Sunday, December 23, 2007

Most Welcoming

About two years back, Anees Bazmee virtually rose from the dead to give us a surprise hit in the form of No Entry. Taking us back into the David Dhawan-esque comedy of the 90s and resurrecting the comic streak in a fine Anil Kapoor, the film was lapped up by the audiences and critics alike. Now Bazmee returns with the much-publicized Welcome, his take on the 1999 Hugh Grant starrer Mickey Blue Eyes. Interestingly, the film also has shades of another recent Mallika Sherawat release, Shaadi Se Pehle (opposite Akshaye Khanna).

After feeling somewhat bombarded by the hype and publicity surrounding the film, I was a little hesitant that high expectations may result in sore disappointment. In fact, as the first 15 to 20 minutes passed in front of me and very few laughs were had, that sinking feel began to make its present felt. Why did the jokes seem so contrite? Could the ever-so-reliable Akshay Kumar/Paresh Rawal team truly be running out of steam? Maybe director Bazmee was so keen on repeating his previous success that he got carried away this time around.


Suddenly, along came a scene where Anil literally stops traffic to...paint. I sat up and took notice of a rather humorous exchange between Anil and Akshay, only for almost everything that followed to turn downright hilarious. At one point, I almost wondered if I was watching two entirely different films.

I'll not delve into the plot itself, as most of it is made available through the previews, and the twists are worth seeing for yourself. All one can say is God Bless Nana Patekar. And the aforementioned Kapoor. Both Nana and Anil are what make Welcome everything that it is. Their inane gangsters are probably the most likable characters in the entire film, and yes, they are the same people who kill for a living and ruthlessly force Akshay into an engagement with Katrina. To turn these train-wrecks of people into the more appealing of the lot shows true skill, especially given the fact that they evoke the most thunderous laughter of all. Hats off to Nana, in particular, for playing a character so out of the norm from his usual work and doing so with flying colors. The audience truly lapped up almost his every word and movement.

Of course, both Nana and Anil are ably supported by Akshay and Paresh, both veterans of the "leave-your-brains-behind" humor bracket. Akshay is superb in the first half as the seedha man of principals he portrays, and his shyness around Katrina is both humorous and endearing. Paresh takes his most applauded character to date - that of Baburao from Hera Pheri and mixes him with his stubborn turn in Cheeni Kum. Sadly, both he and Akshay are relegated to the background for a lot of the second half, but since Nana and Anil are quite on top of their game, you don't mind too much.

Katrina looks absolutely stunning, but she is given very little to do other than add the glamor quotient. And after dubbing her own lines in Namastey London and Apne earlier this year, she's back to having her voice dubbed for her. Granted it's the familiar voice that we now associate with the actress, but it would be nice to see her using her own voice after having been around for a couple of years now. Mallika is actually given more meat to show off her funny side, and she does a fair job of it. Although she really is just there as the quintessential sex bomb, and the males around me in the cinema seemed most appreciative.

Feroz Khan is his wacky self. Sometimes one can't but wonder if he is for real, but by now we're used to his queer on-screen persona. Whoever plays his son sure grates on the nerves (even if he is supposed to in the film, at times it's a little unbearable).

If the overall humor and performances lift the films, the length and music drag it down. As said earlier, the film takes its sweet time to pick up. People who rent it on DVD would risk switching it off and missing the revelry that follows once all the characters have been introduced. Also, the last 20 minutes turn into pure Priyadarshan mayhem. And this is not a Priyadarshan film. It gets bad to the extent that you wish you were watching at home with a fast-forward option at hand.

Himesh Reshammiya's music is god awful. The title track is probably the most catchy simply because it graces the TV every five or so minutes on every other Indian channel. Hoth Rasiley
is the most interesting and elevated by Malaika Arora-Khan's sensuous appearance. Much to the audience's dismay, the first song we are subjected to is the agonizing Kola Laka Vellari, for which even Google is yet to come up with an explanation. It's tortuous so much so that I heard groans from various sectors of the screening room. Fortunately, the remainder of the songs are shot keeping the comedy alive, hence it is a riot to watch Anil and Nana's antics in insha'Allah and Kiya Kiya.

Essentially, it's a brainless film with all the wit in the world. It is absolutely incredulous and yet leaves you in hysterics more often than not. Some sluggish pacing at the start and end plus inferior music is not enough reason to not go see the film, and Anil and Nana alone are enough reason to go have a look.

Verdict? Worth your RSVP.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Saa-What Now?

Suffice to say, this review is slightly late. Not only has Sanjay Leela Bhansali's magnum opus Saawariya already crashed and burned at the box office, but fairly most of you have also been warned against inflicting its wrath upon yourselves. Especially when, pitted against it, was a far more entertaining Om Shanti Om. Nevertheless, after finally getting around to watching the film, it is only fair that I get to share my two cents on whether new kids on the block Ranbir and Sonam Kapoor are really all that and more. The simple answer to the latter is that they are, best put, promising (more so the Mr. than his leading lady).

Saawariya, quite simply, is a story of love, in all of its manifestations and with all of its trials and tribulations. It's about a happy-go-lucky boy who chances upon a damsel in distress, the friendship that evolves between them and the twist and turns that take their love story into the unexpected (or so they had hoped; in reality it's all very predictable).

It would be difficult to elaborate on the story itself, because there isn't really one as such. Bhansali takes Dostoevsky's short story White Nights and decides to really run with it. Sadly, the man runs in the entirely wrong direction, and someone somewhere along the way forget to tell him. Like his prior adaptation of Devdas, the director devotes all of his attention to the sets, costumes and look of the film, not realizing that it is actually a very simple tale at hand (i.e. there is no need for the gargantuan Venetian nightmare, pretty as it may be, nor should Ranbir be prancing around in silk and satin garments that look a little too pricey to have been sewn for a poor musician).

At least in Devdas, we were able to seek comfort in exuberant performances, superior dance sequences, a steady pace and an overall solid piece of directing. The main problem with Saawariya lies in the fact that it almost looks as if there is no director behind the camera, and the two kids are just living out any day from their childhood as they laugh, crack jokes and revel in the sort of on-screen camaraderie that shows two friends, at best, and hardly anyone who is in love.

In between their interactions we are also subjected to a highly irritating angle involving Zohra Sehgal, a role that was meant to come across endearing and instead falls flat on its face. There is also a highly underdeveloped sidetrack involving Salman Khan, who puts on his best "only for you, Sanjay" face and sleepwalks through his role. Rani Mukherjee plays Ranbir's prostitute friend, maybe because she enjoyed it so much in Laaga Chunari Mein Daag?

So you are made to sit through 2 hours and 20 minutes of what is essentially nothing, admirable as the cinematography and visuals may be. In fact, visually-speaking, it is a work of put in a museum, not the cinema hall.

Most disappointing is Sonam's character sketch; her Sakina is a girl with almost no depth, and her entire interaction with Salman is so vague and poorly drawn-out that you are unable to feel anything for the character at all. And given the film largely revolves around her and Ranbir alone, it is highly necessary to at least somewhat empathize with the young lady who so intoxicates Ranbir that he can think of no one but her. Sonam, for her part, does a decent job with what she is given. She's undeniably pretty, but breaking into a giggle every five minutes hardly gives her any scope in what could have been a smashing debut.

