Dabangg 2

December 20th, 2012

The job of a promo is to send out accurate pointers to its target audience. The gist of the premise, the essence of what the characters will be, an extract of the milieu… one needs to furnish a general idea of what to expect when the spectator saunters into the cineplex to watch the film. Arbaaz Khan and Abhinav Singh Kashyap had a tough responsibility on their shoulders when they embarked upon DABANGG. As luck would have it, DABANGG was hailed as one of the best entertainers of that year, with Chulbul Pandey becoming a household name. The film consolidated Salman as the darling of the masses, a position he enjoys to this date. With DABANGG 2, one is well prepared about what to expect. The sole factor that Arbaaz needs to worry about is whether DABANGG 2 would meet the towering and monumental expectations. More so, because Salman Khan is contending with himself. He seems to be raising the bar [in terms of business] with each film. WANTED, DABANGG, READY, BODYGUARD, EK THA TIGER… Salman has redefined superstardom with mass entertainers. He’s Boxoffice’s fav child and seems invincible and insurmountable at the moment! With DABANGG 2, you know exactly what to expect. But you don’t know its premise till the reels unfold. Let me add, the plot is an extension of the first installment of the franchise. The route is very similar except that the antagonist is more influential and authoritative. DABANGG 2 is a typical Bollywood film. It’s the kind of cinema we relished in the 1980s and enjoy to this date, but narrated in today’s lingo and format. It may/may not make sense to you, but Arbaaz and team ensure that you are entertained. Thoroughly entertained, actually. It’s riotous, outrageous, wacky, ambitious, absolutely madcap, transports you to an altogether different world. Add to it a sprinkling of desi songs, wicked sense of humor, with Chulbul Pandey taking on the antagonist like the vintage hero would — with fearlessness and daredevilry. Actually, Chulbul Pandey has come to represent the common man and that’s yet another reason why you root for him, feel overjoyed and ecstatic when he triumphs in the finale. For those who adore masala movies, celebrate mainstream cinema, relish the cinema of yore and of course, hero-worship Salman Khan, DABANGG 2 is your ticket this festive season. DABANGG 2 begins with Chulbul Pandey moving to Kanpur. Once there, Chulbul gets into conflict with Baccha Bhaiyya [Prakash Raj]. Baccha Bhaiyya, a criminal turned politician, is aided by his two brothers, Chunni [Nikitin Dheer] and Gainda [Deepak Dobriyal]. Things take a turn for worse when Chulbul kills Gainda. the battle lines are drawn… Like I pointed out at the outset, DABANGG 2 is a hardcore masala entertainer that’s desi at heart. The plot is *not* out of the box [it’s the usual good versus evil saga], but it’s completely irrelevant here. What camouflages this deficiency are several interesting episodes that Arbaaz and writer Dilip Shukla have integrated in those 2 + hours. These episodes, aimed at pleasing the hoi polloi and of course, Salman’s die-hard fans and also fans of mainstream cinema, are, to put in filmi lingo, absolutely paisa vasool. In fact, Salman’s star power is so so so strong that you’re ready to overlook and forgive-and-forget any blemish that you may encounter in the movie. Yes, there are blemishes. The Arbaaz-Mahie Gill track is half-baked. The confrontation scenes between Salman and Prakash Raj lack fiery dialogue. The songs, though popular, are integrated in the narrative without any valid situations. But these are cinematic licenses you overlook in a Salman movie. Arbaaz Khan, who makes his directorial debut with this film, knows his fundas right. He may have borrowed from the cinema of 1970s and 1980s, but he garnishes it well enough to suit the present-day sensibilities. Sajid-Wajid take the same route they undertook while making the soundtrack of DABANGG. Much like the content of the film, the songs are desi, with a mix of old-world charm [‘Dagabaaz Re’ and ‘Saanson Ne’] and foot-tapping numbers [‘Pandeji Seeti’ and ‘Fevicol’]. In fact, ‘Fevicol’ is already a rage and Kareena’s presence in the song only acts as sone pe suhaaga. The action/stunts do complete justice to Salman’s persona. The action plays a crucial role in a masala entertainer and adds so much power to those scenes. Dialogue are of mixed variety. Salman uses his fists, escapes the bullets, spews venom and threats, bullies the villain, flirts and romances his wife, does the pelvic thrusts… in fact, he does everything that one expects from Chulbul Pandey. Oh yes, he even takes off his shirt, flexing his muscles and showing his well sculptured torso without inhibitions, a mandatory requirement in a Salman Khan movie. Honestly speaking, DABANGG 2 is a Salman Khan vehicle and the actor is the Big Boss here. You cannot imagine anyone else doing what he does. And every time he plays to the gallery, many in the audience [especially at single screens] are sure to fling the loose change on screen as a mark of appreciation for his on-screen antics. He defies logic and gets away with it! Sonakshi has the infectious charm and radiates confidence all through the enterprise. Arbaaz is just about okay. Mahie Gill has nothing to do. Vinod Khanna is passable. Prakash Raj is in terrific form yet again. The supremely talented actor is ferocious when the need arises. Nikitin Dheer has good screen presence and does well. Deepak Dobriyal gets better scenes and is hugely competent. On the whole, DABANGG 2 has Salman Khan, Salman Khan and Salman Khan + Entertainment, Entertainment and Entertainment in large doses. The film has the masala to work big time with the masses. This one will rewrite the rules of the game and the festive occasion [Christmas and New Year] will aid its potential. Sure shot Blockbuster!

