Saturday, January 25, 2014

Bullett Raja Movie Review : Trying too hard to be cool

Post Paan Singh Tomar, Tigmanshu Dhulia has been on every movie buff's 'director-to-watch-out-for' list, even when Haasil remains his best directed film for me. Earlier this year, he gave us the delectable Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster Returns which quite did not get the universal acclaim it aimed to fetch post PST. And now comes Bullett Raja with Saif Ali Khan, Sonakshi Sinha and Jimmy Sheirgill amongst a host of supporting actors. Despite Saif having successfully pulled off a similar character before and it being set in Dhulia-world, this one smelt different, and not the right kind of different. Yes, from the first trailer itself. The songs did not work much as the promos hit the tv screens and Bullett Raja could create meager anticipation in the audience, largely buttressing on cheesy, pseudo badass one-liners of the lead which made it reek of a campy Salman/Akshay south remake. But then, it turns out to be a not so terrible film, only that it is Dhulia's weakest.

Saif is Raja Mishra and Jimmy Sheirgill is Rudra Tripathi, who work as political commandos in the ganglands of Lucknow. Really? Well, I am from Kanpur, a city which is 2 hours away from Lucknow and have visited the place many a times all through my growing up years. Yet, I am yet to see street chases and fights of goons and firing of guns and pistols in front of naked eye by anyone there. In one sequence, Raja Mishra chases down India's No.1 business honcho (God knows what is he doing in Lucknow), murders him publicly and gets away with it also. A bit much? Now I agree films are supposed to be more fiction than fact, but they are not really helping the already shoddy image of the cities of the region in other parts of the country. This has been a problem with many Dhulia films. Crime, corruption and politics is preposterously exaggerated to the point that it becomes too much without much of a reason other than a simple leap of faith, something which a film like Gangs of Wasseypur took much care of by carefully layering it with historical instances and evident rationale. But then, I should not be too harsh on the film when it did not promise me reality? So I choose to ignore this one more time.

Bullet Raja has many tropes of a Dhulia film - convoluted plot with twists and turns, characters dying without much ado, filthy bureacracy, slimy politics loaded with ruthless murders, kidnaps and tons of badass banter with poses. But then its all very choppy and far apart, amidst which the film itself crumbles due to lack of cohesion. Dhulia's writing is razor-sharp, but only bits and spurts. You hear a crackling dialogue and then you hear 3-4 deadpan corny ones. There is too much of a half-assed attempt to create machismo which causes the screenplay to drag. What works here is once again Dhulia's wonderful capture of the flavor and texture of the region. Multiple references to the way people are due to either their cast, culture, language or position adds a lot of color to Bullet Raja. Dhulia's wacky antics are on display in many scenes and are totally lovable as well. One can see how much he loves the sound of the loading of a gun, or when he makes silent references to the baaghis of Chambal or the UP/Bihar immigrants in Bombay.

Overall, the film benefits from good casting and quirky dialogues to clean up its act quite a bit but a better second half would have done wonders for it. Like his earlier films, Dhulia along with his co-writer Amaresh Mishra should have paid more attention to the plot rather than garnishing of it. Music by Sajid-Wajid seems unnecessary in this film. Shooting on real locations has added value to the film but P.S. Vinod's Cinematography could have delivered much better. Bullett Raja has an A-list star and a generous budget (Fox Star Studios, Next Gen Films) and Dhulia is trying too hard to use all the money to make a popular mass entertainer while trying to not lose himself. Action and stunts, like all of his films, is fairly fresh and real here as well. 

Saif Ali Khan lands a delicious lead character who gets to be the boss throughout the film. He rides high on all the glory written for Raja Mishra in this story, borrowing his cheekiness from his earlier stint as Langda Tyagi in Omkara. Yet, the inconsistencies show up when he is using the characteristic lingo of his character and then next moment he juts into mouthing his dialogue in regular Hindi. Jimmy Sheirgill does well as his aide, pulling off a likable act in a character that was probably written for him. Sonakshi Sinha is wasted, once again, in an inconsequential part. Out of the supporting actors, it is Ravi Kissen and Chunky Pandey who shine through amongst a lot of Raj Babbar, Gulshan Grover, Vipin Sharma and Vidyut Jamwal. All of them benefit from well-etched character arcs for relatively smaller roles. 

Bullett Raja is engaging only in parts, fun for most of it but incoherent for all of it. It has opened well at the Box Office but I do not expect it to sustain, mostly it is not appealing much to the masses it is aimed towards. The pitch has not been very right and it almost looks like that its lead and director do not totally believe in the product either. It is far from terrible, but it is a terribly lost and I wish Dhulia had nothing to do with it. It is not a boring or shoddy film, but it is infuriating when a good director makes a bad film and hence I will use my knife on the rating!

