Bollywood-ish

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Neerja

Directed by: Ram Madhavi
Starring: Sonam Kapoor, Shabana Azmi
Released: 2016
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing


I have never heard the name Neerja Bhanot before this movie was announced and brought to my attention all those months ago. Learning the story of this brave, brave young woman moved me greatly, and today I wouldn´t hesitate to list her among the few people in history that we should indeed be inspired by and remember. The tricky thing with biographical movies is that they mostly rise and fall with the abilities of their cast. The name of Sonam Kapoor did not fill me with hope. But I was wrong. So go ahead and read below why I have no qualms admitting it.


The greatest weapon and strength of Neerja is not the direction, the performances, music or camera work. It is the underlying fact of the events actually happening in reality. This knowledge is with the viewer from the first moment to the last, perhaps because of that, because one knows how this ends, small details shown about Neerja are more poignant and touching than perhaps they would be with a fictional character. There is little to complain about when it comes to the technical aspects of the film, everything seems apt and well executed. Things like winding the tape with a pen, as well as Rajesh Khanna´s posters on the closet doors are beautifully evoking the mood of the 80s.


What to say about Sonam Kapoor as Neerja? I have so many reservations towards the girl as an actress! And I am not going to praise her as "great" in this film either. Because she wasn´t great. She literally became Neerja on the screen. There wasn´t a single moment, a single scene or second in which I would see Sonam Kapoor as herself (something she does on regular basis in most of her other movies). There wasn´t any dark, intense brooding, which so often accompanies "great" performances of male actors, nor was there any passionate speech on the injustice of the society (which marks "great" female performances most of the time). Everything Sonam did as Neerja felt natural, never over the top. Perhaps that is why her performance felt real - with Neerja she was not creating a new, unknown character who is made up. She could research an actual person, listen to and read what others had to say. And she managed to slip into all that seemingly effortlessly. She did a beautiful job, and I hope she continues to surprise me. Her rapport with other actors, especially Shabana Azmi, was delightful.


Neerja´s failure of a marriage back story is very well edited into the main plot, showing how previous experience has probably helped to shape her character and influenced her decisions. From what I had managed to gather the film is fairly accurate and that makes it even more painful. Perhaps my only criticism would be about the movie´s length. When the chaotic climax came I realized there was still over twenty minutes of the footage left! And even though the scenes following seemed important from the human point of view, I wouldn´t be as tolerant of them had it, again, not been a true story. The effect of Neerja´s violent death and deep horror and sorrow I felt over it was dilluted bit by bit by everything that followed, including the Shabana Azmi speech. I understand that was to be the actresses´ big moment in the film, yet by the time she could wipe her tear I have lost my own. (Do I seem heartless now?)


As a movie it works very well. I guess it wouldn´t be too exciting for casual movie goers craving a good thriller. But as a tribute it works wonderfully. And everyone should know who Neerja Bhanot was.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Ghayal Once Again

Directed by: Sunny Deol
Starring: Sunny Deol, Soha Ali Khan, Narendra Jha, Om Puri
Released: 2016
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing


I freely admit I was surprised.... or better to say SHOCKED at how much I enjoyed this one and how good it was. Funny thing is I remember liking Ghayal, but before I watched the new film I had to re-read my old review and watch several scene on youtube, for I admit the film did not stay in mind too much. With memories refreshed and the mood set, I dared to follow Sunny Deol down the path he so often trips on....


What I liked about the movie was that it truly was a sequel: drawing the basics from the original, not erasing them, not altering them and most importantly not rehashing them. Ajay Mehra has the same anger that drove him through the first Ghayal for his Filmfare trophy back in 1991, he gets emotional over his family and he has also not come out of his previous ordeal unscathed or healed. Not wearing the load of troubles on his own, Sunny Deol is ably helped by four young protagonists. These young ones manage a difficult task of winning you over in a very short time and without much of an introduction. What truly made me sit with my eyes glued to the screen was everything in between the start of the mad chase through the shopping mall practically to the big "characters are related" twist. Revelation of one of the girls being Ajay´s daughter was fine with me, no matter how filmy.


However right after that there was the CGI helicopter doing very un-helicopter-y things and shit, and it nearly completely destroyed any believability factor. But truly, Ghayal Once Again is fast-paced, straightforward and thrilling. Since none of the four young people is a "hero" or "heroine", you cannot predict whether or not they will die/be captured, and the scene in which they are desperately running from the bad guys, getting injured and severely hurt in the process, taxed my nerves quite a bit. Their pain also seemed so real I kept shedding tears from scene to scene, an occurrence quite rare in "let´s beat the shit out of the evil ones" kind of films. Even Ajay Mehra himself is not above pain and injuries. It was good to see flashbacks to the original films, including the lovely Meenakshi Sheshadri, and I had to wonder why the makers did not take enough trouble to even get her to redub that one dialog which is used.


As for the rest of the cast, the ever reliable Om Puri returns, and Soha Ali Khan reminds us she exists. I was relieved that any romantic angle between her and Sunny remained unexplored, indeed the relationship is presented in a way they may truly be just very good friends. If there is anything Sunny needs to stay clear off it´s romancing anyone under the age of 45 (I Love NY still gives me creeps and nightmares). Narendra Jha as the main villain is cool, ruthless and calculative, yet not above fear and other human emotions. He does a commendable job.


