Friday, April 30, 2010

Housefull review

Director : Sajid Khan
Starring: Akshay Kumar, Deepika Padukone, Lara Dutta, Riteish Deshmukh, Jiah Khan, Boman Irani
Stars : **

For a film where the hero supposedly gets married to three different women, Housefull is strangely limp, completely lacking in vigour. The comic punches are few and far in between and even many of these are direct lifts from one film or the other. There's a bit from The Heartbreak Kid and Meet The Parents. Almost the entire drama that ensues in the second half is a copy of the Rajesh Khanna-Nanda 1972 starrer, Joru Ka Ghulam. Not only that, the writers (Sajid Khan, Milap Zaveri, Vibha Singh) are at such a loss for original comic ideas that they've repeated the entire Kanta ben joke from Kal Ho Naa Ho as it is.

Director Sajid Khan seems to think that by using the 'homage' excuse, he doesn't need to work on the writing, which stays tepid almost for its entire running time. Arush (Akshay Kumar) is an unlucky man, who spells trouble for whoever he comes in contact with. Depressed and alone, he joins his friend, Bob (Riteish Deshmukh) and his wife, Hetal (Lara Dutta) in London for a few days. The couple get Akshay married to their boss' (Randhir Kapoor) daughter, Devika (Jiah Khan). Just as Arush thinks his luck is about to change, Devika confesses that she got married to him only to placate her dad and does in fact have a boyfriend. Arush finds love again with Deepika, but has to deal with her tough, hard-to-please brother (Arjun Rampal). On the other hand, Hetal, in order to pacify her angry father (Boman Irani), lies to him about her husband's financial status. She even tells him they have a child. Now, all the characters have to assume different roles to escape being caught.

The first half can be called amiable time-pass. There are some scenes that induce a slight chuckle – like where Akshay uses the vacuum cleaner on a high mode and everything in the house, including the parrot gets sucked into it - but even this scene goes on and on and becomes ludicrous by the end of it. Chunky Pandey, as theItalian hotelier is funny. Another scene where Boman is shocked to see that his daughter has an African child (because that is the only baby they can find in quick time) is amusing. But that's about it. The film has very few comic punches and Sajid and the writers fail to infuse the story with much energy or freshness. They rely on the same old gay jokes and gags, and it's only when a song comes on (all are entertaining numbers) does the film get some life.

Housefull's drama and plot points are all manufactured. Every confusion in the film is either a result of some silly coincidence or because the characters insist on behaving like total fools. For example, why does Hetal allow Arush to be misunderstood as her husband by her father and the land-lady? In Joru Ka Ghulam, Nanda gets someone else to play her husband in front of her dad because her own hubby, Rajesh Khanna has fought and left her. So when Khanna returns to her, he has no option but to don some other role. That is what situational drama is about. It needs to have a semblance of logic.

Things are still tolerable until the last 30 minutes of the film. But with Arjun Rampal's entry and the final laughing gas sequence, the film became distasteful and loses whatever little good-will it earns through the rest of the film.

Sajid Khan should be thanked for not making a crass, sexist film out of a subject such as this. But that's just a small consolation. Khan does not show any special spark with his direction and the writing especially is a no go. He tries hard to make a paisa vasool dramedy, but with a lack-lustre script and tepid characterisation, the film never really gathers steam. In fact, the use of a masala gem like Apni Toh Jaise Taise amid such poor drama is criminal.
One of the reasons why the film is so plodding is partly due to Akshay Kumar's character. For a lead actor, his is a dull, listless role. Lara Dutta and Riteish have ill-defined characters and their hamming doesn't help. And after all this, in a self-congratulatory mode, Sajid Khan has inserted a clap track at the end - as if applauding his own effort.

Housefull is an average film, that just doesn't pack in enough. Watch it if you must.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Film review: Marathi film, Wavtal

Director: Shivaji Lotan Patil
Starring: Tejaswini Pandit, Ashok Samarth, Mukesh Tiwari, Vinay Apte, Sunil Shende
Rating: **

When filmmakers take up issues like sex, rape, homosexuality or prostitution, there are often faced with a conundrum - how does one tackle an essentially sensational subject without resorting to sensationalism oneself? Of course, this is a question applicable only to those who are at least reasonably serious about the cause they wish to highlight. The vast majority tend to operate in bad faith, taking up these themes precisely because they attract eyeballs. If not that, the temptation is to go the full hog, be as graphic and titillating as possible - all under the garb of making a gritty and noble film.

Unfortunately, Marathi film Wavtal falls under the third category, where a reasonably good story-line (based on Anant Samant's novel, K-5) is made ineffectual, thanks to the above reason. In telling us about the horrors of a rape victim, the makers put their female lead ( Tejaswini Pandit - good) through every kind of torture at the hands of the man who takes her captive (Mukesh Tiwari - one note). The scenes are all extremely graphic and tasteless. We even saw a few in the audience walking out in disgust. The premise itself would not have been offensive, if it were to have a psychological edge and if Tiwari was not portrayed as a completely dark character. But just showing a woman suffering and being put to every indignity in the world amounts to nothing but titillation.

