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..


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Genernation NeXt…has arrived!

1) Ranbir Kapoor: Son of Rishi Kapoor, grand-son of Raj Kapoor and great grand-son of Prithviraj Kapoor, Ranbir Kapoor is the next biggest star-son to enter Bollywood. Despite a flop outing with his debut film SAAWARIYA, he managed to prove that he’s an competent actor with an extremely likeable screen presence and all the qualities that would catapult him in to the top rung (females love the guy!!). Despite his chocolatey looks, Ranbir also has the most interesting line-up of films on hand and not just sticking to the romantic and light-hearted roles like his father did for the most. Apart from Yashraj’s BACHCHNA AE HASEENO where he plays a cassanova he has Raj Kumar Santoshi’s AJAB PREM KI GHAZAB(his father Rishi worked with Santoshi in DAMINI), Mani Rathnam’s next(a solo), Prakash Jha’s RAJNITI(plays Rajiv Gandhi), Karan Johar’s MY NAME IS KHAN(plays a terrorist), and a untitled film with TIPS. He has also said yes to his friend Vikramjit Singh’s films MERA JAHAAN where he plays a Sikh salesman called Rocket Rocky Singh!

2) Neil Nitin Mukesh: The son Nitin Mukesh and grandson of Mukesh made a firey debut with Sriram Raghavan’s masterpiece JOHNNY GADDARR. Before his debut he was compared with Hrithik Roshan, however it was evident that he was determined to carve a niche of his own. Playing a anti-hero who doesn’t care about anything but money, Neil Nitin Mukesh sprung a surprise on everyone with a stunning debut which oozed confidence. The actor has also decided to ensure he has a mix of interesting films from the commercial fare’s to the more offbeat. His forthcoming films include Sudhir Mishra’s TERA KYA HOGA JOHNNY? (he plays Parvez not Johnny here), Yash Chopra’s Next directed by Kabir Khan (KAABUL EXPRESS), FREEZE with Eros International co-starring Koena Mitra and Amrita Arora and Mahdur Bhandarkar’s FASHION.

3) Mimoh Chakraborthy: One would’ve thought the son of legendary actor Mithun would’ve got a better debut than the jaded 80’s reminder JIMMY. Mimoh’s debut film was a complete and total disaster at the boxoffice and the reviews were less than favourable too. His voice needs to be worked on(a criticism his father also faced), and his appearances need to be worked on too. However despite that Mimoh has a stack of films lined up for release; the bad news is most of them too sound B grade with some directed by JIMMY director Raj Sippy! HAMILTON PALACE(produced by old-timer Salim and directed by Raj Sippy), INDIA ROCKS(a musical opposite Riya Sen), and LOOT(most promising of the lot, produced by Sunil Shetty and co-starring AAP KA SURROOR girl Hanshika Motwani and also Govinda).

4) Sikander Kher: Son of legendary actors Anupam Kher and Kirron Kher; Sikander Kher made his debut a few weeks back with the Sanjay Gupta produced thriller WOODSTOCK VILLA. He made his debut as an anti-hero and most critics have praised his performance and potential too. His next immediate release is SUMMER 2007 opposite the delightful Gul Panang.

5) Harman Baweja: Never before has the debut movie of an actor been so costly, veteran director Harry Baweja (DILWALE, DILJALE, DEEWANE, QAYAMAT) directs thuis sci-fi love story with special FX never seen before in India. The movie has been made on an astronomical budget and co-stars Harman’s real life beau Priyanka Chopra. Harman’s become famous for being a Hrithik “clone”. Not only his looks and the fact he’s treading on terrortiry ruled by Hrithik in KOI MIL GAYA and KRRISH, dancing seems to be one of his biggest fortes. Will Harman live up to the hype remains to be seen. Though one thing is for sure, he isn’t going anywhere soon with films like Ashutosh Gowariker’s Next, Ajit Pals VICTORY opposite Amrita Rao, Anees Bazmee’s ITS MY LIFE with Genelia D’Souza and Nana Patekar.

