India Masala

Bollywood and culture in an emerging India

Talaash: Searching for the perfect whodunit

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

The worst thing to happen while watching a murder mystery is someone telling you the twist in the tale even before the movie began. The second-worst thing is when you figure out the twist yourself, halfway through the film.

Call it a result of watching too many whodunits as a kid, but the twist in Reema Kagti’s “Talaash” was apparent an hour before it ended. After that it was just a matter of waiting to see how it plays out. No surprises there either. Kagti makes a stylised film, a murder mystery that also has an emotional undercurrent and borrows strongly from well-known Hollywood films of the genre (I won’t say which ones for fear of revealing the plot).

Aamir Khan plays troubled police inspector Surjan Singh Shekhawat, who moves to Mumbai after his son’s death in a freak boating accident. Wracked by guilt, he roams the streets of the city that never sleeps at night, leaving his wife Roshni (Rani Mukerji) to deal with the tragedy on her own.

Heroine: The Bhandarkar school of cliches

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Bollywood has always it’s own genre of films – masala entertainment, the re-birth saga, etc. “Heroine” belongs to the “Madhur Bhandarkar” genre of films. Pick any field, or place (Corporate, Jail, Fashion), stuff it with every cliché you can think of and more, add a gay character (irrespective of whether the story needs it or not), throw in some over-the-top dialogue, and of course, package the whole thing as “realistic cinema”.

Bhandarkar has made a career out of these slice-of-life films, most of which are just a collection of incidents that characterize that industry, according to the director. Remember the drug-abusing models in “Fashion” or the hard-nosed CEO in “Corporate”?

Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu: A rom-com that “gets” it

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Through the first half, Shakun Batra’s romantic comedy “Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu” follows an entirely predictable path — boy and girl meet, get drunk, get married and realise they don’t want to stay married. Circumstances dictate they must spend time together while waiting for their marriage to get annulled. At the interval, one of them even has the “I’m in love” epiphany.

Of course, you don’t mind the predictable storyline because there is zippy dialogue, some great writing and the performances are in tune with all of the above. So far, so good. But we all know the second half is where it gets tricky, and not too many film-makers know how to end well. Well, clear all doubts now.  Batra is not one of  them.

Bodyguard: Protect yourself

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Watching a Salman Khan film ‘first day first show’ is an experience in itself. I watched it in a multiplex, where there were snaking queues full of excited fans, hoping they’d get tickets for the first show of “Bodyguard”. They were hooting, cheering and screaming in the aisles even before the movie started.

When Khan made his appearance on screen a few minutes into the film, grown men were dancing and cheering him on. This is clearly a star with ample charisma and a fanatical fan following who don’t care for technicalities like good cinema. “Bodyguard”, written and directed by Siddique, is in the same mould as Salman’s earlier Eid hits “Wanted” and “Dabangg”, showcasing the star’s romancing, fighting and comedy skills, thus rendering things like the story and screenplay useless.

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.

We are Family: Pretty shallow

We are Family: Pretty but shallow Before I get to talking about the film, I have one question about “We are Family” and films like it — why is it that they are invariably based in foreign countries and feature designer clothes, homes and even designer deaths? To me, this film could well have been based in Mumbai, have had the same characters and it wouldn’t have made any difference to the story or screenplay. Even a person in the last stages of terminal illness has full make-up on. Which is one of the biggest problems of the film — everything about it is so cosmetic, even the emotions, that it’s hard to be touched by anything. Based on the 1998 Hollywood film “Stepmom”, the only Indian-ness the script has is to insert clichés about what an ideal Indian woman should be. Kajol plays Maya, the “ideal Indian mother” who, besides a passing reference to her job in publishing, does nothing besides fuss around her three kids. Her ex-husband Aman (Arjun Rampal) is in love with fashion designer Shreya (Kareena Kapoor) but all attempts to get his kids to like her are in vain. When Maya discovers she has terminal cancer, Aman decides to go back to help her. Maya decides that isn’t enough and wants Shreya to help out with the kids, telling her that every Indian woman comes with a motherhood gene. If this motherhood gene means you take your pre-teen kids to a karaoke pub, where there are people drinking alchohol and the parents are on stage dancing to ‘Jailhouse Rock’ while the kids watch, who are we to question it? Director Sidharth Malhotra plays too safe and doesn’t explore any of the dynamics of a household that has two women fighting for a man and his children. Also, Rampal and the kids put in such a watered-down performance compared to the two women, you wonder why they are fighting for them in the first place. Both Kajol and Kareena Kapoor, however, are excellent in what can only be called stunted roles. Kareena especially brings such an energy to Shreya’s character that you immediately connect with her. “We are Family” is at best a pretty but shallow film.

