Friday, September 25, 2009

What's Your Raashee film review

What's Your POINT!

Starring: Priyanka Chopra, Harman Baweja, Darshan Jariwala, Anjan SrivastavaDirected by: Director: Ashutosh Gowariker
Stars: **1/2

The most disappointing aspect of watching a movie is seeing a pointless endeavour and What’s Your Rashee? is mostly just that. So if Jodhaa Akbar was a four hour long film about a royal couple unable to decide whether to consummate or not, this one goes on endlessly about a guy’s search for a bride. Jodhaa Akbar, for all its splendour and great music, was hardly as significant as a Lagaan or a Swades. One already saw a certain lack of ambition in the story, beyond of course its mammoth scale. Now, with What’s Your Raashee?, Ashutosh Gowariker has gone ahead and tried to recycle a concept that became popular with the televised series, Mr Yogi in the DD days. The idea of an NRI looking for one girl from every sun sign is expected to be an episodic one and clearly suited for television. When it’s made as a film, it turns out excruciatingly long drawn and boring.

The strength of the subject is the curiosity it evokes in the audience about their individual sun signs, so for a while, it seems interesting when NRI Yogesh Patel (Harman Baweja) meets a couple of girls. The first one(Aries) is the best of the lot and Priyanka’s really in form here. Also, for a subject that would normally be right up Yash Raj’s alley, Gowariker ensures there is a certain authenticity to the setting. The homes appear lived in, the characters (many new faces) are all people who one might have encountered at some point. So thankfully, there’s nothing synthetic about the story.

Yogesh’s meeting with the girls is fairly good until interval point. Harman’s earnestness and Priyanka’s finesse as a performer ensure that the proceedings stay interesting for quite some time. Another aspect about the film is that Gowariker never overstates the traits in any sun sign and keeps it subtle. So the Aquarian should be recogonised by her dreamy eyes, the Geminine by her proclivity to fall in love with the idea of love, the Arian for her honesty and so on. On one level, you can appreciate the director’s acumen to slip in characteristics in an unobtrusive way, but then again, some signs are so unrecogonisable that they become mere characters.The essential repetitiveness of the plot takes its toll in the second half and the episodes from this point are simply not engaging enough. The Piscean girl’s ‘punar janam’ episode is especially tedious. Gowariker inserts two sub-plots to break the monotony but all they do is stretch the film even longer. There’s one involving a jotish-turned-jasoos and another one with Yogesh and his brother being chased by a ‘Bhai’ character who wants his money back.

These are as boring as the hazaar songs that have been needlessly thrust into the narrative. The film’s climax is probably as unconvincing as the premise itself. It’s never clear from the very beginning why Yogesh’s grandpa won’t hand him over his inheritance if he won’t marry. This is a major flaw in the script, something which could have been easily taken care of.
Many of Ashutosh’s strengths as a director, including his ability to treat his story and characters intelligently are visible here. But many of weaknesses are more pronounced than ever. The filmmaker has always made long films, but here it seems especially unjustified. At least five of the songs could have been done away with. The only two songs that are reasonable good are Su Che and the title track. His languorous, unhurried style of filmmaking that probably was okay for a film like Swades makes it quite problematic when it comes to a light-hearted, fun film like this one.

Still, if there’s anything to recommend, it is the performances. Priyanka Chopra, while never a very charismatic actress, has always been a competent and intelligent performer. And nothing proves it better than her ability to play each character in a unique way. The screenplay lets her down at various points but there is very little to fault the actress. Priyanka has put in an enormous effort, in the sense that she’s skillfully changed her body language and speech pattern for all the characters. She’s especially terrific playing the 15 year old girl.
Harman Baweja has been well cast. The film probably needed an actor without the baggage of an image and could look convincing in the role of a well-meaning, malleable young boy. He’s decent, and has almost as much screen time as Priyanka.
The other actor who really shines here is Darshan Jariwala, as Harman’s affable uncle.

But as one said, the film ceases to be interesting after a point and the concept simply runs out of steam. By the time, the climax approaches, you couldn’t care less who Harman marries.
-Sandhya Iyer

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Basu Bhattacharya and the mortality of marriage

As a director, Basu Bhattacharya has always been interested in exploring the complex, grey area in a marriage. Many filmmakers have portrayed marriage on celluloid, but no one has quite examined it in the brutal way that Bhattacharya has.
It’s clear he was cynical about the institution and showed its slow degeneration through couples who share a common, closed space, but a vacuous one. Amidst busy nothings and the grueling routine of life, the mind continues its search for love and belonging wherever it can find it, thereby creating a sordid confusion.I would think Bhattacharya grew more and more disillusioned with marital relationships in later years. Anubhav (Tanuja, Sanjeev Kumar) – with all its complexities – is still somewhat bright in its tone and tenor. It takes on bleaker shades with his next, Grihapravesh. Yet, Bhattacharya allows the marriage to survive here, as he also sees the futility of breaking away from something that has grown to become a habit.
But the anguish takes an altogether ugly turn in Avishkar (Rajesh Khanna, Sharmila Tagore), with the couple even physically abusing each other. Ironically, it is this couple that is most in love before marriage.
Bhattacharya’s films are not an easy watch, as there is a level of abstraction in his tackling of these themes. There is nothing black or white, right or wrong, moral or immoral in Basu’s world. His narrative style provided a rare depth to his stories to ironically portray emptiness.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Film Review: Dil Bole Hadippa!