6) Imraan Khan: Nephew of Aamir Khan (he played the younger version of Aamir Khan in QSQT abd JJWS) and grand-son of Nasir Hussain makes his debut with the sweet looking love story JAANE TU YA JAANE NA. The movie is being produced by Aamir Khan himself(after LAGAAN and TAARE ZAMEEN PAR) and directed by Abbas Tyrewala who makes his debut. The gorgeous Genelia D’Souza is cast opposite him,and the music is by A.R Rehman. Incidentially, the film clashes with Harman Baweja’s HUGE LOVE STORY 2050…will Imraan see success with his much smaller debut? Moving forward, it’s evident Imraan has the upper hand as far as projects go; Imraan has Sanjay Gadhvi’s KIDNAP with Sanjay Dutt and Soham Shah’s next produced by Karan Johar.

7) Shiv Darshan (CALM DOWN SHETTY BHAI): Not much is known about him, except he is making his debut soon. Son of Suneel Darshan, Suneel has gone on record to say that he will be the next Akshay Kumar (no doubt bitter after Akshay has left him). The Darshan Bros. will sign Shiv for all their movies too….but will Shiv stay around? And will others sign him?

8) Rahul Bhatt: Again not much is known about him. Son of Mahesh Bhatt, he will make his debut with SUICIDE BOMBER directed by Anurag Basu. Given the Bhatt’s are usually successful at launching their own in-house actors who give them hits(Emraan, Shiney) Rahul could well follow.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Akshay Shah Reviews 1971 (Hindi, 2007)

Akshay Shah Reviews 1971 (Hindi, 2007)

The year 2007 saw a lot of movies that were simply criminally underrated. Movies that deserved a whole lot more acclaim, accolades and popularity then they deserved…..add another one to the list; 1971; a hard-hitting and emotionally rending film which deserves to be seen by everyone.

On face value 1971 looks like a war film along the lines of say J.P Dutta’s BORDER or LINE OF CONTROL, however once you watch the movie you realise it’s an engaging and exciting tale of survival. In-fact the story of the movie is closer to Milan Luthria’s DEEWAAR-LETS BRING OUR HEROES HOME and it tackles the same theme. The key difference here is debutant Amrit Sagar and writer Moti Sagar get everything right!

A clan of six Indian prisoners of war -- Major Suraj Singh [Manoj Bajpai], Captain Jacob [Ravi Kissen], Subedar Ahmed [Chitaranjan Giri], Captain Kabir [Kumud Mishra], Flight Lt. Ram [Manav Kaul] and Flight Lt. Gurtu [Deepak Dobriyal] -- decide to make the most daring escape from a Pakistani prison camp to the Indian border. What ensues is a gut-wrenching and heart-pounding chase, across the unpredictable terrain, where these men brave inhuman weather conditions and the constant threat of the Pakistani officials on the hunt for the P.O.W.s.

With nothing to rely on except each other and the love of their beloved homeland the men will stop at no cost to achieve their goal, or die in the process.

The story by Moti Sagar is based on plain hard facts, and the writer has ensured that he serves full and complete justice to the subject at hand. There are two things that strike you about the story, the first is that it would’ve been very easy to turn a subject like this in to a documentary, and Sagar clearly avoids this as 1971 is quiet frankly the most entertaining “escape” film I’ve seen from India in a VERY long time. Secondly, a theme like this is easy to turn in to a jingoistic finger pointing exercise, however Sagar avoids this path completely too. Yes, the movie does call a spade a spade, but never does it get offensive (much like Kashyap’s BLACK FRIDAY).

The screenplay by Piyush Mishra is tremendous. Right from the start to the very end the movie is an enaging, egde-of-your-seat thrill-ride which is relentless. The movie gets more and more gripping as it progresses. The first half set in the prison camp does a remarkable job at showing the viewer life in one of these camps, and the thorough research that has gone in to the subject matter is clearly visible in each and every frame. However from the point the escape takes place, the graph only rises further and further. The sequences that follow range from exciting, gripping to horrific and truly disturbing. Though Bollywood has explored films in this genre with films like LAKSHYA, LOC, BORDER, AB TUMHARE HAWALE WATAN SAATHIYON, and DEEWAAR-LBOHH; 1971 covers new facets of the genre which has never been touched before. 1971 is ultimately a tale of survival against all odds, and a undying determination to go back home.

Director Amrit Sagar deserves a full round of applause. This is a stunning debut from a rookie, and Sagar is no doubt one very talented director who has inherited all right family genes(he does belong to the Ramanand Sagar family). Not once can viewers tell this is the work of a first-timer as each and every part of the movie is so seamless in it’s pacing, and so superlative in it’s narrative. The unflinching honesty, the brutal violence and the complexity of the topic is just not something you expect from a debutant (though Kashyap did the same in BLACK FRIDAY, mind you he went to “school” with SATYA). There isn’t a single scene that is unwarranted or undeeded and the emotional impact of the movie is simply staggering.

