Monday, May 19, 2008


Rating : 5/10
Running Time : 140 Minutes
Release Date : 16th May ‘08
Director : Kunal Deshmukh ; Writer : Vishesh Bhatt ; Music : Pritam
Starring : Emraan Hashmi, Sonal Chauhan, Javed Sheikh,Vishal Malhotra, Samir Kochhar

I’m probably being over-generous here but after some of the turkeys I’ve seen in recent times (U Me aur Hum, Mr Black Mr White , Tashan, and even Bhootnath), this was actually a bit of a relief. An unpretentious film, very natural dialogue (at times quite funny) and decent performances overcome the lack of depth and the melodramatic, predictable ending.

The movie follows the rise and rise of a small time gambler (teen patti player, the Indian equivalent of poker) who, based purely upon his intuition, starts to bet on cricket matches and then cannot stop winning. Soon he becomes a bookie and then is hired by a big underworld don from South Africa to become his match fixer. All this is interwoven with his relentless and extremely expensive pursuit of his queen of hearts – a girl he spots in a mall one day and of course, its love at first sight (is there any other kind in Hindi movies ?).

She, with a little egging from his father (a good, honest, poor man), tries to find out whats the secret behind his sudden wealth but he makes a ‘love means never asking questions’ kind of pact (‘don’t ask and I wont lie’ were his exact words). However, she obviously does find out one day, co-incidentally around intermission time, and what happens next is the focus of the second half. I was able to think of at least a couple of good, interesting endings but unfortunately the makers of this one chose to play it straight, though I liked the little touch they gave in the very last scene.

I’ve actually avoided Emraan Hashmi movies, thinking of him as quite a one-dimensional actor, frankly puzzled by his success. But based on this one, I’ve done him a disservice – he was quite nice, likeable, doing justice to a character who speaks little but knows what he wants. Sonal was ok, nice to look at, with time may improve as an actress. Javed Sheikh provided the necessary gravitas to the role of mafia don while Vishal Malhotra and Samir Kochhar were good as Emraan’s best friend and the cop who’s on Emraan’s trail, respectively (ever noticed how, after Dhoom, the sartorial sense of cops has improved dramatically ?). Also, special mention of a nice cameo played by a character named Patel Bhai, I couldn’t find his name anywhere on the net.

Don’t go looking for any depth in this one and you wont be disappointed – it’s a film where one song is all it takes for the courtship, another for the obligatory under-the-covers scene and a final one for the lover’s tiff and that’s pretty much that as far as the love affair goes. If you can look beyond that, the title song is pretty nice and some of the dialogues will keep you entertained, may even make you laugh.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Celebrating A Century of Reviews

I recently completed a hundred reviews and decided to celebrate by writing about it. I feel like a movie director felt when the film completed a silver jubilee in the good old days or 50 days in the current slam bang multiplex era. I never thought this far ahead when I began reviewing but I have truly enjoyed watching the movies and writing about them. Writing especially, is something I had lost touch with during my professional career, and it feels great to be able to put non-work related thoughts to the computer screen.

I also have an impressive collection of statistics
• I’ve watched a 100 movies (mostly Bollywood) in the period from 13th July’06 till May’08 working out to a average frequency of 4.5 movies per month – kind of one every weekend.
• This has consumed approx 500 hours of my already incredibly hectic professional & personal life – that’s almost 21 full days !
• Total spend approx ~Rs 45,000, a shade over $1000, in watching the movies
• Readers from over 250 cities, across the 6 continents, view my blog / read my reviews. The map above shows last months dispersion – it gives me so much personal satisfaction to view this, I cant even begin to describe it.
• Total page views would be greater than 20,000 over this period.
• Movies that I have enjoyed the most (the non-mega releases, in no particular order) : Loins of Punjab Presents, Cheeni Kum, Manorama Six Feet Under, Khosla ka Ghosla and Dor
• Movies that I have loathed : RGV ki Aag (I still cant believe how someone can ruin Sholay !), Buddha Mar Gaya (the only movie I walked out of, during the interval), Baabul and Red.

My family has been incredibly supportive. It’s almost a dream come true for my wife as she gets to watch all the recent releases along with someone who, in the ten years prior to Aug’06, had not watched more than 5 hindi movies. My kids have enjoyed themselves as well – they either watch the movie or if it’s not good enough, punish the cinema hall for its bad taste by running around the whole hall and doing their best to wreck it by jumping on the seats etc. Even my parents have joined me whenever they can, willingly in the case of my mom and a tad reluctantly in the case of my dad.

I’ve also found myself getting more and more involved in the world of film-making. I’ve now met producers, actors, script-writers and very recently a script-writer cum lyricist. I’ve found out much more about the entire business of cinema – who makes money, how are deals structured, how there is now some amount paid for branding in almost every scene etc. Also, once you take away the A-list, it’s a world where people struggle to make ends meet. Take away the glamour and it’s just another job. I also think that our cinema is too reliant on the A-list stars – there have been no commercial hits I could think of in my reviewing period that did not have at least one or two stars, which is sad.

