Saturday, March 17, 2018


Honest Joe
When asked to sign a report of an income tax raid, a witness comments that there is no use uncovering black money, if under the guise of welfare schemes, it is looted again by the very people it is confiscated from. Therein lies one of the problems of Raj Kumar Gupta’s well-meaning Raid.
Everyone hates paying income tax and very few know what happens to all that black money that is recovered in periodic raids, none of which must be half as exciting as the fictional one—“based on true stories”—shown in the film.  An IT raid does not have the same impact, as say a cop catching a gangster or a soldier killing the enemy. Slitting open mattresses and peering into drains to look for unaccounted for wealth, does not exactly make for gripping cinema; so Gupta has tried to liven up proceedings with heavy duty dialogue between the new IT boss of Lucknow and the local politician-strongman.
Amay Patnaik (Ajay Devgn) is so honest that he is constantly transferred, and his long-suffering wife Malini (Ileana D’Cruz) is resigned to packing and setting up home every few months.  The colleagues at his Lucknow posting say his enthusiasm about chasing tax evaders is like the noise a just-opened soda bottle makes.
When, on an anonymous tip-off,  Amay plans a raid on Rameshwar Singh’s (Saurabh Shukla) White House, they are nervous—one of them refuses to join because he is beholden to “Tauji.” 
Tauji is first amused, then irritated at the officer’s gumption; his large family stands around defiantly knowing that they cannot be touched. When money, gold, jewellery and incriminating papers start raining down, Tauji displays his gangster side.  It’s no spoiler, because it is in the promo, Tauji challenging Amay, “You managed to come in, how will you get out?” as his loyal hordes surround the mansion. Obviously tax-evasion does not tarnish their leader!
The film is set in 1981, the markers being Ambassador cars and rotary phones--there is very little drama and practically no suspense in an income tax raid, so the film is mostly theatrical verbal bluster. Ajay Devgn can play this scowling, upright officer in his sleep, but unlike the many cops he has portrayed, this one offers no scope for action. Shukla is a good actor, but just not menacing enough.
Gupta has stinted on the character development—you are informed that Amay is honest and Rameshwar Singh is corrupt, but nothing more about how they arrived at that point. Instead of a romantic song, the film could have given a peek into the working of the IT department and the implications of a raid.
Still, the film has to be lauded for focusing on everyday heroes, because of whom, the country is probably saved from descending into total chaos.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Hate Story 4 

Revenge On The Rocks

If there is a Hate Story 4, there must have been three before it, but it would require a lot of effort to recall any of them—they are that watch-and-forget. All seem to have one thing in common, a woman’s use of her body and sex appeal for revenge.  Which means that they star women with ‘strippable’ figures and a camera that lasciviously zooms on their body parts. So it has its audience cut out to, the kind that needs Hindi subtitles for elementary English dialogue,  like “Hey Baby”  (Aye suno).  And then, the makers have the gall to quote crimes against women statistics at the end, with an anti eve-teasing message.

Hate Story 4 has Urvashi Rautela as Tasha, whose butt is seen before her face, as she dances in a nightclub to seduce rich dude Rajveer (Karan Wahi).  So hot is she that Rajveer’s older brother Aryan (Vivan Bhathena) also lusts after her. Their father Vikram Khurana (Gulshan Grover), also gives her a once over, but has to be hands off, because he is standing for the mayoral elections in London. Aryan already has a girlfriend Rishma (Ihana Dhillon), so his scheme to get Tasha into bed causes some major complications that involve murder, blackmail and revenge.

The brothers are unmitigated creeps with women, but somehow lose whatever little sense they have over Tasha, who wanders around in tight/short cleavage-revealing clothes. So one brother gifts her a mansion, another gives her a swanky car, while the father frets over elections.  In the one song she has, Rishma shows skin too, but Aryan keeps her around because she is good in the bedroom and boardroom (his words). Still, he is not above spiking a woman’s drink to “take advantage” of her.

The film is so hilariously bad, with such convoluted dialogue that merrily throws in references to the Ramayan and Mahabharat.  Even though it is set in London, the film cannot help looking tacky, and between the dozen actors with speaking parts, there’s not one half-way decent performance. Still, for all you know, there will be a fifth film in the franchise!

3 Storeys  

Chawl Tales

The famous chawls of Mumbai are slowly vanishing from the city’s landscape. So Arjun Mukherjee’s portmanteau film, 3 Storeys, evokes a touch of nostalgia for a way of life that involved whole communities living in close proximity, and becoming like family to one another.

The three stories, narrated by a female voice revealed at the end, are woven around the chawl called Maya Nagar. They are unconnected, even though various characters living there saunter through all of them. The first—most interesting and most unconvincing too—involves a well-dressed Vishal Naik (Pulkit Samrat) willing to pay four times the price for a room in the chawl to the crabby Flory Mendonca (Renuka Shahane—artificially aged and padded).  As they make small talk over coffee after the deal is signed, the mystery of the overpriced room is revealed, and there is a just desserts kind of twist in the tale.

The other two stories are prosaic by comparison. One has unhappy, battered wife Varsha (Masumeh Makhija) and her broken heart; Shankar, the man she loved (Sharman Joshi), asked her to wait for a year  and never showed up. In the age of mobile phones, this contrived yarn about a tragic misunderstanding does not quite work.

