you really want to see a hand-to-paw combat with a tiger, I recommend to watch the „rascalla“ scene from Om Shanti Om over this.

Saturday, 23 November 2013


Directed by: Manmohan Desai
Starring: Rajesh Khanna, Mumtaz, Om Prakash, Nirupa Roy
Released: 1974
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Once upon a time, there was a little boy from a slum, who had to slog and yet went to bed hungry. And seeing all the injustice in the world he became a criminal to ensure his survival. Two lines that could start describing about a million Indian films. Some used it as a background idea, many used it as the main motivation of the characters. Some were brilliant and some did not work, and even though Roti has apparently been appreciated at the time of its release, I don´t think it deserves to be anywhere near the top when it comes to a list of such films.

After escaping from jail and being considered dead, Mangal (as Rajesh is called) decides to lead a different life. He ends up in a small mountain village, where posing as a friend of their son, he finds a shelter with blind aging parents, acquires the position of a teacher in the school, romances Bijli (Mumtaz), saves prostitutes and turns everyone „human“ (because who better but a guy running froma a police for that job, eh?)

How to dress when you are wanted killer on the run, lesson 1.
Rajesh Khanna wearing hippie shirts and awful mullet tried to persuade me he is both a wanted criminal and Jesus in second incarnation. Needless to say he looked unconvincing as the first and annoyingly pretentious as the latter. He did not act badly, but apparently the magic of Rajesh Khanna for whom the girls were writing letters in their own blood does not work on me. I felt rather bored throughout, which is largely to be blamed on a script full of things I have seen a million times, and the never-ending message that resonates through Indian films since the beginning till today - about corrupt society and innocent children turned criminals. But Mangal is not just a small-time thief or a Robin Hood. He is a killer - and people are also killed because of him, without him ever caring. The story is told without getting some kind of emotion from the viewer, and the most engaging action is the God-intervention starring monkeys.

How to dress when you are hiding from the police in the woods, lesson 12.
This is the first time I saw Mumtaz (well, not really true because I saw her previously in Suraj, but there she was just in a supporting role and completely lost in the awesomeness that always shines around Vyjayanthimala), and I liked her well enough. She had some spunk, even if at times her character was an annoying chatterbox. However a heroine whose only purpose is to fall for the hero, no matter how prepostrous the whole thing is, is yet another fail the film has. And sadly, she doesn´t even have a song that would be worth mentioning it. Oh no, all the songs are social-waking opportunities for our criminal-Jesus.

I understand why these films were and are still made. Because reality has not changed. But some films seem to be made just to be preachy, and end up being more of a boring lecture (with lack of logic involved) than an emotional experience that would actually make one sit back and think for a while, if not get up and doing something. Roti doesn´t do enough to justify the ways of Mangal. He keeps having passionate speeches about hunger and stomachs, but sorry, dude, you´ve been a healthy adult for long enough now and still you would choose stupid fight resulting in killing someone, then having people shot because of your pompous escape from the gallows... and I am supposed to feel your pain more then theirs?

I lost a leg because of you, wanted murderer, but even though I am aiming at you, I will not shoot you. On the contrary I wil let you run along with best wishes because when you crippled me you skillfully lied to my blind parents so they took you in. And they think you are a great guy.

The film needed a better editing too, as some bits seem to be left out (or I again got a copy with scenes cut). What starts as a tale of a hungry child ends in an amazingly unbelievable climax with burying your enemies under an avalanche, racing ahead of a police dog with Mumtaz on your back, having yet another damn long speech after being shot in the heart (and you blood evenly spilling into the part of Mumtaz´s hair – which totally beats the famous Mujhse Dosti Karoge sindoor scene), as the blind parents and their one-legged son obviously manage to hurry up (and be quicker than police and gundas in their cars) to mourn over you.

OMG I have your blood in my hair. I have never been happier. 
I´m dying.
Not fair! I also had a speech on increasing gas prices and globalization!