I am not a huge fan of Sunny Deol, but once in a while he comes up with stuff that makes me believe he is greatly underrated today. I had little to none faith in this project, but Sunny pulled it off more than well. Ghayal Once Again easily ranks among the better, if not the best, sequels Bollywood has churned out in past ten years.


Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Bajirao Mastani

Directed by: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Starring: Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra
Released: 2015
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good  great – amazing


Khamoshi – The Musical made me cry my eyes out. Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam was just too well made. Devdas is forever engraved in my memory as one of the most powerful cinematic experiences of my life. Black was intriguing. Saawariya magical. Then game the bleak period of Bhansali films with what I felt was pretentious and half-baked Guzaarish and over-sexed and nonsensical Ram Leela. With Bajirao Mastani the director with a fetish for bling and drama returned to the path I would be happy to follow as a viewer. Bajirao Mastani is a culmination of many dreams and efforts, and certainly a story worth telling. Bhansali did not create anyone´s biography or accurate historical epic. He captured the parts of the real history that are etched in human memory as legends and myths, those parts that we can understand in spite of the ever growing time gap. Perhaps we no longer understand the politics, that is a mere background setting for something much more intimate, but we will always understand love.



Bhansali reaches for inspiration to Mughal-E-Azam and does not try to hide it. The mirror hall and the garden where Mastani performs her dances may as well be those in which Madhubala as Anarkali twirled elegantly some sixty years ago. And the theme of overwhelming, all-consuming love leading to ruin and madness had always been something the director has been into. The characters and the actors are well blended, the roles wonderfully executed, yet the writing leaves space for improvement. It is not difficult for me to believe Mastani loved used metaphors and poetry often, but in the film every line from her lips is a complex artistic composition with hidden meaning. That, I believe, is why some people found Deepika Padukone lacking in perfection in the role. In my view she was very, very good, but the writing made her speech seem artificial. 


Finally, Deepika is not the best actress in India, yet for the role she was well suited. Convincing in fight scenes (if only she had been in more!), subtle and dreamy when in love, graceful (though not technically perfect) while dancing, with fire in her eyes when confronted, she also possesses that certain air of being the Ultimate woman in the story. It was not difficult for me to see why would Bajirao forget the lovely, faithful and docile Kashi for the fascinating Mastani who better matched his own personality. I liked how Mastani strove to get what she wanted and believed to be hers. But why did Mastani came to Bajirao´s home with only one servant and did so little to let Bajirao know about her being present at all? This bit made little sense to me.


Ranveer Singh washed away all the excess oil from Ram Leela and Gunday (thank God), and gives his best performance yet. The energy and force seem to surge through him, there is a slight hint of arrogance and later his desperation over the whole situation he created makes him both frightful and pitiful. The interaction between the two leads is more mature in Ram Leela, and even without crawling over each other in every moment available they come off much more in love here. Few happy moments for them would have been nice, but probably stretching the movie would not have been a good idea. Priyanka Chopra as Chandramukhi Kashi, the „other“ woman, is as fine as she can be. The hurt, the disbelief, the denial, the acceptance and silent suffering, everything is mirrored clearly in her expressions. From the supporting cast Tanvi Azmi as Bajirao´s mother impressed me the most.


I think my only major complaints would be a) lack of Mastani action in the second half b) non-memorable music with the exception of Deewani Mastani and c) the lack of closure to the story. No matter how passionate and overwhelming, the love affair of Bajirao and Mastani was not their own matter and the whole mess it created encompassed many other people. Even after the lovers die the story has loose ends and Bhansali leaves them hanging without a thought. In the very least what thereafter happened to Kashi and to Mastani´s child should have been mentioned. In Devdas the abrupt end and fade to black felt right, but even though the director was aiming for the same escalation of the momentum here, with Bajirao putting the last of his strength into a fight with demons only visible to him, the effect, though felt, is not of the same level. And I also hoped Mastani would die of something more palpable than a broken heart. Perhaps I have grown old and cynical?



In the end I can only say this is a movie I will certainly watch again. There are not many films like that, certainly not in Bollywood. Mughal-E-Azam it´s not. But deserving appreciation and some love it is.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Dilwale

Directed by: Rohit Shetty
Starring: Shahrukh Khan, Kajol, Varun Dhawan, Kriti Sanon, Johnny Lever, Boman Irani
Released: 2015
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing


Bade Bade Deshon Mein Aise Bure Bure Filme Kyun Hote Rehte Hai? So very high on style and so so so so poor on everything else, including the most important bit: the entertainment. Dilwale is really no worse than many 90s films that I actually enjoyed. In fact most of it seems like written right on the sets without preparation or thinking about posterity – a common practice back in the day. The problem is that both cinema and me have moved forward since then and making a movie like this simply doesn´t seem like a good idea anymore. I have been patiently waiting for a great Shahrukh Khan film since 2007. His latest collaboration with the cars fetishizing Rohit Shetty prolongs this wait yet again. I liked Singham and enjoyed Chennai Express, however the more success Shetty gets the lazier he becomes when putting everything together.