The performances in the movie are of a high order, and despite a cast of mostly “up and comers” or newcomers, the performances leave a lasting impression.

Manoj Bajpai roars yet again! I had started giving up hope on Bajpai being a part of a quality film worthy of his talent again, however he springs a neat surprise with a knock-out performance. This isn’t on the same par as his earlier works like SATYA, SHOOL, KAUN, PINJAR or AKS, however this is a strong performance which leaves a hammering impact!
Ravi Kissen (Bhojpuri Superstar) surprises with a soft performance. In many scenes he instantly reminded me of Mohanlal be it the delivery or the get-up(compliment enough).

Chittaranjan Giri is equally strong. Kumud Mishra and Manav Kaul are both efficient and excel in the sceneds they have. Deepak Dobriyal is spectacular, and this is the third performance in a row where Dobriyal has totally impressed me (first being OMKARA and second being SHAURYA).

The most vital aspect of a “escape” movie has to be the chemistry between it’s stars(again something DEEWAAR-LBOHH lacked sorely), and the cast here are natural to the core.

Technically again the movie is a slick product, and again this is a department the movie has been over-looked. Chirantan Das’s camerawork is stunning, and worthy of accolades. Shyam Salgaonkar’s editing is crisp never once losing focus on the subject at hand. Shyam Kaushals action sequences are slick.

All up 1971 is a MUST-SEE! Do not miss this movie as it’s quiet easily one of the finest 2007 had to offer….

Overall Rating: 8.0/10.0

Monday, June 9, 2008

Akshay Shah Reviews MIXED DOUBLES (Hindi, 2006)

Akshay Shah Reviews MIXED DOUBLES (Hindi, 2006)

I make it no secret that I hold Rajat Kapur and his brand of cinema in high regard, be it his directional debut RAGHU ROMEO or his last venture MITHYA. In between Kapur delivered this refreshing, witty, honest and very funny urban comedy about a middle-class indian couple who decide to try…swinging!
In the hands of anyone else this could’ve turned in to a shameless sex comedy where the emphasis is on lewd and crude jokes. In the hands of Kapur and his team the movie is a classy comedy with ample doses of every-day humour and some very identifiable characters.

The story by Rajat Kapur himself revolves around a young couple in their early 30’s; Sunil (Ranvir Shourie) and Malti (Konkona Sen Sharma) who live in Mumbai with their young son. On face value the couple have everything that should make a happy marriage; double income one kid, a nice apartment, decent job, some good friends, and all the luxuries of life. However one thing is clear, the sexual spark that was there in the early years of marriage is now clearly missing as Sunil is lacking his “mojo”. It’s driving Sunil up the wall…until his American return friend put the idea of wife swapping aka “swinging” in to his head, and a adamant Sunil is dying to experiment at any costs. Malti thinks Sunil is going mad and is completely against the idea, however Sunil slowly manages to convince her. Sunil and Malti meet-up with another couple who are more experienced and have done this before; Vinod (Rajat Kapur) and Kalpana (Koel Purie). The couples decide to meet over dinner and drinks…however does the night go as planned?

The first thing that strikes one about Kapur’s story is it’s sheer honest and realism. The scenes in the movie are straight out of everyday life, and it’s Kapur’s ability to write such a entertaining “slife-of-life” that really makes MIXED DOUBLES work. The theme at hand is indeed bold, but the manner in which the story has been written makes it identifiable to the viewer, and despite the boldness of the subject matter this is essentially a tale about an ordinary couple trying to salvage their marriage through some desperate measures. However if there is a culprit here it’s the screenplay. The movie is simply fantastic up to the final 30 minutes, from the point the couples finally meet til the end the movie does slumber and the end does come across as very rushed. It’s as If the writers didn’t know how to end the film? Or to clarify the consequences of the events any further which would’ve no doubt made for some superb dramatic moments in the tale.

