Saturday, January 17, 2009

Akshay Shah’s piece on RAB NE BANA DI JODI (Hindi, 2008)

Akshay Shah’s piece on RAB NE BANA DI JODI (Hindi, 2008)

The bigger you are, the higher you fall goes the saying… Expectations were huge from Aditya Chopra, after a legendary all time blockbuster with DILWALE DULHANIA LE JAYENGEI and a super-hit follow-up pitting two of Hindi cinema’s titans together with MOHABBATEIN audiences were waiting for an absolute masterpiece with his third outing RAB NE BANA DI JODI, however the movie left me thinking “is that all”? RAB NE BANA DI JODI isn’t a bad film, however given the expectations at hand (this was THE Yashraj film which was going to revive the banner in all ways is a surprisingly underwhelming and often lacklustre effort.

The first question one has to ask is why the flimsy screenplay? The movie had the perfect setting to be a character driven, performance based drama with a beautiful love story at it’s core, however a haggard and garish screenplay turns the movie into a self mocking spoof where the joke is on none other than Aditya Chopra. Undoubtedly there are scattered scenes where the directors masterstroke comes to the fore, however these are few and far in between in what is otherwise a dreary affair.
Surinder (Shahrukh Khan in his most natural performances since SWADES as Suri) is a simple man who works in a simple job and leads a simple life. A series of circumstances sees him marrying a much younger Taani (a fresh and delightful Anushka Sharma) however the marriage is only of convenience as Taani feels no love for Suri. Suri on the other hand usko deewano ki tara pyaar karta hai and thus thinks up a plan with his langootiya yaar (a spirited Vinay Patthak) . Suri decides to change himself entirely and becomes Raj-a hip and cool dancer. His motive is to enter a dance competition with Taani so that he can spend some time with her. At this point the movie requires the viewers to take a huge leap of faith, and this works in the films favour. Suri transforms from the being a mild-mannered introvert into Raj; a loud, obnoxious, smart-alecky know-it-all and enters a dance competition with Taani enters….the leap of faith? Taani can’t recognise Raj as suri. From this point the film really starts to go downhill until the last 30 minutes of the movie where the pace picks up again. One wonders whether Aditya Chopra was even present in the middle portions of the movie or whether he was a absentee director like Ram Gopal Varma in the SHIVA remake.

As a director this is Aditya Chopra’s weakest film to date. DILWALE DULHANIA LE JAYENGEI is a masterpiece for eternity and ages to come, MOHABBATEIN was a disappointing follow-up however saved by some brilliant dramatic confrontations by Amitabh and Shahrukh as well as a delightful musical score, however RAB NE BANA DI JODI is simply an average film. Adi has successfully maintained the small town feel of the movie like they did with BUNTY AUR BABLI, CHAK DE INDIA and AAJA NACHLEY, however the setting and characters of the movie don’t become the mainstay in RAB NE BANA DI JODI like they did in the other films. To give Chopra credit, he did direct some sequences with a brilliant combination of vunerability and poignancy, however these are few and far in between to make the whole movie. The potential of the story was immense, and had Chopra concentrated on doing a mature love story character piece (like his father did in KABHIE KABHIE, SILSILA) between Suri and Taani this could’ve worked in a big way as a film. RAB NE BANA DI JODI’s mainstay is Suri and he simply doesn’t have enough footage in the movie.

An interesting point to note is this is the second time in recent times that Yashraj have attempted to deconstruct their stereotype of “Raj”-made infamous by Shahrukh Khan over an entire decade, infact I would go as far as to say Raj became Shahrukh’s alias much like Vijay for Bachchan (though the comparison is only there in a light sense as no actor’s career matches the kind of depth Bachchans has). In BACHCHNA AE HASEENO Yashraj presented an interesting variation on DDLJ whereby the character of Raj is a lying and heartless playboy who wants no commitment and breaks Simran’s heart and runs away, then throughout the film we’re introduced to a realistic, modern day Raj which rang a few bells close to home for myself, a bachelor playboy who is simply not ready for commitment until he finally meets the girl he loves, but ironically she doesn’t love him back. The Raj in BACHCHNE AE HASEENO is reinvented for modern times, and while the new Raj isn’t exactly as likeable, he certainly works in a huge way as he is real!

