Saturday, May 19, 2012

Department is an outrageously weak product

Ram Gopal Varma's Department. Rana Daggubati, Sanjay Dutt and Amitabh Bachchan, a weird mix of actors, but all of them could fit well into the RGV scheme of movies easily. RGV is a maniac on Twitter and everyone detests him for his absurdity in tweets. However, with movies, he has shared a different kind of relationship. The guy has teetered along his journey in cinema and made some amazing movies like Satya, Company and also many inglorious products like Naach, Gayab and the list goes on. My only cinema literate friend who I quote in my reviews describes RGV as a sine curve, where unpredictability is the order of every Friday. Yes, he is that precariously crotchety. When the first trailer of Department came out, I have to admit it was pretty nicely done despite being outrageously tripe. If not outrightly gushed about it, I was still looking forward to it. Unfortunately, like a lot of other promos, the movie doesnt turns to be moronically mundane and shoddily done. Such a waste!

Department is scripted by Nilesh Girkar and directed by RGV but has almost everything going against it and leaves you painfully scowling. Department is a near-insufferable, clumsy kitschy party that combines cringe inducing camerawork with slack storytelling. The story takes the tried and tested route of making up a specialist police department to fight the underworld but when a film has nothing to offer besides clichéd characters and a scrubby collection of outdated shootouts and plot twists that we've seen a dozen times before in better movies, it’s easy to be a bit annoyed. The film tumbles on the big screen with weak writing, annoying camera work and mildly nauseating dialogues. Its tedious to sit through the first half, and while the proceedings pick up some speed during the second half its hardly likeable. A day before its release, RGV tweeted, "A new story can fail but a new techniques never fails." This is the philosophy that the films follows too, except that the technique fails too. There is so much of uncalled focus on the technique that the mayhem in the script doesnt get any attention. It just limps along with the smarmy fingerprints of Bachchan's performance smudging up the imagery of crap. Typical to some other RGV products, the film ends on an incomplete note leaving you musing over the ultimate arch of the plot or its characters. You could expect such a fare to get ludicrous but RGV leaves no scope for that too, being continuously obsessed with vomiting out almost the same center plots. A worthless story told in numbing images, the film merrily dances on the line between the completely unpleasant and the utterly distasteful. I barely have a hard time watching any movie but this one is largely obtuse. I strongly believe that RGV is no more a sine curve, he is devolving into an incomprehensible mess that cant even handle straight scenes.

Before we delve into any other technical aspects of Department, the cinematography mulls me for a special mention. Done by 'FXS Works' team, this camerawork plays out like an experiment of an amateur. RGV could well be defiantly thinking that he is creating a new kind of cinema using the Canon 5D like he did in Department but Sir, this grotesque mugging doesnt work out even one bit. One cant help but berate the asinine camerawork done here. In one scene, the camera is fixed on the striker of a carom board as the characters are plotting their next turgid move. 15 minutes into the movie and you would feel like jamming a pen into your ears due to the obnoxious movements of the camera, if not the contrivances of the plot or the ugly dialogues. Music by Bappi Lahiri and Dharam-Sandeep is strictly okay and only adds to interfering the screenplay at suggested intervals. The song 'Cheeni' which has been the fulcrum of publicity for Department, RGV and Nathalia Kaur merely acts as a callous intruder in the proceedings of the film, apart from being ineffably distasteful. You would rather just hear the song on your iPod because I dont think Nathalia really knows what she has been tricked into, oh well! Editing by Vinay Abhijit is craggy but he couldnt have done much with what he was given apart from massaging the throbbing temples on his head. Dialogues are barely confounding or clap worthy while they try their best to shoot out one liners every now and then, only to fall flat or look as if a high schooler wrote them. Sound mixing and editing wriggles along from good in some scenes to half baked in most other scenes. Background score is a rehash of all RGV movies.