As a director Rajat Kapur is one whom I’ve aways greatly admired. A man of vision who knows how to take a story and tell is superbly wel. He isn’t a “showy showman” ala Subhash Ghai nor does he try to be. His greatest ability is to take a relatively simple story on paper, and bring out the complexities of the subject matter without over-complicating the movie. It’s been his single strength through his first movie to his last. MIXED DOUBLES in some ways is his weakest effort simply because the crucial 30-35 minutes of the finale come across as a disappointment. Ranvir’s outburst is as expected once he finds out Konkona has slept with Rajat (this was bound to happen given what a “baby” Ranvir’s character was shown from the start, and Rajat is perfect in bringing out the “it’s a mans world” philosophy of things). However the finale is less than desired. Even the sequences between Ranvir and Koel comes across as a means for some lame laughs which never quiet hit the right mark. Why does Koel’s character behave the way she does? Also it would’ve been good to see explored what finally pushes Konkona over the line to sleep with Rajat.

The dialogues in the movie by Anurag Kashyap and Rajat Kapur deserve a special mention as they elevate the movie in countless places. Funny, poignant, and VERY real, they are no doubt one of the films greatest assets.

The performances in the movie are ace, and feature all of Kapur’s usual suspects(including himself).

Ranvir Shourie is an actor I hold in a very high regard after his performance in this years MITHYA which to my mind still remains the finest male performance of 2008. In earlier films like KHOSLA KA GHOSLA, PYAAR KE SIDE EFFECTS and TRAFFIC SIGNAL he proved his brilliance, however in MITHYA he took his talents and abilities to another level. MIXED DOUBLES in that retrospect plays on all of Shourie’s strengths. It’s essentially a comic role with a lot of heart and sou, and in many ways an extension of Shourie’s Naanu act in PYAAR KE SIDE EFFECTS. His delivery and facial expressions are bang-on each time.

Konkona Sen Sharma is magnificent (when is she not?). As the wife in a dilemma due to her husbands demanding and babyish manner she hits all the right notes, and shares some superlative chemistry with Shourie.

Rajat Kapur is OK in a small role. Koel Purie’s character needed to be written better. Saurabh Shukla lends fabulous support as always. Vinay Patthak is a knock-out in a small role. Nasserdian Shah is efficient as always.

Sagar Desai’s music is good. Technically the movie is well done and in sync with the movies story and budget. Rafey Mehmood’s camerawork gels with the mood of the film perfectly.

All up MIXED DOUBLES is a refreshing, engaging, funny, witty and original story that is well worth a watch despite it’s flaws.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10.0


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Akshay Shah Reviews HUM (Hindi, 1991)

Akshay Shah Reviews HUM (Hindi, 1991)

If there was ever a director after the likes of Prakash Mehra, Ramesh Sippy and Yash Chopra who fully understood Amitabh Bachchan, and his “angry young man” legacy it was none other than the Late Mukul ANand. Anand made a trilogy with Bachchan which started with AGNEEPATH (1990), then came HUM, and finally KHUDA GAWAH (1992). While AGNEEPATH is undeniably the better film, HUM is one that quiet easily remains my personal favourite though I liked the film considerably less on this watch as the flaws are more glaringly evident than ever.

The movie revolves around Bhaktawar (Danny Denzongpa); a criminal mastermind, whose most active territory is the dockyard. He constantly gets irritated by the dockyard's union leader, Tiger (Amitabh Bachchan), and only tolerates him because Tiger's dad (Deepak Shirke) is his trusted and loyal bodyguard. When Tiger’s best friend Goinsalves (Romesh Sharma) is killed by Bhaktawar Tiger leads a revolt against Bhaktawar entering his house with the intent to kill, however a conniving and cunning cop Giridhar (Anupam Kher) tells Tiger to run for his life. Giridhar in the meantime has Bhaktawar arrested, burns his house, murders his wife and daughters and blames Tiger. Tiger runs for his life even abandoning his lady love Jumalina Gonsalves (Kimi Katkar). Years later, Tiger surfaces as a bespectacled mild-mannered man who now goes by the name of Shekhar, with two younger brothers Kumar (Rajnilkanth) and Vijay (Govinda). As fate would have it, the past catches up with Shekhar who is once again reminded of his dark past….and once again he becomes Tiger and returns to the old Mumbai dockyard…once again for his family.

