Sunday, March 31, 2013

Himmatwala is a huge dump on your intelligence

Remakes are the order of the day in Indian Film Industry today. If you cant remake a recent South Indian film in Hindi, then why not make the film that started that trend in 1983? Guess that was the reasoning enough for Sajid Khan to dole out the crummiest film in many ages that leaves you with the most disgusting aftertaste, induces a brain-curdling effect making you wish you were in coma and assaults your existence to leave you scarred and scared for all your life. From the release of its trailer itself, I knew Himmatwala would be a stunning exercise of atrocious cinema. Every snarky tawdry promo and song was making millions of lives miserable all day everyday and the doomed day finally arrived, Himmatwala, a remake of K Raghavendra Rao's 1983 original hit the screens today.

Sajid Khan's Himmatwala leaves you with a jaw dropping surprise at his sheer audacity as a filmmaker. We always knew he has made brainless masala entertainers that have been unanimously panned by critics but we never knew he has the immaculate power to serve a labored affair that struggles to cater to the whistle blowers too. You could not have a more ghastly experience than having Sonakshi Sinha's forehead open a movie for you as she shimmies on that shameful dance number in the disco, followed by an entry of a street fighter named Zebisco. Coincidence, right?  What follows is a scurrilous array of mindless gags that have the prowess to cause cerebral palsy. Now, some of us would be fine if the film actually took its tagline, 'The 80s are back', even a wee bit seriously. But what Khan does in this louche affair is that he handpicks the worst influences of the 80s and keeps running them until the audience reaches its snapping point. There is absolutely nothing that I can mention here that is not catastrophically awful. The jokes consist of repeated fun on the 1983 era itself with lobotomizing references of Swine Flu and Save The Tiger. There are 5 item girls adding to the profanity, just because less than that was unaffordable. Dialogues like 'Maar de uske bum pe laat jo tujhe darata hai', 'Sarkari aadmi ka naam Vietnam se bhi bada hota hai', 'Sar Pe Panch', 'Ghar ka kaam karne mein sharam kaisi, yeh toh mera farz hai' make the journey all the more insufferable and will surely go down in the history as gems of cinema. A lot of sophistry has gone in the making of this film that results in a continuous hair-pulling exercise. 

The garish production of Himmatwala leaves nothing to like about it either. Ajay Devgn probably had to surrender his acting skills before signing this movie and even his one-liners fall flat this time around. He goes the crude way for this one and looks naturally disgusting effortlessly. Tamannah Bhatia jumps onto Bollywood with this film and is sure to be a part of many labored comedies or actioners with peanut-sized scripts and grain-sized roles for her. Paresh Rawal looks caught in a quagmire of shlock and hams up his act as the advisor of the villain, played by Mahesh Manjrekar, who seems to be unable to make up his mind if he is actually supposed to evoke terror or jest. Adhyayan Suman adds to the pack....wait, who is Adhyayan Suman?

On the whole, Himmatwala is a big dump on your intelligence or even a shred of it. Despite not being an exact copy of the original, this one just sticks to the contrived hammy situations and does not offer even one bit of inspiration. It has taken an average start at the Box Office and one can only see the fatigue of mindless masala films in the audience. I dont expect it to pick up over the next few days. It deserves to sink to deepest unknown reserves of this cinematic ocean where no one ever knows that it released.

Rating - 1/5

Originally published for MadAboutMoviez here

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Aatma is a hokey and hacky film

Aatma, starring Bipasha Basu alongside the next big thing of Bollywood, Nawaazuddin Siddiqui, hit the theaters worldwide this morning. Directed by Suparn Verma, who is making a movie after a hiatus of four years from the shameful Acid Factory (2009), attempts one of the hardest genres for Indian cinema in Aatma - Horror. The number of times we have failed in the horror genre is excruciatingly phenomenal, much of it can be thanked to the genius of Ram Gopal Varma. Aatma did not get the right word out before its release, except for a mildly spooky trailer and one delectable song, Aaja Nindiya. And sadly enough, the film itself turns out to be succinctly half baked. Some shiny spots, but predominantly a waste nonetheless!