The story itself has potential. The film starts with an Army commando, called K-5 (the name of his section and his own number) raiding a small terrorist hideout. He finds a young woman (Tejaswini) with a child there, and thinks her to be a part of the gang. He brings her to his work station, located in the middle of a desert, and waits for her to break her stony silence. When she finally does, he's shocked by what she recounts. She tells him about her blissful married life before she and her husband are attacked by a mob during their visit to Mumbai. She is captured by one of the men, and the rest leads her down a horrific path.

In the hands of a better director and screen-play writer, Wavtal could have just been a hard-hitting film. Ashok Samarth(good, solid performance), as K-5 is an intense character, and his relationship with the young woman makes for some engaging moments. K-5's confrontation with Tejaswini's influential father-in-law in the final scenes are also well-done. But apart from that, the film's tone is too loud. Wavtal has the framework of a proper commercial film, which is why one is not willing to buy the makers' attempts to pass off grossly disturbing scenes as realism. Finally, it's the treatment that does the film in.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Paathshaala - film review

Worth Mass-bunking

Director: Milind Ukey
Starring: Shahid Kapoor, Nana Patekar, Ayesha Takia, Saurabh Shukla and Anjan Srivastav
Rating: *

Even some of the worst films have something to redeem themselves with, but Paathshaala is an atrocity that’s hard to sum up in words. The film is relentlessly cringe-worthy, with some of the most appalling writing (choreographer Ahmed Khan) one has seen in a long time.

Debutant Milind Ukey’s direction is shockingly amateurish and heavy-handed, and it doesn’t help that he flashes his FTII credentials in the title credits in the hope of winning some brownie points. Every scene is exaggerated, every response overdone. He even makes a competent actor like Anjan Srivastav ham it to the hilt. The background music takes the cue from the director’s simplistic, loud narrative, and ends up making Paathshaala an experience that is worse than the most dreadful day you can recollect from school life.

So you have a boarding school (tacky set) in the middle of nowhere, where Nana Patekar is the principal. In Mohabbatein style, his authority evokes fear among the staff and students. Shahid Kapoor joins as an English teacher, but since he has some training in music, Nana suggests that he could double up as a music teacher as well! Someone has to sing the romantic songs you see. But he’s not the only teacher who is expected to multitask. There’s Ayesha Takia, who works as nutritionist, hostel matron, canteen manager and make-shift music teacher.
Again, Ukey’s idea of a Hindi teacher is someone who looks like a ’70s actress, with a bouffant and rose stuck to it.

Nana acquaints his teachers about the emerging competition from other schools and the need to introduce more hi-tech facilities. The school fees are increased in the middle of the term and Nana’s high-handed assistant (Saurabh Shukla) rudely dismisses off parents who protest.
To create more visibility for the school, a PR agency is hired. Soon, television channels are brought in to hold auditions in the school. The way Ukey presents these people who take auditions — they either talk on the phone as the kids perform, or yell at them when they forget to name the sponsors — is caricaturish and silly. I resist from mentioning the other scenes, because they are just embarrassingly bad. Suffice it to say, the film is an insult to one’s intelligence and gets progressively offensive with every passing scene. Schools to teachers to students to TV channels might just want to sue Ukey and they would be justified!

Taare Zameen Par beautifully brought out many things that need to be questioned about the education system and our attitude to children. And perhaps, more films can be made on aspects relating to school life. Educational institutions getting commercialised is a valid issue. Similarly, the trend of having children on various reality shows, where they are faced with gruelling hours and unrealistic expectations, is possibly another story that can be explored. Ahmed Khan and Ukey are just not the guys for it.

The performances are decent. How Shahid manages to come out of this embarrassing tripe without causing irrevocable damage to his image is a wonder. But the actor needs to pull up his socks and stop doing films as favours for his old pals. Nana Patekar’s role is listless and for the first time, you get the feeling that the actor himself is not convinced about his role. Saurabh Shukla shines in a role that could have been unbearable in the hands of a lesser actor.
This school is then, only an education for aspiring filmmakers on how not to make a film.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Film Review: Prince

This Prince ain't charming

Director: Kookie Gulati
Starring: Vivek Oberoi, Aruna Shields, Nandana Sen, Sanjay Kapoor, Neeru Bajwa
Rating: **

Increasingly, Bollywood is making showcase films that aim to push the envelope where action sequences, thrills, and grandeur go. We saw it recently in Blue where money was endlessly spent to ensure that audiences have a never-seen-before experience. The film ended up being one of last year's most forgettable, big-budget disasters. With Prince again, the makers have gone to great lengths to duplicate Hollywood and come up with the kind of hi-tech action thriller that the West makes dime a dozen.

