Sunday, November 25, 2007


Rating : 4/10
Running Time : 145 Minutes
Release Date : 23rd Nov ‘07
Director : Vivek Agnihotri ; Writer : Rohit Malhotra ; Music : Pritam
Starring : John Abraham, Arshad Warsi, Boman Irani, Bipasha Basu

Let me begin with the obvious. Goal is not Chak De, it has a different theme (racism in Goal vs redemption in Chak De) and tries to be more emotional, though both did definitely choose a sport (football and hockey respectively) as their central thread.

Goal is about English football – about a club named Southall United. Southall, in case you didn’t know it, is a real-life small area in London where the joke goes that ‘Englishmen need a visa to enter Southall’. Its dominated by Sikhs and other Asians and is the closest place to India you’re likely to find in UK. The football club though, is near the bottom of the league, also near bankruptcy and under pressure from the city council to vacate the ground, needing a miracle to stay alive. Its captain, Arshad Warsi, decides to get a coach and the only one he can think of is an ex-Southall football player Tony Singh, who has now fallen on bad days. However, after not much persuasion, he begins coaching the motley crew which form the team and then brings in a star striker, a British born desi, John Abraham, who’s dreams of playing for a better, bigger, whiter football club are shattered by some racism. John has never got along with the typically ethnic Southall crowd and this spills over into the field as well. For additional spice add Bipasha Basu in a very sidey role as a physio to the team, and Dilip Tahil in an equally sidey role as the traitor, helping the English to ensure Southall doesn’t win and there you have in a nutshell the plot of the movie.

Goal is an ok movie, not even nice, just ok. I found a lot of things mediocre in it –the plot (full of holes, the team didn't look close to a football team and that really stretched credibility, some inexplicable relationships including John and his father), the dialogues (very unnatural / heavy, incidentally by Anurag Kashyap, director of Black Friday and No Smoking), the football action (quite clumsy / leaden, especially the last match, choreographed by an ex-English League footballer Andrew Owasu Ansah), the songs (forced in terms of situations and the quality), the humour (none of the jokes really made you laugh, very few even made you chuckle) and even the characters (too many stereotypes, including the large hearted Sardar, the evil English, the captain with the heart of gold etc - no real depth to any of them).

I appreciated the racism angle - I've faced some as well during my years abroad - and its good to make it clear to the Indian public that its not all rosy abroad. However, seriously, how worked up can you get about Southall United winning or losing ? Despite all the rah rah about how its not just about the club but about where we are from accompanied by abundant visuals of the tricolour, the Bangladeshi flag etc, its far less fun vs watching / cheering for the Indian team and none of the characters are built up sufficiently to make you really care.

I think every movie with even a touch of sport in its theme is going to now suffer in comparisons with Chak De. Even the normally unbiased Wikipedia couldn’t resist a line saying ‘Goal is the second sport based movie to be released in 2007 after Chak De’. The sheer adrenalin of the football is actually what saves the movie from being a disaster, along with some decent performances by some of the cast and a catchy title song.

I can compare Goal to two movies. One is 'Bend it Like Beckham' - which is also about sports and Southall (to a great degree) and Goal pales in comparison, especially in terms of freshness and sheer exuberance. The second, another movie which deals with the twin topics of racism and sport, – is Remember the Titans, starring Denzel Washington amongst others…watch that one if you really want to see how such topics should be dealt with ! Agar aapne us picture mein Titans ke liye naa cheer kara, to mera naam badal dena ! I wish Vivek Agnihotri (director) and Rohit Malhotra (writer) had gone to the trouble of painting some of the characters / the debates / the choices and even the sport strategies as vividly in Goal as this one. Then I would've cheered with a lot more emotion for Southall United !

Monday, November 12, 2007


Rating : 2/10
Running Time : 142 Minutes
Release Date : 9th Nov ‘07
Director : Sanjay Leela Bhansali ; Writer : Prakash Kapadia ; Music : Monty
Starring : Ranbir Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor, Rani Mukherjee, Salman Khan (guest appearance)

I’m going to have to restrain myself from getting personal, but what was Sanjay Leela Bhansali (the director) trying ? All his fancy sets (including a Moulin Rouge inspired Champs-Elysees, a Peter Pan inspired London /Big Ben, and Venice complete with canals, gondola’s and Henry’s café), all the fancy details where the walls are painted with flowers and Godly images instead of grafitti, all the extremely fancy costumes which vary from the silly (the red suede Red Riding Hood look) to the downright ridiculous (the French mime dress), all the fancy foreign fancy hotel names (Windermere café and Clifton hotel), all the Raj Kapoor references (RK café, the use of ‘ji’, some other hints), all the blue / indigo / turquoise (whatever the colour in the poster above is called) thematic styling, all the fancy cursive, spidery writing of Saawariya….All of the above doesn’t hide the fact that there is no plot, no story, absolutely no substance to the movie.