The story stretches your brain into the dimension of complete confusion, the level of suspension of disbelief raises too damn high. Let´s just say I absolutely don´t buy that when two mafia gangs loose their bosses they simply disintegrate and move into the same town where they live for fifteen years without ever running into each other, especially since they maintain quite public profile as enterpreneurs.


Rarely do I find the whole cast of individuals, that I actually like in other things, so annoying at once. From Hyperun Dhawan with some pee and shadily lewd jokes he spurs in first ten minutes, to Boman Irani who is presented as a complete idiot without being funny at all (what propelled Shetty´s Singham forward was a sense of threat, there is nothing of it here), and of course Kajol being cute and bubbly at first, everyone grated on my nerves with their „acting“. Furthermore random comedy scenes with Johnny Lever used to be a filler, while in Dilwale it takes at least 70% of the whole length of the film. As for Shahrukh Khan, once upon a time my favourite Bollywood actor (he had vacated the number one spot to Dilip Kumar by now), he looks sexy as hell with the beard, but damn all those filters erasing every single line away from his face deserve a vanity van of their own. I liked Shah in this better than in Happy New Year, in which he was just awful, still a very lazy performance that challenged him in absolutely no way.


Kajol has probably never looked more beautiful, never has been so well styled before. But that is as much as Dilwale offers to her and her fans, for the role has no meat and her character is same old same old. No matter that she wields a gun (and when she is in BIG trouble she goes: „Kaaaaaaaliiiiiiiii!“) and is not 20. Her role is of that kind of spoilt college queens who learn their lesson when the guy they had previously treated badly doesn´t repay them with evil, and so they fall in loooove with him. Then there is a misunderstanding. That gets cleared up later by someone completely unrelated. And all is theek again. If you like the SRK/Kajol pairing, you can enjoy some of the scenes probably better than me. But you have to admit the whole romantic angle sucked, consisting of long stares that got awkward sooner or later only.


In the end Dilwale just seems like the team got together to have a good time and to excuse this big party they improvised some scenes without thinking, then sloppily pasted those together. Not even action scenes look good, though usually are Shetty´s strong suit, because of over-editing and annoying flashes and sound effects. Shahrukh Khan let me down. Varun Dhawan cooled my enthusiasm for himself. Kriti Sanon had better role in Heropanti. Kajol proves yet again she doesn´t really care for the quality of the script as long as big name is attached to a project. Rohit Shetty aspires to be the next Prabhudeva of the film direction. And he stole a scene from Love Actually that is so iconic even I know it though I´ve never seen that film.


So very average it deserves the bad rating, because films with so much money in them, starring such big names, and earning that much paise, should simply be better.

Friday, 12 February 2016

The big 2015 overview

I have watched about 30 movies that came out of Bollywood in 2015. I have not finished three and gave up on them pretty soon (All Is Well, Guddu Rangeela and Ek Paheli Leela), which is why they do not appear anywhere below. I am yet to watch some of the biggies (Dilwale, Bajirao Mastani) and some more critically acclaimed ones (Talvar, NH 10), but to be honest as a Hindi film fan I found 2015 mostly bland and disappointing. Some movies I reviewed in more detail (Jazbaa, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, Drishyam, Badlapur, Bombay Velvet, Hawaizaada) and some are still waiting to be reviewed. Here are the movies that did not inspire me to write all that much:

Tevar



Directed by: Amit Ravindernath Sharma
Starring: Arjun Kapoor, Sonakshi Sinha, Manoj Bajpayee, Raj Babbar
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

This could have been, if nothing else, a decent, enjoyable one-time watch. Unfortunately the build-up is painfully slow, most of the songs pure awful and narrative highly unimaginative. I could not help but compare Tevar with the last year´s Heropanti. Both have young star kids trying to be macho heroes from the 80s, both work with some age-old Bollywood tropes, but Heropanti was fun. Tevar is boring. The story has no meat so to speak, and a very basic plot (a villain wants to marry a girl who does not want him and a hero helps her escape) is stretched into unreasonable 2 and a half hours. Arjun gives a decent performance, but much as I like him off-screen, he is the weakest actor among the “youngligs”. His highly emotional scenes near the end were just bad. Sonakshi Sinha plays the same role as always. Making me sad for the hundredth time, because she is clearly more talented and natural than others. When will she finally be in a film that will have something to offer her? Is she really choosing these films of her own accord? Or is nobody offering her anything else? It´s frustrating because I like the girl, still, and probably will - always. Manoj Bajpayee makes for a very average villain. Also - why is Sonakshi´s “father” looking like her grandfather and her “brother” like her father? Obviously a movie made for Arjun by papa and chacha. With love.


Alone



Directed by: Bhushan Patel
Starring: Bipasha Basu, Karan Singh Grover
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

The more horror films Bipasha Basu does, the more awful they become and progressively worse she is in them. Sloppy “Alone” relies on nothing but jump-scares (that are not even unexpected), stripping any mystery away within first twenty minutes. If you are scared of a haunted house, try staying in a hotel instead of returning there every night, maybe? Speaking of which: about 50% of the whole film is footage of Bipasha going to bed – something anyone but Karan Singh Grover doesn´t care to see repeatedly. The dead are horny. Kisses uncomfortable. CGI cheap. Bipasha´s piano game weak. Cakes wasted. Then it all turns into the familiar religious lessons shit Bollywood horrors ALWAYS have as a back up against everything. And just when you think people in this film have some sense of self-preservation by going into a dark house as a group, they separate..... Sigh.... The only thing saving the film from going straight to the traaaaaash is the little twist, which I have foreseen, but not since the beginning.

