Friday, 22 March 2013


Directed by: K. Raghavendra Rao 
Starring: Jeetendra, Sridevi, Amjad Khan Kader Khan, Waheeda Rehman 
Released: 1983
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Classic by the influence it had on the fashion of filmmaking at its time (which kind of explains why 80s mostly sucked), and one damn overrated film when it comes to quality, Himmatwala is better to be avoided, unless you are in mood for a boring heroism of a ridiculous hero, some bad acting and unintenionally hilarious tragedies. Himmatwala also failed to give me what I wanted: Sridevi. Because ironically, although this is the film that catapulted her to stardom practically overnight, she has next to no role and 80% of her screentime is focused on her waist-down. And she is no miracle in the film either, in spite of her undeniable screen presence.

Cause darn it was not acting that made her the star of Himmatwala.

But let me introduce you our hero first. He wears the coolest 80s fashion, he sports the awesome Elvis haircut, his name is Ravi and he is definitely too old for the role. After years he spent studying he got his degree in engineering and now returns to his village. He is shocked to find out his mother (who in real life happens to be just six years older to him – and that she is my beloved Waheeda Rehman makes this crime even more horrible) and younger sister have sold their house long time ago and are living like beggars in dirty huts. Why? Here the sob story: Once upon a time his father was a respected school master, but after he testified against local rich villain Sher Singh he was trapped by him and accused of a rape. He is ostracized and leaves his family without a word. (and Ravi apparently suffers from amnesia, because he doesn´t remember a thing from all this, in spite of being at least 7 years old at the time). The broken wife of the teacher decides her son should become a big man by studying in the city (while her daughter is obviously not good enough and can happily slog and live in poverty.)

 So now the village is completely under control of Sher Singh (who has a really bothersome and IMO needlessly complicated way of killing his enemies, involving railtracks) and on mercy to a whim of his spoilt and pretty beti (this is where Sridevi´s leather pants make an entry). But Ravi is not afraid! Ravi is and educated man capable of beating anyone up with his hands as well as never ending motivational speeches about duty and righteousness, that will make your head ache. And then... you guessed it. Ravi triumphs over Sher Singh, turns his daughter from a spoilt kid in leather pants into a Sati Savitri wrapped exclusively in sarees and lives to see the day his father returns home. Meanwhile he saves India from post-flood apocalypse, giving us a song with... corpses.

Jeetendra I just don´t get. Every film I´ve seen him in I found his a very bad actor. No dialogue delivery, no screen presence, no body language. And as already mention, too damn old to be a fresh graduate running around the trees with a child-like Sridevi. She in her turn does what the director wanted her to: making silly faces and speaking in squeeky voice. It has been proven lots of times she is capable of so much more, but sadly this “cutesy” act became her main image. To give credit where it´s due her Naino Mein Sapna dance number is a highlight of the film, and really addictive. Rest of the songs left me rather cold (except for Taki O Taki, but I´d rather not mention Jeetendra and his “jumping Jack” dancing style) and Wah Wah Khel has to be one of the most retarded songs and picturizations I´ve ever seen.

Supporting cast boasting of great names like Amjad Khan, Waheeda Rehman and Kader Khan, don´t leave much of an impression either. Amjad is not a scary villain in this (what a contrast to Gabbar from Sholay!), and why Waheeda did this film, being as picky and generally having a good script sense, is beyond my understanding. Apart from making me loathe the name „Ravi“, Himmatwala showed me that some films just cannot last in the long run and don´t stand the test of time. I don´t think Himmatwala has anything timeless and transcending the years. I would only recommend it to die-hard Sridevi fans, and that too purely for research purposes. Better go and watch the iconic Naino Mein Sapna on youtube and that on repeat (at least her dancing ability was fully put to use!). I am largely sceptic about remakes, but frankly, I think the new Himmatwala, that will be here soon with bells-swinging Ajay Devgn (also too old for the role. Meh.), can only be better.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola

Directed by: Vishal Bhardwaj
Starring: Pankaj Kapoor, Shabana Azmi, Imran Khan, Anushka Sharma
Released: 2013
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

A film about..... nothing interesting really. It touches fleetingly a love story between two young people from different social background, as well as corrupt politicians, greedy businessmen and voes of the poor. But apart from a fabulous Pink Cow this film has no original, or even remarkably handled, ideas. Vishal Bhardwaj has over the years become one of those „reliable“ filmmakers, whom you associate quality and good cinema with. However this piece of cinema is to be a black (or mabye pink?) spot in his filmography.