I would’ve loved to be in the script reading session of this one. “We will base the story in no era, no place, a kind of realm of dreams. Then the lead character will go from set A to lavish set B and sing a song. Then he will dance to even more lavish set C and sing another song. Then he will cavort to obscenely expensive set D, where he will be joined by 2 more artistes and they will all break into spontaneous song. And when, out of nowhere, his lady love materializes, they will gush forth at least 3-4 songs capturing whatever forced emotion they are feeling at that moment (happiness, sorrow etc)”. I really would be hard pressed to come up with something more lucid than that.

Ranbir Raj (Ranbir Kapoor) swiftly befriends Gulabji (Rani Mukherjee), a prostitute with a heart of gold. She then passes him on to Lillian (Zohra Sehgal, who speaks in a British accent tinged with a pure pind Punjabi accent)and Ranbir proceeds to use even more corny, mushy lines to befriend her and become her tenant. He sights Sakina (Sonam Kapoor) one night and proceeds to attempt to befriend her as well, succeeds, and then tries to make her fall in love with him. Alas, she loves another one, Iman (a scary, over-dosed-on-kajal-eyed Salman). What happens next ? Go through 11 songs lasting 50 minutes (Source : Wikipedia) and thou shalst knoweth the answer ! Suffice to say none of the characters are built to any depth and hence we don’t feel anything at all for any of them !

Ranbir and Sonam, the newcomers, both have good points and bad points respectively. Ranbir shouldn’t try to dance or try and act ‘crazy’, he’s good when baring his tush or smiling cutely or just being cute. Sonam also has good looks on her side, dancing ability is ok -ok and emoting (crying / displaying other serious emotions) are best avoided altogether. However, given their star parentage, I think we will see a lot more of them – and maybe with a better movie their talents could’ve been made better use of. I would also really love to know what the stars really truly thought of the movie – I cant believe they didn’t spot its numerous flaws ?

We, most of the audience, walked out of the movie as if in a trance. The overall mood of the movie is depressive anyways, because of the somber lighting (its all night shots – I think there was maybe half a shot of partial daylight as Sonam dusts a carpet) and the excessive use of blue/indigo throughout the whole film. You walk out asking existential questions like ‘What was this ? What happened ? Why did I see this ? What was the hype about ?’.

And the sad thing is Sanjay Leela Bhansali does not get it. BTW, he is not only the director but also the producer, editor, the co-music director, is co-credited on the screenplay (apparently inspired by White Nights by Fyodor Dostoevsky) and also, just to while away his free time, designed the costumes for Ranbir Kapoor. I saw him on TV yesterday night, calling himself a poet, calling the film a work of art. I’m sure when the audience drops by 90% in week 2 he will call us illiterates or some other such terms. I remember a similar reaction when one of his earlier films Khamoshi (a terrible, terrible film) had flopped disastrously, he had ranted forth on how the audience doesn’t have the sensibility to appreciate true art and his sensitive love story. I think its time for him to wake up and smell the coffee ! With apologies to Shakespeare, the fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars (and in our audiences) but in ourselves…

PS - Pls read the comments section as well - some interesting differences of opinion !

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Om Shanti Om

Rating : 7/10
Running Time : 162 Minutes
Release Date : 9th Nov ‘07
Director & Writer : Farah Khan ; Music : Vishal-Shekhar
Starring : Shahrukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, Shreyas Talpade, Kirron Kher, Arjun Rampal

Ismein action hai, drama hai, emotion hai, tragedy hai, stars hain (kuch zyaada hi hain, ek gaane mein hi 31 !), sex hai (well actually nahin hai, par kehne mein kya jaata hai...baaki sab kuch to double double hai !). In the not so old days, Manmohan Desai used to make movies like this - thorough entertainers where you could park your brains, go with the flow and come out smiling at the end of a well spent 3 hours. It was fun, it was enjoyable, it was predictable but no one minds as the right people win, good triumphs over evil and everyone lives happily ever after.