Baby


Directed by: Neeraj Pandey
Starring: Akhsay Kumar, Danny Denzongpa, Anupam Kher
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Very straight-forward and not wasting any time on any tropes, "Baby" makes for a decent watch. Camera work is the only glamorous feature, while actors all give good, subdued performances. There are no patriotic dialogues and no lecturing of the bad guys, oh no, everything is as clear as a shot through your back. Perhaps it was the simplicity which in the end makes "Baby" an eternal infant among the big brothers action films, since there is no secret, no twist, no actual depth to the story. In fact, there is hardly anything Akshay and the team cannot handle without as much as wiping their brow. The entertainment value is missing somehow, with the last 20 minutes feeling like a very long stretch, although it was meant to be the opposite. Good, but not great.


Dolly Ki Doli


Directed by: Abhishek Dogra
Starring: Sonam Kapoor, Rajkummar Rao
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Sonam Kapoor is a glam doll and one of the most beautiful girls in Bollywood and even I could stare at her face for hours and not get bored. Sadly, no matter how elfine and surreal her smooth skin, how dark her eyes, how inviting her soft hair waving in the ever-present breeze, nothing can conceal that she cannot act for peanuts and with passing years it becomes more obvious she plays herself over and over again. Bit mischievous, bit sweet, always carefree – with the exception of seemingly mad Sakina from Saawariya Sonam has shown no diversity in her characters (which is all the more astounding considering some of her projects were very interesting and full of potential). Furthermore I still cringe when she talks. And so Dolly from this film is nothing more but another extension of Milli from Khubsoorat or Aisha. And since everything here depends on the female lead, the film remains unremarkable. Harmless fluff of a product, it holds onto the unsteady filmi logic, where police cannot find a „looting bride“ in an area where she has looted over two dozen families and where nobody but official photographer takes pictures at weddings. On the bright side, Dolly is someone living life on her own terms and has no remorse over taking a revenge on someone who has let her down out of cowardice. The ending made me happy. Naturally who can forget the hilarious interrogation of the grandmother in the police station. It does not manage to drag the film out of the completely inconsequential and forgettable category, but it did give me a genuine laugh.

Shamitabh


Directed by: R Balki
Starring: Amitabh Bachchan, Dhanush, Akshara Haasan
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Aka "Silent Amitabh" is from one point of view and interesting concept, on the other it is too improbable, impossible. I would say it is an average film that can only boast of fantastic acting by Dhanush. Akshara Hasaan is as wooden as most of the new heroines and has little to no screen presence. Amitabh is an angry old man, reliable but nothing surprising comes from him. Balki tries to be deep, aims for us to really root for the complicated relationship between a voiceless rising star and alcoholic failure of an actor, but something is terribly amiss. And when the hero dies and Amitabh disappears into dark obscurity of life, you actually let out a breath of relief that it is over and you can go and have an ice cream or something.


Dum Laga Ke Haisha


Directed by: Sharat Katariya
Starring: Ayushman Khuranna, Bhumi Pednekar
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Cute, sweet and pretty straightforward, this Ayushman Khuranna film ranks as his second best so far. But while he does a great job, the charm and key to the story is Bhumi Pednekar. As Sandhya, an intelligent, pleasant girl, who happens to be overweight, she is so honest and real you believe her every word and every movement. At first I was irritated by the character of her weak husband, who merely pities himself all the time, but then I realized one of the reasons why their relationship eventually progressed was the fact they both had experienced contempt and humiliation: she for her looks, him for his lack of intelectual abilities. Together they finally make a couple that can truly support one another. The growing respect and love between the two seemed, unfortunately, hurried to me, and I would have liked to see more of that than of family bickering. Seeing the finale race, with determined hubster carrying his "load", was extremely heartening. A nice, feel-good movie.


Margarita with a Straw


Directed by: Shonali Bose
Starring: Kalki Koechlin, Sayani Gupta, Revathi
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

This film has masturbation, lesbians, sex scenes, bisexuality, a guy helping a girl out of and into her panties .... and it couldn´t be more pure. I am not saying that because I would believe that any of those things mentioned would be something bad (not by a long stretch), but because I know what filmmakers are capable of creating with as much as one short skirt. A word, a look, a camera angle - all that can turn a natural thing into something vulgar. But not so Margarita with a Straw. Everything about Laila, a young woman affected by cerebral palsy, is honest and straight-forward. She is vivacious and no matter what her condition, she lives her life more fully than many "normal" people. In the end the story is really just showing her in various situations that her state makes more difficult for her than for the rest of us, but again and again we are shown that there are no limits for her and she does not need to be pitied. The film is of the same kind as "The Ship of Theseus", just simpler, and though hardly a crowd-pleaser, genuinely nice movie. Kalki Koechlin in the lead is superb, showing off her phenomenal talent. Less than twenty minutes into the film I forgot that in the real life she does NOT have cerebral palsy. She is just excellent. Sayani Gupta as Khanum and Revathi as Laila´s mother were equally wonderful.