Amitabh Bachchan provides the few sparks in Department due to his emphatic portrayal of a gangster turned politician but his part is still a trifle overplayed. The usually trustworthy Vijay Raaz looks completely embarrassed to be present on the sets and does not get the scope to perform upto his abilities. Abhimanyu Singh, one of the immensely talented actors, is saddled with a scrawny role that completely eliminates his chances of doing anything with it. Sanjay Dutt follows his usual routine of sleepwalking through roles, although grave closeups of his face at numerous instances make it completely possible for you to fall for the seductive charms of the nearest exit door. Rana Daggubati tries to flex his virile muscular body in every scene that RGV hasnt put the camera in his face, not to mention that what he does is far from acting. Both of the wifes, Anjana Sukhani (Rana's wife) and Lakshmi Manchu (Dutt's wife) are perennially annoying and peter eventually. Another worthy mention for Madhu Shalini who portrays Abhimanyu's girlfriend. As the film unspools, you realize that she practically speaks the same dialogues in every scene and delivers them with similar inability.

Department is unoriginal but could work as a minor escapade for Bachchan and Dutt fans, or maybe the fools lured in by Nathalia's private parts, which are being thrusted onto your face all day in TV promos. This is pretentious film-making where one believes that technique can overpower the prestidigitation of the script. It has taken a poor start at the box office due to lack of any buzz around it, and I dont expect any remarkable change in its collections over the next few days. Even when the second half tries to save some ass for the movie, you cant help being disappointed at the sheer hackneyed experience. I think the highlight of the whole movie was watching the trailer of Gangs of Wasseypur in the beginning. Though I vehemently opposed the camera work in Department, here is an extra half star rating to RGV for actually trying to do it!

Rating - 1/5

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What The Avengers made me think, and write

This is a rehash post of an earlier post I did on superheroes. You can still read on because I felt the need for a refreshed take on the topic.

Last week, the world saw The Avengers. Mesmerized. The only word that engulfs the sea of emotions that soar inside me as I walked back home after watching it. The tremendously entertaining flick is crammed with smashin
g superhero characters ensemble and packs in a hell lot of fun. The pantheon chugs along swiftly, set out to charm you, battling their own egos and the world's enemies serving out garnished visual treats. The plotline maybe contrived to make it all happen but its all a dream come true for any superhero fan. The CGI is unfathomably bombastic but does not blanket the main purpose of the plot. But The Avengers is no Dark Knight. Neither does it have the cinematic craft of it, nor the inexorable heft of it. Infact, The Avengers is the most bollywoodesque movie made by Hollywood in recent times. No, its not an exaggeration.

The Avengers s
ymptomatically adheres to utilizing the best of all the superheroes in the most relevant portions of the journey. The Iron Man is the narcissistic lovable douche, the Hulk is the quiet scene stealer, Captain America and Thor are almost made fun of, Black Widow is the hotness quotient and Hawkeye is the perfect superhero taken as a side for the main course. Apart from this, what it does well is to sustain the humor and fun in every frame as it unspools with ruthless elegance. Its a perfect masala entertainer, just the kind we like to make here in Bollywood. There are a lot of sub-plots to the main plot, there are a lot of slapdash sequences in the effort to fit in all the emotions with all the action with all the one-liners and there is a lot of breathless entertainment as all the superheroes join the party. It definitely turns out to be a perfect Bollywood masala entertainer, done smartly. As Shubhra Gupta points out here, it is the elements that make them look human that make superhero flicks favorable and The Avengers has many of them. Before you begin swanning at me, or hold me against a garrote for saying this, I wish to intone and instill that Bollywood makes such heady features, only once in a while, let alone making a superhero movie that stands up. Almost all our mainstream attempts are to make massy entertainers but higher proportion of them end up being puerile half-hearted attempts that seek unwarranted escape for the audience. We may make some of them work but we are still far from engaging our imaginations with the possibility of a successful superhero flick, almost like The Avengers.

