Bollywood-ish

Monday, 31 December 2012

The big 2012 overview

Unlike a rather average (and bordering on the verge of pure bad) 2011 which marked the Hindi film industry, 2012 came with many great promises. Some were fulfilled, and those which were not were made up for with several pleasant surprises. The very beginning of January threatened us all with a disaster though, as the first „big“ release in the form of Players completely crashed, leaving us with raised eyebrows and proving once again Abhishek Bachchan is absolutely not fit to act too smart on screen. Soon enough though there was a reason to rejoice as eagerly awaited remake of Agneepath came out and left me (and many others) with a feeling we may have gained a new classic! Soon after, sadly, we returned to the below mediocre material.


Gali Gali Chor Hai

Directed by: Rumy Jafry

Starring: Akshaye Khanna, Shriya Saran, Mugdha Godse
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

The question is: Why are such fine and attractive actors like Akshaye Khanna and Shriya Saran left with films like these, when they should be among the highest crop out there? Gali Gali Chor Hai is trying to show an ordinary man´s plight against corruption, that plagues all society and stops before nothing, not even police and politicians (or rather especially not there). When middle-class Bharat, who works at the bank and plays Hanuman with local theater company denies to vacate one room for a politician´s election office, he earns his wrath and vengeance soon comes knocking on his door in a form of a police officer with news a fan had been stolen from Bharat´s house and he should now go and claim the object back. The policeman refuses to listen to Bharat explaining they never had a fan in the first place. And thus a seemingly unending chain of mental torture and people demanding bribes start for Bharat and his family. The highly unsatisfactory (and also a rather unclear) ending is not the only weakness of the film. One really feels for Akshaye as Bharat, but unfortunately just like him the viewer is soon too exhausted and frustrated from the endlessly repeating situations. The item number (which is obligatory in every film these days) is quite boring, not to mention the song a shameless copy of the famous Beedi number from Omkara. Shriya Saran has literally nothing to do, and her screentime is so limited one can´t even really sit back and enjoy just looking at her, which, mind you, would make it all more bearable.

After a bore fest which was the Khanna/Saran starer ripped apart above, one was left hoping for something refreshing, enjoyable, even if not as conscious stirring (not that Gali Gali Chor Hai is, only tries to be), and the hopes were met when a pleasant Dharma production made its way into the theaters. 


Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu

Directed by: Shakun Batra

Starring: Imran Khan, Kareena Kapoor
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

At first it seemed like a less pompous version of Jab We Met, but then it took its own form and pace and swept me away into bursts of laughter. I am not sure if Imran is ever going to come out of his chocolate boy image box, but it completely works for him in EMAET. True, his expressions are limited, but the bulging eyes and stone face were just too hilarious and fitted the situations. He was never lost beside the spunky, dorky and adorable Kareena, which is no small tasks considering the huge X-factor the girl possesses. They make a refreshing pair!

The first half is definitely better and funnier than the second, but fortunately the ending saves it all, as it doesn´t fall into the usual clichéd concept seen a million times. In fact it leaves a great opportunity for a possible sequel - that I can imagine being just as good! At the same time the more I keep thinking about it the more I come to the conclusion I probably wouldn´t enjoy it the second time half as much. It was a great one time watch. Another romantic film on the block however, was hardly watchable even the first time.



Ek Deewana Tha

Directed by: Gautham Menon

Starring: Prateik Babbar, Amy Jackson
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing


Prateik Babbar got some really awesome acting genes from his parents, the legendary Smita Patil and once upon a time popular Raj Babbar, but apparently they did not develop. Prateik is highly average as an actor and below average as a dancer, not to mention he has something sleazy about him. Similarly like Tusshar Kapoor he is not suited for big screen (or any screen really). And since his partner was a white-girl-painted-brown Amy Jackson, who is unsuccessfully pretending to be a native Indian, there is no saving grace to the film which was supposed to be cute and mushy but only can be classified as boring and silly. Prateik falls in love with Amy at the first sight and faces the obstacles on his way - apart from the usual disapproving bhai and father it´s also the girl´s religion, which does not even allow her watching movies, while he wants to be a filmmaker. Smells like trouble nah? Duh. It didn´t even seem they love each other, instead their relationship reminded me of „affairs“ one has when they are 13. The constant changes of heart of the girl were frustrating. Two bad actors in a bad film with some really bad dialogues.

After the horrible Ek Deewana Tha followed as equally disappointing attempt at a comedy in the form of Jodi Breakers starring Madhavan and Bipasha Basu, but the film was not even remotely funny and came off as quite vulgar and offending I would say. Fortunately with that the line of bad films was ended for a while and I loved or at least enjoyed all the other movies that followed, starting with Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya, that landed upon our screens during that auspicious time when we were all sighting with delight over Riteish and Genelia and their big Bollywood real life wedding, which made it all even more cute. And waiting next in the line was the oh-so-crush-able Ali Zafar and his tour around the world.



London Paris New York

Directed by: Anu Menon

Starring: Ali Zafar, Aditi Rao Hydari
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing


I was rather apprehensive but blame it to whatever you want - from me being ill and tired to pure determination to give every film a chance - I ended up liking this. Actually maybe "like" is not the best word. I definitely found it interesting and it occupied my mind for a while. Both Ali and Aditi are very natural performers, and the film gives them both a lot of scope to enact different shades and situations. The London bit was typically rom-com, but sweet and neat, while the Paris bit was disturbingly dark. Finally the New York part seemed the most real, although by that time I hated the character of Lalitha and wished he would just ditch her. Worth a watch. 