With RAB NE BANA DI JODI Aditya creates 2 characters, one of which is again Raj. The Raj here is a mere caricature and border-line mockery of himself, but instead of being funny he grates on the viewers nerves. Shahrukh went for the same brand of humour in OM SHANTI OM and it worked there, specially in the Filmfare Awards sequences, but here they just don’t success in connecting.

Surprisingly, the music of the movie is a huge letdown. One would expect a Shahrukh Khan-Aditya Chopra film to have a soundtrack which is simply extraordinary, however this is not the case. With the exception of a addictive HAULE HAULE, the other songs don’t leave much of an impact. The much hyped PHIR MILENGEI CHALTE CHALTE comes at the most absurd moment, and fails to leave much of an impact. They work in the context of the movie while they’re playing, however they fail to linger with you long after the show is over….much like the movie itself.

How the winds have changed…a Shahrukh Khan-Aditya Chopra film should’ve quiet easily been the BIGGEST hit of the year, and a film which sets new records ands benchmarks for Hindi cinema ala DILWALE DULHANIA LE JAYENGEI. These are the expectations that Khan and Chopra have created and with RAB NE BANA DI JODI they fail to deliver on almost all counts, it baffles me it took Adi 8 years to deliver this? Back to the drawing board Adi….and time for a big re-think!


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Akshay Shah’s piece on GHAJINI (Hindi, 2008)

Been a while since i put pen to paper(or fingers to keyboard)..feels good. Change my style of reviewing a little, instead of being a structured, i'll be doing shorter pieces with scattered thoughts...first is GHAJINI, then RNBDJ...then move onto other pieces...

Akshay Shah’s piece on GHAJINI…

GHAJINI without a doubt was the most awaited film of 2008. By now it is a given fact that ANYTHING with Aamir Khan is instantly awaited by the audience. The actor has been on a perfect streak of prestige and masala hits back to back since his Oscar Nominated stint in Ashutosh Gowarikers LAGAAN. Be it DIL CHAHTA HAI or TAARE ZAMEEN PAR, Khan has his fingers on the audiences pulse. Heck even a small film with Aamir as the producer turned out to be one of the years biggest surprise hits. While some people found GHAJINI a strange choice for Aamir Khan (a remake of a Tamil pot-boiler is a surprise), Aamir has never hidden the fact that he is a fan of old-school masala cinema too. RAJA HINDUSTANI, GHULAM, FANAA and GHAJINI all belong in the same category, and it’s evident that this will be a one man show all the way.

For those living under a rock, GHAJINI is a remake of the Tamil blood-fest of the same name. The film is a dark and bloody tale of revenge, and quiet easily one of the darkest commercial films to come out of India in recent times apart from Sanjay Gupta’s ZINDAA and Ram Gopal Varma’s SARKAR RAAJ. The movie revolves around Sanjay Singhania (Aamir Khan) a multi-millionaire CEO of a mobile phone company. His paths cross with Kalpana (the stunning Asin straight from the sizzling South) and the two fall madly in love, until calamity strikes. In a gruesome act of murder Kalpana is taken from Sanjay and he’s left in a coma. Sanjay wakes up in a relentless nightmare as the heavy blow to the head leaves him with anterograde amnesia ( he only has 15 minutes before he loses his memory again and again). With the assistance of a polaroid and heavy tattoo’s Sanjay goes about leaving clues for himself to trace back the past each time. Thus begins a mans quest for revenge, to find the man who took his love…Ghajini Dhananjay (now anyone who appreciated 80’s cinema will vouch this is a kick ass name!). How Sanjay finally gets his revenge forms the crux of the story.

