India Insight

Movie Review: This ‘Pizza’ is half-baked

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

If the rule of thumb to gauge the worth of a horror movie is how badly it scares you, then Akshay Akkineni’s supernatural thriller ‘Pizza’ is successful only in parts. That’s tragic, considering the plot held promise and would’ve worked had it been treated more intelligently and with attention to finer detail.

pizzaaKunal (Akshay Oberoi) and Nikita (Parvathy Omanakuttan) are a married couple. Kunal is a pizza delivery man while Nikita writes horror novels. Money is scarce and they struggle to make ends meet. One night Kunal delivers a pizza to a woman (Dipannita Sharma) at her bungalow.

Soon he finds himself trapped inside the house and from then on, the film is about Kunal stumbling upon bloodied bodies, his close encounters with demons, and his attempts to escape. Add to the mix Kunal’s wife who goes missing after she turns up at the bungalow following his frantic call for help.

“Pizza” starts on a weak note — the opening scene in the elevator with the vanishing old man is borderline funny and could well be a lesson in how not to begin a horror movie. The next 20-odd minutes are spent establishing Kunal’s family and work life. There is even a flashback song thrown in. You know there’s a purpose to all this, but it bores you and you wish things would quickly move on.

pizzadThe movie’s scariest moments are those that Kunal spends locked in the haunted house. From the time the door shuts behind him, you know he’s in serious trouble. Dead bodies appear and disappear, and evil spirits seem determined to terrorize and kill him. The visuals of blood and gore might be routine fare for the average horror movie buff, but there are some genuinely tense moments too.

Bollywood seeks tax breaks from Budget 2014

By Shashank Chouhan and Sankalp Phartiyal

Bollywood is hoping that the newly elected government’s first budget will contain tax breaks that will let it write a happy ending, at least for this year and next.

The Indian movie business, led by the Mumbai-based Hindi film industry, hopes Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s budget will reduce the tax burden on movie studios as well as theatre owners and operators, and will provide incentives that would let them open more theatres around the country to boost ticket sales.

While the entertainment tax on movie tickets varies from one state to another, filmmakers pay numerous other fees, such as a 12.36 percent service tax to the central government that is charged on payments to actors and film crews, as well as customs on any imports such as movie equipment. This, industry insiders say, makes it tough to make more money. In Maharashtra, Bollywood’s home state, the taxes on a movie can comprise up to 61 percent of a film’s budget.

Movie Review: ‘Lekar Hum Deewana Dil’ is an insipid disaster

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Director Arif Ali’sLekar Hum Deewana Dil” will try your patience from the word go, so here’s a game you can play to make the experience more tolerable. It’s called ‘Spot the Movie’ and its rules are simple: name the films that this particular snorefest reminds you of. I promise you, there’ll be many.

In “Lekar Hum Deewana Dil”, Karishma Shetty (Deeksha Seth) and Dinesh ‘Dino’ Nigam (Armaan Jain) are college classmates in Mumbai who get along like a house on fire. Everyone else is convinced they are in love but the lead pair says they are just good friends. Such good friends that Karishma begs Dino to marry her to avoid the arranged marriage her rich, tyrannical father has planned for her. They elope when neither family consents to the match.

With little money and an unfinished education, it doesn’t make sense. But what is an eloping Bollywood couple if not ridiculously optimistic? The two travel deep into the country’s heartland. One of their stops is Dantewada in the state of Chhattisgarh, where they spend time with and even shake a leg for – hold your breath – a bunch of friendly Maoist rebels. Egos clash, quarrels ensue and things fall apart in general before there is enlightenment and reconciliation.

Movie Review: ‘Humshakals’ is best avoided

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

In the opening scene of director Sajid Khan’s “Humshakals” (lookalikes), Ashok Singhania (Saif Ali Khan) rattles off a series of unfunny jokes at a club as unamused guests flee. In a way, the scene is a sign of things to come, portending a long-winded tale with dull, contrived and ineffective humour.

Humshakals With “Humshakals”, Sajid Khan returns with his particular brand of slapstick comedy (remember “Housefull?). The plot is predictably threadbare. Ashok is taking care of his comatose father’s business empire; he’s an amateur comedian, a devoted son and a caring lover. Kumar (Riteish Deshmukh) is his best friend. Then there is Kunwar Amar Singh (Ram Kapoor), Ashok’s scheming maternal uncle who wants to seize his property by proving he is mentally unstable.