Paan Singh Tomar

Directed by: Tigmanshu Dhulia

Starring: Irrfan Khan, Mahie Gill
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing


Powerful story told in a very simple, modest way. Paan Singh Tomar, an army officer and a sportsman, who won gold medals for India on international platform, and died in a police encounter in 1981, was once a real person, and the film makes a point to remind us of how ungrateful and forgetful we get of people like him – who once earn our applause but we couldn´t care less about them, and we barely give them a thought once the race is over. It is indeed a sarcastic and bitter twist of fate, that Paan Singh is remembered more for his career as a dacoit (or „rebel“ as we are reminded) than for his achievements in the field of sport. When it comes to earthy, common man roles, hardly any actor can do what Irrfan Khan does. He simply begins to live in the character, and in a few moments you are staring at him with complete conviction that this is the real Paan Singh, this is how he acted and lived. Paan Singh Tomar make for a thoughtful tribute and a fine movie.



Chaar Din Ki Chandni

Directed by: Samir Karnik

Starring: Tusshar Kapoor, Kulraj Randhawa
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing



Surprisingly far from awful, Chaar Din Ki Chandni I couldn´t care less for when it released proved to be quite an enjoyable venture, although by far not flawless. The director of Yamla Pagla Deewana, which was dominated by the Deol trio, opted for the star kid Tusshar Kapoor this time, but since he is from „the other“ filmi Kapoor clan not much should be expected from him (Jeetendra must be one of the most untalented actors ever and he passed this on to his son). Indeed the hero is the greatest weakness of this romantic comedy, and heroine the greatest strength. Kulraj as Chandni is full of life and has great comic timing, alas, she shared more chemistry with her „fiancé´s“ uncles than with him. The first half of the movie is better than the second. Tusshar (can´t recall his name in the film right now) brings home his fianceé Chandni, but since his father, a proud nobleman, would never allow him a simple Punjabi girl, he introduces her as merely his friend, and Chandni herself sets out to win over the hearts of the family. And she is successful, perhaps even more than she originally hoped to be. Soon enough Tusshar´s uncles are all head over heels with lively and spunky girl.

Popular character actors like Farida Jalal, Anupam Kher and especially Om Puri complete the cast and can never go wrong, though Anupam at times slips into way too much overacting, which never suited him. In the end I was well entertained and kept singing the remix of an old hit song „Chandni O Meri Chandni“ for quite a while!

What came after was a shock. Indeed, Kahaani, starring Vidya Balan, whom the nation pretty much re-discovered last year, was so good hardly anyone would have expected it. So good that this film without a hero swept the box office and brought loads of critical acclaim to the director and his leading lady, most deservedly so. Much more expectations were, however, laid upon another big release – Agent Vinod, in which Saif Ali Khan shared screen with his girlfriend, and while far from perfect (and far from making big money), this venture too I see as a positive point for the filmi 2012. But after all the mysteries and agents and thrill one needed something else. Something light and possibly uncomplicated. We got served what we wanted.




Bittoo Boss

Directed by: Supavitra Babul

Starring: Pulkit Samrat, Amita Pathak
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Finally a film, that even though falling somehow into my not exactly favourite „romcom“ category, is quite different in terms of plot and twists. The new, fresh actors with fair share of talent play out a story of a popular shaadi-video cameraman Bittoo, who likes his job, but at the same time dreams big about doing real films one day. He, of course, falls in love in the process and loses the girl (only to get her in the end since it is a true pyaar you see), and to prove to her he can reach the high places without the necessity to crawl in front of the mightier people, he leaves the weddings to shoot..... illegal „blue sexy films“.

The movie definitely seemed daring to me with showing how popular are porn films and how readily will people pay for them, but thankfully Bittoo realizes soon enough that love making is a thing private – and beautiful. Thank God that for once sex was not labeled disgusting/immoral etc. and the filmmakers embraced the idea of it being all natural.

You can watch the movie without fear it would preach though. It has enough of entertainment and enjoyment to keep you occupied at all times. It is not a family film by far though, you might want to avoid watching it with children – or parents. And similarly refreshing picture with an unusual theme followed.



Vicky Donor

Directed by: Shoojit Sircar

Starring: Ayushmann Khurrana, Yami Gautam, Annu Kapoor
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing


What has not been written about this film I could possibly write? Vicky Donor took theaters by an unexpected storm and came out a winner. Daring, just like Bittoo Boss, but in a slightly different way, since it had also an underlining and yet subtle-enough-not-to-annoy message supporting sperm donation, which, I understand, is still one of the awkward topics in India. While I could possibly question the procedure shown in the film (Is it really possibly to donate sperm so many times? Because in our country it´s five times and that´s it.), the point is made: in a world full of childless marriages sperm donation is sometimes everything needed for happiness of others. Vicky, however, meets with misunderstanding from those around him, which makes him hide everything from his own wife, up until the moment she finds out that ironically she is impossible to bear a child of her own. I loved the fact Vicky fully supports her even after knowing that, and the film thus acknowledges that even though not a mother, she is no less of a woman. The very ending had me near tears (but then again it is not difficult to make me cry, especially when children are concerned). I recommend to stop watching the film as soon as the screen goes black though, as the end credits are accompanied by an item song from Mr. Producer John Abraham, whose naked chest and disco dancing does not go well with tender feelings raised by the film itself.

