Bollywood-ish

Friday, 12 February 2016

The big 2015 overview

I have watched about 30 movies that came out of Bollywood in 2015. I have not finished three and gave up on them pretty soon (All Is Well, Guddu Rangeela and Ek Paheli Leela), which is why they do not appear anywhere below. I am yet to watch some of the biggies (Dilwale, Bajirao Mastani) and some more critically acclaimed ones (Talvar, NH 10), but to be honest as a Hindi film fan I found 2015 mostly bland and disappointing. Some movies I reviewed in more detail (Jazbaa, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, Drishyam, Badlapur, Bombay Velvet, Hawaizaada) and some are still waiting to be reviewed. Here are the movies that did not inspire me to write all that much:

Tevar



Directed by: Amit Ravindernath Sharma
Starring: Arjun Kapoor, Sonakshi Sinha, Manoj Bajpayee, Raj Babbar
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

This could have been, if nothing else, a decent, enjoyable one-time watch. Unfortunately the build-up is painfully slow, most of the songs pure awful and narrative highly unimaginative. I could not help but compare Tevar with the last year´s Heropanti. Both have young star kids trying to be macho heroes from the 80s, both work with some age-old Bollywood tropes, but Heropanti was fun. Tevar is boring. The story has no meat so to speak, and a very basic plot (a villain wants to marry a girl who does not want him and a hero helps her escape) is stretched into unreasonable 2 and a half hours. Arjun gives a decent performance, but much as I like him off-screen, he is the weakest actor among the “youngligs”. His highly emotional scenes near the end were just bad. Sonakshi Sinha plays the same role as always. Making me sad for the hundredth time, because she is clearly more talented and natural than others. When will she finally be in a film that will have something to offer her? Is she really choosing these films of her own accord? Or is nobody offering her anything else? It´s frustrating because I like the girl, still, and probably will - always. Manoj Bajpayee makes for a very average villain. Also - why is Sonakshi´s “father” looking like her grandfather and her “brother” like her father? Obviously a movie made for Arjun by papa and chacha. With love.


Alone



Directed by: Bhushan Patel
Starring: Bipasha Basu, Karan Singh Grover
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

The more horror films Bipasha Basu does, the more awful they become and progressively worse she is in them. Sloppy “Alone” relies on nothing but jump-scares (that are not even unexpected), stripping any mystery away within first twenty minutes. If you are scared of a haunted house, try staying in a hotel instead of returning there every night, maybe? Speaking of which: about 50% of the whole film is footage of Bipasha going to bed – something anyone but Karan Singh Grover doesn´t care to see repeatedly. The dead are horny. Kisses uncomfortable. CGI cheap. Bipasha´s piano game weak. Cakes wasted. Then it all turns into the familiar religious lessons shit Bollywood horrors ALWAYS have as a back up against everything. And just when you think people in this film have some sense of self-preservation by going into a dark house as a group, they separate..... Sigh.... The only thing saving the film from going straight to the traaaaaash is the little twist, which I have foreseen, but not since the beginning.

Baby


Directed by: Neeraj Pandey
Starring: Akhsay Kumar, Danny Denzongpa, Anupam Kher
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Very straight-forward and not wasting any time on any tropes, "Baby" makes for a decent watch. Camera work is the only glamorous feature, while actors all give good, subdued performances. There are no patriotic dialogues and no lecturing of the bad guys, oh no, everything is as clear as a shot through your back. Perhaps it was the simplicity which in the end makes "Baby" an eternal infant among the big brothers action films, since there is no secret, no twist, no actual depth to the story. In fact, there is hardly anything Akshay and the team cannot handle without as much as wiping their brow. The entertainment value is missing somehow, with the last 20 minutes feeling like a very long stretch, although it was meant to be the opposite. Good, but not great.


