Sudhish Kamath's Pad On The Net

Film Reviews – 2008

Best of 2008

This year was about friends and enemies. Stories about individuals revolved around relationships and films with social issues used terrorism as the backdrop.

Overall, 2008 brought with it a lot of fresh blood.  Debutants rocked Hindi cinema. Homosexuality came out of the closet. Small films with a big heart won us over as star power fizzled out at the box office.

Usual disclaimers apply. For the record, this is a purely personal list that in no way reflects box office performance. Nor is it based on compilation of reviews, ratings or popular opinion.

 

No. 10:

Dasvidaniya

Though Vinay Pathak delivers one of the finest performances this year, this inspired piece of filmmaking hopes to exploit the dreams of the lowest common denominator with its eyes on the mass market and ends up using every single trick from the Bollywood book of drama – the Maa melodrama, the dost-dost-na raha syndrome, the Deewar polarization, unrequited love among others. Almost a classic.

 

No. 9:

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi

This twisted tale with a dark, psychotic subtext should have been rightly called “How To Mess With Your Wife’s Head.” But you can’t deny that Adi Chopra creates some fine moments in this Spiderman-like-tale of the Indian Superhero as the tribute to Indian cinema – Raj, the Mohabbat-Man who can make any girl fall in love with him. Add to that the magic of Shah Rukh Khan to it and you have a Timepass film that simultaneously celebrates the actor and the star.

 

No. 8:

Bachna Ae Haseeno

If only this didn’t take itself so seriously, this well-written film with some warm moments and a refreshing cast is fun for most parts till the sentimentality and the songs take over to ruin it for us. This ‘Broken Flowers’ meets ‘My Name is Earl’ romantic comedy undid the damage Saawariya did to Ranbir Kapoor and the music kept us thoroughly entertained. Also, the leading ladies weren’t bad at all.

 

No. 7:

Tashan

Purely for the vision of the filmmaker to go all out and make a film that celebrated the masala potboilers of the eighties – that era when cinema was devoid of all logic and villains always had a den full of men with guns who couldn’t aim for nuts. What Tarantino-Rodriguez did with their Grindhouse double feature, Vijay Krishna Acharya did with Tashan and reworked the Saif-Akshay magic. Kareena’s size zero did zero for the film but good old Anil Kapoor rocked as Bhaiyyaji.

 

No. 6:

Tied: Mumbai Meri Jaan/ Aamir/ A Wednesday

If it wasn’t so repetitive and redundant in parts, Nishikant Kamat’s film would’ve been higher up the list (lower down this column). Mumbai Meri Jaan does not try to present any convenient solutions but shows us the impact of terrorism on modern day society in a country as complex as India from different perspectives, almost breaking our hearts before uplifting our mood with the subtlety that we are not used to in Indian cinema.

While Aamir’s brilliance was in the layering of its political content around a simple plot shot credibly in the backdrop of Mumbai, A Wednesday’s background detailing worked in a tight thriller that pitted two of our finest actors against each other. Not to forget the cleverly concealed twist. Three of our most relevant films, as good as the other.

 

No. 5:

Oye Lucky Lucky Oye

Just for Dibakar Banerjee’s conviction to make a film that respects the intelligence of the audience with his figure-it-out-yourself storytelling that gives the Answers first, Questions later. It’s a difficult genre to even attempt and Dibakar does great with Abhay Deol and Paresh Rawal. The Delhi-loving filmmaker roots it in the heartland of India and signs it off with his simple, authentic and realistic style of filmmaking that continues to reflect the dreams and aspirations of the Great Indian Middle Class.

 

No. 4:

Mithya

This grossly under-rated film is almost flawless but also too niche in its appeal. Ranvir Shorey shines in one of the best performances this year and Rajat Kapoor mixes up the sweet and the sour and pulls the right strings between comedy and dramedy with a simple matter-of-fact sensibility you can relate to in this fascinating twist to the ‘Don’ plot. The best art-house film of the year.

 

No. 3:

Dostana

This is a subversive masterstroke, only that the country is in complete denial about the possibility that its too leading men, who are the epitome of all things macho – one, a Ladies Man with chest hair and the other, a homophobic metrosexual – could be gay. That last scene when Priyanka asks the boys if they ever felt anything while they were pretending to be gay, both these guys think about that kiss they were forced into and suddenly, they cannot look at each other. Cut to a song that begins with the introduction: “I am the voice from the sky… Your son is gay” over the end credits with visuals of its two men singing and dancing with gay abandon only to end with a “They lived happily ever after.” It made the family audience including kids share a few jokes about homosexuality.

No. 2:

Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na

No doubt it liberally borrows from Hollywood’s classic romantic comedies, it also incorporates all desi ingredients needed in a coming-of-age film for boy to become man. With some fantastic characters, Abbas Tyrewala makes a delightful debut as a director and introduces the new Khan on the block, making a film that will be remembered fondly by a generation pretty much like how some of us relate to Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, Maine Pyaar Kiya or Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa or Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander.

 

No. 1:

Rock On

For overall brilliance and all-round achievement in cinema. Never has a film on aborted dreams been so uplifting. A perfectly cast ensemble, power-house well nuanced performances, music that rocked the charts, cinematography so alive, fresh and energetic, great writing that captures modern day relationships as we know them, an editing style so tight and seamlessly taking the narrative back and forth in time and a solidly credible authentic film on the state of Indian rock. It may sound like Dil Chahta Hai meets Jhankaar Beats on paper but as far as execution goes, Rock On is the film of the year.

 

The Others Who Almost Made It:

No. 11: Roadside Romeo/Bhoothnath – Great stuff for kids

No. 12: U, Me Aur Hum – A promising debut by Devgan

No. 13: Jodha Akbar – Despite Hrithik and Aishwarya and the never-ending length

No. 14: Halla Bol – This one almost worked

No. 15: Bombay to Bangkok – A fantastic, gutsy experiment and a cult film of sorts if you’ve just been to Bangkok.

The Some That I Missed Watching:

My apologies to the makers of Welcome to Sajjanpur, The Last Lear, Sorry Bhai, Tahaan, Before The Rains and Halla.

 


Dasvidaniya: Say Hello to the happy tragedy genre

Genre: Drama
Director: Shashant Shah
Cast: Vinay Pathak, Rajat Kapoor, Ranvir Shorey, Saurabh Shukla
Storyline: On discovering he has stomach cancer, an ordinary man makes
a list of things to do before he dies.
Bottomline: Half a classic

The tragedy about Dasvidaniya is that though it is a collection of great touching moments with a fantastic Vinay Pathak in a career best role, as a whole it falls short of being a classic. Hoping to cater to a larger audience, Dasvidaniya is shamelessly manipulative, milking the theme dry for sentiment.

Here’s the List of Things to Do writer Arshad Syed and director Shashant Shah came up with to make this movie as savvy as it could get for the lowest common denominator, deriving from Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

1. The It’s-All-In-The-Name Hypothesis. Call him Amar. It’s a cult
Hindi film name. Poetic for a man who’s dying. Cast the lovable Vinay Pathak in a role that’s been tried, tested and known to be effective by even less talented actors like Jimmy Shergill. If Jimmy could move you to tears in Munnabhai, imagine what Vinay can.

2. The Bad Boss Factor. If he had an evil boss who gave unreasonable deadlines when Amar is on his death-bed, it gives a chance for a conformist to put his feet down and rebel. People like to see the common man screw over the system.

3. The Great Indian Middle Class Aspiration. To buy a car and become upwardly mobile and hope that this would entirely change your life.
But does it really? Pack that angst into the film.

4. The Unrequited Love Syndrome. Which is more effective if Amar has been in love since his school days. If a full-grown man like Vinay could extract sympathy, imagine what a chubby little boy can do. Borrow that heartbreaking scene from Castaway. Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) goes to meet the love of his life only to find her married with
a kid and walks out in the rain and the camera stays on him long enough inside the car to move us to tears. Add a little Hindi film melodrama there (Read Kuch Kuch Hota Hai). Like a dumb charades game to profess his love. Vinay Pathak could be quite a killer here. (And he is!)

5. The Escape Methodology: What do you do when you reach a dead end? In a Hindi film, you take a flight to a foreign location for a little song and dance. It’s there in every common man’s list of things to do. To go to a place he’s never gone before.

6. The Dost Dost Na Raha Paradigm: What if you flew miles to meet your childhood friend and you are misunderstood? This has to be an equation where you have always shared everything with him and insisted he had the bigger piece.

7. The Devdas Effect: What if Chandramukhi was a Russian hooker? What could be more bitter-sweet than to find love just when your life is about to end? Heart-choking huh?

8. The Deewar Polarisation. Have one successful brother who has everything but Maa, a contrast to Amar, the other dutiful son with nothing else but Maa, cancer and a list of things to do. To make sure people get the tribute, throw it in casually with Suresh Menon doing a spoof.

9. The Maa-melodrama Staple. It’s most exploited if Maa also has some sort of a disability. Have a montage that underlines the mother-son bond having Amar sing ‘Mumma’. We know how ‘Maa’ songs work, especially after Taare Zameen Par.

10. The Immortality Paradox. Everyone wants to be famous even if it’s just for a day. And the obituary space is as far they get. Not too many people get to plan their funeral. Make Amar the exception. Now, that’s poignant.


Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi: Or How To Mess With Your Wife’s Head

Genre: Romance

Director: Aditya Chopra

Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Anushka Sharma, Vinay Pathak

Storyline: A very ordinary-looking common man brings home a pretty wife and hopes to make her fall in love with him

Bottomline: Return of the ‘Raj,’ the Mohabbat-Man

At the surface level, the story of Rab Ne seems to be screaming for a different genre of filmmaking – a creepy, psychotic thriller exploring the dynamics of arranged marriage, infidelity, cinema and escape.

