Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Reuters)
At the end of a long monologue in “Himmatwala”, where Ajay Devgn rattles off the same sentence in five different languages, he turns to the camera and asks “mazaa nahi aaya na?” (That wasn’t fun, was it?) It’s almost as if director Sajid Khan knew what a bad film he was making, but went ahead and made it anyway.
What they say about the past being viewed through rose-tinted glasses must be true, because if this is what our films were 30 years ago, we should all be glad we’ve moved on. But not Khan. He wants to take us back to corny dialogue, garish sets and the lack of absolutely any logic in the story whatsoever.
This is a film where a mother wants her daughter to go back to the husband who physically abuses her, because a woman can only leave her husband’s home when she dies, no matter what happens. How this attitude is part of a film in 2013 is beyond me.
“Himmatwala” also has a tiger, a bumbling villain and an all-conquering hero, who seemingly does nothing for a living except playing saviour.
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.
Film-maker Ram Gopal Varma, in a recent chat, said films are like products which have to be manufactured and treated accordingly. I’m sure Priyadarshan agrees. He certainly seems to make his films like assembly line products — all style, no substance.
“Tezz“, similar to the Japanese movie “The Bullet Train”, is supposed to be a high-speed action thriller about a bomb on a long-distance train. Ajay Devgn plays Aakash Rana, an illegal immigrant in London who is deported to India, along with his co-workers after he is found working without a permit.
At their best, David Dhawan comedies can be a little raunchy, but fun. This one is very raunchy, packed to the brim with provocative shots of women in bikinis and heaving bosoms, but there is no sign of fun. This is the kind of film that makes you wish it wasn’t your job to review movies week after week.
Rohit Shetty’s “Singham”, a remake of a Tamil film, is a cop movie that is perhaps meant as a tribute to the 80s “angry young man” and the theme of the lone, honest police officer taking on the rotting system.
Ajay Devgn plays that honest cop — Bajirao Singham, a police inspector in a remote village in Goa who maintains peace and calm in the village by using his goodwill with the villagers. When he is transferred to “Goa city” (I always thought it was a state) after crossing paths with a don-turned-politician, Singham is confronted with a corrupt system, cynical co-workers and threats from the politician.
There are many things wrong with Madhur Bhandarkar’s “Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji”, but the worst part is that nobody seems to have even bothered to rise above mediocrity in this excuse of a film.
Bhandarkar veers away from his “slice of life” style of cinema and moves to comedy, but it has the same clichés, the same dumbed-down dialogues, and strangely enough for a comedy, very crass humour that is more offensive than funny.
If you’ve seen the earlier two “Golmaal” films, you have a fair inkling of what the third one is about. These are custom-made films, tailored to the “festive mood” when filmmakers think audiences will laugh at anything and pay any amount of money if you promise them a fun-filled entertaining film.
If that means you have the customary toilet humour, so be it. If that means you have to fit in a criminal, a bumbling police officer and five songs in a two-hour film, so be it. And if it means replacing good writing with slapstick, crass humour, who cares? As long as you can disguise swear words ingeniously, get a dog to bite a man’s backside and bring in some emotion towards the end. The laughs will come because people are in a festive mood – at least that’s the formula.
Milan Luthria’s “Once Upon A Time in Mumbai” is a mostly-gripping, but dumbed-down mafia thriller that focuses on two men who dominated the Mumbai underworld for the most part of the seventies and eighties.
Despite denials from the makers of the film, it is easy to see that the story is based on underworld don Haji Mastan and his one-time protégé Dawood Ibrahim.
One of my favourite films from 2008 was Abhishek Kapoor’s ‘Rock On’, the story of four rock band members who have a bitter fall out only to regroup years later.
It was a coming of age story that managed to stay in my heart for a while.