Sunday, September 27, 2009

Priceless



Rating : 7/10
Release Date : Dec, 2006
Time : 104 minutes
Director & co-writer : Pierre Salvadori; Co-Writer : Benoit Graffin;
Starring : Audrey Tatou, Gad Elmaleh, Marie-Christine Adam, Vernon Dobtcheff


A gorgeous woman who chases wealthy men, mistakes a barman to be a rich tycoon and has a one night stand with him. When caught and abandoned by her current rich benefactor, she unfortunately realises the truth and promptly abandons the barman. However, the barman is now besotted by her and chases her to Nice, where she is chasing her next kill. All this is over within the next 15 minutes, leaving the rest of the film plenty of time to delight and surprise us.


Light, frothy and heady, this lovely French film charms you with its wit and humour while it reaches a reasonably predictable ending. What makes the film come alive are the two excellent characterisations by the lead pair, of the gold-digger and the barman who soon finds himself learning new skills. She introduces him and then instructs him about the world of ‘paid keeps’ and he suddenly learns how to string people along. He learns about the world of brands and expensive gifts and dinners.


The film moves at a good pace, always some fun and surprises along the way. Such as when she, just to prove how expensive a keep she is, cruelly and deliberately bankrupts him. And her habit of wearing dresses which don’t hide much and fall down in a heap with a mere flick of the fingers, makes for engaging viewing.

I think I’m going to close with the fact that French films have this amazing habit of seeming to belong to a different planet and this one is no different. It’s a perfect accompaniment to a nice bottle of wine…

Friday, September 25, 2009

Whats Your Rashee



Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 25th Sep, 2009
Time : ~220 minutes
Director & Co-writer : Ashutosh Gowariker; Co-Writer : Naushil, based on the novel Kimball Ravenswood by Madhu Rye; Music : Sohail Sen
Starring : Priyanka Chopra, Harman Baweja, Aanjjan Shrivastava, Darshan Jariwala

I think it’s the weight of expectation, after all its an Ashutosh Gowariker film, that makes us first pick the flaws rather than applaud the things he got right. So, true to my nature, I will go against the trend and begin with the positives. First, you’ve got Priyanka Chopra, who does manage to infuse life into some startlingly different characters. You’ve got quite a few funny moments, the tone is light hearted through out and some genuinely unexpected ‘twists’. And I never thought I would be saying this, but my biggest fear from the film, what I thought would be the biggest liability, Harman Baweja, proved to be unfounded. He was actually good, not brilliant but good enough to impart some credibility and likeability to his character.


The story itself is interesting, derived from a book and a old Doordarshan serial called Mr Yogi. A Gujrati NRI (Harman) is called back to India and told by his family that he must get married within a few days, to enable him to inherit some land from his maternal grandfather and then pay off some debts the younger brother has racked up while dealing in shares. Harman agrees reluctantly and then decides that instead of meeting the 176 women who responded to his matrimonial ad (inserted by his mama, well played by Darshan Jariwala), he will meet only 12 women, one per zodiac sign and then decide.
So he meets them, twelve women all played by Priyanka and then in the end he chooses. Different sub plots involve a Mafiosi, who is one of the lenders. And also the mamu’s extra marital dalliance and his wife’s suspicions thereof.


There are some genuine surprises amongst the twelve characters played by Priyanka. She gets a lot of the detail right – slouching in some cases, oozing sensuality in others, being na├»ve in one character, a dominatrix in another and a bit flaky in a third. I don’t want to give anything away in terms of actually describing the zodiac roles as the element of surprise is what keeps you going through a lot of the film.
The humour, as mentioned above, is very good. There is one instance where Harman announces his name, Y B Patel, to get an unexpected response. Another where the innocent question, who is your favourite film star, gets a predictable response (‘Tom’) but its not who we think it is. There was a rich jeweller who proudly kept reiterating his shop name and the fact that it had no branches. And an interesting perspective was offered on Harman’s inability to eat a gola / chuski, with the whole NRI’s & their ubiquitous mineral water bottles being brought up. Then there was the time Harman swears ‘Jesus’ and is gently chided ‘is ghar main Krishna kehte hain’.


