Sunday, December 10, 2017

Fukrey Returns 

Boys Still Boys

The 2013 film Fukrey was mildly amusing and certainly not deserving of a sequel. Anyway, whether we want it or not Fukrey Returns, and it is Mrigdeep Singh Lamba who brings the four Dilli duffers back.

The review of the earlier film stated, “Over a period of time Hollywood has perfected the formula and identified its target audience of young men, who are most likely to flock to a film with slangy risque lines, a hint or promise of sex, a dash of bravado, stupid risks that pay off, and all turning out well in the end. The Hangover got it right--not dark enough to be disturbing, vulgar enough to make men snigger but not put off accompanying females. The same producers made Delhi Belly, an upmarket version of Fukrey. Good-for-nothing young buddies, brush with crime, controlled mayhem, and, throwaway funny lines that sound way better with a Delhi accent. However, keeping in mind Indian censors, not too much vulgarity.”  This applies to Part 2 as well.

Five years later, the four – Choocha (Varum Sharma), Hunny (Pulkit Samrat), Lali (Manjot Singh) and Zafar (Ali Fazal) seem to be in college still, and as good-for-nothing as before. But Bholi Punjaban (Richa Chadda) wrangles her way out of jail by bribing a minister Babulal (Rajv Gupta), collects her two black sidekicks and starts a business in organ trading. Panditji (Pankaj Tripathi) is around like a loose thread, perhaps because the actor now has a fan following; his comic timing is unbeatable.

The premonitions that Choocha used to get in the last film are contrived here, and lead to some very convoluted going-on to do with gambling and treasures in caves. Men get bitten on their bottoms by snakes and Choocha dreams of Bholi Punjaban as a nagin. There are the many cringe-worthy gags and a dash of homophobia. Two of the guys have girlfriends, who have roles smaller than a tiger cub that has a starring part. Don’t ask how or why!

Off screen, it is interesting to note that of the four ‘fukras’ only Ali Fazal has made something of his career, which is perhaps the reason why he looks so uninterested in this film. And who can blame him?

Friday, December 08, 2017


Brown Man’s Burden

There is downside to having a set image, audiences expect their hero to live up to it.  You’d think a film starring Kapil Sharma (also produced by him) would be cheeky and funny. Firangi, somnolently directed by Rajiev Dhingra is a clanger any way you look at it.

There is very little interest in Raj era films now, unless they are entertaining or ultra patriotic or both, eg. Lagaan.  Firangi seems to be inspired by that film, but then Sharma is no Aamir Khan. Worse, he is a bit overage to be playing a gullible young chap who believes the British are not all bad (“they built the railways”) or making gooey eyes at a village belle.

Manga (Sharma) is a happy—go-lucky Punjabi villager who is berated by his father for being jobless.  Which is why is cannot find a girl to marry him.  Then he finds work as an orderly to a Brit, Mark Daniel (Edward Sonnenblick), but the grandfather of the belle named Sargi (Ishita Dutta) won’t accept the proposal because he is a Gandhi-influenced freedom fighter.

Daniel is smart enough to figure out that the British won’t rule forever, so coaxes a nutty Raja (Kumud Mishra) to invest in a booze factory with him. The only problem is that the ideal site is Sargi’s village, and the  Raja orders the people to be evicted. How can the loyal servant of the British allow his beloved to be ousted from her home?
So he comes up with a hare-brained scheme to save the village. The film plods at snail’s pace, and lacks even a smidgen of humour.  Had it  been snappy and funny—which it could well have been—Firangi might  have been rescued.  But its fine supporting cast is wasted on a lethargic movie. At a run time of two hours and forty minutes, it’s akin to torture. Kapil Sharma does have screen presence and could act if he were given a role worth his while.  Better luck next time!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Kadvi Hawa 

Village Woes

In a scene from Nila Madhab Panda’s Kadvi Hawa, a village teacher is giving the kids a lesson on the seasons. According to the books, there are four, but a kid answers that there are two, summer and winter. “What about the monsoon?” the teacher snaps. The boy says, "It does rain two or three days a year, sometimes in winter, sometimes in summer."

Panda’s film is supposed to be about the devastation of climate change, but he approaches the subject in a roundabout way. Most of story is about farmers committing suicide because they are unable to repay bank loans. The audience has to make the connection that the land is arid because of a lack of rain caused by climate change.

Kadvi Hawa focuses on one family—a blind old man Hedu (Sanjay Mishra), his son Mukund (Bhupesh Singh), daughter-in-law Parvati (Tillotama Shome) and two granddaughters. When the film opens, Hedu makes a trip to the bank in town to inquire about his son’s debt and is rudely driven away because he does not have money to pay.

Back in the village, a farmer has hanged himself, and then news comes that a strict recovery agent, Gunu (Ranvir Shorey) has arrived; wherever he goes he causes a couple of suicides, earning him the nickname of Yamdoot. 

Gunu is from Orissawhere floods have destroyed him home and killed his father. He takes an assignment in this hot and dry area because he gets double the commission for recovery.

Hedu makes a kind of Faustian bargain with Gunu—if his son is left alone, he will give the recovery man information about which villager has money. (This gives the impression that some villagers do not want to repay loans.)