Seriously, how else would you treat a film about an introverted, ordinary-looking, boring man who develops a split personality on learning that his wife would never love him and then, conspires to make  her cheat on his boring real self by messing with her head and complicating her already vulnerable state!

But this isn’t an art-house Anurag Kashyap-experiment to end with political incorrectness.

It’s as mainstream as it gets as Aditya Chopra sugarcoats this dark subtext, treating it like any other superhero story.

Considering that the ‘Raj’ type in Hindi cinema is a superhero of sorts in the sense that he always wears a flashy costume and can make any girl fall in love with him, Aditya treats this character type like Sam Raimi would treat Spider-Man and also borrows a trick or two from Hollywood’s romantic comedies – the makeover segment or the dance competition ploy to weave the plot around.

Superhero ‘Raj’ slips into costume and out, complains how it gets uncomfortable around the crotch, to win over his Mary Jane with not much saving-the-world business to keep him busy. But while Spidey does it for a bigger reason than just MJ, Raj’s sole motivation is to stalk his wife and play out his fantasy as somebody else. His obsession with his alter-ego reaches new heights when he wants his wife to cheat on the  real him – the goofy Surinder Saini who starts off well.

Every few scenes, at every stage of complication, the voice of reason and romance in the form of the larger-than-life Vinay Pathak asks Surinder why doesn’t he tell his wife the truth. But Suri Paaji just wants to mess with wifey’s head.

If that aspect of the film does not irritate you, you can be assured that you will be thoroughly entertained watching Shah Rukh Khan’s dual role as a superstar and actor. While a superstar plays the same type over and over again, an actor tries to break the mould and reinvents himself.

Rab Ne is that rare film where an icon gets to feed both the actor and the star in him and Shah Rukh Khan revels in both these roles, breathing life into the longest of monologues, to the point of making you shed a tear for the character, which at least on paper, fits the description of a psychopath.

To Aditya Chopra’s credit, Rab Ne is a fairly engaging tribute to cinema and its function over the years with some finely written and choreographed songs (music Salim-Sulaiman) that provide the perfect platform for debutante Anushka Sharma to dance her way into the big league.

Ravi K Chandran’s obvious attempts to fill up the frames with yellow and earthy tones do not go unnoticed and that’s never a good thing. Extras strut in and out of frames with cued in precision even in the scenes that call for realism. Three-film old Chopra Junior needs to mak  more films before he’s completely out-dated especially since today’s young filmmakers pay much more attention to background detail.

Rab Ne is an adventurous experiment, a happy albeit superficial compromise between art-house and commercial cinema, a product that’s best described by the leading man’s moustache and glasses. Clearly fake and wannabe art-house but as long as there’s the familiar Raj around to entertain you with his flirting, singing and dancing routine, you really don’t want to complain.


Meerabai Not Out: Silly Point Really

Genre: Comedy
Director: Chandrakant Kulkarni
Cast: Mandira Bedi, Eijaz Khan, Anupam Kher, Mahesh Manjrekar
Storyline: Anil Kumble has bowled a maiden over, and she has a tough time juggling cricket with cupid.
Bottomline: Mandira shouldn’t step out without noodle straps

I knew there was a good enough reason why cricketers don’t become film stars in our country despite the huge fan following. Despite all that experience with endorsements.

Good old Kumble finds himself on a sticky wicket and Mandira Bedi’s cheerleading minus the outfits is a no-show.

So, are you game to see Mandira Bedi in ‘Poore Kapde’ is the real question you must ask yourself because obviously how good can a movie be with no real sense of conflict, a completely understated attitude to drama, zero humour (okay, except for that one constant joke on herself that develops into the punchline for the film) and an underwhelming, stilted performance by the leading lady.

An Ugly Betty look alone isn’t enough to register this beti from the middle class family who finds the idea of going on ‘date-wait’ too modern, especially when you can see her tats. Yeah, her nape tattoo peeps out carelessly from the back of her blouse and yet, she insists we believe she is Meera Achrekar and not Mandira Bedi.

But for a few puns on cricketing jargon going over the top, there are too many slips (and none that you would associate with Mandira) and no fine legs. And the result makes you wish Navjot Singh Siddhu wrote the lines instead.

Sample a saree-clad Mandira spelling out her predicament to the guy who’s interested in her, despite her psycho behaviour. She says: “You will always be a non-striker in my life.” Does this mean he lost his mid-wicket?

Seriously, nothing happens. They just keep establishing her character again and again till the end. We know she’s a cricket fan from scene one. There’s no real need to say it another sixty times before the climax spells out the conflict.

The filmmaker wants to keep it realistic and subtle but then suddenly feels the need to slap a larger than life third act, to give it the romantic comedy spin.

With hardly any excitement, this Mandira versus Anupam match is a Test heading towards nowhere.

You just can’t make any movie on cricket work without understanding the simplicity of the sport.

Six balls make an over. This one takes over 120 dull minutes before it is. Over.


Dil Kabaddi: The anti-date movie

Genre: Comedy
Director: Anil Senior
Cast: Irrfan Khan, Konkana Sen, Rahul Bose, Soha Ali Khan, Rahul Khanna, Payal Rohatgi
Storyline: Two couples learn a thing or two about marriage and infidelity
Bottomline: Watch it for this cast

Due to the unavailability of the DVD of Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives, it maybe difficult to comment about how original Dil Kabbadi really is.

Having rarely reviewed films without watching the original, I find myself a little confused. Dil Kabbadi with its cast is certainly one of the funniest films of this year and probably the most intelligent of them all.

But then, a lot of the writing in the film sounds so much like a Woody Allen film that I wouldn’t be surprised if the Hindi script is a mere translation from the English subtitles.

In any case, given that it is quite difficult to find the DVD, Dil Kabbadi might be worth your time if you want to see Irrfan Khan rock this role as the infidel husband, with an innocent charm.

The actor has us in splits in this conversation-driven film in the ‘Life in a Metro’ genre while the rest of the ensemble delivers a first rate performance. Konkana Sen as the passive aggressive housewife, Soha Ali Khan as the easily irritable prude, Rahul Khanna as the charming romantic and Rahul Bose as a thirty-plus lecturer on cinema make Dil Kabbadi work and how. Even a loud, shrieking Payal Rohatgi works here because she’s meant to be annoying.  Kabbadi also features, by far, the best onscreen kiss of the year in Hindi cinema. Debutante Saba Azad is seriously hot, super talented and a star in the making.

There’s not a dull moment in this bitter-sweet take on marriage, infidelity, love, sex and power as Anil Senior takes a subject usually used as a staple for slapstick (remember No Entry, Masti and similar multi-starrers) and deals with it with inspired maturity and light heartedness. Or maybe the credit should entirely go to Woody Allen.

Strictly for the multiplex audience. Not the kind of movie you would take your girlfriend to. Unless, you are married.

Disclaimer: The critic reserves the right to hate this film, once he gets to watch the original.


Oye Lucky Lucky Oye: Go Lucky, Be Happy

Genre: Comedy
Director: Dibakar Banerjee
Cast: Abhay Deol, Paresh Rawal, Neetu Chandra
Storyline: A petty thief becomes so popular that he becomes a celebrity
Bottomline: Only Bunty, no Babli. But uncork the bubbly anyway.

On paper, Oye Lucky seems like Bunty aur Babli without Babli.

Maybe because Dibakar Banerjee and Jaideep Sahni (who wrote Bunty aur Babli) go back a long way (they collaborated to make Khosla Ka Ghosla), there’s a lot that’s common about these films.

Both films are about protagonists from the Great Indian Middle Class who decide to take the short-cut to the top and have a little fun on the job.

Both films are rich in local flavour and transport us to the heartland of the country where people speak in distinct dialects and not from the generic vocabulary of Hindi film appropriations.

And yes, they both feature thieves who can con their way through charm.

But while Bunty aur Babli was all about the adventures and orchestration of the con jobs, Lucky’s operations are relatively simpler because the thief here sticks to basics. No Oceans-Eleven-planning. No disguises. No guns. No casualties. No smart deceptions. He just takes what he wants, from where he wants.

Maybe because Banerjee does not want you to look at Oye Lucky as just another caper. He doesn’t spell anything out ever but it’s all there between the lines.

Oye Lucky is an all-subtext sandwich between a wafer thin cat-and-mouse plot that keeps the screenplay ticking.

The non-linear storytelling here is backed with some smart editing that holds back the cards, intrigues and eventually reveals the missing detail. In a normal film, when we see a boy ask his dad for a bike and his request is turned down, conventional storytellers would then tell you how the boy gets the bike before his date with the girl he likes.

But Banerjee believes that the Indian audience has come of age and will eventually figure it out when he suggests it in passing, after the date.

The idea here is probably to show us that Lucky, with his straightforward stealing is probably the cleanest in a country full of people with secrets and lives they aren’t proud of. To do this without overstating or underlining the message is quite an achievement in the context of Hindi cinema and Banerjee is a master of subtlety.

The humour in the satire is largely cerebral. Which is why though you may never laugh out loud during the film, you go home thoroughly entertained and chuckle at its heartwarming simplicity and native charm. More so if you’re familiar with Delhi.

It is difficult to think of anyone else who would’ve played Lucky with such casual ease, his dimple doing most of the work in this film. A deglamourised Neetu Chandra is revelation. It is refreshing to see the versatile Paresh Rawal play three different roles (he’s a volcano of emotions as the father, a smooth slimeball in one and a deceitful gentleman in the other) in one film after watching him play the same type in three hundred different Priyadarshan films or less.

