Friday, September 16, 2005

4 This Week 


Vivek Agnihotri should have attempted something simpler for his first film. But no, he takes his inspiration from The Usual Suspects and fashions a suspense thriller that moves at bullock cart pace, but tries to be so smart that it trips over its own shoe laces.

Set in London, where two Indians are arrested for a heist, hotshot Indian lawyer Krishna Pandit (Anil Kapoor) is recruited by scoop chasing journalist Monsoon (Sushma Reddy) to defend them. Haughty, cigar puffing Pandit tries to get the two, Pipi (Irrfan Khan) and Sim (Tanushree Dutta) to tell him what happened to them, but they surround him in a haze of lies and half-truths.

As multiple stories of the duo’s gang (Sunil Shetty, Arshad Warsi, Emraan Hasmi) emerge, you keep asking yourself, hullo, what’s going on and why. There is a character named Rashomon (after the Akira Kurosawa classic about subjective points of view), just in case someone did’t get the point. The names, as a matter of fact, are all bizarre—Monsoon, Chip, Sim, Rocker and so on.

The mind games between Pandit and his two clients get tiresome after a while, and what goes on is not remotely engaging. The actors? Even Anil Kapoor gets transplanted into an ill-assorted forest of teak.

The cool winter look of London is fabulously captured by the cameraman Attar Singh Saini, and the music (Pritam) is foot-tapping. But at least you don’t have to suffer the movie to enjoy the music!


Bits and pieces of Ram Gopal Varma’s older films keep turning up in his new films, directed by his ‘Factory’ protégés.

James, made by Rohit Jugraj is about the no-surname protagonist (Mohit Ahlawat), who comes from Goa to Mumbai, without any baggage of the past. He stays with a friend, and within a few days of being in the city, gets a job, falls in love, falls afoul of a don and is on the run with his lady love (Nisha Kothari).

James could well have turned into Satya (the eponymous hero of Satya), but he chooses to remain resolutely on the side of what is right. He actually talks about Izzat (Honour) over Life, the code of the warrior.

After a long time, we get to see a truly heroic, macho hero, who sticks his neck into other people’s business (rescuing a couple from goondas in the train), because he is strong enough to know no fear. James has influences from Bollywood potboilers starring Dharmendra, early Amitabh Bachchan, Sunny Deol ad Ajay Devgan— tough brooding men, who won’t take bullshit from anyone, old lone-ranger cowboy movies, Japanese Yakuza films and, of course Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill.

What Jugraj does, however, is cut out all the flab and make James a lean, mean film. He doesn’t waste much time developing plot-- no diversions into family scenes, protracted courtship rituals, needless emotions—and gets straight to the point. Baddies chase Hero. Hero Wins.

The Baddies are powerful dons Shanti Narayan (Zakir Hussain), his power-crazed brother Radhe (Shereveer Vakil) and their gang of sniggering hoods and corrupt cops. Radhe

It may have a seen-that feel to it—the chase in the jungles, the romantic interlude in a swanky forest bungalow, James breaking tough bonds to escape the villains and the climactic sword waving fight in the rain— and you have to be a fan of old-fashioned Good-Vs-Evil action movies to enjoy James.

Kal :Yesterday and Tomorrow

Every time a new filmmaker attempts to break the mould, you stand up to applaud, even though, more often than not, you end up with the chair pulled out from under you.

Ruchi Narain, writes and directs an overly convoluted sage of love, loyalty and betrayal that leaves you thoroughly disoriented and bored. Kal: Yesterday and Tomorrow, zigzags back and forth into the lives of Bhavna (Chitrangada Singh), Tarun (Shiny Ahuja) and Maya (Smriti Mishra).

Tarun had dumped Bhavna to marry rich girl Maya Jalan, who was his ticket to wealth. A year or so later, Bhavna is still moping about heartbroken, when Tarun staggers into her apartment drunk, and Maya is reported dead. The husband is the prime suspect, and the whole sordid Jalan family saga is played out in the media. Bhavna new admirer Rohan (Ram Kapoor) is a TV reporter and narrator of the story.

Bhavna tries to protect Tarun out of some inexplicable sense of devotion, but he lands up in hospital in a coma, more people are killed, and her family is targetted for vendetta. In the end Bhavna has to figure out what’s going on and do something about it.

A germ of a good idea, ruined by too much ‘treatment’, is that is possible—constant replaying of events through video images on laptop screens, too much (un)steadycam, and too many pots over too many fires. And to add to its woes, way too many script flaws. Experimenting with form and style is all very well, provided the director doest go overboard with it.

All the young actors talk like they were in an American soap, but god knows how Hindi was coming out of their mouths. Narain does not succeed in making you care for a single character – not the self-pitying Bhavna, not the hysterical Maya, and not the social-climbing Tarun. In the untidy clutter of characters, Boman Irani (as Bhavna’s supportive father) and Ram Kapoor stand out.

Sau Jhooth Ek Sach

A girl commits suicide. A stern looking cop lands up at the home of rich industrialist Vikrant Pradhan (Vikram Gokhale) to investigate. On the surface, Pradhan and his family have nothing to do with the girl’s death, but actually, they are all directly or indirectly responsible.

Bappaditya Roy’s first feature Sau Jhooth Ek Sach is taken from JB Priestly’s classic morality tale An Inspector Calls. For most part, Roy sets the film in the Pradhan home, where the pompous man, his wife (Lillete Dubey), son (Kiran Janjani), daughter (Neha Dubey) and her fiancé (Joy Sengupta) lurk nervously under Inspector Vivek’s (Mammootty) piercing gaze.

The film is based on a 1944 play that is dated, and hammers the rich creeps- versus-angelic poor message much too heavily. Even though Roy takes the film out of the grand bungalow to tell each story, there is something stagy and pedantic about the film. There is the clever device of using a different girl, when each member of the family spills out his/her guilty secret—that makes the random cruelty of the rich towards the vulnerable look generic.

The film has a lush visual quality particularly the interior shots, and the performers are all competent enough. Audiences looking for offbeat entertainment might want to check this one out, but also be prepared for large doses of tedium interspersed with the watchable bits.


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