At a stingy runtime of less than 100 minutes, Aatma is found to be pretty stingy in chills and thrills too. Supernatural thrillers do inherit a bunch of leap of faiths, but Verma's reprehensible writing falls flat as it becomes a victim to banal gimmicks and imbecilic conventions of the genre. Not everything is allright in the life of a single mother, Maya Verma (Basu) as her daughter, Nia (Doyel Dhawan) talks to her father, while no one can see him as he has been dead for some time. A troubled past haunts Maya as the future beckons with an increasing number of supernatural events at their once-wonderful abode. An excitingly interesting premise is what Aatma sets up in the first 20 minutes as the reels start rolling with many characters jutting in and out or being murdered mysteriously. Much of the first half runs smoothly, despite being low on scares, and one of the ebullient portions of this dull affair is the backstory that the family has. Oh how one wishes Suparn had dwelt a tad bit more on those portions! 

Post interval, the film dips and sinks in a deep ocean with barely anything unpredictable unfolding on screen or any edge of the seat racy moments that jolt you out of slumber. Unambitious, to say the least. Much like the problem plaguing last week's Jolly LLB. Yet, the latter had much else to boast about. Unfortunately, Aatma wheezes under the weight of the genre with only half an attempt. Despite wasting a plot with potential, I never got bored during Aatma and the unintentional hilarity has been kept under check to a large extent by Verma and his team of seasoned supporting actors. I do wish that the film was a scare fest that heralded in a largely needed revival of the genre and belied the naysayers, just because its idea wasnt as chronically stupid as most other horror movies. Produced by WideFrame Pictures and not picked up by any big studio, Aatma lacks the market backing that most films do get. Most technical aspects are fairly average and adhering smugly to the formulaic standards of the genre. 

As biased it may sound, I am a huge fanboy of the talent of Nawaazuddin Siddiqui. I personally believe that a better actor, and I mean lead actor, has not stepped in the industry in many many years. I must admit that it maniacally disturbs and hurts me to see that his mammoth potential was not utilized to its capacity in Aatma. Watch him in the two scenes where the backstory plays out and you thats the breakthrough sequence of the whole film. We needed much more of him in here. Bipasha Basu starts off on a drone tone but eventually does fairly well, being much acquainted with this genre. Though never offering something path-breaking, she is as good as she can get. Doyel Dhawan, the child artist, brings a rare innocence and spookiness in difficult scenes and one must commend her for that. Shernaz Patel offers some unintentionally hilarious expressions in few scenes but whats harder to digest is that she has more footage than Nawaaz. Most other actors, Jaideep Ahlawat, Darshan Jariwala and Shiv Subramaniam do not show stand out. The brilliant Tillotama Shome is wasted in an inconsequential role.

On the whole, Aatma hails from a powerful plot idea but the execution leaves it hokey and hacky. It has taken a bad start at the Box Office and I do not expect a turnaround either. Sigh, can someone please make a good Indian horror movie that doesnt get paralyzed? 

Rating - 2/5

Saturday, March 16, 2013

3G is more ludicrous than scary

The third release of this weekend was 3G, starring Neil Nitin Mukesh and Sonal Chauhan. If any of you saw the small little film Table No 21 that came out at the start of this year, you would know that Shantanu and Sheershak who wrote it, have taken over the director's seat in 3G apart from scripting it. One step that they should not have taken. If you have seen Table No 21, you may be able to imagine that they have a penchant for relevant social evils in the modern world in a horror format and their latest offering is not detached from it. The problem here is, and much aligned with the problem in the former, a potentially great idea suffering from brain curdling execution. 

