Saturday, November 10, 2018

Thugs OF Hindostan 

Big And Boring

Talk of waking up after the ship has sailed. Hollywood is tiring of the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise (which went on for far too long, considering its origins as an amusement park ride), and a filmmaker in Mumbai suddenly gets inspired. Vijay Krishna Acharya’s Thugs Of Hindostan gets Aamir Khan to play a Jack Sparrow type and hopes the rest will fall into place.
It’s not as though one expects historical or geographical authenticity from a commercial Bollywood film, but some accuracy would have helped. First of all, in a film with Thugs in the title, there is very little Thugee. There is a band of merry men and some women under Khudabaksh Jahaazi aka Azaad,  (Amitabh Bachchan), who want independence from British rule, but they are not Thugs.
The film opens in 1795, when the stone-faced devils from the British East India company kill rajas and steal kingdoms. One such is snatched from Zafira’s (Fatia Sana Shaikh) family, and she is saved by Azaad so that he can teach her how to use a bow and arrow. Eleven years later, a crook who calls himself Firangi Mallah (Aamir Khan) rides in on a donkey and gives the red-uniformed tax collectors in the employ of the Brits a tough time.
But he is a kind of double agent, who collects from both sides, so when John Clive (Lloyd Owen) wants him to spy on Azaad, he plays one against the other, with his quick thinking and glib tongue. He also acquires a sidekick (Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub) who serves no useful purpose, and between intrigues, gets the time to shake a leg with a sexy dancer Suraiya (Katrina Kaif), who wears very tiny costumes and does some Sheela Ki Jawaani kind of moves when they were not even invented.
Firangi, who wears a lot of jewellery and a top hat, wins the heart of Azaad, and they much  buddy stuff, but the Brits keep interrupting.  They are the kind of caricature ‘gora’ fools who speak to each other in Hindi, seat a scruffy spy at the head of a table and watch him eat, and celebrate Dussehra with the natives. Pity, no cricket!
There is plenty of storming of ships, swinging on ropes, sword fights and shootouts, but not a minute of excitement or an iota of thrills, as characters dressed in grungy chic costumes, odd headgear and tattoos,  rush about looking for a lost plot with loud background music.  Only Aamir Khan, with his twinkling eyes and dazzling smile, looks like he is having fun—at least he gets some witty lines.  This is the kind of film that could drive Amitabh Bachchan into retirement! 
Oh, and btw, was the hawk that glides around the rebel camp, picked from Guru Dutt’s pirate adventure Baaz (1953)?  Sixty-five years ago, they could swagger and swashbuckle better than these folk with a huge budget and expensive CGI at their disposal.

Saturday, November 03, 2018


No Scares Here

A family driving down a dark winding road see a stroller with a strange looking doll in it, and are quite unperturbed by it, even though after Chucky the killer doll of the Child’s Play movies, they should have been warned of the horrors to follow. The audience, however, knows exactly how the story of Lupt will play out; to make it easier, director Prabhuraj starts leaving clues right at the start.

Harsh Tandon (Jaaved Jaafferi) is an overambitious businessman, who wants to be at the very top; so he snaps at everyone in the office, and at his unhappy-looking wife Shalini (Niki Walia) at home. But when he starts hallucinating, a friendly shrink tells him insomnia is causing his mind to see things, and suggests a vacation.
 Harsh reluctantly piles Shalini, son Sam (Rishabh Chaddha), daughter Tanu (Meenakshi Dixit) and her boyfriend Rahul (Karan Aanand) into a car and sets out for Nainital. A traffic jam makes him take a veer onto a desolate road through a dark forest, where they encounter the doll-in-stroller and then a creepy man, Dev (Vijay Raaz), who offers them shelter in his “outhouse” located nearby, when their car breaks down. Sam, who is fond of playing macabre pranks gets a warning “sab marenge” from the switched-off car radio, but who would take him seriously? Besides, what choice do they have but to accept Dev’s hospitality.

Lupt must be the mildest horror movie ever made, with flickering lights, a creaking , a spooky log cabin in the middle of nowhere and pasty-faced ghosts, meant to scare audiences, who have undoubtedly seen worse.
For some reason, Jaaferi copies Amitabh Bachchan; Vijay Raaz looks suitably blank since he doesn’t really have much to do; the other actors just carry on gamely, probably aware that like the road in the film, Lupt won’t take them anywhere.