Ranbir, on the other hand, scores big time in his first outing. His character is over-the-top, he is made to do some rather obnoxious (not to mention homoerotic, e.g. towel scene) sequences, and yet he manages to do them almost naturally. At times he overdoes it, but for his first film it's a very confident debut. Yes, there is somewhat of a Hrithik Roshan hangover in his mannerisms, enthusiasm and dance moves, but who doesn't try to recreate Hrithik's debut nowadays?

Rani does well and looks gorgeous, but her role is rather inconsequential. Both she and Salman (who literally does nothing other than mouth "hey, look at me, I'm Muslim" words like Assalamu alaikum, Khuda Hafiz and insha'Allah) are given such insipid roles that you feel for them for owing Sanjay enough to have to appear in the film to begin with.

The music is fantastic, no doubt. Although there is a song every five or so minutes, given the slow proceedings in the actual plot, you sit and pine for another song (which to me is always the sign of a bad film).

Call it expectations, if you will. Or just call it faith in a director who is capable of so much more. Whatever you want to call it, the only outcome 'it' has is disappointment. Maybe it's enough to watch for its visual beauty, Ranbir's "be all that I can be" attitude and some lovely tunes. Just prepare yourself for a confusing journey with one ultimate destination: Boredom.

Verdict? If you absolutely must, watch it for the sake of the kids (not yours - Rishi and Anil's).

Thursday, November 29, 2007

It's a 'Daag' all right...

Regressive cinema with a capital R is the best way to summarize Laaga Chunari Mein Daag. Coming from the prestigious Yashraj banner and the maker of a gem like Parineeta, it is only fair for one to expect a polished and thoughtful film. Instead we get a hackneyed and misleading waste of time that goes a step further and actually tries to glamorize prostitution, as if it's just another product for perhaps our cricketers to endorse. Personally, I would gladly opt for Om Shanti Om's blatant Maybelline and Pepsi references (Read: Advertising) any day.

Moreover, the film so brutally deceives you. As any innocent and unsuspecting viewer would, you smile as the film's opening reels introduce you to the playful world of two sisters in Banaras, for once shown to be a colorful and inviting city as opposed to its dull and depressing depictions in recent films like Water and Banaras: A Mystical Love Story.

Cut to a few frames later and suddenly Mumbai gets to play the big bad wolf that devoured the elder sister (Rani Mukherjee) for breakfast. In all fairness, she did appear rather plump and thus fair game, so who is to blame here...the hungry wolf or Ms. Mukherjee's personal trainer?

In other words, to save her family from the brink of losing their home to their own scheming relatives, Rani takes off for the City of Dreams to earn the rupees so that her ailing father will give it a rest already about not having a 'breadwinner' son. Of course, when she lands in the city itself she suddenly realizes that there's not much she could do with no degree, zero English skills place to stay. (What ever happened to think before you act?)

Of course, as we know from the previews, she opts to become a high-end call girl instead. So much for the 18 McDonald's branches that now grace the streets of Mumbai...or even the opportunity to clean bathrooms...or pick up trash...oh hell, with looks like hers, she could just pull a Nisha Kothari and start sleeping with Ram Gopal Varma. At least there's a film career to come out of that.

But no, prostitute it is, and what's more is that she is groomed to do so by her "modern, independent" flatmate. After teaching the naive Rani how to apply that liner, walk those heels and flaunt that Manish Malhotra couture, could the roommate not have just pointed Rani in the direction of a modeling agency? In any case, Family Clueless back in Banaras is thrilled that their oldest is somehow raking in the moolah; little do they know that she escorts old, balding men to a suite in the Taj (although Mama dearest, so nicely played by Jaya Bachchan, has a bit of a hunch and chooses to keep mum and drown her woes in ...stitching petticoats).

Of course, Sister No. 2 (Konkona Sen Sharma) turns out to be quite the smarty-pants and lands a great marketing job in the same exact city where her sister leads her clandestine whorish life. Go figure! Somehow, Sister No. 2 also manages to drop the braid and salwar kameez virtually overnight for layers and a power suit. Yeah...right. She also speaks enough English that you wonder why you never heard it before.

To cut a long story short, all's well that ends well. What else is expected when the director decides to pull a Raj Kumar Hirani and have Abhishek Bachchan waltz in as the angelic, do-gooder a la Lage Raho Munnabhai. (In the process, get ready for the most absurd exchange of dialogue you will ever witness in the history of Hindi tell me when you will ever find a man who, upon learning that the woman he so dearly lusts after is actually a prostitute, says: "Until today, I thought I loved you. But after learning this, I love you even more" Good God, Abhishek. Did you not see (or count) the men she slept with? The day such a man exists is the day Salman Khan will get married.

Of course, Konkona is given a far more appealing love angle in the form of Kunal Kapoor, who puts on his best "I wish I was Hrithik Roshan" act and comes up trumps as an endearing and more realistic character.

That Rani, Konkona and Jaya Bachchan play their parts well goes without saying. The three are supremely talented actresses who can pull off virtually anything, but sadly they are undone by the ludicrous concept that surrounds the film.

Yes, prostitution is a huge problem in India (and many other countries at that). It is also true that many girls who enter cities with big hopes are often thrown into it by force, but to show Rani being flown out first-class to Zurich and strutting around in pretty clothing is hardly the face of real prostitution. And for her to get a rishta from a rich and handsome man who knew her for all of 24 hours and decided he would love her regardless of her situation is pure and utter rubbish. To feed that image to young girls and make it an okay "go-to" profession when in need of cash is shameful, to say the least.

The saddest part about the film is that it had all the potential in the world. A quality cast, a capable director (he has to have something if he managed Parineeta, or was that film really in fact ghost directed by Vidhu Vinod Chopra?) and a promising beginning...really, the scenes between the mother and two sisters in the first 20 minutes are both lovely and heart-warming. How it turned into such a mess is anyone's guess.

A poor soundtrack doesn't make the proceedings any easier. Barring the introductory song, Hum To Aise Hain Bhaiya, all other tunes are in that all-irritating Hinglish we pray is just a phase that Maine Pyaar Kyun Kiya should never have started.

On a side note, Abhishek Bachchan can be as politically correct as he pleases and continue to go on record by saying that his marriage to Aishwarya Rai has caused no friction whatsoever in his equation with favorite co-star Rani Mukherjee, but the painful interactions between the two is perhaps the tale of a failed relationship that wifey Rai clearly disapproves of. Never have Abhishek and Rani looked so void of chemistry.

Verdict? Steer clear of this street corner.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Conjugal Clothing?

Abhiwariya have done it again. After their choreographed salsa dance at Aishwarya's recent birthday, better known as Ash-Bash 2007, the couple we all love to hate graced the audio release of Gangotri in ...matching denim jeans and white collar shirts. The staple yet stale fashion statement notwithstanding, one can only assume they firmly believe that 'the couple that dresses together...stays together'. Cheesy much?
The good news is that the two are looking fit, and Abhi baby is on his way to outgrowing wifey's hair.

P.S. - We neither know what Gangotri is, nor do we particularly care.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Farah's Wit and Shahrukh's Charm

Illogical. Insipid. Outrageous. Extreme. Confused. Call it what you will, but there is no denying the fact that Om Shanti Om is one of the most entertaining films to release this year. Scratch that. It's one of the most entertaining films to release in a long time. Those who choose to actually analyze the film may find it reeking of flaws, but it is their mistake if they honestly think Farah Khan wanted to create a film that makes you think. Because what Farah has created is quite the opposite: it makes you laugh; it makes you smile; and it makes you believe that sheer entertainment is worth choosing over thoughtful cinema any day.