I had doubts about GHAJINI before it’s release for the simple fact the subject matter at hand was quiet dark. This is a violent and brutal film which usually tends to mean female and children’s audience stays away. However where GHAJINI strikes is in the love story which is the perfect lead-up to the darkness that follows. For a film like this to really work and the violence to really be wanted by the audience, the backbone of the story has to be strong, if the audience don’t feel sympathy the film will fall flat, and that’s where A.R Murugadoss (taking a bow in Hindi cinema) strikes gold. The subdued love story and old school charm is simply well done and ensures the audience is smiling as much as they are crying or gritting their teeth. Knowing the entire movie before hand the movie didn’t have the same impact as it did the first time (Suriya’s performances holds it’s own against Aamir’s IMO), but seeing all the aunties around me sniffing at interval, and the edge-of-your-seat silence and gasps in climax I was convinced A.R Murugadoss had a monster on his hands.

At the centre of GHAJINI lies a extremely terrifying and gutso performance from the one and only Aamir Khan. The sheer effort Aamir has put into getting the look and feel of his character right must be applauded. Granted a lot of the work was done for him given it’s a remake, however I found more of a emotional edge to Aamir’s performance than Suriya’s (which focussed on the anger). To put it another way, in the Tamil GHAJINI it’s Suriya’s anger that struck me, all I wanted him to do was find GHAJINI and bash the living daylights out of him, with the Hindi GHAJINI I experienced all those emotions too, however I also felt a enormous amount of sympathy for Sanjay Singhania. A special mention must be made of 2 scenes, the sequence where Aamir looks at himself in the mirror and the climax scene where he loses his memory after a enormous fight. And thank god they changed the climax as it betters on the original and has more of an impact.
Asin does the exact re-run of her performance from the original and is still equally effective this time. Her childlike innocence comes off well, and she compliments Khan well in the comic sequences. Keeping her onboard for the remake definetly paid off. NISHABD girl Jiah Khan on the other hand isn’t given much to do and doesn’t leave much impact.
Finally the man himself..Ghajini Dhanajay played by a ferocious Pradeep Rawat. Rawat excelled in the original, however a little part of me wanted another actor in the role like Irrfan or Kay Kay, however keeping Rawat on pays off in a strange campish way as he gives the film one of the biggest 90’s throwbacks I’ve seen in a long time, remember all those films where the villain would come dressed up outlandishly with gold rings with a constant menacing frown on his face? Well this is Ghajini Dhanjay is THAT villain. Rawat’s job is to be one mean mu*haf*cka and he does just that!

The film is a standout in the musical and technical department too. Be it the stunning song sequences composed by the legend himself A.R Rehman (man what is up with all the top dog’s starting with A…A.R Rehman, Amitabh, Akshay, Aamir….A…). Rehman composes a album which is perfectly in sync with the genre of the film, a film like this needs popular romantic numbers which look beautiful on-screen and capture the mood…old-school dancing around trees as they say now-a-days. My pick of the lot is GUZARISH which is haunting and surreal.
A lot has been said about the violence in GHAJINI, however within the context of the film I found the violence justified. This is a tragic love story about a man seeking revenge for the murder of his girlfriend. Infact, I would go as far as to say, as a film this is Aamir’s darkest film since his National Award winning RAAKH. The action in the movie is the kind that hasn’t been pulled off convincingly in a while. While most film these days tend to “harken back” to the old days but never actually play it out hence alienating a large part of the audience who still want THAT cinema (how else can you explain the roaring success of films like WELCOME and SINGH IS KINGG), which would explain why the likes of a JHOOM BARABAR JHOOM and TASHAN isn’t accepted yet a GHAJINI is. The film is THAT old-school masala film with a dark edge, stunningly mounted action sequences which are outlandish and completely over-the-top yet somehow become believable in the sphere of the world that GHAJINI lives in. Aamir Khan beating up 10 men one after the other like a machine is extremely convincing and the viewer feels his rage and anger, I remember biting my lip in the climax thinking “maar usko mad*&^ch^*&” (the last time I felt this way in a fight scene was Vikram Bhatt’s GHULAM where puny Aamir takes on boxer Saxena, or a wounded Bachchan taking on a one-eyed Dedvgan in Santoshi’s KHAKEE)…..…aah masala! Looking forward to the next Ikka (3 IDIOTS) Aamir Khan…quiet easily the most awaited movie of 09..