Monday, April 18, 2016

Fan Movie Review : Only For Shah Rukh, The Actor

Shah Rukh Khan. The name itself spells a big film, if not a good film. Over the years, many have complained arduously about Khan's lack of efforts in picking scripts and films, and intermittently succumbing to rehashed concoctions or sub par servings, packaged, garnished and decorated well enough to be shoved down your throat via extensive marketing. Some of this marketing has made people averse to watching his films or similar star vehicles. while others continue to feed on them raking in the numbers. But things changed with Dilwale, in December 2015. When another biggie clashed with it, Dilwale suffered and the numbers tapered into an abyss faster than SRK would have imagined. In last many years, I have seen atleast three dozen posts which basically ask, Where is SRK, the actor? While he does have the right to choose the films he wants to do, it is quite clear that the audience sees more potential him than Dilwale. Fair enough. So there you go, Yash Raj Films' FAN is here and Shah Rukh gives you a performance to cherish for years. No kidding, the man is so bloody good in this that he not only wins your heart, but also tells reminds you that he has not sold his skills for scrap. I was always a fan of his personality off screen, but here, he has made a jabra fan out of me for his acting. Move aside detractors, you can call him ham king, or whatever, I refuse to pay any credit to your imbecile charade. So try and convince me against it. 

SRK's performance aside, Director Maneesh Sharma's Fan has a lot to offer and yet, it gets shortchanged by its share of flaws. Gaurav Chandna (SRK with baby fat and Bugs Bunny teeth) is an ardent fan of superstar Aryan Khanna (SRK again, modeled on his real life) so much so that he cannot imagine his life without him. His ultimate dream is to meet him, give him his mom's sweets, and a trophy which he won at mimicking Aryan at a local competition in Indra Vihar Delhi. Gaurav follows Aryan's footsteps, travels WT from Delhi to Mumbai, stays in Hotel Delite Room 205 and goes to Mannat, Bandstand to meet his favorite star. When he is unable to meet him, he finds a twisted way of making the star call him. Having crossed the line, Aryan pushes Gaurav to jail and tells him to stay away from him, denying him the five minutes Gaurav came all the way for. Gaurav turns to vengeance, follows Aryan around the world and uses his similarity of looks with Aryan to shame him time and again, at different venues. Harrowed by an ordinary fan, Aryan must confront him in his style as the star in him is too stubborn to apologize. 

Habib Faisal's screenplay ranges from great endearing moments of fandom to believable contrivances to a completely unreal last half hour of the film. Yes, as most other reviews are saying, the curse of the second half plagues Fan. But what they dont tell you is what went wrong. Fan sets up Gaurav's world stunningly, takes him to Bombay and everything upto his first meeting with Aryan rings true. The treatment is real. Post the intermission, Maneesh decides to flip the film and dish out a larger than life treatment. The screenplay is equally at fault for continuously using one conflict to fill the runtime in the second half. But the basic problem is the mismatch of treatment styles in narrative. Also, it might work better if you could imagine Aryan differently from SRK in reality, but the character is modeled so close to him, that it removes the opportunity to think of him to be anyone else. By the time the film reaches its climax, you find yourself cringing in your seat at the make believe. 

That apart, Faisal and Sharma do well to not portray Aryan as an invincible, incorrigible star. One might call it narcissistic but if SRK had to be really narcissistic, he would have never signed this film. His spin off, Aryan, is stubborn, conceited and refuses to accept any fault of his own. He dances at weddings despite insult, uses influence to get out of legal trouble and even picks up a gun. I do not believe that any other star of SRK's stature would be okay to play Aryan the way he is characterized. On the other hand, SRK's Gaurav is a totally fresh character and the one that stays with you long after the film has ended. There is also a moment where Aryan has to mimic Gaurav and he does it with a wonderful nuance. Its true that no other actor gets much scope of performance but Shriya Pilgaonkar does leave an impact as Gaurav's girlfriend. Sayani Gupta is okay while Waluscha DSouza as Aryan's wife does not get much scope. 

Produced by YRF, Fan has the big scale and budget any such movie should have. Andrea Gurrea's Background Score does get a bit much at times but the theme song works well. However, it is Vishal Shekhar's Jabra Fan Anthem, penned by Varun Grover, that has stolen the show and connected with the audience across. Sadly, it was only meant to be a promotional song. Manu Anand's Cinematography offers nothing new except in three smartly done chase sequences and one confrontation scene between Aryan and Gaurav, right before intermission. Namrata Rao's editing could have been a lot better, but Niharika Bhasin Khan's costume design is spot on. Greg Cannom has designed Gaurav's look and it does help in establishing his character well. However, the supervision of the makeup could have been better as one does feel that it is not uniform in many scenes. 