Just the other week when watching TASHAN I described masala cinema as …”the kind of cinema which makes you want to travel to the single screen theatres, whistle, clap, make noise and throw coins at the screen. The kind of cinema which ultimately makes you want to go wild, makes your heart thump in excitement and whether you realise it or not you’re sitting there with a big stupid grin on your face, the “masala” cinema of Bombay which is only seen in brief flickers these days…” and folks, the first 1 hour of HUM is exactly that cinema in it’s truest and bluest form. The story by Ravi Kapoor and Mohan Kaul is superb to say the least. The age old themes of family, love, honour and revenge are repackaged in the most entertaining of masala pot-boilers with HUM. The idea of a man escaping from his dark and tainted past only for it to come back and haunt him is one that has been superbly written.

However the biggest let-down here is Ravi Kapoor and Mohan Kaul’s screenplay. The first hour of the movie is pure masala gold, however from the point we’re introduced to a older and “retired” Tiger the movie stagnates considerably. The scenes of the “loving family” have been well depicted, however there have been too many unnecessary sub-plots added which hinder the films pace considerably. The entire plot-line about duplicate Kader Khan and also Captain Zattack stand out like a sore thumb now more than ever. The pace does pick up again at the moment Deepa Sahi is kidnapped right up to the very end.

As a director Mukul.S.Anand to my mind is one of the biggest losses ever to the Hindi film industry. Much like Santoshi, he was a authentic masala film-maker who understood the legacy of Amitabh Bachchan; the superstar, and Amitabh Bachchan; the actor all too well and managed to merge the two together in to one in the most spell-binding manner across three fantastic (and note diametrically different) films. The best film of the lot will always be AGNEEPATH, however I have a great weakness for the persona of Tiger that Anand creates in HUM. Anand knows all too well the kind of mass hysteria and superstardom associated with Amitabh, and Tiger is a character that in essence symbolises Bachchan’s entire persona, the crowd-pleasing man of the masses, Tiger is a lowly slum dwelling “goonda” with a heart of gold. A “man’s man”….saviour for the poor and a death-wish to the rich. Thing with Anand was that he knew all too well that this persona would only work, but to a certain extent as by 1991 age was slowly catching up to Bachchan, and it was time to add a new facet to the age old Bachchan persona (he couldn’t continue playing the “angry young man” for too much longer), hence showing him as a “angry young man” in the first hour, and then having him re-appear as a mild-mannered and lovable family man is not only a spectacular re-working on the superstars image, but also one that offers the viewer the rare insight as to what would happen IF the “angry young man” ran away from the world and decided to lead a normal life only to have his past catch up with him? And again, in the finale, having Tiger re-enter the docks as his old-self shows Anand’s grasp over the realm of Bachchan’s legacy. The thing with HUM is, unlike AGNEEPATH and KHUDA GAWAH, it’s a less serious film. HUM is a all out, no holds-barred masala entertainer, and while the first hour has enough gritty, raw Bachchan action for those who wanted another AGNEEPATH-esque film, the film however does shift gears in to a more traditional film. The portions in the middle are even forgettable in some cases, whilst the family sequences have been well canned with plenty of heart, the forced comic sequences and extended love story of Govinda seems jarring. The drama however does pick up considerably once Amitabh’s past catches up with him right up to action-packed finale. Anand’s work in both AGNEEPATH and KHUDA GAWAH proves that he was a director of pure class, a cut above the rest with his seamless direction and larger-than-life story-telling. With HUM he gets it right most of the time, though with a tighter screenplay it could’ve been much better. Even technically, the first hour of HUM is simply unbeatable, the entire ambience and atmosphere that Anand creates with the dock setting is so vivid and enticing it’s hard for one to take their eyes of the screen. As a director, on the whole HUM wasn’t Anand’s best film, however on the whole, I would argue that this was quiet easily Anand’s “massiest” film with moments of golden masala. Such was the hype of HUM at the time it came out, whether you were Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, Afghani or Iraqi…you knew “Jhumma Chumma De De”!

