Friday, January 28, 2011

Review: Dil Toh Bachcha Hai Ji

Director: Madhur Bhandarkar
Starring: Ajay Devgn, Emraan Hashmi, Omi Vaidya, Shazahn Padamsee, Shruti Haasan and Shraddha Das
Stars: **1/2

Madhur Bhandarkar might think he's made a major departure with Dil Toh Bachcha Hai Ji, a dramedy about three bachelors (Ajay Devgn, Emraan Hashmi and Omi Vaidya) of different temperaments trying to find a mate. The filmmaker's other films have all been based on specific settings (Page 3, Fashion, Corporate, Traffic Signal, Jail) where Bhandarkar focusses on their ugly underbelly through the voyeuristic gaze of middle-class morality.

Dil Toh Bachcha Hai Ji is not too different from these films, except that it is not restricted to a segment of society. It's not so much a comedy, even though it has been billed as one. It has many devices and character-types here that are common to most of Bhandarkar's films. Of course, the one-liners pop up at regular intervals for the laughs. But what is most distasteful about this film is its attempt to extract humour at the cost of gays (portrayed in the most offensive manner)and middle-aged women. The director has always used some of these crude stereotypes in his other films, but when the attempt here is to garner some cheap laughs, it appears all the more pathetic. In particular there is a funeral scene where some shockingly callous remarks are made at the diseased female model. In the bank that Devgan works, you see a plump, regular-looking colleague. For a while, you are fooled into thinking that probably Bhandarkar is aiming for an authentic office environment by having real looking people. But no such luck.

Bhandarkar's insensitive portrayal is extended towards animals also. There's a scene where playboy Emraan is trying to get introduced to a rich socialite (Tisca Chopra) at her pet parlour. He buys a puppy from someone on the road, only to see its mother desperately trying to chase him down. And this is supposed to be funny?

Anyway, one can't help feel that the film would really have been better without some of this offensive stuff, because on the plus side, it is still quite a rooted, situational film, without too much of the loud, slapstick comedies that are getting churned out. Of course, the maker's penchant for drama and twists remains. And what's with the horribly loud background music and cues that are spoon-fed to the audiences at every point?

All three tracks have some decent moments. Yet, the one involving Ajay- Shezahn and Omi-Shraddha Das are the most interesting. The Emraan-Tisca Chopra track is made immensely watchable because of the lovely Chopra, who is reliably solid and believable. Ajay is a divorcee looking at life anew, and his new intern, June Pinto (Shazahn Padamsee), a pretty, giggle-head catches his fancy. Omi is a traditional Maharashtrian boy who falls madly in love with an ambitious RJ, who keeps using him for free booze and so on. Right from the beginning, you sense that these are not workable relationships, but towards the end, you almost expect the director to smoothen the edges and go in for a contrived happy ending. Thankfully, Bhandarkar shows enough sense, and that alone saves a film which would have otherwise appeared extremely lame. Besides, it also stretches endlessly. The track involving Emraan-Tisca-Shruti Haasan is high on drama and coincidence and if your interest is still sustained, it's because of the two lovely ladies. Shruti is a real looker, with a strong personality. Hope she find more roles that can explore her talent.

Bhandarkar extracts good performances from his entire cast. Ajay Devgn, Emraan and Omi are all excellent. Among the women, newcomer Shraddha Das has the least charming part, but she grows into her character well. Shazahn Padamsee is extremely believable as the irritating and perky youngster.

This could have perhaps been a good break-out film for Bhandarkar, only if he has abandoned many of his regular devices and opted for something fresher. As it stands, Dil Toh Bachcha Hai Ji is marginally watchable, but nothing terribly interesting.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Interview: Ranveer Singh

Ranveer Singh's stunning success with his debut film Band Baaja Baarat proves that good talent, if backed, can reap rich rewards for the industry

Ranveer Singh can't contain his excitement, and most would agree he has good reason to be thrilled. His Yash Raj film, Band Baaja Baaraat has slowly but surely been creating some boxoffice magic. The news is equally heartening for an industry that rarely shows the gumption to invest in a talented newcomer, but is willing to applaud when the dice falls on the right number. Ranveer's success is as special for him personally, as much as it is a sign that the industry needs to come out of its mind-set of falling back always on established names. The pool of stars needs to grow and Ranveer is its latest proud entrant.