Overall, Fan is a very brave attempt from YRF and Maneesh Sharma but as a general audience, you are likely to not like the film due to its second half. What keeps you engaged is a bravura performance by SRK, one which you have been waiting for years. The film has taken a mixed start at the Box Office, collecting approx 20Cr in the domestic market on the first day. I do not expect the word of mouth to be uniformly good and the film lacks song and romance to make it appeal commercially. One can only hope that the loyal audience flocks the theaters to recover the humongous costs the studio has incurred on the film. If you go by me, I would watch it again just for that performance!

Rating - 3/5 

P.S. If you think this is a biased fan's review, please feel free to make peace by skipping a different, but not great, film!

Originally published for MadAboutMoviez here

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Love Games Movie Review : Vikram Go Back!

Since a couple of years, I have continued the tradition of watching Vikram Bhatt films on the very first day itself. Believe it or not, Bhatt is on a serious stroll of outdoing himself with each successive film, not with excellence but with absolutely sub-par trashiness.  There is nothing more disheartening than seeing a decent filmmaker go to the dogs, but then once you realize that he wants to masquerade it a formula for commercial cinema, and repetitively and surreptitiously makes films in similar genres, you wait for the next piece of trash installment to come, just because it is going to be so much fun seeing new lows. Bhatt's filmography boasts of Shaapit, Haunted 3D, Dangerous Ishq, Raaz 3D, Creature 3D and Mr X in the past 5-6 years as a director. As a writer, he has written many more films which have been more or less despicable such as Hate Story, 1920 Evil Returns and Khamoshiyaan. And now he serves us Love Games. 

To be honest, he has never been a director to look out for with only Ghulam, Footpath and Raaz scraping through the heaps of garbage to be regarded as respectable films. But then how many years successively can you make abominably bad films, on fairly high budgets, sometimes with stars, and to top it all, most of the films have nothing new to offer in terms of plot or treatment. Almost all his films have been doused with sex, horror tied somewhere around a love story. Its no news that Vikram is heavily inspired by a bunch of films from around the world and repeatedly uses their influence in his own. But till when is he going to find sponsors to finance this barrage of brain-numbing bullshit? It should be a matter of national concern if it isnt already as the man writes some fantastic short stories on his Facebook page, and has a much larger fan following for them than for his films. So much so that, the so-called stars dont work with him anymore and along with a diminishing following of sleaze in films, Vikram must rely on a bunch of pathetic new actors to act in his films. But the films dont stop. 

Love Games is one leaf out of the same book. Based in Mumbai, the film tells the story of Ramona Raichand (Patralekkha), a sex addict, who gets involved with a depressed Sameer Saxena (Gaurav Arora). The duo play love games to seduce corresponding partners in other couples. Whoever manages to bed the husband or the wife first, wins the game and has to complete a stupid condition set forth by Ramona. Things turn ugly when Sameer falls in love with Alisha (Tara Alisha Berry), and decides to stop playing the game. Alisha is wife to a temperamental and abusive husband, Gaurav (Hiten Tejwani). Ramona gets obsessive of Sameer and is ready to tear apart his relationship with Alisha to get him back. The problem with Love Games is that not a single ounce of the film rings true. Vikram Bhatt is infamous for shooting in abroad locations and passing them off as India. In Love Games, he shows us Mumbai and Goa but none of it is actually the two places. He has probably shot the film elsewhere and matched it with some shots back here. A lot of filmmakers cheat locations, but with Vikram's handling, you can easily make out the truth. The art of concealing is clearly not his forte. The same goes for every single emotion or plot twist. Everything is fake and superficial, if not annoying. Even when the story allows for a few moments that could be deftly handled to lift the film, Vikram royally shits upon it to serve the dish cold and bland, suitably aided by his terrible background score. Love Games has plot twists which can be seen from half hour away and even the sex looks dull and forced, instead of sensuous.

Manoj Soni's cinematography is atypical of most Vishesh Films with barely anything new to offer. Sangeet and Siddharth Haldipur try to stir up the OST with some fresh approaches but the placidity of the proceedings make you hate the music as well. Patralekkha must be awarded for the single most irritating performance of a lifetime and the only question one asks after the film is, is she really Rajkummar Rao's girlfriend? As a sex maniac, her shrill voice and horrific body language hurts your eyes. Tara Alisha Berry has a wooden face but is passable for most times. Hiten Tejwani is a bunch of crap. Amidst a sea of strikingly bad performances, one does not mind the newcomes Gaurav Arora. He may have a face that makes him look like poor man's Karan Singh Grover (not like that's a compliment), but Gaurav atleast has basic skills of dialogue delivery. 