Khiladi 786

December 6th, 2012

Now that the 1980s’ variety of masala films are being lapped up by spectators, it is heartening to see Mumbai-based film-makers working hard to create zany entertainers, also boarding the next available flight to South India to clinch the deal/s for the remake rights of Southern blockbusters. The A-list actors, on their part, are equally gung ho for unabashed entertainers, consenting to allocate ample time to movies of this variety. Akshay Kumar, who tasted super success earlier this year with ROWDY RATHORE [besides HOUSEFULL 2 and OMG – OH MY GOD!], comes up with his second masala outing before the year draws to a close, KHILADI 786. What makes KHILADI 786 conspicuous is the fact that it marks Akshay’s return as ‘Khiladi’ after more than a decade. From the immensely likeable KHILADI in 1992 to KHILADI 420 in 2000, Akshay was the face of over half-a-dozen ‘Khiladi’ movies during that phase — some good, some plain average, some terrible movies. The brand ‘Khiladi’ got affixed to Akshay in those years. KHILADI 786 borrows the ‘Khiladi’ brand, but has no correlation with the ‘Khiladi’ movies attempted earlier. KHILADI 786 has a skeletal plot, but is padded with ingredients that are aimed at the hoi polloi: The lead man bashes up 10/15 goons at one go like we swat mosquitoes, punches the wall in anger and the wall crumbles, even gulps down a man as if he we were consuming a soft drink from a straw [yes, you read it right!]. This is a mere sample of what you gonna see in KHILADI 786. So, be prepared! Come to think of it, KHILADI 786 has been made with the intention of grabbing the attention of the hardcore masses, hitting the ton [Rs 100 cr Club] and giving the tag of a ‘Hit Machine’ to its lead man, Akshay, who has delivered three solid hits this year. Ashish R. Mohan, who has been an apprentice to Rohit Shetty in the past, adapts his mentor’s formula of wooing the audience, stretching the term unbelievable more than it should. More on that later! Born to the owner of a marriage bureau Champak Lal [Manoj Joshi], Mansukh [Himesh Reshammiya] has been a complete failure ever since he has grown up and tried to help his father in their family business. All the alliances he had tried to get done have resulted in separation even before the marriage took place. To prove his worth to his father, he takes up an unusual challenge of getting the underworld don, TT Bhai’s [Mithun Chakraborty] spoilt sister Indu [Asin] married to a cop called Bahattar Singh aka Khiladi 786 [Akshay Kumar] in Punjab. Mansukh convinces TT Bhai to pretend as a cop. Little do they know that Bahattar Singh, his father Sattar Singh [Raj Babbar] and his uncle Ikhattar Singh [Mukesh Rishi] are not cops, but a family of con men. The two families now pretend to be policemen in front of each other, but the cat is out of the bag soon… KHILADI 786 is an old-school wacky potboiler. There isn’t an iota of logic here and one is not even looking for intelligence, rationale or justification either. The film is packed with ingredients that constitute a wholesome entertainer such as humor, South-styled stunts with the one-man army outsmarting a bunch of deadly goons and of course, visually enticing songs every 15/20 minutes, but the writing has its share of hiccups… * Mithun is supposed to be a dreaded don in Mumbai, whose name and pics have been splashed in newspapers and TV channels since decades [we’re even shown clips], but how come Raj Babbar, Akshay and their family are completely clueless of his identity? * The track of Asin’s lover [Rahul Singh] is a yawn. What was the writer thinking while penning those sequences? * The climax, with Rajesh Khattar landing up at the wedding, Johny Lever unlocking himself from a room where he was held captive and Mushtaq Khan and Bharti suddenly becoming news reporters at the wedding mandap , looks too much of a cinematic liberty. On the plus side, the first-time director throws every trick in the book to entice the spectator and moves on to the next scene, before the viewer gets the feeling of deja vu. There’s no denying that you actually enjoy certain moments in the narrative. The concept of having an African and Chinese in the family is so funny. Also, the lost-in- mela brother surfacing in the end may look ridiculous, but makes you smile again. In a nutshell, the film caters to the masala loving audience and the director has no qualms about admitting it. Himesh Reshammiya, who enacts a pivotal part in the film, belts out super numbers here. ‘Balma’, ‘Lonely’, ‘Hookah’ and ‘Long Drive’ have already made it to the music charts and are, without doubt, standout tracks. The action sequences are very much macho and executed with zest and enthusiasm. Akshay’s desi punches, raw and masculine action and the correct comic timing is sure to win a lot of hearts yet again. He is in his element, in complete form, brimming with charm and confidence. He’s the mainstay of the film and lives up to the title every bit. Asin is the prototypical heroine who has to look her best, dance admirably and pair off with her on-screen man. Himesh Reshammiya does very well, while Mithun Chakraborty and Raj Babbar add lots of weight to their characters. Sanjay Mishra is in his element. Mukesh Tiwari impresses. Johny Lever is under-utilized. Manoj Joshi, Rajesh Khattar, Mukesh Rishi and Gurpreet Guggi are perfect. Mushtaq Khan, Bharti and Rahul Singh deserved better roles. Claudia Ciesla’s item song adds glamour to the proceedings. On the whole, KHILADI 786 is not for purists, but for lovers of hardcore masala films completely. If zany amusement, wacky humor and over the top entertainers is what you enjoy, this one’s for you. Go, have fun!


