Saturday, 22 November 2014

Mary Kom

Directed by: Omung Kumar
Starring: Priyanka Chopra, Darshan Kumaar, Sunil Thapa
Released: 2014
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing – experience

Before I even start with the film itself, I think I need to explain one thing: I hate boxing. I do not consider it a sport of civilized people, for it lacks what I am looking for in a sport event – team spirit or an individual stepping over one´s limits. The sole purpose of box is to simply beat the shit out of the other and you cannot tell me otherwise. That much said I have nothing but respect for Mary Kom as a woman who had to go through struggles which would weary out majority of other people (including me). In that aspect her life story is immensely inspirational and should be told. Just perhaps not the way this particular film does it.

Even without not being intimately familiar with the life of Mary Kom, all its twists and turns, I dare say it was dramatic enough to be an intriguing picture, however the filmmakers felt the need to ad lots and lots of filmi clichés, which they hoped would enhance the major points of the narrative, unfortunately they reach an absolutely opposite effect. They strike out of nowhere and leave one slightly baffled or dubious, they seem too improbable and made-up – basically they do not go with the rest of the film. The most prominent among these are scenes which show Mary in sort of mystical, mental contact with her father and later one of her baby sons, which directly influences her ability to fight. While common in fictional films, I cannot help but wonder if this bit was necessary in a biopic. The songs, too, were not needed and only diluted the story. The “villain” shares the over the top sheer nastiness reminding one of all those negative roles by Prakash Raj, and again, lacks the believable factor.

The film belongs to Priyanka Chopra. It is not her best ever performance and I still think she was a miscast. It was ironic seeing her accusing the match jury of racism, when her casting itself could be called racist. I am not saying I am a great know-it-all on the issue, but I still recall the reasoning of the makers, who stated they knowingly cast Priyanka because a new, Manipuri actress, would not be bankable. What was the intention then? To tell a story of a Manipuri woman who beat every obstacle INCLUDING negative, dismissive attitude so many have against people who look like her, or to make a bankable film? Because they did not manage to have both. I am aware Mary Kom herself was satisfied with the movie, but I do not believe her consent was the best thing to have happened to her community, which so rarely gets the deserved attention and representation in media. This was an opportunity which nobody took. That much said, Priyanka deserves heaps of credit for her incredible dedication. One can see she put her heart and soul into the role, not fearing the physical demands. I suppose much like I respect Mary but disagree with boxing I also respect Priyanka but disagree with her being the protagonist. I salute their work and dedication – and success.

Looking back the at “big” biopic of the last year, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Mary Kom fails to leave a mark. Where Bhaag Milkha managed to deal with the athlete´s haunted conscience, his inner struggle and issues, while at the same time being a good sports film, Mary Kom is a good sports-film, but the backstory is really just... a backstory. Why did Mary picked up that glove in the beginning? Why did she love box but disliked athletics? How did she feel when she started a family? We do get to see most of what happened, but hardly any of the scenes really touches the inner conflicts which must have plagued Mary once. And since the main protagonist is left without more complex feelings (as a film character, I am not saying the REAL Mary Kom does not have complex feelings!), you cannot expect more from other characters either. In case of Onler, Mary Kom´s husband, that made me almost sad. (if he is in real life the half man he was shown to be on screen, he is everything a woman could ever want!).

Mary Kom the film is not as magnificent as its subject, but it could be treated as a good way of getting some really basic knowledge on her. Decent, but less than what it could have been and deserved to have become.

Monday, 3 November 2014


Directed by: Rajkumar Kohli
Starring: Sunil Dutt, Feroz Khan, Reena Roy, Jeetendra, Vinod Mehra, Kabir Bedi, Sanjay Khan, Mumtaz, Rekha, Yogeeta Bali
Released: 1976
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

A massive star cast of the kind one does not see too often today and yet a film so laughably bad! Nagin is one of many Indian movies drawing inspiration from the ancient belief in existence of magical snakes, which are capable of taking a human form. Unintentionally it also discovers the endless human stupidity, which makes you facepalm so often you actually hardly see anything of the film unless you rewind. Most importantly, however, the picture suffers from a common Bollywood illness: it is a thriller/horror that is neither thrilling nor scary.
My sideburns are better than your sideburns.
Well, copulate you!
After shooting an obviously stuffed bird Sunil Dutt with horrible hairdo and wearing bell-shaped, skin-tight trousers meets a magical snake in human form Jeetendra. Happy to be alive the snake invites Sunil to watch his copulation dance with a female snake Reena Roy (I guess snakes do not dig private nad btw yes, my subtitles kept translating "suhaag raat" as "copulation night"), and Sunil, being all into it, soon after invites his friends to come and watch as well. However since they do not think he is serious, they come and secretly ogle at a barely-clad girl dancing in the woods – until a snake appears and they shoot it, thinking it was attacking the gal. As it turns out, though, it was the previously saved Jeetendra, all ready for some copulation, and now as dead as a fish. Enraged, the female snake – nagin – sets on a revenge trip.

Flying Snake attack!

That was close!
Even with the questionable special effects and questionable performances this could have been a good horror, but unfortunately it gets quickly boring a repetitive. The nagin has just one cheap trick up her sleeve – taking a form of girlfriends and then killing her victims – and she uses it every single time. Luckily for her the guys would still only have half a brain if they put all of their brains together, so they fall for it easily, however, for the audience this revenge tale gets stale all too quickly. Maybe the director recognized this as well, and that is why he included a pretty physical and violent fight between Reena Roy and Rekha near the end (over a man, naturally).

