Saturday, September 26, 2015

Calendar Girls Movie Review : Bhandarkarland Tropes

There is not a single platform, webpage or film critic which has not cantankerously panned Madhur Bhandarkar for regurgitating the same wine in new bottles through his recent string of films. So much so that there are memes out on the Internet which describe the set pattern of Madhur's plots. To top that, he has been ridiculed for using banal names for his films and everything in them, something which is too obvious to state. For example, a film on the life of an actress will be called Heroine or one on the corporate politics in big companies has to be called Corporate. For a man who gave us Aan, Chandni Bar, Page 3 and to some extent even Fashion, he has come a long spiraling way where he has convoluted himself in his own ring of mediocrity. His latest, Calendar Girls did bear the brunt of his flailing popularity when he went out to cast the film or find producers for it. But then as for most veterans, and taking the liberty of calling him one, it needs one film where you push yourself beyond your comfort zone to get your mojo back, aint it? 

Unfortunately, Calendar Girls is not that film. 

Madhur's Calendar Girls is a slightly appealing concoction of all his earlier films, where he goes back to many similar plot points and tested tropes to pull the same chords in his audience which had given him much success. He tells the story of 5 girls, from varied backgrounds from across the nation, who are selected to be the poster girls for, hold your breath, 'The Calendar 2014.' Post the release of the calendar, the girls must chart their own paths into the glamour industry which is a deep dark black hole, in Madhur's interpretation, and it is your choices that make or break you in this world, as he voices this soapy moralistic lesson to us via one of the characters who did make the right choices. Not just that, a cricket league is called 'Cricket League,' all fashion designers are still gay, all fashion photographers are still over-enthusiastic, all news reporters still wear specs and are nice people, all politicians still call for escorts, and every other cliche you can think of. The icing of the cake is Madhur himself appearing in a cameo to massage his ego where one of the girls who is an aspiring actress keeps raving about him and his films. BUT this is not the bad part of the film. Infact, I liked Calendar Girls for its story and screenplay to be honest. It is much better than what Madhur has served us since Fashion and at a runtime of 131 minutes, I like how the cliches play out in an organic fashion without being overdone at any instant. 

Infact, Calendar Girls is undone by bad acting and dialogues. None of the girls fail to make a mark save for Satarupa Pyne and Kyra Dutt to an extent and the supporting cast right from Suhel Seth to Suchitra Pillai is unapologeticaly hammy. Rohit Roy should be given an award for being the singlemost worst supporting actor of all time after this film. Abhiruchi Chand and Anil Pandey, the writers of the films must bear the brunt of this criticism for one of the worst dialogues in recent times. Most of the times you feel like cringing in your seat due to absolutely unnecessary information provided to you via their moronic dialogues. Bhandarkar does salvage some of it by staging scenes with an experienced hand but then his actors are naive while facing the camera and it shows and how. All in all, Calendar Girls has a  bad first half, resurrects itself in the second half and just manages to not irk you off completely by the time it ends.

Produced on a modest budget by ManglMurti Films, Bhandarkar Entertainment and Raksha Entertainment, Calendar Girls has quite the look of a big film but while they put the best sets or go to the most exotic locales to shoot the songs, the OST itself is plain despicable. Music by Meet Bros Anjjaan and Amaal Malik is uninspired as is the cinematography by Harri Vendaantam. Editing by Devendra Murdeshwar is good and crisp. 

On the whole, Bhandarkar took a while to make this film as he had to really struggle to cast it and sell it for a release. But if you go by me, he needs to be thrown out of the water for much longer for his next film if one wants the best out of him. It is not that he does not have it in him, the small sparks are visible in his work, but they are minimal and diminishing as of now. Only when he goes through and even tougher time making his next film, is when he will step out of his ego and and do something different. Till then, the Bhandarkar template films are very easy to review for anyone. You just have to change the names of the characters and the review remains the same, unfortunately. As for Calendar Girls, it may recover its cost but wont see any big success for him or the girls in my opinion. Watch it if you have missed the banality of Madhur Bhandarkar films. You might look for the exit door a couple of times but it wont be horrific like his last couple outings.

Rating - 2/5

Originally published for MadAboutMoviez here

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Path Of Zarathustra Movie Review : Well-intentioned, but not well made

Oorvazi Irani's The Path Of Zarathustra gets a release this Friday, thanks to the undying efforts of the team and great support by PVR Director's Rare to back another indie film. The film focuses on the dwindling state of the Parsi community in India, definitely a rare issue touched and raised by its makers. Produced by SBI Impresario, a company owned by Oorvazi's father, the film has minimal budgets and thus, no real buzz in the market out there. Yet, it has managed to secure 6 odd screens in Mumbai and a couple in other important cities. The Path Of Zarathustra is a well-intentioned film no doubt, focusing on a community that the Industry has only used for caricatures, but despite being sensitive to our times, it ends up being a little misfired in its own right. 

The films centers around Oorvazi (played by Irani herself), a young woman born in the faith of Zoroastrianism, who sets out on a journey from a remote village post her grandfather's (Tom Alter) death. Her grandfather hands over a book to her, the contents of which are unknown, but once read by the right person, they are supposed to reveal the truth behind the preachings of the prophet and their creator Ahura Mazda. As she goes along, she falls in love with Perseus (Rushad Rana) who is also her half-brother and gets visions of people who were executed in the past due to their radical thoughts about the faith and religion. The film takes a philosophical route to expose the historical growth of the religion and places Oorvazi at its centerpiece to create exposition. Irani uses a largely mundane voice over ridden approach to explain a lot of things to the uninitiated but it is her direction that falls a bit short in creating the right amount of drama to hook you on, coupled with her below par performance. Recently, a film like Ship Of Theseus had similar undertones when it questioned the philosophy of religion and life, but contrary to SOT, The Path Of Zarathustra struggles to hold your interest.