Dolly Ki Doli


Directed by: Abhishek Dogra
Starring: Sonam Kapoor, Rajkummar Rao
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Sonam Kapoor is a glam doll and one of the most beautiful girls in Bollywood and even I could stare at her face for hours and not get bored. Sadly, no matter how elfine and surreal her smooth skin, how dark her eyes, how inviting her soft hair waving in the ever-present breeze, nothing can conceal that she cannot act for peanuts and with passing years it becomes more obvious she plays herself over and over again. Bit mischievous, bit sweet, always carefree – with the exception of seemingly mad Sakina from Saawariya Sonam has shown no diversity in her characters (which is all the more astounding considering some of her projects were very interesting and full of potential). Furthermore I still cringe when she talks. And so Dolly from this film is nothing more but another extension of Milli from Khubsoorat or Aisha. And since everything here depends on the female lead, the film remains unremarkable. Harmless fluff of a product, it holds onto the unsteady filmi logic, where police cannot find a „looting bride“ in an area where she has looted over two dozen families and where nobody but official photographer takes pictures at weddings. On the bright side, Dolly is someone living life on her own terms and has no remorse over taking a revenge on someone who has let her down out of cowardice. The ending made me happy. Naturally who can forget the hilarious interrogation of the grandmother in the police station. It does not manage to drag the film out of the completely inconsequential and forgettable category, but it did give me a genuine laugh.

Shamitabh


Directed by: R Balki
Starring: Amitabh Bachchan, Dhanush, Akshara Haasan
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Aka "Silent Amitabh" is from one point of view and interesting concept, on the other it is too improbable, impossible. I would say it is an average film that can only boast of fantastic acting by Dhanush. Akshara Hasaan is as wooden as most of the new heroines and has little to no screen presence. Amitabh is an angry old man, reliable but nothing surprising comes from him. Balki tries to be deep, aims for us to really root for the complicated relationship between a voiceless rising star and alcoholic failure of an actor, but something is terribly amiss. And when the hero dies and Amitabh disappears into dark obscurity of life, you actually let out a breath of relief that it is over and you can go and have an ice cream or something.


Dum Laga Ke Haisha


Directed by: Sharat Katariya
Starring: Ayushman Khuranna, Bhumi Pednekar
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Cute, sweet and pretty straightforward, this Ayushman Khuranna film ranks as his second best so far. But while he does a great job, the charm and key to the story is Bhumi Pednekar. As Sandhya, an intelligent, pleasant girl, who happens to be overweight, she is so honest and real you believe her every word and every movement. At first I was irritated by the character of her weak husband, who merely pities himself all the time, but then I realized one of the reasons why their relationship eventually progressed was the fact they both had experienced contempt and humiliation: she for her looks, him for his lack of intelectual abilities. Together they finally make a couple that can truly support one another. The growing respect and love between the two seemed, unfortunately, hurried to me, and I would have liked to see more of that than of family bickering. Seeing the finale race, with determined hubster carrying his "load", was extremely heartening. A nice, feel-good movie.


Margarita with a Straw


Directed by: Shonali Bose
Starring: Kalki Koechlin, Sayani Gupta, Revathi
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

This film has masturbation, lesbians, sex scenes, bisexuality, a guy helping a girl out of and into her panties .... and it couldn´t be more pure. I am not saying that because I would believe that any of those things mentioned would be something bad (not by a long stretch), but because I know what filmmakers are capable of creating with as much as one short skirt. A word, a look, a camera angle - all that can turn a natural thing into something vulgar. But not so Margarita with a Straw. Everything about Laila, a young woman affected by cerebral palsy, is honest and straight-forward. She is vivacious and no matter what her condition, she lives her life more fully than many "normal" people. In the end the story is really just showing her in various situations that her state makes more difficult for her than for the rest of us, but again and again we are shown that there are no limits for her and she does not need to be pitied. The film is of the same kind as "The Ship of Theseus", just simpler, and though hardly a crowd-pleaser, genuinely nice movie. Kalki Koechlin in the lead is superb, showing off her phenomenal talent. Less than twenty minutes into the film I forgot that in the real life she does NOT have cerebral palsy. She is just excellent. Sayani Gupta as Khanum and Revathi as Laila´s mother were equally wonderful.

Gabbar is Back


Directed by: Krish
Starring: Akshay Kumar, Shruti Haasan
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

More power to Akshay Kumar please. Simply because for every goddamnawful Singh is Bliing he gives us a solid movie like this one. In fact had they scrapped the annoying “bubbly” Shruti Haasan and her completely useless and dispensable role, and focused on finer moments of Gabbar´s planning, operations and finding the right people for the job, I would give the movie even better status. Even having the back story more elaborately dealt with than in one song would be a plus. Thinking about it now, there were so many things that were wrong with the logic of the film. For example: is it really a good idea to dress all the people at your party into the same clothes AND have them wearing the same mask, when you are apparently a target of a sly murderer? And what exactly was the message, when Gabbar turns himself in and lets himself be hanged? That should you come across a corrupt official it´s OK to kill them as long as you are cool with being executed later? But the weak bit of me did not complain. I don´t think I have ever found Akshay Kumar looking as sexy as in this film.