In case you're one of the few Indians on the planet who've managed to escape the marketing blitz behind OSO, then i can safely let you know that the movie for the first half is set in the 70's - primarily about the unlikely aspirations of a junior film artiste (Shahrukh) which include romantic feelings for a famous film star (Deepika Padukone). The second half, inspired hugely by Karz, follows the theme of reincarnation and revenge, and gets a little serious...

The first half entertains like only Farah Khan can - full of exaggerated emotion, spoofs of the 70's stars, their clothes, their mannerisms (Rajesh Khanna & Manoj Kumar get special attention). Its great and it keeps you in splits - there's one romantic song between Deepika and SRK where they take off on everybody including Jeetendra & Leena Chandravarkar in 'Dhal gaya din...thak...ho gayi shyaam...thak...'. Kirron Kher excels as SRK's mother and ex-film junior film artiste herself, over emoting at every opportunity. Shreyas Talpade is outstanding as SRK's friend, beavering quietly away in the background.

The second half is quieter, calmer but only to a degree. There is the over the top awards function where there are spoofs on current actors including Abhishek and Akshay, amazingly performed by the stars themselves and there is the famous 31 star song + the almost as famous SRK bare chested complete with new 6 pack song !

Its tough to imagine anyone other than Shahrukh in the lead role - I can't think of anyone else who could overact so credibly...Deepika looks much better on screen than in her stills - she carries of both indian dresses and western dresses quite well and matches SRK dimple for dimple.

I really have to take my hat off to Farah for this one - its very much in the mould of Main Hoon Na, her previous film (BTW, if you didnt like it, you're well advised to stay away from this one as well). Its way over the top, mindless in parts but still hugely entertaining from start to finish. I like someone who can make fun of her industry, its foibles, its stars and even herself - just for that alone its worth a watch !

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Loins of Punjab Presents

Ha ha ha ha haha ha ha haaaaahaaaa……the sound of unadulterated laughter…. the most common sound heard during this movie, apart from the soundtrack, of course. Brilliant, simply brilliant and a must watch – definitely one of the best movies of the year.

Its about a ‘desi idol’ contest set in New Jersey, where as varied a group of participants as you’re likely to see, join in to win the $25,000 prize. This includes, in no order of priority

  • Preeti Patel - young girl, great voice, with a personal cheerleading squad of 10 or so including papa patel, mummy patel, mama patel etc. This group provides some of the most entertaining moments of the film, showcasing all the foibles we associate with the Patel’s of this world (clannishness, their vegetarianism, extreme desire for value for money which is also known as stinginess and finally also their penchance for home cooked food).

  • The Turbanatorius B.D.G.– an aggressive, bald yet turbaned bhangra rap singer who’s language / liberal use of the F word would put most rappers to shame

  • Joshua Cohen – the only white contestant who keeps getting mistaken for a hotel employee, an indophile, who has an Indian girlfriend and despite his accented hindi, wins hearts over.

  • Sania Rehman – she doesn’t know Hindi but that doesn’t stop her from singing seductive filmi songs, complete with the ‘thumka’.

  • Vikram Tejwani– who’s banking job is about to be outsourced to India, who relies heavily on statistics / preplanning to guide his life.

  • Rita Kapoor – the queen bee, a big time socialite who’s in this only to better Bubble’s and she wont let anything get in her way from winning.

All the characters are beautifully sketched, including the judges and other hotel employees. As you can imagine, this whole group is crazy enough individually, but put them together and they’re dynamite. Some of the more memorable moments include the ‘mere paas maa hai’ debate between Joshua and Rita, the interaction between the hotel and the Patels on the ‘no food from outside’ policy, Sania and Vikram’s confusion over ‘mujhe saaf kardo’ and the price negotiation between the lap dancer and one of the Patel’s.

The dialogue is outstanding, with some very sharp incisive insights into reality show contestants / NRI’s. Everyone fits into their roles magnificiently including Shabana Azmi (the only truly known face) as Rita.

Kudo’s to Manish Acharya (debut director, co-writer and also starring as Vikram) for giving us this 90 minute laughathon which I wish could have lasted longer.