Gabbar is Back


Directed by: Krish
Starring: Akshay Kumar, Shruti Haasan
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

More power to Akshay Kumar please. Simply because for every goddamnawful Singh is Bliing he gives us a solid movie like this one. In fact had they scrapped the annoying “bubbly” Shruti Haasan and her completely useless and dispensable role, and focused on finer moments of Gabbar´s planning, operations and finding the right people for the job, I would give the movie even better status. Even having the back story more elaborately dealt with than in one song would be a plus. Thinking about it now, there were so many things that were wrong with the logic of the film. For example: is it really a good idea to dress all the people at your party into the same clothes AND have them wearing the same mask, when you are apparently a target of a sly murderer? And what exactly was the message, when Gabbar turns himself in and lets himself be hanged? That should you come across a corrupt official it´s OK to kill them as long as you are cool with being executed later? But the weak bit of me did not complain. I don´t think I have ever found Akshay Kumar looking as sexy as in this film.

Piku


Directed by: Shoojit Sircar
Starring: Deepika Padukone, Amitabh Bachchan, Irrfan Khan
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

I have very little to say about Piku. I didn´t finish it the first time around and it took me about five months before I decided to give it another try. And even though I thought better about it the second time around, I still failed to fall in love with the film as so many others did. Many have found the movie “relatable”, for me it was simply “tiring”. It is a curious thing about Irrfan. He plays every character of his pretty much the same. Yet he is so natural and normal he always comes on top and 100% believable. Deepika is wonderful throughout, Amitabh Bachchan grabs your attention in every scene. And yet, all the endless quibble about constipation and other related shit (pun intended) gets extremely tiresome and annoying very quickly. There is reason why I avoid loud family gatherings, and here there were just three people making as much confusing noise as thirty people would. Over shit.

Tanu Weds Manu Returns


Directed by: Anand L. Rai
Starring: Kangana Ranaut, Madhavan, Jimmy Shergil
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

The first one was a let down for most part, the follow-up would have been as much of a bore, had it not been for one thing, and one thing only, which pushes the whole film onto another level. And that would be performance of Kangana Ranaut. Her effortless transitions between arrogant, over-confident Tanu and deglam, honest Kusum, as well as the character and portrayal of the latter, are admirable and make it all worth while. Other than that, the sequel suffers from the same mistakes as the prequel. There is not enough for (my sweet teddy-bear) the mega-talented Madhavan to do, the relationships are mostly sketchy and especially the obvious pain at possibility of imminent parting is simply not explained. Tanu and Manu are returned to the viewers after their dreamy wedding as a highly dysfunctional couple that needs to seek help from a whole jury of psychiatrists in a mental asylum, they spend no time together in the film at all (meaning no time to actually talk things over) but then return to each other, Manu breaking heart of Kusum at the same time. Furthermore both Manu and his former rival in love played by Jimmy Shergil only want a girl who is a xerox copy of Tanu. If that does not strike you as awkward and even kinda creepy, I don´t know what does. On the whole I did not regret watching the film, but ironically only because of deglam Kangana, who shut up the annoying Kangana with a brilliant speech in the end.


Hamari Adhuri Kahani


Directed by: Mohit Suri
Starring: Emraan Hashmi, Vidya Balan, Rajkummar Rao
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Half of the film felt awkward, the rest of it was good enough for a watch. Few things in life give me as immense pleasure as watching Vidya Balan´s glorious face and listening to her voice, but when that voice is made to recite lines so terribly flowery and full of philosophy (which is not as deep as it tries to be), lines that are just too weird when you imagine anyone should talk like that in normal life, the effect is mildly bewildering. Many have complained that her character is weak, but to me Vasudha was very real, with all her terror and worries. Had it not been for the awful lines, I would have loved her, because Vidya is good as always. Emraan Hashmi, to whom at best of times I manage to be indifferent, is passable, though his unnaturally wise dialogues are even worse than Vidya´s because of his painfully monotonous dialogue delivery. Their developing romance failed to convince me, it felt forced and not well introduced, all the more for the fact that the wonderful Vidya and dead-fish-eyes Hashmi share no chemistry whatsoever. The arrival of excellent Rajkummar Rao and subsequent change from bittersweet romance to psycho-drama does the film well. I even started to believe Emraan´s love for Vidya, and did sniff a bit as he stepped into that beautifully blooming disaster. Mohit Suri is, much like Aditya Chopra, sucker for “eternal” love-stories, and much like Aditya Chopra he is an average filmmaker. Hamari Adhuri Kahaani has an interesting theme, decent performances and passable music, but the script needed more normalcy and less pretentious dialogues.