The film interestingly begins with a comment on unknown callers on cellphones how some people believe it may be a way for the dead people to contact the living world. Next up, you are clumsily assaulted by a barrage of crummy make-out and bikini scenes of the lead couple laced around eye-soothing sightseeing of Fiji. Yes, the director duo seem to like the place quite a lot considering Table No 21 was set in Fiji too. Or maybe it was an ingenious cost-cutting exercise to shoot 3G while the crew of Table No 21 was taking a break. Once they are done with love and lust, horror takes over. Neil buys a second hand phone that seems to be receiving video calls from an unknown number that plays out the brutal murder of an unknown girl. Next up, he goes a trifle schizoid as he occasionally gets captured by a spirit that makes his original self fragile and his girlfriend confused. You are intrigued, no doubt and you want to know whats happening. But the road to solution offered by Shantanu and Sheershak is long, winding and befuddling enough to make you lose your patience. Every film in the horror genre comes in with a heavy dosage of fiction and leaps of faith, but there is chance that you may come out of the theater not even understanding what exactly happened in the murky narrative. 

The director duo have gulped down the fundamentals of this genre. While there are no creaking doors or screeches, they furtively throw in a host of tried-and-tested motifs - the church, priests, graveyards, mental patients, psychotic killers, tacky ghosts and many other mysterious characters. While one can live with all of them, you sincerely hope that the film doesnt provide unintentional hilarity. Sadly, 3G produces copious amounts of it. Neil's alter ego is mostly unconvincing as much as the reason why Sonal's character hangs around with him. A devastatingly lazy convenience often remnant in Indian movies is that all characters in foreign locations are Indians and speak in Hindi, even with names like Mong Haywards or something. As the tension builds up and the cellphone refuses to leave its new owner, the film does stir up an interesting climax that is well rooted in a rampant social evil and its effects on the society. The only problem is the aimless wandering that precurs it in the narrative leaving you disinterested in the finale, let alone the hatchet execution that may not even explain the real thing to you, gathering from the reactions of my fellow audience. 

Shot on location in Fiji, 3G offers some breathtaking locales which are captured well by Keiko Nakahara while Amar Mohile and Mithoon serve up some chilling background score and melodies respectively. But Sanjay Sharma's editing is pathetically hotch-potch stripping the film of many edge of the seat moments it could have had. Neil Nitin Mukesh hams up his act with a middling performance that doesnt quite serve the purpose. Sonal Chauhan shows more skin than candor as the ardent girlfriend helping to solve this inexplicable mystery without much reason. Mrinalini Sharma doesnt quite generate the pathos for the character she is playing while Ashish Kapoor looks exasperated with a senseless character arc. 

Much like Table No 21, this is a climax in search of a film where everything is planned around a riveting finale without much attention to character sense or narrative coherence. And one does feel the sheer wastage of an innovative idea. With Jolly LLB and Mere Dad Ki Maruti as its competition, 3G is bound to sink at the Box Office unless the champions of cheap erotica save it, or if people just want to go to the theaters to feel the chills of a horror movie. Neil Nitin Mukesh has undoubtedly affirmed his position as the upcoming Vivek Oberoi and his upcoming slate of films show no hope. As for Shantanu and Sheershak, they need to learn their way up to efficient scripting from good climaxes. Here is a generous rating of the film purely for its idea!

Rating - 1.5/5

Originally published at Mad About Moviez here

Jolly LLB is predictable, but a lot fun nonetheless

In 2010, Subash Kapoor, an ex-political journalist, showed much promise with his intelligent satire, Phas Gaya Re Obama. I was gleaming with joy two months ago when I saw the trailer of his new film, Jolly LLB, starring Arshad Warsi, Boman Irani and Amrita Rao. Despite a sham of a music album, the film debuted confidently earlier this week and the good words started pouring in. Portly enough, Jolly LLB is a well-made film that stages relevant societal issues altruistically, much like Kapoor's other film, with a deep semblance of his keen observations during his years as a journo as well as a satirical approach that keeps the proceedings breezy.

