Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Reuters)
Bollywood hasn’t had an impressive track record with thrillers. Most have been slow and predictable while some were downright preposterous.
Director Neeraj Pandey‘s “A Wednesday“, a film about an ordinary Mumbai citizen who plots to kill terror masterminds, was a breath of fresh air in 2008. It was imaginative, taut and full of twists and turns.
But Pandey’s new film “Special 26″, a heist drama, does not quite hit the bull’s eye — with an insipid love story and a forgettable “item number” playing spoilsport.
(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Thomson Reuters)
If it wasn’t for the chorus of “Khiladi Bhaiyya” that accompanies Akshay Kumar each time he makes an entrance on screen, I would’ve forgotten I was watching Ashish Mohan’s “Khiladi 786″. I might as well have been watching “Singham” or “Golmaal” or any of the comedies earning a box-office billion that dot our cinematic landscape these days.
Akshay Kumar, wearing an outrageous hat, is dancing with a long-haired, ash-smeared, nearly naked holy man perched on his shoulders. At times, Kumar pats the man’s stomach even as the “baba” waves a “We Love Aliens” placard. No one will blame you if you ask — What exactly is going on here?
But hold your breath, for such moments will be too many to count and by the time you see an alien dancing to an item number, your brain will be numb and nothing in life will make sense except the neon EXIT sign that will seem like the light at the end of the tunnel.
When Akshay Kumar fashions himself a sudarshan chakra (the ultimate weapon of destructive in Indian mythology) from a broken bamboo stick and some construction equipment and uses it to slay 20 men with axes and knives, you know “Rowdy Rathore” isn’t aiming for realistic cinema.
Once you reconcile yourself to that and realise that director Prabhu Deva is channeling his inner Rajnikanth, you can sit back and enjoy the Ray-Bans, nubile dancers and a pretty liberal use of cinematic liberties.
Reviewing a movie like Sajid Khan’s “Housefull 2” is a futile exercise. In fact, I don’t think the makers of this film made it for creative purposes — this is a money-making venture, and going by the number of people who came to watch it at 9: 15 a.m. on Good Friday morning, I would say it’s well on its way to becoming a successful one.
Khan doesn’t take off from where the first “Housefull” left off — this is a whole other story. But he does keep the toilet humour, over-the-top acting and noise pollution that characterised the 2010 film. Instead of laughing gas at the Buckingham Palace, he adds a fake Prince Charles who attends a wedding at the end and persuades one of the characters to stop shooting people in the name of “the queen and the country”.
I’m going to keep this one short because there’s really not much I can say about Anees Bazmee’s “Thank You” that I haven’t already said about films of this genre – in other words, the “leave your brains at home” films that we seem to churn out with alarming regularity.
This one seems to be a re-hash of Bazmee’s earlier “No Entry”, which at least had a couple of nice songs and some funny moments. This one has nothing but offensive dialogue, bad jokes and even worse acting.
One thing I will say for Nikhil Advani’s “Patiala House”. It touches upon a subject that a lot of Indians will identify with — parents who think they know what’s best for their children and children straining against the leash to break out.
Vikramaditya Motwane’s “Udaan” explored that theme beautifully, and director Advani tries to combine it with another thing Indians can identify with — cricket. Unfortunately, he populates the story with so many things that the main story is lost amid Punjabi wedding sequences, slapstick comedy and an insipid romance.
It’s easy to romanticise the past, isn’t it? Easy to think back to the time when bell bottoms and “arranged” marriages were the norm and tell ourselves it was a much better time. The past has that intangible quality of making us all look a little better, even to ourselves. Perhaps that is why Bollywood is going back to the past so much nowadays, making films about every period but the present.
Director Vipul Shah certainly seems to believe in reliving the past in “Action Replayy”, as do his main characters but they relive it so badly you want to shake them back to the present. The past here holds no romance, there are only bad wigs and garish clothes to represent it.
There is a song in Sajid Khan’s “Housefull” with the lyrics “volume kam kar” (turn down the volume). Wouldn’t it be nice if the director and actors had imbibed this simple message? That would have made this alleged comedy easier to tolerate.
Instead every character in the film either screams, laughs or cries so loudly, and for seemingly no reason, that you want to hit the mute button.