Mr.India. Krrish. Ra.One. The only 'notable' films that I can think of when I am talking about projections of Indian superheroes on the c
elluloid. Please do not confuse these with science-fiction films because we have we have made a staggeringly brilliant mess of most of them and we are astoundingly nonchalant about it. Please do not confuse these with commercially unsuccessful films because all these films set the Box Office rolling and minted money for the makers like a cash cow, irrespective of the different times they were released at. Please do not confuse this argument as a affable yet devout clarification of how good or bad these movies were. My larger concern is, why these superheroes cannot come together for an Indian version of Avengers? Why are they not cool enough to come with well-made flicks that match up to their Hollywood counterparts?

The harsh truth is that we have never had an appetite for Indian superheroes! The 
Indian audience has a long way to go before they start appreciating superhero movies. Maybe we havent had too many or too good movies made in that genre yet. Krrish was a irresistible mashup of standard superhero concepts and subplots lavishly used in many Hollywood movies. The story line did not come up with anything new, the direction was lousy and the VFX were minimal. The film became a common joke after its releae. Ra.One was faced with the same test too and it failed. Ra.One tried to come up with a new superhero concept but the science behind everything they did lost its credibility, simply because of the way it was handled. It suffered from lousy direction and writing too, although the concepts werent lifted directly from any other movie. I dont count Mr.India as a superhero movie as it was made as more of a fantasy movie and had its soul in the right place. All these three films were aimed at kids. Mr India never got any criticism, the other two became a common fodder for slapstick jokes. The truth is, we have to stop making superhero movies for kids, specially not with B-town superstars. Take Darsheel Safary if you have to make a movie for kids. For everyone else, you have to remember that a lot of young audience watches these movies and you cant dish out something naive to them. Ra.One and Krrish, both had big budgets, were marketed exceptionally and made lots of money. The special effects, VFX and animation in Ra.One were breathtaking and at par with any movie that I have seen in this genre. But all the effort goes to waste if the movie becomes a joke amongst cinegoers. Make it big, but make it well too.

However, this is not a one way street. The movie going audience needs a definitive change in their outlook too. You may say things like India doesn't make good superhero movies, they copy concepts from Hollywood, the VFX is not up to the mark or there is no science behind their science fictions etc. Agreed, to a larger extent. But I happen to believe that its not that we cant match up to their technology, but we have to try a lot harder to refine our storytelling. We need to invest larger efforts to develop such movies and the vision they require. What lacks is the far-sightedness and pushing the levels of imagination, like a Joss Whedon possibly did for The Avengers. However, inane beliefs like, "Oh this is Bollywood, its good enough for them" and "Bollywood can only make cute love stories well" deserve comeuppance. Watch our three selections for Cannes' Film Festival this year and then make a statement. Miss Lovely, Peddlers and Gangs of Wasseypur - all three of them have been selected in different elite categories at the fest. 
Give Indian cinema the chance to do it, because till a very long time we were only making cinema to please our audiences, our revenues were little and risks high. Now is the time that we can do it right, but we will make a few mistakes before that and in that period, its imperative to encourage the attempts that are being made, if not appreciate them. You cant run down every attempt and improve cinema too at the same time.

The Avengers created an unfathomable interest and buzz and grossed millions across the globe on the weekend of its release. Every tom, dick and harry wanted to go for it and put up a Facebook status thereafter but the larger picture says that not everything that Hollywood does is as cool. T
hor was bullshit, Green Lantern was worse than my poop and there are many other examples. Not every movie is a Dark Knight or a Spiderman 2. What do most of them really have? A guy with powers, a girl who doesnt know, he saves some lives, he kills the bad guy, he kisses the girl? Or maybe some weird creatures fighting? How much more does the plot really have, barring a few commendable attempts? And you still go and lick some ass there. Truth is, they have the money and the system in place to do all this. Their industry has always made 2-3 superhero movies every second month for the past many many years, hence, it is wrong to compare us to them. Apart from money, they also have the years of literature in comics and legends to provide more scope to this genre whereas we will have to develop our own heroes and then construct innovative visionary plotlines around them. I do not wish to call upon the wrath of the perpetrators of science fiction movies, because those definitely need some believable amounts of projected science, considering that I, myself, am a big sucker for them. But for real, the serving of superhero movies comes with a hidden tag of statutory warning which include a suspension of disbelief a palpable appetite to sit with a tub of popcorn merely for entertainment purposes, rather than scrutiny. We do that very easily for Hollywood, but not for Bollywood maybe because inherently we dont want it to break out into doing something it has not done.

