Wednesday, June 24, 2009

PG and Let's Dance 

Paying Guest

Move 1966 Mumbai to 2009 Bangkok, and you have a remake of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Biwi Aur Makaan. That film was reportedly a remake of Bengali Jaya Che Kali Boarding and was later made into a Marathi film called Ashi Hi Banwa Banwi by Sachin.

Maybe the men in drag as a comic device needed a fresh plot to make it work. Paritosh Painter’s Paying Guest, may have been based on a successful play, but as a film, it starts off at a disadvantage. The plot is old and totally predictable. The audience’s willingness to see the film, then depends on their curiosity—do they really want to see Jaaved Jaffery and Shreyas Talpade parade around as over-dressed women?

Four friends (Ashish Chauhary and Vatsal Sheth are the other two) live together in Pattaya, and happen to be thrown out of their jobs and rented home on the same day. At the only other paying guest joint (a swanky villa, actually) they can find, the landlords Ballu (Johnny Lever) and his wife (Delnaz Paul) insist that they will rent out rooms only to married men, In desperation, two of them get into drag (hideous) and pretend to be the wives.

It is really lazy scripting then, to include such tired gags as the landlord being the former boss of one of the ‘drag’ guys, and the girlfriend of one of the ‘husbands’ landing up as a friend of the family. If it is still marginally funny, it’s because the actors seem to enjoy the tomfoolery, and some of the lines are witty—one suspects a lot of them ad libbed.

There are the mandatory song-and-dance breaks, for which four leading ladies are duly provided (Neha Dhupia, Celina Jaitly, Riya Sen, Sayali Bhagat)—and not one of them leaves any impression. What do you make of a Gujarati character (Paul), who mangles her English, and a villain (Chunky Pandey) who lisps? Just that the writers and director couldn’t even be bothered with thinking up some fresh material…do they have so much contempt for the audience?

Let’s Dance

A young woman, who loves dancing aspires to be in a music video; and her appearance in one, makes her a ‘star’? Aarif Sheikh’s Let’s Dance may have got a few dance steps right, but everything else is off kilter.

Even if you didn’t know it was a straight lift of Jessica Alba starrer Honey, you’d suspect it’s origins were not entirely local…though it has echoes of Naach, Rangeela and Aaja Nachle.

Suhani (Gayatri Patel) teaches dance to a bunch of street kids (they don’t all look like urchins), fighting to keep her rehearsal space, which the landlord wants to sell. For someone with no regular income and no family (at least none mentioned), she shares a large apartment with a TV reporter friend (Sugandha Garg), who has a profession that is convenient to the script.

Her only desire is to be in a video by RJ (Aquib Afzal), and she miraculously gets the opportunity. While she becomes a ‘star’, she also gets to romance a dhabawala (Ajay Chaudhary) across the street. She tries to get a rude teenager (Aabhaas Yadav) who dances beautifully, to join her class, but the slum boy would rather peddle drugs. And when she does make a breakthrough by springing him out of jail, she is blacklisted for resisting RJ’s advances.

Much too easily (in a city with real estate problems), she is gifted a large hall, where she decides to stage her own dance show, to give the street kids a chance to display their talent. The TV reporter roommate comes in handy to whip up support. And for added melodrama, the rude bloke’s kid brother ends up in hospital in a coma.

Surprisingly, for a film based on dance, the music is not peppy—except for the Taare tod ke la number—and the choreography consists of mostly hip-hop and breakdance moves, with a lot of energy very little grace.

Newcomer Gayatri is earnest and confident, but as she says in the film, she is not Madhuri Dixit—and not even she could do much with a soggy Aaja Nachle kind of script. Aquib Afzal (blinding wardrobe) can’t act, Ajay Chaudhary hasn’t enough to do, the only other bright spot is Aabhas Yadav as the slumdog with attitude.


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