India Insight

Movie Review: Hasee Toh Phasee

(The views expressed here do not represent those of Thomson Reuters)

Vinil Mathew’s “Hasee Toh Phasee” has the trappings of a conventional Hindi romantic comedy — the big fat wedding; the quirky extended family; two lost souls; and much song and dance.

Yet, Mathew manages to combine these elements into an unusual film that sparkles with humour and witty repartee, and despite a few bumps along the way, makes for a fun ride. The humour is reminiscent of TV sitcoms, and draws on several modern Indian pop culture references, including campy Bollywood songs and cult TV favourites like CID, to draw laughs.

At its heart, “Hasee Toh Phasee” is about Meeta and Nikhil, who meet a few days before he is to get married to her sister. Nikhil is stressed because his fiancée wants him to be successful and rich, while he is struggling with his event management business. When Meeta — who gets mysterious phone calls from China; compulsively gulps down mysterious pills; and seems decidedly neurotic — returns home, Nikhil is asked to take care of her and ensure she doesn’t ruin the wedding.

At first, he looks at Meeta (Parineeti Chopra) as a nuisance who just has to be kept at bay to ensure a stress-free wedding, but slowly, a bond develops. Alongside, the film also delves into the relationship between Meeta and her father, played endearingly by Manoj Joshi, and gives us some of the film’s most touching moments.

Yet, the film cannot avoid the usual traps — including Meeta as the Gujarati girl in torn jeans and unmade hair who dresses up and is heavily made up for a Punjabi wedding song, in what seems completely out of character at that point. Not to mention a last-minute dash from the airport and high drama at the wedding venue.

South Indian masala remakes no longer a sureshot Bollywood hit

Once considered a permanent fixture on the yearly slate of most production houses, the masala film, a hodgepodge of romance, action and comedy that revolves around a flawless hero, is slowly losing its sheen among Bollywood audiences.

Box-office figures for such films during the last six months suggest that they have missed expectations. This includes the returns on Salman Khan’s latest release “Jai Ho”, a film that has earned the star — credited with the return of these films — his lowest opening in cinemas yet.

Mostly remakes of campy south Indian films that rely on loud dialogue, garish dance sequences and a healthy dose of morality delivered amid much violent action, the genre faded during the 1990’s and the early years of the last decade.

Movie Review: One by Two

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)
Devika Bhagat‘s “One by Two” is the kind of film that best describes the word “wannabe”. It is populated with characters apparently beset with existential issues that seem superficial, and who think passing wind and chilling beer in the toilet is cool.

The plot structure is unusual in that the lead pair only meet in the final scene. But the incidents leading up to it are so drab, convoluted and uninteresting that when it does take place, it is difficult to drum up any enthusiasm for the couple.

Abhay Deol plays Amit Sharma, a “regular Joe” stuck in a dull job and being forced into an arranged marriage by his overbearing parents. Samara (Preeti Desai) is a dancer dealing with a dysfunctional family and professional woes.

Movie Review: Jai Ho

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

Five minutes into Sohail Khan’s “Jai Ho“, lead actor Salman Khan beats up scoundrels, saves a damsel in distress and breaks into a dance number (along with thousands of background dancers wearing orange sunglasses), singing about what is wrong with India.

Khan sings about farmers dying, women being unsafe and politicians looting the common man. The irony of this spectacle is that it’s been shot in Lavasa, a township in Maharashtra mired in controversy over illegal land acquisitions and regulatory clearances.

That is the kind of dichotomy that “Jai Ho” is pretty nonchalant about. Khan’s character claims to stand for women’s rights, but thinks nothing of commenting on a woman’s underwear. He rages against politicians for blocking traffic and inconveniencing the public, but rides his motorbike onto a crowded railway station platform.

Movie Review: Dedh Ishqiya

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

What a difference a week makes. Last week, the sight of Vijay Raaz and Arshad Warsi in “Joe B Carvalho” was enough to drive someone up the wall. A week later, they are a sheer delight in film-maker Abhishek Chaubey’s “Dedh Ishqiya”.