If you loved the brand of humour in Khosla Ka Ghosla, Oye Lucky is a landmine of laughs.


Yuvvraaj: Meet Prince Harming

Genre: Drama
Director: Subhash Ghai
Cast: Anil Kapoor, Salman Khan, Zayed Khan, Katrina Kaif, Boman Irani, Mithun Chakraborty
Storyline: Rain Man set in Austria with paintings and music, minus the best parts.
Bottomline: Ghai lives in the eighties

The best part about Yuvvraaj were the trailers that played during the interval.

Zoya Akhtar’s Luck By Chance seems like an insider’s take on the Hindi film industry starring Farhan Akhtar, Konkana Sen, Rishi Kapoor, Juhi Chawla, Sanjay Kapoor, Isha Shervani, Dimple Kapadia and surprise, surprise… Hrithik Roshan.

The promo of Dibakar Banerjee’s Oye Lucky Lucky Oye entertained much more in a minute with its fun vibe than all of Yuvvraaj and Sunny Deol seems to be making a comeback to serious cinema with a courtroom drama ‘Right Yaa Wrong’ opposite Irrfan Khan. Whoa!

The future is bright. Truly time for Ghai to gracefully raise his hat and retire. No self respecting filmmaker would have continued to make films after a film like Kisna. But Ghai is made of thicker stuff.

If you’ve forgotten your moral science lessons from school or the villains from that era, you have to thank Mr.Ghai for taking you back to that time in Hindi cinema when greedy relatives used poison to kill the rightful heir to a huge fortune.

That long forgotten era when dialogues were considered to be subtle as long as the hero didn’t introduce himself as “Main Salman Khan Is Film Ka Main Hero Hoon.” In Yuvvraaj, the vamp never expressly uses the word “gold-digger” to admit that she’s one. She just says she wanted him only as long as he had his money and style.

Subhash Ghai is the master of that kind of subtlety (We suspect he also interned with Sanjay Leela Bhansali during Black and Saawariya).

It’s quite subtle how he quietly sneaks in a huge painting of wolves to form the backdrop of a scene where the villains get together to conspire against the hero.

A few scenes later, he shows us multiple shots of masks to suggest that one of the characters has started to believe that people are not what they are. Just to make sure you got that brilliant metaphor, the showman also shows us two characters literally holding the masks and taking them off. Cue in the music and the melodrama. What a waste of truly epic music. Let’s hope Rahman got paid a bomb for this. It would hurt any creator to see his work used like this, no matter how grand the sets look.

Yuvvraaj, like its title, is so beyond its expiry date and old fashioned, that Ghai probably wrote his script in hieroglyphics. That should explain quite a bit of that visual cues that dominate production design.

After taking half the length of the film to do what Barry Levinson’s ‘Rain Man’ did within its first ten minutes, Ghai tries to set the stage for Anil Kapoor to do a Dustin Hoffman in the second half of the
film. He replaces mathematical prowess with musical genius, trying to recreate the Taal effect.Anil is quite sincere too but what can he do in a role where he comes across like Michael Jackson in a room full of children. But obviously, Ghai has filled his room with children to subtly show you that this mentally ill man may need to constantly dye his hair black but he is like a child too.

Salman Khan is good where he has to fool around and just chill, chill but when it comes to heavy-duty drama, you just can’t take Sallu wearing a shirt, a suit and what not… Obviously he would be suffocated. And what’s with bad hair dye in this movie?

Katrina is quite natural when she has to moon over Salman and honestly, she does not need to act to win us over. Zayed Khan gets plenty of action here in a role that just needs to him act cool and
slap the hell out of Anil Kapoor. From what we see of the vamps, it is obvious that Mr.Ghai knows what the front-benchers want to see. He simply must graduate to porn for he seems to have a natural flair for erotica.

Unfortunately however, Yuvvraaj isn’t amusingly bad as Kisna and features no kinky Tarzan dance. This is the kind of bad film that you can’t even laugh at because when you have been held hostage for over three hours to endure painfully staid moral science lessons, the joke is on you.

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Dostana: When Chuck and Larry became Deewana-Mastana

There’s a thin line between making something outrightly subversive and completely juvenile. Judd Apatow’s brand of filmmaking walks that line. And Tarun Mansukhani’s effort stays shamelessly juvenile and is great fun if that’s all you need from your cinema.

But the tragedy about Dostana is that with a little more intelligence, it could’ve been a subversive masterstroke.

Yes, it is politically incorrect, irreverent and replete with gay stereotypes but if you forgive the trappings that come with being a mainstream Bollywood mass-based film, here’s a film that, even if half-heartedly or unintentionally, not just celebrates male bonding and but also converts its homophobic protagonists into guys who soon become comfortable in roles they pretend to assume and finally become people who don’t mind being officially recorded as ‘gay’ even (when they are not) simply because it makes lives easier for them.

Spoiler Alert till end of paragraph (Highlight to read): Towards the end, they are even made to kiss as ‘punishment’ for making homosexuality seem like a joke and that would’ve redeemed these juvenile characters a great deal, even if not wholly, had Bobby Deol not commented in disbelief that he would’ve never ever done anything like that (like kiss a man). Bobby saying that defeats the purpose of the exercise of teaching the homophobes a lesson because his reaction still makes the idea of two men kissing seem like the “unthinkable”. The ‘Y Tu Mama Tambien’-ish ending doesn’t help things either.

If the intention was to at least fake a semblance of political correctness, Dostana fails miserably. At no point does it come across as a film you would take seriously. It does make fun of gay people with its unpardonable stereotypes at one level but then, it’s also the kind of film that is likely to make the homophobe think again about what exactly is he/she afraid of about gay people?

At this stage of transition in outlook towards homosexuality, Dostana may just do the trick in making more people warm up to the idea of same sex couples simply because they’ve seen known straight icons like John Abraham and Abhishek share a sparkling chemistry pretending to be gay to a greater extent than Shah Rukh Khan and Saif Ali Khan did in Kal Ho Na Ho. Even if it is just for a dream sequence or a scenes of make-believe, visuals of two male icons dancing and romancing each other are likely to be strongly ingrained in the subconscious of the society. And two men having fun pretending is a great start because the first step towards an inclusive society is starting a dialogue.

Unless we joke about it, we won’t talk about it. And unless we talk about it, we are never going to understand another perspective.

Dostana, though set in Miami, largely reflects a society in transition and begins to address the issues of acceptance within the Indian framework of marriage and saas-bahu dynamics. The screenplay largely derived out of Hollywood romantic comedies and a few episodes of Friends does have its share of problems as characters walk in and disappear forever after much build-up. But there are a few nice touches that are essentially Indian. Like the bit when Abhishek swears that Gabbar Singh was gay. Or when he wonders aloud about Munnabhai’s affection for Circuit. But then again, you can’t help but remember that conversation in ‘Sleep With Me’ about Top Gun being the story of a man’s struggle with homosexuality.

Abhishek Bachchan, John Abraham and Boman Irani make even stereotypes delightful and Priyanka hasn’t looked better or dumber ever before as you are left wondering why would anyone in the right mind ever fall for/cast Bobby Deol? Haven’t they seen him shirtless in Apne? What would’ve been a cool twist is if Dharmendra Da Puttar was cast against the type and it turned out that he was gay. This would’ve also fixed the stereotype overdose.

Political incorrectness aside, Dostana is great mass entertainment manipulating the inherent homophobia of a country in the threshold of change, as it gets parents and children to share laughs over alternative sexuality and related issues that will no longer remain in the closet.


Vaaranam Aayiram: Gautham’s Autograph

Though similar to Cheran’s autograph, this has Gautham’s signature all over it in big block letters.

Vaaranam Aayiram is an uncompromising film that’s all heart, indulgent and personal and that’s why you would be tempted to overlook the length, the pace and the overdose of voiceover that expressly overstates the obvious… It is somewhat strange when so much of it is spelt out in English and it does get to you when every sentence in the voiceover ends with “Daddy” but soon, you forget all about it and get sucked into another great moment.

The entire film is a collection of some truly great moments packaging nostalgia. And it’s the Suriya Show all the way as he turns in a career best performance as a father and the young man from 17 to 35. After Vaaranam, we can say for sure that he’s the best of the lot today. Here’s a guy who is content feeding the actor than the star in him and he revels in this role knowing pretty well that it could be a once in a lifetime opportunity to do an ‘Aarulirundhu Aruvadhu Varai.’

The filmmaker seems to have a natural flair for romance and Vaaranam in many ways plays out as the Best of Gautham. So yes, this is a nostalgia film that is bound to give you a sense of deja vu. There are times when we are hit with a little ‘Minnale,’ and times when we get the feel of ‘Kaakha Kaakha’ or ‘Vettaiyaadu.’ Maybe because they were born out of his personal experiences at some level – be it the loverboy who pursues and woos the girl he met once against all odds (Minnale) or the dignified officer who’s being wooed (Kaakha Kaakha) or when he’s showing us grown up romance (like Vettaiyaadu). But it also reminds you of your own days back in college, your first love and your relationship with your Dad.

While most of the individual chapters work well, the problem areas in Vaaranam are those sequences that try to connect the different phases in the young man’s life – whether it’s the period when he buys a house overnight for his father when he’s yet to clear his arrears in college or the phase during his addiction, these are bits that are conveniently and quickly resolved within a couple of scenes each.

But then, this is also one of those few films that freaks the hell out of you about the consequences of smoking without trying to be a full blown message film about deaddiction and rehabilitation.

For a film about a father-son relationship, there is no serious conflict between the two ever (except for a brief exchange during his addiction) and the lack of conflict results in the film becoming an assortment of episodes rather than one seamless narrative. Though each episode keeps you adequately engrossed, the voiceover that ties it together is a little weak making you wonder how long is that damn chopper ride?