Confusion arises when Ashok and Kumar are admitted to the ‘Cray G. Mental Asylum’ (you read that right) and are mistaken for a pair of doppelganger patients with the same names. If that isn’t bizarre enough, there is a third patient called Joe in the same institution who is a lookalike of the scheming uncle.

Vijender Singh enters the Bollywood ring with ‘Fugly’

Vijender Singh, the pin-up boy of Indian boxing, made his Bollywood debut on Friday, starring in a thriller about four youngsters who get into trouble with the police.

Singh, whose middleweight bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics helped raise the sport’s profile in India, is training for next month’s Glasgow Commonwealth Games at a boxing camp in Patiala and was yet to watch “Fugly”, a film produced by Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar, when we interviewed him.

Singh, a strapping 28-year-old with boyish looks, told India Insight in a phone interview that he was up for new challenges and making a movie was just one of them. Excerpts from the interview:

Movie Review: 2 States

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Abhishek Varman’s “2 States”, based on a Chetan Bhagat novel of the same name, is a good example of a movie subject that would appeal to a new, younger Indian audience.

It features two youngsters who are freethinking, unencumbered by tradition and apparently able to take their own decisions. But they are respectful enough not to implement those decisions without their families’ approval.

This is where the new India stands – parents who give children freedom and education, but exert their authority when it comes to crucial decisions.

A Minute With: Alia Bhatt

Alia Bhatt made her Bollywood debut as a lead actress in the 2012 college romance “Student of the Year”. In February, she won over critics with her performance in the offbeat film “Highway”, playing a woman who starts caring for her kidnapper.

In the romantic comedy “2 States”, which opened in cinemas on Friday, the 21-year-old plays a woman from Tamil Nadu who has to battle cultural stereotypes to marry her Punjabi lover.

Alia, the daughter of Bollywood film-maker Mahesh Bhatt, spoke to Reuters about her role in “2 States”, what the film “Highway” did for her acting career, and why she considers herself “mediocre”. Here are excerpts from the interview:

Movie Review: Bhoothnath Returns

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

The one thing to be said for Nitesh Tiwari’s “Bhoothnath Returns” is that it has impeccable timing. At a time when India is caught up in election fever, and every TV news channel is celebrating “the dance of democracy”, the film delivers the same message, albeit with a higher budget and a stronger medium than public service advertisements.s

Combining a children’s film with a sermon on the importance of voting couldn’t have been easy, and at times, the film falters. Yet, you cannot help but warm up to the characters and the rather uneven storyline, thanks to the generous dose of honesty that director Tiwari brings to the table.

Amitabh Bachchan reprises his role as Bhoothnath, an amiable ghost in the land of spectres, depicted in the film as an idyllic European village with meadows and towering castles. Ridiculed because he couldn’t spook earthlings in the first film, Bhoothnath is sent back to scare a few kids, so that he can fulfil his ghostly duties.

Movie review: Youngistaan

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Syed Ahmad Afzal’s “Youngistaan” is supposed to be a funny and clever look at the reign of a carefree young man who finds himself sworn in as the prime minister of India.

Abhimanyu Kaul (Jackky Bhagnani), the son of the incumbent premier, is partying one minute and sitting by his dying fathers bedside the next. Our young hero is oblivious to his parent dying of cancer and knows nothing about the vagaries of politics in India, but is still trusted with the highest office in the country.

Abhimanyu’s wardrobe undergoes a transformation — from grungy tees to crisp, linen shirts. He makes rousing speeches at the United Nations and pushes for youth reform. What does not change though, is his whiny girlfriend and her whims and fancies, which the young prime minister insists on fulfilling, even when they are unreasonable and childish.

Movie Review: Ankhon Dekhi

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

The protagonist in Rajat Kapoor’s “Ankhon Dekhi” will remind you of some relative that you may have encountered at numerous family gatherings — the talkative, eccentric but loveable uncle who arouses mixed emotions.

The rest of the film’s characters, including Bauji’s lovelorn daughter; the babbling, hot-tempered mother; and his brooding brother are all sketched by Kapoor with such affection, that in spite of their quirks and idiosyncrasies, they are recognizable as people in our daily lives.

Bauji, played by Sanjay Mishra, is a travel-agency employee who has an epiphany. He decides to believe only what he experiences and not rely on what other people tell him to make crucial decisions. This causes much upheaval in the lower-middle-class family that he heads. Bauji quits his job, his brother’s family leaves the house, and he is accused of disrespecting religion.

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