The film is centered around a rich Mr. Mandola, who dreams to become even more rich by snatching the land from the villagers (in a village named by him) and turning it into an industry zone. He is supported in this by a mighty politician Shabana Azmi, and apart from helping each other professionally they are also fond of rubbing each other´s feet and whatnot. To make the connection more solid they decide their children should get married (anyone else felt this was kinda incestous?). But Mr. Mandola has a problem. He likes to drink. He likes to drink a LOT. And when he is drunk, he becomes a very sensible and very human person, even if a bit disoriented. He keeps sabotaging his own grand plans, and it doesn´t help that he hires a village hunk Matru to keep him from drinking, considering Matru is, in secret, trying to improve the lives of his fellow poor and eunuchs under a pseudonym Mao (in case you have not noticed he is a Communist – but to give credit where it´s due, he is not a caricature and is shown as someone truly believing the high ideals of Communism, while most films, especially Western ones, have Communists either as ridiculous, evil or equal to Nazis.)

Pankaj Kapoor steals the show. He is amazing. Both as a menacing and sober landlord and as harmless old man willing to give anything for a single bottle of beer, he nails the only 3D character in the film perfectly. I admired how easily his dialogue delivery and body language change as situation demanded. Together with Shabana Azmi, who is not her best, yet still very good, he puts the leading pair to shame. And the idiotic spoilt Baadal, played by Arya Babbar, is actually funny without trying too hard. 

However now we must touch a more sore spots: Imran is neither good nor bad, because his Matru is anything but a complex character, plus gets surprisingly little screentime. He doesn´t have enough fire in him to come off as either a village loafer or a political idealist fighting for what´s right. Not even the revelation that he is in fact „Mao“ is presented in a way that would at least surprise the viewer a bit. It´s just random, just like gobber flying through the air and African dancers enjoying themselves in rural India. Anushka Sharma is extremely annoying and recycles her previous characters from Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Band Baaja Baraat and Patiala House (and the rest of her movies I forgot to mention), only once we get to her wedding finale she becomes good. I couldn´t help but noticing throughout the film she looks rather sick and ill though? In any case she and Imran don´t share much of a chemistry, and their relationship feels superficial.

There are several chuckle worthy moments in the film, but only a few and far apart. The film lacks script it seems, the plot is uninteresting, as it is really based on a situation that has been done to death previously, and with more success.

Unlike many I actually did like Vishal Bhardwaj´s 7 Khoon Maaf, for which he got a lot of flak, and many were expecting him to return to a better track with Matru Ki Bijlee. But instead this film reminded me why I genuinely think of 7 Khoon Maaf as a fine and entertaining film. It had good dialogues, it had a very unique and exciting atmosphere. It was overall brilliantly acted. It had fascinating heroine and progressive plotline. In other words everything Matru Ki Bijlee lacks. It does have the fabulous Pink Cow though.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Ram Teri Ganga Maili

Directed by: Raj Kapoor
Starring: Rajeev Kapoor, Mandakini, Divya Rana, Saeed Jaffrey
Released: 1985
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Will there ever be another man or woman who could reach the level of Raj Kapoor´s story telling? Because had it not been for Raj Kapoor, Ram Teri Ganga Maili just might have been a whiny story with two non-actors, one of which is not even an eye-candy. But it was Raj Kapoor on a director´s chair, and he did manage to create yet another beautiful, though not flawless film.

Disgusted by his rich and corrupted father (and oblivious to pretty Divya Rana´s feeling), Narein (Rajeev Kapoor, who looks very much like his older brother Rishi, yet lacks his charisma and talent) joins a group of young men traveling all the way from bustling with life and filth Kolkata to Gangotri and place where the river Ganges/Ganga begins her journey. Keeping in mind a promise given to his loving grandmother, Narein brings along a jug with an intention to bring clean and unpoluted water of the holy river back home for her. Almost instantly upon his arrival he meets a local village girl Ganga (Mandakini, looking more Russian than Indian with her Slavic bone structure and blue eyes), and both young people are instantly attracted towards each other.