But then, just around the time you are getting a little restless, there’s a Harris Jeyaraj number around the corner all set to haunt and play in your head in a loop, till the next one comes along.

Simran is the best of the women – it’s a great comeback vehicle for one of the best Tamil actresses ever. Sameera should seriously stick to sarees, she’s never looked better (except maybe in that Pankaj Udhas video Aahista Aahista) and Divya Spandana is a natural. It is quite a task to make a film without a comedy track or a serious villain or a filmy conflict and Gautham has made a fairly engaging film that strikes a chord despite its imperfections.


Fashion & Golmaal Returns: Belated Views

Fashion:

Bhandarkar’s definition of realism is making dramatically depressing films. Time and again, he’s passed off his brand of depression as realism simply because the world he sets his characters in seem real and are peopled with stereotypes that you would identify with that universe. He slaps his middle-class morality into every territory he’s ever explored and has branded himself as a hard-hitting filmmaker known to expose truths.

Fashion is among his better formula films because it has a few interesting characters but Bhandarkar lets them down in not fleshing out the key parts of what’s interesting about them most. Why would a girl (Priyanka) who has reservations about sharing a house with a guy she trusts not even discuss or think about having an affair with a married man? What exactly is going through Mughda’s head when she agrees to marry her gay best friend and are there no complications that arise out of an unnatural marriage between a straight woman and a gay man? Kangana’s is one of the most interesting characters but then we hardly get to know much of her other than the fact that she keeps going back to her abusive boyfriend, does drugs and punctuates every sentence screaming Bastard. And does wardrobe malfunction have to be treated with so much melodrama – it’s something most model experience and Carol Gracias got an applause for the way she carried herself. The world of Fashion is much more understanding than as seen from Bhandarkar’s blinders.

Golmaal Returns:

Irreverence and self-deprecation is in, thanks to Om Shanti Om. Like the first installment, Golmaal Returns is equally forgettable but entertaining nonetheless. But seriously, imagine the audacity of the filmmaker to repeat his gags all over again just because the title promises that the franchise has returned.

This is strictly for fans of the first installment simply because there’s more of the same old. Devgan is less smarter this time around, Sharman has been substituted with Shreyas, Arshad has been reassigned a cop’s role and Tusshar reprises his role of playing the animated mute who talks through noises. Apart from Shreyas who rocks this part, the rest are barely passable and Arshad is worst hit with hardly any lines to keep himself afloat.


Karzzz: He, He He, Himesh… Ha Ha Ha Ha

Genre: Comedy
Director: Satish Kaushik
Cast: Himesbhai, Indra Kumar’s not so lucky production – Beti – Shweta who ought to take up toothpaste modelling, Urmila Matondkar, Danny Danzongpa and Gulshan Grover looking every bit like Feroze Khan’s duplicate as Sir Judah.
Storyline: Many years ago, there was a siren, there was a moron… She killed him. To scare her to death, he’s re-born… ugly as hell.
Bottomline: Watch Om Shanti Om on DVD if you want a Karz tribute, for a spoof watch this one.

“Tum subah jab breakfast nahin karti ho, toh tumhe acidity ho jaati hai,” (When you don’t do breakfast, you get acidity in the stomach) says Monty (Himesbhai) trying to convince Princess Kamini (please note the smarty pants pun – Kameeni, also means very bad woman) that he knows her from last birth.

When the Princess dismisses this bit of trivia saying it’s part of general knowledge, Monty comes up with the sucker punch: “Jab tum kiss karti ho Kamini, toh tum aankhen bandh kar leti ho.” (I know that when you kiss, you close your eyes, Kamini) Now, Kamini is stumped and shell-shocked. How did he know? How did he know this unique quirky little habit of hers when the rest of the world usually plays dandiya on the occasion.

Besides when your boyfriend is Himesbhai, keeping your eyes closed all the time sounds like a good idea too. But actually, what Himesbhai is also trying to tell you is that he used to look once look like Dino Morea – he didn’t always look like Emraan Hashmi’s chubby twin with a wig, with a nasal voice, flabby cleavage and twiggy arms, you know.

If you walked in to watch the new Karzzzz, you have only yourself to blame. For starters, the smarty pants producers have expressly titled it Karz with the extra zees. They have put up Himesbhai’s ‘fotu’ on the poster to caution you further that vengeance is back (you made fun of him when he hid behind a cap in Aap Kaa Surroor: The Moviee – The Real Luv Story, look who’s back now – without it!) and for the benefit of those who aren’t wearing their smarty pants to the theatre, 15 minutes into the film, Himesbhai himself tells you, singing “Hurry Home Hurry, ” the anthem that replaces “Om Shanti Om” from the original.

I have to be honest though, I’m now a fan of Himesbhai and I am not ashamed of it. I have never cared much for his songs or his style of singing because I knew there was a good enough reason for him to hide his face. But to expose yourself like this, you need to be made of steel and concrete. And his facial expressions prove what he’s made of.

But, when he screams ‘Nahiiiiiin,’ it’s pure movie magic. My to-do list has a new entry right on top: To buy the Karzzzz DVD and cut a montage of Himesbhai’s screams. Some day, it will be useful to stop kids from crying.

Him apart, there are a few other reasons why Karzzz will be recommended as part of laughter therapy. The goon who wears lavender-pink satin tights as an underwear, the producer-beti heroine whose smile is so big that her mouth seems to begin from her ear, the villain who types out musical notes with his metallic arm which are then decoded and relayed across almost instantly and not to forget Dino Morea’s coming of age as an actor. Finally here’s a movie that will have critics writing: Dino Morea was the saving grace of the film. But the grace doesn’t last too long.

Like Sharon Stone did Basic Instinct 2, Urmila must do a Rangeela 2 (Smarty pants suggestion for sequel: Geela – Urmila wetter than before). But seriously, the best actress of the year has to go to Urmila Matondkar. Who else could’ve pulled off that surprise expression when Himesbhai tells her what she usually does during a kiss?


Hello: When nature calls, take it. Don’t make a movie.

Disclaimers: Spoilers ahead. So unless you’ve read the book already, proceed at your own risk. Actually, who am I kidding… I can’t spoil it for you even if I tried. Besides, it’s not like I want you to watch the film.

Hello plays out as the story of six… janitors, we think, considering these folks spend more time inside the bathroom than on the phone, at a call centre. Maybe their nocturnal junk-food routine has taken a toll on their domestic lives and had also upset their stomach.

Poor slobs. Their American ass-licking boss who himself works double-shift actually expects them to work on a rainy night! Oooh, Pure Evil!

I mean who in India ever goes to work when it rains? Especially, when your office is sending you a stupid chauffer-driven air-conditioned SUV to fetch you and your entire team. Besides, talking on the phone is such a tough job. Only those freak teens manage to do it full-time.

This particular night, things were all set to hit rock bottom.

If you hear a loud noise when you’re on the job, you know you need to use the bathroom. The girls head to the loo together to discuss men, cars and their salaries as the two single boys (both rejected by their women in office) decide to take matter in their own hands… only to be busted by the boss who catches one atop the other going: Whooo-hoo. Thankfully, the open-minded boss doesn’t mind as long as they leave him out of it. They then swoop down on the Big Boss as he feeds the urinal, probably thinking it’s the most opportune time to tell him about a website they’ve put together. Ahem!

Meanwhile, Military Uncle is busy surfing wild life on the internet and forwards clips of those horny beasts to his little grandson. We really wonder why the spamming goes unappreciated by his son.

The rest spend most of the night in the bathroom so much that at one point, Sallu thought the term call centre was actually a nasty little pun on the place where people answered nature’s calls. He suggested to Chetan that he could be shirtless in a Jacuzzi, have a mystic masseuse stroke more than just his ego, while listening to this story. A story that, for a reason he couldn’t immediately fathom, urgently had to be told… But then, it was only natural in his surroundings that uncontrollable objects be dropped and promptly flushed.

So after another one of the many breaks they get that night, the boys then do what dejected lovers do. One of them fondly remembers the sex they had when things were good (and the bitter-sweet pangs of negotiating a D-Cup inside an SUV) and taps her phone to find out all about her honeymoon plans (The director employs a ‘horny conscience’ as his inside voice).

The other guy breaks the office wash-basin and other canteen props on finding out that someone else beat him to the post and got it cheap.

To illustrate that they are all going through the same shit, the team leader breaks it to the only happily married girl in the office that her husband’s been cheating on her.

The last straw is when they eavesdrop into their boss’s phone line and find out that they’re going to be sacked because apparently, productivity record should never show a clean slate. What’s worse is that their boss has passed off the website idea as his own and was all set to leave to the US.

To cut a long story short, an item song and drunken driving later, they find themselves between life and death as their car delicately dangles over a construction site, with only a sheet of iron bars to hold their weight. That’s when they get a call from the voice talent who used to make a living when Mahabharath was on air.

The phone helpfully flashes the caller ID as God and a brief sermon about the need to accept failure later, they are almost rescued but then Amrita Arora over-acts with so much excitement that she could’ve probably killed them that night jumping in her seat.

After surviving the night, they decide to do what it takes for survival. They sneak into their boss’s office, send off a mail to one of the girls who sleeps cheap anyway, blackmail him for sexual harassment and then web-cast the negotiation live to the US. They then indulge in cyber-terrorism to keep their jobs by spreading a hoax virus alert to their database of dumbkopfs… the poor unsuspecting kinds who assume their bras can be washed in a dishwasher just because their lovers told them that the contents were so edible just the previous night.