The Dumbass Club of the Round Table
Nagin is one of the films that are both roll-eyes worthy, boring and unintentionally hilarious. It suffers from choppy editing, flying snakes, random stupid comedy and prepostrous characters. It is fun to watch actors, that had proved themselves with better cinema, being a part of such trash – and at the same time it is cringeworthy and painful (almost as much as the copulation love dance between Reena and Jeetendra dressed in gold and leather, which they kept bursting into every five minutes). There is the old Bollywood habit to create drama in situations that call for anything but that, and then the drama intensifies to dimensions nearly unimaginable. Naturally there is a high level of WTF: a scene where Feroz Khan shoots at Mumtaz, wounding her – yet then he says „sorry, I thought you were a snake, let me bandage that“ and she just smiles and accepts such bullshit explanation as a part of their budding romance, is just one of many such scenes.

Such pathetic sideburns you got!
How dare you bitch!
Take a plunge off the cliff!
It was interesting for me to watch Kabir Bedi – this was my first Bollywood film I´ve seen him in, but I have been familiar with him since many years. In my part of the world he is terribly famous for his role of Sandokan. Not long ago he was being interviewed for the Czech TV, and I wanted to be angry with him for saying he preferred doing small role in America to film in Bollywood. Well, if all his films were like this one, I think I might just forgive him.

Don´t die! I loved you since that day you shot at me!

Friday, 31 October 2014

Ek Villain

Directed by: Mohit Suri
Starring: Siddhart Malhotra, Shraddha Kapoor, Riteish Deshmukh
Released: 2014
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Unlike others I was not smitten with Mohit Suri´s “Aashiqui 2”, mostly because the lead characters were dumbasses. And while the level of dumbassness is not reached, Ek Villain still makes you raise your eyebrows quite a few times. (Unofficial) remake of a Korean movie I Saw the Devil (which Mohit Suri with a “How to Bollywood” handbook in hand switfly denied), that has received much praise from all sides, either did not stay true to the original, or the original itself needed an improvement on logic. Still, there was something about the story, which in spite of all, made it work.

The premise is rather simple: once upon a time a cold-blooded murderer himself, Guru fell in love and married the spunky Aisha and they were happy. But then Aisha is brutally murdered and Guru sets his mind on revenge. But who is the killer? Why did he do it? Was it a contract, a vengeance from the past? Or was Aisha simply on the wrong place in the wrong time that day? There is no mystery at all to the film, which took me by surprise as I had expected lots of twists and turns, while in fact everything is neatly lined up from the very beginning. The responsibility of a task to engage the viewer thus lies with the storytelling, which is done by numerous use of flashbacks. The screentime is quite evenly distributed among “then” and “now”, but it is never difficult to understand in which time period we are at a given moment.

The problematic bits of the film are the ones that make little to no sense. For example why in the world would a girl want to hire a man she knows nothing about (and who makes quite clear he is a ruthless killer) for one of her funny plots (why does she need to hire anyone for that matter since there seems to be no job actually)? Why does the police not arrest a man who they know is a murderer, and instead let him kill innocent women (WTF)? Why is not the police officer who risks the lives of civilians to pursue a stupid personal agenda still employed? What in the world is Aisha´s illness and how the heck does she get completely healthy after the doctors have given up on her?I could go on and on.

The reason why I liked the film in spite of all the stuff mentioned right above, is because it manages to set the mood well. Unlike most of Bollywood horrors, Ek Villain has considerable unsettling quotient, perhaps because the murderer kills with terrifying ease and clarity. The explanation for his behaviour is simple and effective. Riteish Deshmukh shines in this role like never before. His usually twinkling eyes and dorky cuteness made way to a dead gaze and expression which strangely mixes frustration and inner turmoil, even pain at times. The film belongs to him.

Siddhart Malhotra is presented in an image quite different from his previous two films, and much like in Hasee Toh Phasee he shows much promise. Sure, his face is so impossibly beautiful that it never bruises even after serious blows to it, neither it manages to be completely in agreement with his voice and situation, but the potential is slowly conquering the walls of inexperience. His character of Guru is not properly developed – a glimpse into his childhood may have been enough, but more of his criminal past should have been shown, the danger he represents more enhanced. After all, this is advertised as “a love story of a villain”, but Guru remains a conventional hero who had been wronged so let´s forgive him every crime he had commited. 

Shraddha Kapoor, a girl who is also as beautiful as a summer dream, got on my nerves for good 40 minutes. Why does Bollywood believe that a spunky, free thinking girl always needs to do silly things, talk loud and jump like a monkey all around? As the film progresses Aisha becomes bearable (and she is definitely better than what Shraddha did last year in Aashiqui 2). She is the weakest performance in the movie – even surpassed by Kamaal R. Khan in his (thank God) small role. Then again he plays a complete asshole so I guess he just slipped into his own routine.

Just long enough, moving in parts, silly in others, still more thrilling than majority of Bollywood thrillers, Ek Villain may be a less worthy (and less violent, which is actually a plus) copy of a Korean film, but among the 2014 films it stands reasonably strong.