November 29th, 2012

Before analyzing the movie, I just wish to state one thing. You haven’t watched a suspense thriller like TALAASH on the Hindi screen. Ever. Also, all those sms-es prior to the release pertaining to the ‘killer’ are humbug, bogus and phony. Another clarification. TALAASH is not remotely similar to KAHAANI. A lot of space was devoted to the imaginary tale that TALAASH and KAHAANI were similar in nature. But you realize it’s an ill-founded rumor as the reels of TALAASH unfold. It’s also alleged that TALAASH borrows from a novella called ‘Act Of Providence’. Then there’s an assumption that TALAASH borrows from SHUTTER ISLAND… Similarities apart, TALAASH stands on its feet for the reason that it merges conspiracy, tension and tragedy with dexterousness. Add to it the turn of events, the razor sharp dialogue and of course, the suspense… TALAASH takes the suspense angle to a new altitude altogether, emerging into an exceptionally constructed mystery. Aamir Khan plays an investigation officer, Inspector Shekhawat, who is informed about the accident and subsequent death of a superstar. The case turns into a life altering chase for Inspector Shekhawat when he is forced to reel under the repercussions of a disturbed married life [Rani Mukherji] and come face to face with his suppressed grief. Being on his investigative quest, Inspector Shekhawat meets a sex worker [Kareena Kapoor], who further adds shades of mystery to the puzzle. What looks like a simple car accident investigation turns into a haunting mystery as further investigations show many anomalies were stringed to the death of the victim. TALAASH is dramatic and absorbing, both. Director Reema Kagti takes up an attention-grabbing premise and along with co-writer Zoya Akhtar spins a tale that makes the viewer a participant of sorts. While the cop tries hard to solve the jigsaw puzzle, the spectator, with his mind wide alert by now, gets intrigued by what he observes and perceives and is keen to get to the bottom of the mystery himself/herself. That, in my opinion, is why this suspense drama works. Frankly, it’s the sort of film that’s extremely tough to pull off, but Reema has a strong control of the material and together with her efficient team pulls off the trick with aplomb and composure. In addition, Reema creates the right ambiance essential for a suspense drama. The tale is stylishly told and the authentic mood keeps you on the edge of the seat for most part of those two hours. TALAASH is not one of those movies that relies on the been-there-seen-that kind of situations. I’d like to add that though there’s a remote possibility that you may solve the mystery before the protagonist gets to it in the finale, you can’t help but stay hooked and wrapped to the twisted characters and disturbing situations that TALAASH offers. The finale, sure enough, is all important in a film of this genre. In this case, it’s astonishing, powerful and also heartrending. It ends up as an emotional film that tugs at your heartstrings. The film delves into deep, dark secrets and that makes the conclusion one of the most satisfying wrap ups one has witnessed in a movie of this variety. I could just go on and on about the merits of the film, but I shall not reveal any further and spoil the fun for you. I suggest, experience it yourself! The production design and the detailing attached to the movie couldn’t be more authentic and adds incredible value to the project. Visually too, the frames capture the nervousness and uneasiness of the characters and also the setting with aplomb [DoP: Mohanan]. The music [Ram Sampath] is situational. The songs may not feature on your fav list, but a couple of numbers are fascinating nonetheless. In fact, the songs are well integrated in the narrative, driving the story forward every time they appear. The dialogue [Fahan Akhtar; additional dialogue: Anurag Kashyap] are taut and transfixing. Though Aamir has portrayed the role of a cop earlier, he brings something new to the table with his spellbinding performance in TALAASH. The earnestness and authenticity with which he enacts his character cannot be expressed in a few sentences. That would be doing gross injustice to the actor’s abilities, frankly. He holds the camera in every frame and charges assertively through the film, making you believe in Inspector Shekhawat’s journey in entirety. It’s a standout piece of acting, unquestionably. That Aamir is the best actor of his generation comes to the fore yet again! Both Rani and Kareena are given a moment in the sun, despite Aamir dominating the film with a power-packed performance. Rani is superb as the troubled wife, while Kareena is terrific as the hooker. Together the two actresses deliver admirable performances that would definitely merit a mention in award ceremonies next year. The sequences between Aamir and Kareena in particular are simply fantastic! Nawazuddin Siddiqui sparkles in a significant role, enacting his part with remarkable ease. Raj Kumar Yadav is efficient enough. Shernaz Patel leaves a stunning impact. Every actor in the film — in a brief role or otherwise — stays fresh in your memory after the screening has concluded. On the whole, TALAASH is an outstanding film. A taut psychological thriller that keeps you guessing till the end, it leaves you spellbound, leaves you mesmerized, leaves you with an exclamation, ‘Wow!’. An absolute must watch for all movie buffs. You just can’t afford to miss this one!

