India Masala

Bollywood and culture in an emerging India

Bol Bachchan: All talk, no substance

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A one-line review saying “this is a Rohit Shetty” film would suffice for most movies this director churns out with billion-rupee regularity, but “Bol Bachchan” is different. This time, Shetty has attempted to remake one of Hindi cinema’s most iconic comedies, one which shares its name with the series of films that gave Shetty his first hits in the industry.

In re-imagining “Gol Maal“, Shetty is taking up a gauntlet that he should have left well alone. Hrishikesh Mukherjee‘s brand of comedy couldn’t be more different than Shetty’s and in trying to combine the two,  the film ends up going nowhere.

Mukherjee’s 1979 comedy of errors, about a meek protagonist who tries to fool his boss into thinking he is two different people, is also at the heart of “Bol Bachchan”, except Shetty spikes it with a liberal dose of item songs, inane dialogue, and of course, exploding vehicles.

Abhishek Bachchan plays Abbas, an unemployed youth who comes to a small village in Rajasthan with his sister Saina, hoping to improve his lot in life. In his attempt to save a child from drowning, Abbas inadvertently breaks open the lock of a temple, and invites the attention of Prithviraj (played by Ajay Devgn), the local ‘king’.

Players: Good action, bad acting

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You cannot help but compare the last film of 2011 with the first film of 2012. Both have a lot in common — “Don 2″ and “Players” are both heist films, both borrow heavily from Hollywood movies and have their share of over-the-top cheesy moments. There is just one thing that sets “Players” apart — there’s a lot more action in this one.

Director duo Abbas-Mustan make sure there’s plenty to keep you on the edge of your seat, and even though the film drags on longer than it should, you are still not looking to bolt from the hall.

Dum Maaro Dum: Wayward, but worth a watch

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- Rohan Sippy’s “Dum Maaro Dum” attempts to take a hard look at the drug mafia in the tourist heaven of Goa through the eyes of a ruthless police officer. Abhishek Bachchan plays the protagonist Vishnu Kamat, a once-corrupt officer who mends his ways and is called on to “clean Goa of drugs” by an ailing minister. Sippy uses a non-linear mode of narration, zigzagging from one character to another, lending a zippy pace to the first half of the film. Part of the film’s landscape is Lorry (Prateik) a young student who is lured into the drug trade in exchange for the dream of a life in the United States. Also criss-crossing his paths are Joki, (Rana Daggubati), a laidback musician and his one-time girlfriend turned gangster’s moll, Zoe (Bipasha Basu). Thanks to some good writing and zany dialogues, Sippy manages to keep you engrossed in the first half of the film, even though he is let down by a some-what weak performance from his lead actor. Sridhar Raghavan’s dialogue is sparkling for the most part and you can almost forgive him some school boyish lines, like “aajkal criminals bhi Facebook aur Twitter pe hai” (These days, even criminals are on Facebook and Twitter), uttered by Kamath after going through a suspect’s phone. Sippy tries to pack in too much and ends up doing no justice any of the tracks in the film. His villain is named Biscuitta and there is a sequence in which Bachchan raps his way through a couple of police encounters, which looks ridiculous and far from cool. Abhishek Bachchan doesn’t bring anything new to his character, nor does Southern actor Rana Daggubati, making his Bollywood debut in the film. Nevertheless, this one is worth a watch for the great cinematography (Amit Roy) and some good writing. “Dum Maaro Dum” could have been much better had the director seemed more in control of the film, but it is better than most of what Bollywood has dished out this year. I suggest you give this one a chance.

Dum Maaro DumRohan Sippy’s “Dum Maaro Dum” attempts to take a hard look at the drug mafia in the tourist haven of Goa through the eyes of a ruthless police officer.

Abhishek Bachchan plays the protagonist Vishnu Kamat, a once corrupt officer who mends his ways and is called on to “clean Goa of drugs” by an ailing minister. Sippy uses a non-linear mode of narration, zigzagging from one character to another, lending a zippy pace to the first half of the film.

Game: This one’s a washout

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game1Everybody loves a good murder – and unfortunately, Bollywood doesn’t do too many of them. Abhinay Deo’s “Game” tries to fill that void, with a murder mystery about a tycoon who is shot dead on his private island.

Anupam Kher plays the dead man, Kabir Malhotra, one of the world’s richest men who mysteriously invites four strangers to his private island in Greece, because he believes they have something to do with the death of his abandoned daughter Maya (Sarah Jane Dias).

Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey: A story worth telling

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- Ashutosh Gowariker seems to have made a career out of period films – both “Lagaan” and “Jodha Akbar” told stories of our past, and in some way, the fight for freedom. Gowariker touches on the same theme again in “Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey”, but this time he chooses to tell a story closer to our times – just 80 years ago in fact. Based on journalist Manini Chatterjee’s book “Do and Die”, “Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey” tells the story of the Chittagong Armoury raid, led by school teacher-turned revolutionary Surjya Sen (played by Abhishek Bachchan) and his band of followers, the majority of which are teenage boys. In a small town in Bengal, Sen plans a simultaneous raid on all English establishments in Chittagong, dreaming of “breathing in fresh air” again. He gathers a motely crew, including two women Kalpana Datta (Deepika Padukone) and Preetilata Waddedar (Vishakha Singh) and a group of teenagers. The group studies plans, carries out reconnaissance, and goes over the plan over and over again. When the plan is put into action though, things don’t always fall in place. Gowariker handles this film in an understated manner – there aren’t fiery speeches or jingoistic dialogue. Unfortunately this understated tone sometimes lapses into a languid pace and there are parts of the first half that you wish were better controlled. The second half is definitely pacier and will keep you engrossed, inspite of some bumps on the road. One of the biggest weaknesses in the film are the performances – as the protagonist, Abhishek Bachchan doesn’t seem to muster up the fire needed for this kind of performance. Some of the supporting cast, especially Sikander Kher also don’t deliver the kind of intensity you’d expect in a film like this. Gowariker gets the setting right, and even though the film wasn’t shot in Chittagong, the southern coast of Maharashtra does form a fitting backdrop to the film and right from the cars to the footballs of the 30’s, it all seems authentic enough. KHHJS is not a perfect film, but Gowariker’s biggest strength is that he chooses a story worth telling. For that reason alone, and to get a glimpse into a much-ignored part of our history, this film is worth a watch.

KHJJS 1Ashutosh Gowariker seems to have made a career out of period films – both “Lagaan” and “Jodhaa Akbar” told stories of our past, and in some way the fight for freedom. Gowariker touches on the same theme again in “Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey” but this time he chooses to tell a story closer to our times — just 80 years ago.

Based on journalist Manini Chatterjee’s book “Do and Die”, “Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey” tells the story of the Chittagong Armoury raid, led by school teacher-turned revolutionary Surjya Sen (played by Abhishek Bachchan) and his band of followers, the majority of which are teenage boys.

Raavan: Very little Mani, and absolutely no magic

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raavanThe overwhelming feeling as one leaves the theatre after having watched “Raavan” is one of disappointment. Make that huge disappointment. Could it be that one of this generation’s finest filmmakers, is credited as director in this disjointed, mediocre effort?

Nothing in the two-hour film is reminiscent of Mani Ratnam’s class. Instead it is littered with shoddy direction, bad acting and long-winding but nonsensical dialogues. The only saving grace is Santosh Sivan’s magical cinematography, but the truth is even that cannot hide the flaws in this film.

Paa: Flawed but gives us a whole new Bachchan

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paa1First things first. “Paa” belongs to Amitabh Bachchan. And Vidya Balan. Or actually it belongs to Auro and his mother. Because that’s who you really see on screen and that is the hallmark of a great performance.

For this reason alone, R Balkrishnan’s “Paa” is worth watching. There are some hiccups (or hickis as referred to in the film) but on the whole, this film should leave you with a lump in your throat and nothing but admiration for Amitabh Bachchan.

Delhi 6: Mehra’s mirror has many faces

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At the end of the first half of “Delhi 6″, a friend messaged me to ask what I thought of the film.

“I like it so far,” I told him, “but I don’t see where this is going.”

Dostana: A spectacular first half but nothing great overall

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‘Dostana’ is a path-breaking Bollywood film alright. Maybe not for gay rights but certainly the number of times the word ‘gay’ has been used in a single film.

Indians hoping for a “Brokeback Mountain” may do well to stay away from this slapstick comedy about two men pretending to be a gay couple in order to lay hands on a top-notch condo overlooking the sun-kissed sands of Miami.

Drona — more flaws than fantasy

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drona.jpg My most reliable test of judging a fantasy film is whether I notice the person sitting in the next seat – if I do, that means the film wasn’t gripping enough for me to be totally absorbed in it.

That’s what a fantasy film should do – transport you into its imaginary world and haul you back only when the end credits roll – for that matter, any film should do that.

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