However, there are some things to rave about here as well. The film has its heart at the right place and dives into the issue straight up, doling out enough details for anyone to catch on. It also explains the reasons behind the diminishing of the community and offers possible solutions for the same. Towards the end, the film's climax does talk effectively of a school of thought that most other religions propagate and is the right way for any race. The film has been splendidly shot by Subhadeep Dey, capturing the best of frames at the best of locations. The film's music by Vasuda Sharma is a let down while Farrukh Dhondy's Screenplay could have done with dialogues which ring more true with real people. One must applaud the brilliant production design of the film and despite minimal resources, Irani and her crew have mounted the film pretty well. 

On the whole, The Path Of Zarathustra is a little film, albeit highly topical and relevant. The film has a limited release and one can hope that the word goes out and people come out to fill those screens. The film itself is not the best it could have been but then, how often do we get a film that talks about a community that is majorly ignored? With a runtime of about 79 minutes, it wont hurt you to catch it sometime this weekend.

Rating - 2.5/5

Originally published for MadAboutMoviez here

Welcome Back Movie Review : Trying Too Hard To Be Like Its Prequel

In 2007, Anees Bazmee was at the top of his game when he delivered Welcome along with Akshay Kumar. Today, Bazmee is struggling to make his own comeback with Welcome Back and he does not have Kumar. However, he has managed to retain the majority of his motley crew and added a couple of stalwarts to the wolfgang as well. But he is straddled with John Abraham and Shruti Haasan playing the lead pair as opposed to a highly successful Kumar and Katrina Kaif pairing in 2007. Nevertheless, Welcome Back is mounted on an enormous scale with money spent profusely on every thing possible. Yet, there was much thanda buzz around it leading upto its release. So, has Bazmee manage to score an ace to bring his market back up in B Town? Recently, Anil Kapoor said in an interview that it is important for this film to work so that Base Industries (Firoz Nadiadwallah's Company) stays in business.

Welcome Back, is more like a spinoff of its prequel using similar tropes and plot points, minimally turned on their heads to provide the pretense of freshness. The film starts with the don duo, Uday (Nana Patekar) and Majnu (Anil Kapoor) having bettered themselves for a life in Dubai. They find another lost sister, Ranjana (Shruti Haasan) who they have to get married. Ranjana likes Ajju Bhai (John Abraham) who happens to be Dr Ghunghroo's (Paresh Rawal) illegitimate son. There is also Chandni (debutante Ankita Srivastava) who has wooed the dons once again, albeit she along with her mom (Dimple Kapadia) forms a team of con artists who are out to dupe them. To complete the wolfpack, there is Wanted Bhai (Naseeruddin Shah) and his drug-addict son Honey (Shiney Ahuja, making his comeback). While in Welcome, Uday and Majnu clearly had the upper hand over a meek Akshay Kumar, Ajju is a beast of his own kind and an infamous street gangster from Bombay. One of the reasons why Welcome Back does not ring true as much as Welcome did. If Ajju is a recognized criminal with many cases against him, and is clearly stronger than the dons, why does he need to play games with them to win Ranjana? A lot of the contrivances in Welcome Back look like they have been made to happen to regurgitate the success of the first part. That apart, a barrage of insipid songs haunt your senses as they play out, remarkably a romantic number between the lead pair. Infact, their chemistry is so half-baked that you would lose interest in them right away. Unlike Welcome, there are no clear motives of characters and they are used by the screenplay (Bazmee, Rajeev Kaul, Rajan Aggarwal, Praful Parekh) to satisfy the unreal plot. 

However, Welcome Back is not all bad. There are numerous lough out loud moments, specially abled by the chemistry provided by Patekar and Kapoor, propelled by Raaj Shaandilya's dialogue. Many a times I found myself guffawing at the punches, and very few times at the gags, specially the long gag at a graveyard in second half falls flat. Welcome Back gets boring at times, and is very entertaining at other times, but never does it get unbearable. The production values of Welcome Back are huge but still some frames suffer from bad CGI work. Kabir Lal's cinematography is very touristy and grand, but also very tacky at times. The action by Abbas Ali Moghul is well suited for Abraham. Music of the film, despite done by a variety of artists, lags much behind its first part. 

Credited first in the opening sequence, Anil Kapoor is the star of the show, closely followed by Nana Patekar, who together are responsible for providing the most laughs. Kapoor looks delectable and walks through Majnu Bhai with a panache. On the other hand, Nana plays Uday subtly but manages to make a significant impact. John is a weak link in most scenes and except for beauty shots, he looks plain dumb. Taking the cake of bad performances is Shruti Haasan who ludicrously runs through all her lines. Paresh Rawal is his usual awesome self and manages to crack you up many a times. Dimple Kapadia and Shiney Ahuja seem wasted in inconsequential roles. Debutante Ankita Srivastava may look gorgeous but has a long way to go to hone for acting skills. Veteran Naseeruddin Shah looks completely out of place as the master don and his jokes are mostly mundane. Every one else in the supporting cast is ordinary. 

On the whole, Welcome Back is passable for a one time watch, and considering its first part was no classic, this one seems sinking further into the sea. However, it is Uday and Majnu's histrionics that provide a lifeboat to dock the film at the shore. The film has taken an average opening at the Box Office and I am not sure if any word of mouth will help it. Considering the copious amounts of money splurged on action sequences and the climax, I hope that they break even. If you are an ardent fan of Uday-Majnu angle from the first part, do give this one a try, else there is nothing much to rave about.

Rating - 2/5

Originally published for MadAboutMoviez here