Love Games is a bad film. But it speaks of a bigger issue about of bad films getting approved by big studios (T-Series, Vishesh Films) and finding a release. Vikram Bhatt takes an interesting topic of sex addiction but only goes skin deep, carefully and shamefully avoiding any point where there was scope to better it. I cannot say anymore. Just dont watch it, and dont watch any of his films till he continues with this little trip. I dont deny that sex sells, and one can make an erotic thriller, but then dont serve cold food when you promised a sizzler.

Rating - 0.5/5

Originally published for MadAboutMoviez here

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Rocky Handsome Movie Review : Superman? Batman? Naw, John Abraham!

Maybe it's just me, but then there is something really charming about a man in black suit going around assassinating people like its a part of his daily routine. When Director Lee Jeung-beom made The Man From Nowhere (2010), little did he know that the film would be ripe for an Indian remake. Thankfully, Director Nishikant Kamat and Ritesh Shah (Screenplay/Dialogue) dont mess too much with the original material and serve it right back to us in India as Rocky Handsome. What works for them is John Abraham fits right in as the lead and also produces an otherwise not so masala film as the trailers would have shown. And ahoy, Rocky Handsome turns out quite a good watch on a weekend where you have a largely disappointing magnum opus right next to it. 

Rocky Handsome tells the story of a man (John Abraham), called colloquially as Handsome, who lives a reclusive life in Goa after the demise of his beloved wife. His depression eats him up day in and out and his only friends are his neighbours, Anna (Nathalia Kaur) and her eight year old daughter Naomi (Diya Chalwad). When Naomi and Anna get abducted, Handsome cannot help but go out to get them as he cannot remove Naomi's face from his memory. During his search, he gets entangled in the web of Goa's drug, organ theft and human trafficking mafia as all three of them seem to be having common roots with the abduction. As he goes about setting the record straight, he crosses path with Goa's local police and ANC, led by Sharad Kelkar, which ultimately reveals his long drawn past of being Rocky, the assassin. With a pretty simple plot as its foundation, Rocky Handsome is still a multi-threaded film which intertwines a lot of antagonists and their motives in a simple kidnap and escape story. And somewhere along the line, all the threads of the story do not get their equal share of development. Thankfully, Kamat does not try to tone down the thematic darkness of the original much and it only elevates Rocky Handsome from being a no-brainer. However, this one is definitely much less brutal than The Man From Nowhere to better suit the tastes of Indian audiences. 

Produced by John Abraham Entertainment and Azure Entertainment, Rocky Handsome is mounted on a respectable scale. Renowned cinematographer Shanker Raman lends an experienced hand to the camera and manages to capture some of the best moments in highly fresh yet intuitive ways, making Rocky Handsome look bloody good without any flying vehicles or men. Aarif Shaikh's Editing could have made the film a tad more edgy. Music by Inder and Sunny Bawra is okay but almost unrequired at most places. Sanjay Mourya and Allwyn Rego's sound design is super. However, a film like Rocky Handsome relies heavily on its action and stunts. Using simple hand-combat skills, and slasher objects over guns, director Kamat gives us a juicy bunch of action sequences which give you the exact thrill you are looking for when you walk into the theaters. To top it all, John looks kickass doing all that. The snappiness of the action could get to you after a while and it is one of the key elements enhancing an already stylish film.

Now we all know that John Abraham cannot act. It has been 15 years since he debuted and he still cannot. Nope. So what do you do? You put him in a film where he has less than 2 pages of dialogue, has to cry once, feel angry once, and pretty much maintain a wall's expression all through the rest of the film. There, you have your Rocky Handsome. To make him look better, you cast an absolutely despicable actress (Shruti Haasan) next to him. All set, done. And then you cast yourself as the main villain. Yes, Nishikant Kamat plays Kevin Ferreira, one of the main villains in the film. Sharad Kelkar is good as the selfish cop, while Nathalia Kaur must only dance. The little girl Diya holds her ground well in scenes where she has long dialogues as well. 

I watched Rocky Handsome in a multiplex which functions almost like a single screen, mainly due to its audience. For the first time in my life for a John Abraham film, I reached the theater and found that the show was houseful. I had to wait for the next show. When I took my seat and the film started, the whole theater erupted into cheers and applauds. Truly, I never expected John to have such a fan following. Or maybe it is the action/romance shown in the promos which made all of them make a visit to the theaters expecting a hardcore masala film, which is abominably low on story and logic. As the plot got more twisted and intricate, I saw a majority of the audience losing any idea of what was going on. They seem to have no clue about drugs, organ theft or even human trafficking and how it made sense to the story. They seem to be only there to see John beat up a dozen goons and would erupt intermittently every time he did so. In the end, one fine gentleman made the remark - 'Woh choti bachchi ka story daal ke thoda dheela kar diya picture na?'