Unlike last year it is going to be interesting to see who gets the award for the best newcomer male 2012, with three notable discoveries in the first half of the year already – Arjun Kapoor, Ayushmann Khurrana and Pulkit Samrat (the latter two being more deserving in my eyes than the first one mentioned). Anyway – I refused to watch the next release which was a Vikram Bhatt production called „Hate Story“, because things I´ve heard were more on the negative side and I simply did not feel interested one bit. So I don´t know about Hate Story, but a film that followed cut the successful line for a while.


Tezz

Directed by: Priyadarshan

Starring: Ajay Devgn, Anil Kapoor, Zayed Khan, Boman Irani
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

If you are doing a film on „good“ people committing a crime, you should be able to make viewers root for them, which is not the case here. You simply do not care for anyone – not for the illegal immigrants, not for an Indian detective in English services and certainly not for Kangana, who is quickly becoming in my eyes the worst actress of Bollywood. I don´t know what happened to her, but in everything post Fashion she has been pure awful and such is also her blink-and-miss cameo in this.

It was incredibly bizarre seeing all the English men talking in Hindi – and not only to Indians but also amongst themselves. Apparently most of the film was shot in English and later dubbed, the dubbing was just terrible and made me think why they just couldn´t have left it alone, after all English is commonly used and known in India, and it would make the whole movies a lot more believable as well. The highlight is Boman Irani´s appearance, his anxiety is so well acted he is easily the best performer in the film. Ajay is unusually ineffective and Anil chasing him and pulling off some stunts annoys for the most part.

The plot reminded me more of some cop show airing late at night when only insomniacs still have their TV on, and I guess Tezz might cure them at least for one night. The film is supposed to be a thriller, but it lacks the thrills.

In between Karishma Kapoor tried to charm her audience with Dangerous Ishq, but bad script and bad everything made me wish I could just delete it from my mind and remember her as Zubeidaa and Fiza. Another film that did not really click with my was Ishaqzaade. It was still better than what followed though.


Department

Directed by: Ram Gopal Varma

Starring: Sanjay Dutt, Amitabh Bachchan, Rana Daggubati
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

The camera work in this was, I guess, supposed to be cool and artsy, but as a result it looks amateurish and gave me a headache. And the rest of the whole thing was rather puke-worthy. Extremely graphic and lacking the thrills, a quite illogical story of a special „department“ of men too brutal for police force (but essentially good guys, you see) who have no qualms of taking the law into their hands. Their strategy is simple: let´s kill everything we see. More than an action film with a plot it reminded me of those senseless PC games where you had greeted everything that moved with a machine gun fire. Let´s not forget that the two main protagonists are named Mahadev and Shiv, which both stand for „God Shankar“ as we are very unsubtly told, I can only imagine it was supposed to make them both look like two heaven-sent fighters who shall wipe out the crime rather than really violent guy with no sense of order but their own. Throw in the most vulgar item number I´ve seen so far full of close ups of the girl´s lower intimate parts (and as insignificant a complaint it may seem now, she couldn´t dance) and you get to a point where you really don´t know if you dare to go on. I did and was punished by boring and confusing twist (where everyone betrays everybody) full of shooting scenes (where the good guy has an endless ammo), as well as many close ups of female asses (and more vulgar stuff). A film not worth watching, and not worthy of Sanjay Dutt or Amitabh Bachchan.

After the Ram Gopal Varma rubbish even a flawed movie that came soon after seemed a blessing. If nothing else, it was kinda fun.


Rowdy Rathore

Directed by: Prabhudeva

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Sonakshi Sinha
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing


After Houseful 2 Akshay was really on the ride and since everyone is trying to have their own Dabangg, Rowdy Rathore was made to show us Akki too can become a fearless cop who shall bring down the village lords abusing their power. There is not much to be written about Rowdy Rathore except it was entertaining and, as mentioned already, flawed, with music which is less than memorable and without much of a lasting impression. Watch and forget really. Sonakshi looks gorgeous, but again she is merely an accessory (I am so hoping to see her in some role with integrity soon, but so far, sigh, I´m left with hoping only). Dabangg stay untouched so far in all the departments. Frankly I hope we don´t get to see a similar film in a while. But sadly there are more actors who have not tried their luck with it yet so I guess even in this case my hoping is in vain...

Out of action and blood and wasted performers we came to things nicer, fluffier and though of varying quality, mostly quite enjoyable. A good example would be a film about... a car! (followed by something less cute, but quite impressive and different).


Ferrari Ki Sawaari

Directed by: Rajesh Mapuskar

Starring: Sharman Joshi, Boman Irani
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Sweet story of a man with very gentle and honest nature, who above everything else loves his son and would love to make all his wishes come true – even if he cannot afford them financially. And thus to send little Kayo to a cricket camp in London (WTF, the kid could live without it) he borrows Sachin Tendulkar´s red Ferrari. Indeed, only borrows, for a wedding of an influential politician´s son. But as always, his trouble does not end even after he gets the money. He kinda forgets them in the car he returns.... Talked more because of Vidya Balan´s (not too impressive) item number, the movie has a big heart and not much brain. Sharman and Boman both give convincing performances as mild but obstinate son and bitter old father. You genuinely feel for their plight, as insignificant as it may finally seem from a human perspective. Even though the situations were filmi, the relationships were very real. I am not lying when I say I had tears in my eyes for good twenty minutes!


