Saturday, August 25, 2012

Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi has little meat in its big heart

Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi is a small little film that has been marketed really well, so much so that I could not find tickets to the show I went for today. The next show, which I actually got tickets for, was also housefull. I think the producer Sanjay Leela Bhansali definitely did shell out some extra bucks from the crores he has raked in from Rowdy Rathore to help SFKTNP, a romantic comedy, to reach out to a larger audience with an unusual star cast and a failed music album. Amongst films spammed with tomfoolery, including Bhansali's own cash grab Rowdy Rathore, I was expecting this one to be a breezy affair marking Farah Khan's debut into acting. The trailer promised an infallible fun ride with some cheesiness. Thankfully, the film turns out to be more likable than I imagined.

Directed by Sanjay's sister and first time director, Bela Bhansali Sehgal, and written by Sanjay himself, SFKTNP does not try to invent anything new for the most repetitive genre in the industry, the rom-coms. Instead, it espouses its unoriginal plot and presents it with a whole lot of heart and some unabashed simplicity. SFKTNP manages to quench your thirst for entertainment without resorting to chronic stupidity. The plot is simple. A middle aged man and woman find love in each other but they have to go through the hysterical hurdles that lie ahead before they can unite. In a scene from the film, the lead character, Farhad, awkwardly grabs the hand of his lady, Shirin, in a public place and kisses it, before apologizing for the same on his first date. In another moment from the film, Shirin is talking to her father who is in coma and unexpectedly calls Farhad her boyfriend who pounces on to hug her the next moment, something he had been wanting to do for a long time. Its nuances like these that win the public goodwill in favor of the film. The world of characters in SFKTNP is unassuming and truthful, with barely any shades of grey. Bela delves into the Parsi characters, builds them on clumsy caricatures of the community, but garnishes them with uncomplicated simplicity and warmth. Whats gutsy of the film is that it never cares to be glossy or frothy, never bothers if the people dont look their best or if the production values are underwhelming, yet it manages to effervescently reach out with a condensed tale. There are so many fat people in the movie that make fat physicality look astoundingly cute and lovable. The romance is witty without too much of mush and schmaltz and there is a strong undercurrent of taking pride in one's profession in its texture.

However, SFKTNP is not without its share of snags. The songs only act like a deterrent to the narrative to start with despite the efficient cut of around 100-110 minutes runtime. The film tries to plug in a couple of silly comical portions that serve no real purpose. In an effort to pay a tribute to the Parsi community, Bela does seem to sloaganeering a bunch of stereotypes which seem like a hyperbole. In another effort to pay an ode to Bollywood, the proceedings may get cheesy a couple of times but are complemented with authenticity soon after keeping you engaged. Music by Jeet Ganguly is a let down barring Ramba Mein Samba that is voiced by the inimitable Usha Uthup and captured deliciously on the screen. Cinematography by Mahesh Aney is fitting while the editing by Bela and Rajesh Pandey is slick, lest it could have eliminated some of the songs. Production Design is oversimplified that makes it look like a budget cut at times.

The best part about Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi is its eclectic cast. Nearly every actor cast in this movie is a Parsi, apart from Farah Khan, which lends an avowedly exact flavor to the film and dissolves the boundaries of make believe. Boman Irani is superbly cast as Farhad and delivers a crackling performance asserting why he is one of the best we have. This is a character which is the most true to his skin and he portrays it with a lot of zest. Watch him in the breakout sequence towards the end or rolling his eyes every time he goofs up in love, he is top-rate all through the film. Farah Khan makes an assured debut where in she is seen improvising many a times or callously mouthing her lines like she talks in interviews and shows, without too much of forced acting. Daisy Irani as Boman's mom is condescendingly amazing while Shammi Ji as the grandmom is stunningly ebullient, complementing each other and lighting up the screen with their vital charm. Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal as Farah's aunt is impressive while Kavin Dave is stunning in a short role. It helps the purpose to have a seasoned cast on board and obliterates half the discrepancies of a simplistic plot.

As I said earlier, SFKTNP does not promise a lot of innovation, either in style or substance, but since the majority of Indian movie going audience craves for some escapist entertainment, this one provides a lot of that without succumbing to slam bang narration. It has taken a dull start in the domestic market overall, owing predominantly to its lack of big stars, but the business in metro cities should pick up to put forward decent collections for a film which is more deserving than a horde of others. It may not be your cup of the tea to watch a run-of-the-mill fare with no stars or special critical acclaim, but I would still suggest you to go watch it instead of waiting to make Akshay Kumar's Joker a blockbuster next week. Here's an extra half star for the fresh performances and a rare pluck in Bela Sehgal to overcome Bollywood's obsession with physicality.

