India Masala

Bollywood and culture in an emerging India

Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani: A fun, breezy film

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Deepika Padukone has obviously never gone on a trek before. Why else would she be wearing a mini-skirt and fur boots on the Himalayas? She’s also got perfectly set, blow-dried hair during these treks, and even after a day of playing Holi during the festival of colours, which would render most of us looking like something the cat dragged in, Padukone looks radiant. But that is the world she and other characters in Ayan Mukerji’s “Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani” inhabit.

These are pretty people falling in love, travelling to picturesque locations, having epiphanies while attending expensive destination weddings and following all the clichés Bollywood loves to propagate. And yet, you cannot help smiling as you leave the cinema hall.

Mukerji makes a candyfloss romance with the most unoriginal storyline ever – there are no surprises along the way. But there are tender moments, playful banter and some crackling chemistry between the two leads that overshadow the other flaws.

Ranbir Kapoor plays Bunny, the rebel full of wanderlust. Padukone is Naina, who appears to be meek at first but emerges as the stronger of the two. The characters are brought to life by Kapoor and Padukone, both of whom are excellent in their roles. Kalki Koechlin and Aditya Roy Kapur play their friends, to form the film’s quartet.

Race 2: Slow and unsteady doesn’t win this race

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In the world created by Abbas-Mustan, if you are a multi-billionaire who wants to build a casino and are refused permission by the government, you invite the official responsible out for drinks, dance with him and then shoot him in the middle of a crowded discotheque and walk out without batting an eyelid.

In this world of “Race 2”, you can get away with stealing the Shroud of Turin with something as simple as a decoy bomb and people use “sensor technology” to play card games and spy on their loved ones. It may have looked cool 20 years ago, but now it’s just a tad ridiculous.

Cocktail: The mix isn’t right

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You know that time when you chance upon this new product at the supermarket? Maybe it’s a new drink or a bottle of jam — it comes in a really nice looking bottle and looks so enticing that you have to pick it up and bring it home. And then you open it and realise it only looks good on the outside. The product is past expiry, the fizz has gone out of the drink and all you are left with is a nice looking bottle. Yes, that.

Homi Adajania’s “Cocktail” is definitely one of those films you shouldn’t judge by its cover (or poster). This is supposed to be a light-hearted attempt at tackling the oldest trick in the romantic comedy book — the love triangle, but Adajania forgets to infuse any freshness into the story.

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.

Lafangey Parindey: Skating on thin ice

There are some actors who can elevate a mediocre movie to great heights just on the strength of their craft. And there are some who will plunge theirs into further depths of mediocrity. Pradeep Sarkar’s “Lafangey Parindey” falls in the second category. If last week’s “Peepli (Live)” was the best cast film of 2010, this one is definitely a candidate for worst cast ever. Deepika Padukone and Neil Nitin Mukesh do not look remotely convincing in their characters, speaking Mumbai’s “tapori” language with as much panache as a penthouse-owning, six-figure salary earning South Mumbai resident might be expected to speak. (For those out of Mumbai, these two worlds are poles apart). Imagine if you will Neil Nitin Mukesh playing a street fighter who, while on an errand for a local goon, is involved in a hit-and-run, injuring his neighbour Pinky Patkar (Padukone), a dancer who has dreams of making it big. As a result of the accident, Pinky becomes blind and a guilt-ridden Nandu (Mukesh) decides to teach her to “see”, training her to listen with her remaining senses. He is helped by a motley group of friends (one of whom is strangely called ‘chaddi’) All this is established in the first half-hour of “Lafangey Parindey”. After that, director Sarkar meanders along towards an ending we all knew at the beginning of the film. Along the way, there are dialogues like “ek nandu ke liye apne sapne ka encounter mat kar”, a few songs and the token police/goon rivalry which is disposed of so summarily you don’t even know where to look in the end. And a lot of skating. Pinky, you see, is a dancer on skates and wants to enter a reality show to showcase her talent (remind you of any other Yashraj film?) Since her regular partner dumps her after she becomes blind, she latches on to Nandu, teaches him skating and they skate their way through the second half. I am not sure whether Pradeep Sarkar wanted to make a gritty gangster film, a love story or a musical. The story is in shambles and Deepika especially doesn’t convince anyone that she comes from a lower middle-class family — one look at her perfectly made-up face and expensive looking jeans is enough. Neil Nitin Mukesh mumbles and fumbles his way through the film, trying to exude a “strong and silent” vibe but failing miserably. Sarkar could have at least provided a slice of life into the many colonies like Tilakwadi that Mumbai is home to but even that looks half-hearted. This is ultimately a “Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi” for those living south of Delhi. Watch it if you must.

lafangey2There are some actors who can elevate a mediocre movie to great heights just on the strength of their craft. And there are some who will plunge their films into further depths of mediocrity. Pradeep Sarkar’s “Lafangey Parindey” falls in the second category.

If last week’s “Peepli (Live)” was the best cast film of 2010, this one is definitely a candidate for worst cast ever. Deepika Padukone and Neil Nitin Mukesh do not look remotely convincing in their characters, speaking Mumbai’s “tapori” language with as much panache as a penthouse-owning, six-figure salary earning South Mumbai resident might be expected to speak. (For those out of Mumbai, these two worlds are poles apart).

Karthik Calling Karthik: Farhan saves this insipid thriller

kckFarhan Akhtar has now come to be associated with a particular kind of cinema – slick production values, quirky characters and smart writing. So when I went in to watch his latest production, “Karthik Calling Karthik”, I was expecting something similar. While I got to see the first two aspects, the third, and the most important was gravely missing.

The film, a thriller about a meek, submissive man called Karthik, whose life changes when he gets phone calls from an anonymous caller who also calls himself Karthik, starts off well, and is engaging enough, but for some bad writing and corny dialogues, which take away from the edge-of-the-seat thrill that a film like this should give you.

Love Aaj Kal: Not very original but it works

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There’s one thing about an Imtiaz Ali film — it may not have the most original storyline or cutting-edge techniques, but it sure has the best dialogues. And that, in my opinion, is the USP of his films.

Director Ali is telling you a regular love story, where you know immediately that the two lead characters are going to end up with each other, but his treatment is fresh and the people in the film don’t act filmy (which sounds like a paradox, but isn’t).

A film that means so much more

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Deepika Padukone is one of the most charming actresses you could hope to meet.

I have spoken to her several times and she has always been extremely polite, composed and not given to overt displays of emotion.

That is why, at a Mumbai event to unveil the first look of her forthcoming film “Love Aaj Kal”, I was surprised to see the 21-year-old at a loss for words.

More than ‘just good friends’ in Bollywood

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“We are just good friends” has to be the most overused phrase in Bollywood (or even Hollywood) for that matter.

 

A couple of years ago, each time rumour mills started working non-stop about a “friendship” between celebrities, the two concerned parties were sure to come up with a statement about how they were just good friends.

Chandni Chowk to China: Sticking to the formula

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If you are looking for intellectual stimulation at the movies, watch Clint Eastwood’s “Changeling” or wait for “Slumdog Millionaire” — “Chandni Chowk to China” is definitely not what you are looking for.

It’s the first big release of the year, is produced by a big Hollywood studio looking to enter the Indian market and has one of India’s most bankable stars. But it also has a lot of Bollywood “formula”.

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