India Masala

Bollywood and culture in an emerging India

Madras Cafe: An intelligence failure

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

After last year’s clever and heart-warming comedy “Vicky Donor”, filmmaker Shoojit Sircar switches genres with “Madras Cafe”, a thriller about the Sri Lankan conflict, India’s role in the civil war, and the repercussions of that war on India’s politics and history.

To try and deal with such a controversial subject is commendable and Sircar and co-writer Juhi Chaturvedi should be complimented. Unfortunately, intentions aside, “Madras Cafe” doesn’t deserve too many compliments.

John Abraham stars in this leaden film as an army officer sent to Sri Lanka at the height of the civil war to launch covert operations targeting the leader of the biggest Tamil separatist outfit (called LTF in the film).

Vikram Singh walks about Jaffna with a swagger, sporting a Ray-Ban and looking completely out of place. He somehow visits a top guerrilla leader deep in the jungle, pretending to be a reporter even after his cover is blown, and turns to an actual journalist (Nargis Fakhri) to extract the smallest bit of information.

I, Me aur Main: Let down by inconsistencies

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Thomson Reuters)

I have to confess I didn’t go into Kapil Sharma’s “I, Me aur Main” with too many expectations. The posters certainly did nothing to pique my excitement. But 30 minutes into the film, I was intrigued. This wasn’t a run-of-the-mill story; the protagonist was someone you would want to hit on the head within the first half-hour.

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.

Housefull 2: Twice the torture

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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”.

Force: If only muscles could act

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When a movie has at least three prominent product placements in the first ten minutes of a film, you are bound to cringe. Nishikant Kamat’s “Force” will make you wince, at least in the first half of the film, and not just because of the product placements. Thankfully, unlike most films, this one gets better — so there is hope yet.

Kamat, who earlier directed “Mumbai Meri Jaan” — on the Mumbai train blasts and its aftermath — now turns to the essential cop film. You know the drill — honest, upright police officer, out to finish the bad guys (the drug dealers in this case), falls in love with bubbly girl whose only actual function is two songs and being kidnapped by the bad guys, and lots of action scenes in deserted warehouses.

Jhootha Hi Sahi: The truth is out and it’s ugly

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- I have a serious complaint against lovers in Bollywood films. Inspite of the fact that they know where the other stays, what he does, and the fact that they can just as easily go and deliver the “I love you” speech to their lover’s house the day after they’ve had their epiphany, they insist on hanging off a cliff or climbing a top a bridge, from where they can deliver their undying love for each other. Don’t they realise how ridiculous it looks? As you can guess, the above rant has been inspired by a scene in Abbas Tyrewala’s “Jhootha Hi Sahi”, dreary, dull rom-com that showcases perhaps the most wooden performances by a lead pair that I can remember and a lot of inane situations like the one described above. John Abraham is one half of the wooden pair, and plays Siddharth, a geek who co-owns an Indian book-store in London with two of his friends, and we are told stammers, but only when he meets a beautiful woman. He comes across Mishka (newcomer Pakhi), a depressed artist, when she calls him, mistaking his number to be that of a suicide help line. He talks to her through the night, and suddenly, she doesn’t want to kill herself any more. The two become “phone friends”, but for some reason, never quite explained in the film (or perhaps I missed it while I was yawning), he doesn’t want to reveal his identity to her. Instead, he be-friends her as Siddharth the bookstore guy, and talks to her on phone as the help line counsellor, leading a double life of sorts. The film follows a very predictable and very boring trajectory from here on. There is of course the obligatory ex-girlfriend and boyfriend, the funny friends, who egg them on and my main grouse, the epiphany in the end, which results in Siddharth clambering on London’s Tower Bridge as it closes, just so he can prove to her that he loves her. The film suffers from really bad casting, which is ironic given that Pakhi was casting director for Tyrewala’s earlier film “Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na”. John Abraham tries so hard to act, you are embarrassed for him. He is completely unfit for this role. Pakhi, on the other hand, is completely unfit to act. She has none of the qualities you expect in a leading lady; none of the screen presence and as for her chemistry with Abraham, there were scenes where she could have passed off as his elder sister. Tyrewala obviously wants to make a smart, funny film, on the lines of “You’ve Got Mail and “Notting Hill” but except for a few lines, the writing is laboured and tries too hard. His control over the movie wavers, and sub-plots are weaved sporadically into the main narrative. Also, Mishka is one of the most regressive heroines I can remember, coming across as this needy girl who doesn’t even take up a scholarship to Paris because her ex-boyfriend had promised that they would go together – before he dumped her, that is. The only good thing in this film is the performance by Raghu Ram, who plays Siddharth’s Pakistani friend Omar. Ram is funny, sardonic and responsible for the few laughs in the film. Everything else is just a drag. Avoid.

