India Masala

Bollywood and culture in an emerging India

7 Khoon Maaf: Enticing premise, lacklustre execution

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The basic premise of Vishal Bhardwaj’s enticingly titled “7 Khoon Maaf” is enough to generate excitement about the film. A woman marrying several times and killing off each of her husbands is the kind of story you don’t get to see too often in Bollywood, and if anyone can do justice to that kind of a dark theme, it has to be Bhardwaj. There wasn’t much that could go wrong with this one. That’s exactly what I thought when I entered the theatre, more than seven months ago, to watch a movie called “Raavan”. And we all know what happened with that one. I might be accused of being a little harsh here but this film might be Vishal Bhardwaj’s “Raavan”. In what is his weakest film yet, Bhardwaj takes the tantalising prospect of a “black widow”, and turns it into a haphazard story of a woman who seems to have a fetish for murdering her husbands, even when just leaving them would have been enough. Priyanka Chopra plays Susanna Marie Johannes, going from a coy-20 something to a crazy-50 something during the film. As she tells one of her husbands, there’s no worse accident than marriage in a woman’s life. But she herself suffers that accident several times and when she tires of each of her husbands, she kills them off without batting an eyelid at times, and flits to the next one within the blink of eye. Bhardwaj skims the surface of each of the characters, and we never get a sense of the desperation, and later the madness that Susanna’s character should have displayed to be capable of multiple murders. In the end, you don’t feel for her character or any of the men she killed. There is not much action and the murders get repetitive, especially because you know they are all going to die in the end. In fact, the last one seems hurriedly inserted just to make up the right number. Of the performances, Priyanka Chopra tries her best to be Susanna, but is hampered by a lacklustre script and even worse make-up. Her face in the last few scenes looks like a wall with peeling paint. That is not how women look in ther 50s. Vivaan Shah, as her admirer is restrained and does his part well. What is it with some of our best directors making such duds these days? There was Mani Ratnam, Ashutosh Gowariker and now Vishal Bhardwaj — the latter being someone who has always delivered brilliance in almost all aspects of storytelling. We should perhaps overlook this one as a weak link in an otherwise great career and move on. ‘Ek film maaf’.

7km2The basic premise of Vishal Bhardwaj’s enticingly titled “7 Khoon Maaf” is enough to generate excitement about the film. A woman marrying several times and killing off each of her husbands is the kind of story you don’t get to see too often in Bollywood, and if anyone can do justice to that kind of a dark theme, it has to be Bhardwaj. There wasn’t much that could go wrong with this one.

That’s exactly what I thought when I entered the theatre, more than seven months ago, to watch a movie called “Raavan“. And we all know what happened with that one. I might be accused of being a little harsh here but this film might be Vishal Bhardwaj’s “Raavan”.

In what is his weakest film yet, Bhardwaj takes the tantalising prospect of a “black widow”, and turns it into a haphazard story of a woman who seems to have a fetish for murdering her husbands, even when just leaving them would have been enough.

Priyanka Chopra plays Susanna Marie Johannes, going from a coy-20 something to a crazy-50 something during the film. As she tells one of her husbands, there’s no worse accident than marriage in a woman’s life. But she herself suffers that accident several times and when her husbands don’t turn out to be what she thought they would, she kills them off without batting an eyelid, and flits to the next one within the blink of an eye.