I gave up right then. Our Indian audiences cannot take it if anyone messes with their masala. Yet, Rocky Handsome balances it quite well walking a tight rope. And its runtime of 125 minutes, there is never a dull moment. The film has its share of flaws and it does take things a little too conveniently at time, but then its worth a trip to the movies. Go watch!

Rating - 3/5

Originally published for MadAboutMoviez here

Teraa Surroor Movie Review : Giving Meaning to Meaningful Cinema

Himesh Bhai is back! And so am I, with my review of his latest offering, Teraa Surroor. Yes, the Suroors dont end, they keep coming back to please your senses, if I may say so. Just when you think you would be done with them, there is one more Surroor waiting for you. No, I understand that keeping films with similar names to famous songs, does impart it quite a bit of recognition in fleeting memory of the audiences. But my question is, how many times can you do that? What is a good number of times for Surroors to stop? Because the problem remains the same. HR Musik may have Himesh's soothing music and T-Series' unlimited cash flow for the sake of good old times shown to them by the former, but how many movies does it take for one to understand the complete scarcity of any acting charisma in one's own self? Jacky Bhagnani seems to be on a break after 6, but Himesh Bhai is going strong at 8 with another release lined up this year. Much to everyone's surprise, most of those on the list have been able to recover or make money. So why not Teraa Surroor?

Director Shawn Arranha had been credited with a couple of despicable films in the past apart from a bunch of assisting work. However, Himesh Bhai blessed him by giving him the reigns of Teraa Surroor. But this did not pay him well because Arranha has made a royal mess. The camera angles are dizzy, the slow motion is used almost more than the runtime of the film, and the action sequences look like they missed a lot of shots so made them up by random jumps at the edit table. The story revolves around Raghu (Himesh Bhai), a 'gangster', who is in love with Tara (Farah Karimaee), who is a model? Tara and Raghu break up, she travels to Ireland and gets involved in a drug scandal and is jailed. Raghu travels to Ireland to realize she was misled by an unknown person named Anirudh Brahmin. Firstly, Tara was dumb enough to make friends with Anirudh over Facebook and then travel alone to Ireland upon his request, carefully carrying a package provided by Anirudh's obviously fake grandmother from India. Now, Raghu must take the help of lawyer Elle Jordan (Monica Dogra), Indian Ambassador Rajeev Kaul (Shekhar Kapur) and a jail inmate who has broken through 14 prisons, Robin Dharmaraj Santino (Naseeruddin Shah) to free Tara but the roots of this mystery lie deep within Raghu's past. No kidding, but the twists are so intricate that the poor villain has to deliver a monologue to explain them all in the climax. That apart, no matter what your name is or from where you belong, everyone speaks Hindi, including Elle Jordan and Robin Santino. 

While the India portion are bearable, the moment the proceedings shift to Ireland, cinematographer Maneesh Bhatt literally throws his camera at anything or anyone. Despite a filmography of over 8 films, his outdoor shots are horrible. There are atleast a thousand drone shots in the most unrequired places, chase sequences look like they have been shot on a phone camera and the action, oh well, lets not even go there. A lot of this has to do with the direction. For reasons best known to him, Himesh Bhai has loaded the film with an overtly loud Background Music which are basically differently pitched and arranged loops of the Aap Ka Surroor song chorus. 

But not all is bad about Teraa Surroor. Himesh Bhai manages to maintain the same expression and mannequin-like stiff body throughout the film. There are a bunch of stalwarts in the film who have no idea what they are doing here, like Naseeruddin Shah, Shernaz Patel, Kabir Bedi and Shekhar Kapur. Well, all is well as long as their cheques were fat enough. If you can ignore the irritating spelling of her name, Farah Karimaee is still a pretty plastic face, like a poor man's Katrina Kaif. Oh wait, that was Jacqueline Fernandez. The film deserves a special mention for casting of extras in Ireland. All of them look like they were promised some good beer and nothing else. 

On the whole, one does feel a little sad when huge sums of money are wasted on shoddily made films. At its heart, Teraa Surroor may not have a terrible concept or script, but the execution, right from the scratch is heralded by skill-less people right from the first to the last. Including Himesh Bhai, who by the way gives great music for the film and launches a new singer, Darshan Raval, previously quite a hit on social media and Bombay circles. With a runtime of just 105 minutes, Teraa Surroor is excruciatingly long and I would choose listening to Rahul Gandhi over it. However, while many films dont reach a crore on the first day, this one touched around 3Cr on Friday. That must tell you all about Himesh Bhai's fans. If you have seen The Xpose, this will be a welcome surprise!

Rating - 1/5

Originally published for MadAboutMoviez here