Jab Tak Hai Jaan

November 13th, 2012

After a wait of eight long years, the master storyteller, the most admired and revered director of our times, Yash Chopra, returns with his new motion picture. Regrettably, JAB TAK HAI JAAN happens to be the last film of one of the greatest raconteurs of our times… Yash Chopra is synonymous with love and romance and also spellbinding drama and heartrending emotions. Is synonymous with harmonious music and exquisite poetry and also snow-capped mountains and mustard fields. Is synonymous with waterfalls and rains and also Switzerland and Punjab. And so much more… JAB TAK HAI JAAN encompasses everything that one has come to expect from a Yash Chopra movie. This time, it’s a brand new setting, but the journey remains the same as his previous love stories — just as the lead man and his lady love sprint towards each other from opposite directions, to cuddle each other lovingly, you’re told that the romantic pathway is crammed with thorns and spikes [a quick clarification: all this talk of JAB TAK HAI JAAN being a present-day avatar of Yash Chopra’s DAAG is absolutely unfounded]. For the hardcore romantics, this one’s a treat. But those who *don’t* swear by love stories, I am certain, will be able to connect with this film, since the twists and twirls in the screenplay are sure to allure those yearning for something captivatingly distinctive. JAB TAK HAI JAAN is a poignant voyage of three characters. Thankfully, not once does the script or the writers [Aditya Chopra and Devika Bhagat] permit any penetration of superfluous or redundant characters or sub-plots that would’ve only led to puzzlement. Every episode transpires for a persuasive reason. Besides, the drama is absolutely intriguing, with an undercurrent of emotions running through the length and breadth of the film, thereby adding intensity to this passionate love story. JAB TAK HAI JAAN is not your typical love story. It has the old-world charm written all over it, with twists and turns plenty. It would be a disservice if one were to reveal the journey of the three principal characters — Samar, Meera and Akira — since the plot changes from conventional to unconventional in its second hour. JAB TAK HAI JAAN is attention-grabbing from inception till conclusion. The drama only soars higher and the complex love story gets more and more gripping as the conflict between the characters come to the fore. Mind you, JAB TAK HAI JAAN is not the usual ‘love triangle’, with two women fighting for the same guy. Nor can you compare it with any Yash Chopra film of yore either. Yash Chopra’s brilliancy and vividness is apparent in a number of sequences. And it echoes throughout the film. The poignant moments keep you on the periphery, while the culmination to the narrative may meet with extreme reactions. However, I strongly feel, the conclusion is most befitting for a film that doesn’t take the beaten to death pathway. The only hiccup is that it gets too slow-paced at times. Also, the screenplay could’ve been tighter at places. A few sequences in the post-intermittent portions could’ve been spruced up for a stronger impact. When Yash Chopra, A.R. Rahman and Gulzar join hands for a film project, the expectations are gargantuan. Its music has to meet the lofty expectations. Chopra Sr.’s music has had an eternal impact, but the songs here aren’t of that towering calibre that you would anticipate from a Yash Chopra movie. Yet, the melodies that merit a mention are ‘Challa’, ‘Saans’ and ‘Jiya Re’. While on music, the music piece and its choreography in the first hour deserve brownie points. The DoP [Anil Mehta] and the production designer give the film a radiant look that befits a classic. The cinematography is surreal, grandiose and simply overwhelming. The vibrant frames add to the magnificence of this already spectacular looking film. The costume designers too come up with a wardrobe that’s brimming with stunning outfits. Event films such as JAB TAK HAI JAAN are, generally, embellished with seasoned actors. That’s one of the fundamental reasons why these films appear so tempting. In addition, assembling such accomplished names [in lead roles as also supporting characters] is a rarity and there’s a strong possibility that one may not see them sharing screen space ever again. One can’t imagine anyone else but Shah Rukh in the role of Samar. An individual with an emotional baggage. Although Shah Rukh has been an integral part of several romantic movies, he enacts it resplendently in JAB TAK HAI JAAN, brushing off any condemnation that he may have encountered for replicating himself in movies of parallel genre. The role gives the actor abundant opportunity to exhibit his talent and I must add, Shah Rukh transforms himself into the complex character with dexterity. Katrina is the classic Yash Chopra heroine. An enigmatic beauty, who doubles up as a seductress [watch her in the ‘Saans’ track or the music piece]. She looks ethereal and enacts her part with elegance and restraint. As a matter of fact, she glides into her part with effortlessness and acts out some of the difficult moments with flourish. In view of the fact that a major portion of the story focuses on SRK and Katrina, one might assume that Anushka’s role is more of a supporting one, but that’s entirely fallacious. She’s an integral part of this story and it must be said that she walks away with some of the best scenes and lines in the movie. Her performance is full of grit. Rishi and Neetu Kapoor are endearing in a cameo. Anupam Kher, also in a cameo, pitches in a neat performance as Katrina’s father. Sarika is first-rate in a pivotal part. On the whole, JAB TAK HAI JAAN resonates an oft-repeated fact: Love stories will come and go. But no one will make them like Yash Chopra. Just don’t miss this heartwarming love story!

