Bollywood-ish

Friday, 5 February 2016

Jazbaa

Directed by: Sanjay Gupta
Starring: Aishwarya Rai, Irrfan Khan, Shabana Azmi
Released: 2015
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing


This is another film which I don´t really have a proper rating tag for. Jazbaa is hardly “enjoyable”, but it falls somewhere in between whatever and good. I suppose “reasonably fine” might be the best description. I have little admiration for previous work of Sanjay Gupta (though I admit I have seen just a few of his films), especially after the incredibly awful and over-flowingly sexist Shootout at Wadala. Jazbaa, a remake of a South Korean film, is marginally better than that. As a comeback film it does Aishwarya Rai more favour than for example Ishkq in Paris did to Preity or Dangerous Ishq did to Karishma. Coming on the heels of movies like NH10 or Mardaani, though, it looses some punch. And no ammount of weird green undertones that drown the Jazbaa world can change that.


She may not be kicking anyone´s ass in the physical way, but Anuradha Verma (Aishwarya) kicks ass as a top lawyer. She does not shy away from dirty tricks, from hypnotizing the judge to even tampering with evidence, just to win her case, even if she knows her client is a criminal. No matter of “this is how lawyers are” makes this right. But then her little daughter is kidnapped and Anuradha´s eyes turn almost permanently bloodshot from all the tears she sheds. Soon enough she is informed that the kidnapper wants her to release yet another criminal, a violent rapist and a drug dealer this time, if she wants her daughter back. With the help of her best friend (Irrfan) Johan, a corrupt and suspended police officer, Anuradha starts investigating. Interestingly enough, as you can see, the two main characters are actually far from honest innocents. Their absolution in the end is quite subtle, I didn´t even think about it at first.


Irrfan, usually so good in everything, manages to be a let down. He may be shouting and kicking into trash cans, yet his eyes and face show too clearly he doesn´t give a shit. Shabana Azmi has too little footage to really review anything. She appears in very few scenes, does what she must with clean conscience, and leaves without making much impact. Considering she is eventually revealed as the kidnapper, as well as the mother of the raped and murdered girl, she certainly deserved more space. There is Jackie Shroff in this, for a few moments, and for very ineffective villain shading.


The only noteworthy actor thus remains Aishwarya Rai. There is absolutely no reason for her stretching into all angles possible in tights scene in the opening sequence of the film, other than to show everyone she is indeed back in shape (we all remember how she committed the crime of being pregnant and not loosing weight within a week after the baby came into the world). But stay calm, the director wisely decided we needed to see her all bendy and trim before the film even starts. Not that I mind seeing that, but I am not fond of random shit that doesn´t really tell you anything about the film, the plot or the character. That said, the actress holds her ground and her glamorous image is not exploited after that opening sequence. Some of the scenes showing her anxiety and pain are very over the top, however let´s imagine any loving parents in a similar situation. Sometimes it looks awkward and not pretty to break down. Aishwarya ain´t Meryl Streep and her dialogue delivery will never be perfect, still she gives a solid performance, one that many of the more current Bollywood ladies can so far only dream of.


The biggest problem with Jazbaa, I feel, was the lack of “gripping” factor from the start, and some of the actions seemed so illogical they raised to many questions of why. The things finally got more interesting in the second half, fortunately, still there is little mystery or thrill to rave about. Watch for Aishwarya if you missed her. I did.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Dushman

Directed by: Tanuja Chandra
Starring: Kajol, Ashutosh Rana, Sanjay Dutt
Released: 1998
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing


Few crimes are as awful as a rape. Not only it causes physical harm, it strips the victim of their dignity, violates their privacy, often it crushes their spirit. And when a rape ends with just as violent murder, hardly anything the darkest nightmare could conjure up even compares. And yet that is exactly how this film starts and what it deals with. 


The lives of two twin sisters Naina and Sonia seem happy enough, with both going to the college and one of them accepting a marriage proposal from her boyfriend. In the good Bollywood tradition of twin behaviour, Naina (Kajol with long hair) is a calm, angelic and gentle being, whilst Sonia (Kajol in the most awful wig since the beginning of Bollywood until Anushka Sharma in P.K.) is loud, intimidating, roughened up kid. But then they capture attention of a rapist and Sonia pays the price. The angelic Naina sets on a quest of finding her sister´s killer, and hopes to prevent his perverted actions in the future. Her journey involves overcoming her own demons and fears, as well as some jogging and weight-lifting under the careful guidance of blind Sanjay Dutt.


