Monday, March 09, 2009


13 B

What would happen if a TV serial makes an appearance in just one household, and mirrors what is happening there?

Vikram Kumar uses this ghost-in-the-machine premise to tell a fairly chilling horror tale, the biggest fault of which is its patience-sapping running time. When strange things start happening to Manohar (R Madhavan) after he moves with his joint family to flat 13B in a highrise, he is unable to explain it – why does the lift refuse to work only when he wants to use it, why can't a nail be hammered into a wall, why does the blind neighbour's dog refuse to enter the house?

By and by Manohar figures out that the TV serial Sab Khairiyat Hai, that the women of his household are hooked to, is mirroring exactly what is happening in their own home, and some events that the serial predicts are scary. (How comes the women don't make the connection too? Does TV sap women's brains?)

Repetitive though it is, till the point that Manohar and his cop buddy (Murli Sharma) are tightly wound up with tension and terror, the story is intriguing. Unfortunately the explanation and denouement are convoluted and long-winded.

The director uses all the standard audio and visual (shot by master cinematographer PC Sreeram) tricks of the genre-- creaking doors, rain, power outages – but to his credit, does not overdo them. The scares are real and not cheated at with sudden noises and tawdry special effects.

The film rests almost entirely on Madhavan's (he tends to tip into overacting often) shoulders, with some help from Sharma, Dhritiman Chatterjee as the blind neighbour, and Sachin Khedekar as the family doctor. The other members of the family (Neetu Chandra, Poonam Dhillon, etc) are there just to make cheerful background noises. The film could have done without songs and tighter editing would have made a world of difference. Still, fans of the horror genre will probably enjoy it.

Dhoondte Reh Jaaoge

You don't know whether to commend Umesh Shukla for his taste or berate him for his audacity in stealing the plot from one of the best-loved comedy classics-- The Producers, in which a down on his luck film producer and a creative accountant plan a scam that involves making such a bad film that it flops, so that they can escape with the investors' money.

In the original, a part of the ingenuity lay in making a film so designed to fail that ends up becoming a hit-- the film-within-film called Springtime for Hitler, was a mini comic masterpiece in itself, while in his Dhoondte Reh Jaaoge, Shukla has put together, a juvenile extended skit, knitting together plots from several Hindi films and calling it Solay se L'gaan Tak.

A lot of our directors and actors don't seem to realise that comedy works best if it isn't played out like an exaggerated farce, if actors didn't look as if they were trying too hard to make the audience laugh. In DHR, only Paresh Rawal gets it right. He plays flop producer Raj Chopra, who has creditors at his door and no financier or actor willing to touch him.

Anand Pawar (Kunal Khemu) is a chartered accountant, who gets fed-up of being poor and jobless, so comes up with the scheme of making the ultimate flop. They get a broke hero (Sonu Sood), Anand's homely girlfriend Neha (Soha Ali Khan) to act, an obviously nutty writer (Johny Lever) to script it and Neha's moronic uncle (Dilip Joshi) to direct. Despite their best efforts, the film succeeds.

A few scenes are funny, but most gags are stretched till they sag (like the one involving the hero's broken affair and his duplicates). Can be watched on a really idle day, but certainly not a must-see. Catch the original Mel Brooks' classic instead, not the 2005 musical (from the stage version) remake.

Karma Aur Holi

Karma Aur Holi would do well to market itself as a comedy-- going by the raucous laughter at a preview, it was certainly funnier than this week's 'official' comedy Dhoondte Reh Jaaoge.

What makes the experience of watching it infinitely worse, is that it had been dubbed very badly into Hindi, so even American characters speak stilted Hindi and say stuff like, “Main item se saath jacuzzi mein masti kar raha tha.”

The least the producers and director Manish Gupta could have done, is had some respect for the audience and let the Americans speak English. In any case the target audience for the film is the urban multiplex cinegoer, who understands English.

Cliché ridden though the idea may be, on paper it doesn't sound so bad. A group of disgruntled NRIs with a variety of secrets and problems land up at the mansion of a yuppie couple Meera and Dev (Sushmita Sen-Randeep Hooda) a day before Holi, to celebrate the festival.

There's Meera's hyper older sister (Rati Agnihotri) with her husband (Suresh Oberoi), and troubled teenage son (Chandan Sethi); there's an MCP doctor (Shauvik Kundagami), his subservient wife (Suchita Krishnamoorthy), and her sexy sister (Deepal Shaw); an aspiring Muslim filmmaker (Armin Amiri) with a black girlfriend (Naomi Campbell), a tarot reader, a business partner and so on.

The hosts have financial problems and a marriage straining at the leash, the others have it much worse. So to defuse a potentially explosive situation, the assembled guests get drunk and decide to play Truth or Dare. Out come the hidden traumas, and you know, come Holi, there will be a threatened divorce, a pregnancy or two, one character liberated and another sexually awakened... thankfully no funeral.

Gupta must have aimed at a Monsoon Wedding, but just ends up in a lot of slush. Even with a decent cast, the film is unforgivably trite and amateurish; it tries and fails to bring up several NRI issues (racism, for one), and actually manages to make Sushmita Sen and supermodel Naomi Campbell look dowdy.


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