A rollicking, irreverent and well-executed film, Chaubey’s sequel to his 2010 debut has more of the sparkling dialogue and wit, but better etched characters, and a story that will keep the viewer engaged till the end.

In “Dedh Ishqiya”, the adventures of Khalu and Babban continue with the two finding themselves in a crumbling mansion, owned by the aging, but beautiful Begum Para (Madhuri Dixit), who follows up on a promise made to her late husband. She organizes a poetry competition, and declares she will marry the one whose poems impress her the most.

Aamir Khan’s recipe for India’s biggest blockbuster

In the weeks before the release of “Dhoom 3“, actor Aamir Khan got a message from his dentist, who was concerned that his patient’s new film wasn’t being promoted enough.

That was exactly what Khan, who plans the marketing of his films as meticulously as he prepares for roles, wanted to hear.

“When people are concerned enough about your film that they ask you why they aren’t promoting it more, you know you’ve achieved what you wanted,” the 48-year-old Bollywood star told Reuters in an interview.

A Minute With: Aamir Khan on movie marketing

Dhoom 3”, the third instalment in India’s only action movie franchise, has become Bollywood’s highest-grossing film, raking in more than 5 billion rupees ($80 million) in global ticket sales.

Lead actor Aamir Khan spoke to India Insight about the film’s marketing strategy, why reality TV shows may not be ideal for publicity and what he would change about his 2005 film “Mangal Pandey – The Rising.” Edited excerpts.

How was the marketing strategy for “Dhoom 3” conceived?
When we sat down for the first time, Victor (director Vijay Krishna Acharya) and the whole team were trying to figure out what we wanted to convey for this film. And like any other film, and this is something that both Adi (producer Aditya Chopra) and I feel very strongly, what actually wants to make you see the film is the trailer. We wanted to let the creative of the film speak for itself. Over the years, certain conventions have been formed and we looked at each convention for its own merit. Do we want to continue what is happening, is it of any use to the film, or not?

Movie Review: Joe B Carvalho

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

A contract killer with a schizophrenic personality; a woman who is blind but doesn’t know it; a police officer who spends more time in bikinis than catching criminals; and a detective who never shows any signs of intelligence — these are characters in Samir Tewari’s disaster of a movie “Mr Joe B Carvalho”.

Arshad Warsi plays the title character, that of a detective hired to stop a couple eloping, but finds himself embroiled in another matter. Mahesh Ramchandani’s hare-brained script stops making sense about ten minutes into the film.

Styled as somewhat of a surreal comedy, Tewari’s film has some bizarre situations that are impossible to make sense of or make us laugh. The reason why Carvalho and his lady love (Soha Ali Khan) break up is because he saves her from a snake, a scorpion and a live puppet — all of whom turn up in her bedroom — but in the process causes harm to her family members. The entire scene is absurd, badly acted and not even remotely funny. And this isn’t the only such scene.

Bollywood actor Farooq Shaikh dies at 65

Farooq Shaikh, the actor who embodied Everyman in Hindi films of the 1980’s and portrayed many memorable characters on screen, died in Dubai on Saturday. He was 65.

Shaikh is best known for his roles in films such as “Katha”, “Saath Saath” and “Chashme Buddoor”, where he straddled both commercial and art house cinema successfully.

His deadpan sense of humour stood him in good stead during his stint on television, where he played the lead in the Hindi adaptation of the British series “Yes, Prime Minister”.

The best (and worst) Bollywood films of 2013

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

This was the year of the mega blockbuster in Bollywood. Box-office records were broken in 2013 as more and more audiences thronged into cinemas. It was also the year that Indian cinema celebrated a century of existence, cementing its place as one of the world’s most prolific film industries — one that thrives on its own audiences and talent, without having to borrow from elsewhere.

As for content, it was a mixed year, with an overriding focus on catering to the lowest common denominator to bring in the money. Films such as “Chennai Express” and “Dhoom 3” proved that, backed by a big star, this formula still works like a charm.

Critics, thankfully, don’t have to go by numbers. Here then, are my picks for the year’s best and worst, in no particular order:

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