jhootha1I have a serious complaint against lovers in Bollywood films. Even if they know where the other person stays and can easily deliver the “I love you” speech at the lover’s house, they insist on hanging off a cliff or climbing atop a bridge from where they can declare their undying love for each other. Don’t they realise how ridiculous it looks?

As you can guess, the above rant is inspired by a scene in Abbas Tyrewala’s “Jhootha Hi Sahi“, a dreary and dull rom-com that features perhaps the most wooden performances by a lead pair that I can remember and a lot of inane situations like the one described above.

Aashayein: Don’t hope for much

- Nagesh Kukunoor’s “Aashayein is one of those films that you will forget the minute you leave the theatre – there isn’t much in the film that will keep you gripped from start to end, but it isn’t so repelling that you want to get out of the theatre and leave. For a film that is supposed to tug at your heartstrings, this one barely manages to touch them, and except for a few moments, hardly any of the characters or their stories make an impact on you. John Abraham plays Rahul, a compulsive gambler and cricket better who wins a large sum of money and just as he is planning to spend it, he discovers that has lung cancer and only three months to live. Angry at the world, he leaves his city apartment, his fiancée and friends and heads to a hospice where people come to spend their last days. Of course, he meets a whole host of characters who make him realise how precious life is. He also makes friends with a rebellious teenager, Padma, who also has cancer. Together the two of them start a wish fairy club, and go about fulfilling the wishes of all the inmates in the centre. Rahul also befriends Govinda, a young kid with supernatural powers, we are told, who gives him cryptic messages about some tasks that he has to follow. We are then shown dream sequences where John Abraham is stuck in a dungeon with badly made-up ghosts and searching for a elusive whip, of all things. This, it is safe to say is the most ridiculous part of the script. This dream is supposed to represent Rahul’s search in real life, but it ends up looking ridiculous. John Abraham tries hard to make this one work, and Anahita Nair as Padma is very good. The supporting cast, which includes accomplished actors like Girish Karnad and Farida Jalal are under-used and stuck with limited roles. Also, if you are making a film like this, please don’t show us clippings of “Anand” within the film. It will only remind the audience of how your film doesn’t even match up to 100th of the Hrishikesh Mukherjee classic. This is one of those films best watched on television when you have nothing much to do.

aashayeinNagesh Kukunoor’s “Aashayein” is one of those films that you will forget the minute you leave the theatre – there isn’t much in the film that will keep you gripped from start to end, but it isn’t so repelling that you want to get out of the theatre and leave.

For a film that is supposed to tug at your heartstrings, this one barely manages to touch them and except for a few moments, hardly any of the characters or their stories make an impact on you.

World Cup mania hits Bollywood brigade

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Football fever is taking over the world and Bollywood’s glamorous brigade hasn’t been left untouched.

Football World CupFilm stars like Shah Rukh Khan, Imran Khan and Lara Dutta are either headed to or are already in South Africa to catch a glimpse of football heaven.

Dhoni gets hitched; celebrities tweet best wishes

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As one of India’s most eligible bachelors tied the knot late on Sunday night, you could almost hear the sound of a million hearts breaking.

Mahendra Singh DhoniBut along with that, you could also hear the sound of a million fingers typing furiously on their phones, so that they could tweet their best wishes to Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his bride.

New York: A film that will grow on you

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Coming as it does nearly three months after a big-ticket Bollywood release — Kabir Khan’s “New York” is a relief.

The story of three friends whose lives change in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in New York, the film manages to hold your attention for the most part, mainly because of some astute direction and its performances.

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