Friday, March 26, 2010

Three this week 

Well Done Abba

Thank God for some things—like Shyam Benegal coming up with another sensible film on a very relevant subject. After the successful and charming comedy Welcome to Sajjanpur, this time he looks at life in an Andhra village, where everyone speaks a tangy Deccani dialect.

Armaan Ali (Boman Irani) takes leave from his job as a driver in Mumbai to visit his village, where his daughter Muskaan (Minissha Lamba) lives with his troublesome twin brother and his wife (Ila Arun). Water is a problem in the village, and Armaan Ali decides to get a well dug on his property.

That takes a lot of running around, getting this certificate and that and bribing everyone down the line, so that in the end there is no money left to actually dig the well. Muskaan then gets the idea of paying the corrupt bureaucracy back in its own coin.

The film is populated with a lot of colourful characters, but it never rises to the expected heights of absurd or black humour. The newly-married engineer (Ravi Kisshen) who wants his wife (Sonali Kulkarni) to undergo surgery for “enlargement” doesn’t even belong to a Benegal film.

There is very little novelty in the portrayal of bribe-seeking petty officials -- a recent Marathi film Jau Jithe Khau did it with a lot more humour. The story is also deflected from its course with an unnecessary sub plot about young Muslim girls sold in marriage to Arabs.

Sammir Dattani is the mandatory romantic interest and his phone romance with Muskaan just serves a product placement for a service provider. But this is Boman Irani’s playing field and he easily outruns even the most talented actors in the large ensemble cast. There are a few genuinely funny scenes, but not enough to classify the film as an ‘absolutely must see’, but it is the most watchable film of this week… and month.

Hum Tum Aur Ghost

He sees dead people, so the poor thing drinks himself silly and sleeps on railway station benches. Here’s Arshad Warsi—comic actor extraordinaire—who is trying to fight typecasting, by doing so-called dramatic parts. When nobody else trusts him with melodrama, he produces the film himself, gets the crew to London and gets camera wizard Ashok Mehta to shoot it.

That done, he borrow a plot from Ghost Town (David Koepp, 2008), gets Kabeer Kaushik on board as director—the man who gave him his career’s most serious role in the underrated Seher; had that film worked, perhaps Warsi would not have to make Hum Tum Aur Ghost. So ladies and gentlemen of the audience, who did not appreciate his true talent in Seher are responsible for the mess--- good-looking mess, one might add-- that is Hum Tum Aur Ghost. This film that is neither comedy nor drama, neither horror nor romance.

Pity, because Warsi is talented and ought not to have to jump through hoops of vanity to prove it. He plays a fashion photographer Armaan, who is dating the editor of Cosmopolitan—the UK mag with a Hindi-speaking editor Gehna (Dia Mirza), who is constantly having screaming fits in the office, and to show that she works, she once says, “What do we have here?” and peers at some photos. She also gets very excited by a Roberto Cavalli sale… whoever wrote this, does not know their fashion mag biz.

But that is not the point—eventually the ghost of Mr Kapoor (Boman Irani) tells Armaan that since he can communicate with dead people, he must help them complete their mission on earth, so that their souls can rest in peace. After some why-me’s Armaan agrees to help a few ghosts, including a kid, Kapoor and a white woman with blue eye-shadow who wants him to find her son who was lost 35 years ago in Goa! (Anyone who cannot guess the identity of the son, has not seen enough movies). The film perks up very briefly when Irani is on screen, and then collapses again.

Had they stuck with the ghost buddy idea, Warsi and Irani, would have brought the hall down with their comic abilities—look at the scene in the bank. But the point was to allow Arshad Warsi to do ‘herogiri’—romance, weeping and all—since he is the producer. Which is not to suggest that Warsi should stick to comedy, but to display his ‘variety’ he must pick better projects.

Mittal v/s Mittal

Mittal v/s Mittal is about marital rape—very sensitive issue, needs delicate handling, not Karan Razdan’s sledgehammer.

Look at the characters he comes up with, a millionaire hero (Rohit Roy) who marries women who turn down his advances as ‘revenge’. A female lawyer (Suchitra Krishnamoorthi) fighting a crucial case, keeps yelling “this is ridiculous” in court and at one point bursts into tears; a male lawyer (Gulshan Grover) offers everyone “herbal tea”. There’s one of India’s top ten industrialists (Amar Talwar) who is scared of his wife, and this wife (Dolly Thakore), enters any room and demands that the AC be switched on! “Middle class” is thrown as an insult in new bride’s face, when her parents live in a huge bungalow with a garden!

The leading lady, Mitali (Rituparna Sengupta) is a model, who marries rich guy Karan and puts up with abuse from the wedding night itself. She is seen pottering about the house in the same red nightie and at one point flirtatiously telling her husband to say he loves her. “You terrorise me,” he says, and stalks off.

The marital rape is seen over multiple scenes of the wife thrashing out in bed, and the husband not even unbuttoning his shirt; nowhere does the director wonder about the complete lack of desire in the woman (and this was a love marriage), or why she stays on in an abusive marriage, if she is not being forced to. When Mitali does walk out, her mother says, it must be her fault, she must be frigid or something! And finally, the blame for Karan’s boorishness is laid on his mother’s door.

Why make a film on a serious issue and waste the opportunity of creating awareness about it, with such sloppy filmmaking?


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