Horrifying as it is, Dushman is a great film. I have not seen the Hollywood original, but I dare say Dushman definitely is a more than worthy remake. Perhaps the best scene are the moments before Sonia´s death, as Naina helplessly, verging on hysteria, runs among the cars in traffic jam, all the time listening to Sonia´s screams over the cell-phone. The portrayal of the rapist and murdered is excellent, showing him not only as a disgusting deviant, but also a cunning liar and sly operator, who manipulates the only woman who (for whatever reason) actually cares for him.


The star of the whole thing is of course Kajol, who is only challenged in her performance by truly terrifying Ashutosh Rana. It is by far the best work I´ve seen Kajol doing and I would be much happier if people would talk about her talent with references to films like this rather than to mediocre stuff like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai or even worse to K3G. Dushman gives her a great scope and great material to work with and she seizes the opportunity. However I would have been much happier had there be no love subplot, which I found completely unnecessary, not to mention Sanjay and Kajol do not work as a jodi to me, not at all. Sanjay overal did well, but his character, just as the whole subplot, was given more importance than I would like, as I was hyped about all the thrilling stuff and confrontations between Kajol and Ashutosh, and Sanjay bits were only slowing everything down and distracted one´s interest. For the sake of everything it would have been better if we saw more of the training than romance.


The climax was way too violent, way too long and the music behind it way too awful. And the very ending took away from the feeling of satisfaction brought in by the climax. The romance nobody cared about should not have diluted the sense of relief and justice previously brought on by the bloody death of the rapist at the hands of his upcoming victim.


Excellent thriller I cannot recommend to ladies as a late night movie unless you have a box of chocolate, strong boyfriend and fully loaded Beretta by your side.


Monday, 14 December 2015

Drishyam

Directed by: Nishikant Kamat
Starring: Ajay Devgn, Tabu, Shriya Saran
Released: 2015
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing


Watch more Bollywood films so you know how to get away with murder. That is the basic message of Drishyam. Also - teach your sons not to be slimy creeps. Otherwise they may not make it home one fine day. The film´s plot touches upon the topic of leaking of extremely private video footage, which leads to an accidental killing of the blackmailer by the victim. However the whole family becomes involved and Ajay Devgn (an uneducated TV-addict as we are constantly reminded) weaves a web of lies and half-truths that ultimately lead to a sort-of-happy ending.


The plot is definitely stretched in probability (there is NO bloody way the police inspector would have put it all together with so little information), but to be fair to much lesser degree than most movies Ajay Devgn has done in the past few years. Some explaining parts get tedious and you better not drop your attention any time during the film otherwise you may loose on some important points. The ending scene finishes everything brilliantly, bringing everything to a wrap, and leaving no questions unanswered. Except for one: Whom did the brother-in-law call? I am sure I must have missed something, and I have suspicions, but this piece of the puzzle is missing in my brain. However Drishyam definitely provides suspense and three-dimensional characters. Even the "good" and "righteous" have a dark side. The seemingly "evil" police officer has a motivation that has driven many a hero, over the years, to commit pretty awful stuff as well.


Furthermore the picture is very well acted. Ajay gives a very solid, balanced performance, without any ridiculous flying and smashing tricks that inevitably would transform the film into something else. His strength as an actor is that even when he keeps his voice and expressions down throughout the whole movie, he projects so much inner strength he never gets boring. Tabu is excellent, and to make a little confession, this was the absolutely very first time when I could see how good she is. Not even Haider and Chandni Bar had endeared her to me, but in Drishyam I could truly feel her emotions. The problem I´ve always had with her was how painfully boring she usually is to watch. Not here though. Shriya Saran (looking beautiful and more like one of Ajay´s daughters than his wife) gets lesser scale of emotions to project, in fact is destined, by her role of a mother (who apparently does not watch as much TV as her husband), to be scared and worried. Still, to be fair, she does very well. Both child actresses did a good job too, there was just no point in the teenage girl being adopted other than actually acknowledging how young Shriya is. But we need someone that young beside 50-years-old Devgn, amirite?


I was not sure whether to rate this film as good or great. It is something in between, so let´s just agree it is very good. And actually there is one more question that remains unanswered: Why does the "bad" police officer always needs to be the darkest one they have at the station? Where are the Aashiqui days when it was the white ginger psycho we had to worry about?