Piku


Directed by: Shoojit Sircar
Starring: Deepika Padukone, Amitabh Bachchan, Irrfan Khan
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

I have very little to say about Piku. I didn´t finish it the first time around and it took me about five months before I decided to give it another try. And even though I thought better about it the second time around, I still failed to fall in love with the film as so many others did. Many have found the movie “relatable”, for me it was simply “tiring”. It is a curious thing about Irrfan. He plays every character of his pretty much the same. Yet he is so natural and normal he always comes on top and 100% believable. Deepika is wonderful throughout, Amitabh Bachchan grabs your attention in every scene. And yet, all the endless quibble about constipation and other related shit (pun intended) gets extremely tiresome and annoying very quickly. There is reason why I avoid loud family gatherings, and here there were just three people making as much confusing noise as thirty people would. Over shit.

Tanu Weds Manu Returns


Directed by: Anand L. Rai
Starring: Kangana Ranaut, Madhavan, Jimmy Shergil
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

The first one was a let down for most part, the follow-up would have been as much of a bore, had it not been for one thing, and one thing only, which pushes the whole film onto another level. And that would be performance of Kangana Ranaut. Her effortless transitions between arrogant, over-confident Tanu and deglam, honest Kusum, as well as the character and portrayal of the latter, are admirable and make it all worth while. Other than that, the sequel suffers from the same mistakes as the prequel. There is not enough for (my sweet teddy-bear) the mega-talented Madhavan to do, the relationships are mostly sketchy and especially the obvious pain at possibility of imminent parting is simply not explained. Tanu and Manu are returned to the viewers after their dreamy wedding as a highly dysfunctional couple that needs to seek help from a whole jury of psychiatrists in a mental asylum, they spend no time together in the film at all (meaning no time to actually talk things over) but then return to each other, Manu breaking heart of Kusum at the same time. Furthermore both Manu and his former rival in love played by Jimmy Shergil only want a girl who is a xerox copy of Tanu. If that does not strike you as awkward and even kinda creepy, I don´t know what does. On the whole I did not regret watching the film, but ironically only because of deglam Kangana, who shut up the annoying Kangana with a brilliant speech in the end.


Hamari Adhuri Kahani


Directed by: Mohit Suri
Starring: Emraan Hashmi, Vidya Balan, Rajkummar Rao
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Half of the film felt awkward, the rest of it was good enough for a watch. Few things in life give me as immense pleasure as watching Vidya Balan´s glorious face and listening to her voice, but when that voice is made to recite lines so terribly flowery and full of philosophy (which is not as deep as it tries to be), lines that are just too weird when you imagine anyone should talk like that in normal life, the effect is mildly bewildering. Many have complained that her character is weak, but to me Vasudha was very real, with all her terror and worries. Had it not been for the awful lines, I would have loved her, because Vidya is good as always. Emraan Hashmi, to whom at best of times I manage to be indifferent, is passable, though his unnaturally wise dialogues are even worse than Vidya´s because of his painfully monotonous dialogue delivery. Their developing romance failed to convince me, it felt forced and not well introduced, all the more for the fact that the wonderful Vidya and dead-fish-eyes Hashmi share no chemistry whatsoever. The arrival of excellent Rajkummar Rao and subsequent change from bittersweet romance to psycho-drama does the film well. I even started to believe Emraan´s love for Vidya, and did sniff a bit as he stepped into that beautifully blooming disaster. Mohit Suri is, much like Aditya Chopra, sucker for “eternal” love-stories, and much like Aditya Chopra he is an average filmmaker. Hamari Adhuri Kahaani has an interesting theme, decent performances and passable music, but the script needed more normalcy and less pretentious dialogues.

