India Masala

Bollywood and culture in an emerging India

Peepli Live: Brilliant, nuanced satire

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Peepli LiveThere are a lot of nuances in Anusha Rizvi’s “Peepli Live” that you may not get at once. There will be a comment on the health system in villages or the lack of hygiene but they are so subtle that it may escape the notice of the less attentive viewer.

It will be your loss if you do miss out on these small details because this film thrives on subtlety — something we aren’t too used to as viewers.

To be able to see the (dark) humour in a situation like farmer suicides without actually laughing at the issue is a tough act to pull off and fortunately for her and her audience, Rizvi does it with aplomb.

Omkar Das plays Natha, a down-on-his-luck farmer who can barely manage to feed his family, let alone save his ancestral property due to an upaid loan. When a local politician laughingly advises him to commit suicide so that he can claim compensation from the government, he grudgingly agrees. Egged on by his elder brother Budhia (Raghuveer Yadav), he makes his intentions public and is overheard by a local reporter.

Tere Bin Laden: Average but harmless fare

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laden1Abhishek Sharma’s “Tere Bin Laden” is a sporadically funny but badly made film that tries a little too hard to draw out laughs from the audience and fails for precisely that reason.

The plot revolves around a young Pakistani reporter Ali whose biggest dream is to go to America and make it big but after an incident on a plane involving a knife, he is deported back to his homeland.

It’s a Wonderful Afterlife: Too little laughter, too much curry

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- Gurinder Chadha’s “It’s a Wonderful Afterlife” (‘Hai Marjaawaan’ in Hindi) is a comedy about a harassed Indian mother, who is so obsessed with marrying off her only daughter that she kills off anyone who dares to reject her. Those killing methods are so corny, you want to puke when you see a victim’s stomach burst open due to an overdose of curry and another one stabbed with a skewer of chicken tikka kebabs. The victims come back to haunt her, chicken tikka skewers intact. They cannot be reincarnated unless their killer dies but Mrs Sethi doesn’t want to kill herself before her daughter is “settled”. So the spirits and Mrs Sethi (played endearingly by Shabana Azmi) set out to look for a suitable groom for her daughter, leading to a somewhat comedic situation. The problem here is that the comedy is as laboured and forced as the make-up job on the spirits and laughing becomes a chore. Chadha does bring in some of the sharp, British humour that characterised “Bend it like Beckham” but those moments are few and far between. For most of the time, there is only curry flying in all directions, making you think about the colossal waste of food shooting for this film would have involved. Also, just because it is meant to be a comedy doesn’t mean you can account for a nonsensical storyline. Most of the events don’t make much sense and plot points are explained away by the flimsiest of excuses. Azmi does play her role well and Sendhil Ramamurthy as a police officer investigating the attacks is good, but watching the film isiawasuch a laboured exercise that these two don’t quite make up for it.

iawaGurinder Chadha’s “It’s a Wonderful Afterlife” (‘Hai Marjaawaan’ in Hindi) is a comedy about a harassed Indian mother, who is so obsessed with marrying off her only daughter that she kills off anyone who dares to reject her.

Those killing methods are so corny, you want to puke when you see a victim’s stomach burst open due to an overdose of curry and another one stabbed with a skewer of chicken tikka kebabs. The victims come back to haunt her, chicken tikka skewers intact. They cannot be reincarnated unless their killer dies but Mrs Sethi doesn’t want to kill herself before her daughter is “settled”.

Housefull: Turn down the volume!

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housefullThere 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.

Well Done Abba: Not that well done

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wdaShyam Benegal’s last two films have had similar themes — humour coupled with a social message (actually lots of social messages). The last one “Welcome to Sajjanpur” was a delightful watch, with neither the humour nor the social message getting too overpowering.

But in his latest film “Well Done Abba”, Benegal doesn’t quite manage to recreate the same magic, cramming in too many messages, because of which the humour accompanying it spreads out too thin.

De Dana Dan: Entertainment of the lowest level

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Watching a movie like “De Dana Dan” in a single screen theatre where people are hooting and clapping at crass humour on screen may give you an insight into Indian audiences.

This audience doesn’t really mind that Archana Puran Singh uses foul language or that people randomly slap their husbands and wives or that there is really no logic to speak of. They found all of the above hilarious.

Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani: Ranbir saving grace

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You hear the words Rajkumar Santoshi and comedy in one sentence and you immediately think — “Andaz Apna Apna”.

Fifteen years later, Santoshi is back with another comic caper, this time starring Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif.  But if you are expecting another “Andaz Apna Apna”, you will be sorely disappointed.

All the Best: Adding that Diwali sparkle

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Watching three films in the space of 18 hours isn’t easy, especially when the first two are films like “Blue” and “Main Aur Mrs Khanna“.

When I settled into my seat to watch Rohit Shetty’s “All the Best”, I was really hoping for some laughs. Thankfully, I got my share of them.

Golmaal Returns – Don’t expect any sense in this sequel

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There are some things you don’t want to make sense of, instead preferring to just go along with the flow. You’d be well advised to do exactly the same with “Golmaal Returns”.

 

The sequel to the 2006 comedy “Golmaal” stars the trio of Ajay Devgan, Tusshar Kapoor and Arshad Warsi, with Sharman Joshi choosing not to reprise his role.

Nothing exciting about ‘Ugly Aur Pagli’

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In retrospect, I should have just switched off the television. But I didn’t. I watched “Pyaar Ke Side Effects” in its entirety – barely 24 hours before I was treated to the wannabe version of the film – “Ugly Aur Pagli”.

Naturally, the whole thing was doomed from the start.This is not to say the two films have similar storylines, but the producers and lead actress are the same, and you can’t help get the feeling the second film is trying hard to measure up to the first.

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