ABCD 2


Directed by: Remo D´Souza
Starring: Varun Dhawan, Shraddha Kapoor, Prabhudeva, Lauren Gottlieb
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

And another sequel.... that was just not needed. Given that original ABCD was hardly innovative as far as story telling goes, and the words to best describe it include cheesy and predictable, it was still fun, supported by good music and some decent dance numbers. ABCD 2 abandons Bollywood routines and goes straight to hip hop, which the director loves, but I personally do not care about. And there is way too much dancing even for a dance film. After a while the music becomes one big mess, for I really could not distinguish any melody, and as impressive as the dancers are with their moves, it all just blends and becomes pretty much the same. Whatever story with whatever attempted shots as creating conflict (love triangle that never happens, stolen money that are never explained or matter), the dancing does not make it progress and does not ad anything important to it. Quite the contrary – it makes it really tedious and boring. Varun and Shraddha are both decent, and have shown their dancing abilities, Prabhudeva is less pathetic as Vishnu (than in the last film), and to be honest his rides home on Varun´s motorbike actually gave me a good laugh. Not my cup of chai. And the poster was weird.

I love N.Y.


Directed by: Radhika Rao
Starring: Sunny Deol, Kangana Ranaut
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Kangana Ranaut wanted to stop the release of this movie. And as embarrassing as it is for her, Sunny Deol (miscast and sticking up like a sore thumb) should have fought to destroy this picture even much harder. The dude is almost 60, but he takes on a role of an unmarried innocent Randhir who needs life lessons from his father and indulges in fantasizing about girls more than half his age acting seductively towards him in a steam room (or at least I HOPE it was a drunken fantasy). Let´s not even go to how this jodi looks saath saath. Tiring to even watch, the film would have felt old-fashioned and stale even thirty years ago. The “love story” grows progressively more awkward to watch, knowing the sacha pyaar ho gaya within hours, that included a heavy hangover and a police arrest as well as a messed up engagement plans. This attempt at light comedy based on misunderstandings fails completely in the cute department. And any other department. It sucks. It also has the worst and most annoying NRI dude ever. Stay away.

Brothers


Directed by: Karan Malhotra
Starring: Akshay Kumar, Siddhart Malhotra, Jackie Shroff, Jacqueline Fernandez
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

A way too dramatic family drama about followers of Our meek and kind Lord Jesus beating shit out of people and each other. I love Jackie Shroff to bits and pieces but he goes completely over the top with his performance as a drunkard/repenting drunkard (and being frikkin creepy with his wife), while no matter how much they shout, his sons Akshay Kumar and Sidhart Malhotra are dead inside, apparently. The background for the characters is sketchy. I totally did not understand why it was as easy as to submit an application form for both brothers to be admitted into a prestigious national tournament. Everything about this film should be rooted in the two brothers´ relationship, but there is really no time to explore it at all. Instead there is lots of beating people senseless, finalized by an abrupt, lazy ending. Their father deserves no pity whatsoever, no matter how miserable he looks. The best performance is offered by Jacqueline Fernandez, who is hardly in the film, but is believable in whatever she is given. I skimmed through much of the fight scenes, because I am rarely comfortable watching people hurting others for sport, plus I find no elegance in it (reason why I like really good choreographed sword fights). Whatever remains of a story goes to hell as over-stretched fight/arena entry/nervous waiting montage fills in the last hour of the picture. Music score is good enough, however much of it is just badly placed and overlays scenes where silence would better underline the emotional turmoil. Furthermore there is Mary. I love Kareena Kapoor, but she is one of the most awkward dancers in Bollywood and no amount of water you throw on her will improve that. Not to mention that an “item” song needs good music and choreography to work. Mary, about which nothing is even remotely sexy, has neither and goes right into the music video trashbin. Finally, it´s 2016. Do we really have to refer to Germany as “Hitler´s country”?

Phantom


Directed by: Kabir Khan
Starring: Saif Ali Khan, Katrina Kaif
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Agent Vinod part 2. Except less focused, and probably because my lack of knowledge of Indian/Pakistani secret forces and terrorist groups, rather chaotic. There are way too many characters, who hardly get introduced properly, but are supposed to be important. Saif acts well, he is definitely someone I find believable in these kinds of roles, but he needs a better story. Katrina´s face seems off for some reason, but credit where its due – she does quite well. Her character attaches to the hero without much explanation and even turns into a motivation coach. Why – that is never addressed. I skimmed through the last twenty action-packed minutes, because by that time I stopped caring. I think the film to liken this one to in 2015 is Akshay Kumar´s Baby, and in comparison Baby fares better, especially on believability and suspense. And from 2014 D Day. Which fared better in everything. Kabir Khan had apparently completely exhausted himself at Bajrangi Bhaijaan, and little creativity and good will was left for poor Saifu.

Hero


Directed by: Nikhil Advani
Starring: Sooraj Pancholi, Athiya Shetty
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

These films have gone out of fashion twenty years ago. And yet, somehow, they are still being made. What more – they are often a debut vehicle for another star kid. And thus another Salman Khan´s surrogate offspring gets his ticket to Bollywood simply because … you know.... khaandaan and shit. Even if Sooraj Pancholi wasn´t already etched in all our minds as a boyfriend-from-hell to the ill-fated Jiah Khan, he would have hard time being likeable on screen. He has the same iffy quality that made his father perfect for the roles of slimy antagonists but not much else. Unfortunately he does not have any other memorable quality and everything he does in this film has been done lots better last year by Tiger Shroff, whose own father has made this completely same story actually worth the while. Back in 1983. Things do not get better by having yet another super-model-esque star kid Athiya Shetty as the dumber than a dumb-bell heroine. She is awfully weak and not promising at all. Although after I have seen Alia Bhatt grow into a fine performer since her horrendous debut, I dare not pronounce any prophecy regarding Athiya. There is not much to review. Everything is as clichéd and predictable as it gets. I dare say that this remake of Hero shall be forgotten soon. In fact, isn´t it forgotten already?