* * *

Well, that’s what the film version translates a not-so-great-but-entertaining book into.

While the book showed at least an iota of character depth and a little detail that made a mediocre plot barely readable, Chetan Bhagat and Atul Agnihotri have dumbed it down to a ridiculous extent… especially the virus-alert scam.

In the book, when Priyanka breaks the news of her impending engagement, the girls are happy for her and so is she… She laughs out loud while talking to the prospective groom and seems to have clearly moved on from her previous relationship. Here, the filmy friends mourn in silence when she announces her plans for marriage and it is made amply clear that Priyanka hasn’t moved on at all.

The love story is largely unconvincing and plain, in spite of the fact that Sharman and Gul are the best of the lot. They breathe quite a bit of life in these underwritten roles. Sohail is a riot all right. He begins on a sober understated note and realises he’s more at home with his signature snide remarks, quirks and animated expressions and thankfully, manages to provide some comic relief in this otherwise boring film.

Katrina seems to read from a teleprompter and Salman’s ‘listening’ expression is a lot like the one he would have if he were picturing her naked.

Well, so yes Hello is loyal to ‘One Night’ in terms of story but does it capture the call centre culture as credibly?

The accent of Hello (literally too) completely misses the point. The director lets go of so many places where he could’ve built tension and there’s plenty of scope for that: Whether one’s tapping a phone, or hiding to eavesdrop, or sneaking into your boss’s room and of course, the build up to the conversation with God.
Hang on, the conversation was a little cheesy even in the book. Here, though it’s brief, the gyaan is too general and the filmmaker never puts us into the shoes of every individual and their internal conflicts when they absolutely must introspect.

Given that is the big point the book was trying to make (remember Bhagat’s little exercise at the beginning of the book where he asks you to write down what you fear, what makes you angry and what you don’t like about yourself), the film never quite gets you into that zone or its vicinity.

Remember that last conversation where the narrator tells the storyteller that people want logic and may find it difficult to believe that it was God who called…

Well, in this case, it’s like Sallu after the narration, probably told the makers he would agree if they did exactly the opposite:
“Don’t try to make it realistic, people don’t like logic. They want to see me without a shirt. And Katrina too (but the Censors may not allow that), they want Sajid Wajid ka music, one item song after interval, make out scenes for the multiplex audience… the rest Sohail will take care… Let’s roll.”
*Begins to take his shirt off, humming Just Chill, Chill, Just Chill*


Drona: A stoner film with plenty of substance

Far, far away in a European town near Saawariya-pur where even firang folk speak Hindi, a little boy often ridiculed by his step mom and Yo-bro, begins to find solace in the blue stuff that grew around the area.

One day, the kind foster Dad realising that the kid was going bonkers, gives him a towel to keep the blue stuff by telling him: You are not like us. You are special.

Little does the poor lil boy know that ‘special’ was the politically correct usage for being mentally ill. So he continues to find more of the blue stuff every time he’s depressed and soon, the effects began to show.
At first, the hallucinations are small and ordinary… It just makes him feel tickled by a petal. But then as he grows up, things begin to get a little crazy gradually. He can feel the petal talk to him. The petal also plays hide and seek with him and even wipes his ass eyes every time shit happens.

It makes him sweep the pavement (after goons break the display panes of his brother’s store) and soon, he hallucinates that the blue stuff gifts him a heavy-duty gold bracelet. He gets visions of a Gothic-styled Kay Kay Menon talking Urdu-laced Hindi to a gooey clone as the two face off for a facial contortion competition along with a few visual effects he had seen on DVD in recent fantasy films… and the hallucinations soon get a little more wilder when he begins to fantasise about Priyanka Chopra in a turban, driving a yellow Alfa Romeo and kicking ass flaunting cleavage.

After the kind father kicks the bucket, ironically, it’s just the mother who really understands him for who he is. “Druggie kahin ka,” she refers to him affectionately for the benefit of the front-benchers. This is one of the rare few times that director Goldie Behl spells out what’s actually going on.

Otherwise, Drona is like Anurag Kashyap’s ‘No Smoking’ on hash… Or possibly acid, since they seem to call it the ‘Amrit’.

Whatever it is, it’s the good stuff that’s responsible for the screenplay (the same stuff that should rightfully get writing credits for Baba, specifically that thrilling kite-sequence) and substance has led to a lesser known genre going mainstream. It would’ve been unimaginable a few years ago that a mainstream star like Abhishek Bachchan would be sport enough to do a full blown stoner film.

Drona looks like something only David Lynch would’ve got away doing in recent times – nothing is what it seems like at the surface.

Abhishek seems like he’s serious but he’s not.

Kay Kay Menon at the surface may seem like a great actor but then his facial muscles go berserk all through.
Priyanka too has no direct lines of her own in the movie and hence uses the indirect way of expression, starting every sentence with “Babuji kehtey the…”

There are plenty of signifiers and unless you have passed the basic test and successfully deconstructed No Smoking, it is unlikely that you will realise that Priyanka’s attribution is all about the subconscious reminding you of your upbringing and values with which you were brought up with.

Even when you do drugs, the subconscious likes to remind you like a guardian angel manifesting itself through things you have ordinarily liked – curves and cars. But the more addicted you get, the more rebellious you become and start craving to face your fears… Like the young Bruce Wayne from Batman Begins.

Some may even begin to explore alternative sexuality and wear kohl around the eyes and want to spend your birthdays with Riz Raizada (an adequately effeminate Kay Kay Menon), clearly seduced by the charm of evil only to realise that pure evil will stop at nothing to get the pill away from you. Goldie does this with a beautiful scene around interval when Kay Kay Menon makes Abhishek give him the pill – this is also a literal scene where Goldie spells it out visually. And you thought only the Wachowski Brothers would have thought of something like that.

But if you want your freedom, you have to protect the stuff… the Amrit that everybody wants. Crazy wizards to Seven-footer-WWF champions in prosthetics to albino monks from Opus Dei… everybody wants it.

Drona is about protecting your stuff. Marijuana is a legacy left behind by our forefathers and there’s always a Chosen One who has to fight evil forces that want to confiscate it for their own consumption.

I haven’t seen Pineapple Express, but I’m pretty sure it can’t be half as funny or profound as Drona.

Go for Drona adequately stoned. There’s not a chance in hell your stupid brain would understand any of it otherwise. And if you are a No Smoking fan, be warned. You may die of overdose.


Kidnap: Could nap during this chiller

Genre: Thriller
Director: Sanjay Gadhvi
Cast: Sanjay Dutt, Imran Khan, Minnisha Lamba, Vidya Malavade
Storyline: A young man holds the richest Indian’s daughter captive and gives him a set of tasks and deadlines
Bottomline: Reveals way too much to keep you guessing

“This is a kidnapping. Maine tumhe kidnap kiya hai,” announces Imran trying hard to look like a badass. Minissha giggles in response and so do we.

First, the basic premise of the film is covered in a bikini for most part. So there’s nothing much to guess there but it is fun nonetheless to watch Minissha cavort around in water.

Secondly, the guy holding the basic premise of the film captive hardly looks like he could do serious damage. So there’s nothing to fear when he says ‘Mujhe Revenge Chahiye’ like it’s some new cocktail at the bar.

Finally, the father of the basic premise of the film is the richest Indian alive, which means it shouldn’t be that hard for him to get away even with murder. So it hardly seems like a challenge when he is asked to get to Panvel in 40 minutes because he could’ve easily taken his private chopper or better still, had the lady he’s asked to meet air-lifted.

This film ought to have been called Charity instead of Kidnap for more reasons than Minissha’s service to the deprived. What do you call a man who cooks for you, does your dishes, takes you to pristine beaches for a swim, makes you revisit your childhood home, gets you designer clothes and even cuts your finger nails (and Gadhvi accompanies this with tense music so that we’re scared), brings your divorced parents together and reunites you with your father over the phone, without any financial motivation? In some countries, he’s called the husband.

So when Imran does all of this and you are expected to believe he’s some mean kidnapper, you can’t smile at the innocence of this good Samaritan.

The rat giving the cat something to run for may sound like an exciting sequence but not if you consider that the stuntmen, for the sake of creating a chase, decide that instead of just having one run after the other, have both of them climb a building under construction. For what joy? For a parkour demonstration, of course.

In between these tickles, there’s Vidya Malavade deciding to test our willing suspension of disbelief skills. As Yummy Mummy to Minissha, she also tries to convince us that she can go to a prison all alone in the middle of the night and pass off as a human rights activist on a surprise check. With those clothes, she’s probably fighting for the prisoner’s need for glamour.

For those who care, the storyline goes that a former juvenile delinquent gives a set of tasks accompanied with clues written as bad puns to nursery rhymes for an old man with a paunch. The script thus solely relies on these tasks for the thrills.

The tasks include robbery, jailbreak and murder, all excuses for set-piece action sequences.

At no point does it seem like the situation would chaotically spiral out of control. In fact, evil is conspicuous by absence in this film that doesn’t really want to let its characters slip into dark territory. There’s sexual assault that’s withheld, an interesting premeditated murder twist that gets cancelled as an afterthought, a romance that the makers are scared to explore and a divorce that gets conveniently resolved.

It’s like Gadhvi and Shibani Bhatija do not want to get the drama to get too loud where characters yell ‘Bloody Bastard’ (honestly, that would’ve actually worked in this film because ‘You Arrogant Man’ hardly reflects any serious emotion) nor do they want the drama to get too complex and messy with shades of grey.

Dutt is supposed to be grey because he’s arrogant and Imran is grey because he wants revenge is all that they can come up with and that is certainly not enough to create even an iota of drama or intrigue. Certainly the half-hearted Zinda, though shamelessly ripped off from ‘Oldboy,’ has more character than this wannabe thriller.

