Friday, 4 April 2014

R... Rajkumar

Directed by: Prabhudeva
Starring: Shahid Kapoor, Sonu Sood, Sonakshi Sinha
Released: 2013
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing – experience

It goes without saying that Prabhudeva the director is stuck somewhere in the 90s and he seems to be immensely happy there. Which explains why, much like his previous movie Ramaiya Vastavaiya, R... Rajkumar doesn´t bring anything new or unexpected to the table. That in itself doesn´t mean that much, after all even movies that take a tried and tested formula can manage to be entertaining, and that, in the end, is really what counts. R... Rajkumar is good and enjoyable in bits, but overall I felt it was extremely random. In fact, it reminded one of those (in)famous Bollywood subplots that hop along the main story, just the main story here was completely edited out. You are left with comic sidekicks and romantic flavouring, but the great conflict that would be the driving machine of the film is omitted.

Stuff just happens in this story. Whatever little of actual motivation and reason is there gets introduced way too late for you not to question it. Who is this Rajkumar dude for the starters? He just randomly appears among two mortal enemies (one of whom is my favourite Sonu Sood) who try to dominate the trade of opium in some rural area, joins the gang of one and falls for the niece of the other (and since we are technically in the 90s this is the eternal and solid love at the first sight). Trouble only starts when the two gang leaders join hands and decide that the niece be shaadied to Sonu. After beating up all his goons our Rajkumar then declares he is "asli mard" who could take the gal away immediately but instead decides to marry her on the day decided for Sonu´s wedding. (aka he is a douche who doesn´t wanna pay for the wedding. So manly, yo.)

There is lots of beating goondas up and lots of threats that nobody cares for and the finale is over-dragged festival of (actually pretty gore) fighting between the hero and the villain while Sonakshi gets to stand aside and cry without a sound the whole time. The end is as random as the rest of the movie. What happened to Rajkumar and his lady love? From what I understand he is in drug business and just killed his boss. And she is a niece of a drug dealer too. Like... do they take over now, move to Kuala Lumpur, sell opium and drink champaigne with Russian mafia or what?

The stronger points of the movie are Shahid Kapoor and Sonu Sood, and - if you manage to surpress your frustration over such voluntarily waste of talent - Sonakshi Sinha. Soundtrack is good with already notorious Saree Ka Fall Sa being the best of the lot and mad fun to watch on screen. Shahid and Sonakshi are not at all a bad couple. While he seems quite natural throughout (and shows why he is the best male dancer in the industry), Sonakshi is slowly killing herself with her pathetic movie choices. Whatever she shows we have already seen, and not just once. The girl has it all and yet, she is now so incredibly boring to watch I could cry. I cannot even tell her characters apart (with the exception of Lootera) anymore. She is utterly gorgeous, but I wonder how long that will be saving her. Sonu Sood is a darling and proves yet again both his awesome physique as well as good comic timing. I would have married him.

R... Rajkumar is a timepass you cannot take seriously, and as such it can fulfill the ultimate goal of any movie: to entertain. If you love it, good for you, just don´t try to pass it onto others as great and quality cinema.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

3 Deewarein

Directed by: Nagesh Kukunoor
Starring: Naseeruddin Shah, Juhi Chawla, Jackie Shroff, Nagesh Kukunoor, Gulshan Grover
Released: 2003
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing – experience

A curious, intriguing movie this is. Amazingly non-glamorous, yet not hyping on any dirt. Lasts little under 2 hours and yet stays with you for quite a while after. Clever and with a twist that you never could expect, but not venturing into an impossible scenario area. As both a sum of its parts and the final product 3 Deewarein is, I feel, severely underrated.

The notorious „bad man“ of Bollywood Gulshan Grover is here a „good man“, leaving aside his comic antics and theatrical villainous acting, trying to run a prison, where the prisoners are treated with humanity and everything is done to support their reformation. But some cases, apparently are beyond help. Three walls are a prison to three death convincts, each distinctly different from one another, but sharing the same lot. And the story serves as a probe to test their mentality and behavior face to face with death punishment and lengthy waiting for it. Nagya (played by director himself), keep believing his innocence would eventually be proved. Ishaan (excellent, excellent Naseeruddin Shah, stealing the show away and being incredibly charming even as a killer) is a sly-operator keeping his cool and plotting his escape. And finally Jaggu (Jackie Shroff) decides to be absolutely stoic, waiting for death as if she was his lover, whom he would welcome with some of his plentiful, melancholic poetry (which he recites so soulfully in his deep sexy voice that everything in me just couldn´t help but to be a Jackie Shroff-fangirl).