Gangs of Wasseypur

Directed by: Anurag Kashyap

Starring: Manoj Bajpai, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Piyush Mishra
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

This film was actually was long they divided it into two parts that released about a month apart from each other, but originally it was one movie and I treated it like that. Moving from one era to the next and one character to the next was a bit difficult at the beginning, because one was given just a raw deal of information about everything and all at once. As the story progresses it takes an interesting form – a tale of a lifetime really, going from birth to death. And all the pain and laughs, success and love, and tragedy and hatred in between. It was depressing to watch so many people living in utter darkness where mercy does not exist and neither does forgiveness. Wasseypur is a small world where only revenge and power mean anything. As if all the terrible things in the world were meeting right there for the audience to see. At times the film was very graphic, it certainly doesn´t make a nice family watch. The acting by all was very natural. It felt real. It all felt very real. Good, but rather disturbing film.

As the roll of the good ones neared the end for a time, there were still hilarious Bol Bachchan, that restored my faith in Junior B for a while at least, and less perfect but still fine Cocktail (its finest piece being Deepika Padukone, who has showed once and for all there is more to her than just those long legs). And then came a Shahid Kapoor movie. Shahid Kapoor movies in the past few years did not do exactly well. Sadly the handsome and not without a talent actor completely lacks any script sense, otherwise he would have never said yes to a pointless Teri Meri Kahaani. And then the industry showed us that it can get REALLY bad.




Kya Super Kool Hain Hum

Directed by: Sachin Yardi

Starring: Tusshar Kapoor, Riteish Deshmukh
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Stuffed from beginning to end with double meaning jokes and references, this film is as average an entertainer as you can get. There is lots of vulgar and lots of OTT involved. Two unsuccessful friends – Tusshar trying to get a film career (basically playing himself) and Riteish trying to make it big as a DJ – share a flat and a super fertile pug. And their story is dull though filled with supossedly humourous situations. I like Riteish and I like Anupam Kher and I like Chunky Pandey (occasionally and definitely without that wig), but this movie better be forgotten soon.



Ek Tha Tiger

Directed by: Kabir Khan

Starring: Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, Ranvir Shorey
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

What is there to review really? Not the plot for sure. While Agent Vinod was perhaps too elaborate Ek Tha Tiger is hugely straightforward and predictable, though in a way works with same elements, which include a pyaar between an Indian spy falling in love with Pakistani spy (why is the Pakistani always a woman?). Salman does well, though at first his character seemed to me like some upgraded Lovely Singh from Bodyguard. Katrina has one expression for all emotions and her "emotional" dialogue delivery sucks. Both of them are in their comfort zone, there was nothing new or challenging for either of them EXCEPT Katrina got to kick some ass and I must say she looked good doing that. Music is beautiful (though a bit of a background score is stolen from Forrest Gump), action is fine (though there are way too large chunks of it and so after a while I just let the film run and went to do other things and only returned once the noise went down). Average entertainer that I can imagine is loved by Salman fans.


Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi

Directed by: Bela Bhansali

Starring: Boman Irani, Farah Khan
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

I would love to use words like sweet and endearing but even though there are sparks of that the adjective needed her is BORING. I was so looking forward to this one, and the trailers as well as posters gave me an idea this is going to be a fun ride making the best out of Boman and Farah´s famous sense of humour, but ouch! yes, the story was nice, but they shouldn´t have make it look like a crazy comedy. I was waiting for the laughs and they never came. Farah is no actress, but she is completely at ease in front of a camera, so she can sell to you most of her scenes with conviction, Boman I love but.... but... but.... but it was all too boring. The film is less than 2 hours long and I had trouble finishing it.



Joker

Directed by: Shirish Kunder

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Sonakshi Sinha
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing


Not as terrible as the reviewers made it sound, but still not good enough not to be a bad film. The premise itself was fine. I actually liked the idea of a village full of mad people that is not in the maps, and I though the first 40 minutes were quite adorable showing Akshay and these people bonding. However after all the UFOs and crop circles turned up it went seriously downhill. It wasn´t funny. It was just mad. Akshay and Sonakshi are both wasted, especially Sonakshi, in whom you can just see all that wonderful potential. Unfortunately she has so far only signed projects that do not give her any scope to do anything important and different. I am not giving up on her just yet, but hope after Dabangg 2 she stays away from masalla flicks with big stars for a while. Also – the title in this case was just wrongly chosen. In fact the whole idea of a „joker“ was extremely forced into the story to give it at least a slight sense of intelligence, but well.... did not happen. The item number by Chitrangada is forgettable and badly shot.

The first „big“ release in September was an Emraan Hashmi starrer.


Raaz 3

Directed by: Vikram Bhatt

Starring: Emraan Hashmi, Bipasha Basu, Esha Gupta
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing


I am basically a coward when it comes to horror films. I have not seen many in my life, but whenever I happened to do so, I was scared to go to the bathroom in the night for another month or so. After Raaz 3 I went to get my ice cream from the fridge without bothering to turn the lights on. It is difficult to get scared when the victim doesn´t look to be herself, screaming be damned, even if a head is chewn off from the guy sitting beside you (and apparently that is a real turn on for some – I would have myself transported into the nearest mental asylum and demand myself to be locked up). Emraan is more or less a prop and keeps his OK level of acting, he doesn´t share chemistry with either of the two women in the story. Newcomer Esha Gupta is a pretty thing that might become good in time, Bipasha has never been a favourite of mine, but she is definitely the best thing about the whole movie (even though she went to OTT few times). It is real pity everything around her was so mediocre, instead of supporting her performance. Too much smooching and revealing without purpose, but I´ve heard that is common in Emraan´s films.... And I swear people in horror films do not have the most basic self preservation instincts.