Like one spurring the other, Jolly LLB is essentially a courtroom drama that has a lot more themes under its top layer. A ridiculously shameful judicial system of India, the futility of police force, the distorted distribution of civil rights to the rich and the poor, and largely the multiple woeful manipulations of the truth. Amidst this, a simpleton trying to make it big as a lawyer juggling between his righteousness and success is naive enough to pit himself against a successful lawyer-cum-businessman who hates losing as much as he hates being called greedy. Taking off from the 1999 hit-and-run case of Sanjeev Nanda, Jolly LLB has a much familiar premise at its crux. A rich and spoilt brat involved in a hit-and-run case, a misrepresentation of evidence, a history of injustice and the lead character who has a change of heart. Much of this seems agonizingly mawkish as Kapoor throws in contrived situations (such as the scene where Warsi meets a family sleeping on the footpath below a flyover) and some melodrama and songs (multiple scenes of Amrita Rao and Arshad). The stupendous Sanjay Mishra appears as a cop in an indulgent sequence which may be affably hilarious but only adds to the wee bit of inconsistency. Yet, Jolly LLB is a rapturous film with much to root for. Here's why.

If you can ignore than un-aspiring plotting of Jolly LLB, it has a string of laudable moments that balance out humor with drama with a rare finesse. Much of the minuses are transcendentally beset by a deft handling of courtroom sequences and towering performances by all the leads. Many motifs used by the film shine as peachy individual instances in its screenplay - the introduction of a lawyer with alternate identities of an astrologist, the inefficiency in written English of most lawyers, the flatulent judge played by Saurabh Shukla who makes no qualms about both justice on evidence and requesting small favors from powerful lawyers, the throwaway conduct of the procedural trials with people walking in and out and Boman Irani texting away, the joke of a security guard provided to Arshad when his life is under threat or just the theft of one's living identity. Despite its predictable nature and some lazy conveniences, Jolly LLB remains constantly engaging and thoroughly watchable. Music by Krsna is one frumpy  affair that only hinders the progress of the narrative, while most other technical aspects are sound. 

Jolly LLB buttresses a mammoth portion of its USP to the performances given by the leads. Arshad Warsi leads the film with constant assuredness and lends a variety of flavors to the title character with remarkable ease. He stunningly intones a virile fighter as well as a charming struggler equally well. Boman Irani is razor-sharp as the sneering lawyer who treats his job like a business and would go to any lengths to get his way with things. Ramesh Deo is miscast in an inconsequential role, Amrita Rao is wasted as an eye-candy in yet another film while Manoj Pahwa does what he is best at. Sanjay Mishra is pure joy in a short sequence. But the film unarguably belongs to Saurabh Shukla. Seasoned just to perfection, Shukla plays the avaricious yet unassuming judge of the sessions court who loves his chai/coffee, his fan, his lunch and his respect equally as much as he likes to complain about listening to moronic trials day after day or take a dig at the lawyers whenever he can. To say the least, he is terrific and incredibly the reason enough to watch the film. 

Jolly LLB is a well-intentioned film that focuses on the plight of the poor India while dealing with our own judiciary. It also showcases the beguiling world of courts through the eyes of a simpleton. Apart from its social relevance, the film has enough moments to laugh out loud and solid performances. But I must complain that being a tad bit more ambitious in its writing, the film would have spun a whole new world of freshness. May I say again, watch this one for Saurabh Shukla!

Rating - 3/5

Originally published at Mad About Moviez here

Mere Dad Ki Maruti is a thoroughly enjoyable film

Y Films' Mere Dad Ki Maruti was the first film I saw today out of three Hindi releases this weekend. Though it became the first choice more out of chance than out of expectations, I was still pretty kicked about it thanks to the cheeky escalations of promos over last couple of weeks. To make an out and out Punjabi film today is an incredibly tall order, considering that all that needs to be seen of the Punjabi heartiness and zaniness has been done and dusted many times over. First time director, Ashima Chibber, takes on this herculean task and does more than a middling effort with this one. 