Jack And Dil 

No Brain, No Heart
This is how it must have gone, the director or writer of Jack And Dil, while channel surfing one day, must have come across Carol Reed’s lovely film, Follow Me (based on a Peter Shaffer play), starring Topol as a detective hired by a rich man to spy on his wife, played by the enigmatic Mia Farrow. She is not having an affair, as the husband suspects, so the pursuit takes an unexpected turn.
Jack And Dil (somebody thought it was a clever title) takes the idea and mangles it beyond recognition. So, “unemployed by choice” Jack (Amit Sadh) lives in trendily messy Goa pad, is obsessed with detective stories, and is struggling to write one.  He “falls in love at first sight” with a pug on TV and wants one for himself. Rich guy, no-first-name Walia (Arbaaz Khan) has one to sell for a lakh, which Jack does not have. So Walia strikes a deal, if Jack follows his wife Shilpa (Sonal Chauhan) and producers proof of her infidelity, he will give the amateur detective the money.
Shilpa spots Jack in no time, and he starts hanging out with her, to save time and effort, realizing that she is lonely, because Walia is too busy making strange deals with a Japanese team. He no longer does the “idiotic” things he used to when they were dating, so she spends her time painting or wandering around scenic Goa. Jack, who has broken up with his girlfriend, model Lara (Evelyn Sharma), is attracted to Shilpa, but prods Walia into wooing his wife again.
On paper, it sounds like a doable romcom, but with an indifferent script, uninspired performances, forgettable music, Jack And Dil is just a lot of hot air—no heart, no brain.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Badhaai Ho  

Baby Boom
The most remarkable thing about Amit Ravindernath Sharma’s film Badhaai Ho, is the subdued romance between a middle-class, middle-aged couple, surrounded by family and the hassles of routine.
The idea of an older woman finding herself pregnant has been done in a comic way in the popular 1962 Broadway play Never Too Late(also made into a film) and the film Father Of The Bride 2. Sharma and his writer (Akshat Ghildial) have placed their story in a Delhi colony, in the midst of a bustling, tambola-playing neighbourhood.
Railway employee Jitendra ‘Jitu’ Kaushik (Gajraj Rao) is a closet poet (“Gulzar bane phirte ho” a colleague mocks) and when reading poetry to his usually harried wife Priyamvada (Neena Gupta), an unguarded moment of intimacy happens; and a few weeks later, she discovers she is pregnant. In small town India, this is no big deal, quite often a woman and her eldest offspring have kids at the same time, but here, it creates a storm.
The Kaushik sons, Nakul (Ayushmann Khurrana) and Gular (Shardul Rana) are shocked and embarrassed. The grandmother (Surekha Sikri) wants to know when they found the time, adding that even in their time they knew of Nirodh. The circle of neighbours, friends and relatives are amused or appalled and find ways to make fun of the two and tease the sons. In a dull subplot, Nakul is dating the posh Renee (Sanya Malhotra) and there is a hitch in their relationship due to this development in his family. Her elegant mother (Sheeba Chaddha) quite rightly wonders how Renee (Priyamvada cannot pronounce her name, and Jitu inexplicably bursts into halting English with her!) will fit into that family, and how they will manage the financial and health burdens of a new child.  Which just serves to make Nakul suddenly appreciate his family more!
The film is neither a comedy nor high drama, but made up of brilliant little moments, subtle expressions caught at just the right moment, and the wonderfully evocative dialogue. Gajraj Rao, with his shy smile, and eyes that shine with tenderness towards his wife has given one of the finest performances of the year; Neena Gupta is marvellous, but not given much to do—instead of focusing on her, the film wanders over to the Nakul-Reene romance that does not have half the spark that the older couple’s comfortably prosaic love does.

Namaste England 

Hello, Goodbye
Mainstream Bollywood cinema of a certain period was happy to throw logic and good taste to the winds, and got scenes written on the sets whenever the stars turned up. Even by those low standards, Namaste England is a dud.
So in a pind in Punjab, Param (Arjun Kapoor) stalks Jasmeet (Parineeti Chopra) over several festivals—in that state, people seem to do nothing but dance—till she comes up to talk to him. His excuse for this creepy behavior is, “Ashiq ghoorte nahin, niharte hain.”  Whatever!  
To facilitate their meeting and allow her to work as a jewellery designer without her conservative grandfather finding out, all her friends call the old man with excuses to invite her over. Eventually, a proposal is made the formal way, and the stern grandpa says yes, provided Jasmeet does not work after marriage.
For some reason, Jasmeet does not think of moving to a big city in India, but gets obsessed with going to London; women in India ostensibly cannot have careers! A friend-turned-foe has such connections that he blocks Param’s visa to every country in the world—even Bangladesh! So Jasmeet has a sham marriage with Sam (Aditya Seal) so that she can go to London on a “marriage visa,” get her residency, then divorce him, go back and fetch Param over!
It can’t get sillier than this!  While Jasmeet changes into Western outfits and looks after Sam’s ailing grandfather, Param goes to London illegally cutting border wires and hiding in shipping containers. Once there, he decides to have a fake marriage with Alisha (Alankrita Sahai) to make Jasmeet jealous… and so it goes, throwing common sense out of the window along with the law.
After showing that Indians—and the token homesick Pakistani—are basically dishonest and have scant respect for British immigration rules, Param has the temerity to give a lecture on the greatness of India, and predict a future when everyone will want to be Indian, because—get this—India sent Mangalayan to Mars at the cost of a rickshaw ride! (What were these guys drinking!)
Arjun Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra did their bit to promote this awful movie, and must be fervently wishing it out of their filmography. They should pray, for the sake of their careers, that audiences either don’t watch Namaste England or forget it as soon as they see it!

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