A parody of two generations of cinema, beginning with the 70s and later focusing on the new millennium, OSO tracks the life of junior artist Om Prakash Makhija (Shahrukh Khan) and his fascination with popular actress Shantipriya (newcomer Deepika Padukone). Somewhere along the way a reincarnation saga very reminiscent of Karz is introduced, and next thing you are dealing with starry brat Om Kapoor (SRK again), popularly known as OK. Without giving away too much of the story - although most of it is very much available online - there are also interesting characters in the forms of Pappu Master (Shreyas Talpade) and villainous producer Arjun Rampal.
Similar to Main Hoon Na, much of OSO is a parody of the film industry. What sets OSO apart from its predecessor, however, is that it is truly a laugh riot for the first two hours, at least, if not more, and never tries to become too serious. In edition, as a director Farah has improved leaps and bounds in terms of creativity and wit; it truly is a very clever film with so many digs at film cliches and stereotypes that film aficionados would be more than pleased with her efforts.

Watch out for scenes such as the South Indian shooting ("Mind it") scene, the 'all organ failure' film shoot and the Filmfare Awards ceremony; people who watch enough Indian films will know how hilarious and yet true the jokes are.

Also, every actor and actress under the sun makes an appearance in Farah & Shahrukh's labor of love. It really is heartwarming to see the support and unity that ties the industry together and shows that, despite the fights, drama and reported heat, they are willing to all come together and return the same good will that people like Farah and Shahrukh have shown them in the past.

Speaking of which, it's commendable that Shahrukh can take on two completely different roles (and many roles within these roles), make fun of himself (think Mohabbat-man, his tendency to arrive late on the sets and his identical Filmfare nominations), romance a heroine 21 years his junior and still come off convincing. He's lovable, he's charming, he's cute and he's funny. And he's not just being Shahrukh Khan. You can tell how much he loves this film, being produced under his banner and directed by one of his best friends, and Shahrukh clearly puts in his 200%. So if Farah tells him to build a six-pack and go Village People on the audience by dancing in a shirtless firefighter getup, he does it. And if she tells him to put on a red leather cowboy suit and fight a stuffed tiger, he does that, too. And never once does he come across like he's trying too hard.

Shreyas is also superb as Shahrukh's second-hand man, particularly in the first half. He's truly talented and oddly similar to fellow comedy colleague Ritiesh Deshmukh in both looks and style. It's a shame that Shreyas has to take a backseat in the second half, because he is at his best pre-intermission.

Arjun adds style and persona to the negative role he is given. He has come a long way over the years (and this is after he had already impressed in earlier films like Aankhein and Moksha), and he is sure to be talked about after OSO.

As for the alleged 'Find of the Year', Deepika Padukone, she more than lives up to the hype. Farah and Shahrukh have very smartly handled Ms. Padukone's debut, in that they do not give her any histrionics to display. Instead, she has a simple yet glamorous role and does very well with it. In addition, she looks absolutely stunning and excels in the dance sequences as well. Finally, there is a new find who not only looks good and dances well but has actual acting talent and potential, too! One thought that with all the know-nothing models walking around attempting to act of late, there would be no hope for finding future female acting talents, but Deepika defies that logic and makes the most of her debut. She will surely get offers galore. As mentioned, there may be nothing exceedingly difficult for her to do in terms of performance, but her dialogue delivery and expressions are spot on, particularly in the latter portions of the film.

The songs are all in good fun and a treat to watch. Deewangi Deewangi is the most thrilling due to cameos from virtually the whole industry (one cannot help but wonder where Sushmita Sen, Aishwarya Rai and Kareena Kapoor are, however). Dhoom Taana is hilarious to watch, while Aankhon Mein Teri (Ajab Si) and Main Agar Kahoon are beautiful in terms of lyrics, vocals and melody.

The only downside of the film is that it gets carried away in the last half hour. The climax is a little over the top, but a so-so final 30 minutes are more than forgiven when the first 2 hrs and 15 minutes are full of pure entertainment. And do not leave during the end credits - it is highly admirable that Farah gives each and every unit member a moment to shine. She clearly recognizes the worth of her entire team, and her own appearance at the end is sure to put a smile on your face. Gauri Khan looking positively radiant is also one to watch out for.

Verdict? Absolutely recommended. But if you're looking for logic, don't say I didn't warn you.

Friday, November 9, 2007

When SRK is Away, KJ Will Play

Spotted: Karan Johar attending the Saawariya premiere in Mumbai. We wonder what boy toy Shahrukh Khan thinks of his BFF making an appearance at a film that was most definitely not Om Shanti Om...

No Wait, There's More

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, more pictures from that dreadful "fashion" (if you can call it that) spectacle known as the Saawariya premiere have surfaced...

Amrita Rao
The color works, the dress does not. It would have been a decent attempt had that transparent frill at the bottom not come in the way. And those shoes are plain awful...Ms. Rao, you have a magnificent figure. Why attract attention to your knee caps and ankles? The bling on the wrist is also a huge no-no.
Grade: C+ (points for the color and overall cut of the dress, but major deductions for that frill and mismatching shoes)

Dia Mirza
Not really known for her dress sense, Dia didn't really help her case by showing up in this ill-fitted maid's outfit. She had a nice blend of colors going, but for some reason the former pageant queen opted to hide her frame under a maternity shirt and pair it with pants that look like black skinny jeans gone wrong.
Grade: D+ (it's not a total disaster; the colors save her from reaching complete and utter failure)

Alisha Chinnai
This isn't your wedding, Chinnai. And even if it were, I pray to God that you would not dress like that.
Grade: F (she was always rather strange to begin with)

Soha Ali Khan
Being both Sharmila Tagore's daughter and Saif Ali Khan's kid sister is no easy task. Soha does a rather nice job of playing it safe with an elegant sari. The color's a bit loud, but there's nothing wrong with being bold, provided you go about it in a trendy manner.
Grade: B+ (it's the least we can give her when the spotlight was clearly on big bro and his new beau)

Now that is what we call class. In a dazzling sari that would surely put a huge grin on Karan Johar's face, one wishes all of the young starlets would take a leaf out of Madame Sri's book. The silver detailing is exquisite, and the halter is sexy. Age does nothing to this stunner, seen here with husband Boney Kapoor and daughter Jhanvi.
Grade: A

Akshaye Khanna
Suave and sophisticated, Akshaye looks rather handsome in his a grey suit and tie. But will someone please tell me where exactly the sun can be found?
Grade: A- (the shades are stylish, but come on Mr.'s an evening premiere at an indoor venue)

Kareena officially gets more points for the sexy back.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Additional Note

Thanks to my good friend Prachi, I was able to obtain a better view of Rani Mukherjee's Saawariya ensemble...she now merits a solid D- it a sari, is it a it anything, really? Shame on you, Ms. Mukherjee. And what is with the bubble gum colors?

On that same note, I finally have another well-dressed to add to the list...

