Friday, January 13, 2006



When directors run out ideas, they revisit their own old films. Rajkumar Santoshi’s Family takes the germ of the idea from Ghayal (man avenging his brother’s murder), and fashions a dreary revenge drama. Considering he co-wrote the screenplay and dialogues himself, he was clearly not too interested in this khichdi, because even his worst film China Gate, had some sparks-- Family is a non-starter from the word go.

A very clumsy contrast is set-up between two families -- gangster Viren Sahai (Amitabh Bachchan) described as so powerful that his influence runs from “sadak to sarkar” goes to any lengths to protect his wayward son Abir (Sushant Singh). His life of crime has alienated his wife (Shernaz Patel) and the rest of the family. On the other side is Shekhar Bhatia (Akshay Kumar), who also goes to any lengths to protect his shiftless brother Aryan (Aryaman), but this is a happy ‘together’ family.

Then, newly married (to Bhumika Chawla) Shekhar is accidentally killed by Viren, and Aryan swears to make him pay. He gets together with his pals, with laughable ease, kidnaps Viren Sahai’s entire family, and gets the “most powerful” gangster all hot under the collar.

A lot of the first half is wasted in Shekhar’s boring romance, and two songs are conferred on Aryaman—including the now mandatory one with bikini babes—just because his father paid for his debut by co-producing the film. When the Akshay Kumar character dies, the life goes out of the film, because it now rests on newcomer Aryaman’s unworthy shoulders. The script goes haywire too, as chases happen in crowded bazaars and hospitals, and the abducted family cowers in fear, when they had any number of occasions to escape.

Santoshi does not create any empathy between the captors and the victims, which might have made some sense. The film staggers all over the place, has Viren massacre a battalion of cops, and finally confront Ayraman to squeak out the raison d’etre for the entire three hour muddle, “How come your family is better than mine?”

This must be the worst, most ill-defined role given to Amitabh Bachchan in the recent past—strange, considering his company co-produced Family. There is no sense of tragedy or doom in his constant defense of his son, even when Abir has done the indefensible. Worse, he is given a white pin-striped suit to wear through most of the film, and puff away on a cigar, with sunglasses hiding his hypnotic eyes. Still, even on a bad day, an ordinary-looking, lisping Aryaman is no match for him. Pitching the two against each other is unfair to both!


The imdb.com synopsis for Chan-Wook Park’s Korean film Oldboy reads:
After being kidnapped and imprisoned for 15 years, Oh Dae-Su is released, only to find that he must find his captor in 5 days.

The synopsis for Sanjay Gupta’s Zinda reads:A man, taken and locked up for 14 years without any sane reason, is suddenly released, and has 4 days to figure out why this was done to him.

Coincidence? Copying? Inspiration? In keeping with Gupta’s past record of never having made an original film, this one’s a almost straight lift, with some toning down of truly disturbing scenes (eating a live octopus, incest), but leaving in plenty of gore (teeth being pulled out with a hammer, a drill being rammed into a man’s body) to make the violence titillating.

The plot is totally bizarre and illogical, and requires total suspension of disbelief. Balajeet Roy (Sanjay Dutt, perfectly cast, despite odd wig), just settling in Bangkok with his wife (Celina Jaitley) is suddenly abducted and locked up in a cell, no explanations offered. His wife is murdered and he is framed for it, so even if he did escape, he would be arrested.He is fed fried wontons twice a day, and periodically drugged. His captor is sure that after he is released the ‘monster’ he created will come after him like raging bull, and that’s exactly what happens.

After 14 years, Bala is released and deliberately given clues to reach his unknown foe.With the help of his friend (Mahesh Manjrekar) and an Indian cabbie Jenny (Lara Dutta) he reaches tycoon Rohit Chopra (John Abraham—charmingly evil), who has his own reason for doing what he did to Bala – though why he used such twisted and long-drawn-out method of revenge is not clear. And after all that, why does he withdraw in the end? Because an Indian audience would not be able to stomach Park’s version?

Korean films are known for their explicit use of sex and violence—but what the Cannes Festival jury found award worthy is not necessarily watchable. There is really no need to copy such senseless films, that do not connect to an Indian audience, just to show off some spiffy, derivative ‘style’!


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