The Kapoor cousins took over then, or rather one of them. Kareena´s Heroine, first marked by controversy caused by Aishwarya Rai´s pregnancy, and heralded as a new „shocking“ film by self-indulgent Bhandarkar, ended up being quite average and lackluster movie. On the other hand Ranbir Kapoor´s Barfi made a mark, with both critics and janta loving it. Rest of the month though belonged to Paresh Rawal, who starred in two comedies. First one fell flat at the box office, second became the biggest surprise hit of the year.


Kamaal Dhamaal Malamaal

Directed by: Priyadarshan

Starring: Shreyas Talpade, Nana Patekar, Om Puri, Paresh Rawal
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

A pleasant comedy that gets a bit mysterious and darker as it progresses. No great work of art, but a fine timepass if you want to just sit back, don´t bother about anything and watch a movie. The films can boast with some impressive names like Paresh Rawal, Om Puri and Nana Patekar, but the main character is played by Shreyas Talpade, who is actually very good in the role and entertains throughout. Songs suck and there are flaws in the script, but there is nothing major that would spoil the experience if you are awaiting something groundbreaking.


Oh My God

Directed by: Umesh Shukla

Starring: Paresh Rawal, Akshay Kumar, Mithun Chakraborty, Om Puri
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Excellent movie that can boast with wonderful performances, good script and meaningful message, and even though there is plenty of what might be called preaching (for the lack of better word), it still manages to be very entertaining. It is not mindless comedy (aka God Tussi Great Ho) and it is not a religious propaganda of any kind. Paresh Rawal gives yet another flawless performance as a sceptical and very "human", ordinary person, who instigates a court case against God after suffering big losses in his life, and is demanding a refund. Aided and opposed by more wonderful actors (from Om Puri to so-painfully-underrated Mithun Chakraborthy), he ends up making a point he himself did not pursue in the first place. At first, as a believer, I was genuinely scared when Akshay Kumar appeared, but his act and the presentation, in the context of the film, was very sensitively done. Even what might have seem a rather ridiculing act at first (his revelation at the hospital), was not really insulting in any way. It showed what I believe is true - that God has the greatest sense of humour - and from the audience´s point of view, it kept the film in the enjoyable mode and did not let it sink into the depths of preachy religious fervour. And I have to mention that Sonakshi Sinha can dance and her expressions are wonderful! For me, OMG is the best film of the year. It made me think, it entertained me, it kept me interested throughout, it had great performances and most importantly it stayed with me for quite some time even after it ended.

Women power met with both success and rejection in the form of Sridevi´s comeback film English Vinglish and Rani Mukherjee´s Aiyyaa. While the first one belong to the best of what we´ve been served, the latter belongs to an opposite category. And that was it for female centric films for a while. Karan Johar tried to win the new audience over with his average and unimpressive attempt at cooler than cool college fantasy Student of the Year, and more half-baked product followed.


Rush

Directed by: Shamin Desai

Starring: Emraan Hashmi, Neha Dhupia, Aditya Pancholi, Sagarika Ghatge
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

I mostly stayed away from Emraan this year. Never liked him. But in my defense – me avoiding him was not really intentional. The films that released and boasted with his name did not catch my interest one bit. I don´t really know why I watched Rush either, but it for sure was not a time too well spent. A brilliant, yet oh so underrated and misunderstood in his efforts reporter is fired from the news channel, only to be offered a much better job with another channel. One that is run by Aditya Pancholi, who believes there is no right or wrong, there is only profit (such an original character, wow, but to be fair he is still the best performer in the film). And a channel that I personally found pretty disgusting, because hearing about murders, rapes and other stuff, stripping the dead (though fictional) of their dignity by showing the most graphic footage, is definitely not what I would watch, and that too 24/7 (and surprise surprise the hero holds a big speech at the end that society is to blame for media being insensitive. I wonder why he didn´t see this while working on the most horrendous crime channel.) Anyway, the previous underrated reporter shoots to the top of success immediately. But oh my! Not everything is as it seems! And Emraan uncovers lots of dirt and has to run for his life etc etc you get the picture. Emraan is his ineffective self. The dude just has a non-existent voice modulation and all he says falls flat. Actresses were both annoying and superficial me has to say I did not find them pretty. Hero is just dragged through the film being passive while others are doing stuff. The climax feel very anti-climatic. Deeply average. If you´re thinking about watching it, think again. Don´t rush.


Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana
Directed by: Sameer Sharma
Starring: Kunal Kapoor, Huma Qureshi, Rajesh Sharma
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Reviews were kinds to this one, but I found it difficult to get into. For the sake of my crush Kunal Kapoor I was hoping to enjoy it, but kya karoon? Honesty first. It did pick up eventually, but you just cannot waste a whole hour of a two hour film like this. A small story about a small crook, who because of a debt has to retreat from London back to India in hope of getting money somehow, and ends up running a family eatery as well as fixing relationship with everyone he had hurt once, it is not without charm, at the same time there is nothing really memorable. The actors are all good, especially Huma Qureshi, who, sadly, it not „model-pretty“ nor has a hot figure and I have a bad feeling she is not going to make it into the A-stars list, even though she would probably deserve it.

As one of those with no cinema where Bollywood films would be screened anywhere within several thousand miles around, I now have to sit and wait patiently for the rest of the films to come out on DVD. I have hopes for Son of Sardaar to provide some entertainment. Jab Tak Hai Jaan is an obligatory watch – just for Shahrukh Khan, but Talaash sounds way too interesting to skip. Khiladi 786 is something I am not sure about yet, but really hope Dabangg 2 will not disappoint!