Shahid Kapur plays it simple in dress pants and a grey button-down with a slim, black belt. It may not be anything extraordinary, but it could certainly provide as a reference point for some of the more unfortunately-dressed (i.e. Salman Khan).
Grade: B+ (because it's sharp, and we feel sorry that he had to witness the hotness of his ex-girlfriend Kareena Kapoor with new beau Saif Ali Khan)

Style Watch

Call it the Indian version of When Bad Clothes Happen to Good People...but the Mumbai premiere of Saawariya consisted of the worst Red Carpet round-up perhaps witnessed in modern times. Just when we thought our Indian celebs were getting trendier by the day, the B-wood glitterati decided to take fashion faux pas to another level...

Priyanka Chopra
The skinny jeans fit well, and even the gold heels are of reasonable compliment. But good lord, what is with that top? This, my friends, is East Meets West at its ugly best. Even on its own, the overly-done peacock detailing is utterly tacky, and the velvet blue trim at the bottom looks out of place. One wonders what Ms. Chopra was thinking when she draped this shapeless piece over her otherwise fit body. Let me add: You do not carry a cream snakeskin purse with gold sandals and a heavily-detailed top. So much for that Koffee with Karan award for Best Dressed...
Grade: D- (we'll give her at least a point-and-a-half for the nicely-fitting jeans and heels...and because she's that hot)

Lara Dutta
Ms. Chopra could seek comfort in the fact that her apparent arch-rival Lara Dutta put on an even more hideous display by choosing to dress in a medieval bedspread. Apart from the flowing churidar that's about as outdated as Ranbir Kapoor's hairstyle, the mixing of fabrics is downright atrocious. The gold accent shouts Xena the Warrior Woman (cause she was oh-so fashionable), and the yellow peasant sleeves do little to help her case. And that print...why God why? Leave it on your pillowcase, Ms. Dutta. Hands down, the worst dressed of the night.
Grade: F- (for inflicting this massacre on the unsuspecting public)

Salman Khan
The less said about Lara's on-screen 'Partner', the better. Ever since Sallu proclaimed he was in love with Govinda's stylist, we knew there was no digging him out of the grave he quite frankly dug for himself. But embroidering your crotch area is about as low as you can get (no pun intended). One wonders if he was taken in by the beaming lights that glimmer from the Saawariya sets, but one also wishes he did not apply that same attention to...that region. Paired with that a glittering Rolling Stones tee under a rather dapper black leather jacket, and Sallu is about as clueless as Kim Sharma when she speaks.
Grade: D (points for the jacket, only...)

Rani Mukherjee
Not known for her off-screen dress sense, Rani usually plays it pretty safe in traditional wear. Though not disastrous, here she is caught doing what she does best: boring us to tears. Not to mention, she has most definitely worn this before, and I will make it my goal to find out when and where. Moreover, it is not at all complimentary to her not-so-frail frame.
Grade: C (it ain't the worst, but it leaves a lot to be desired)

Hema Malini
If only Hemaji had stuck to the elegant saris that uphold her iconic status. This Chinese-inspired jacket looks like it belongs on a waitress. Although Vidya Balan is not all that visible, she seems to be rocking the black...only in a rather blasé manner.
Grade: C (she's older, it's only fair we give her some extra leeway for not being acquainted with trends from the modern fashion world)

Amisha Patel
She can't act, she can't dance and evidently she can't dress either. It's not easy to get a sari wrong, but somehow Ms. Patel manages to do just that in this absurd concoction of metallic, chiffon embroidery and...bright pink florals. How the gold clutch relates is any one's guess. And no, matching your lipstick to the flamingo pink does not help.
Grade: F (for being loud, tacky and just for being Amisha Patel)

Sonali Kulkarni
A body suit...seriously....seriously? Not that body suits should ever be worn, but at least have the figure for it. After all, if you've got it, flaunt it...but if you don't, kindly hide it. And hide your underwear, while you're at it.
Grade: F- (at the risk of sounding repetitive, seriously?)

Kangana Raunat
The red is hot, the skin show is not. The odd-looking Kangana flaunts her non-existent torso in a red chiffon sari. Nothing is wrong with the sari, but perhaps an actual blouse rather than a bra would give her that extra bit of class. Also, something must be done with that puffy hair and vampire makeup. Also, an alternate-colored purse and pair of shoes would do her some good. There's sexy red, and then there's a bloodbath.
Grade: B- (kudos for trying and looking better than the rest of the lot)

Those Who Prevailed

Hrithik & Suzanne Roshan
Well, it was more of Hrithik who prevailed rather than his wife. It seems the 't-shirt under blazer with jeans and white trainers' is Duggu's new favorite look. It was the same look that won him the Best Dressed on Koffee with Karan and recent Style Icon award but also similar to what he sported when picking up the Most Stylish Male award at the 2007 MTV Lycra Style Awards. Fair enough, Duggu...rock on while you're still young and hot. His batter half, on the other hand, was a little blah in a highly-sequined baby pink top that reminds one of how doting mothers dress their helpless tots for weddings. The shoes are too casual, but hats off to Mrs. Roshan for looking that fit after recently pushing out the cute couple's first child.
Grade: B (mostly due to Hrithik, but he loses points for the male skinny jeans with apparent slit at the bottom)

Sushmita Sen
The stunning Sushmita could very well have been attending friend Farah Khan's Om Shanti Om premiere in an obvious reprisal of her acclaimed Main Hoon Na sexy sari routine. The color does wonders for her curiously tanner complexion, and the jewelry is simple yet effective. Now if only someone would name that conspicuous fellow accompanying her in the lazy white salwar kameez.
Grade: B+ (how's about a sequel to Main Hoon Na?)

Urmila Matondkar & Tusshar Kapoor
We have no idea why on earth they appeared together, or perhaps it was just the cameramen making it seem that way, but at least they made the effort to look somewhat trendy. There may be a little too much going on with Urmila's sari, but it manages to be daring without overstepping that fine line between trying something different and trying too much. The teal is also lovely, paired with a simple black blouse given the sari itself has enough design to sustain itself. Tusshar, much as I hate to admit, looks rather contemporary in a pair of dark jeans with a black button-down and black blazer. The black belt is a nice accent...well done, Tusshar. It looks like you're not completely useless after all.
Grade: A- (there's obvious grade inflation what with the overall debacle of the rest)

Age is no match for Rekhaji as she stuns in a crystal-embroidered banarasi sari. She looks every bit as opulent as the film on display. The likes of Karan Johar would be very proud. Who is the mystery man (or should I say boy)?

The Winners

Saif Ali Khan & Kareena Kapoor
Hate 'em or love 'em, they are perhaps the hottest couple on the market. Saif is sexiness personified in a solid black blazer with jeans, and then there is that stubble...Kareena, meanwhile, has never looked better. After the stunning Manish Malhotra dress she sported at the 2007 Filmfare Awards and now this chic and sexy sari, she's fast becoming one of the better dressed celebs out there. The black and red is a classic mix, and she shows off just the right amount of her newly-toned physique. The turquoise accent is a stroke of genius, and one can only imagine it is Mr. Malhotra at the helm yet again.
Grade: A (how more ideal can a situation be where every guy wants to be Saif, and every girl wants to be Kareena)

Friday, November 2, 2007


An anonymous reader has pointed out a glitch in my reporting - I listed Phir Hera Pheri under Priyadarshan's failured comedy attempts in my Bhool Bhulaiyaa review. It appears Neeraj Vora was the writer/director who made us suffer through that disaster.

