Friday, October 01, 2004

This Week's Duds! 

Popcorn Khao Mast Ho Jao:

Another extra colourful campus, which is more picnic spot than place of study; another empty headed teen flick trying to be oh-so-stylish, but not being able to disguise its archaic core. Ambition is bad? Oh yeah? Try telling that to the wannabes!

Kabir Sadanand’s debut feature does the MTV style song (half-clad bimbettes and all) picturisations well, but that’s where the competence ends. It looks like someone had something to say, but didn’t know how, so it came out all wrong.

Rebello High in Sanganer, spews forth aspiring music director Rahul (Akshay Kapoor) who belongs to a nerdy “kurta gang” of three—Tania (Tanishaa) and Goldie (Yash Tonk). Tania loves Rahul, Goldie loves Tania, Rahul is crazy about the college bombshell Sonia (Rashmi Nigam), who doesn’t even know he exists.

Rahul goes to Mumbai and puts forth the strange condition that he will not communicate with his buddies at all for five years. In Mumbai, without any apparent struggle, Rahul gets a bungalow to live in, a battered car to drive around, and a break with music baron VK (Deepak Tijori). Sonia happens to be VK’s daughter and has just returned from America with even more abbreviated clothing and a silly, querulous way of speaking.

Five years later, Goldie and Tania (now wearing in sarees and martyred expression), who have been doing nothing with their own lives, land up in Rahul’s backyard. They look aggrieved and exclaim “You’ve changed!” because Rahul has had a haircut, wears contact lenses, gets into near epileptic fits when Sonia is around and refuses to recognize his friends.

What on earth is this movie about? It aspires to be a Kuch Kuch Hota Hai or Ishq Vishk and doesn’t even reach Pyar Mein Kabhi Kabhi standards.

The director makes a cameo appearance as a ‘star’ (talk of aspiration) who keeps saying; “You know Hollywood?”

A more inept bunch of stuttering, grimacing, hammy actors would be hard to find. And they all speak Hindi in funny, jerky tone as if they meant to speak English but somehow a strange lingo came out.

Satya Bol

After Ardh Satya, Satya, Encounter, Kagaar, Ab Tak Chappan, Shool, Kurukshetra, Gangaajal…. you’d imagine almost everything had been said about cops-and-gangsters in the ‘realistic’ format. Sanjay Upadhyay’s Satya Bol takes its inspiration from all these films, and though it is an earnest, well made first effort, it has absolutely nothing more to add to the subject.

Jayant Barve (Manish Singh), a new recruit from Nagpur joins duty in Mumbai and has for company a fiery ‘encounter’ cop Shinde (Sayaji Shinde doing a Nana Patekar) and the laidback KP (Sachin Khedekar), who never picks up a gun and merrily shares bribes with his colleagues.

Jayant is supposed to be the son of a cop, but is hassled by corruption and violence (don’t cops watch movies, you wonder!), so much so, that he actually has a human rights debate with Shinde, while a gangster they have cornered looks hugely amused.

Like in Ardh Satya, an innocent man dies in custody while Jayant is venting his frustration and like in Kagaar, his life starts going to pieces. His wife (Tina Parakh) sees him beating up a man and leaves him—as if she expected cops to take criminals out to a drink and coax confessions out of them!

Still, Jayant’s descent into savagery and his pangs of conscience are dealt with sympathetically. The end could not but be dark and cynical.

Upadhyay (who used to assist Govind Nihalani before directing TV serials) shows sparks of talent, even in this hackneyed film, and now that he has made his debut, one would be interested in seeing what he does next.

Let’s Enjoy

Most of our youth films are made in Mumbai by Mumbai filmmakers, who don’t seem to think there’s anything more to life than romancing in the mountains.

For a change it’s good to see how the rest of the country lives. Siddharth Anand Kumar and Ankur Tewari’s Let’s Enjoy portrays Delhi’s upper classes and their foibles. Though the film is inspired by dozens of American teen flicks, it also manages a somewhat authentic voice the language is Indian English), and a quirky (often risqué) sense of humour.

Armaan (Ashish Chowdhry), typical rich Delhi dude, with wealth, a lack of purpose in life and a huge farmhouse, throws a party. Invited to it are his ex-girlfriend Shreya (Arzoo Gowitrikar) and a whole lot of ‘Dilli’ types. In the crowd of people, the film follows the story of Armaan and Shreya, a young couple desperate to make out, three teenagers trying to score with women, a hunky model-aspirant (the sweetest, most sympathetic character in the movie) gate-crashing into high society to look for a “chance” and a gay fashion designer who tries to pick him up.

At least Let’s Enjoy does not pretend that Indian youngsters are all innocence and virtue. They are—thanks to exposure to global culture—as devious, horny and boisterous as young people anywhere.

The ensemble cast is made up mostly of fresh faces who suit their parts and the music (Midival Punditz) is excellent. The film could have done with some pace and better dialogue, but after coming out of the moviehall, you don’t regret having seen it.

Dance Like A Man

Arguably Mahesh Dattani’s best play, Dance Like A Man makes for heavy, plodding cinema, though its intricately structured plot about gender and generational differences is important and relevant.

Jairaj (Arif Zakaria) from a wealthy Gujarati family, defies his rigidly traditional father (Mohan Agashe), to seek a career in classical dance along with wife Ratna (Shobana).

Their unhappy story of compromises and betrayals is intercut with the impending ‘arangetram’ of their daughter (Anoushka Shankar), who in turn is caught between her fiancé Vishal (Samir Soni) and the expectations of her parents.

Shobana has the finely shaded character who evokes both concern and contempt and the actress has delivered an outstanding performance—her dance pieces are also skilled and graceful. Arif Zakaria is well cast as the sad, disillusioned man who is crushed by his wife’s ambition and father’s inflexibility.

As the film moves back and forth in time, between the five main characters, you try to empathise with their problems, but are somehow left unmoved. More disturbing is what you read between the lines – the man who takes up a ‘feminine’ vocation is a wimp, a woman who cares about her career is a bad wife, careless mother, and manipulative human being.


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