Yes, the attempts at slickness by use of English punch lines do sort of make it sound like a bad Hollywood film. Must we add, spoof.

Imran Khan is all right in a few scenes where he has to look menacing but comes across as outright silly when he’s trying to sound threatening. Dutt like always acquits his part with great sincerity but prison life seems to have taken a toll on his fitness. Minissha, for a girl who has to carry the film, gets by with very little.

Maybe at gunpoint, Kidnap will hold you captive.


Rock On: Totally Rockin’

Genre: Musical
Director: Abhishek Kapoor
Cast: Farhan Akhtar, Arjun Rampal, Purab Kohli, Luke Kenny, Prachi Desai, Koel Puri
Storyline: Four friends who are part of a rock band called Magik fall apart until one day, ten years later, life offers them a second chance.
Bottomline: A rock-version of Dil Chahta Hai-meets-Jhankaar Beats in an incredibly solid ensemble film.

Rock on is predictable from start to the supers in the end that will tell us what happened to each of the band members and is certainly not the film you ought to watch after the spoof ‘Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.’

Because, Rock On has every single element synonymous with the sub-genre of rock-movies – a band that has fallen apart must get together to redeem itself.

But it’s not the What that matters in a movie like Rock On, it’s the How.

And How it works!

Gloriously at that, hitting the right notes with the restraint and understatement, a sensibility we are now attuned to expect from the Farhan Akhtar brand of cinema. Director Abhishek Kapoor is completely in control, backed by Farhan Akhtar’s effectively incisive dialogues that take us right into the mind of the characters, not to forget the powerhouse performances from the entire ensemble.

The film does get indulgently slow down towards in the middle when it delves into what went wrong with the band, but by then you’re already in love with the mood and the feel of Rock On. Cinematographer Jason West, take a bow.

With the classic golden sephia tones and the saturated colours created in a sea of swaying arms, the flashbacks feel like a Woodstock documentary set in Mumbai.

You can completely relate to the boys, their dilemmas and where the conflict stems from, through the nuances and body language of the characters, with the filmmaker rarely ever resorting to theatrics, melodrama or cinematic exaggeration.

Rock On is a nostalgic ode to an era when rock musicians could be spotted with their long hair. Yes, they did smoke up, they had their groupies but that wasn’t all they did.

It maybe a little unfair to compare this with Cameron Crowe’s ‘Almost Famous’ that went behind the scenes and deep into the minds of pig-headed power-drunk rockstars because rockstars in India are anything but that.

Because Rock On is the definitive film on the state of Indian rock. Rockstars in India are small-time survivors, consumed by the angst of their struggle against odds, playing for what they believe in and bound together by friendship and music, more than anything else. And Rock On is spot on when it comes to exploring these issues.

Shankar Ehsaan Loy’s music is the backbone of this film. The songs work ‘Magik’ when you watch them within the film, grow on you and may just convince you pick up a CD. It’s raw, fresh and full of life. And once you’ve seen the movie, it will also trigger memories of the film.

There is so much to rave about Farhan Akhtar’s performance. He’s emerged out to be one of India’s finest actors in the film, brooding with aggressive intensity, employing his voice modulation to bring out the anguish, compared to a superbly restrained Arjun Rampal who lets his eyes do all the talking with his mellowed down angst-ridden countenance. Purab Kohli is delightfully charming and fun and is almost solely responsible for the laughs in the film while Luke Kenny underplays the level-headed, strong-minded introvert with great panache. The women in the film Prachi Desai, Koel Puri and especially Sahana Goswami are solid in their support roles.

Even the most predictable scenes are delivered with utmost sincerity and the sync sound breathes so much life into even the most used plot devices.

Unfortunately though this multiplex film has limited urban appeal and one can only wish that it stays long enough to get the audience it deserves.

Book your ticket now and Rock On.


Mumbai Meri Jaan: The blasts that shook them alive

Genre: Drama
Director: Nishikant Kamat
Cast: Paresh Rawal, R.Madhavan, Kay Kay, Soha Ali Khan, Vijay Maurya
Storyline: One week in the life of Mumbaiites from different walks of life in the aftermath of the Mumbai blasts.
Bottomline: Glimpses of genius

Nishikant Kamat has to be among the most promising of our filmmakers today.

Mumbai Meri Jaan breaks your heart a few times, chokes you in fits and starts and is one of the most sincere films of our times.

Yes, it is a little overwritten, slow, disjointed and even gets a little repetitive but this is a solid attempt at introducing powerhouse drama through subtlety.

Ironically, the only parts that do not work are those where Kamat tries to use his cinematic licence to exaggerate for the sake of drama.

For instance, we understand Irrfan’s character lives on the fringes of the society, often ignored and insulted. Yet, well after establishing that, Kamat feels the need to show it visually and so he exaggerates to show him humiliated in front of his family for daring to walk into a multiplex and trying on perfume.
But then, how many Indian filmmakers have dared to handle a complex ensemble socio-political commentary film like Crash or Babel?

Though Mumbai is nowhere as subtle as Babel or as clever as Crash, Kamat’s film is all heart. It borrows the parallel-narratives-stitched-together structure of the Paul Haggis film and the ‘everything is connected’ thread of the Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s masterpiece and yet peoples it with characters that represent different walks of life in the countries cultural capital.

In the wake of the blasts, the state of the State is represented by a flawed, ineffective cop about to retire (Paresh Rawal in a career best) and a young policeman (Thank you again, Nagesh Kukunoor, for giving us Vijay Maurya) disillusioned with his role in the corrupt system.

The ideal conscientious citizen (R.Madhavan reprises his character from Kamat’s ‘Evano Oruvan’) loses it here too but at a completely, wholly believable level – he may just want to opt out of the system.

The also film takes us to the root of the issue – more than that of ideology or religion –public perception and the politics of vendetta (no one could’ve fit the bill better than Kay Kay Menon), the role of the media (Soha Ali Khan cries like she was born for this role) represented through a TV journalist who becomes the prime exhibit of the circus and the consequence of apathy and indifference towards the minority which could turn the most innocent man into a sadistic soul taking his revenge on the society (Irrfan Khan is reliably solid).

Mumbai Meri Jaan, thankfully, is not a rose-tinted perspective of a city that rose on its feet on the day of the blasts and its undying spirit (as the TV channels packaged it). The film is, in fact, a reality check. There are no easy solutions offered and the individual stories are resolved with credible doses of realism and hope.

Unlike his first film Dombivli Fast, Mumbai… is only border-line dark.

Now, there will always be art-lovers who would have liked this film to end on a stark, depressing note. But political filmmaking transcends something you put up for approval from art critics. By genre, it is for you to express what you have to say on the issue.

And Kamat so well sums it up in a cameo: “Terrorism is a part of our reality and our children will get used to it… Earlier tourists came to see the twin towers. Now, they come to see Ground Zero.”


Phoonk: RGV makes another boo-boo

Genre: Horror
Director: Ram Gopal Varma
Cast: Sudeep, Amruta Khanvilkar, Ahsaas Channa
Storyline: A builder’s child becomes the victim of black magic after her Dad fires a witch
Bottomline: Hamming hits new highs

The only horror in Phoonk is how much Ram Gopal Varma makes his actors ham. Especially, the fabulous four who were the mainstay of the Ramsay Brothers brand of horror.

The Scary Old Lady: Ram Gopal Varma’s old lady can’t talk without shaking her head. That lady’s consistently disapproving expression sort of sums up the audience reaction to the film.

The Kohl-Eyed-Witch: Tight close-ups of over-the-top animated expressions have the hall in splits. Entertaining yes, scary no.

The Freak Watchman: The camera keeps cutting back to his squint-eyed ‘I could be a psycho’ stares all through the film for subtle reminders that he maybe a freak.

The Baba Black Sheep Killer: Horror of horrors, Zakir Hussain takes home the honours in breaking new ground in Hamville as the miracle man – the baba who can kill and generate cornball special effects – the conveniently quick fix solution to this horror tale.

Nothing wrong in employing such visual loudness in a horror film but the reason this doesn’t work in RGV’s latest is because the filmmaker also wants to be subtle at the same time and scare us with close-ups of, among other things – a stress-ball, Spiderman and an E.T. stuffed toy.

We get the idea behind the ‘What if there was life in all sorts of idols?’ If God resides inside an idol or a poster and people believe that from the bottom of their hearts, could there be life inside other shapes and objects too, say, in ominous looking statues? But that idea too goes unexplored, and is reduced to a style-sheet gimmick of icons in the foreground of every other scene before the camera shifts focus to the action in the background.

The science versus superstition debate works at a superficial level, limited to a couple of conversations on faith with absolutely no new perspective on the issue. Probably because RGV himself isn’t acquainted with the significant difference in being an atheist and being agnostic. Atheism, by no means, is a scientific stance simply because just like you cannot scientifically prove God exists, you cannot prove He does not exist.

Sudeep isn’t a bad actor and if he were agnostic, he could’ve come across as a level-headed relatable man of science at the beginning of the film.

Amruta looks like she just stepped out of a TV soap and the child actor Ahsaas Channa looks believably tormented.

The omnipotent crow, supposed to be one of the main performers in the film, is just a glorified extra on the set, offering absolutely zero scares.

So is there anything at all that will scare you?

Yes, thank God for the filmmaker who invented The Dream Cheat and for all the guys who made films on exorcism.

But again, ‘It’s just a dream’ cheats work best when used once. When RGV resorts to repetition, you can tell a man who has run of ideas.

The only other explanation for this film to be this bad is that black magic really exists. And someone’s cast a nasty spell on RGV’s filmmaking.