So much that they actually get married according to a tradition of Ganga´s people and engage in pleasant nightly activities. Alas, Narein has to return home, but promises his kind-of-wife to return for her. Alas, alas! The family meanwhile fixed his marriage with rich and pretty Radha (already mentioned Divya Rana). Alas, alas, alas! The news about Ganga shock Narein´s beloved grandmother so much she dies. And Narein is stopped from going back to Ganga by Radha´s influential father, who is determined to ensure his daughter´s happiness by marrying her to Narein. Thus Rajeev Kapoor, a boring hero if there ever was one, becomes sad. And stays sad.

Meanwhile Ganga gives birth to his son, and to ensure he grows up with his father´s name she decides to look her kind-of-husband up. And with nothing but her baby and utter naivity she sets out on a long journey, that actually makes it seem everybody in the world wants to rape her, and she ironically finds shelter in a kotha. Indeed, Narein teri Ganga maili ho gayi.....

Mandakini and Rajeev Kapoor were two non-actors, and it actually played to their advantage they were both so talentless, so they actually fitted together well. At least Mandakini has a certain X_factor, a screen presence, and she is definitely the life of the movie. The tale itself gets a bit tiring in the second half, with hero sitting at home and heroine meeting various creeps, but the finale was definitely worth all that, even if only for the wonderful Radha/Meera´s love comparism in a song. Music of the film is brilliant overal, and this last song has to be a crowning jewel.

Ram Tera Ganga Maili, skillfully drawing parallels between the holy river that is polluted by sins of others and a girl Ganga, polluted by pretty much the same source of dirt, is also (in)famous for the semi-nude and completely-nude scenes that would be shocking to many even today. Raj Kapoor, after all, liked to show female body (remember Zeenat in Satyam Shivam Sundaram or even Simi Garewal´s booty in Mera Naam Joker?). Yet it is again a part of Raj Kapoor´s art that the nudity never seems out of place or vulgar. It is not there to lure anyone into Mandakini´s lap (makes me think if she was actually cast because no other actress agreed to reveal herself as much?), it is not there to shock. It is used to show her purity, her acceptance of the natural part of life. And I loved that. I loved pretty much everything about this film.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Dabangg 2

Directed: Arbaaz Khan
Starring: Salman Khan, Arbaaz Khan, Sonakshi Sinha, Vinod Khanna, Prakash Raj
Released: 2012
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Remember my next to ecstatic review of Dabangg? Well, this one is going to be almost fully non-ecstatic. Because Dabangg 2 is one of those movies that are witnesses to the fact really good films should not be milked just for the sake of it. Most sequels do not turn out as half as good as their predecesors and Dabangg 2 is just another one of those. Not memorable from any angle and relying way too much on Salman Khan´s X-factor as well as overdoing references to the awesome original movie, Dabangg 2 is not a „horrible“ film, but it was probably, together with Jab Tak Hai Jaan, the biggest disappointment of the last year, failing to meet expectations by far.

We meet Chulbul Pandey a lot more joyful, mellowed and chilled than before. He has settled with his wife Rajjo and accepted a transfer into a bigger city. His family life is happy and content. Not only Rajjo is pregnant and glowing (and my, does she looks wonderful!), but his step-father and brother become a full-time caring relatives. The Pandey family harmony takes up the most part of the film and I felt like instead of a masalla film I was watching a TV soap educating me on how a proper family behaves. It does have sweet moments (Rajjo reminding Chulbul he forgot his trademark sunglasses) and funny moments (Pandey sr. getting fake calls from an unknown „lady“), but there is really nothing much to talk about. This storyline was still the best one – which doesn´t really shed favourable light on the rest of the movie.

If you are making a sequel to a movie that had a truly menacing and memorable villain like Sonu Sood as a corrupt politician, you absolutely need a villain even more menacing, memorable and ideally even more corrupt. And saying he is like that, not showing it, is just not enough. That Prakash Raj is among the finest when it comes to being a villain has been proved in the past more than once. However Dabangg 2 doesn´t take an advantage of having him in the slightest. There is not a single scene in which you would actually feel concerned for Chulbul, because his enemies seem helpless in spite of some threatening. The way the villain is weaved into the story (or rather lack of it) is too predictable and almost copied from the previous film too. Chulbul insults the corrupt guy. Corrupt guy threatens Chulbul. Chulbul is not afraid. Corrupt one kills/harms a member of Chulbul´s beloved parivaar. Chulbul wrestles shirtless with another shirtless villain. Chulbul kills the villain. The end.