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Sholay

Directed by: Ramesh Sippy

Starring: Dharmendra, Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjeev Kumar, Hema Malini, Jaya Bachchan, Amjad Khan

Released: 1975
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing


It is not easy to write reviews of some films, and interestingly enough I have more troubles writing about good movies than bad. Perhaps our ability to pinpoint what we don´t like is better developed than our ability to praise? In any case to review Sholay wouldn´t be easy even if I found it really bad, because of its indisputable iconic status. The film has been labeled as the „best ever from Bollywood“ more than just a few times. Well, let me admit right away I respectfully disagree. Sholay is nowhere near the perfection I find Guru Dutt´s movies to be, it doesn´t topple neither K. Asif´s Mughal-E-Azam, nor Mother India, or some films that came after it. At the same time Sholay is still a damn good film and one that broke records and set trend for the next 15 or so years. In fact most of the 80s were spent by trying to recreate the magic of action scenes and selfless heroes more than anything – and most of them fell flat. So what it is that Sholay has which clicked so perfectly with the audience (because this is one of those blockbusters thriving on word-of-mouth and nothing else)?


The story is heavily inspired by Hollywood and its fondness of stories from the lawless „Wild West“, the similarity of the plot with „The Magnificent 7“ uncanny. A retired police officer Thakur Baldev Singh (Sanjeev Kumar in one of the „aged“ roles he essayed, though ironically her didn´t even live to turn 50 himself) hires two men to capture a dangerous dacoit Gabbar Singh (Amjad Khan), who is terrorizing a small village of Ramgarth. Why doesn´t he turn to the police? Because he has a personal issue with Gabbar, who murdered his whole family – and left him without arms! To take his revenge, Thakur chooses to offer the quest to two thieves Veeru (Dharmendra) and Jai (Amitabh Bachchan). They not only accept, but after a while make the fight against Gabbar and his gang for their own as well. And in the moment in between the fights, Veeru manages to romance a chatterbox Basanti and Jai takes liking to a young widow Radha from Thakur´s house....


First of all – the cast is extremely attractive. Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra both were a real rage back in the day. With distinct looks and approach to acting, they were quite different from each other, yet one complimented the other perfectly. They definitely belong among my favourite „bromances“. While Dharmendra is a mischievous devil making girls swoon with his eternal boyish charm, and - in spite of Sholay being a serious film – his use of humour, Amitabh represents the silent strength in the background. Jai is the solid ground from which Veeru can operate, if you will. At no point you feel a need to ask if two against God knows how many are not too little, because the duo is so dynamic you just have faith in their abilities. Sanjeev Kumar and Amjad Khan too are excellent in their roles. 


However while both Hema Malini and Jaya Bachchan were the most popular girls at the time, I never managed to warm up to either of them. Jaya has always been a „grey mouse“ with nothing that would really capture my interest, Hema on the other hand I tend to find rather annoying. Her dialogue delivery especially has always been week. Thinking about that – Radha was a quiet „gray mouse“ and Basanti was a smack-worthy annoyance, so the casting was probably appropriate. I must say I felt sorry for Radha in the end, as even the hopes for a new life were snatched away from her. 

The music of the film has been celebrated as well. „Yeh Dosti“ song is easily the best one as far as melody goes, followed by Hema´s famous „Jab Tak Hai Jaan“ dance of pain. The revered Holi song left me cold though, I enjoyed more „Mehbooba“ song where Helen put her beautiful legs to action.


I think the only major flaw I found in Sholay was the whole „Veeru and Jai in jail“ business at the beginning. The characters were introduces through it, but on the whole it was not necessary at all. The Hitler-like grotesque figure of the jailor, marching ironically (or was somebody being ignorant?) to the tune of English „For he´s a jolly good fellow“, seemed like from another time and space altogether, and wasn´t really funny either. Also to be brutally honest I burst out laughing when the armless Thakur gained magic powers and was flying in the air, fighting Gabbar with his feet. The scenes that stood out for me were for example when Thakur returns home to find his children murdered. As the crude wind blows away the white sheets, uncovering the bodies, you almost want to cry out. Another classic one, though of completely different nature, would be Veeru´s marriage proposal/suicide threat, so often referred to in many films afterwards. And of course – when the unbreakable dosti finally breaks in the end....


Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Student of the Year

Directed by: Karan Johar

Starring: Varun Dhawan, Siddhart Malhotra, Alia Bhatt, Rishi Kapoor, Sana Saeed

Released: 2012
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing


It is unashamedly obvious that in his latest venture Karan Johar tried to woo the younger generations of viewers more than anyone. Those who were just babies or maybe not even born at that point of time when his Kuch Kuch Hota Hai was creating waves, and thus escaped his „clutches“. Student of the Year pretty much abandons more mature audience and tries to capture the sympathies of the teens much like KKHH did about 15 years ago. However unlike his original audience Karan Johar did not mature as a filmmaker, and delivered yet another deeply average watch.


Interestingly enough told the same way as Barfi, SOTY mostly happens as a one huge flashback of several people coming together after years. And so from a hospital where an old dean is lying in a critical condition, we are thrown into a bursting-with-awesomeness colourful memory of school years spent studying at a super-elite and super-modern college where the most popular boy is the son of a local MP (Varun) and most popular girl (Alia) only wears Prada and Gucci etc. They are boyfriend/girlfriend of course, but she is rather upset with him because he seems not to be able to keep his hands off other scantily clad girls, calling it „being with friends“. The extremely boring plot then follows with „original“ twist – Shanaya (Alia) starts flirting with a new friend (and new most popular guy at school), the even cooler and more awesome and more perfect and accomplished Abhi (Siddhart), to make her boyfriend feel jealous. It works, but oh my, Abhi falls in love with her in the process as well. And if that is not enough for two friends to have problems, they find themselves thrown into a competition for the title of „Student of the Year“...