Yeh Saali Zindagi: Too many twists

Watching Sudhir Mishra’s “Ye Saali Zindagi”, you get the distinct feeling that somewhere there’s the germ of a great movie in here. The problem is that Mishra burdens the film with so many subplots and assorted characters that it’s difficult to rummage among them and come up with the main plot of the film. The film, which revolves around three characters and the events leading up to one day of action, stars Irrfan Khan as Arun, a fixer who works for a money-lender, and must save Priti (Chitrangada Singh), the woman he loves, from the clutches of a kidnapping gang. But things are not as simple as they seem at first glance. Priti is involved with another man, who is engaged to a minister’s daughter and is kidnapped in the hope of ransom by Kuldeep, who wants to quit his criminal ways after this one last kidnapping, because his feisty wife won’t take him back otherwise. How the three of them and their lives intersect is what most of the film chronicles. Mishra manages to keep the pace taut and the dialogue, co-written by him and Manu Rishi, has plenty of swear words and is racy enough to keep you interested. The two big flaws in the film are the presence of too many characters and subplots. Somewhere in the middle, you might find yourself wondering “who’s that guy, what’s this relation to this other guy, and how is it essential to the story?” The other problem is with the watered-down performances. Except for Irrfan Khan and Saurabh Shukla who plays his boss, both the other main actors, Chitrangada Singh and Arunoday Singh are inhibited and awkward, unable to invest enough in their characters for you to be invested in them. In the end, “Ye Saali Zindagi” isn’t the kind of film that makes for easy watching. If you are willing to pay enough attention, and forgive the somewhat indulgent pace, you might find yourself enjoying it.

ysz1Watching Sudhir Mishra’s “Yeh Saali Zindagi”, you get the distinct feeling that somewhere there’s the germ of a great movie in here. The problem is that Mishra burdens the film with so many subplots and assorted characters that it’s difficult to rummage among them and come up with the main plot of the film.

The film, which revolves around three characters and the events leading up to one day of action, stars Irrfan Khan as Arun, a fixer who works for a money-lender, and must save Priti (Chitrangada Singh), the woman he loves, from the clutches of a kidnapping gang. But things are not as simple as they seem at first glance.

Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji: Excruciatingly boring

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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. Ajay Devgan plays Naren, an executive who is in the middle of a divorce and attracted to his secretary, who is half his age and exhibits entirely inappropriate behaviour (like asking her boss when he lost his virginity). Naren lives with two roommates – Milind (Omi Vaidya), a meek poet, and Abhay (Emraan Hashmi), a Casanova, who actually checks out girls at funerals and romances a mother-daughter duo at the same time. The film follows the three on their quest for love, but the journey is unbelievably dull and tedious and there are no funny moments. I could have spent the entire time asleep and I still wouldn’t have missed much. Bhandarkar resorts to double entendre homosexual jokes, and there are no gags or funny incidents. The guys spend two and a half out of the three hour-long film wooing the girls, and Bhandarkar drags the end interminably. He could have cut this film by an hour and it would still have been considered a long film. At the end of it, you just want to bolt for the exit door. This one did absolutely nothing for me – avoid.

Dil toh baccha hai jiThere 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.

Dhobi Ghat: A whole new hue

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There’s a charming scene in Kiran Rao’s “Dhobi Ghat”, where Yasmin (Kriti Malhotra) is filming her maid-servant and her daughter for a video tape she’s making for her family back home. While the maid is suitably coy about being on film, she’s also equally anxious to finish off with the niceties, and do what she’s there to do — work, earn her living and move on to the next house. That scene for me epitomises Mumbai in so many ways. It’s a city always in a rush as Yasmin says — there’s no time to waste on getting to know your neighbours or sharing gossip with them — not when there’s money to be earned and a living to be made. Rao captures this and so many other myriad hues of the city marvellously in her directorial debut, a deeply insightful portrait of four individuals who find and lose love and deal with loneliness in Mumbai. Aamir Khan plays Arun, a reclusive, commitment-phobic artist who is fascinated with a set of tapes he comes across, chronicling the life of a new bride in Mumbai city. Kriti Malhotra plays that bride, coy and full of hope, reporting daily events like what she’s made for dinner and her neighbour’s problems on tapes that she hopes to send to her brother back home. Monica Dogra plays Shai, an investment banker on sabbatical who after a one-night stand with Arun is slighted by him, and uses their common laundry man or dhobi Munna (played by Prateik) to keep tabs on Arun. Slowly, she forms a bond with Munna, a migrant from Bihar, who harbours dreams of making it big as an actor. Rao takes her time establishing her characters, but they are so well fleshed-out, you don’t mind discovering their quirks slowly. The film moves at a slow pace but is beautifully shot in real locations, mostly in South Mumbai. Performances are top-notch, but Malhotra and Prateik stand out – both conveying so much through just one glance that you empathise with their characters straight away. Films like “Dhobi Ghat” are like exploring a new cuisine — your palate may take time to get used to, given the “masala” and action it has been used to — but stick with it, and you will discover flavours you have never tasted before.