Thank you random anonymous reader...please come out and reveal who you are.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Things Best Left Forgotten

The Priyadarshan/Akshay Kumar/Paresh Rawal has been alive and kicking since Hera Pheri proved an unlikely success seven years ago. Somewhere along the way, a Rajpal Yadav was thrown into the mix, and along came a progression of films ranging from hilarious to reasonably funny to downright awful. The team's latest offering, Bhool Bhulaiyaa, sadly falls into the latter category, making one wonder...should this team just give it a rest?

There's no point in getting into the story, because there isn't really a coherent one as such. Priyadarshan, much to our dismay, seems to have taken a leaf out of Ram Gopal Varma's book and opted to make his own comedy/horror flick, a la Darling. Perhaps someone should have informed Priyadarshan of Darling's unfortunate fate (and the pain it inflicted on the few of us who actually watched it)...

Actually, let me take that back. Before delivering the slightest warning on how RGV is no longer a source for inspiration, someone should have informed Priyadarshan that you should never, not even in your wildest dreams, cast Amisha Patel in your film. Her wrath remains unbearable, and her acting capabilities remain non-existent. One wonders how she even managed to get the role given this is not a Vikram Bhatt production...yes, that was most definitely an intentional innuendo...

As if casting Amisha was not enough, Priyadarshan then decides that he will not introduce Akshay until nearly the intermission. So every one's favorite comic boy is very much absent from the first hour of the film, if not more...subjecting us to more tears than laughs. And lo and behold, as soon as Akshay emerges from whatever hiatus that was, the film picks up and shows slight promise.

And that is when the director mixes in the RGV influence and decides to shoot for some lousy combination of The Exorcist and ...Dumb and Dumber? Yes, I was confused, too.

No folks, this is not a remake of any known's just a horrid mixture of one too many genres. Hell, there's even a love triangle in there.

Oh, and wasting Akshay's talent was not enough ...Priyadarshan opted to sign on two of the most promising new kids on the block, Shiney Ahuja and Vidya Balan, was tarnish the reliable reputations they so carefully built with their first few films. (And, of course, there's Paresh Rawal who can only watch the proceedings and probably wonder what he's even doing in the film in the first place).

There's a nice tune or two...Labon Ko is the only one you vaguely remember after the debacle you were made to witness.

Priyadarshan, where did we go wrong with you? First Phir Hera Pheri, then Dhol and now this? Why don't you go back to making another Virasat? It looks like you've milked your comedies for all that they're worth.

Verdict? Best...Left...Forgotten

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Spoonful of Sugar

While it is quite common to hear people argue that Mr. Amitabh Bachchan is now overexposing himself by appearing in one too many films, one cannot help but deny that there is still an element that draws you into watching him on-screen. Indeed, he will always be one of the finer Indian actors, and that is precisely why it is hard to resist a film that pairs him with one of the country's finest actresses, Tabu.

Touted as "A Sugar Free Romance", Cheeni Kum is precisely that. A film that, without the conventional hero/heroine, college campus setting and barrage of background dancers, tells the simple tale of how two individuals share a couple of chance meetings and proceed to fall in love. Only there is no real declaration of their love - no shouting from rooftops or pouring buckets of tears while mouthing the standard 'Main tumse pyaar karti hoon' shannanigans - but a simple mutual admiration that develops over time.

The catch is that these protagonists share an 30-year age gap (Bachchan is said to be 64 and Tabu, 34). Bachchan works as a scrooge-like head chef at "Spice 6", the top Indian restaurant in London, while Tabu frequents his joint and teaches him a thing or two about real zafrani pulao. All the while, they are surrounded by a wise-beyond-her-years cancer-striken child (Swini Khera), a bumbling kitchen staff, Bachchan's Sex and the City-obsessed mother (Zohra Sehgal) and Tabu's drama queen of a father (Paresh Rawal).

What works for the film is the fact that each individual enacts his or her role with utmost ease. Yes, we could have gone a lifetime without having to witness Bachchan shop around a drug store for contraceptives, but the truth is that he is good in any role he takes on. This is also an uncharacteristically understated performance from the senior, complete without the echoing baritone voice and piercing looks we are so used to.

Tabu interprets her role with the perfect element of sarcasm and wit. It's a shame we don't see more of her, and it really is a loss to the industry that they do not give her the credit she deserves. After The Namesake, she continues to show why she is one of the best in the business.

Fans of Paresh Rawal who enjoy him at his over-the-top, Hera Pheri best will be disappointed that this is not such a role. He does have moments of humor, but his purpose is more to provide conflict in the otherwise casual love story.

Newcomer Swini Khera is very impressive as the smart-talking child. It's nice to see Indian filmmakers finding less annoying children of late (other welcome additions include Ali Haji from Fanaa/Ta Ra Rum Pum/Partner and Angelina Idnani, also from Ta Ra Rum Pum). Zohra Sehgal is just right for her role.

The music dominates the background and is not really something you pay much notice to, even if it does sound reasonably ear-pleasing.

Of course, there is a downside. At times the film fails to hold your interest. You find yourself flipping through a magazine or getting up to grab something from the kitchen - in other words, it's no film that you feel the need to give your 100% attention to.

Also, there is an overall feeling that something is missing from the film. It's one of those ventures where you don't really feel like you're watching a film. It's almost like watching an hour of Eastenders ...

Nonetheless, it's something different - not at all to be compared with Nishabd, another recent film that paired him with a significantly-younger actress, as the two films are poles apart in terms of theme and content.

Verdict? What harm can a little sugar do?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A Family Affair

From the moment the promos of Gandhi My Father hit the screen, one got the impression this would be a very special cinematic experience. Right from the montage to the tag line ("To the nation, he was a father...To his son, he was a father he never had"), everything about the film shrieks of the art genre, something made for the film festivals. Not to mention, the film marks the return of Anil Kapoor the producer, after the disastrous Badhaai Ho Badhaai in 2002. Can't remember Badhaai Ho Badhaai? No worries, there's a good reason for that.

Moving along, the film brings the focus back on Mahatma Gandhi after last year's blockbuster Lage Raho Munnabhai made gandhigiri the latest fashion. Any comparison between the two would, however, be entirely inappropriate - one is a serious biopic and the other a moral comedy.

Gandhi: My Father essentially traces the tumultuous relationship between Gandhi and his son, Harilal. It literally runs like a biography with the occasional flash from past to present. At times you ponder the overall point of the film, only to realize that it has no conflict or resolution as such - it is simply an untold chapter of Gandhi's life.

What works for the film is the fact that it is a compelling story. While it is certainly not for those of you looking for a bit of song and dance, it is definitely recommended for art cinema enthusiasts. Yes, the film moves at a sluggish pace and is often hard to get through, but a part of you remains curious enough to explore this part of Gandhi's life, a facet seldom encountered both on celluloid and in the history books.

In addition, the film is laden with excellent performances from the lead cast. Akshaye Khanna may forever be known as the untapped talent of Indian cinema, but here he gets the license to show everyone what he's made of. At times you may think he is resorting to histrionics, but not if you take into consideration the intensity of Harilal and the torment he undergoes throughout his life. It's almost sad that Akshaye is never really given his due, as he has a fair amount of reputable performances in his repertoire.

