Monday, August 27, 2007

Heyy Baby

This is a movie which does a decent job of combining good comedy with `heart-rending’ emotional drama. Taking my kids as a barometer, there were moments when they were shrieking with laughter, doing serious damage to their seats by jumping up and down with delight. And others when they were crying, literally, with tears streaming down their cheeks, upset at some of the things happening to the baby.

Three Casanovas, Ritiesh Deshmukh, Akshay Kumar and Fardeen Khan, are fast friends and flatmates. Their free-wheeling lifestyle comes to a shuddering halt when a baby is left outside their house one fine morning, with a cryptic note asking them to take care of their offspring. For the next half haour we’re treated to classic ‘Three Men and a Baby’ stuff, as they struggle to cope (as most new parents do) with a creature that sleeps, eats, pooh’s and repeats the cycle until infuriation sets in. Then something happens (and I hesitate to say more for fear of giving the story away), they fall in love with the baby and reform their life to take care of the baby but then mom comes in to reclaim the baby (all this is the emotional phase of the movie) and finally, the rest of the movie revolves on how they try to win the baby (and mom) back.

The comic scenes are very good – a little slapstick (and over the top stuff) is combined with great situations and comic timing to allow plenty of laughter from the audience. It actually gets better in the second half, when they’re trying to win the baby back, and there are a couple of surprises to ensure our interest is held throughout.

The emotional stuff – I felt they should have toned it down a bit (maybe even eliminated it altogether) – there were some disturbing scenes involving the baby, which I felt were inappropriate for a family movie (with young kids present in the hall). My kids were really upset when they happened, and although they left the hall in smiles at the end, I didn’t enjoy watching them get worked up. BTW, don’t miss the beginning or the end, the opening song sequence has the most starlets I’ve ever seen in a movie and the credits are good fun.

Akshay Kumar was outstanding – his timing has always been excellent and he manages to do it with a deadpan expression that provokes laughter. In my opinion, he is a true superstar who can handle any genre (action, comedy, drama) and has much better acting skills than some ahead of him in the box-office/publicity pecking order. Fardeen was very good as well, he has really improved in recent times. I think Ritiesh always overacts and this movie didn’t help change my opinion. Vidya Balan was ok, I felt she wasn’t the right choice for her role, while Boman Irani was his usual impressive self.

This is a good example of a good time pass movie – doesn’t stretch the mind too much, has a few slapstick / mind-less moments to prevent it from being a classic, a little emotion, some good songs and a lot of fun. Its like a karela wrapped in sugar coating. Or vice versa. Can taste surprisingly good but unlikely to become a regular / anyone's favourite…


How do they do it ? How do the guys at Pixar keep coming up with concepts like this, creating endearing stories where you could swear none exist ? I mean this is about a rat which can cook and quite amazingly becomes the inspiration behind a famous French restaurant. Yet we cheer the rat all the way through, we root for the restaurant itself (which is being ruined by an ‘evil’ chef) and we feel for the other characters in the kitchen. And this is accompanied as usual by the most beautiful animation / special effects.
On the con side, there are no rolling-on-the-floor-laughing moments, its not a classic which will bear repeated viewings (or in the case of my kids several, multiple repeated viewings) like Jungle Book / Finding Nemo etc.

However, it’s a great day out for all those who are young at heart…

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Budha Mar Gaya

The first time I walked out of a movie in a long time – and boy, did this movie deserve it ! Decent idea (rich man dies, however family has to pretend he is alive for a few days else they would become bankrupt) and decent cast (Anupam Kher, Paresh Rawal, Ranvir Shourie), totally & utterly ruined by the crassest execution possible – full of sexual innuendo, crude jokes, the worst kind of slapstick possible – and all done at the highest decibel level possible. All the cast possibly descend to the worst levels imaginable and if they have any shame / pride, they will cringe when they see themselves on screen.

Easily the worst movie I’ve seen in the last year with not a single redeeming feature…

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Chak De India

This is not a sophisticated film – its simple yet rousingly entertaining. It unabashedly cashes in in the wave of patriotism sweeping through the country, a sort of pride where we are increasingly comfortable with who / what we are rather than just blindly ape-ing the west. The movie brings you to your feet in quite a few places – but only if you’re the type who enjoys watching India win in sport, the type who can take off your shirt to celebrate a la Saurav / Freddie etc.

What makes this movie different is that it weaves its story around a rather unlikely vehicle, womens hockey, and there is more to this movie than just sport. There is a story in there about the shallowness of our tv media, its insatiable appetite for concocting news, while adhering to the worst standards of yellow journalism. There is another about the pathetic nature of the officialdom, the politicians and bureaucrats who run our sports. Yet another about the soft nature of our sportsmen, their limited ambition where they are content to become something in India rather than internationally, their inability to focus on fitness or slog it out and even their desire to be treated as superstars, whether worthy of the status or not. And, finally, it is about women – do they belong exclusively in the kitchen or is there a world beyond that ? Shouldnt they get the same attention / money / sponsorship as their more feted male counterparts ?