In the third, a Muslim boy Sohail (Ankit Rathi) elopes with a Hindu girl, Malini (Aisha Ahmed), only to discover the shocking reason why their parents oppose their romance. In the background, is brightly-clad, siren (Richa Chadda) and her silent admirer, a burly cop, Ganpat (Himanshu Malik).

The cast is efficient, the film has a bearable running time, but it is not consistently engaging.  It’s set in a chawl just so that the narrator can look into the lives of the characters, since the somewhat open style of architecture encourages snooping; but the quaint Mumbai institution ought to have played a greater part in the narrative.  Think Jaagte Raho, Piya Ka Ghar and Katha among others.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety 

Fear Of Women

Luv Ranjan made two Pyar Ka Punchnama films, that were anti-women rants, so one would expect he got his inexplicable misogyny out of his system. But no, there’s a third, Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, in which a man tries to save is best buddy from women, who are, without exception nasty and manipulative.  If they are not, then there are too good to be true, and to be dumped anyway.

The “needs”, says Sonu (Kartik Aaryan) to Titu (Sunny Singh) can be fulfilled by any of the hundreds of girls looking for no-string affairs.  Titu is the softie who needs to be protected from controlling vixens, according to the childhood friend, who lives in the vast home of the Sharmas who made their fortune from mithai. Sonu has no family of his own, and the two young men seem to have no other friends either, apart from each other.  So Sonu and Titu can hook and chuck girls, but girls with a past are “chalu.”  All this, perhaps to explain, that they are not gay.  Just like Titu’s granddad Ghaseetaram (Alok Nath) and is best buddy Lalu (Virendra Saxena) are not. Lalu is the rakhi brother of Ghaseeta’s wife, and has been quietly absorbed into the family and made a partner in the business. They spend their time drinking on the terrace, Ghaseeta has done his duty by producing a son, who has produced  son, and that’s all what women are good for.  That, and as sex objects, who are seen shaking their bottoms in the song Bom Diggy Diggy.

Sonu has just extricated the bawling Titu from a doomed romance with Pihu (Ishta Raj), when Titu’s family arranges his marriage to Sweety (Nushrat Bharucha), a butter-won’t-melt-in-her-mouth kind of girl, who gets Sonu’s hackles up. He can’t find any flaws in her, which to him means she is fake. You are expected to believe that Sweety is a bitch, because she stymies all attempts by Sonu to get Titu to break up with her.. But Sonu is not seen as a monster, when he plays dirty, for no reason but that he is afraid of losing a friend and becoming a Lalu sort of bachelor uncle everyone makes fun of and pities.

It is a shallow film about moronic characters, so it is happy to coast along on easy laughs, when Sonu and Sweety go to war. Actually, they are a perfect match. The film has some gags as funny as cliched mother-in-law jokes, but Ranjan’s only agenda is to diss women, and they will probably laugh the loudest just to show their Titu-like boyfriends that they are such good sports. The next film should be about Sonu (and other characters played by Kartik Aaryan in Ranjan’s films),  being sent to the shrink. Kuchh to gadbad hai.

Saturday, February 17, 2018


Men At Arms

In the Hindi fantasy novels of Chandrakanta vintage, aiyaars were shape-shifting spies who were exerts with disguises, chemicals and medicinal herbs. Which is why the title of Neeraj Pandey’s new film, Aiyaari, made it sound exciting.  That it turns out such a dud is disappointing because Pandey has been behind thrillers like A Wednesday, Baby, Special 26 and Naam Shabana.

The idea of a covert intelligence unit that will be thrown under a bus if anything goes wrong, has been used in many films, including his own Baby. So is Aiyaari cobbled together from scenes left out of earlier scripts? It lacks the cohesion and tautness expected from a film by Pandey.

Right off, it displays it sloppiness, when the head of the covert unit, Colonel Abhay Singh (Manoj Bajpayee), goes to Egypt to kill a villain – who? why? not explained—and intends to kill him from the window of his hotel room, not with a sniper’s rifle, but a revolver. And then, incredibly, the bullets are in the hotel safe! So, no matter how well the chase and killing is shot in a busy Cairo market, the sequence is dead on arrival.

There are many such glitches scattered through the film, but the biggest flaws are its sluggish pace and incoherence. 
Abhay’s acolyte Major Jai Bakshi (Sidharth Malhotra), overhears, literally via an electronic fly on the wall (a General’s room is not routinely checked for listening devices!) an arms broker Gurinder (Kumud Mishra) offering the General (Vikram Gokhale) a bribe to pass bogus arms bills.  He must have also heard the refusal, but, concluding that the system is corrupt (which is no big secret), he goes rogue.
What exactly he means to do with the data he steals from his unit is not clear either, but a fuming Abhay chases him and his hacker girlfriend (Rakul Preet Singh, decorative) to London, from where a mysterious arms dealer Mukesh Kapoor (Adil Hussain) supposedly pulls strings in Delhi. There are needless flashbacks in Kashmir, which add to the film’s 160-minute run time, but nothing to the narrative.
Then, apropos of nothing, the whole mess is dumped in Mumbai and the Adarsh scam—which is no spoiler, because it has been revealed in the film’s publicity pieces—and the audience is left wondering about the connection.
Bajpayee (always dependable) and Malhotra (always bland) do get to don a couple of disguises each, but that hardly matters. The film just goes all over the place and though some individual scenes are interesting, the whole thing just never adds up.
The crucial question the film raises and answers vaguely, is why Indian ex-armymen become weapons dealers!  There is a film there, but Aiyaari is not it.

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