ABCD 2


Directed by: Remo D´Souza
Starring: Varun Dhawan, Shraddha Kapoor, Prabhudeva, Lauren Gottlieb
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

And another sequel.... that was just not needed. Given that original ABCD was hardly innovative as far as story telling goes, and the words to best describe it include cheesy and predictable, it was still fun, supported by good music and some decent dance numbers. ABCD 2 abandons Bollywood routines and goes straight to hip hop, which the director loves, but I personally do not care about. And there is way too much dancing even for a dance film. After a while the music becomes one big mess, for I really could not distinguish any melody, and as impressive as the dancers are with their moves, it all just blends and becomes pretty much the same. Whatever story with whatever attempted shots as creating conflict (love triangle that never happens, stolen money that are never explained or matter), the dancing does not make it progress and does not ad anything important to it. Quite the contrary – it makes it really tedious and boring. Varun and Shraddha are both decent, and have shown their dancing abilities, Prabhudeva is less pathetic as Vishnu (than in the last film), and to be honest his rides home on Varun´s motorbike actually gave me a good laugh. Not my cup of chai. And the poster was weird.

I love N.Y.


Directed by: Radhika Rao
Starring: Sunny Deol, Kangana Ranaut
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Kangana Ranaut wanted to stop the release of this movie. And as embarrassing as it is for her, Sunny Deol (miscast and sticking up like a sore thumb) should have fought to destroy this picture even much harder. The dude is almost 60, but he takes on a role of an unmarried innocent Randhir who needs life lessons from his father and indulges in fantasizing about girls more than half his age acting seductively towards him in a steam room (or at least I HOPE it was a drunken fantasy). Let´s not even go to how this jodi looks saath saath. Tiring to even watch, the film would have felt old-fashioned and stale even thirty years ago. The “love story” grows progressively more awkward to watch, knowing the sacha pyaar ho gaya within hours, that included a heavy hangover and a police arrest as well as a messed up engagement plans. This attempt at light comedy based on misunderstandings fails completely in the cute department. And any other department. It sucks. It also has the worst and most annoying NRI dude ever. Stay away.

Brothers


Directed by: Karan Malhotra
Starring: Akshay Kumar, Siddhart Malhotra, Jackie Shroff, Jacqueline Fernandez
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

A way too dramatic family drama about followers of Our meek and kind Lord Jesus beating shit out of people and each other. I love Jackie Shroff to bits and pieces but he goes completely over the top with his performance as a drunkard/repenting drunkard (and being frikkin creepy with his wife), while no matter how much they shout, his sons Akshay Kumar and Sidhart Malhotra are dead inside, apparently. The background for the characters is sketchy. I totally did not understand why it was as easy as to submit an application form for both brothers to be admitted into a prestigious national tournament. Everything about this film should be rooted in the two brothers´ relationship, but there is really no time to explore it at all. Instead there is lots of beating people senseless, finalized by an abrupt, lazy ending. Their father deserves no pity whatsoever, no matter how miserable he looks. The best performance is offered by Jacqueline Fernandez, who is hardly in the film, but is believable in whatever she is given. I skimmed through much of the fight scenes, because I am rarely comfortable watching people hurting others for sport, plus I find no elegance in it (reason why I like really good choreographed sword fights). Whatever remains of a story goes to hell as over-stretched fight/arena entry/nervous waiting montage fills in the last hour of the picture. Music score is good enough, however much of it is just badly placed and overlays scenes where silence would better underline the emotional turmoil. Furthermore there is Mary. I love Kareena Kapoor, but she is one of the most awkward dancers in Bollywood and no amount of water you throw on her will improve that. Not to mention that an “item” song needs good music and choreography to work. Mary, about which nothing is even remotely sexy, has neither and goes right into the music video trashbin. Finally, it´s 2016. Do we really have to refer to Germany as “Hitler´s country”?

Phantom


Directed by: Kabir Khan
Starring: Saif Ali Khan, Katrina Kaif
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Agent Vinod part 2. Except less focused, and probably because my lack of knowledge of Indian/Pakistani secret forces and terrorist groups, rather chaotic. There are way too many characters, who hardly get introduced properly, but are supposed to be important. Saif acts well, he is definitely someone I find believable in these kinds of roles, but he needs a better story. Katrina´s face seems off for some reason, but credit where its due – she does quite well. Her character attaches to the hero without much explanation and even turns into a motivation coach. Why – that is never addressed. I skimmed through the last twenty action-packed minutes, because by that time I stopped caring. I think the film to liken this one to in 2015 is Akshay Kumar´s Baby, and in comparison Baby fares better, especially on believability and suspense. And from 2014 D Day. Which fared better in everything. Kabir Khan had apparently completely exhausted himself at Bajrangi Bhaijaan, and little creativity and good will was left for poor Saifu.