What is predictable here is that the film aims to impress with its slickness and spectacles, while its writing is woefully sub par. Similarly, the dialogues - which should have been crisp and smart for a film of this sort -- are inane and silly. On one occasion, someone tells Sanjay Kapoor, a CBI officer not to act smart and he retorts with a cocky, "I am smart!' That's the only line I remember, the rest of them are either listless or plain bad.

The film begins with Prince (Vivek Oberoi) waking up and finding that he has lost his memory. Different people try to mis-lead him about his real identity. He also meets three different women - each of whom claims to be his girlfriend, Maya. The first half has Prince struggling to find out who he is, even as various people try to chase him down. These parts are frustrating, because the screenplay and characters do not hook you enough.

The ambition in scale is obvious, but with so much of computer generated images and gadgetry, it turns far-fetched and the sets too are uncomfortably larger-than-life. The action, with Vivek jumping off skycrapers using para shoots at will, or flying with his mobike across mountains evading a thousand bullets... all of this seems too unreal for you to connect with the film. For the longest time, you get the feeling of watching a video game, where anything and everything is possible.

Vivek is not a superhero in the film, so the suspension of disbelief that is possible in a film like Krrish does not happen here. Also, truth be told, films that aim to be all about style and action, need loades of star charisma and attitude to work. Prince is low on star appeal, among other things. Vivek is no Hrithik Roshan as we know.

The second half gets much better, as the various pieces of the puzzle start to fall in place. It's not that there's nothing in the story. The idea of a chip destroying memories is an interesting one, and in the hands of a more able director and writer, it might just have made for a riveting watch. But as it stands, the film has nothing besides its high-budget look going for it.

This is the biggest film that Vivek Oberoi has starred in, but it's not necessarily a great role. So a grand comeback for this Prince-in-waiting can be ruled out.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tum Milo Toh Sahi

Director: Kabir Sadanand
Starring: Nana Patekar, Dimple Kapadia, Suneil Shetty, Vidya Malvade, Anjana Sukhani and Rehan Khan
Rating: **1/2

Tum Milo Toh Sahi follows the by now familiar pattern where many separate stories collide into each other. Like the recent English film Valentine’s Day, this one has couples from different age groups, dealing with one issue or the other. And much like V-Day, this Kabir Sadanand directed film too has no fresh insights to offer on love and for most part, there is an acute sense of deja vu in at least two of the three stories.

If there’s anything worth watching here, it is Nana Patekar in the role of the diligent, no-nonsense South Indian man who lives with memories of his dead mother. It is his part alone that adds some gravitas and poignancy to an otherwise average film.

The first 15 minutes chaotically introduce you to the different players. Dimple Kapadia as the middle-aged Dilshad Nanji is a kindly, loud Irani Cafe owner. The character is clearly a take off from her Saagar act, where she yells all the time to get things done. While shopping at a supermarket, she meets the stand-offish Subramanium (Nana Patekar). Though initially annoyed at his curtness, she is amused by him as well. How ‘Subbu’ — as Dilshad refers to him — loosens up and falls in love, is what their story is about.

The second couple, Amit and Anita (Suniel Shetty and Vidya Malavde) are facing a bit of marital discord. The husband can’t stop thinking beyond work, and the wife can’t stop complaining about it. In all this, Amit promises his boss that he would use his wife’s friendsip with Dilshad to get the latter to sell her Cafe. The company is interested in acquiring prime locations and starting their own chain of cafes. Trouble begins when Dilshad refuses.
The third story is a juvenile college romance between Shalini and Bikram (Anjana Sukhani and Rehan Khan), who stir up public support for the Cafe, citing it as a heritage site.

Obviously, the only story that holds your attention is the Nana Patekar-Dimple one.
It’s not like Nana has not played a brusque and aloof man before, but here he wonderfully internalises his character, getting many of the nuances right. Yes, his Tamil accent is not always on the mark, but his is an earnest, heart-felt and restrained performance. Dimple, as the sociable Parsi aunty, is a good foil to the reclusive Nana. She does tend to go over-the-top in many scenes, but she also manages to bring out the character’s helplessness well.

The other actors don’t stand out much, but that’s because their stories have nothing new to offer. The Anjana Sukhani-Rehan Khan track — with singer Raghav Sachar thrown into the mix as well — is especially plodding and a needless distraction. Suniel Shetty and Vidya Malavde are not bad, but again, the writing here is quite sub par. Suniel is the CEO of his company, but his boss keeps making veiled threats at him that the former would lose his job if he failed to acquire the Cafe. Over one case? He goes on to say further that Suniel has his monthly installments to think of and so on! Again, all Vidya is required to do is express anger and dismay at all her husband’s actions — at all times.

Director Kabir Sadanand manages to make some of the parts involving Nana engaging. There’s also the admirable intent of drawing attention to the need to preserve the identity of many of our cities, by protecting and maintaining its old structures and sites. Sadanand would have done better to cut out the teenage love story completely, and add some more meat to the other two.

All in all, there’s not much to dislike in Tum Milo Toh Sahi, but there’s very little to rave about it as well.