Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Film review: Action Replay

Comic collapse

Director: Vipul Amrutlal Shah
Starring: Akshay Kumar, Aishwarya Rai, Om Puri, Kirron Kher, Aditya Kapoor
Stars: *1/2

As the film opens and you see Akshay Kumar and Aishwarya Rai in hideous make-up, with the latter hamming it up as a shopaholic wife, you suspect this might not be an easy film to watch. And true enough, Action Replay gets progressively bad, and you rue about how much star power and money gets wasted on subjects that amount to zilch.

Heavily inspired from the Hollywood flick, Back To The Future, director Vipul Shah attempts a rom-com with a science fiction twist. But it fails sadly on both counts. As a science fiction, it simply isn’t convincing, and save for a few scenes, the comedy is not remotely funny. Vipul Shah’s own credentials as a director have been curiously mixed. He made the edgy Aakhen and then followed it up with a loud film like Waqt. He made a perfectly watchable Namaste London and then had a potboiler, Singh Is Kinng. His last London Dreams didn't do well, but it was not without potential. With Action Replay, he makes a film that is possibly his worst.

Bunty (newcomer Aditya Kapoor) is saddened to see his parents, Kishen and Mala (Akshay Kumar and Aishwarya Rai) bickering all the time. His girlfriend’s granddad happens to be a scientist (Randhir Kapoor), who is working on a time machine. Bunty uses this to go back in time to 1975 and meet his parents to set things right between them. He is shocked to see his father as a complete loser who is relegated to cooking and hence referred to as 'Kitchen' instead of Kishen. His mother, Mala is a tomboyish, gorgeous beauty. Both are indifferent to each other, but Bunty plays cupid. He gives Kishen a complete makeover, and offers him all the clever tips on how to make Mala fall in love with him.

Now, this film could have worked perfectly. But Vipul Shah ignores that even fantasies need to be grounded in reality and some theoretical plausibility needs to be established for the viewers to take a leap of faith. The maker is in a tearing hurry to get on with the film and heads straight to the lead pair’s antics, and hence all explanation is done away with. Randhir Kapoor looks bemused, as if he can't believe someone would think of casting him as a scientist. The Mumbai of the 70s is as shoddily done, with men walking all over in bell-bottoms and women dressed like Christmas trees. Forget any lived-in feeling to the sets, they look outright fake and tacky – even the plants and trees don't look natural in the film.

The film has plenty of flaws, but the gravest one is its appalling lack of attention to detail. When the screenplay itself is a dud, one could have at least expected to be charmed by the period look. But no such luck, because Shah invests little time or effort in it, and seems to have dumped the work on his dress designers and background composers, who go in for loud, literal choices to capture the 70s flavour. The comic drama itself is far from interesting. One has already seen Akshay playing the loser in one too many films and the ensuing drama — if it can be called that — is so limp, it seems to have been scribbled in a hurry on a piece of tissue paper. Except for a few scenes involving Kirron Kher and Om Puri, the rest of the comedy is puerile and on many occasions, tasteless even.

The film is par for the course for Akshay Kumar, but it is certainly an embarrassment for Aishwarya Rai, who not only finds herself in an extremely poor film, but her own performance is abysmal as well. Always a director's actress, Aishwarya can be ethereal and effective in the hands of an able filmmaker. Here, she is supercilious, pretentious and loud. In a comic drama, acting is all about reactions, but Aishwarya seems content performing her own part and exiting a frame, without even bothering to acknowledge or making eye contact with her co-stars in the same scene.

The other big downer is the music. Pritam has rarely given such forgettable music, but to be fair, nothing could have saved the film. The only chance Action Replay had, was if Vipul has chosen to use the time machine for himself and gone back and made a better film.


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