The makers did an excellent job in presenting the reality of life in jail and daily routine of the prisoners. When with the characters, you feel indeed enclosed in the same small world they are allowed to exist in, cut off from the world. There is nothing filmi about this prison, neither there is a Hitler-like jailor (waving at you, Sholay) and do not expect a happy song about how awesome it is to be imprisoned (avoid a movie called „Army“ at all cost). Within this atmosphere, both calm and full of anticipation, depending on which of the three condemned prisoners is pulling the story forward, the excellent performances by the actors make an intriguing tapestry of emotions and actions.

The medium through which the plot function though, is Juhi Chawla in a role of a documentary filmmaker. Simply clad, with simple talks, she is not what she appears to be to the world. These days expression „women empowerment“ is being thrown around right left and center, and it is unfair to forget that there have been character in the past that indeed reached the empowerment – Juhi in 3 Deewarein is one of them, as she plays an abused wife who not only decides to satisfy her need for being creative, she manages to win over her husband all by herself too. And meanwhile she is also an avenger. And a rescuer. Her performance is brilliant (and for me personally her best, most intense), her presence among the mournful and pessimist prisoners like a fresh wind. And her despair in scenes showing her personal life nothing less than deeply disturbing.

The movie does not have any songs, but the background score and a lonely, touching melody of a flute, which sounds throughout the prison in the nights, are beautiful. Editing in some of the scenes flawless. There is a bit too much English for my taste, which is one of the minor possible complaints. If you are looking for a really good film, try this one for sure.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai

Directed by: Milan Luthria
Starring: Ajay Devgn, Emraan Hashmi, Kangana Ranaut, Prachi Desai, Randeep Hooda
Released: 2010
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing – experience

What can a director responsible for overhyped Dirty Picture do with a bunch of actors I would rank from „not interested“ to „dislike“ do? Surprisingly a film I really enjoyed. I have been ignoring this one for quite some time (Why? Read the first line!) but as a person who always insists on watching original before a remake and prequel before a sequel I finally sat down and hit the play button. I knew the film was quite acclaimed, but public opinion rarely sounds in tune with my own sentiments.

From time to time there is nothing better than a good Bollywood gangster flick and Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai has ticked every bracket needed to be good. Dark, but never gruelsome or lingering too much on the nasty effects of criminal activity, OUTIM is more or less a masala with a heart, in spite of being a gangster tale, and set in very attractively presented setting of 70s and 80s, thus evoking bit of that nostalgy everybody likes too.

Inspired by real events (at least I found it described like) the film revolves around an idea that criminals and their crimes are of different nature depending on what they have in heart and mind. A willful, ambitious kid that has a secure home grows up to be a selfish and self-loving individual hungry for power, while the one whose attention and approval he seeks came literally out of nothing and while he managed to become the „king“ of the Mumbai underworld his actions are dictated by his selflessness and love for common folk. One is a smuggler, the other is a killer. The interaction and play-off between larger-than-life yet level-headed Sultan (Ajay Devgn) and impulsive, as well as somehow childish, immature Shoaib is the backbone of the film, which in the end gets broken and leaves you a bit numb for a while.

The film has a nice, tight screenplay, that is not weighted down even by two romantic sub-tracks, which bring further understanding of what men the main protagonists actually are. The relationship between Sultan and a Bollywood star played by Kangana Ranaut (I suppose a character created to remind us of notorious Mandakini) is based on caring and love, Shoaib´s selfishness and possessiveness has the upper hand in his love life. His girlfriend (Prachi Desai) is more or less seen as his property, bending to his wishes even when she doesn´t like them or are simply unacceptable to her own mindset.

The film´s strengths are above all good script and performance by Ajay Devgn. Dressed in white, he embodies a towering figure in the game of power, and has an aura of invincibility. He carries the film on his shoulders and charisma and doesn´t make a false step. Emraan Hashmi, whom I just cannot like for whatever reason, is good enough, mostly because he IS supposed to be unlikeable. Kangana and Prachi both play their roles convincingly, even though Kangana´s dialogue delivery and voice will always be a problem. Special mention goes to special cameo by Randeep Hooda, another guy I don´t really care for in general, but like him here.

Once Upon a Time in Mumbai has its share of flaws and illogical moments (why in the world would you need to deconstruct a railway track just so a lorry can ride over it?), and it is not the most exciting gangster movie out there either. But it works, has solid performances and superb music, as well as that already mentioned pleasant vintage touch.