Maan Gaye Mughal E Azam: You can’t Chhel this, Maan

Genre: Comedy
Director: Sanjay Chhel
Cast: Mallika Sherawat, Paresh Rawal, Rahul Bose, Kay Kay Menon
Story: A bunch of theatre actors have to act off stage to fool the Nazi troops. Strike that Nazi word and replace it with the underworld.
Bottomline: To see or not to see is not even a question

Yes, you will laugh out loud maybe two or three times in the film but that alone is not worth your time in the hall or the money for your ticket and popcorn.

The ‘To be or not to be speech’ from Hamlet is replaced with the ‘Jab Jab Sar Zameen e Hindustaan’ speech from Mughal-E-Azam and Alan Johnson’s ‘To Be Or Not To Be’ starring Mel Brooks becomes a Sanjay Chhel’s ‘Maan Gaye Mughal E Azam’ starring Mallika Sherawat.

Honestly, it is getting increasingly tiring to catch a DVD of the original every time a Bollywood film is out, especially when there are three films releasing in a week. And Chhel’s idea of filmmaking is trying to create ‘To be or not to be’ as a tribute to ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron.’

At best, Chhel’s attempt at comedy works as a stage play on a bad day. Bose is woefully miscast and even Mallika realises that the only way to save this film is to do a few liplocks by the beach and prance around in little nothings. But then again, nothing you haven’t seen before.

It’s quite tragic to see actors of the caliber of Paresh Rawal and KK Menon make a fool of themselves but then, these guys do it in style, put their soul into the silliest of roles that your heart goes out to them.

But as much as you try to like this film, it’s one hell of a job.


God Tussi Great Ho: Let there be trite

Genre: Comedy
Director: Rumi Jaffery
Cast: Salman Khan, Priyanka Chopra, Sohail Khan, Anupam Kher
Storyline: Bruce Almighty, more or less, with Sohail’s antics for a bonus.
Bottomline: Dear God! If you’re listening, do something.

Since we wanted to know what director Rumi Jaffery was thinking before and after he committed this act of blasphemy, we sat down for an imaginary interview with the maker of the universe called ‘God Tussi Great Ho’.

Q: Why do people think this is a remake of Bruce Almighty?

A: Beats me. (thinks hard) Yes, both are films about a man down on luck pitching for a crazy TV show, chucking a good luck charm only to receive an invitation from God Himself and subsequently, a proposal to run the world for a little while, and how he goes about using or misusing the powers without realising the consequences till the very end and is finally enlightened about God’s greatness… And of course, God wears white in both the films but having said that, the similarity ends there. In my film, we have an extra last scene where God talks to people sitting in the movie halls and asks them to stay united. If people had stayed till that last scene they would’ve known my film is different but I don’t know why they left halfway.

Q: What did you tell the actors – Salman, Sohail and Priyanka – to get them hooked to this?

A: Oh, I wanted it to be different, so I told Sallu right in the beginning that he should not remove his shirt in this movie. I wanted him to play a role he’s never done before… Have you seen how he complains to God in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam? I wanted him to do exactly that but for the first half of the movie. You would have never seen Priyanka Chopra like this. She has never worn a nose ring. And Sohail has not done anything like this before either. He has a constant game of one-upmanship with Salman… Yes, it is similar to what they did in ‘Maine Pyaar Kyun Kiya’ but here we don’t have that background rap that goes “Naughty Naughty Pyaare, Jo Sabki Maare.’ I also have chosen Bollywood’s best resident specialist beggar – the one from Lagaan but again, I wanted to do something different with him. So I changed his wig and his facial hair arrangement.

Q: Some people think the film is not that funny?

A: Maybe they didn’t watch the film closely enough. In one of the earlier scenes, there’s a wrestler called Loha Singh who tries to pull a helicopter with his teeth. Now the wrestler is wearing bright red tights and like all body builders, he has beefy bulging muscles… But you would have found it funny only if you noticed that bulge.

Q: The story and screenplay is credited to a Younus Sejawal. Did you watch Bruce Almighty together or he saw it first?

A: When David Dhawan made ‘Partner,’ Hollywood bullies threatened to sue saying it was ripped off from ‘Hitch.’ I wanted to play it safe this time. The protagonist in my film is called Arun Prajapati, not Bruce Almighty. Yes, in the opening voiceover, my God tells people that he is also called the Almighty.

Q: What footage of Bachchan do you have that helped you land this coup?

A: (Blushes) No comment. But off the record, on hindsight, I think the footage I’ve shot of him is bound to be more embarrassing if you believe in “ for the rest of your life.”

Q: There’s a lie-detector in your film. Does it really work?

A: The show is called Jhoot Bole Kouwwa Katey, which translated means ‘If you lie, the crow will bite’. It’s fiction. It does not work. I haven’t been attacked by crows.


Bachna Ae Haseeno: Why so serious?

Genre: Romantic Comedy
Director: Siddharth Anand
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Bipasha Basu, Deepika Padukone, Minnisha Lamba
Storyline: When a heartbreaker falls in love…
Bottomline: A rocking first half and jarring mellow drama in the second

What a fun ride Bachna is, especially in the beginning when it makes you fall in love with the Swiss Alps all over again, reworking the magic of Dilwale Dulhaniya, playfully poking fun at the romanticism of Yash Raj Films before slapping you with a twist and genuinely fun moments even when the hero is being a jerk.
If only that wicked mood was maintained till the very end.

Instead, Bachna becomes a soppy sober story of redemption and half-baked drama. There’s nothing wrong with the idea or intent of making us feel sorry for the heartbreaker looking to make amends after a heart-break by visiting his ex-girlfriends but why lose the irreverence?

We know he’s trying to repent. He doesn’t have to wear a sad puppy look and go all sober for the entire second half of the movie just to keep reinforcing that.

That’s where you wish Siddharth Anand took his cue from the comedy series ‘My Name is Earl’ than Jim Jarmusch’s  ‘Broken Flowers.’ Now, ‘My Name is Earl’ is a laugh out loud series of adventures of a jerk trying to make amends. Yes, Earl is sorry and earnest but he does not go around doing these like he’s dying of cancer.

The graveness in portrayal and gravity of emotion looms large over the second half that it kills the mood set in the first. First, there are back-to-back songs – a sure-fire pace killer and then, the director desperately tries to make us laugh with a Devil wears Gucci episode where the jerk is punished with the most humiliating tasks. The poor boy is forced to tie the lace for Her Hotness’s backless dress and then the evil woman pushes him into a swimming pool full of girls in bikinis who sit on his head. What a horrible life, indeed.

Contrastingly, the first half seems much more sincere, even if we are forced to believe that Miss Lamba is 17 and Ranbir is only ‘atthara saal ka’. Because, whether it is an innocent Raj pretending his bike has no fuel so that he can spend more time with the girl or whether it is a more grown up meticulous Raj trying to come up with reasons that will make the girl dump him, these are situations you can relate to. We all know people like that. The writing lifts these moments and the light-hearted mood this film deserves by a few notches.

Yes, like in Salaam Namaste, Siddharth Anand manages to break a few stereotypes (whether it is the live-in girlfriend who isn’t really doing it for casual sex and is serious and committed about the relationship enough to plan a wedding or the taxi-driving independent woman who asks him a few questions he has no answers for), but like his other films, this one too is derived from Hollywood’s brand of rom-coms.

Ranbir should lose those pink lips if he wants to be taken seriously as an actor. Or try a brown shade of lipstick if he must. But for that, he does a hell of a job showing us he is capable of carrying a movie on his shoulders, without having to flash at the drop of a towel.

Bipasha has the meatiest of the roles and she bites into it with relish, making you instantly hungry with her presence. Minnisha may have been done in by puffy eyes but she’s a looker all right. You can’t help but wish Minnisha and Deepika had exchanged roles. We wouldn’t have had a problem believing Deepika is 17 and Minnisha’s tired look would’ve been explained by the fact that she does an MBA by the day and drives a taxi by night.

With a rocking soundtrack, picturesque locations and beautiful people, this candyfloss entertainer has surprising doses of realism and that’s exactly why this has to be among the better products Yash Raj Films has given us in recent times.


Singh is Kinng: Happy, Go get Lucky

Genre: Comedy
Director: Anees Bazmee
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Katrina Kaif, Neha Dhupia, Sonu Sood, Om Puri
Storyline: Happy Singh goes to Australia to bring back Lucky Singh, a powerful don who gives his community a bad name.
Bottomline: This King needs happy-go-lucky subjects

The film, quite seriously, begins with a disclaimer: “This is not a religious film.”
Intended or otherwise, that’s cheeky.

Even more cheeky is the next disclaimer that informs us that “cruelty was not inflicted on the hen during the making of the film” and the stunt sequence involving the hen was completely computer generated.

So you begin watching the film with a smile pasted on your face hoping it would have plenty of politically incorrectness and irreverence.

Yes, the chase sequence involving the hen soon happens and you realise it isn’t as funny as the makers would like us to believe.

Singh is Kinng is nothing more than a Punjabi-take on Munnabhai MBBS – it’s about a simpleton with a heart of gold making his gangster sidekicks pretend that they are harmless all for a good cause and falling in love with a girl who he thinks is too good for him.

By formula, it is guaranteed to bring in the laughs. Which is why the final product is disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few laughs and the humour sparkles in bits that seem improvised (there’s a politically incorrect hilarious segment involving a paralysed King being passed around like a tray on a wheelchair) and Akshay Kumar is fantastic carrying the film on his shoulders with the uncouth bumpkin image that’s become his second skin off late.

