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!


October 11th, 2012

Till a few years ago, Bollywood was known for churning out hero-centric movies. The leading ladies were treated as mere props or eye candy in most Hindi movies. That’s not all, heroine-centric themes were considered dicey, since not many were ready to invest their crores on stories that centred around female protagonists. But 2012 has made the naysayers chew their words. The year belongs to those gutsy film-makers and of course, the enterprising ladies who changed the rules of the game. Films like KAHAANI, JISM 2, RAAZ 3, HEROINE and ENGLISH VINGLISH challenged the male dominance at the box-office. Now AIYYAA, which rides on Rani Mukerji’s shoulders, is all set to break the stereotype. Like all Anurag Kashyap movies [he wears the producer’s hat this time, it’s directed by Sachin Kundalkar], AIYYAA takes on a novel premise and transports you to an altogether new world. This time, it’s about a middle class family living in Mumbai. What sets it apart is that this Maharashtrian girl – Tamil guy prem kahani [Rani, Prithviraj] is woven around the concept of smell/aroma. Also, a lot many middle class girls feel suffocated when they can’t choose the guy they want to spend the rest of their life with. In AIYYAA, the girl chooses her own groom, defying her family’s choice. But AIYYAA is not a serious take on the institution of marriage. It’s an amusing journey, actually. AIYYAA is a desi film at heart. Also, quirky and funny. But the humor is more of the Hrishikesh Mukherjee/Basu Chatterjee variety. What makes this film stand apart is that it does away with the crutches of big stars [except Rani], forced humor, unnecessary songs, international locales or grandiose sets. Its strength lies in its cohesive script and able performances. Meenakshi [Rani Mukerji] is a young Maharashtrian woman who is fixated with movies and movie stars and loves escaping into her make-believe world. She gets attracted to a painter, Surya [Prithviraj Sukumaran], because he smells good. But there’s a hitch: She’s all set to be engaged to Madhav [Subodh Bhave], who happens to be her parents’ choice. Although the plot is innovative, but skeletal, what keeps the film going is Sachin Kundalkar’s ability to stumble upon humor in the most ordinary situations. In fact, a number of sequences merit a mention here, but that would ruin the fun. Again, this is one of those rare movies where every actor, big or small, sparkles in their respective part. Wait, beyond the laughs and smiles, there’s a sensitive side to AIYYAA as well. The girl is eventually torn between the man she desires and the man she’s all set to be engaged to. The emotional conflict towards the concluding stages may seem convenient, but is completely satisfying nonetheless. Sachin catches the pulse of the Maharashtrian backdrop and does immense justice to the written material. Moreover, while the middle class setting of Mumbai has been explored in several Hindi movies, it looks so real in AIYYAA. The characters, their home, the verbal communication… everything seems original here. This director, in my opinion, is a prized find. On the flipside, it takes time to get the hang of things. Also, the first half seems stretched, with a few unnecessary sequences adding to the run time. But the second hour more than compensates for the deficiencies. Amit Trivedi’s music is already a sure-fire hit. ‘Dreamum Wakeuppam’ is already a chartbuster and so is ‘Aga Bai’. The tantalizing and enticing choreography of these two tracks [Vaibhavi Merchant] deserves distinction marks. The DoP [Amalendu Choudhary] captures the essence of the Maharashtrian surroundings beautifully. I’d like to make a special mention of the casting director [Chinmay Kelkar] for choosing actors who fit wonderfully well in their respective parts. AIYYAA is what it is for varied reasons and one of them is Rani’s livewire act. A complete natural, Rani glides through her part with brilliance. An accomplished actor, who can handle the comic sequences with as much flourish as the emotional ones, Rani is absolutely ravishing. Prithviraj, who has several South Indian films to his credit, does a super job in his first Hindi outing. He has striking screen presence, has worked hard to get in shape, but most importantly, he is a damn confident actor. Subodh Bhave is excellent and matches up to Rani on several occasions. Nirmiti Sawant [Rani’s mother] incites laughter in abundance. So does Jyoti Subhash [the grand-mom], who is too funny. Anita Date [as Maina, Rani’s colleague] is superb. Ditto for Ameya Wagh [Rani’s brother], who’s an actor to watch. Satish Alekar [Rani’s father], Kishori Ballal [Prithviraj’s mother] and Pakada Pandi [canteen boy] are wonderful in their respective parts. On the whole, there are reasons aplenty as to why AIYYAA becomes a deserving watch. It’s arresting, amusing, entertaining and of course, thoroughly enjoyable, with Rani’s splendid act, refreshingly different plot, winsome songs, pleasant humor and terrific moments as its aces. Don’t miss it!