Katti Batti


Directed by: Nikhil Advani
Starring: Imran Khan, Kangana Ranaut
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Some films are just not worth the effort. In case of Katti Batti even the filmmakers realized this. And the result is a very boring movie about a very boring relationship. The “great twist” (not really that surprising or new), that finally makes things interesting, comes too late to save the day and cannot erase all the boredom that preceded it. Which is sad, because the ending found me in a vulnerable state of tearing up (Then again, I would NOT want to watch another two hours of someone slowly dying. I guess there is absolutely no win situation for this script). Seeing Imran Khan, who is mostly absent from the screen these days, delighted me. Even though I am not a great fan, the guy is just too likeable. Kangana, surprisingly, doesn´t have a big role. It is Imran who provides his point of view on everything, and who we follow through the narrative. Watch if you miss Imran a lot.

Singh is Bliing


Directed by: Prabhudeva
Starring: Akshay Kumar, Lara Dutta, Amy Jackson
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Cows in Punjab speak Hindi to each other. And that is not the least sensible thing the movie serves you. Rati Agnihotri (born 1960) plays mother to Akshay Kumar (born 1967) who drools over Amy Jackson (born 1992). Awful, awful, awful. Akshay Kumar is completely wasted in a movie without a story or hint of logic – or even conflict. Amy Jackson proves how useless a heroine is in this kind of films by not even attempting to speak Hindi. Not even her highly choreographed, unexciting fight scenes can conceal that it is her boobs and white skin that are all that matters. The only saving grace of the whole thing is Lara Dutta, who is actually very funny, and it would have been much better had she been the main protagonist. Kay Kay Menon is a creep, a fact stated more clearly by his hairstyle than his actions. To simply put it: This Singh is useless junk of a movie. Prabhudeva needs to be stopped.

Shaandaar


Directed by: Vikas Bahl
Starring: Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Pankaj Kapoor, Sanah Kapoor, Sanjay Kapoor
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing


I have read some really vicious reviews of Shaandaar, and even if they stemmed mostly from wounded hopes and shattered dreams (because after Queen the year before Vikas Bahl was seen as a great hope for the cinema), they were rough. Expecting absolutely nothing (and trying to stay conscious as high fever wrecked my body) I found the film harmless and inconsequential, and - had I been in a more demanding state of mind – kinda waste of time. It did not offend me and wasn´t more stupid than many other films the year has brought, and if nothing it had very likeable cast. I am, however, still uncertain, what the actual plot was supposed to be, with script all over the place and incredibly fake (not cute) CGI effects. I felt the story should have been built around Sanah´s character, as Alia´s insomnia and obvious legacy were of little interest to anyone. As for Shahid, I have already forgotten he was in the movie, so negligible was his character. A movie like this, without even good music and catchy songs, is sadly meant to fail.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Prem Ratan Dhan Payo

Directed by: Sooraj Barjatya
Starring: Salman Khan, Sonam Kapoor, Anupam Kher, Neil Nitin Mukesh
Released: 2015
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing


I like certain level of predictable in life and Rajshri films, especially those directed by Sooraj Barjatya, have quite lots of it. You can always count on a film about a big family which upholds traditions, bursts into a song every five minutes and there is no shortage of earnestness so melodramatic it is hardly seen in normal life. The plot is paper thin, but who watches this director´s movie for plot and conflict? We watch for the unearthly sweetness, for parampara, for colourful songs and attractive people in them. Does Prem Ratan Dhan Payo live up to the standards set up (and never scaled) by Hum Aapke Hain Koun? Not quite, though it does try its best and even contains several things I never would have expected.


The unexpected thing no. 1: The raja who could not keep it in his pants. The family this time has fewer members than we are used to (only 4!) and they are not in loving unison at all. The reason? They are all children of a certain raja, but they do not have the same mother. They don´t even have two same mothers. They have three, one of whom was not even a legally wedded wife. When she is driven out of the palace with her two daughters, those daughters logically carry a strong grudge. Then there is Neil Nitin Mukesh in the most pathetic and ridiculous mode I´ve ever seen him in (and he is rarely great to begin with) as a younger brother, who hates his older brother because evil secretary has sabotaged everything he had ever asked for while posing as a faithful servant. Considering every request could be granted by simply asking personally, this seems like a very flimsy excuse for a raging hate, that leads to repeated attempts at murder. Then again I suppose a guy who thought that building a shiny mirror palace for his children will solve every problem was probably destined to fail at raising his kids from the start.


The unexpected thing no. 2: Actual murder! Not accidental death or passing because of old age. We get a murder and even a shot of a hanging body. Graphic? No, not by any filmi means. Unexpected in a movie like this? Hell yeah. Other than this, however, the evil plotline is completely ridiculous, simply because Sooraj Barjatya is great at presenting samdhis humming to a joyful melody, but sucks at creating tension and a more complex conflict. All the bad guys are also responsible for 90% of bad acting in the movie.