Rating - 2/5

Originally published for MadAboutMoviez here

Dhoom 3 Movie Review : An overlong circus of ham and cheese

Dhoom 3 is the most expected movie of the year, without a shred of doubt. More than Chennai Express or Krrish 3, there is an assured perception amongst everyone that it is indeed this film that will be the first one to reach the Rs 300Cr mark at the Box Office. And to be honest, it might just hit it as well, gauging from the blistering hype around it that is conspiring to make it happen. But one cannot ignore away the fact that this is a woebegone film. Well, in an alternate world, with Vivek Oberoi playing the villain here, it would have been subjected to less harsh criticism. But wait, it is Aamir Khan who is fronting this swansong of the series (or so we hope?) and one cannot allow a mishap here. Every single one of us want this movie to rock. Dhoom 3 isnt a mishap, rather it is an intentional collision. Seriously, WHY?

Lets go back in time and figure what Dhoom movies are known for. Fast bikes, molls, slow-mo leading men, intriguing heists and heavy dosages of adrenaline. There is also a bunch of ham and cheese which has been a significant ingredient in the previous two movies of the series. But then we dont complain as long as it is a thrill ride, and even the glaring gaps of logic can be ignored since this isnt the genre to look out for those. Yes, I am not the guy who would say only Indian films contain senseless heists as I have seen tons of Hollywood cash grabs which ride on zero brains. But Dhoom 3 has another acerbic issue. It robs the franchise of its own forte, atleast for a large part of its ridiculous runtime of 172 minutes. The BMW bikes have become gimmicky toys that can do things that will put Batman's Batmobile to shame, and the heists have no setup or planning just an outcome that complies with the contrived emotional backdrop of the villain's story. This, along with an overlong hammy parlance by every single character strips Dhoom 3 of the skittish tension or the pumping rush you go in looking for. The other big problem is that the entire first half of the film is lifted straight from a famous Hollywood flick, which came out some years ago and is one of the most acclaimed ventures of an ace director. If I tell you the name of that film, Dhoom 3 will lie naked in front of you, sadly. How could Aamir allow that? What happens in the second half is slightly better than the first, but still is largely obvious and tuned to Indian sensibilities of every story being a love story. 

Vijay Krishna Acharya made Tashan before this one and despite having a slightly fresh plot, the film suffered from bad direction. Much hasnt changed here where he struggles to whet up the excitement, save for a few sequences. A chase scene before intermission where Aamir escapes from the waterfront is particularly well-done, along with a confrontation scene towards the second half between two characters about one of them going on a date. Even the climax is shot well but it comes at a point where you are too bored to feel anything for the film. Despite lifting a chunk of its basic plot, Dhoom 3 isnt flawed on conceptual level but the misplaced drama and emotion hurt its intentions largely. Again, what was Aamir Khan offered that he came on board? Yash Raj Films has shelled out millions on every frame and to make it look spectacular but a handicapped script can only go so far. Vijay Krishna Acharya or Victor, as he is known as, must be awarded for the sloppiest dialogues of the year for sure, if not for Pritam's despicable music which fails to churn up one memorable track. Sudeep Chatterjee's camera is pretty obsessed with pretty looking things - the panoramic views of Chicago, the breathtaking views of Katrina and the imposing pecs and abs of Aamir. Ritesh Soni's editing leaves a lot to desire. 

It is a sad happenstance when I have to tell you that Uday Chopra gives the best performance in a movie. Yes, this is true. He picks up his character Ali from where he left it, shapes it well and takes it to the next level with his comic timing, most of which comprises of him taking potshots at himself. Abhishek Bachchan carries a singular expression of an angry young man all through 3 hours and one wonders if someone played the children's game of 'statue' with him, where in if someone says the word to you, you have to remain like a statue. Katrina Kaif may not be able to act but could have signed on the script for more than a special appearance. But her smoking sultriness can wipe off most complaints, even in a very small role. Jackie Shroff does play to the part well and that's commendable itself. However, it is Aamir Khan who has frustratingly over-acted here and it is appalling to see him play Saahir with such an unctuous, cloying approach. He struggles hard to play bad, twitches unnecessarily, rolls his eyes goofily, stammers every third word caricaturish-ly, and finally falls flat in the few romantic tid-bits. It could be hard to believe but it is a very average performance by the auteur. 

Dhoom 3 has no tenacity of a thriller which it should have, like a D-Day which came earlier this year, or the adventure of a successful heist film, but it is not a pathetic film either considering we see much worse. I went with people who had decent amount of fun and rated it as a good one-time watch upon my grimacing face. It may well be the case with a large section of the audience that are looking for just regular fun. Its just me who is more disappointed because it is too unapologetic-ally tedious of a film for the pedestal it is standing at. The rollicking fun is missing and believe it or not, one does expect a lot out of an Aamir Khan film. This one just delivers ennui at your doorstep. If you like over-the-top action with a lot of melodrama, give it a try. I do like the same as well but not in a franchise that has been known to sell a lot of other things with much vim. I am slashing off another half a star rating just for the disappointment it caused. Having been a fan of the series, I appeal for a fourth part to correct for this one!
Rating - 2/5

Jai Ho Movie Review : A lazy film that falls short of its promise of entertainment

Not all well-intentioned ideas get converted into good films. Jai Ho is the best example of such a film where in a simple idea of paying it forward is drilled into your head via naive contrived and melodramatic situations till you get bored of it. Eventually, you end up telling three people to not watch the film. Yes, that is a joke which you will understand only when you have seen the movie. 