Son Of Sardaar

November 12th, 2012

S.S. Rajamouli, the creative genius, holds the enviable record of delivering stupendous Blockbusters in a row. His films, consequently, have been remade in various Indian languages… the Hindi film industry has woken up to his brilliance as well. VIKRAMARKUDU was remade as ROWDY RATHORE, EEGA was dubbed in Hindi as MAKKHI and now, Rajamouli’s MARYADA RAMANNA gets a Hindi avatar — SON OF SARDAAR — after being remade in Kannada and Bengali languages. MARYADA RAMANNA, in turn, displayed a striking similarity to the 1923 Hollywood silent film OUR HOSPITALITY. SON OF SARDAAR is the remake of a Telugu film, but the Hindi avatar is set in an entirely different precinct. Nonetheless, what remains unaffected are the set of regulations that make masala entertainers work. Be it the hero’s gallant introduction, his breaking into a power-packed dialogue or confronting the opponent, also bashing up the rogues, like we swat flies and mosquitoes, romancing the heroine amidst the mayhem… every significant episode has been integrated with the objective of eliciting whistles, catcalls, roars and ovation. SON OF SARDAAR stays most faithful to the ideology of providing unabashed entertainment, while logic, expectedly, takes a backseat. But who’s expecting a movie with smart repartee and loads of enlightenment anyway? Deviating from the light comedies/slapstick humor that he’s attempted in the past, director Ashwani Dhir follows the Rohit Shetty and Prabhu Dheva tradition of making formulaic films/entertainers that pack drama, humor, song-n-dance, thrills et al, with the 2.20 hour film brimming with just about everything available on the shelf. Since the setting is Punjab, everything that you witness in SON OF SARDAAR is larger than life, right from the hospitality and hostility, the humor, the jokes and the thrills. With a skeletal plot to play around with, SON OF SARDAAR may give you the feeling of deje vu, but let’s face it, it needs tremendous skills to pen a screenplay that never lets you lose focus. Dhir and screenwriter Robin Bhatt ensure that they throw every trick in the book to serve a no-holds-barred entertainer, with 70 mm herogiri at its best, to the amusement-seeking moviegoer. That’s one of the prime reasons why SON OF SARDAAR hits the right notes. Ajay Devgn works for his friend [Salman] and his uncle in London. He receives a notification from his hometown in Punjab that states that he is about to inherit a piece of land. Ajay sets out for his hometown in Punjab and bumps into Sonakshi Sinha while boarding the train. Both Ajay and Sonakshi are oblivious of the fact that the families have a long-standing feud. Sonakshi happens to be the niece of Sanjay Dutt, whose brother was killed by Ajay’s father many years ago. Soon enough, Sanjay Dutt and his nephews [Mukul Dev, Vindu Dara Singh] realize that Ajay is the son of the killer and even want to slaughter Ajay, but there’s a hitch. Ajay has entered their mansion as a guest and as per the tradition, all guests are to be treated as God. Like GHAJINI, WANTED, DABANGG, SINGHAM and ROWDY RATHORE, SON OF SARDAAR pays homage to the cinema of 1980s and 1990s. The trend of creating desi movies that emphasize on entertainment has already gathered steam and SON OF SARDAAR is one more big-budget extravaganza that aims at wooing the Indian mass audience. Sure, it’s brash, outrageous, wacky, exaggerated, irrational… so what? As long as it’s fun to watch, one shouldn’t grumble. While the first hour is breezy and thoroughly enjoyable, the narrative dips in the second half as the focus shifts to romance, with vengeance taking a backseat. But the penultimate portions, especially the combat between Sanjay and Ajay, is the hallmark of the enterprise, with the film concluding on another euphoric note — the song ‘Po Po’ — which features Salman. Regardless of the ‘old-fashioned’ appeal, Dhir imparts a novel touch to several sequences. He plays to the gallery blatantly and audaciously, but he also ensures that the film is held together by a mesmerizing screenplay that unfolds at a feverish pace. Besides, Dhir emulates his peers and packs a solid punch in the high-voltage dramatic sequences. The ones between Sanjay and Ajay in particular are the mainstay, actually. There’s a strong undercurrent of emotions, courtesy Juhi Chawla, while the romantic scenes are more of window dressing, offering the director reasons to slot in the mandatory song-and-dance routine. Action has always been the perfect component to straight away connect with the masses and SON OF SARDAAR has several of those South-style maar-dhaad scenes [Jai Singh Nijjar]. They might seem gimmicky, but the truth is they work big time with the spectator who relishes those kind of stunts. The climax fight sequence, when Sanjay and Ajay lock horns, is superbly choreographed. Aseem Bajaj’s cinematography compliments the director’s vision completely. It’s top notch. The soundtrack boasts of talented and accomplished names and in keeping with the mood of the film, the composers deliver songs with North Indian tadka . ‘Bichdann’, ‘Rani Tu Main Raja’, the title track and ‘Po’ [the Salman Khan number] come easily to the lips. The choreography of ‘Po’ in particular is imaginative and is sure to please ‘Bhai fans’. Sandeep Chowta’s background score is fantastic. SON OF SARDAAR marks Ajay’s return to action, a genre that was once dominated by him till he decided to diversify to romance and comic roles. The supremely talented actor takes charge of the film from the commencement itself and holds it tight all through. If you’re a fan of Ajay, repeated viewings are assured for sure. Post AGNEEPATH, SON OF SARDAAR is another significant film in Sanjay’s career. The actor is in his element here, handling the ferocious moments [when he gets to know Ajay’s identity] and the sensitive ones [with Juhi and Sonakshi] with effortless ease. Sonakshi’s character is similar to the one she portrayed in DABANGG and ROWDY RATHORE and there’s this fear of getting typecast, but she sparkles in the sequences that she appears in, which works to her advantage. Juhi Chawla is outstanding, adding so much weight to her character. Her sequences with Sanjay are thoroughly enjoyable. Salman Khan appears in a fight sequence, a sequence thereafter and the song in the end credits and adjoins incredible star value to the project. The film has a very strong supporting cast and I’d like to single out Mukul Dev for his fantastic performance. His performance is truly first-rate. It’s a delight watching Tanuja, one of the finest actresses, after a hiatus. She’s wonderful, especially in the final moments of the film. Vindu Dara Singh is hilarious, while Rajesh Vivek leaves an impression. Arjan Bajwa does well in a brief role. Puneet Issar and Mukesh Tiwari are efficient in cameos. On the whole, SON OF SARDAAR is for lovers of hardcore masala movies. If you liked WANTED, DABANGG and ROWDY RATHORE, chances are you will relish SON OF SARDAAR as well. The North Indian audiences in particular and those residing abroad will be simply delighted by this chatpata, masaledaar fare. A wholesome entertainer in the festive period. Go, have a blast!