The fact that Sardars are lovable folk with a great sense of humour adds plenty to the feel-good factor and their unpredictable mood swings are enough to provide the drama needed for a movie and when you add to that their brand of singing and dancing and a slang-uage that’s extremely colourful and expletive-ridden, it seems like a perfect recipe for a new genre of filmmaking, a race-celebratory genre that Afro-American actors like Will-Smith and Martin Lawrence popularised in the US and rappers like Ice Cube, LL Cool J, Snoop Dogg, DMX or Mos Def.

It seems like a conscious attempt to do that given that the makers have got Dogg himself to represent the Punjabi and have come up with probably one of the best albums this year (Full points to Pritam and Co).

But despite the formula-narrative and the right ingredients, the film works better as a musical than a comedy simply because even the silliest of comedies need a plot than just a mere excuse for launching its jokes.

Singh is Kinng is rich in flavour with its rocking song-and-dance choreography and celebration of all things Punjabi. It has a super ensemble cast with a talented bunch including Om Puri, Javed Jaffery, Sonu Sood, Yashpal Sharma and Manoj Pahwa playing likeable Sardars, taking us from one plot twist to another, like they are all playing Whose Line Is It Anyway. The women have never looked hotter – Katrina makes you hungry and Dhupia makes you sweat.

Full points to that sort of form and content but there’s no plausible story to power the narrative that meanders into nothingness.

Now you are entertained, now you are bored. Especially when people get all emotional and sentimental on screen. Now, that’s the cue for your loo/cigarette breaks. Come back for the songs.

And, you won’t miss a Singh.


Ugly aur Pagli: Ugly and Nakli (Uncut)

Genre: Comedy
Director: Sachin Kamlakar Khot
Cast: Ranvir Shorey, Mallika Sherawat
Storyline: Loser boy meets drunk babe and share an unusual master-slave relationship where she wears the pants and he wears the petticoat, literally.
Bottomline: My Sassy Girl becomes My Psycho Girl

It may not be too inaccurate to say that even a donkey could have made a better film than Sachin Kamlakar Khot out of the Korean director Kwak Jae-yong’s ‘My Sassy Girl’. All the donkey would’ve had to do was stand beside the camera and let the cinematographer and cast replicate the original film frame by frame.

Clearly, the idea here isn’t to make an original film and the only good thing about Ugly aur Pagli, apart from a fantastic Ranvir Shorey who tries to improvise a little, is that the makers have an acknowledgement right at the beginning – that it is adapted from the original ‘My Sassy Girl’.

Thank you guys, for recommending the original, without which we may have actually thought you had a couple of bright ideas there in a largely bad film. Thank you for making us watch ‘My Sassy Girl’. The original is a beautiful bittersweet love story, incredibly funny and poignant at the same time with the characters enchanting us with their vulnerability and innocence.

Here all of that and the subtle touches that made ‘My Sassy Girl’ a solid film even in spite of its 137-minute length have been conveniently ignored and omitted to accommodate the song and dance sequences for a shorter film that feels longer than the original.

Even if we were to assume Ranvir and Mallika look young enough to pass off as college kids, there’s plenty that makes ‘Ugly aur Pagli’ difficult to digest.

Sachin Khot translates ‘My Sassy Girl’ to an extremely annoying, unreasonably illogical My-Psychotic-Girl or Pagli, as she’s referred to in the film.

Every sub-plot and every single gag in the original is directly related to the larger picture. For instance, it is the fact that she’s living in the past that makes her want him to wear a school uniform on her birthday in the original.

Here, Mallika wants Ranvir to wear a petticoat and ride a cycle without a seat just to make the scene funny (and it is remotely fun only because Ranvir is a brilliant performer who can make breathe realism into the most implausible situations).

This is exactly the kind of stuff that makes you realise that the makers (the filmmaker and the writers credited with story, screenplay and additional dialogues for this scam) simply just didn’t get the point of the film they were remaking.

Sachin is so desperate to make you laugh that he makes characters wear T-shirts directly related to the joke that’s about to happen. Like, when Ranvir wears a T-shirt that says ‘You will get wet at this ride,’ just before Mallika pushes him into a swimming pool. Or when she’s drunk and talking, Ranvir’s wearing a T-shirt that says: “Keep talking. I like drunk bitches”. Similarly, her drunk father is made to wear a T-shirt with a beer joke. We’re only the glad the film didn’t have extras wearing a T-shirt that said: “This film is funny.”

The master-slave dynamics aren’t what made the original film endearing (though it did give the film an interesting equation for comedy), it was the innocence of two contrastingly different young people living in two different time-zones (the future he wants to have with her and the past she wants to hold on to) that makes the Korean film an instant classic that everybody could relate to. You can’t help but hold back your tears when you are watching the original.

Ugly aur Pagli will make you cry for different reasons. One, it is a rape of good cinema. And two, it tries so hard to make you laugh.


Hancock: Where there’s a Will…

Genre: Action/Comedy
Director: Peter Berg
Cast: Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman
Storyline: An anti-social superhero gets an image makeover but his past is back to haunt him yet again
Bottomline: The funniest superhero movie of all times

There are superhero movies. There are superhero spoofs. And, there’s Hancock.

Seriously, Will Smith’s got to be the funniest thing on film to have ever saved the world. When was the last time you actually had an entire hall cheering and rooting whole-heartedly for a superhero/superstar not from this land?

Hancock isn’t your regular superhero. He’s jaded, bloody irresponsible, engages in drunken flying, dirty and foul-mouthed, politically incorrect (he’s mean to senior citizens, rude to children) and unwittingly wrecks the town reckless. No wonder then that he’s doing a thankless job. People hate him.

That makes John Hancock the single most irreverent superhero of our times and one of the most adorable onscreen rogues ever. A modern day Devdas, even.

The original Bad Boy would’ve been so much cooler if only he got to mouth a few more of those seven words you can’t say on television. Yes, that would’ve been a black stereotype indeed but hey, what about all those bits where he thrusts one guy’s head into another chap’s crack? The hall was in splits.

The film is a celebration of black-American humour and a little profanity would’ve done no harm, brothers. It’s juvenile fun, yeah, but not the kind of film you bring your kids to.

Though Hancock is the embodiment of the collective angst of superheroes who have a jinxed love life given their responsibilities of saving the world, Peter Berg makes sure that that inherent pathos and resulting drama, rarely takes over the light-hearted mood of a film celebrating the staple of comic books.

Employing hand-held cinematography for realism, Berg would have us believe that these guys from the comic books sporting crotchety tight capes have no clue what being a real superhero feels like. Making fun of every bit of superhero mythology, ranging from origin to costume to food habits to how they got their superhero name, the makers have done quite well to root Hancock in the real world – Hancock hates the idea of body-hugging costume, is from this planet (Miami as far as he can remember), loves his meat-balls in spaghetti like every other American family, longs for love and actually cares about what people think of him and his name was just a case of misunderstanding.

The explanation of his superhero roots is rather simple yet fascinating. What if the world’s most powerful superhero could also be the most vulnerable? Hancock is a sobering take on the life of an unlikely superhero and an attempt to capture the slices of larger-than-life through relatable paradigms. The documentary footage of the superhero on Youtube, for instance.

The climax, however, is an entirely different film ghost-directed by Karan Johar. A stretch of schmaltz.

Charlize Theron tries to steal the film from Will Smith in the second half looking hot as hell and the likeable Jason Bateman sets up the laughs throughout but it is Will who OWNS the film.

Let’s drink to a sequel and hope Hancock turns anti-social again. After all, this superhero is more fun when drunk.


Wanted: The Gun Fight-Club

Genre: Action
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Cast: James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman
Storyline: An ordinary man is sucked into a world of violence when he learns that his father was an assassin belonging to a cult called The Fraternity
Bottomline: Will blow the smithereens out of your mind

Violence has never looked so delicious. Nor has a messiah of destruction ever looked so incredibly edible. Get ready to be consumed by lust. And a zest for life. Taking life, to be specific.

Angelina’s Fox is just a heavenly embodiment of the seduction you are in for as you sit and watch this film, barely able to take your eyes off the screen for even a moment. You don’t want to blink and miss any bit of the action. Speaking of which there’s a seriously hot moment when Fox emerges out a bath, with only tattoos to adorn her dripping wet bare back.

Director Timur Bekmambetov treats the graphic novel by Mark Miller and J.G. Jones as his bible and transforms gun-fights into an art-form, creating a stylised symphony of violence that is so stylish that it would give Superstar a complex.

The plot is just a petty excuse for pretty much every one in the film to shoot every body else and bite the bullet. But not before learning to ‘bend’ it like Beckham! Yes, bullets in this film rarely travel in a straight path, the film makes you believe that if you train hard enough, you can press the trigger and be assured that the bullet can actually ‘curve’ around any obstacle before meeting its target.

Bullets kiss each other, they bump into the other, they graze and face-off, pretty much like arrows did when you grew up watching Ramayan. Yet, when you see it happening in ‘Wanted,’ it’s poetry in motion.

Wanted is not even a wee bit deep as Fight Club was but from what meets the eye, it’s as bloody good as it gets in an action film. Clearly, the visual effects guys have had a blast making some of the most wicked stunts look so spectacularly cool. This is an over the top, shameless exhibition of attitude, political incorrectness and violence as a cathartic experience.

James McAvoy looks a lot like Russell Crowe looked years ago before he turned beefy and provides the right blend of vulnerability and toughness to Wesley Gibson. Morgan Freeman has little to do and doesn’t seem comfortable with profanity.

But then, this is largely an Angelina showcase. She sends temperatures soaring, scorching the screen with her presence and there you are, drooling, sweating and completely dehydrated by the end of it all.

Wanted: A glass of water, please.


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