The story is such that it could have worked - if the three leads had a connection on screen, chemistry if you will, and sadly the three perfectly perfect best friends do not have that. I did not feel any connection in between them, which made it all rather pointless. Not only I did not buy the boys being in love with the girl, but at no point was I ever convinced about their friendship either. That no development of these essential relationships is shown does´t help. To give the movie some credit, it eventually does get some grip in the last hour – it´s just a pity that things that lead to it are so chaotic and yawn-worthy. The ending is not really predictable, and the outburst of one of the students near the end was a good one – it addressed some things even I myself questioned about the Student of the Year competition as a whole.


The debutants do reasonably well, although only Varun Dhawan really impresses in a several scenes (especially his confrontation with father is brilliant). All three somehow lack an on-screen presence, which becomes all too apparent the moment Kajol appears for a few seconds, making her already traditional blink and miss cameo for her Johar friend. Alia (looking 14, and that even in the „10 years later“ segment) is somehow lost in between her lovers and often has nothing to do but to look pretty in designer clothes and showing off more of her legs than may be necessary (though curiously there are more of half-nude males than females in this). The characters of Shanaya and Abhi seem shallow because their background is not well explored. We are given few hints, and that´s it. Unfair towards them and us. 


Rishi Kapoor charms and entertains – as long as you´re willing to accept yet another highly stereotypical presentation of gay men. Stereotypical are also many other characters: that pretty girl who thinks too much about herself and has nothing in her head really, the main heroine´s best friend who is not allowed to be girly and pretty but needs to be treated like a tomboy, Rohan´s „chamcha“, who does everything he wants but then turns against him the moment he has a chance, even a fat nerd boy makes an appearance. There is hardly any thought put into the side characters, and considering how many are there, it´s rather sad, as opportunities not taken always are.


There were some things that made me go slightly (and more) WTF, the biggest one being Rohan´s father taking his younger son´s classmates and God knows who else to Thailand to attend a wedding of his other son. Not at all smooth an excuse for shooting at foreign location. Few more of many problems I had: I have to admit I kept confusing Varun and Siddhart in other than close up shots. Still do, but yeah, this is not anyone´s fault. However, considering none of the students had any relationship with the dean whatsoever.... why did they even care about him that much to leave everything and come to his deathbed – especially some of them? Also – why does Shanaya end up with Abhi? Last thing we are shown is that she „is done“ with both the guys. Ten years later she is Abhi´s wife. Well... how about showing how that happened, since she was the main female lead? I must give Karan a credit for shaking off at least one of the prejudices of mine by not leaning on a big bankable star and taking the newcomers instead. SOTY though is a silly walla film that probably wouldn´t get half as noticed had it been made by a less prolific director.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Barfi

Directed by: Anurag Basu

Starring: Ranbir Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Ileana D´Cruz

Released: 2012
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing


It was with great fanfare that Barfi was announced as India´s this years entry to Oscars, and it was with almost apologetic and „you know“ smiles it was reported the film did not make it into another round of selection. Upon its release in India Barfi stunned almost every critic and more notably also viewers, and while I definitely am among those genuinely charmed, I am not surprised Barfi was rejected by the Academy (if they even bothered to watch it). It was just too obvious a film like this cannot succeed in this particular competition, and I have to wonder why Kahaani or Paan Singh Tomar were not send to the US instead. They were more „Indian“, more authentic, and most importantly original. Barfi is not a remake of any one film, it tells a story previously unseen, however it practically copied scenes from other movies and then moulded them together for the sake of story telling. A job brilliantly done, and in a way I did not find offending in the least, but still, not something you want the (self-proclaimed) most important film award platform to see as the best what you can do - which in this case would mean "copy others".

Murphy Munna, Jaisa Lala
Copied scenes matter apart (and I myself couldn´t have been bothered less about them, as I have not a single one of those films that were used for inspiration), Barfi is the ultimate feel good film of 2012, and that too with some of the best performances we´ve seen. Ranbir Kapoor has, in a short span of five years, that he is that one thing to watch out for in the future. Extremely versatile and convincing in any role, his own persona always engulfed by the character he plays. It is same with Barfi (Murphy), a deaf young man with an eye for girls and great joy of whatever life brings his way. Sometimes he illegally sells alcohol and is involved in minor crime, which irritates the local police to no end, because Barfi may be short of hearing ability, but is as cunning as a fox and so they can never catch him. 


When Shruti and her family come to Darjeeling (a small town where Barfi lives), it doesn´t take long before she bumps into him, and he immediately (and almost literally) offers her his heart, not caring she is already engaged. Even Shruti finds herself in love after a while, but pressured by her parents, she is ultimately not that brave as to let go of all certainties in her life for Barfi. After the disappointment with Shruti Barfi´s father suffers a heart attack, and penniless son knows that desperate times call for desperate needs. And so he sets out to kidnap an autistic girl Jhilmil from a rich family and demands ransom. Too bad somebody kidnaps her right before him....