Yes, Salman Khan's latest movie is out almost after more than a year of dry spell in the orgasmic cycles of bhai fans. Yes, he is back on screen, essentially to show more of him or the same things about him rather. Oh God, this must be the most awaited event of the year already, unless he comes up with another movie this year. What if the promos didnt work? What if the songs arent hits? What if the lead actress looks like shit? What if the dance and dialogue sequences seem hilarious? There is bhai and he can cure pneumonia with a simple touch of his hand. Alas, he cant cure a limping script. 

Jai Ho is definitely well-intentioned, despite borrowing its intention from Kevin Spacey's Pay It Forward, where in Jai (Salman Khan) encourages everyone to help out three other people whenever they get a chance to and tell them to do the same. That, sadly, is the best part of the film amidst a sea of other problems. To drive the afore-mentioned point home, writer Dilip Shukla (who churned up a surprisingly refreshing Chulbul Pandey for us) and director Sohail Khan resort to the lowest degree of cheap contrivations and emotional manipulations. A limbless girl cannot write her exam, a married woman gets harassing calls from an unknown number, a little girl gets hurt while begging on streets, a kidney is donated and what not to infuse the proceedings with unrequired drama in the garb of masala to evoke empathy. Much of Jai Ho reminds you of the 80s and the 90s where the film linearly ran till eternity without having any hook, simply rolling out one cringy shlock-laden melodramatic incident after the other.

The second problem with Jai Ho is that what starts off as an interesting premise goes haywire midway to turn it into a revenge drama where all the evil is concentrated on one character's family and all the good comes together to fight it. What happened to all the social initiative the film sets itself up for? The third problem with Jai Ho is that it is over-simplified. People are only good or bad. Army tanks can walk into the middle of Mumbai and start shooting people. No one cares about what happened to Jai when he was in the Army originally. If thats not enough, what makes him roar like a lion and bite like an idiot? What does work for Jai Ho is that none of this makes the movie unbearable and you simply sit through the most regular fare Salman has come up with in the past few years. 

Music by Sajid-Wajid, Amal Malik and Devi Sri Prasad is shamefully below average leaving the lead actress completely out of job in the movie. Not one tune or track stays with you once you leave the theater. Santosh Thundiayil's cinematography is more like a bunch of tricks to slick up the campy action which really does not go by the cause-impact model of punching someone. Ashish Amrute's editing and Sabu Cyril's Production Design is as disinterested as Salman in the movie. To be honest, most of the recent Salman Khan movies are known for their punchline dialogues which bring the house down with cheers, seetis and claps. Jai Ho lacks the same impact due to average dialogues.

Oh boy, this is one movie with a million actors, well almost! Jai Ho is essentially an employment scheme for many unemployed/out of work/failed actors and actresses - Tabu, Mahesh Manjrekar, Aditya Pancholi, Nadira Babbar, Vikas Bhalla, Tulip Joshi, Vatsal Seth, Mukul Dev, Yash Tonk, Bruna Abdullah, Nauheed Cyrusi, Ashmit Patel, Mohnish Behl and the list goes on. Thankfully, none of them have to act at all or have a character that goes through an arc. Daisy Shah looks terrible without makeup, but passable with one. If we try to get into her acting, it would be a bit too much for this space. Danny Denzongpa is ineffective in a villanous role falling prey to bad scripting. Salman Khan has to naturally carry of the burden of the film on his head. He has nothing new to do in this film (yes, not even a fresh action sequence) apart from continuous loud roaring, biting people, punching faces, breaking wrists and heads, and tearing off his shirt. Within a huge crowd of no standout performance, we see that Naman Jain, the little kid, outshines everyone else in the movie with his witty responses.

Jai Ho has a runtime of 144 minutes and it is likely that you will see promotional ads for the film itself while you are watching it also. Surprisingly enough, I went for an evening show and the theater was around 20% full only. Considering the fact that it has released with more than 5000+ prints worldwide, is the hype good enough to recover money from all of those? I doubt it. The buzz around Jai Ho has been mixed for the past few weeks, it opened to an average response today and the film has turned out to be simple rehash, if you can ignore its intermittent nature. If you are a bhai fan, you would have already watched it and would be going for it again, but to be honest this one is really low on entertainment. It does not get on your nerves but it is Salman's worst film in the past couple of years. It is simply a lazy film that doesnt bother much about anything. 

Rating - 1.5/5

Originally published for MadAboutMoviez here