It's a bit of a breakout performance for Darshan Jariwala as well, whose prior acting credits include bit roles in films like Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd. and Aap Ka Suroor. At this point there have been so many representations of Gandhi on screen that it is hard to decipher a stand-out performance from an ordinary one, but Mr. Jariwala makes his presence felt.

Shefali Shah is outstanding as Kasturba Gandhi. Again, we have an underrated performer who makes the most of the opportunity bestowed upon her.

Bhumika Chawla is an improvement from her previous ventures, although one really wonders what sort of future she has in the industry. Good on her for doing some nice work in a critically-acclaimed film such as this, but after a reasonably successful debut in Tere Naam, one feels like she never really took off.

But the film is certainly not without its flaws. Even after the film reaches its climax, there is a sense of it being incomplete. So much effort went into fact-checking the history, bringing into light another side of Gandhi, etc. only wishes the filmmakers had gone that extra mile and left a lasting impression on the viewer.

Instead, the viewer comes out of the film thinking it was "a nice film", when it is clear the intent was to be more of an epic. Also, the aforementioned pace is an issue - perhaps some small scenes could have been cut or better transitions utilized, because there are several moments when the film is unable to hold its grip on your attention.

Having said that, there are also scenes that should have been inserted into the film. Quite a few details remain unexplained, and some of these are the details that escalate into serious conflicts. Why does Gandhi encourage Indian youths to study abroad and then discourage his own son from doing so? This is just one of a number of questions that should have been answered.

Verdict? Watch if you can appreciate good acting and offbeat cinema.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Nobody's Darling

After the Bhatt camp, it looks like Ram Gopal Varma is the latest to have lost his marbles. With the atrocious RGV Ki Aag failing to ignite even the slightest flame, Varma has come out with a second film hardly a week later - curiously titled Darling, the film somewhat recasts Fardeen Khan in his Pyaar Tune Kya Kiya role, only with Isha Koppikar and Esha Deol forming the other parts of this deadly love-triangle.

The beauty of Pyaar Tune Kya Kiya, however, lied in Urmila's superior performance in the Hindi version of Fatal Attraction. This time, we are relegated to watching Esha amateurishly resort to smirks and glares while she makes Fardeen and Isha's married life a living hell...only, this time, the stalker is a ghost whom Fardeen accidentally killed in a scene very reminiscent of Anil Kapoor's My Wife's Murder.

What works initially is the 'different' nature of the film. You are curious enough to watch the proceedings and see how long the Fardeen-Esha love affair will last, most importantly when the murder will occur and subsequently when the stalking will begin. The first reels post-Esha's death, where Fardeen is aware of her presence even though she is invisible, are intriguing enough to make you think this may be a worthwhile endeavor after all. Things take a turn for the worse, however, when Esha actually begins to stalk the married couple.

The first scene or two are handled with aplomb, before the entire act gets repetitive, to say the least. The concept is amusing at first, but then it starts to drag to the extent that you are anxiously awaiting the end credits.

The performances are also not strong enough to save the film. Fardeen tries extremely hard but ends up hamming his way through the second half in particular. Esha, as mentioned before, is given about two main expressions and a couple of scenes where she can shout a la Ankahee. Isha Koppikar is the one who trumps the rest of the cast with a restrained performance in a role that is very uncharacteristic of the work she has done in the past.

Zakir Hussain as Fardeen's co-worker/friend is perhaps the most annoying of the lot. One wonders what Varma was thinking when he let Zakir overuse the emphasis on the word 'yaar' in just about every sentence he speaks. The cop and his assistant are all right, but Varma has the silly tendency to leave things unexplained. Why does the assistant stare at Fardeen without ever saying a word? It's almost a mockery, after a certain point.

There are only two actual choreographed songs in the film. The opening credits number, Aa Khushi Se Khudkhushi Karle, subjects us poor and unsuspecting viewers to another RGV insertion of...Nisha Kothari. We get it, Varma, she's your new muse...the casting couch indeed exists...blah blah blah...but there is no need to place her in every film.

Tadap Tadap is slightly better, if you are willing to tolerate some more Himesh Reshammiya.

Overall, the initial plot may be original but after all of a half hour the entire exercise seems rather stale. Barring a surprise climax - that almost makes the entire film pointless - there is nothing particularly fresh about Darling.

Verdict? Not worth the effort.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Why God Why?

Some films should never be made. They may have all the elements of a good film - a competent director, a reasonably exciting star cast, a couple of catchy tunes and visibly high production values. Nonetheless, I repeat, they should never be made.

Now it is one thing if the script on paper seems like a worthy idea. There are many instances when you watch a not-so-great film and, while you are disappointed with the outcome, you can see how the original plan seemed fine but the execution was flawed.

In the sad case of Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, one can't seem to comprehend how the idea ever seemed appealing to begin with. The film tells the sorry tale of four blithering idiots: Abhishek Bachchan, a smart-talking and good-for-nothing pendu, most commonly found standing around the corners of Southall; Preity Zinta, an absurd and so-called Muslim who simultaneously shouts out in defense of Pakistan and Muslims while also chanting about how she has slept with some ridiculous amount of men; Bobby Deol as a very wooden millionaire who talks in a monotone, clearly reading from the script voice; and Lara Dutta, a French/Indian hotel manager whom it is difficult to understand more than half the time.

Ah yes, there is also Amitabh Bachchan as a horrendously-clad gypsy of some sort - you know, the kind your parents once told you to avoid at all costs? The very sight of him in this film is shocking and frankly, completely unnecessary.

Maybe the characters are somewhat unique, but they are for the most part incoherent and intolerable. The first half of the film - where Abhishek and Preity are telling one another about their (not-so) respectable love interests - is downright unbearable. You almost contemplate switching the film off, but something inside of you wonders if it could possibly get better. Instead, the story goes no where and instead you encounter a 30-minute dance marathon with the same title song reappearing for a second and third outing in this blasphemous enterprise.

One would hope the star quality would lift the film, but the performances leave much to be desired. Abhishek tries very hard, but it's not some fantastic role that can lift the film from the dumps in which it resides. Bobby is a poor excuse of an actor in the first half, but his Mama's boy routine in the second half is far more appreciated. Preity is loud, obnoxious and Botox-ed like there is no tomorrow. It's sad, really, given one of her better performances just came last summer in the form of Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, but it seems that was nothing short of a diamond in the rough. Lara somehow manages to speak in French-accented Hindi and sound plausible - sadly, the act itself is so irritating that it overbears her effort. She's done quite well in the film, but once again - no single actor is about to salvage this disaster.

The music consists of the same song, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, in three forms. The best two are those showcased in the dance contest - JBJ and Jhoom Barabar Jhoom. Bol Na Halke Halke is a very nice song, but the entire sequence involving the song is completely nonsensical and one of the worst attempts at triggering romance in a Hindi film. The less said about songs like Ticket to Hollywood and Kiss of Love, the better. The titles themselves say enough.

The biggest question mark in the film? Shaad Ali. For someone who made his directorial debut with Saathiya, something that was unique, consistent, laden with fine performances and, of course, a musical gem, Shaad has certainly catapulted into an almost B-grade venture. There was an all right Bunty Aur Babli in the middle, thanks to the charm of Abhishek and Rani, again a fun musical score and, barring the climax, an enjoyable ride. Yet how the same director could create such a massacre will perhaps remain the unsolved mystery of his career.