Shahrukh is a disgraced men’s hockey player who returns after a 7 year self-imposed exile to coach the Indian women’s hockey team. A team which is so faction ridden, that even the hockey association has no faith in them and brand them absolute no-hopers. The team itself is composed of clearly defined, stereo-typical characters, some fighting their own personal battles, whether with their parents, their in-laws or even their husbands / fiancee’s and others just there for the ride. How he gets them to become one team is the focus of the first half. The second is about what they try to achieve.

In what I think is more a commercial decision than a creative one, it’s the north Indian, hindi speaking characters who get most of the meaty parts. However, all the characters act out of their skin, matching Shahrukh every step of the way. SRK himself is refreshingly understated, saving the histrionics for only the beginning and the end. The only song is the chest thumping, energetic Chak de India, used throughout as the background music.

Its tough to really criticize this film as, despite a few logical flaws, it achieves what it promises. I liked the way the movie focused on a few of the hockey players, rather than all 16. Better to get to know a few well rather than all marginally. I liked the way most of the hockey sequences were handled and the editing of the entire film– the action and drama was gripping and you didn’t want to miss a second. I loved the way they played shamelessly to the audience, getting the desired response – for example there is a scene where SRK is shown watching someone pull up the Indian flags at a championship. When asked what he is doing, he simply says “bahut din ke baad, ek gore ko dekh raha hoon tiranga uncha karte” (after many days, I’m watching a foreigner pull up the Indian tricolour), or something to that effect. If I remember correctly, that dialogue alone got a 2 minute ovation. I also really liked the realistic scenes in the beginning, where the myriad news channels gracing the TV screens are shown for what they really are (especially in India) - rumour mongering, pompous, self-praising garbage.

Its pure adrenalin, this one. Best to watch it with a triclour draped around you, face paint applied liberally, and preferably in a group. Its flag waving, fist pumping, jingoistic, in-your-face patriotism, losing no opportunity to blow a raspberry at our opponents kind of stuff. This is the ‘you don’t win a silver, you lose a gold medal’ territory. And it was great to watch all the kids in the audience get excited, go ‘Yessss’ whenever India scored a goal. We need something like this to make sure our next generation is more assertive. We, Indians, are normally quiet people, accustomed to 'taking it' since the days of Gandhi. If this movie is a reflection of the mood of the nation, then we’re changing. Its time to give it back – and with interest.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Gandhi, My Father

I didn’t get it. Why would anyone want to see a film about a guy who was a failure in almost every facet of life ? He failed in the metric exam thrice, wanted to become a barrister but obviously didn’t have the brains for it, he tried starting a business (twice), failed both times, defrauding his business partners, employer and innocent investors. He changed his religion once, flirted with another before switching back to Hinduism. He spent his last few years as a constantly drunk homeless beggar, who resisted every attempt his father made to reach out to him. Sounds boring, depressing, right ? The movie is no different. Just because the above person happens to be Gandhi’s son doesn’t change anything.

One of the interesting things was watching Gandhiji trying to deal with this issue – imagine you’re the father of the nation, trying to come up with a way to bring down apartheid in SA or the British rule in India – and suddenly you have to find time to deal with a rebellious, indecisive son who obviously is not in the same league as himself. Not easy, and based on the movie I didn’t feel we are able to truly take sides or decide who was in the right or wrong.

Acting was ok throughout, direction / camerawork was good. However we were stuck with a film that lacked appeal or a story that failed to provoke.

Every family has its own black sheep – in this case, a sheep which refused to change colour or fade into the background. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it makes for a good movie – for most of the movie you’re squirming, wondering what idiocy Harilal Gandhi is going to do next. I remember, just a month or so before my son was born, my wife asked me what would I do if he turned out to be an inactive, passive, dunce ? it’s a terrible thought – am thankful to God this never happened – but watching this movie was a bit like watching your worst nightmare come true. I don’t think that could be enjoyable viewing for anyone.


There was an old man from Peru,
Who dreamt he was eating his shoe.
He awoke in the middle of the night,
In a state of terrible fright,
And found it was perfectly true !

I walked in with a lot of trepidation, thinking it was going to be a movie which was desperately trying to be cool, a kind of B-grade rip-off of Dhoom2, a film more about the marketing / hype than substance. And, like the old man in the limerick above, I found it was perfectly true !

It’s set in Cape Town (a stunningly gorgeous city), it casts people who are lesser stars (and less talented) vs D2, has slick action sequences, too many characters, but crucially, no story. None at all. Also, in another desperate attempt to appeal to the young, they’ve tried to incorporate animation sequences in the middle of the action shots – I failed to understand why ? Usually its used when real shots would be impossible to execute – but that’s definitely not the case here as the two (real-life and animation) are interspersed. There are a few funny moments (the whole Ajay Devgan / yatch scene springs to mind), but for most of the while you don’t really get whats happening / there are too many silly sequences / unrealistic things shown and the whole film comes across as very disjointed.

I thought Ajay Devgan wasn’t bad – he has this lazy style which really suits his role here. Dia Mirza also can probably walk out feeling ok and maybe Shamita too. Everyone else will have to really question what they were upto. One of the few things that made me watch the movie was that it was directed by Anubhav Sinha, the guy who gave us Dus (nice, slick, kind of Bad Boys mixed with Usual Suspects, with really nice music). Based on this movie now, he may have trouble finding takers for his next project. I wish he had focused on a fewer characters / relationships, and probably having a plot / story would have helped too !