So why did I rehash this post with a take on The Avengers? Because it is a classic example of how Bollywood would have made a superhero movie, with perfect ad
ditions of all masalas required in the recipe, provided we had the vision to support it. The current nett earning of The Avengers stands at an imitable figure of USD 100 million, with a few days of its release. And believe me as I said before, its no Dark Knight. At its fleeting best, I would rate it a 3-3.5/5 movie but cant turn my eyes away from the behemoth figures it has attached to it. The film may suffer from contrived plotting as opposed to a masterpiece but who cares, and the formula can be redone by anyone across the world. You dont need to make the most sensible superhero movie to break into the genre, and Hollywood is a living proof of that as they have bombarded the Box Office with them almost every fortnight. I  asked a question somewhere in this post, are we not cool enough to make a commendable superhero movie? The truth is no, we are not, but the complete truth is, that yes, we will be, soon, and this also calls for more acceptance from the audience. We have to open up and more new filmmakers have to try out this genre to create a significant difference. Till then, the Indian Superheroes have a long way to go and I can go watch The Avengers again!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Ishaqzaade lights up the fire, but succumbs to mediocrity eventually

Ishaqzaade. A movie through which Yash Raj Films got back to proper publicity of their ventures, which somehow they had appallingly avoided for the past few and it had heralded a dent on their collections for sure. Inspite of producing average to good stuff, they were going down due to their self inflicted whimsy. But with Ishaqzaade they went all out to reach to their audience. Arjun Kapoor's debut as an actor was doused with all it needs from YRF. But more importantly, it was Habib Faisal on the director's seat. The only thing I looked forward to, apart from the gregarious and easily likeable Parineeti Chopra. Faisal has been writing for YRF since Salaam Namaste and has given some strikingly commendable screenplays like Band Baaja Baraat, apart from directing one of the best movies of 2010, Do Dooni Chaar, which mooched for attention but went unnoticed, sadly. If you have not seen it, go watch it now. I went in to the theater investing my faith in Faisal's virtuosity but as I write the review, I am distracted by online shopping and what not, barely an hour after watching Ishaqzaade. I would have rather been engaged by the immersive afterthoughts of the movie.

Ishaqzaade had a lot going for it due to the virile platform its built on. The director. The production house. The actress. The music director. Unfortunately enoug
h, it straitjackets itself to a re-bottled version of a blend of Hulchul (Akshaye Khanna, Kareena Kapoor) and Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (Aamir Khan, Juhi Chawla), only with an added throttling twist at the interval. There is also a dash of Tashan (Akshay Kumar, Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor) in it. The story is by Aditya Chopra and Habib Faisal and the screenplay/dialogues are done by Faisal himself. The screenplay buttresses on the flavor and the texture of the premise which Faisal manages to set up with breathless grace, like all other times. One has to understand the psych of the characters in a small town to come to terms with the gangwars, the politcs, the male chauvinism and the servility. There are hundreds of irascible bastards and tons of gunshots. Life is lived by the gun in a place where there is no law and order. Women are subject to fatuous bias while men rule is overweeningly rugged and dominating. But when did that not happen in Indian movies? Barely do we have movies that show the woman as the potent one, and they are mostly used as a nubile eye candy. Ishaqzaade, for once, does not do it in its first half. The leading lady is shown to be a rebel who doesnt give in. Faisal lends an alluring treatment to his screenplay, aided by his sharp dialogues and worthy performances. But the searing charm ends with the interval and the movie succumbs to mediocrity in the second half. How many times have we seen this? The curse of the second half.