Not such a ball...

Director: Anurag Singh
Stars: Rani Mukherjee, Shahid Kapoor, Anupam Kher, Poonam Dillon, Dalip Tahil, Sherlyn Chopra, Rakhi Sawant
Stars: **1/2

Few films of its stature can have a poorer start than what Dil Bole Hadippa has. The very first scene is a lame replica of the introduction portion one saw in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi with the
Ek Omkar chant in the background. Seriously, there’s been such an overdose of Punjabi culture and clichés in Yash Raj films that it has started to ring utterly false now. The banner is still stuck in the Dilwale Dulhaniya…mould of ‘meri mitti, mera desh’ to evoke forced nostalgia and patriotism. This formulaic tripe, without even a pretense of breaking away from the norm, is enough to turn you off very early on.

The whole plot setting is a contrived one. Fortunately, the film settles down once the central premise comes into play and what you get is a decent fare, thanks almost entirely to the two lead stars and the essential hilarity of their situation in the movie.
Veera (Rani Mukherjee) is a hard core cricket buff, with aspirations of being in the local cricket team, that clashes every six months with a team in Lahore, Pakistan. The match is organized by two old friends (Anupam Kher and Dalip Tahil ) from each side of the border. This is a ludicrous set up for any film and the first match is so shabbily done – it has to be seen to be believed.
Also Rani – with all that chunky jewellery, make-up and ultra feminine demeanour doesn’t quite convince you of her ardour for the game. Compare this with the sporty looks the
Chak De..players or the Bend It Like Beckam girl donned and you’ll see why Dil Bole Happida doesn’t quite cut ice.
The film picks up momentum with Rohan’s (Shahid Kapoor) entry, who comes from London to help his father (Kher) rebuild his team. Veera, excitedly goes for the selection but is turned away from the gate because she’s a woman. The guard jokes that it isn’t a Miss India competition going on. Hence, she decides to put her father’s nautanki company (very convenient arrangement) to good use and dresses up as a guy (Veer) to enter the cricket team.
A Golmaal-type situation arises, and Veera has no option but to play both boy and girl.

Amidst some genuinely funny scenes (Veer cringing to enter the Mens’ room or Shahid saying to her that he’d like to have a man-to-man chat with Rani), the director and writers constantly let the narrative slip into cheap melodrama every now and then, some of it absolutely cringe-worthy. Sample the scene where Veera is asked to leave from the gate at the start. A procession of a goddess is passing by, so the writers use that opportunity to have Rani deliver a sermon on societal double standards. Then there’s also a direct translated copy of Lagaan’s dialogue where her father says to her, “Itne nanhe nanhe ankhein aur itne vade vade sapne” (Small eyes dreaming so big).

Yet, the film has plenty of light moments and the peppy music (good stuff from Pritam) and background score (overused and overdramatic at times) keeps you somewhat engaged. The Gim Shim Kar Le Re song is especially funny.

Rakhi Sawant and Sherlyn Chopra don’t have much to do, except add some sizzle to the screen.
The one reason why Dil Bole Hadippa manages to be watchable is the chemistry between the two leads. Both Rani and Shahid look great together.. One has to be especially impressed with Shahid who has delivered his most effortless performance till date. There’s obviously some inspiration taken from Shah Rukh Khan’s Chak De India act, but Shahid performs with flair and attitude.
Rani is very effective as the Sardar, where her comic timing is excellent. But overall, it’s not a great departure for her neither is it a grand comeback. Watching her in the film is almost like seeing an older Babli.
Dil Bole Hadippa could have been a better film if only the director and writers had not resorted to so many contrivances and push button effects. The climax is actually the worst one has seen in a while, with the film going into Rang De Banasti mode with a heavy duty lecture, where Rani evokes everyone’s name from Indira Gandhi to Kiran Bedi. For a film with a plot as flimsy as this, it seems laughably audacious to try and shove in a feminist angle also.

In all this, the best part of the story is given the short shrift. There isn’t a proper culmination to the Shahid-Rani love story and just when you’re waiting for a final emotional confrontation, the credits start rolling with the lead dancing away to the title song.
See it if you absolutely must or just for the lead pair.
-Sandhya Iyer

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Review of Quickgun Murugun

Watch it, I say

Starring: Dr Rajendra Prasad, Naseer, Rambha, Lola Kutty, Raja Sundaram, Sandhya Mridul, Vinay Pathak
Director: Shashanka Ghosh
Stars: ***

It takes sense to come up with entertaining nonsense. Quickgun Murugun is supreme silliness no doubt, but it goes about its business with a kind of joyous self-abandon and poker-faced wit that makes this good kitschy fun all round.
In what is an action -packed, western spoof, you have Indian cowboy Quick Gun Murugun - something of a cross between Clint Eastwood and Rajnikanth - taking up the cause of vegetarianism. For the uninitiated, Quick Gun Murugun happens to be a cult figure down south - a wacky character that appeared a lot in 70s Tamil movies.