Mere Dad Ki Maruti boasts of a fresh premise and is quick to set it up without much meandering. But has nothing much to dwell on besides that one plot point which is already shown in the trailer. Yet, MDKM works due to the overdose of the fluff and frills that come from a series of misadventures and a brilliant chemistry between its two lead male characters. Eschewing the hokey contrived situations and characters that become a part and parcel of every Punjabi movie, the film instead heaps humorously on the hypocrisy of it all. The Punjabi dad cant stand the sight of his loser son, but makes no bones about saving a couple of grands in decorating a car or serving fake liquor to guests in his party. The Punjabi mom will always protect her kids, notwithstanding that her daughter could be performing an innuendo-laden raunchy item number on stage at her own wedding. The hot siren of Chandigarh, Jasleen (who persuasively asks everyone to call her Jazzlin) will talk with an accent even when she hasnt traveled beyond Delhi. Canada will be the second home for Punjabis, always, with random dudes flashing Canadian passports in a song. And of course, a Punjabi wedding cannot be complete without a lot of alcohol, tawdriness and the much important the big wedding gift for the daughter - a Maruti Ertiga.

Screenplay by Ashima Chibber, Pooja Desai, Ishita Moitra and Neeraj Udhwani takes a lot of Punjabi schlock and turn it around in a delightful film that never bores you in its 100 minute runtime and is sporadically hilarious. It is the derivations of Chandigarh's culture such as the weddings in big farms, the gedi concept, the slight-ful father, the desperate teenager son, the pretentious girlfriend and much more that makes MDKM a fun ride. Y Films provides the much needed backing for this small film by packaging it like a much larger film. But it is Sachin Gupta's crackling music that is monumentally crucial behind the success of this film. With his hardcore Punjabi numbers, Gupta sets up the tone of the film suitably well.

Saqib Saleem performs dynamically well in his second lead performance after Mujhse Fraandship Karoge in 2011 and shows much promise for future. From his ludicrous spoken English to his cheesy romanticism, he brings out Sameer with remarkable ease on screen. And he is delightfully aided by Prabal Punjabi who plays a faithful friend to Sameer, right through all the rigmarole. Their hilarious chemistry keeps you glued and provides much light moments. Ram Kapoor does not get ample scope to display his histrionics as the dad's character does get jarringly repetitive as the kids are busy looking for the missing car. Rhea Chakraborty looks surprisingly cute but has little to do in the film. Ravi Kissen plays the textbook version of a local don who sells stolen cars. 

All in all, Mere Dad Ki Maruti is a light goofy film that is supremely rich in flavor and frolic, often making a small satire on Punjabis themselves by smart play of lingo and a girl who keeps saying 'Excuse me'. Much to smirk at and much more promise for the future is what Ashima Chibber leaves us with. Go ahead, have some harmless fun!

Rating - 3/5

Originally published at Mad About Moviez here

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Finding the real mass medium

This week, when every producer in the movie business was consumed in charting out innovative marketing strategies for their upcoming films and what not, Balaji Films led by Ekta Kapoor introduced a concept that could well be the next level of movie marketing. Ek Thi Daayan, a much-awaited upcoming release starring the brilliant cast of Emraan Hashmi, Konkona Sen Sharma, Kalki Koechlin and Huma Qureshi, is being produced jointly by Balaji Films and Vishal Bharadwaj Pictures, and directed by debutante Kannan Iyer, previously assistant to Bharadwaj. The genius of the producers came up with a grand idea of running a 8-week soap series on prime time television titled 'Ek Thi Nayika' featuring the leading ladies of the medium in a build-up that leads to the release of the film on April 18th this year. These leading ladies will fight the demons one by one in the episodes, based on Indian folklore.

Traditionally, film stars used to make occasional appearances on popular soaps or reality shows on television to promote their upcoming film or do a bunch of endorsements that spam the audience with sub-texted footages of the release on sleeve. With Ek Thi Nayika, we are knocking at the next door of film promotion. If this becomes a success, it remains to be seen. But Ekta Kapoor, capitalizing on her efficient grip on both pieces of the pie, has innovated a first of its kind concept herein with this show. With Ekta turning to prime time promotions, the question comes up, which of the two, TV and films, is the real mass medium?