Referencing to the previous movie is fine, as long as it´s not overdone, but Dabangg 2 does just that. „Chalte hain“ becomes „Aate hain“, the „you´ll be confused from which hole to fart“ is back as well as a guy with mummy calling him in the least appropriate moment. There is an item song, just lot less fun than Munni (and Kareena Kapoor does have adorable expressions but cannot dance for peanuts), we get Munni, just lot less fun than last time, we get a song about Sonakshi´s eyes, just lot less good than last time...... There is nothing fresh about the film. It is probably the most boring masalla movie I´ve seen in the past few years. And the thought there is supposed to be Dabangg 3 does not fill me with any excitement whatsoever.

To say something positive: performances are good, direction too isn´t bad, and there is nothing that would offend anyone´s sentiments I feel.

No fun, no twist, no originality. Dabangg 2 is not worth being an heir to the original.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Main Khiladi Tu Anari

Directed by: Sameer Malkan
Starring: Akshay Kumar, Saif Ali Khan, Kader Khan, Shilpa Shetty, Shakti Kapoor
Released: 1994
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

So I finally ventured into the Khiladi franchise with Main Khiladi To Anari (because in spite of its title Khilad 786 cannot be counted as a part of it as far as I know). As someone who is not impressed with Bollywood action scenes, I was a bit apprehensive, because it is action scenes Akshay Kumar is mostly (and unfairly cause he has a lot more to offer) known and applauded for. Also, while Saif Ali Khan today is among the best actors and my favourites, young puppy-like Saifu in those films of the 90s I´ve seen seemed rather awkward. And that Shilpa Shetty cannot act became clear within first ten minutes.

When an honest and uncorrupted police officer is murdered by a drug dealer Goli (Shakti Kapoor), his lover Mona (Shilpa) spills the beans to a handsome police inspector Karan (Akshay), only to have her long skirt torn (cause showing her long legs is essential for the film) and to be killed. As it happens the murdered inspector was Karan´s older brother, and so the chhota bhai sets out to avenge his sibling. But what to do? He has nothing against Goli now that Mona and her sexy legs are gone.

Meanwhile, in some other part of the city, a popular actor, an ultimate romantic hero Deepak Kumar, is having an existential crisis. Not that his films wouldn´t be doing well, but he hates them and himself in them. Sick from the image he has he is longing to kick ass at least once in some „asli mard“ movie. While unsuccessfully explaining this to a producer (who is also a mafia boss), he encounters the ultimate kick-ass machine inspector Karan fighting for justice, and immediately decides this is the exact image he needs to create for himself. To be able to study Karan´s mannerism and behaviour he manages to pull some strings and soon tough and rather anti-social inspector (still trying to get his revenge) is officially stuck with a naive, flamboyant and oh so filmy superstar. At the same time Karan finds Basanti, a girl who acts exactly like the annoying Basanti from Sholay and looks exactly like the deceased Mona, and after one night lasting English course she transforms from an illiterate thief into a high profile bar dancer, planted into Goli´s closeness under a pretext of being a Mona, who survived, but is not dangerous for him because she lost her memory...

The film has its share of loopholes and flaws. I wasn´t comfortable with the „love“ twist that brought Basanti and Karan together. I don´t care he didn´t really rape her, and it was actually set up by her so he would think that. The idea behind it – that a raped girl should marry the one who raped her – is just repulsive. If in the middle of Bollywood a writer cannot come up with a better idea of how to push two characters together, let them rather stay single. It was better to watch Deepak romancing Karan´s sister, although here too one wondered how much there is to actual love, considering she was a nutcase of a fangirl. But both love stories and even the plot involving Goli and all the avenging are really just a background – for some seriously awesome Akshay/Saif bonding.

It´s between the two of them that the actual relationship happens, a relationship that truly deserves a label of „bromance“. They have wonderful chemistry and even in acting they were complimenting each other. Their comic timing is wonderful, especially Saif got me in splits with his almost childish stubborness and yet being clueless about what to do most of the time. The purpose of his character is not lost in the progress, he doesn´t loose the bohemian spirit and never abandons his aim to build his new image.

Main Khiladi Tu Anari is nothing but an unapologetic fun. To analyze it and nit pick on the story is almost irrelevant, because the fun is what matters, not any moral values. Extremely enjoyable with the (today) unintentionally (?) hilarious songs and dancing, as well as Kader Khan being a movie star fangirl, the movie also has a great repeat value and doesn´t get old.