Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Three Duds! 

Banaras: A Mystic Love Story

At various moments characters in Pankuj Parshar’s Banaras: A Mystic Love Story intone ponderously, “Yeh Banaras Hai” to tell us that this is the place that has a strange spiritual power. All we can see, however, is postcard visuals of the holy city, and a weird mysticism that demands suspension of rationalism and wants you to believe that a wandering ghost (Naseeruddin Shah) can do everything from teach music to curing cancer. More absurd than mystical.

Banaras throws all kinds of pop-spirituality at us (lines like “Jo sahej hai, jo saral hai, wohi satya hai…. Meaning what?), but can’t figure out what it wants to be.

Brahmin girl Shwetambari (Urmila Matondkar) falls in love with lower caste musician Soham (Ashmit Patel). They sing songs and have supposedly profound philosophical discussions, but nothing to suggest that this is a deeply spiritual union. So when Shwetambari says lines like “Soham is not just a person, but a feeling, how can anyone live without feeling?” you wonder if she is talking about the same blank faced youth we see on screen, and who at one point has a big divine moment, that is made up of primitive computer effects!

Shwetambari’s father (Raj Babbar), who had, just a few scenes back, pulled his feet back from Soham’s respectful touch, now happily invites him home for Holi and agrees to a wedding. But Soham is found dead and Shwetambari starts behaving strangely—hystrical one minute, and the next dressing up and acting like a nautch girl.

In trying to explain Banaras to a skeptical doctor (Akash Khurana), Shwetambari probably finds her own calling and becomes a godwoman in distant Mauritius, doling out philosophy in easy bites.

Sixteen years later, she returns to her father;s deathbed and confirms from her mother (Dimple Kapadia), the truth of Soham’s death.

The problem is that the film goes off on tangents so often, that you can’t bring yourself to care for Shwetambari’s plight. There is no passion in her romance, no drama in her supposedly revolutionary step of wanting to marrying a lower caste man. And as for the film being called Banaras, the story could have happened anywhere, Parashar does not use the city as a metaphor of any kind.

Urmila Matondkar who is the centre of the film does grief and hysteria wellm but subtlety is still beyond her grasp.

Saawan: The Love Season

It’s not as if Saawan Kumar Tak was ever a great filmmaker, but after so many films, and a few of them hits, you’d think he’d have learnt how to direct. His latest Saawan: The Love Season seems to be a collection of scenes randomly put together with no sense or logic.

Salman Khan, who apparently did this film as a favour to the director (and was the reason why even those ten people wandered into the cinema hall), plays a doomsday prophet, who wanders around the film with no apparent purpose, and has conversations with God-- and God actually replies!

When Salman’s not around, Johny Lever is being chased by his ‘wife’ (Bobby Darling). When these two are not doing their painful comedy act, the official ‘hero’ and ‘heroine’ of the film are singing and dancing all over from Mumbai to Cape Town to Dubai. After all this wrapping is removed, comes a tiny plot about a girl who is told (by Salman) that she will die by Friday. So? So nothing. She sings some more and Salman sportingly allows the skinny hero to batter him to death.

Tough to decipher what Saawan Kumar Tak was trying to pull off; it’s a lot of money to blow up (foreign locations and all!) to make such a senseless film. And then it doesn’t even rain anywhere in Saawan!

Shaadi Se Pehle

Sample the humour.
Guy meets girl, says: Is your dad a terrorist?
Girl: No… why?
Guy: Because you are a bomb.

And instead of slapping guy and flouncing off, girl falls in love with him. Which is the start of our problems with Satish Kaushik’s desperate-to-succeed comedy Shaadi Se Pehle. If bikini-clad Mallika Sherawat cooing that she can teach all of India to kiss is not desperate, what is? (Sad because she looks better in Indian outfits and can even act a little when she drops the I’m-so-sexy pose.)

Ashish (Akshaye Khanna) the future advertising creative head who uttered that appalling pick-up line, makes a small fortune to impress Rani’s (Ayesha Takia) parents, then turns into a hypochondriac (inspired by the old chestnut Send Me No Flowers). Overhearing his doctor (Boman Irani-- hilarious) talking of a cancer patient, Ashish thinks it’s him and gets into a panic.

Along with friend Shayar Kanpuri (a high decibel Rajpal Yadav), he does crazy things like buying a plot for a tomb, and wood for cremation. Then he figures out that he must get Rani to hate him or she won’t be able to face his death.

Sania (Mallika Sherawat—half-dressed) turns up just when all Ashish’s plans fail, and since she takes a shine to him, Rani is finally put off. But Ashish’s troubles don’t end. Sania turns out to be the sister of mafia don Anna (Sunil Shetty), who accepts Ashish into the fold with alacrity and won’t take no for an answer. (This from Mickey Blue Eyes). By the time Ashish figures out he is not dying, he can’t shake Anna off, and Rani has taken up with his rival Rohit (Aftab Shivdasani).

Shaadi Se Pehle could boast of some funny scenes, a couple of good gags and a few chuckle worthy lines, but the comedy is mostly clunky. Akshaye Khanna, who lacks the comic panache of a Govinda, is made to wear (why didn’t he protest?), violently coloured clothes, red shoes, ridiculous looking hairstyle and a permanently puzzled expression. If at all the film does some business at the box office, it won’t be because of its merits, but because audiences are in a mood for comedy.


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