This exists because directors / producers are excessively obsessed with the songs and stars and not enough on the script / dialogue. I also loathe the trend of dumbing down movies, with a very elitist view of ‘making it accessible for the masses’, ‘this is what people want etc’. If you have the guts to make a good film, holding on to its creative integrity and soul, the same masses welcome it and flock to the cinema. Taare Zameen Par is a marvelous sentimental, emotional film which was restrained, not once did it go over the top or fall prey to providing cheap thrills yet was a blockbuster with gross earnings of Rs60 crore ($15 mn) in India alone. Cheeni Kum is today called a multiplex film (still raked in Rs30 crore at the box office) but in an era long ago there were brilliant, commercially viable films like Abhimaan, Chupke Chupke etc which touched on bold themes or entertained without falling into the slapstick trap. I think making a good film takes balls and if you succeed, the rewards will come, punto !

I’ve personally now written one full-fledged script and have two more outlines written out. Some day I hope to bring them to life. I also need your help, for another project I have in mind. I would like each of my readers to list their top10 hindi movies (preferably the ones shot in colour) in the comments section. If they are ranked fine, else even just the list is great. Also, If there are 13 or 8, don’t knock yourself out making it 10, that’s only indicative…

Your thoughts on my thoughts are welcome as always. Until the next review, then…

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Rating : 4/10
Running Time : 150 Minutes
Release Date : 9th May ‘08
Director & Writer : Vivek Sharma ; Music : Vishal-Shekhar
Starring : Amitabh Bachchan, Juhi Chawla, Aman Sidiqui and Shahrukh Khan in a very long guest appearance

The movie is about a ghost in a house (Amitabh as Bhootnath), who normally scares would-be residents away, but befriends a kid who’s come to stay, has some fun with him and then gets very very emotional in the second half. Above-mentioned kid is accompanied by Juhi as mom, while SRK as daddy works on a ship so is absent for large periods. This film forced me to ask several deeply philosophical questions. Can ghosts choose who they are visible to and whom not ? Can they decide to change their preferences or does this get ‘locked in’ ? Are they stuck to a place (like a house) or are they free to roam (go on holidays etc) ? Can they move physical objects ? Can ghosts cry ?

There were some nice touches in the film. I think more could’ve been made of Satish Shah’s fetish for tiffins, more could’ve been done with even the ghost and how it used different means to scare different people off. Maybe they could’ve even made it ( another philosophical one - do ghost’s have gender ? Is ‘it’ ok or should it be ‘him’ instead ?) a ghost who was just having fun (kind of like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day) instead of being a sulking, seething ghost ? Aman thankfully behaves like most normal kids do and is not sickly sweet like most Bollywood kids, except in a couple of scenes where he’s a got a ridiculous mix of ‘Kodak moment’ meets ‘Close-up confidence’ kind of a grin/smile. And Rajpal Yadav is getting too predictable and irritating. Do something different or retire is my humble plea - there are better ways to make money.

I think the director / producer here couldn’t quite figure out who was their target audience. Was it kids and adults who behave like kids or was it adults who behave like adults ? If it was the former, then the second half was too soppy and sentimental and even the first half needed a few more laughs. If it was the latter then the first half was too frivolous and even the second half’s sentimentality was a bit forced, a bit much-a-do-about-nothing. So the film, kind of like its lead character, Bhootnath, inhabits the mid-world, and is neither here, nor there. Being an active and hopefully lifelong member of the adults-behaving-like-children club, I just wish they had gone whole hog on the laughs !

PS – I think its safe to take kids to this one – some ‘scary’ moments in the first half but nothing which will lead to sleepless nights or huge psychiatry bills later in life…

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Mr Black Mr White

Rating : 2/10
Running Time : ~140 Minutes
Release Date : 2nd May ‘08
Director & Writer : Deepak Shivdasani ; Music : Too Many People Who created horrible soundtracks
Starring : Arshad Warsi, Suneil Shetty, Sandhya Mridul

This movie suffers from the curse of the multiple S’s…
• Stupid Story
• Silly Slapstick
• Simpering, Soppy Sentimentality
• Slinky, Sleazy Sexiness and Skin show
• Scatter-brained Sub-plots

It was too painful to watch, makes you cringe in several places, the story has more flaws than Rakhi Sawant’s body jobs and the only people who laughed during the movie were these 6 year olds sitting near us. A waste of Arshad, Sandhya and Suneil’s acting talents (especially considering Sandhya and Arshad were last together in the brilliant ‘Waisa Bhi Hota Hai Part2’).

No other comment necessary. And I still don’t understand why the name ?