Rating - 3/5

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ek Tha Tiger is a not-so-annoying Salman Khan film

Now, Ek Tha Tiger is a phenomenon that has impressively eluded not a single soul that follows Indian cinema across the globe. Nothing that I say here would in any way affect the mammoth, historic, unprecedented opening of the keenly-anticipated film today and rightly so. Salman Khan's increasingly assured success at the Box Office doesnt seem to wheeze under the weight of its own winking. Wanted, Dabangg, Ready, Bodyguard and now Ek Tha Tiger. Pretty much everyone I know around the world seem to be extraneously pumped about watching ETT despite no breakneck marketing or a shy outcome of the music album. Produced by Yash Raj Films, effectually a ploy to cash in on Salman's pinnacle of stardom, looked strikingly different from its quaint predecessors of Salman films right from the first trailer. Kabir Khan, the director, has not been a completely shabby director either. The startling truth of the day is that Ek Tha Tiger is unlike any of Salman's recent movies. At the end of the 2 hours 10 minutes run time, all I can say is that there is good news and bad news. Dabangg reeked of guilty pleasure, Bodyguard was an incomprehensible mess while Ready had me either swanning or looking for the exit sign. Ek Tha Tiger doesnt fit into any of these kinds.

Ek Tha Tiger, wri
tten jointly by Kabir Khan and Neelesh Mishra, is not cumbersome bhai porn, which is the only genre one can define recent Salman films by. Infact, trigger happy loons or as they call them Salman fans may might as well be disappointed as most of the ingredients of bhai-isms are missing in ETT such as cringe-worthy one-liners, eyeroll inducing humor/action and a striking lack of a plot. Salman dares to try something different but the sad part is that Kabir Khan serves up a gimmicky simplistic plot that coyly offers much less than you are ready to savor. ETT dispenses with the indulgences of the bigger-than-screen imagery of its lead star and builds up a well-known yet interesting premise of espionage amongst Indian and Pakistani secret agencies. Formidably enough, ETT has a riveting pace, laced and decorated with frothy humor, warm-ish love story and lavish action sequences. There is good news for the ones who are queasy of the stomach and impatient of the bladder, because ETT never gets pesky and is thoroughly enjoyable as long as it lasts. The buffet of action in ETT provides enough visceral thrills, the sequences are strikingly guttural, vitally power-packed and organically innovative, even when they transcend belief more often than not, but when did that not happen in action movies?

The pro
blem with Ek Tha Tiger is that when it lets go of the bovine rigmarole of Salman films, it does not offer more than a whiff of a plot instead. Kabir Khan has always struggled to depict the truth he sets out to portray in his previous screenplays, and the insipid problem persists with this one too. Adhering to his perceptible fancy of political-terrorism related concepts, he conveniently weaves a love story around Indo-Pak rivalry, only to shortchange another peace message. The plot is wafer-thin, and even with its inherent awry nature, fails to hold up the expanse of the film, mostly because the twists and turns being predictable at some times, and irrelevant at other times not really affecting the inevitable conclusion. The love story may be engaging enough to justify the fight for love but it ends up portraying international secret agents like foolish goons. Owing to its scrawny screenplay, the film constantly looks very similar to a oversimplified version of many other movies (like Agent Vinod recently) where in Kabir Khan wraps the doubts around a gun and punches the trigger continually with his ebullient action sets. Ek Tha Tiger, tries to break the shambles of Salman world, but falls way too short due to lack of innovation and heft in the meat of its narrative. Yet, it is visually rich, meekly energetic and constantly engaging.

Yash Raj F
ilms signed on Salman Khan for the first time in his career spanning over more than 20 years and everything for this launch has been made to order. Music by Sohail Sen cripples your ears predominantly as none of the songs reach the average mark. Mashallah, composed by guest composers (read hooked up by Salman) Sajid-Wajid is the only likable song. Production Design in different countries is manipulatively typical, but captures the essence of the destinations well, aided by Aseem Mishra's cinematography. Mishra captures most of the film with a deft hand, from the racy fight sequences to the gregarious scenery. Editing by Rameshwar S. Bhagat is appreciable for most parts. Being a Yash Raj production, ETT has been generously supported by a highly efficient production team and the effort shows up in all departments, specially the performance of stunts.