My problem with Ishaqzaade begins with the fact that the female lead who was shown to be stilted and goaded with self pride and deep fervor to be rebellious submits herself and never really gets her revenge for the fallacy done to her. I may be revealing too much here but its shocking to see that Faisal is almost nonchalant about this. The wro
ng do-ers are not lynched and the excuse is shielded in underscoring the love story, which does look convincing due to his treatment but is definitely unfulfilling. You experience a wistful longing for her to do something more than just being tied around, or being foolish, considering she was the carefree macaw that may be immature but never be crippled. With Ishaqzaade, the whole focus being on the love story doesnt help the viewer but notice the gargantuan slump in screenplay, as there is no subplot to take your mind away, unlike Band Baaja Baarat. Having said that, this might not prick a lot of people as much as I project it does, honestly. If this does not make it crotchety, there is the rehash of old movies that doesnt leave much to imagination or offer anything fresh. At the end of it all, all you are left with minimal rivulets of shining spots such as the performances, the first half and the treatment of it all.

Ishaqzaade is tec
hnically taut, owing to the successful backing by YRF. The music by Amit Trivedi is a winner. Pareshaan is a runaway hit amongst one and all and Chokra Jawaan is a rare variety of item songs. The editing by Aarti Bajaj could have been better considering her measuring standard is Rockstar. Cinematography by Hemant Chaturvedi is average. Dialogues are brilliant and suit the texture of the script perfectly with no holds barred. This is something which Faisal is best at because he hauls you into his world swiftly just by his dialogues.

 belongs to Parineeti Chopra but the script does not do justice to her. The female is a crackling livewire on screen, immensely lovable and condescendingly natural. She lends a rapier edge to every frame she is in, be it her dialogue delivery, her emotion or just the face she makes. She is not stunningly different, neither does she have the looks of a bombshell, but you savor her efforts and chide the incapability of the script to rise upto her. Arjun Kapoor is a welcome find, loaded with the sleight of emotions and expressions but a wriggling dialogue delivery. He does get into the skin of the character well evocatively and takes care not to ape anyone. Its their chemistry that sneeringly grips your attention. Out of all the cadre of supporting cast, no one explicitly stands out. Ajit Rastogi as Chauhan is specially annoying while Gauhar Khan is passable in a small role.

Ishaqzaade has a formidable first half and a scrawny second one, however it still maintains its entertainment quotient all through if you choose to overlook the profanity. It has taken a good start at the Box Office, due to la
ck of competition from the seriously frumpy Dangerous Ishq  and a relatively weak Jannat 2 that came last week. Whether the word of mouth sustains the collections or decrees obscurity is uncertain. At this juncture, I do reflect upon this one thing. Aditya Chopra has a fascination for similar stories in different premises. YRF has made many con movies and many love stories that have similar underlying plot. Some turn out to be better due to better treatment and direction, some dont. But I guess it would help a tad bit more to not obsess over used concepts. As for this one, the rating reflects the part of the movie which evokes reverence. Watch it for Parineeti Chopra!

Rating - 2.5/5

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Jannat 2 is a fairly predictable fare

A few days before the release of Jannat 2, one of my more cinema-aware friend pointed out that Mahesh Bhatt 'camp' has a fixed formula plot for most of the movies that are doled out from it. The formula is subject to minor variations, mainly pertaining to a slapdash take on a distinct social evil, occurring or even a piece of news. This plot is then laced with a distinctively attractive packaging each time, placing good music, good marketing and good amount of sleaze in the cauldron before its turned on. He knows his audience, the ones that will flock in for some song and dance, some thrill and some sex. The buzz in the grapevine was that Blood Money, released barely a month ago from the Bhatt camp, was originally supposed to be Jannat 2, until the latter came in and was factory produced in no time. Those who saw Blood Money thought it was a rehash of Jannat, just in a different setting. So much of dubious behavior from the production house did not deter my expectations out of Jannat 2, prophetically pinning my hopes on Emraan Hashmi, only to end up feeling like a chump.