Verdict? Don't even THINK about it.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Babies are cute (as are Akshay, Ritiesh and Fardeen)

I'm just going to tell it how it is. When you have three cute actors sharing warm, fuzzy moments with an adorable baby girl, you are bound to be intrigued enough to survive a film that is about just that. Heyy Babyy, contrary to popular belief, is not a rehash of Three Men and a Baby. Sure, the premise of three single men finding an infant girl at their doorstep is lifted from the Hollywood hit, but with Sajid Khan at the helm as first-time director, there is bound to be a good amount of Indian masala thrown in.

Hence, we have three Indian playboys settled in Australia, romancing as many as 15 actresses in one night (and in one song). We also have a high quotient of Hinglish spoken throughout, blended with borderline crude jokes that could only come from Sajid himself. In fact, as the film starts, you feel slightly uncomfortable watching it while in a family setting (wasn't this supposed to be about fatherhood, babies, tears, laughter etc.?). Luckily the film sobers down with the arrival of the baby, and it is rather rib-tickling watching Akshay Kumar, Fardeen Khan and Ritiesh Deshmukh trying to handle the baby girl.

There's no point delving too much into the plot: firstly, because there isn't really a consistent plot and secondly, because the film honestly isn't so much about the story as it is about the chemistry among the three actors and between them and the child. This is precisely where the film works, as the three lead males make a good enough trio whom you can tolerate for the two and a half hours...(more or less). And the baby is so damn cute that each time she comes on screen, you kind of just sit there and let out an 'aww'.

The emotional scenes are also surprisingly handled with care and ease by the mostly comedian director. Yes, there is some going over the top, particularly as the film reaches its climax, but then that is where the old-school Indian factor of the film really kicks in.

The main problem actually lies in the film's imbalance. It's almost as though Sajid is confused as to whether he's after a comedy or an emotional drama. He seems to strive for both here and, while it's a fairly good attempt, there is so much back-and-forth between the comedy and the drama that sometimes you don't even know if you are meant to laugh or cry. It's not a huge problem, but it gives an unwanted level of inconsistency to the script.

Also, some scenes are plain over the top, and dragged out beyond what's necessary. One such example is the fight between Ritiesh and the children before he loses his job; it looks a funny concept in the first minute or so, but then the entire sequence proceeds to last well over 5 minutes. Another such scene occurs when Akshay and Ritiesh disguise themselves as Arabs in the restaurant - comedy is usually best when it is straight to the point, and Sajid should have known better in instances such as these. The climax is also a bit of a drag at one point; you almost ask them to just end it already!

Nonetheless, there are enough redeeming factors for you to sit back and enjoy the film. The aforementioned chemistry, for starters, and the performances from the principal players. Akshay is by now a veteran when it comes to comedy, and he does not disappoint here. He also does well in the emotional scenes, proving that he can play the all-rounder part when required.

Ritiesh is yet another mainstay in comedies nowadays, and once again he shows why. He seems to have this natural approach to acting that a lot of Indian actors are without - no shouting his lines, overdoing the expressions - he just performs the role how it is. One hopes he will stay away from the likes of Cash and other such films that will peg him back in his early career.

Fardeen comes across as a surprise. This is one of his better performances, after being overshadowed by Anil Kapoor and Salman Khan in his last comic outing, No Entry. His Parimal/Chupke Chupke tribute is rather amusing, and almost a jab at the critics who are constantly after his Hindi-speaking capabilities.

Vidya Balan appears in a Westernized role for the first time in her career, and she both looks great and performs well. She doesn't show up until the second half, but she will definitely be appreciated for trying something different. Boman Irani is himself - goofy and uptight at the same time.

Shahrukh Khan's not so private guest appearance is amusing; SRK lights up the screen as always, even though he's there for all of 2 minutes.

Special mention to the baby simply for being one of the cutest babies ever.

The music is not exactly Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy's best, but there are enough tracks to take home with you. Mast Kalandar is the obvious favorite, while Dholna is more than a makeshift romantic number. Meri Duniya Tu Hi Re is one of the nicer parent-child songs in a while and is particularly elevated by the trio's chemistry with the baby.

All in all, it's very sweet to watch, that's for sure. One would still expect more from someone as funny and creative as Sajid, however, it's a nice and refreshing break from the sex and money based films one encounters these days. He's no match for his sister Farah Khan - her Main Hoon Na was a far better directorial debut - but there's definite promise. Not to mention, the most recent comedy that comes to mind is the intolerable Partner, so after that...this comes as somewhat of a blessing.

Verdict: Worth a watch.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Treading the Fire

It was many years ago that Ram Gopal Varma announced himself as one of the most skilled filmmakers in the industry. He is perhaps most fondly remembered for giving Aamir Khan an unforgettable role in Rangeela, a film that also turned Urmila into an overnight star. His Satya undoubtedly won him the most critical acclaim, but it remains difficult to single out just one film from a director whose resume reads of Sarkar, Company, Kaun or even a Bhoot and a Mast. And so far we've only talked of direction. The list of creative films he has written and/or co-produced and the many assistants who turn director and attempt to mimic his style is rather endless. And now, after much talk, hype and controversy, his Sholay-inspired RGV Ki Aag is finally set to release this Friday.

Let it be said right now that the intention of this post is not to undermine Varma or any of his skills. I think the introduction rather proves that I am fully aware of his talent and also believe in his ability as a director. Nevertheless, Sholay is, in my most humble opinion, a film best left untouched. Especially when, as is this case with this endeavor, copyright laws are restricting you from using the same title or repeating character names, thus you end up with names that make your project sound more like a parody than a tribute.

With that, let's have a look at the casting, and where it all went wrong...

Ajay Devgan as Heero (Veeru)

We all know if there is one thing Ajay Devgan cannot do, it is comedy. He has tried and tried again, be it an Ishq or a Golmaal; or how about the recently disastrous Cash (see second post)? And for some reason beyond the world, RGV thought Ajay a good fit to Veeru.
True, Dharmendra was an action hero, too. But Dharmendra also had a flair for comedy that Ajay does not possess. On the contrary, Ajay would have been a perfect choice for Amitji's character, Jai. He's brooding and he's sarcastic - that is, if I'm not wrong, what defines Jai. Ajay getting silly drunk and climbing a tower to declare his love for the chatterbox Basanti? Yeah, I see it as a potential massacre, too.

So who should have been cast as Heero? Good question. I understand Varma's reservations about casting either of Dharmendra's actual sons. Let's face it - neither Sunny nor Bobby are good enough actors. And sure, like I said, you don't have to be a great actor to play the part. So maybe someone like Salman Khan or Akshay Kumar could have very well done it. The character is that of a drinker/skirt-chaser - last time I checked, that was Salman Khan as we know him. As for Akshay, the flirtatious quality + impeccable comic timing also would've made him a good candidate. Plus - both in both age and physique - they are in the right place to make a good Veeru/Heero.

Prashant Raj as Raj (Jai)

I'm sorry, who? While I am all for launching new talent, casting the first runner-up of Mr. India 2004 in a role even the most accomplished actors could have difficulty with is a recipe for disaster. Don't get me wrong - I'm not writing the guy off without even seeing him, but his boyish looks already render him too young for the role and certainly far too young to be playing Ajay Devgan's partner. And why create a cast of strong names like Amitabh Bachchan, Mohanlal, Ajay Devgan and Sushmita Sen, and then throw in a random newbie into the equation?