Salman Kh
an is sporadically found acting for his part in Ek Tha Tiger, which is a magnanimous improvement from sleepwalking. Its evident that he finds the action scenes much more palpable than any other kinds as he struggles to emote a nifty lover, madly lost in the world of his lady love, ready to take on the world for her. Despite his brawn and the inimitably sunny charisma while duking scores of people around him, one does miss the convincing lover in him. Katrina Kaif gets to do much more than being the eye candy. Kaif is perennially confident as Zoya strives to find a good character arc, apart from the cheer-inducing action that she does in the film. Ranvir Shorey and Girish Karnad do not get much scope to perform despite being acclaimed actors.

Ek Tha Tige
r is a much better fare than any of recent Salman films, but is also far from being a great film. The film tries to provide masala entertainment, but forbids any novice content. I find myself maniacally befuddled as I end this analysis here. The film may not careen the regular bhaitards as it avoids planting indulgent invincible nuances of Salman, the star. At the same time, the film may be refreshingly accepted by the ones who hated Bodyguard or Ready. Avowedly, it will cross the Rs 100Cr mark, considering the massive opening, but its the figure of its lifetime run that I would not lay a bet on, as it staggers to appease a larger crowd than just Salman fans. As a movie, the film may be a big step for Salman but leaves a lot to desire. Watch it eitherway, because you cant skip and hope to reduce its collections!

Ra
ting - 2.5/5

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Good Joke vs Bad Joke

There is a good joke and a bad joke and there is a marked difference between them. But what exactly is this difference? and is a bad joke bad for everyone or vice versa? At a particular instance during watching the recent mega hit Housefull 2, I found myself amidst a sea of people bursting out into continual bouts of laughter with uncaged intensity while I gaped at them. Clearly, I could not understand the joke or it was not a good joke for me. Housefull 2 went on to be pinned as the third highest-grossing film of the year having collected Rs 117 crores at domestic box office and Rs 47 crores at oversease box office. In this year itself 2012, Bollywood has churned out many 'comic capers' till now, out of which Rowdy Rathore is the highest grossing film of the year and Bol Bachchan is the fourth film of the year which crossed 100 crore club grossing Rs 100.26 crore in 20 days. There is no comedy, save for Vicky Donor, that has received accolades from the wide palette of critics in the country. Is it just me or is there a serious disconnect amongst the critics and the audience they write their reviews for? Why do they seem to have zero tolerance for bollywatchers or is it that the audience does not understand what is a good comedy? Have you ever wondered what makes for a good comedy film? 

I have always believed that the primary purpose of cinema is entertainment but clearly I wasnt half as entertained as much as my fellow audience in any of the above movies. From the over-the-top slam bang humor of Housefull 2 to the hammy parlance of Rowdy Rathore to the stereotypical caritcaturish comedy in Bol Bachchan and KSKHH, the audience has defied my opinions of them, along with the views of a bunch of other film reviewers to make these films sneering blockbusters. I have finally concluded that majority of Indian audience thoroughly relishes humor even if it is lame, as long as they can laugh at that moment. They completely enjoy over-the-top tomfoolery of well-known stars, reasonably flawed yet larger than life situations and a complete comic extension of their stereotypes. They dont want to be educated, or enlightened, or wanna have to apply their brains. Entertainment has been subtexted by escapism which has been subtexted by lame humor most of the times, in these films. Is this the real family entertainment that it is made out to be?

The question is, is a bad joke actually a good joke if it makes people laugh? Or do clumsy innuendos perpetuating the theories of atrociously grotesque and regressive Indian mindsets constitute family entertainment? India's potential movie going audience is a very small fraction of its population while the regular movie going audience is a smaller subset of this fraction. Not everyone watches every movie that is released until it comes out on a pirated DVD, but most people watch some movies by paying for a ticket. Also, every movie has its own audience and most of these bigger budget films are doused with stars and obnoxious marketing which builds their audience much before the release. They promise a 'no-brainer' brand of fun where in you can forget about your life's worries and have a good time. But there is a thin line between directing a brainless comedy filmmaking and a loud, cloyingly horrible filmmaking. Most of the times our directors have seem to go by the latter, a lethal combination of a large cast and obtuse jokes that have enraged critics, but scored big at the box office delivering the entertainment value of a donkey show. Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron is a classic example of how to do a brainless comedy. This brand of popular entertainment seemingly allows for all kinds of stupidity, vulgarity and distasteful stereotyping without being mulled by the perpetrators and protectors of the Indian culture who get a fit of rage if someone tries to mildly offend their culture. Why? Because this is family entertainment, provided by the stars they idolize and feed out of.