All this does get overshadowed by a few flaws. First and foremost is the length – the film is at least three and a half hours long. It could’ve done with fewer songs (there are thirteen), killed off some of the sub plots (they were unnecessary, especially the mamu’s extra marital one) and I can think of one or two more areas which could’ve been done without. The other big one is the ending – its very ordinary, nothing special and a weak end to walk out of the hall with. There could’ve been a twist there to make it more interesting. I and my wife thought of a couple which could’ve worked better. There are a few good songs but most otherwise actually halt the narrative and bloat the film.

I felt though, that it wasn’t a bad film. Its about arranged marriage and puts forward situations which most Indians can identify with, bring a smile to most people. Who hasn’t hesitatingly asked the girls parents for some time alone with the girl, only to be brutally rebuffed. Or had the girls parents answer all the questions. Or have the girl lie, on the orders of her parents, who feel only certain clothes and answers will please the soon-to-be green card holder. Or meet girls who are, well, err, humph, a bit crazy.


This is a film which has its heart in the right place but not its length…as the doc’s say, an overdose of anything is bad and in this case we got more than we bargained for…Someone needed to gently remind Ashutosh Gowariker that ‘Yeh dil Maange More’ doesn’t necessarily apply to all things and situations…

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Wanted


Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 18th Sep, 2009
Time : 150 minutes
Director : Prabhudheva; Writer : Puri Jagannath, Shiraz Ahmed; Music : Sajid-Wajid
Starring : Salman Khan, Ayesha Takia, Vinod Khanna, Prakash Raj, Mahesh Manjrekar, Govind Namdeo

This is a film that’s refreshingly reasonably clear about what its about…lot of action (fights / murders), Salman Khan, a romantic angle and lots of tapori type humour. For that reason alone its good. The fact that it focuses even more – keeps Salman from doing emotional scenes and keeps him mostly monosyllabic, concentrates on just his action and humour, gets it bonus points.



A new D.I.G. in town (good cameo by Govind Namdeo), takes on the underworld and tries to break the two rival gangs run by Gani Bhai (very good role by the extremely talented South Indian actor, Prakash Raj) and Datta Pawle. Salman works first for one and then switches to the other, having no loyalty to anyone but money. He bumps into Ayesha Takia one day and then continues to meet her, first by chance and then later intentionally. How his romantic liaisons, the underworld gangs, the D.I.G. and a corrupt cop (excellent cameo by Mahesh Manjrekar), all come together is what the film is about.


I would’ve probably shaved off a few minutes from the film, eliminated some of the gore, at least 2-3 songs (there were unnecessary song sequences shot in Cyprus and Santorini), reduced some of the romance and sharpened the end – was a bit tame, not really the high point of the film…

But the film works because it knows what its about and doesn’t try to be anything else. The humour is actually quite good, a few laugh out loud sequences / moments including the ‘Vicco Vajradanti’ one, the few ‘Mughal-E-Azam’ shots in the beginning, Manoj Pahwa’s cameo as Ayesha’s landlord, Salman’s wisecracks…quite good overall. Salman was good – the role suits him, and he’s done well, playing within his limitations as an actor. He looks a bit awkward when he’s running but I’m probably just carping. Ayesha was good as well, but the show was kind of stolen by Mahesh and Prakash amongst the non-Salman actors.

There was also a moment which touched me – I think it was just me, the frame of mind I was in, not really intended by the film makers. There was a scene where some cops are killed in the line of duty and are being given a state burial…it just struck me how such honest cops are killed nearly everyday in real life and for most of us, they are mere statistics. Cops, armed service men, firemen etc. Who lay their lives on the line for us. Yet no one really seems to care. Sad. Felt bad while I was watching it and the feeling has lingered.

We’re going to close the review with a quiz question…
When in the film do you think Salman goes totally topless ?
1. Within the first 30 minutes
2. The second 30 minutes
3. Third 30 minutes
4. Last half an hour
5. Not once in the film

The person who doesn’t cheat (ie doesn’t see the film or ask someone who has) but answers correctly will get a prize…

Dil Bole Hadippa


Rating : 4/10
Release Date : 18th Sep, 2009
Time : 148 minutes
Director : Anurag Singh; Writer : Jaya - Aparajita; Music : Pritam
Starring : Rani Mukherjee, Shahid Kapoor, Anupam Kher, Dilip Tahil, Rakhi Sawant, Sherlyn Chopra, Vrajesh Hirjee

This is a film that invokes different religions, the whole India-Pakistan rivalry & peace / love / brotherhood angle, our new de facto and most unifying religion called cricket and that too in its latest avatar, the twenty 20 format. It touches upon a father – son separation and re-unification, a husband wife separation and unification, the whole NRI identity crisis coupled with the ‘I am from the Punjab’ son of soil sentiments. And finally, the mother of them all (pun intended), it takes up cudgels on behalf of feminism. And yet, despite all of the above, it fails to really connect with the audience.