Sequels are a cumbersome ballgame. Jannat was an unexpected runaway hit at the Box Office and even the critics found it strikingly passable. How do you know what worked in it and how do you retain it in the sequel? Moronically enough, I find it tough to be dismissive of a crime thriller/lovestory, especially because of the compelling argument that the same house churned out an incisive Murder 2 last year and many such products recently. But Jannat 2 has nothing to offer besides clichéd characters and a scrubby collection of outdated shootouts, chases and plot twists that we've seen a dozen times before in better movies. Essentially, Jannat 2 is another rehash of Jannat or Blood Money, though we may emphatically expect it to be much more. Director Kunal Deshmukh takes up the issue of illegal arms dealing in Delhi as the backdrop which could have been a remarkably interesting premise if the story did not succumb to the ploys of a typical cop-informer saga where the hero is ready to be bad once, just to be have a 'peaceful' life thereafter. The biggest problem with Jannat 2 is that it does not dare to be different and makes you cringe to a heavy doze of contrivances and lazy conveniences. The premise may grab your attention but the fizz is petered into predictability as you run through the odd 130 minutes. Having said that, I must admit that if I had not seen Jannat or Blood Money, I would not have that many problems with the schlocky scripting in this one because its not a weak screenplay, overlooking the fact that Bhatt movies never really care about the issue they pick up, which in this case were the illegal arms. The equation between the cop and the informer, although easily conjured in the twists and turns of the plot, is mildly engaging due its love-hate nature. Many sequences have been deftly handled by the director, ably aided by his male lead, though they could have definitely done with less verbosity and more inspired character development. While most sequences involving Manish Chaudhari are stunning, most of the others involving Esha Gupta are overweeningly annoying. Indian cinema has undergone a serious reformation raising the bar of expectations. But even predictable screenplays can be pivoted with able direction. In such an age, director Deshmukh comes out as callower than he did 4 years ago. Jannat 2 may have its quirky moments that make you laugh or tizzy moments that make you wonder but they are all deployed in a shaky framework.

The Bhatt camp has elevated the sequels of their movies to a more substantial packaging to keep up with the times. Jannat 2 is Emraan's widest release till date, and the Bhatts have got their best ensemble to work on it. Pritam's music is akin to most other albums of the camp, yet it strikes a chord nosediving its way into the hearts of the masses. The songs are pushed into the screenplay pretty much as a ridiculous excuse to show Esha Gupta, and they alone shoulder the responsibility of taking the love story forward. Production Design is okay but editing could do with more scissor work. Dialogues definitely needed a serious reworking to remove the bickering voice-overs and ludicrous verbosity.

Manish Chaudhari steals the show in the limited number of scenes he gets as the villain. The guy, gunning with immense talent is suffocated and bogged down by a badly developed character of a Jatt illegal arms honcho. He gets into the character with a stunning ease but the peripheral scope leaves him at sea. Emraan Hashmi teeters with the Delhi accent, lingo and mojo but manages to scape through due to his convincing looks for all characters written in Bhatt movies. Randeep Hooda tries really hard to infuse some life in the character of the cop that he plays but barely manages to have incredulous escape in a few scenes. In most other scenes, he is as ingloriously awful as Esha Gupta, who is just a run down Lara Dutta. Brijendra Kala is first-rate as usual. Arif Zakaria is unintentionally hilarious. Also, the guy who plays Balli is completely suitable for the part.

Jannat 2 is directed towards the masses completely, to harp on the grown popularity of Hashmi in the recent times, imperviously avoiding any negative reaction by the critics. The film has taken a thoroughly smashing opening due to a wide release across single screens and multiplex. As previously said, Bhatt knows his audience and thats why even shameful products like Blood Money made money. On the contrary, this one has been greeted with a rapturous response. It may be irrelevant to point out the lack of dexterity or originality in Jannat 2 at this juncture. I can only confess something here. I did not get bored watching it, not even once.

Rating - 2/5