Sons of Ram

November 2nd, 2012

One of my childhood’s beautiful memories is having an impressive collection of Amar Chitra Katha comic books. In fact, the comic books were hugely popular [I am sure, they still are!], with several kids showing off their prized collection to friends and relatives. I distinctly remember, the comic books had gorgeous imagery and each story was wonderfully simplified for kids to decipher. In a major move, Amar Chitra Katha now ventures into production of animation films and in collaboration with Cartoon Network unveils its first offering, SONS OF RAM, in 3D. Ramayana and Mahabharata are the two great epics of India — much admired, revered and adored — and though we may have heard the stories over and over again, besides witnessing the plot and legendary characters on television and also on the big screen, the joy of reliving Ramayana and Mahabharata remains unrivaled to this day. One of the key reasons being, the stories are packed with bravery, heroism, treachery, betrayal and tragedy. Not everyone who saunters into a cineplex to watch SONS OF RAM may be well tuned with the premise or familiar with all its characters. So the real test lies in telling the story. To its credit, SONS OF RAM succeeds in narrating the story of Luv and Kush most adroitly, besides highlighting episodes that the kids and also many grownups may not be too well versed with. But the film lacks the epic feel that one associates with Ramayana. The imagery is plain ordinary, while the animation appeals in parts. The year 2012 has witnessed several animation films leaving a mark and I’d like to single out at least two films — ARJUN: THE WARRIOR PRINCE and DELHI SAFARI. Unfortunately, SONS OF RAM pales when compared to those films. Besides, what prompted the makers to opt for 3D? It hardly contributes here. Lord Ram of Ayodhya was forced to send his beloved wife Sita into exile. Unknown to Ram, far away in sage Valmiki’s ashram, Sita lives as Vandevi, raising their twin sons, Luv and Kush. Though not aware of their royal lineage, the twins imbibe wisdom, compassion and combat skills that would put any royal prince to shame. Accompanied by a steadfast gang of lovable friends, Luv-Kush’s journey of discovery takes them from enchanted forests with mythical creatures, to the revered land of Ayodhya. The voice-overs are okay, although the lip sync doesn’t match at times. The background score is a high point. On the whole, SONS OF RAM has a great story to tell, but lacks the epic feel that one associates with mythology.

1920 – Evil Returns

November 2nd, 2012

Vikram Bhatt has emerged the most successful brand in the horror genre. In fact, it won’t be erroneous to state that what Karan Johar is to candy floss, Vikram Bhatt is to horror. If one looks at Vikram’s body of work, the talented storyteller has taken upon himself to petrify and frighten the moviegoers over and over again. RAAZ, 1920, SHAAPIT, HAUNTED, DANGEROUS ISHHQ, RAAZ 3… now 1920 – EVIL RETURNS. This time, of course, Vikram hands over the directorial reins to Bhushan Patel. Let’s put this on record: 1920 – EVIL RETURNS is not connected, in any way, with the first part. The plot, the characters, the set of actors, the setting, everything is diverse. One expects 1920 – EVIL RETURNS to be crammed with chills and bloodcurdling moments. Also, in a film of this genre specifically, the conclusion to the tale has to be most compelling… and of course, spooky. But the problem with 1920 – EVIL RETURNS is that it appeals in bits and spurts. Not in totality. More on that later… 1920 – EVIL RETURNS narrates the story of Jaidev [Aftab Shivdasani], a well-known poet, who lives with his sister Karuna [Vidya Malvade]. One fine morning, Jaidev spots Smruti [Tia Bajpai] lying unconscious near the lake and gets her home. Karuna is against Jaidev’s decision of bringing a stranger home. A few episodes later, Jaidev realizes that Smruti has lost her memory and doesn’t remember anything except his poems. Jaidev decides to get Smruti treated in Shimla. En route, while resting in the guest house, strange developments start taking place. Jaidev realizes that Smruti is possessed by a spirit. 1920 – EVIL RETURNS may be Bhushan’s first tryst at directing a movie, but the director knows the grammar of film-making right. His handling of the terrifying moments is the best part of the enterprise. Note the sequence soon after the intermittent or the long-drawn climax and you’ll realize that Bhushan knows what he’s talking about. So where’s the hitch, did you ask. It’s the writing that vacillates between engaging and yawn-inducing moments. Like I pointed out earlier, the portions depicting Tia [when she is possessed] are remarkable. Those sequences take the film to another level, actually. Conversely, the love story [between Aftab-Tia] is far from persuasive, the hate story [between Aftab-Sharad Kelkar] looks phony, the flashback [between Vidya-Sharad] is strictly okay, while the spate of songs that keep showing up at regular intermittent add to the woes. Bhushan retains the clichés that are mandatory while attempting a horror film [creaking doors, isolated mansions, long and abandoned passage and hallway], which is fine. Also, to give the credit where it’s due, a few episodes do startle you as well. But how one wishes the writers [Vikram Bhatt, Amin Hajee] would’ve spun a compelling tale. The first hour barely moves, while the post-intermittent portions work partially. Also, the soundtrack [Chirantan Bhatt], though good, is a waste in a film like this. Ideally, this should’ve been a songless film. The background score is strictly okay, while the makeup and prosthetics deserve strong mention. The cinematography is stunning, with the DoP capturing the beauty of Sweden delightfully on celluloid. Aftab looks too mellow for the part. The fire that one associates with the lead protagonist is missing. It’s up to Tia to pull off the act of a possessed woman with flourish. An extremely talented actor, Tia is the soul of the film, displaying sensitivity [where required] and scaring the daylights of you [when needed]. Vidya Malvade doesn’t get much scope, though she does a decent job. Sharad Kelkar’s character could’ve been convincing, hence the limitations in his performance. The actor, who has the premonition about the spirit and warns Aftab about it, is effective. On the whole, 1920 – EVIL RETURNS scares and shocks in bits and spurts. The film rides on Vikram Bhatt’s brand, more so after the super success of RAAZ 3, but its writing plays the spoilsport.

Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana

October 30th, 2012

In Mumbai, one of the popular eateries is known for serving yummilicious methi malai gosht . Its recipe is kept confidential. I am told, the recipe was known to the father, now the son knows it and I presume, it will be passed on to the next generation at the opportune time, so that the winning recipe remains restricted and confidential to the family only… Another prominent business family specializing in Indian sweetmeat and pickles keeps the flourishing formula to itself… One of India’s delectable cuisines is hugely popular in the West, a recipe that enchants the Westerners continuously… LUV SHUV TEY CHICKEN KHURANA is also about this quest for discovering an ancient family secret: A dish called Chicken Khurana. For a country that’s fanatical about foodstuff, be it consuming or serving, LUV SHUV TEY CHICKEN KHURANA is the first ‘food movie’ with a ‘secret recipe’ as its core issue. Although LUV SHUV TEY CHICKEN KHURANA is a masala film about masala, also integrated in the plotline is a love story and the myriad episodes that seem straight out of everyday life. The best thing about this film, which marks the directorial debut of Sameer Sharma, is that it doesn’t stick to the formula and that’s one of the reasons why this dish is worth savoring! Omi Khurana’s [Kunal Kapoor] London dream has just ended. On the run from a dangerous U.K. gangster [Munish Makhija], who he owes money to, Omi returns to his native village in Punjab, pretending to be a well-heeled London lawyer. Much has changed since Omi ran away from home a decade back after stealing money from his doting grandfather, Darji [Vinod Nagpal]. The old man has since become senile and most importantly, forgotten the secret recipe of ‘Chicken Khurana’, a dish that made the Khurana dhaba famous across Punjab. Omi’s childhood sweetheart, Harman [Huma Qureshi], is soon to be married to his cousin, Jeet [Rahul Bagga], though neither seems too happy about it. Adding to the quirkiness of the Khurana family is a free loader uncle, Titu [Rajesh Sharma], who once did a stint at a mental asylum. Will Omi be able to cover his deceit and lies for long, even as he tries to recover the lost recipe of Chicken Khurana, the family’s only hope to reclaim their pride and wealth? LUV SHUV TEY CHICKEN KHURANA follows the trend of depicting slice of life stories in a North Indian milieu, popularized by movies like KHOSLA KA GHOSLA, OYE LUCKY! LUCKY OYE!, DO DOONI CHAAR, BAND BAAJA BAARAAT and VICKY DONOR. What makes LUV SHUV TEY CHICKEN KHURANA stand tall, like those films, is the fact that it explores a story that’s a first for a Hindi film [just a quick clarification, it’s not remotely similar to the Malayalam film USTAD HOTEL]. India is defined, amongst many things, for food. We have food for birthdays, food for weddings, food for all kinds of celebrations, food for even bereavement… Sameer Sharma chooses a delicious dish as a metaphor and along with screenwriter Sumit Batheja serves a fare that has the right ingredients [read recipe] that make a rom-com work. The humor is super-perfect, the one-liners are witty and most importantly, it succeeds in its endeavor of making you laugh at the right points. Not many movies can claim to be thoroughly entertaining from start to end. LUV SHUV TEY CHICKEN KHURANA is one enjoyable ride from its first frame to the concluding one. Brownie points to Sameer Sharma for that! LUV SHUV TEY CHICKEN KHURANA shines purely on the basis of its writing, execution of the written material and performances. The film finds humor in the most ordinary places and situations and though the pacing gets sluggish at times, Sharma culminates the film with a heart-felt episode that makes you disregard the minor aberration. In fact, the final moments of the film are simply outstanding, with every character confessing what they had kept concealed from each other. Amit Trivedi’s tunes are offbeat, with ‘Kikli Kalerdi’ and ‘Luni Hasi’ being the pick of the lot. I’d like to make a special mention of the dialogue, which are soaked in humor and are thoroughly pleasant. Mitesh Mirchandani’s camera captures the lush green locales of Punjab with flourish. Each character is well etched here, with everyone putting their best foot forward. Kunal Kapoor is a complete revelation. The actor is charming all through, but shines luminously in the penultimate moments of the film. The emotional sequence proves he can carry off the tough moments with dexterity. Huma Qureshi is an absolute delight to watch. Spontaneous and natural to the core, she gets her role right and how. This is another opportunity, after GOW 2, she takes full advantage of. Rajesh Sharma’s performance can be described in just one word: Fantastic. What a supremely talented actor. He brings the house down every time he makes an appearance. Dolly Ahluwalia is too good. She sparkles in a succinct but significant role. Rajendra Sethi is first-rate, as always. Vinod Nagpal doesn’t get lines to deliver, but it’s a delight to watch him on the big screen after a hiatus. The film also works because the supporting cast is terrific and kudos to the casting director Mukesh Chhabra for getting it right yet again. In fact, Mukesh also pitches in a likeable performance. Another actor who stands out, during the final moments yet again, is Rahul Bagga. He’s super when he professes love to his soulmate Anangsha Biswas [who does a decent job]. Seema Kaushal, as Rajendra Sethi’s wife, is another talent that grabs your attention. Munish Makhija is commendable, enacting his part with perfection. Vipin Sharma is proficient. On the whole, LUV SHUV TEY CHICKEN KHURANA is a joyride from start to end. The film works because the written material, the execution of the subject and the performances complement each other wonderfully. This delectable dish ought to be savoured for certain!