The background score……the angry roar of a tiger…..the flying kicks and power-house punches….right from his “seeti-taali” entry Bachchan was at his massiest best as Tiger. Infact, I would say that Bachchan in the first hour of HUM is quiet easily one of the best “masala” performances of the 90’s. Everything that made the audience fall in love with Amitabh Bachchan; the legend; in the first place can be seen in that first hour. The anger, the “street” appeal, the “mass” appeal, the rugged charm, the swagger, the delivery, and the fight scenes. The persona of Tiger allowed Bachchan to play to the gallery and he is simply outstanding here. However what I liked about HUM was the re-emergence of Tiger as Shekhar. Bachchan as the mild-mannered family man was equally brilliant here and he perfectly underplays his character. Sequences like when Govinda asks him “bhaiyya aapne kabhi kisi ko laat, ghussa ya punch maara hai” and he has a flashback to his younger self is simply priceless. One of my favourite moments in HUM as far as Bachchan’s acting goes, is actually a much quieter scene. It’s the sequence where someone rings and asks for Tiger years later, and we get a momentary glimpse of a blank-faced Bachchan sitting there as he realises that his worst nightmares are finally coming true…..and that his past has finally come back to haunt him. If ever one facial expression could delivery a 1000 words then this is it! After AGNEEPATH, this to my mind is Bachchan’s finest performance from the 90’s (though I have a great weakness for AKAYLA and INDRAJEET as well, but that’s for another day).

HUM is also a feat because it managed to bring in to one frame three of India’s “massiest” stars, Bachchan, Rajnikanth and Govinda who all shared magnificent chemistry with each other.

Rajnikanth is great here in a supporting role, he plays his part efficiently and what really stands out is his warm and natural chemistry with Bachchan. His “clash” sequence with Amitabh would have to be one of my favorites in the movie and he does a splendid job. Surprisingly, Rajnikanth did HUM at a time where he was featuring in Hindi films more frequently. HUM aside, he had FARISHTAY, PHOOL BANE ANGAARAY, THALAPATHI(dubbed in to Hindi as DAL-PATY) and Mukul.S.Anand’s other little gem KHOON KA KARZ. Rajni from what I have read in past interviews, left such a thunderous affect on Govinda, whom later did a film titled HATHKADI where for the entire movie Govinda mimics and imitates Rajni’s style! Incidentially Rajnikanth himself did a remake of Bachchan’s HUM with himself taking on Bachchan’s role titled BAADSHA in 1995!

Govinda was in fine form himself here and left his mark. His comic scenes were great and despite the towering presence of Bachchan and the presence of another super-star with Rajni he didn’t get completely over-shadowed.

This was no doubt Kimi Katkar’s finest performance to date, and her one true claim to fame. She reached dizzying heights globally as “Jumma” after which she disappeared off the face of the earth. She plays her part well, and surprisingly made a good match opposite Bachchan too. Their scenes together in the first half are a lot of fun.

Deepa Sahi is an actress I had a huge crush on. She not only looks gorgeous, she acts gracefully and is a complete natural. However unfortunately, with the exception of HUM, MAYA MEMSAAB, OH DARLING YEH HAI INDIA and AAR YA PAAR the actress was never to be seen again.

Shilpa Shriodkor is just aboutOK here and fails to leave much of a mark.

Danny Denzgopa is remarkably as Bhaktawar and his ranks as the second best performance in the movie after Bachchan’s. As the money hungry businessman, or the disturbed and revenge-seeking jail-bird Denzgopa is just perfect and shines with his electric presence and menacing delivery. One of my favourite Denzgopa performances ever.

AnupamKher is annoying here and hams it to a hilt. Granted his chemistry with Annu Kapoor is natural, and the two seem to be having a lot of fun, however after a point Kher fails to evoke any scares and ends up coming across as a buffoon.

Deepak Shirke is good as Bachchan’s dad. Romesh Sharma is apt as Gonsalves. Shiva is painful as Captain Zattack.

Mukul.S.Anand was no doubt technically one of the finest directors India had., A visionary who knew how to handle a huge budget and make a true “blockbuster” film, and HUM was no different. W.B Rao’s camerawork has aged a little, however the spellbinding shots of Mumbai dock-yards in the first half alone are applaud-worthy. R. Verman’s art-work is magnicient. Ravi Dewan’s action sequences are top-notch too.

Which finally brings me to Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s music……JHUMMA CHUMMA DE DE created global mass hysteria….the song, it’s picturisaton, Bachchan’s dancing, everything about it was legendary and to this date the song remains a landmark event of the 90’s! The other track which is the title track is also splendid, and cements the central theme of the movie well.

All up HUM hasn’t aged that well overall as a movie. Like I said right at the start, the flaws stand out now more than ever, however if there is one thing that only gets better with time it’s Bachchan’s performance, the flawless first hour, and the dramatic last hour; which alone leaves the viewer more than satisfied.

Overall Rating: 8.0/10.0