dhobighat1There’s a charming scene in Kiran Rao’s “Dhobi Ghat”, where Yasmin (Kriti Malhotra) is filming her maid-servant and her daughter for a video tape she’s making for her family back home. While the maid is suitably coy about being on film, she’s also equally anxious to finish off with the niceties, and do what she’s there to do — work, earn her living and move on to the next house.

That scene for me epitomises Mumbai in so many ways. It’s a city always in a rush as Yasmin says — there’s no time to waste on getting to know your neighbours or sharing gossip with them — not when there’s money to be earned and a living to be made.

Yamla Pagla Deewana: For Deol fans only

There is some charm in watching Sunny Deol on screen — whether it’s an emotional hug with his father or a fight scene where he holds up the entire floor of a building with one hand. You realise his value even more when you see him alongside his brother Bobby Deol in “Yamla Pagla Deewana”. While Sunny is assured and warm, Bobby is awkward and bumbling his way through his role. As for their father Dharmendra, he is a pale shadow of his former dashing self. Of course, the charm is there but making him dance alongside skimpily dressed women in item numbers doesn’t help. Dharmendra plays Dharam Singh, a philandering conman who leaves his wife behind in Canada and runs away with his younger son to India. Thirty years later, his elder son Paramveer comes to Banaras in search of his father and brother Gajodhar. When his father refuses to acknowledge him, he joins them in their con jobs, hoping to win him over. When the girl Gajodhar loves is taken away to her hometown in Punjab by her dominating brothers, Paramveer devises a plan to get her married off to his brother. Though intended to be funny, these situations are far from comic most of the time, and the laughs are few and far between. The Deol chemistry is spoilt by Bobby’s acting and the shoddy script and the fact that Dharmendra isn’t even there for a large part of the second half. It is the second half that somewhat redeems this otherwise very mediocre film. If you can soldier through the half-hearted con attempts, two bad item numbers and a large number of shoddily acted drunken scenes, then perhaps you will find some salvation in the second half. Be warned though that it’s just marginally better than the first. “Yamla Pagla Deewana” is strictly for Deol fans. Everyone else can give it a wide berth.

YPDThere is some charm in watching Sunny Deol on screen — whether it’s an emotional hug with his father or a fight scene where he holds up the entire floor of a building with one hand.

You realise his value even more when you see him alongside his brother Bobby Deol in “Yamla Pagla Deewana”. While Sunny is assured and warm, Bobby is awkward and bumbling his way through his role.

No One Killed Jessica: Flawed but has its moments

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Raj Kumar Gupta’s “No One Killed Jessica” is based on the very gripping saga of the Jessica Lall murder case, one that captured the collective conscience of India at a point in time, and galvanised a dormant middle-class into taking action. A young model shot dead because she refused to serve a powerful politician’s son a drink at a party. The murderer gets away because of his connections, but when an aggressive reporter takes it upon herself to solve the case, things change. Vidya Balan plays Sabrina, Jessica’s sister, who learns soon enough that fighting against a corrupt system is of no use, even though more than 300 people witnessed her sister’s murder. Star reporter Meera Gaity (Rani Mukherjee), who initially doesn’t think the case is worth her time, takes it upon herself to crack the case, when a lower court acquits all accused in the case. Her investigative reporting shakes the system forcing public protests and re-opening of the case. Gupta’s source of inspiration is spot-on and perfect celluloid fodder. However, the director doesn’t utilise his raw material well enough for you to be completely gripped by this tale. Rather than packing in the second half with action and some sort of drama, he chooses to dwell on the emotional quotient — something he has already established, thus making it repetitive. The actual events which led to the reopening of the case are glossed over and there is much expostulating on the equations of the powerful in Delhi. Also, Rani Mukherjee’s character is not given enough time and you don’t really get a sense of her. Sabrina, on the other hand, is quite well-developed and Vidya Balan does the character justice, bringing out the frustration and grief that Jessica Lall’s family must have gone through. “No One Killed Jessica” is a film that does have its moments, but on the whole it doesn’t quite make the impact it should have. The length could have been cut by 20 minutes and some of the supporting cast doesn’t perform up to the mark. If you are willing to forgive these flaws, this is good enough for a one-time watch — to relive the horrific incident and its aftermath, if nothing else.