Films and television share a symbiotic relationship in show business where films have exploited the potential of television often to its own ends, despite the latter being a much more powerful medium to reach out to the aam junta. Here's a small example. Dabangg 2 released on a non-holiday weekend in 2012 and collected a net of Rs 21Cr on its opening day. This makes up a gross collection of approximately Rs 28Cr. With an average ticket price of Rs 100 as an estimate, less than 0.3% population of India saw the film on the first day. If we just take into account the 40% urban population of the country, still less than 1% watched the movie. Is cinema really the best mass medium in light of these figures? On the contrary, any popular TV show is seen by atleast 8% of Indian audience 5 days a week for 52 weeks a year, based on the TRPs collected over the last few years. Will our films ever be able to top that? If not, why disregard television as the lesser medium?

Uncanny but true, cinema does have lower penetration levels as compared to television in India. A lot of rural areas have minimal access to cinema theaters and the pricing of tickets in bigger cities limits the number of times people actually go out to a theater to watch a film in a year. In such a case, the audience wants to attain a 'price+experience' balance which is generated by the buzz and appeal surrounding the film before its release and its word of mouth post release. The baffling numbers mentioned above call for a re-valuation of this system. I would be fine with this structure a few years ago, till we were making what we were making. But over the past few years, the paradigm of content has broadened its horizons wide enough for all cinephiles to complain. The industry is churning out more commendable films than they ever did and the next best thing would be that more of India actually sees them in theaters. While nothing can replace a driven change to overhaul the infrastructure of exhibition business to eradicate the above barriers, film marketing will always be a crucial second determining factor in a film's BO performance. 

Television, being the real mass medium, will always be more resourceful to this end. Any promotional campaign buttressed on prime time shows will always reach out to more people and can only help the film before its release. Ek Thi Nayika is just a small start in this direction. More and more actors, technicians and artists are coming out of television into the film industry carrying their established fan-following base. Ayushman Khurrana (Vicky Donor) and Sushant Singh Rajput (Kai Po Che) are just the tip of this iceberg. And if this is not enough, television could possibly hold the solution to one of the biggest evils plaguing the cinema distribution business.

Recently, Kamal Hassan's mega-venture, Vishwaroopam was planned for a Direct-to-Home (DTH) one day before its theatrical release before it got concocted in its own political quagmire. If executed with some painstaking care, this strategy could cut the web of piracy quite a bit or atleast attempt to. Many such services are already available for new releases, however, their usage is scantily limited to a few privileged ones. Piracy is one of the biggest dents in a film's revenue and a common stimulant for piracy is that most people do not wish to shell out the extra bucks to go watch a movie that they are not completely sure about liking in a theater. The DTH service, through television, could possibly fill this gap and yet generate some extra revenue for the producers, which they otherwise may not necessarily get if they dont go for it. The question is, are the people putting in money into a film happy with the revenues they are generating? Eitherway, this is a long road of planning and execution which will need magnanimously efficient handling to put it into place and we will have to wait and watch if this can actually work out. There is also a risk of people avoiding theaters just to watch the film at home. 

The bottomline is that television does hold giant possibilities for the future of cinema and considering its outreach, it should not be disregarded at any cost. Fingers crossed. 

Some facts and figures in this post have been taken from Ormax Media statistics and www.shaileshkapoor.com, the official blog of the CEO of Ormax Media

Originally published at Mad About Moviez here.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster Returns is a delicious, earthy film

Tigmanshu Dhulia is a ridiculously talented man. But whats better about him is that the man never loses touch of his earthy humor and defiant brazenness. Much respect.

2 years ago, Dhulia returned to direction after a hiatus with Shagird and Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster. The latter was an interesting modern day retelling of the Bimal Mitra's Bengali novel Shaheb Bibi Gholam that shifted the feudalism and bedroom politics of Bengal to the ganglands of Uttar Pradesh. He followed it up with Paan Singh Tomar last year that has been applauded unanimously by one and all. This year, he is back with the sequel to his 2011 film which stood out only in parts despite handling its platonic relationships meticulously. And boy, he has a story to tell! This time, with his ace of spades in his hand. 

Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster Returns, a peculiarly odd title, features Irrfan Khan, Jimmy Sheirgill, Mahie Gill and Soha Ali Khan. The starcast maybe a deterrent enough for many to not go to a theater and buy a ticket or just wait for Himmatwala to perform cornea gangrape on them a few weeks from now. But take no cue from that for SBAGR is an indulgently pulpy film that aims to be purely unashamed of its nature, yet providing wholesome entertainment with its cleverness. SBAGR is an urgently told film with enough meat to pack in 40 Salman Khan capers. Dhulia sets up the premise of Uttar Pradesh's dysfunctional royal families with local kings, their lascivious wives and thrilling goons without much ado, picking up the story from where the first one left. Saheb (Sheirgill) is now on wheelchair after a life-taking incident and Biwi (Mahie) has become an independent MLA. Habits die hard amongst the royals whether its voyeurism or alcoholism while they are faced with a new gangster (Irrfan) who has his own history to avenge. Every character roots from immorality building up a melange of situations that are predominantly fresh and constantly engaging. Saheb has a lot of enemies whose motives do not just end at taking his life, but more in stripping him off his power and respect. However, the screenplay by Dhulia and Kamal Pandey unfolds in the most unpredictable way lending a definite arc to all its characters punched with crackling dialogues and shining metaphors. 

SBAGR dips a bit in the post interval portions where Dhulia indulges in too much trashy humorr in an unwarranted song as well as multiple twists, almost like a Abbas-Mustan thriller except that Dhulia lends his own style to it. The overbearing condescension of Saheb, the desperate antics of Biwi, the vulnerability of an abducted bride and the applause-worthy sharpness of the Gangster etched out with much panache leave barely nothing to complain about. The masterstroke finale provides the cherry on top, if you are not yet drooling with the badassery of the cunning leads. From the tacky opening sequence to the double crossing game of politics to the lustful ways of women, the shamelessness is kept intact with an assured Dhulia never looking back or justifying the actions of his characters. Produced by Viacom 18 Motion Pictures and Tigmanshu Dhulia Films, SBAGR is an efficiently made film with some brilliant technicians. Yogesh Jani's cinematography is on point, and so is Rahul Srivastava's editing. The possible letdown would be Sandeep Chowta's music which halts the film unneccessarily. The Production Design and Action remain true to its earthy milieu. However, it is Dhulia's exceptionally crafted rollicking dialogues that elevate the film to fascinating awesomeness. The sequence between Irrfan and the minister (Rajeev Gupta) in his office will be remembered and quoted for long just for its smart satire and hilarity. 

SBAGR boasts of a pack of actors in top form. The indisputable Irrfan Khan is simply phenomenal lighting up the screen every time he enters. Be it his dialogue delivery, or just a simple twirl of the moustache, Irrfan courts the audience with his tremendous skill as the Gangster. Jimmy Sheirgill's dominating presence is bolstering and matches neck-to-neck with Irrfan. He is much more in form than the prequel and is undoubtedly outstanding in this one. Mahie Gill hams up and exaggerates the part of the Biwi, but never carefully stops the character from reaching a point of annoyance. Soha Ali Khan is well cast in a significant part which allows her to display her prowess. Raj Babbar, Pravesh Rana and Rajeev Gupta complete the ensemble of strong performances making SBAGR a delicious riot of a film. 

Comparisons to the prequel will be obvious with SBAGR and it will have to deal with the non-popularity of its stars. But here is a spectacularily made sequel that doesnt suffer from popular hangovers and tells an interesting tale with gamuts of entertainment. Reports say it has taken a tepid start at the Box Office but the theater I went to was surprisingly full. I sincerely hope that the word of mouth pulls this one up very soon as the numbers pour in. Indian Film Industry is doing some great stuff, and we need to stop downloading the movies and support the movement by going to a theater. For this one, its not the subtlety, its the shamelessness which works. Watch SBAGR for Irrfan, he alone would be worth the price of your ticket!

