India Masala

Bollywood and culture in an emerging India

Paan Singh Tomar: Slow and steady

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The story of an athlete who gives up running and ends up becoming a dacoit on the run from the law may sound improbable. Why would a successful sportsman pick up a gun and kill people?

Director Tigmanshu Dhulia tries to answer that question in his biopic of Indian athlete Paan Singh Tomar, a seven-time national steeplechase champion. Tomar turned into an infamous dacoit in his later years, terrorising entire villages in the Chambal valley of central India.

Irrfan Khan plays the protagonist, an impoverished small-town boy who joins the Indian army just after the country’s independence from Britain. Tomar’s supervisor recognises his talent for running and transfers him to the sports wing. Tomar shines, breaks national records and competes in international meets, all the while running barefoot.

His career comes to an end when a family feud forces him to retire from the army and return to his village. When his mother is killed and his son brutally assaulted, Tomar seeks help from the police, identifying himself as a former athlete. But the local police refuse to help, telling him his medals and certificates are of no use.

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.

Acid Factory: Heartburn best avoided

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Most films have one distinguishing characteristic — maybe the music, the animation, perhaps the running time or a huge budget.

Suparn Varma’s “Acid Factory”, which releases in cinemas this week has a unique feature — that of having the biggest ensemble of bad actors on a single screen.
 
Fardeen Khan, Aftab Shivdasani, Dino Morea, Dia Mirza, Danny Denzongpa and even the usually dependable Manoj Bajpai put in such atrociously bad performances that you wonder how they got away with it.
 
In spite of an interesting storyline and a reasonable screen time, you are never hooked to the events on screen, and even during the climax of the film, I was tempted to whip out my mobile and recheck my messages for the day — they would have provided far more entertainment.
 
Fardeen Khan plays Romeo, a cop who has “applied for an undercover assignment” (didn’t know that happened) to uncover dreaded don Kaiser (Irrfan Khan).

Billu: Watch it for Irrfan Khan

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When I met Priyadarshan earlier this week, I asked him why he didn’t make films like “Kanchivaram” (a Malayalam film) or “Kala Pani” any more.

He gave me a refreshingly honest answer – “I am here to be a successful commercial film maker, and those are not the kind of films I will make. I want to play it safe for now.”

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