Hero


Directed by: Nikhil Advani
Starring: Sooraj Pancholi, Athiya Shetty
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

These films have gone out of fashion twenty years ago. And yet, somehow, they are still being made. What more – they are often a debut vehicle for another star kid. And thus another Salman Khan´s surrogate offspring gets his ticket to Bollywood simply because … you know.... khaandaan and shit. Even if Sooraj Pancholi wasn´t already etched in all our minds as a boyfriend-from-hell to the ill-fated Jiah Khan, he would have hard time being likeable on screen. He has the same iffy quality that made his father perfect for the roles of slimy antagonists but not much else. Unfortunately he does not have any other memorable quality and everything he does in this film has been done lots better last year by Tiger Shroff, whose own father has made this completely same story actually worth the while. Back in 1983. Things do not get better by having yet another super-model-esque star kid Athiya Shetty as the dumber than a dumb-bell heroine. She is awfully weak and not promising at all. Although after I have seen Alia Bhatt grow into a fine performer since her horrendous debut, I dare not pronounce any prophecy regarding Athiya. There is not much to review. Everything is as clichéd and predictable as it gets. I dare say that this remake of Hero shall be forgotten soon. In fact, isn´t it forgotten already?

Katti Batti


Directed by: Nikhil Advani
Starring: Imran Khan, Kangana Ranaut
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Some films are just not worth the effort. In case of Katti Batti even the filmmakers realized this. And the result is a very boring movie about a very boring relationship. The “great twist” (not really that surprising or new), that finally makes things interesting, comes too late to save the day and cannot erase all the boredom that preceded it. Which is sad, because the ending found me in a vulnerable state of tearing up (Then again, I would NOT want to watch another two hours of someone slowly dying. I guess there is absolutely no win situation for this script). Seeing Imran Khan, who is mostly absent from the screen these days, delighted me. Even though I am not a great fan, the guy is just too likeable. Kangana, surprisingly, doesn´t have a big role. It is Imran who provides his point of view on everything, and who we follow through the narrative. Watch if you miss Imran a lot.

Singh is Bliing


Directed by: Prabhudeva
Starring: Akshay Kumar, Lara Dutta, Amy Jackson
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Cows in Punjab speak Hindi to each other. And that is not the least sensible thing the movie serves you. Rati Agnihotri (born 1960) plays mother to Akshay Kumar (born 1967) who drools over Amy Jackson (born 1992). Awful, awful, awful. Akshay Kumar is completely wasted in a movie without a story or hint of logic – or even conflict. Amy Jackson proves how useless a heroine is in this kind of films by not even attempting to speak Hindi. Not even her highly choreographed, unexciting fight scenes can conceal that it is her boobs and white skin that are all that matters. The only saving grace of the whole thing is Lara Dutta, who is actually very funny, and it would have been much better had she been the main protagonist. Kay Kay Menon is a creep, a fact stated more clearly by his hairstyle than his actions. To simply put it: This Singh is useless junk of a movie. Prabhudeva needs to be stopped.

Shaandaar


Directed by: Vikas Bahl
Starring: Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Pankaj Kapoor, Sanah Kapoor, Sanjay Kapoor
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing


I have read some really vicious reviews of Shaandaar, and even if they stemmed mostly from wounded hopes and shattered dreams (because after Queen the year before Vikas Bahl was seen as a great hope for the cinema), they were rough. Expecting absolutely nothing (and trying to stay conscious as high fever wrecked my body) I found the film harmless and inconsequential, and - had I been in a more demanding state of mind – kinda waste of time. It did not offend me and wasn´t more stupid than many other films the year has brought, and if nothing it had very likeable cast. I am, however, still uncertain, what the actual plot was supposed to be, with script all over the place and incredibly fake (not cute) CGI effects. I felt the story should have been built around Sanah´s character, as Alia´s insomnia and obvious legacy were of little interest to anyone. As for Shahid, I have already forgotten he was in the movie, so negligible was his character. A movie like this, without even good music and catchy songs, is sadly meant to fail.

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