Bubbling with the same youthful energy of his character, Bittoo, he agrees that nobody had expectations from the film to begin with. "The promos got mixed reactions. People wondered what kind of a hero I was. I'm quite unconventional looking I think. The opening was very lukewarm, but slowly after the first few shows, word got around about the film and by Sat--Sun, there was a 100 per cent jump. On Monday in fact we picked up and stayed steady. Unfortunately Tees Maar Khan didn't do well, so all the screens that we lost in the second week to accommodate it, came back to us," he says with the unmistakable elation of having won as the underdog.

Though from a fairly affluent family, Ranveer did his bit of struggling before he landed what has now become a famous launch. "I grew up in Mumbai, am a Bandra boy. Then I went off to America for my BA. When I came back I dabbled in theatre and assisted on a few films. I wanted to get into acting, so I got my photos clicked. I was basically spreading the word around...that I'd be available for auditions etc. I was getting offers, but I didn't want to take up just about anything. I decided I would wait till 26-27 and wait for that one offer I can't refuse. And that big offer came with Yash Raj. It wasn't easy of course while doing the film. I was under pressure, as I'd never worked before in such a professional arena. But I was happy to be doing what I was and on some days, it was a blast," says Ranveer, adding that acting was all he ever wanted to do.

The fact that Ranveer proved to a gem of a find and did it as a rank outsider has given hope to many aspiring actors. "I'd like that to be my calling card," says the spunky newcomer. "The fact that I could make it with no lineage, solely based on talent is something I am proud of. And I think this will encourage filmmakers to back new talent and not be averse to outsiders. This is a very fraternised industry and it's rare to get a foot in. In that respect Aditya Chopra has set the example," he says about his mentor.
Though a supporter of hatke films and with the certain hope that he will be a part of the new-age movement, the newcomer understands the compulsion under which Bollywood functions. "The star system can't be avoided. Aaj-kal the whole game is in the opening only," he says. "A producer can't cast a newcomer unless he is 100 per cent sure. But I think now they will be more 'open' to the idea than they were."

We come to his much appreciated role in his debut film, where he played a Jat Delhi character, with North Indian machismo and chauvinism only offset by his vulnerable charm. "The one thing I felt about Bitto is that he is a 'dil ka banda' and I let myself go. But besides that I did employ a complex process to get into the skin of the character. My director Manish (Sharma) took me to Delhi University and said, 'Jaa Delhi ka launda ban jaa,' I started observing the guys there, their lingo, their demeanor and basically was trying to get an insight into their thinking. I shortlisted a few students and started hanging out with them to see who seems most like 'Bittoo'," he tells us.

Ranveer Singh played the part so well that most aren't able to separate him from his on screen character. In real life, the actor is perfectly suave. "Yes, that happens a lot. But I did pour a lot of myself into him. Many of my mannerisms are there. But I think I am more sorted that Bitto is. Let me say Bitto is just one aspect of Ranveer," he says, which assuredly gives us the hope that there are many more shades and dimensions to this talented newcomer.

Ranveer says he personally wants to invest in characters that are distinct and specific. "I want to 'become' those characters, so much that people won't realise I am the same actor," he says.
He recogonises Band Baaja Baarat as a terrific team effort and puts writer Habib Faisal for the top honors, "We already had gold on paper, and just needed to enhance and embelish it," he says.
His perky co-star Anushka Sharma has also received rave reviews and Ranveer too is generous in his praise. "One thing unique about Anushka is that she is a complete natural and amazingly gifted. She is not touched by anyone's opinion about acting. She's very uncorrupted in that sense. Her character Shruti is one of those rare, well-written and wholesome characters in cinema and Anushka did a fantastic job of it," he says.

In the beginning though, this aspect did cause a few tiffs between them, says Ranveer. "Yeah, I used to wonder what kind of an actress she is who doesn't rehearse. I'm the complete opposite. I like to rehearse till it is in my bone marrow. So we took a while to get into sync," he smiles. Now after the release, rumours are rife that the two actors are seeing each other. For the first time in a free flowing conversation, Ranveer is uncomfortable, but denies the development altogether. "The press even says I've signed 6 films! Arre, what is this!," he sidesteps.
But he's back to his happy mood as he browses the Screen Awards nominations, which has him in the "best debutant' category. Many believe he's the clear favourite, but the actor does not want to be presumptuous. "I'm not taking it for granted. There are many other talented names there. Suriya was brilliant, but I hope the jury knows that he's not a newcomer," he says, slightly anxious. Any doubts then that Ranveer is simply the most feisty, talented and ambitious star-actors to have arrived to Bollywood!