It’s the story of a woman, Veera, who works in a nautanki company and dreams of playing cricket. She’s so good that she can hit a Ranji level bowler for six sixes in an over. Yet, alas, she has no avenue to display her talents as her village obviously has no women cricket team. Enter Aman Cup – a cricket match held every year between two teams, one Indian and one Pakistani – which are put together by two childhood friends who were separated by partition and now one resides in Lahore (Dilip Tahil) and the other in Amritsar (Anupam Kher). For the last 8 years though, this has been won by Pakistan. So, Anupam now decides to bring in the heavy artillery, his son (Shahid), who is the toast of the English county circuit and a reluctant returnee back to India, who will win him his cup.

Many, many twists and sub-plots later, which includes Shahid asking along with the audience ‘Are we there yet ?’, the movie reaches its predictable end. The last couple of twists were actually the most laughable and cringeworthy.

I found the film laborious and torturous. The plot was weak – as would any plot be which tries to touch upon so many topics. It alternates between downright laughable (unintentionally though) to painfully trite and shallow in parts. The characters are equally shallow and cardboardish – I was going to say ‘wooden’ but that implies a sort of strength of sorts.

The vibrant colours of Punjab are about the only saving grace here. Maybe one or two songs if you’re into this kind of thing. I think Rani’s days of lead roles which require her to be peppy, youthful and vibrant are over. The days of Hum Tum and Bunty aur Bubli being a long forgotten bubbly memory. Probably slightly more mature roles are in order. Shahid looked ill at ease but is still ok overall. The key culprit though, is the plot…hackneyed, over emotive, complicated and predictable. After the film the heart does say Hadippa…but its more out of thanks to the Lord that its over more than anything else….

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Magadheera


Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 30th July, 2009
Time : 166 minutes
Director : SS Rajamouli; Writer : Vijayendra Prasad; Music : M M Keeravani
Starring : Ram Charan Teja, Kajal Agarwal, Srihari, Dev Gill


Reincarnation and unfulfilled love, with a dash of vengeance thrown in.

Not too many foreign films deal with these topics. Chances Are is a lovely, soft romantic story involving reincarnation. And Sunbird is a lovely book by Wilbur Smith involving all of the above. But I would struggle to find more. Indians, however, seem to revel in it, truly enjoying the rollercoaster ride, getting emotional and letting our feelings get manipulated by the on-screen characters. We loved Karz. Applauded Karan Arjun’s rise from the dead. And adored Om Shanti Om with almost the religious fervour its title provoked. There’s something about this topic that stirs us, makes us shed logic aside and enjoy the spectacle. And I’m no exception.


Magadheera is a classic of this genre. The story involves a near psychotic villain, a father, a friend. And, of course, the lead couple. It involves rebirth and slow remembrance by the re-born characters of their past life. More importantly, it involves a no-expense spared approach with awesome sets, spectacular fight sequences, ‘powerful’ dialogue, lovely clothing, rippling muscles, stylish accessories (masks, tattoo’s, necklaces et all), many song and dance sequences. And a completely implausible ending. But its great fun !


In such films, your connect with the lead pair is crucial…you must like them a lot to want them to be re-born…and this pair doesn’t let you down. This was Ram Charan Teja’s (Chiranjeevi’s real life son) second film. And he seems to have it all. A face that you connect to, warm up to, a persona that you cheer, urge to win. A torso that looks good without being too muscle bound. Dance steps that are good. And good dialogue delivery, action skills for someone doing his first film.


Kajal as the leading lady, holds her playful own. Looking good in western dresses, churidars and dresses that were 400 years old, including a breast armour…She looks intense in her emotional scenes, earns your sympathy when she sheds a few tears, your laughter when she teases and your attention with some of her more curvaceous dresses.