Young Prashant could turn out to be a surprise package, but he looks like a carbon copy of that James fellow Varma was so adamantly (and unsuccessfully) trying to push into the industry at one point. So who should have been Jai? I know what all of you are thinking - two words - Abhishek Bachchan. But let's face it: while Abhishek is turning out to be a fine young actor, he very much likes to imitate his father. It's only natural. But casting Bachchan junior in a role that his father originally played could really just end with him trying to literally reproduce his father's work. I could just see him playing it the same way his father did. Like I said earlier, Ajay should have been Jai. Even Akshay Kumar could've played Jai - he has that sarcastic humor in him, too.

Nisha Kothari as Ghungroo (Basanti)
RGV seems to have this strange tendency to latch onto one actress and milk her for all she's worth. In the case of Urmila, she actually turned out to be an underrated talent. With Nisha Kothari, I get more of a 'waste of space' impression than I do serious actress. Last I saw her, she was doing what she seems to be known for so far - shedding off clothes and calling it a performance. I don't want to make rude comments on why Varma is so obsessed with her, because well...yeah, I think I just implied it. But he gives her roles that she really shouldn't have.

Again, I understand apprehensions about casting Esha Deol in place of her mother. Esha, too, would probably mimic Hema Malini's classic performance, and given her limitations as an actress she probably would not even mimic all that well. My picks? Kajol, for starters - she could be that fast-talking, borderline annoying but funny village belle. She did it quite well in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, for that matter. I would even call Madhuri Dixit out of retirement to play a role that probably fits her to the T. Sadly, due to the decreasing amount of actresses in the industry who actually know how to act, there is no one younger I can even come up with. Yes, Rani Mukherjee is a great actress. But no, her take on comedy is not her forte. Which is what takes me to the next bit...

Sushmita Sen as Durga (Radha)

Sushmita Sen is a very capable actress. But does she give off a vulnerable, almost weak vibe? Not at all. If anything, the lady is known to play strong, independent women. And here she is cast in Jaya Bhaduri-Bachchan's place as a widowed woman who says and does very little in the film. Now, I'm sure Varma has changed this, because no fool casts Sushmita in a quiet role. But honestly, Sushmita could have been Basanti rather than Radha.

I would have brought the aforementioned Rani in to play a role that is all about giving an understated and soft portrayal. She has that sense of traditionalism that sums of the essence of Radha.

The Ones We Allow

Amitabh Bachchan as Babban Singh (Gabbar Singh)

This one, we will condone. Of course Amitjit is one of the greats of Indian cinema. Nonetheless, he appears in so many films/TV commercials/who knows what else these days that he seems to suffer from overexposure. And, as a result, I worry that people are growing sick of him and will therefore not appreciate his reprisal of India's most celebrated villain as much as they normally would have. Still, if there's anyone who can even try to do what Amjad Khan did, it is Mr. Bachchan.

Urmila Matondkar as Mehbooba Mehbooba dancer (as played by Helen)

Finally, a good match. I was almost worried that Varma would fall into Farhan Akhtar's trap and give the cameo to...Kareena Kapoor. It is well known that Ms. Kapoor was perhaps the worst choice to do a Yeh Mera Dil in last year's remake of Don. With her two left feet, it was almost like an unwarranted ambush toward the audience.

Urmila, on the other hand, can dance. So age is no longer on her side and she no longer carries the hour-glass figure, but she is a fair enough choice to fill Helen's shoes. Abhishek Bachchan as the male dancer, on the other hand, will be interesting. He's good at the nautanki style dancing, but his pairing with a visibly older Urmila is rather odd.

Verdict? Watch at your own risk. If you are a fan of the classic, you'd best keep away. If you have not even seen the original, don't even think about laying eyes on the remake before witnessing the masterpiece itself.

Who knows? We may love it. This is all just a cautionary post. I will most definitely share a real review once the film is released.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A 'metro' worth visiting...

Correction: It came to my attention that I originally included Shool as a good performance by Shilpa Shetty. I was kindly reminded that Raveena Tandon was the lead actress in Shool. Ms. Shetty's contribution was the item number, Main Aayi Hoon U.P. Bihar Lootne. My apologies for deeming that a performance. (Thanks Roopam)

In my last post I spoke of gathering an ensemble cast and then failing at extracting any good performances or creating a cohesive story. In Life in a...Metro, director Anurag Basu manages to bring out the best in nine performers while simultaneously narrating six different stories. As if that were not enough, Basu manages to weave them into one cohesive unit without ever delving into the contrived coincidences to which the Hindi film industry is so accustomed.

Metro tells the modern-day tale of a metropolitan area, of the interconnectedness of its inhabitants and the deceit that plagues India's upper-middle class. Never once do you feel as though you are watching something implausible or farcical. The plights of each character are such that anyone can empathize or at least admit to have seen before.

Last time I talked of regressive directing, of how Anubhav Sinha somehow managed to take enormous steps backward with his latest release, Cash. Basu, on the other hand, seems to have improved leaps and bounds in the art of storytelling. For someone who made his directorial debut with Kucch To Hai, a cheap I Know What You Did Last Summer rehash, and then went on to plagiarize every other Hollywood film possible, it comes as almost a shock that he is capable of such meticulous direction; especially considering his list, until now, comprised of the disastrous Arthur remake Tumsa Nahin Dekha and the 'why don't we sell some sex' copy of Unfaithful, i.e. Murder. Somewhere in between was a semi-convincing (but still entirely unoriginal) Saaya, until Basu finally struck gold last year with a dark horse sort of film called Gangster.

And now, as if out of the blue, he's made a film on par with international cinema, something that very few contemporary Hindi filmmakers can boast of. Yes, Karan Johar, we still watch your films. But my oh my would we be embarrassed to watch them with our non-desi friends.

Disclosing the actual plot-lines would risk giving away too much, so I will simply talk about the performances and music. Each and every actor comes out a winner. Kay Kay Menon and Irrfan Khan are already seasoned performances and do not let you down. Shiney Ahuja can add this film to his already-growing repertoire of promising performances. He's definitely a talent to look out for. Sharman Joshi is also quite the surprise package - someone who has appeared in the most useless of films, such as Style, Excuse Me and Shaadi No. 1 seems to have finally found his footing in a more serious, not to mention productive, venture.

If you think the ladies are around to provide the romance and dance around trees, you better guess again. Each is as strong as her male counterpart. Shilpa Shetty has emerged into a fine actress - it seems that she is finally finding the roles that showcase her acting prowess, some 15 years after she announced her arrival in the industry. Metro will definitely go down with Dhadkan and Phir Milenge as her career-best performances. Konkona Sen Sharma is another phenomenal talent to look out for. She continues to prove her worth post-Omkara and Page 3. Kangna Ranaut also takes one by surprise - while she definitely showed signs of talent in her earlier outings, one felt she was rather over the top. Here she manages to keep herself restrained.

Dharmendra and Nafisa Ali are as charming as ever.

The music is also outstanding - a great blend of Pakistani and Bangladeshi artistes, with some Indian for good measure. :)

Verdict: A must-watch for everyone!