A bad joke is a dumb excuse of lack of innovation in comedic writing to pull off jokes for four-year olds in front of a housefull of adults. Surprisingly, these adults have specific allegiance to most of this heap of lazily written films with barely situational comedies and more contorted faces and farting animals. Animals exhaustively snapping at bums and crotches, cheesily overdone one-liners, shamelessly repetitive gags and convenient liberties to run down any differently abled or culturally distinct person - No, this is not what should make up the bawdy premise of a brainless comedy. Sadly, the writers seem to let go of a lot of other things in the pretext of losing logic. A good joke could leave in you splits, even if the movie itself defies logic in its escapism and thats when a film has successfully walked that thin line. Phas Gaya Re Obama was delicious little satire that went unnoticed because intended comedy is a no go for our masses. Khosla Ka Ghosla provided virtuous comic moments in its plotbut not a whole lot saw it in theaters. There are many other examples where films have been lynched for providing intelligent humor or daring to release itself without an effervescent starcast.

As for the critics, how open are we to a brainless comic caper? With a few and sparse exceptions like Delhi Belly, Vicky Donor, the audience seems to be content with whatever is savaged by the reviewers. But what was the last brainless comedy that was hauled by the critics? Hera Pheri? 10 years ago? Hypothetically, if it released today as a fresh film, I can challenge it would have festered only negative reviews from most critics. Real film buffs are a smallest section of the movie -going audience while amongst the masses, people who derisively look down upon the no-brainers are far and few and for every one of the above two kinds, there are scores of the other kinds. Ergo, the minorities seem to barely affect the run of these films, who prove us to be a democratic state, more than anything else. Recently, I entered a theater where Bol Bachchan was playing in its 5th week only to find it decently occupied, probably as much as a Khosla Ka Ghosla in its first week. The disconnect between critics and the masses is much more pronounced in case of comedies than others, mostly because no other genre seems to have achieved the similar kind of success in the Indian industry. We promote independent cinema but how many indies are actually comedies? Save for Love, Wrinkle Free in the past couple of months, I am struggling to find more. We all love the Hangover series, The Ugly Truth or 21 Jump Street. These are the films that walked the thin line and are still brainless fun. The big stars of Indian cinema barely ever dare to an intelligent comedy and hence we have no hope unless independent cinema takes this genre more seriously and transforms it. The good joke will always be a good joke, but the bad joke needs to stop being the good joke and being only cantankerous to the current crop of comedies is definitely not a solution.

If we only want intelligent humor, is there an audience acceptance for it in reality? If not, can we walk the thin line and build an audience? Yes, we can!

Originally published for the online journal Long Live Cin
ema here

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Jism 2 is a cringe-worthy, ham and sleaze fest

Pooja Bhatt's Jism 2, branded to be an erotic thriller, is the launchpad of porn diva Sunny Leone in Bollywood, after her stint in the reality television show Bigg Boss last year. The Bhatts dont transcendentally believe in heresy when it comes to the basic crux of the plot, they just smartly vary it a little bit here and there, as discussed earlier in another review here. After a decently gritty Murder 2, the Bhatts havent given a decent film in the last one year, considering they shell out 3-4 movies each year. Jism 2 is not produced by Mahesh Bhatt's Vishesh Films but is written by him and produced and directed by his daughter Pooja, who has been a pain-inducing director in her previous ventures. Yet, the very debut of Sunny Leone had hauled the eyeballs of every possible Indian, the ones who have have been participated in her desolate fantasies and the ones who havent. The songs were heady and hummable, something that has become symptomatic to Bhatt films. 