Barfi is told in multiple flashbacks, flawlessly put together. There is an attempt to tell the story in a rather documentary way, and that too works beautifully combined with more common narrative. Music is very different from what we are used to in Bollywood films, it actually has a very French feel to it (didn´t someone say it was inspired by Amelie soundtrack? Needless to say I´ve not seen Amelie.). The film overall not only feels wonderful, but looks wonderful as well. The hill station of Darjeeling, the crowded but somewhat cozy streets of Kolkata, camera work does all places justice, and captures some truly beautiful details. 


Above all Barfi is brilliantly acted. Ranbir, as already mentioned, is a complete natural, and both his leading ladies hold their own against him as well. Ileana, the best newcomer to Bollywood this year for sure, makes Shruti very elegant, gentle girl, very relatable for many. She would like to chase her dreams, and is not exactly forbidden to do so, but society norms are always there to remind her that she should just sit down and be happy with what she already has. 


Priyanka Chopra, very much like Ranbir, is probably the most versatile and daring actress in Bollywood right now. With Jhilmil she more than made up for the disappointment which was Teri Meri Kahaani. There was no shortage of great female performances this year, but I believe Priyanka takes the cake. Vidya Balan was nothing but excellent and Sridevi too was pure delight, there was also Kareena who impressed me, and of course Deepika was the best surprise of 2012. However none of them had a role as challenging as Priyanka. She became somebody she has absolutely nothing of in real life.


To portray a person with disability of any kind is always risky. There are too many examples and possibilities of where to go wrong and make such a character nothing more than either a caricature or a pitiful thing that needs to be cried over, but Jhilmil, in spite of being several autistic, is neither. She is innocent, but not pitiful, she is „different“, yet definitely not someone who cannot make a place for themselves in the society. She is capable of utter devotion, that does not come from her being dependent on a person. The girl makes her own decisions. Just like Barfi, who is deaf, autistic Jhilmil does not feel discriminated by being born a bit different. It is a bit uncertain for me to pinpoint which of the ladies was actually the main female lead, because Ileana dominates completely in the first hour, but from then on Jhilmil mostly takes over.


The story may seem naive in a way, and perhaps is, but it is also heart-warming and extremely endearing. The only complaint I have is the make up artist, who couldn´t make a believable „old“ make up for Priyanka and Ileana, and instead they came off looking as if they haven´t washed in weeks. But really, other than that, I loved Barfi. It made me happy. Something no other film this year really managed to do.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Sadak

Directed by: Mahesh Bhatt

Starring: Sanjay Dutt, Pooja Bhatt, Deepak Tijori, Sadashiv Amrapurkar

Released: 1991
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing


I think I am not wrong to say that Bollywood does not make too many thrillers. Romance and masalla have always had a strong grip on the Hindi film industry, and thriller has always seemed more rooted in the West. No wonder then that to find a really good Hindi thriller is not an everyday matter. If you are looking for one though, Sadak should be next on your wish-list.

Mullet-walla Sanjay Dutt play Ravi (for whatever reason I just hate that name), a poor but honest taxi driver, burdened by a terrible tragedy that had occurred earlier in his life. His beloved sister went missing, and when she reappeared, it turned out she was forced to become a prostitute. Ravi refuses to follow his family´s example of turning their back upon her, but to his utter horror Rupa is murdered right in front of his arms – she falls to her death from a window, pushed by an unknown killer. This experience causes Ravi to nearly loose his mind, and whenever he closes his eyes the whole drama is happening in front of him again. Because of that he avoids sleep, because of that he often thinks of committing suicide.


Naturally his friends are worried, and one of them (Deepak Tijori, the ultimate 90s sidekick) at least makes him visit a brothel for some distraction. They happen to witness a girl trying to escape from there, and Ravi recognizes in her a girl whom he had met before. From that moment on his focus turns from the dead sister to the living girl, and he sets out with decision to set her free no matter what. But his intentions are difficult to materialize, as his opponent is none other than a brothel owner Maharani. Do not let yourself to be fooled. Maharani is not merely a greedy woman, but an extremely intelligent and cunning eunuch, with great power over the dark side of the society.


I really liked the plot. It was dramatic, but not over-stuffed with happenings, which would only harm the thing. The filmmakers managed to concentrate on one storyline (which is rather rare in 90s Bollywood) and it certainly was for the better. The performances were solid – Pooja Bhatt projected helplessness very well and Sanjay, though a tough guy, managed to show Ravi as caring and innocent man rather then an avenging machine. He is more like pushed into action by consequences, rather then searching for it, he does not seek a blood thirsty revenge, but simply defends himself and his loved ones, coming to terms with the past in the process. Plus Sanjay and Pooja made a really lovely jodi. The greatest impact (of disgust and repulsion, as well as terror) was however left by "Maharani". Bit of a caricature, but so well acted, that the character seemed terrifyingly real, and definitely waking fear in the viewer.


I was completely puzzled by the character of Pooja´s uncle though. So here is a man, who leads his niece into a brothel (the reason for which he did it is irrelevant), he is not at all surprised to see her escape later, BUT is majorly upset about her being in love with the man who led her out. T would have been better if the character in the second half was somebody else, some other relative of the girl, than the very same man who caused her suffering in the first place.


Of course the extremely dramatic scene where the nearly finished hero is made to suffer is not missing, what more – we get some shots that show the innocent Ravi crossed in a very Christ-like way, to really understand the physical and mental pain he is going through. And a bit later quite drastic and bloody climax, during which everybody who has survived in the film this far has to make an appearance, is in there too, all that being obligatory back in the day. The girl is saved, the villain is punished and a pimp is reformed. That is what I call a satisfactory ending, don´t you?