Prem Mayee

October 13th, 2012

Sometimes, a low cost film starring not too big names has a lot to offer than several big-budget movies. PREM MAYEE, directed by Shekhar S. Jha, is one such film. PREM MAYEE narrates the story of an IAS officer Shreya Narayan, who gets married to Chandrachur Singh. There are cracks in the marriage and how the woman braves the storms in her personal life and triumphs eventually, forms the crux of the story. PREM MAYEE begins with a disturbing episode and as it moves forward, the director, who has also penned the script, manages to rake up several questions on the institution of marriage. Though the narrative stagnates in the second hour, albeit slightly, the culmination catches your attention, since the director has handled it with maturity. Shekhar S. Jha is a sensitive storyteller and it shows in his writing and also in a number of sequences. PREM MAYEE is embellished with fine performances. The film belongs to Shreya Narayan, who handles her part with gusto. Chandrachur Singh is a revelation, he springs a pleasant surprise. His role has negative shades. Sanjay Suri, as always, is efficient. Chitrashi Rawat is a complete natural. Auroshikha Dey is perfect. Murli Sharma’s role could’ve been better defined. Yateen Karyekar is effective in a cameo. On the whole, PREM MAYEE is an interesting watch. A thought-provoking film that needs to be encouraged!

Bhoot Returns

October 12th, 2012

Ramgopal Varma, the maverick, is synonymous with ‘dark films’ [a terminology we often use in the industry]. Gangsters, underworld, crime, horror, supernatural… RGV has attempted it all. With BHOOT RETURNS, RGV revisits the horror genre yet again. A quick clarification, before we proceed further. Is BHOOT RETURNS a sequel to RGV’s BHOOT? BHOOT RETURNS doesn’t continue from the first film. Also, the characters find themselves in altogether diverse circumstances. The sole similarity is that the house is haunted. In fact, the plot of BHOOT RETURNS bears a striking resemblance to the RGV-backed VAASTU SHASTRA [2004; Sushmita Sen, Chakravarthy], which was directed by Sourabh Usha Narang. RAAT had its share of spine-chilling moments. BHOOT had moments that gave you goose bumps. PHOONK had its share of thrills and chills. With BHOOT RETURNS, RGV attempts to make the viewer break into a cold sweat, with 3D enhancing the shock element. More recently, Vikram Bhatt’s RAAZ 3 hit the right notes and if BHOOT RETURNS delivers, the trend of horror films in 3D would only get an impetus. Does RGV get it right? Unfortunately, he doesn’t! The very first promo of BHOOT RETURNS generated tremendous curiosity, with a webcam capturing a kid playing with a shadowy creature [spirit?]. Immediately, comparisons were drawn with PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, the most celebrated film in this category. But BHOOT RETURNS doesn’t take an identical route. Though RGV uses the mandatory props to scare you [the movement of the camera, the knocks and screams et al], BHOOT RETURNS fails to jolt you. Also, there’s hardly any grip in the screenplay. Even the 3D experience is non-happening. We had witnessed better results in HAUNTED and RAAZ 3, in the same genre. Tarun [Chakravarthy] moves in with his family to a luxurious bungalow that he has acquired on a rather cheap rent. His wife Namrata’s [Manisha Koirala] curiosity over the seemingly low rent is quashed by their kids who readily approve of the new house. Soon, 10-year-old Taman and 6-year-old Nimmi find their own activities to do in the new house. Taman spends his time on videogames and TV, whereas Nimmi spends her time exploring the various spaces of the house. During one such exploration, Nimmi finds a cute looking doll. Soon, after the discovery of the doll, Nimmi starts including ‘Shabbu’ in all her activities. The family mistakes Nimmi’s new doll to be Shabbu. But they are shocked as Nimmi introduces the doll as ‘Dolly’ and points at an empty space and introduces her invisible friend as Shabbu. Soon, Tarun’s younger sister Pooja [Madhu Shalini] surprises the family by visiting them. As Tarun, Namrata and Pooja discuss Nimmi’s fixation over her imaginary friend Shabbu, the domestic help, Laxman, is sure of the presence of a spirit in Nimmi’s life. Each night at the bungalow seem to turn for the worse, all with knocks at unearthly hours, demonic sounds and eerie movements throughout the house. Pooja installs cameras at various places in the house. The footage from these cameras is proof enough for the already disturbed Namrata to take a decision to vacate the house. The otherwise cool-headed Tarun’s mind starts reeling as he sees the captured footage. The family finally decides to vacate the house. But Nimmi goes missing… Let’s not compare BHOOT RETURNS with the Hollywood inspirations. But when one compares it with RGV’s own creations [RAAT, BHOOT and PHOONK], one realizes BHOOT RETURNS ranks lowest on the list. After raising the bar of horror films with BHOOT, RGV lets you down badly this time. RGV teases the moviegoer at regular intermittent. Silence and stillness can create a stronger impact than frenzied, furiously fast-cutting frames or out of control effects. In BHOOT RETURNS, the scenes remain silent… then you get a jolt out of the blue, but the problem is that there’s too much waiting, which makes you fidgety after a point. The concluding moments also lack originality, while the final sequence seems ludicrous. Sandeep Chowta’s background score helps resurrect several ordinary sequences, which, otherwise, would’ve fallen flat. Cinematography is uninspiring, while the technology [3D] hasn’t been utilized to the maximum. There’s not much scope for histrionics here! Manisha handles her part with ease. Chakravarthy is monotonous. Madhu Shalini catches your attention with a fine act. The child artist, Alayna, looks adorable, but is far from convincing in the concluding stages. On the whole, BHOOT RETURNS is amongst RGV’s weakest films!