Rating - 3.5/5

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The India of Kai Po Che

In one of the many delectable scenes offered in last week's release Kai Po Che, three friends in their early 20s sit in a newly purchased car musing coyly about their futures where in one of them promises to use his money to fulfill the other's dream of having a cricket academy, that is if he does succeed in his own power struggle. The lovely piece ends with the camera actually zooming out of the car to show that they were not driving the car, but had merely sneaked in to an unsold car being transported for sale in a trailer on a highway. This moment, in all its frivolity and lack of assumption, defines an extended image of the current state of India, or more specifically the young India, the India of Kai Po Che.

In Abhishek Kapoor's Kai Po Che, a film whose lasting loveliness and stunning assuredness has become the talking point for everyone in the last one week, Raj Kumar Yadav plays a money-minded, suitably ambitious and relatively logical guy, Amit Sadh plays an affable simpleton who is easily convinced while Sushant Singh Rajput plays hot-headed wistful star-gazer who can do anything for his friends. If you look at each of these character arcs beyond the moolah of friendship which the film holds very dear to its journey, Yadav is a budding capitalist, Sadh is a potential politician (though he does take the plunge later on) and Rajput is just a dreamer. 

In a dramatically extrapolated manner, the three characters are derived from the three basic types of people you see in India, or young India, except that very few aspire to get into the putrid mess of politics, but more on that later. And yet, it is the passion for Cricket (if not movies) that dreamily brings them together from the murky avenues of separation, dissimilitude and struggle. In this case, it is the historic 2001 Test Match between India and Australia where Harbhajan Singh took a hat-trick and India won the game coming out from a follow-on. Cricket cures the smaller crevices in their friendship but may not be the best balm for a much larger follow-on. 

Much of India or what happens in India is a direct result of actions of either the capitalists, politicians or dreamers. There is also a fourth kind of people in this country, in reality. I call them the conformists.These conformists, have all either been ex-dreamers, failed capitalists or disinterested politicians. They have set up their lives, or an idea of it, in a certain way and dont want it to change for the better or worse from there. Seemingly enough, they comprise the majority in India. Yet, if India wins a Cricket World Cup, or any major series, they all come together in unison to celebrate and commemorate. 

But Kapoor's cinema is more aspirational than averageness. He is meticulously affixed on his vision of the three primary kinds of Indian people, whose actions actually make a difference around us, more often than not. Despite staging major event situations around the turn of the millennium, the story does remain very personal to the three friends, and Kapoor doesnt feel the need to let it soar beyond this focal point to realize the suggested extrapolation, and rightly so. This is where his masterstroke lies in. 

Also, this is where the above mentioned car scene comes into place. The trio of Kai Po Che, despite loaded with a semblance of capitalists, politicians or dreamers of India, are still prudish commoners, the youngsters who are united by cricket and friendship and whose goals in life are still being capped by their current realities, like in this case you find out they have not actually bought the car and are just pretending to drive it on top of a trailer. This is symptomatic with most of India today. All of us may have the traits of one of the different kinds of people but the wings of our dreams and goals are still being clipped by some or the other small-scale issue around us, rather than major events that affect the country as a whole. For most of us, it is our local or personal struggles that deem more significance than the events that make it to the newspapers. And much like the film itself, the dreamers are always at loss amongst the others. 

Chetan Bhagat's novels have a strong sense of the middle-class India where the squabbles are rooted more in societal expectations and norms rather than in national issues. But they also tend towards melodrama and cliche to succumb to a populist ending. In real India, that may not always happen, and this is exactly where Kai Po Che undoes the Bollywood quotient to tell a more acceptable tale, yet keeping all ingredients of an entertainer intact. Kai Po Che stays very true to these nuances, and hence it reflects India more than most others movies in this genre and thus, making itself all the more likable. Indeed, it is a good time for Indian cinema when less people are scared of making the films they want to make.

Originally published for Mad About Moviez here