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

The Burning Train

Directed by: Ravi Chopra
Starring: Dharmendra, Vinod Khanna, Jeetendra, Hema Malini, Parveen Babi, Neetu Singh, Danny Denzongpa, Simi Garewal
Released: 1980
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Choo choo! This ride gave me quite a few surprises. Firstly, I was a bit skeptical about a film with a title basically giving away the whole plot. Secondly, the post-Sholay action films are not always my cup of tea. And finally there was Jeetendra listed among the cast, which so far has always been enough to turn me off a movie completely. However in the end curiosity got the better out of me and I ended up not only enjoying the this speeding and flaming journey, but even spent a whole day thinking about it and singing the songs from it in my head.

A mix of masala and American catastrophic genre, The Burning Train may not be completely original when it comes to situations it chooses to show, especially as the big tragedy starts, but at the same time it manages not to feel wanna-be-ish. It starts like a standart Indian masala – since childhood Vinod and Ashok were the best of friends, brushing aside easily angered Randhir (and being actually quite assholes to him for no reason), and the relations remained unchanged even after they grew up into Vinod Khanna, Dharmendra and Danny Denzongpa respectively. After being pushed out from a little train by Vinod, after being rejected by Parveen Babi in favour of Vinod, as well as being rejected as a supervisor and creator of a new luxury train in favour of Vinod, Randhir decides that enough is enough and once the ambitious „Super Express“ is launched with great fanfare, he has a way to sabotage the train and thus taking his merciless revenge. Soon enough Super Express is racing through the countryside with no breaks. And to ensure the film title is accurate, somebody leaves the gas running in the kitchen.....

From the beginning of the ride we are one by one introduced to quite a few people and couples, each having a little story of their own to told – a pregnant woman, a smuggler on the run and a detective going after him, a newly-married couple, a teacher supervising little kids...... Most notable among them being none other than Ashok and Seema (Hema Malini), who have once upon a time planned a wedding, but all went wrong and they drifted apart, and then there is also a thief Ravi (Jeetendra) hoping to rob the runaway bride Madhu (Neetu Singh).... As the film progresses, everything that can go wrong does, to the point one asks themselves what are the chances.

Flaws in logic bugged me. It is great that we have heroic men willing to take a risk, but why in the world would you not try and lessen the possibility of killing yourself? Why, when they first decide to climb on the top of the train in order to reach the locomotive, don´t they normally walk to the first boogie right behind it and THEN climb out? Not only safer, but also lot quicker, and would have spared us the whole burning drama. I guess our heroes had the logic blackout for the sake of the film not to be called „Speeding train“. This was not the only instance when I had to roll my eyes and accept that movie logic is not even a distant cousin of real life logic.

Super Express has more than an impressive starcast. There are so many well -known faces it was impossible to list them all above. From Dharam and Vinod and Jeetendra, to their three girlfriends and Simi Garewal singing religious songs with bunch of kids and many, many more. Everybody does their job well (except for Hema Malini, who just fails to impress me yet again, but thankfully has not much screentime), nobody really overshadows anyone and the many pieces of the star puzzle fit nicely together. As I have mentioned, I was properly shocked by actually liking Jeetendra. I don´t know what happened to him later in the 80s, that he became was utterly boring, bad and ridiculous, but here he was watchable enough. Makes one wonder what it was that kept the filmstars so much without ego, because there is no way one could pull off three major male and three major female stars in one film casting coup today.

The Burning Train has a great thrill and tension factor. The pace is even and not slowed down by the songs (brilliant album overall – meaning you remember them all after just one listening!) or emotional scenes. There is not time to loose as the fire gets nearer, and so the filmmakers do not loose it – something that is not always considered an option. One only wishes there was more shown about our villain Randhir, then again I suppose we are not supposed to feel for him, no matter how unreasonably awful our heroes had been to him.