The film is more tell than show, a card at the end gives statistics of how many people died in “super cyclones,” and how many suicides have been caused by climate change and how many more people will be pushed into poverty by 2030, but the film itself leaves a lot unsaid.

It’s not as if the viewer is looking for suffering and tragedy, but Hedu’s family seems well fed. They live in a decent house and are not dressed in rags. The granddaughter goes to school, and the family has a cow. There is dialogue about Mukund having to go to the city to work at a construction site, presumably because there is not enough water for farming, but there is no indication of famine or a devastating water crisis.

Kadvi Hawa may have its heart in the right place, but think of films like Dharti Ke Lal, Do Bigha ZameenGodaan, Do Boond Paani about the tragedies of rural India, and one can see how the new film—made for a festival audience—falls short, despite excellent performances by Mishra and Shorey. Gulzar’s poem, Mausam beghar hone lage hain,  recited by him, at the end of the film, is a lot more impactful and thought-provoking.

Films about social issues must be made, and urban audiences must know how the other half lives, but if they do not reach an audience or appeal to them, the effort is wasted.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Tumhari Sulu  

Radio Daze

It’s is very disconcerting to note that in a 2017 film, a woman is guilt-tripped for wanting to have a career. If she has to shine at her job, she must fit in the husband’s wishes and adjust to his ego.

That out of the way,  Suresh Triveni’s Tumhari Sulu is refreshingly different, because it has an overweight, 12th fail, middle-class, Virar (only a Mumbai-ite will get the significance of that) resident homemaker as its heroine. Sulochana (Vidya Balan) gets through most of life’s minor travails with patience and a sense of humour;  problems like her twin sisters and father constantly berating her for her lack of education and ambition.

But her husband Ashok (Manav Kaul) overworked and underpaid manager in a garment factory, and schoolgoing son Pranav (Abhishek Sharma) love her; there is laughter and comfort in their lives, even if money is tight.  Sulochana or Sulu has a competitive streak, whether it’s striving to win a lemon-and-spoon races at Pranav’s school or acing colony contests like fastest vegetable-cutter.

When she wins a pressure cooker in a radio contest, she aspires to be a radio-jockey, and after some too contrived scenes, the head of the station, Maria (Neha Dhupia) gives the “sari wali bhabhi” a night slot, where she jabbers away with horny or lonely men (no women?) in her practiced sexy voice, as she shells peas for the next day’s meal (why? a nine pm show could not go on all night!)

There is a lot of warmth and humour till this point, and one hopes Indian cinema has got a character to match the iconic Lucille ‘Here’s Lucy’ Ball, with her exuberance and courage. But then Triveni drops the plot into cauldron of melodramatic clichés, as the husband, who is having job-related issues, starts sniping at her; the kid, for an inexplicable reason does something to give her grief, and the family’s wrath descends on her with full force.

If the film remains bearable it’s because Vidya Balan never takes her hands off the wheel, while Manav Kaul and Neha Dhupia offer solid support through their performances.  But count the number of women in films, getting ahead on her own terms, without guilt, without having to face negative repercussions for their ambition?  The list will fit on the fingers of one hand and Sulu won’t be on it.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Qarib Qarib Singlle 

Jab They Met

Imagine a role reversal of Jab We Met, instead of a chatterbox girl in love with herself, there’s a garrulous guy and instead of the guy being uptight, it’s the girl—and the formula works okay with Tanuja Chandra’s Qarib Qarib Singlle(why the double L?).  Romcoms are usually formulaic and hence predictable. So, there are no surprises in QQS, but there is humour and a joie de vivre, both supplied in copious quantities by Irrfan Khan as Yogi. If not for him, the film would deflate very quickly.

In fact, you wonder why a guy so extroverted and fun-loving would even need to go to a dating site to look for a partner. Jaya (Parvathy—playing it a little too stodgy) is a widow, who is doing well in her career, but her personal life is limited to baby-sitting her friends’ kids as pets—the typical ‘stepney aunty.’  His response to her profile on the site is the least creepy, so she agrees to meet him.  He is dressed garishly, has an opinion on everything, laughs at his own silly jokes and claims to be a rich poet.  He surreptitiously gets her password, her phone number and somehow bags a second date (a woman like Jaya would have run screaming in the other direction!), at which he reveals three lost loves of his life, all of whom, he believes, still weep for him. 

Between one thing and another, he is goaded by her to go meet the three ladies, and she is coaxed to come along. The reason to embark on the journey isn’t quite convincing, but anyway, the first meeting with the past girlfriend is genuinely funny, then the film goes all over he place, till the expected ending.

What works film are the lovely locations—Rishikesh, Jaipur and Gangtok--and Irrfan Khan’s killer charm even when being stonewalled by a dithering woman, who says one thing and thinks another, often looking hopefully at the camera and addressing the audience. Considering they are two grown-ups with a past, and seem to be attracted to each other, there is absolutely no overt sign of affection. She makes pathetic attempts to make him jealous, while getting jealous herself in drunk-cum-stoned state. Getting prissy woman high to get her to lose her inhibitions is a big movie cliché.

In spite of the no-stop chatter, you never really get to know the two characters, why they are the way they are, and what makes such opposites click.

As a date movie, QQS is fine, and Irrfan is likely to increase his fan base. If one were to go on a trip, then Mr Yogi would be voted as ideal travel mate—he can even get off-menu pakoras on a train!

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