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.