I would’ve shaved at least 20-30 minutes of the film. There is a spectacular fight sequence, kind of like the one in Kill Bill 2 except in a most dissimilar setting – its great but probably goes on just a tad too long. Would’ve just tightened up other parts. Maybe even remove a song or two. And remove some of the excessively ‘implaubible’ parts. I know its funny to say that for a film about re-incarnation but there are limits for everything.


Watch this, for nothing else, then for Daler Mehndi’s Teleugu item number sung with typical Punjabi verve and gusto. The whispers in Andhra about Ram Charan are that he will be ten times what is father was – a tall ask for anyone, let alone his own flesh and blood. I don’t know about the ten times…but this guy is going to be a star for sure.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Aagey Se Right


Rating : 4/10
Release Date : 4th Sep, 2009
Time : ~ 120 minutes
Director & Writer : Indrajit Nattoji; Music : Amartya, Ram Sampat
Starring : Shreyas Talpade, Kay Kay Menon, Mahie Gill, Shehnaz Treasurywala, Shiv Pandit, Shruti Seth, Vijay Maurya



This is a film I would’ve ‘bought’ as a one-line synopsis – a cop who loses his gun and then tries to trace it as the gun becomes embroiled in all sort of situations. But I would’ve sold immediately, even at a loss, on seeing the final product…a silly, jerky film that wastes the premise and the considerable talent at its disposal


You get a wimpy, mother-pecked cop (Shreyas Talpade) who runs around like a headless chicken. A chaste Urdu spouting jehadi (Kay Kay Menon) who, after watching one song & dance, becomes a tapori shaayar who renounces violence and his beard. A highly irritating Shiv Pandit who is in love with an equally irritating Shruti Seth, who in turn is an extremely irritating police commissioner’s (Rakesh Bedi’s) daughter. You get a slightly over the top Mahie Gill as a sensationalist TV reporter who is in cahoots with a TV friendly cop.

The silver lining and the only thing responsible for the 4 rating are Vijay Maurya's turn as the south Indian accented tapori. Quite funny once you get used to the accent, especially when he turns to his stationary bodyguard as someone he was interrogating runs away “Mr Wilson”, “Yes sir”, Waiting for Christmas ?”…
Also, special mention of the song, picturised on Shehnaz, the one which converts Kay Kay – More Piya - its actually very nice, very hummable, a kind of jazz-ish number. And of the funny notices which seem to crop up everywhere – lists of do’s and don’ts, road signs, notices in offices etc


Shreyas Talpade and Kay Kay continue their downward spiral in chase of the quick bucks. The rest is one mangled blur…

Chintu Ji


Rating : 4/10
Release Date : 4th Sep, 2009
Time : 135 minutes
Director & Writer : Ranjit Kapoor; Music : Sukhwinder Singh, Siddharth Suhas, Abhishek - Ishteyak
Starring : Rishi Kapoor, Kulraj Randhawa, Priyanshu Chatterjee, Saurabh Shukla


A film which tries to replicate Welcome to Sajjanpur’s surprise success by coming up with another small village with the heart of gold story but fails. A veteran actor (Chintu ji), deciding its time to enter politics, returns to his roots, his home-village (Hadbahedi) and stay there for sometime, sort of as a launching pad.



However, the story doesn’t work on two counts. First, Chintu ji is a person you learn to dislike very quickly – he is rude, shouts at everyone, abusive, alcoholic, imposes himself on people, takes advantage of his status, doesn’t care at all about the village people who are going all out to take care of him, forces them to serve meat even in a vegetarian household, is corrupt, lies etc etc. This is the films lead character…


Secondly, the heart of gold villagers are too sweet and sachaarine….aisa nahin ho sakta…no one can put up with the kind of crap they were made to put up. I mean, I know ‘athithi devo bhav’ and all that but if someone is shown eve-teasing, stealing money / jewellery and yet you keep smiling because he’s your guest, it stretches credibility past breaking point.


There are a couple of sub-plots – the mildly interesting one was watching the Russian / Uzbek girl who did a role in ‘Mera Naam Joker’ and there was another eminently forgettable one which involved a love angle between the towns newspaper editor and Chintuji’s PR agent. The Editor also has a past which the village wants to help keep buried and for the sake of your sanity, you wish they had


Rishi Kapoor’s acting and Sophie Chaudhury’s well-displayed cleavage (in an item number type role) remain the only reasons to go for the film…