In quixotic style, Murugun ( Rajendra Prasad) is goaded into action against meat-eaters, when he's reminded he's a 'cowboy' after all and must protect cows. His target is restaurateur Rice Plate Reddy ( Naseer) and his menacing thugs, who promote non-vegetarianism. Reddy is making his brand of machine made non-veg dosas and is in search of the perfect recipe for it. He's aided in this by Rowdy MBA (pronounced as 'Em') - Raju Sundaram - who comes up with the idea of getting hold of comely mothers for this purpose.

By the way, this is Murugun's second life, since he was killed by the thugs 25 years ago, but let off by Yama (Vinay Pathak). Now, he's determined to avenge his own death and also fight against Reddy's machine-made dosas. As the wacky promos read, 'They made him a past tense, now he will make their future, tense'

There are also matters of the heart that call for attention. Murugan is caught between past affection for Locket Girl (Lola Kutty) who hangs around his neck and Shetty's girlfriend, Mango Dolly (Rambha) who falls for him.
All this is in the midst of entertaining action sequences, and some pretty funny dialogues. As Quick Gun Murugun, actor Rajendra Prasad pitches his character perfectly. Watch him in the bar scene with Rambha where he asks her in perfect South Indian twang, 'Your orizinal(sic) name is Mango?' or in his chivalrous stance to a thug, 'Leave the ladies, I say!'

Director Shashanka Ghosh gets the tone of the film right and the songs with the background music add the requisite chutzpah to this action comic caper. There's a lot of Tamil in the film which helps retain the flavour of the character. Though I must say, the lead actor's get up and and accent is more Telugu than Tamil but for the vast majority it won't make a difference one guesses.

The other plus is that the silliness never slips into puerility, and all the characters have been written with a certain wackiness that makes it enjoyable. Yet, at a mere one and half hours, this film isn't the kind of blockbuster laughathon it could have been. Also, the film is too action-packed, with the comedy and drama taking a slight backseat. But as a whole, this is harmless fun, as light as savoury dosas.
- Sandhya Iyer

Film Review District 9

District 9 is that rare film that combines the adventure and edgeof-the-seat drama of a scary sci-fi flick with a telling statement on issues like migration and apartheid. No surprises then that the the film's young debutant director Neill Blomkamp chooses Johannesburg as the setting. Incidentally, he was also born in South Africa and later moved to the US.

When the film begins, you are acquainted with an alien settlement that landed in Johannesburg some 20 years back. Unlike other films on extraterrestrials, there is absolutely no glamour associated with this landing.Their appearance too is deliberately kept ugly. These aliens are icky, insect-like creatures with sinewy waists and pointed hands. They are pushed to the fringes of civilised society by the government, where they live like scavengers in pathetic conditions. The place they are settled in is called District 9.

The aliens possess rare weapons, which is of both interest and dread to the government, but there's a catch.These weapons can only be operated by a person possessing the DNA of an alien.
Even though the rest of the country has grown used to the presence of these aliens and treat them as low lives, referring to them as `prawns', there is always some trouble brewing around them. Hence the government hires a private organisation called MU (Multinational United) to control the growing alien population and relocate them from District 9 to a rural concentration camp.

The person to be given charge for this mass removal is field operator Wikus ( Shartli Copley), a pencil-pushing officer, who gets the job only because of his influential father-in-law. Wikus isn't too good at his job but is earnest in his duties of evicting several aliens.But one such encounter turns out to be unfortunate as Wikus gets infected by a certain alien fluid. In no time he gets violently sick and is horrified when he sees one of his hands turning like an alien. The authorities hurriedly take him to a lab and declare Wikus to be in the incredible `half human, half alien stage'. They see him now as a rare artefact, a specimen who can be used for experiments. Wikus escapes from the lab and what follows is a riveting chase-drama, where he is forced to take refuge in the only place he knows well -- District 9.

Written by Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell and produced by Peter Jackson (The Lord Of The Rings), the film is a marvel for its technical brilliance and inventiveness. But more impressive is the fact that District 9 goes beyond being just a smart scifi. There are sociological undertones that talk of the cruelty of mankind in general.

Though the film is primarily a comment on the xenophobic, violent attitude of people, District 9 also compels you to look at the problem of migration from the insider's standpoint. The aliens are portrayed as repulsive, with a downright offensive body and speech pattern. They also pose a definite threat since they possess weapons only they can use. How easy is it then to accept them in their fold and be sympathetic? The film becomes a full-fledged action drama in the second half and there are scenes of extreme gore and violence here. Also, the director makes Wikus' chase an excruciatingly painful one, with the police, the MU guys and even a Nigerian underworld boss unleashing terror on him.

Ultimately though, District 9 is an unusual film, a fascinating allegory that any viewer in any part of the world will have something to identify with.

-Sandhya Iyer