Neil himself represents 70% of that.
The unexpected thing no. 3: Sonam Kapoor. As Princess Maithili she is among the lot of more or less demure, obedient Barjatya heroines, fortunately the curse of “cabbage personality” has missed her. In fact she may be my favourite female Barjatya character after Nisha-ji from HAHK. From capably running a charity organization to openly longing some gentle physical love, she is a person with life clearly reaching beyond the palace walls and making rotis. Thus it seems even more unfair that the ultimate decision to follow her heart is snatched away from her, no matter how happy the ending. Sonam manages to be delightfully demure and without trying to be spunky and bubbly (death for a young actress). Her somehow theatrical acting has a grateful background in the all but realistic universe of Prem Ratan Dhan Payo. She is good.


The unexpected thing no. 4: Sonam and Salman are not an awful jodi. Be it because of filters on Salman´s face or whatever, the twenty years between them are still awkward, but on the screen they looked good. Salman himself, so bulky and muscly his neck looks just weird and you can´t dispute that, carries the movie forward, mostly devoid of stupid one liners and threatening poses, that had made him a caricature more than an actor in the past few years. His performance doesn´t shake the ground (except that one time in the mirror palace, literally), but counts among his better ones in this millenium.


The unexpected thing no. 5: I enjoyed it. More than I had thought I would, and in spite of everything cheezy and silly that occasionally made me face-palm. Even in spite of Anupam Kher, repetitive in his 1885th role of paternal figure, that cannot be distinguished from others. Even despite the fact that we spent ten minutes on a really weird football song while more interesting things were apparently happening elsewhere. Prem Ratan Dhan Payo is an easy watch, and a pleasant one too if you are in the right state of mind. Most of the songs merely pass you by, but the title track is catchy enough to get stuck in your head. I know what I´m talking about. I´ve been singing and humming it since Friday....

Please get the song out of my head bhaiya!

Friday, 5 February 2016

Jazbaa

Directed by: Sanjay Gupta
Starring: Aishwarya Rai, Irrfan Khan, Shabana Azmi
Released: 2015
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing


This is another film which I don´t really have a proper rating tag for. Jazbaa is hardly “enjoyable”, but it falls somewhere in between whatever and good. I suppose “reasonably fine” might be the best description. I have little admiration for previous work of Sanjay Gupta (though I admit I have seen just a few of his films), especially after the incredibly awful and over-flowingly sexist Shootout at Wadala. Jazbaa, a remake of a South Korean film, is marginally better than that. As a comeback film it does Aishwarya Rai more favour than for example Ishkq in Paris did to Preity or Dangerous Ishq did to Karishma. Coming on the heels of movies like NH10 or Mardaani, though, it looses some punch. And no ammount of weird green undertones that drown the Jazbaa world can change that.


She may not be kicking anyone´s ass in the physical way, but Anuradha Verma (Aishwarya) kicks ass as a top lawyer. She does not shy away from dirty tricks, from hypnotizing the judge to even tampering with evidence, just to win her case, even if she knows her client is a criminal. No matter of “this is how lawyers are” makes this right. But then her little daughter is kidnapped and Anuradha´s eyes turn almost permanently bloodshot from all the tears she sheds. Soon enough she is informed that the kidnapper wants her to release yet another criminal, a violent rapist and a drug dealer this time, if she wants her daughter back. With the help of her best friend (Irrfan) Johan, a corrupt and suspended police officer, Anuradha starts investigating. Interestingly enough, as you can see, the two main characters are actually far from honest innocents. Their absolution in the end is quite subtle, I didn´t even think about it at first.


Irrfan, usually so good in everything, manages to be a let down. He may be shouting and kicking into trash cans, yet his eyes and face show too clearly he doesn´t give a shit. Shabana Azmi has too little footage to really review anything. She appears in very few scenes, does what she must with clean conscience, and leaves without making much impact. Considering she is eventually revealed as the kidnapper, as well as the mother of the raped and murdered girl, she certainly deserved more space. There is Jackie Shroff in this, for a few moments, and for very ineffective villain shading.


The only noteworthy actor thus remains Aishwarya Rai. There is absolutely no reason for her stretching into all angles possible in tights scene in the opening sequence of the film, other than to show everyone she is indeed back in shape (we all remember how she committed the crime of being pregnant and not loosing weight within a week after the baby came into the world). But stay calm, the director wisely decided we needed to see her all bendy and trim before the film even starts. Not that I mind seeing that, but I am not fond of random shit that doesn´t really tell you anything about the film, the plot or the character. That said, the actress holds her ground and her glamorous image is not exploited after that opening sequence. Some of the scenes showing her anxiety and pain are very over the top, however let´s imagine any loving parents in a similar situation. Sometimes it looks awkward and not pretty to break down. Aishwarya ain´t Meryl Streep and her dialogue delivery will never be perfect, still she gives a solid performance, one that many of the more current Bollywood ladies can so far only dream of.


The biggest problem with Jazbaa, I feel, was the lack of “gripping” factor from the start, and some of the actions seemed so illogical they raised to many questions of why. The things finally got more interesting in the second half, fortunately, still there is little mystery or thrill to rave about. Watch for Aishwarya if you missed her. I did.