noonekilledRaj Kumar Gupta’s “No One Killed Jessica” is based on the very gripping saga of the Jessica Lall murder case, one that captured the collective conscience of India at a point in time, and galvanised a dormant middle-class into taking action.

A young model shot dead because she refused to serve a powerful politician’s son a drink at a party. The murderer gets away because of his connections, but when an aggressive reporter takes it upon herself to solve the case, things change.

The 10 worst Bollywood films of 2010

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Shilpa Jamkhandikar looks back at the year that was and picks the 10 films that didn’t really do Bollywood any favours. And here they are in random order -

VEER

veerSalman Khan obviously hasn’t inherited any writing talent from father Salim Khan. The actor wrote the script for this excruciatingly bad film that had scenes like Mithun Chakraborty and Neena Gupta almost making out in front of their grown sons, some really corny dialogue and a not-so-good Katrina Kaif lookalike for a leading lady.

Band Baaja Baarat: This match works!

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Anyone who has lived in New Delhi or been to a wedding in the city will immediately identify with the characters and milieu in Maneesh Sharma’s “Band Baaja Baarat”. The chaos, the confusion and excitement that forms a part of every wedding in India is all part of this film, and if you revel in that atmosphere, then the film will suck you in from the beginning. First-time director Maneesh Sharma shows a sure hand and confidence in his craft, as his camera winds through the lanes of West Delhi and into the lives of Shruti and Bittu, two college students who set up a fledgling wedding planning business in the marriage capital of the country. Shruti (Anuskha Sharma), the more practical of the two, makes it clear to Bittu (debutante Ranveer Singh) that she just wants a business partnership and isn’t interested in love. Bittu, who at first tries to flirt with her, soon gives up and they both negotiate the rather high-pressure world of Delhi’s weddings, graduating from Janakpuri (a middle-class suburb) to Sainik Farms (one of Delhi’s most sought-after wedding venues). All this is taken care of in the first half, but in the second half, good old love pops up in the story. Shruti, for all her practicality, falls hard for Bittu, and when he doesn’t seem interested in her, decides she can’t work with him any more, breaking up their “biness” as Bittu calls it. Fortunately, even though you can see the climax a mile away, Sharma keeps it interesting, the dialogue is sparkling with typical Delhi wit and slang and both the leading lady and man share a crackling chemistry, which helps the film considerably. There is no melodrama, and even the most emotional scenes (like the passionate one between the two and the one where they part ways) are in keeping with their characters. With this film, Yash Raj Films returns to its core competency, romance and the great Indian wedding, and truly, no one does them better. If you are a fan of either of the two, then this film is worth your while.

bandbaajaAnyone who has lived in New Delhi or been to a wedding in the city will immediately identify with the characters and milieu in Maneesh Sharma’s “Band Baaja Baarat”.

The chaos, the confusion and excitement that forms a part of every wedding in India is all part of this film, and if you revel in that atmosphere, then the film will suck you in from the beginning.

Golmaal 3: Thrice as painful

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golmaal 3If 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.

Action Replayy: The past ain’t pretty

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action replayyIt’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.

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