WAFBefore I get to talking about the film, I have one question about “We are Family” and films like it — why is it that they are invariably based in foreign countries and feature designer clothes, homes and even designer deaths?

To me, this film could well have been based in Mumbai, have had the same characters and it wouldn’t have made any difference to the story or screenplay. Even a person in the last stages of terminal illness has full make-up on.

Milenge Milenge: Outdated and unwatchable

Watching “Milenge Milenge” is like finishing an entire bottle of tomato ketchup. Ketchup that was manufactured a decade or two earlier. So eating it/watching this movie will ensure that a) you won’t enjoy it and b) it will be harmful to your health because the product is long past its expiry date. This is one of those films that didn’t get released at a time when it should have — that is when Kareena Kapoor’s peroxide hair was in vogue, landlines were more in use than mobiles and sequined dresses were considered fashionable. Unfortunately, like all of the above, this film is way past its “best before” date and hence almost entirely unwatchable. Kareena Kapoor plays Priya Malhotra, an incredibly gullible girl who decides she wants to spend the rest of her life with a boy based on the three days she spends with him. Shahid Kapur plays Immy, an incredibly arrogant young man, who thinks he can get a girl to fall in love with him by lying to her and pretending to be holier-than-thou. Somehow, the two fall in love but when it becomes clear that Immy is a drinking, cigarette-smoking liar (all qualities Priya hates), she dumps him. When he pleads with Priya to get her back, she decides to let destiny decide their fate. This somehow involves a 50-rupee note and a 30-rupee book on numerology. Don’t ask me to explain further. Immy doesn’t agree initially, pointing out their meeting is destined because they meet at a mall which is called ‘Destiny’. It gets better but don’t let me spoil the fun. In short, this film has hardly anything going for it and it is obvious why the makers didn’t release it for almost three years after it was made. If you want to see the Shahid-Kareena chemistry on screen, it exists for all of two minutes and nothing else in the film is notable. Avoid.

milengeWatching “Milenge Milenge” is like finishing an entire bottle of tomato ketchup. Ketchup that was manufactured a decade or two earlier. So eating it/watching this movie will ensure that a) you won’t enjoy it and b) it will be harmful to your health because the product is long past its expiry date.

This is one of those films that didn’t get released at a time when it should have — that is when Kareena Kapoor’s peroxide hair was in vogue, landlines were more in use than mobiles and sequined dresses were considered fashionable.

3 Idiots: Lacks punch, but feels really good

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3idiotsI must admit I had apprehensions going in to watch Rajkumar Hirani’s ‘3 Idiots’, inspite of the immense buzz that has surrounded the film.

One of my biggest qualms was how the director could hope to get away with casting middle aged men as college going boys.

Kurbaan: Old wine, better packaged

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If you watched Kabir Khan’s “New York” this summer, you won’t find much novelty in Rensil D’Silva’s “Kurbaan”. The storyline is pretty much the same, except for a few cosmetic differences.

There is an educated, suave man living a double life as a terrorist, his beautiful wife who doesn’t know about his identity and the “third man” who tries to help the family.

Main Aur Mrs Khanna: A mindless romance

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The other day a colleague asked me why I never seemed to like any film these days. I thought about it and wondered the same myself. Don’t they make good films any more?

Two hours after watching Prem Soni’s “Main Aur Mrs Khanna”, you realise the answer to that question is a resounding NO.

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