Cut To

Thirty minutes into Jism 2, I found myself considering leaving the film halfway. When I pride myself to be able to sit through any movie, I was getting unusually irascible at the pigslop assemblage that was being served to me. Jism 2 is an unintentionally ludicrous ham and sleaze (read cheese) fest that is burlesque towards your own sensibilities. The wafer-thin plot, cornball dialogues and clumsy direction leave Jism 2 to be nothing more than amateur work. Sunny Leone's big bosom try hard to revoke this soggy affair, which finds itself drowning without much a ruffle. Jism 2, written by Mahesh Bhatt, himself is an exercise in pointlessness when it comes to the plot. Something that could be solved in a screen time of 5 minutes, is contrived to be a dragged tale that snickers at your very brains. If that can be disregarded, Pooja's direction forces me to believe that I can be less clunky. To top the heap, dialogues by Shagufta Rafique make you ditsy if this was actually a thriller or a laughathon. Here are some samples -

Corny dialogue # 1: "Apne dil ki shikayat khoon se kardi, bas ek shikayat hai ki kaash mere khoon ka rang mere ishq ki tarah gehra hota."
English translation: I complained about my heart with my blood. I still have one complaint: the colour of my blood should have been darker than my love.

Co
rny dialogue # 2: "Hum dono ek doosre se jhooth bol sakte hain par iss jism ka kya karen?
English translation: Wecan lie to each other but what should we do about our bodies?

Corny dialogue # 3: "Jo aadmi apne mulk se wafadari nahi kar saka, usne iske jism se wafadari kardi."
English translation: The guy who could never be loyal to his country became loyal to her body.

Corny dialogue # 4"Aao iss lamhe ko jee lete hain. Amar kar dete hain."
English translation: Come let us live this moment (of orgasm). Let us make it eternal!

The films follows a beaten to death track of planting an ex-girlfriend in the proximity of a craggy criminal by a dumb intelligence agency that can never break into his house and lynch his balls. While the first Jism was a respectable adult thriller, this one reeks of pneumatic talks where in even the erotica does nothing more to your libido than the promos have done. The film fails to explore the lustful relationships based on an interesting idea of a plot due to its despicable writing. All this, and the barrage of pepper-spray worthy philosophy that is spitted out at you leaves you completely benumbed because it is seeded in callous direction skills.Sigh!

The shining spots, if any? The second half is a little more bearable than the first one, that is if you choose to stay back after the interval, you will witness nothing more than 2-3 racy portions and some candor in an otherwise not-so-daring film. Randeep Hooda's portrayal of the mildly schizophrenic assassin saves some shame for Jism 2, even when he is saddled by the worst of lines and an unclear character curve. The Production Design by Pooja Bhatt is easy on your senses trying its best to engross you into the sweepingly serene outer world of the characters, without getting into the locales of Sri Lanka much. The music of the film provides a pack of virtuously composed melodies that are affably alluring and are definitely the USP. A combination of four music directors - Arko Pravo Mukherjee, Mithoon, Rushk and Abdul Baasith Saaed - has doled out a wide cauldron of tunes that will stay with you. Maula, Abhi Abhi and Yeh Jism are definitely the pick of the lot. Cinematography by Bhavya is bosom-friendly as they dare not show more than that in the allegedly adulterated yet socially monitored film that they were trying to make. Editing by Devendra Murdeshwar cannot be blamed in this case because an honest editor would have chopped this film to 15 minutes.

Randeep Hooda is strangled in a distraught film with filmmakers who are more of coots, sadly loaded with the worst of corniest lines, an eccentric character sketch and a bad wardrobe designing. Yet, he tries his best to breathe some sense into your screens before you lose all faith in him. Sunny Leone, for a debutante, is not entirely terrible, but fails to fails to live up to the edgy emotional heft required by the character that would have kept the suspense riveting or made her involvement with both the characters believable. She is more comfortable shedding clothes than permeating rousing emotions or the difference in feelings. Arunoday Singh delivers an outlandishly farcical performance that will crack you up most of the times, barring a couple of instances. I have figured out that the only emotion he can portray well is anger and that of a wood. Arif Zakaria is in all honesty shamefully preposterous and you almost feel like holding him to a garrote every time he comes on screen. Imran Zahid adds to the party of unintentional laughs.

Jism 2 is a sequel made to cash in on the success of Jism, and to absurdly assert to yourself that yes, you have to make a sequel to a film. Though the exploration of erotica and relationships in a crime thriller premise is an interesting idea, it needs much more coherent development than Jism 2 can boast of, even with its poetic approach of sexuality and a ridiculous yet mildly daring climax. It has taken a good opening at the Box Office but I suspect that the final payoff of a sporadic laughathon instead of a thriller will be the word of mouth, reflecting directly in the collections. The hoggers of smuttiness will run out of steam as there is much more to offer at your home on your computers than in Jism 2. I would have given the film half a star less, but the second half salvages it to some extent. Go watch it for Sunny Leone's jism, only because your computers will never have that big a screen!

Rating - 1/5