Friday, September 10, 2010

Review Dabangg

As stylish and as shallow

Director: Abhinav Kashyap
Starring: Salman Khan, Sonakshi Sinha, Sonu Sood, Vinod Khanna, Dimple Kapadia and Arbaaz Khan
Stars: **1/2

If you loved Wanted and can't get enough of Salman Khan, then Dabangg is totally up your alley. If not, it isn't easy to feel charitable towards a film that has nothing by way of substance and very self-consciously relies on its lead star's appeal. Salman, who found some measure of success with his macho act in Wanted, goes the full hog here, playing his Chulbul Pandey in an excessively stylised manner, derived from the Rajnikath school of acting. Salman can't claim to have half of Rajni's charisma, but he has a kind of roguish charm in real life that gets successfully transferred on screen. There is not one moment in Dabangg where Salman isn't trying to play to the gallery, and even though you see great promise in his role in the beginning - a Quixotic self-confessed Robin Hood - you realise there is nothing beyond the surface showiness. In many ways, his Veer character was a more wholesome and well-etched part.

Chulbul Pandey (Salman Khan) grows up disgruntled with his step-father, Prajapati (Vinod Khanna) and half brother, Makhi (Arbaaz Khan), who he believes treat him unfairly. His mother (Dimple Kapadia) tries to make him see sense, but his feeling of disdain remains. Sharp tongued Chulbul Pandey grows up to be a police inspector and is openly corrupt. He soon becomes a thorn in the eye of a political youth leader (Sonu Sood), who tries to kill him on a couple of occasions. Almost out of nowhere, Chulbul sees a pretty girl (Sonakshi Sinha) in his neighbourhood and starts wooing her. She has a drunken father (Mahesh Manjrekar) who she attends to and does pottery on the side. Meanwhile, Chulbul's uneasy equation with his father and brother continues, leading to several ups and downs.

The problem with Dabangg is that it is so consumed with trying to evoke claps and whistles for every scene that it ceases to be anything serious. All the three main plots, involving Salman with Sonu Sood, Sonakshi and Arbaaz respectively are utterly lame and shallow. The romance has no spark, and the love story, much like Sonakshi's role itself, is a serviceable one. You don't feel for any of these characters, and are never moved at any point in the film. The lack of a strong emotional core is the biggest weakness of Dabangg. The only scenes that do touch a chord are the ones with Salman and Dimple. Chulbul's affection for his mother is an understated, heart-felt one.

There's also a singular lack of intelligence in the script. Incited by on Sonu Sood, Arbaaz takes a box of mangoes into the Home Minister's residence, which are actually explosives. Is it so easy to enter with bombs in a high security zone?

Salman looks his best and fittest in Dabangg, the film has been shot well, and the setting looks ripe with possibilities - it takes the essence of Southern masala dramas and implants it in the North Indian soil.
Moreover, Sajid-Wajid's music is truly explosive. Whenever the lack-luster screenplay bring about a sense of ennui, the music infuses energy back into the film. Whether it is Tere Mast Mast Do Nain or the raunchy Munni Badnaam Huyi, Dabangg would've faced a truly uphill task without its chart-busting music.
With so many pluses, all the makers needed to do was invest in a decent story-line, but they choose to go with the most insipid of plots. You wait for some real drama to kick start, but nothing happens.

For all its shallowness, the film will probably appeal to those who are not looking for anything more than time-pass entertainment. For Salman fans, who like his style and humour, Dabangg is a good watch. For the rest, it's mostly a forgettable fare.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Review: Aashayein

There’s hope for Kukunoor
Sandhya Iyer

Director: Nagesh Kukunoor
Starring: John Abraham, Anaitha Nair, Sohan Sehgal, Girish Karnad
Stars: **1/2

Nagesh Kuknoor may have stumbled badly with his last two films, 8 X 10 Tasveer and Bombay To Bangkok, but with Aashayein you see many of the qualities that this chemical engineer-turned-filmmaker exhibited in some of his better films. Which is why, it is a pity that the film got so shabbily treated due to disagreements between producers Percept and distributors Reliance Big Pictures. It has been cursorily released without any publicity, and it seems quite unfair to a decent enough film.

Now, almost all of Kukunoor’s past work, whether Hyderabad Blues, Dor, Rockford, Teen Deewarein have been interesting, well-meaning concepts that caught your attention primarily for certain compelling scenes, wonderful performances and excellent dialogues, despite the lack of cinematic novelty. Self-confessedly, the director makes wordy films, and it’s no different with Aashayein.

The film, even though it falls short in the end, and does not live up to the potential of the subject, boasts of fine performances, especially from its leads John Abraham and Anaitha Nair (Aalia Bose of Chak De! India). It is their bitter-sweet relationship that forms the centerpiece of the film, and ultimately makes Aashayein worth a watch.

Rahul (John Abraham) is a compulsive gambler, who throws a party to announce his engagement to his girl-friend, Nafisa (Sonal Sehgal). He faints that night, and soon discovers he is afflicted with a life-threatening cancer. Sonal is heart-broken, but has every plan to stick by her boyfriend. She even insists they get married. At a time when there is so much medical advancement, some more explanation should have gone into the illness, and why Rahul’s case is not treatable and so on, rather than painting the whole disease with broad, outdated strokes.

So our hero has only three months to live. And just so that we don’t think Kukunoor is copying Anand, he even includes some clippings from the Hrishikesh Mukherjee film later on. But he cleverly uses it for a moment where two characters make light of their illnesses, boasting of how their disease has the longer technical name than Rajesh Khanna’s.

Not wanting to feel miserable anymore, Rahul escapes to a resort-like wellness clinic in a different city, where people aflicted with terminal illnesses spend their last days. You are introduced to the different inmates, and this is where the film really picks up and becomes interesting. There is Girish Karnad as a patient who has lost his larynx, and talks using his food pipe. Shwaas kid Ashwin Chitale, plays a boy called Govinda — a comic book addict — who enthralls people with fantastical tales which closely seem to mirror their own lives and offer them solutions. Farida Jalal, dressed in immaculate Kanjivaram sarees, plays an Aids victim. While it’s clear that Kukunoor deliberately makes her so unlikely a patient — to stress on how we have preconceived notions about the disease — Jalal is the only character who does not seem convincing enough. There’s no pain or emotions that flit through her face. The absolute dynamite performance though is from Anaitha Nair as the 17-year-old Padma. She has an acidic tongue, but her twinkling eyes and broad smile suggest how she’s trying hard to ward off the bitterness that is growing inside her. There are wonderfully touching moments involving her and Rahul, and each one is a gem. The other sub-plot where Rahul imagines himself to be Indiana Jones and lives his own fantasy is interesting, intending to show how life is an ongoing adventure. But the script peters out towards the end, and you are left with the feeling of being served an undercooked meal that had all the right ingredients.

The performances are all uniformly praise-worthy. John Abraham is the pick of the lot, and delivers a sincere, heart-felt performance. For the first time probably, the actor in him takes over completely, and Kukunoor ought to be given credit for it. Whether Aashayein does well or not, John is sure to benefit from the film.