India Masala

Bollywood and culture in an emerging India

Barfi!: The sweet life

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Even before you see a single frame of Anurag Basu’s “Barfi!” you will get a sense of the movie, thanks to a quirky song which calls on you to switch off “both your mobiles and kids”. It also promises that the film will give you no “gyaan” (expressing opinion) and that it will tell you about “saccha pyaar” (true love).

You could either be charmed by this unusual beginning or be put off by it, as I was, especially because it feels like overstating the tone of the movie and making a judgment for you about its content. But you might soon forget that and a lot of other things. The very first scene, a Chaplinesque chase through narrow streets is shot expertly by Ravi Varman, and will give you a sense of the old-world charm that pervades the film.

Basu’s film is set in a fairy-tale world, where people seem to have all the time in the world to stop and stare. Basu certainly seems in no hurry to tell his tale, allowing Varman’s camera to meander through the gorgeous landscape of Darjeeling, taking his own time to set up his characters and their lives.

We meet Murphy (Ranbir Kapoor), a cheerful young man who dances, cycles and charms his way through the village with not a care in the world. That he is hearing and speech impaired is conveyed through a song, without much melodrama. He lives with his father, a chauffer.

Teri Meri Kahaani: A love story that needs direction

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As they sit sipping coffee at a roadside café in London, Radha (Priyanka Chopra) tells Krissh (Shahid Kapur) “sometimes life is a suitcase but you feel like it’s a lunch-box” (or was it the opposite?), and if you are sitting in the audience, you might be forgiven for going “Huh? Did she really say that?”

Be prepared for many such moments during this two-and-a-half-hour film that claims to be an epic love story spanning three eras. Director Kunal Kohli is obviously trying to tell you that love does not change, whether in pre-independence India or London in 2012.  If only you didn’t have to watch this film to find out.

Agneepath: Revenge re-packaged

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While watching Katrina Kaif gyrating to “Chikni Chameli”, more than halfway through Karan Malhotra’s “Agneepath”, I couldn’t help but wonder about the similarities between the song and the film. Both are adaptations of an original product (“Chikni Chameli” has been adapted from a popular Marathi song), both have ample production value and some great moves, but they are also ample proof that remaking an original may not always work.

Malhotra’s version of “Agneepath”, to be fair, is not a direct copy and is quite different from Mukul Anand’s 1990 version. A lot of the plot points of the original film have been swapped for newer stories, but the gist of the story remains.

Don 2: Don’t expect too much

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It’s been a while since Bollywood dished out a slick, fast-paced action film. Wait, who am I kidding? Bollywood doesn’t do fast-paced action films any more, we just turn to Hollywood to get our share of those. So kudos to Farhan Akhtar that he thought of attempting it — not once but twice.

While the first was a remake of the 70s hit “Don”, the sequel is an entirely new story, and doesn’t have too many connections with the previous film, except for some of the characters who make a comeback.

Agneepath: 20 years later?

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More than 20 years after he first mesmerised an entire generation with his baritone and signature dialogue, Vijay Dinanath Chauhan is going to be back on celluloid, but this time in a different avatar.

Producer Karan Johar said the original film which was produced by his father didn’t “meet commercial expectations” and he thought this one would hit bull’s eye. Directed by debutant Karan Malhotra, the film stars Hrithik Roshan as Chauhan while Sanjay Dutt plays dreaded villain Kancha.

Shah Rukh Khan’s new look in “Don 2″

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It’s been a little more than a year since the last Shah Rukh Khan movie released, but this year the star has two big releases – “Ra One” and “Don 2″, directed by Farhan Akhtar. “Ra One”, starring Khan and Kareena Kapoor, is set for a Diwali release while Don 2 is releasing on the Christmas weekend. Given his long absence from the silver screen and the muted response to his new TV show “Zor Ka Jhatka”, Khan will be banking on these two films to do well. “Don 2″, directed by Farhan Akhtar, is the sequel to his 2007 remake of ‘Don”, and stars Khan alongwith Priyanka Chopra, Boman Irani and Lara Dutta. The film was shot in Berlin and the cast is currently shooting in Malaysia. Here are pictures of Khan’s look in the film. What do you think? Which avatar of Khan’s have you liked the most?

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It’s been a little more than a year since the last Shah Rukh Khan movie released but this year the star has two big releases — “Ra One” and “Don 2″.

7 Khoon Maaf: Enticing premise, lacklustre execution

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The basic premise of Vishal Bhardwaj’s enticingly titled “7 Khoon Maaf” is enough to generate excitement about the film. A woman marrying several times and killing off each of her husbands is the kind of story you don’t get to see too often in Bollywood, and if anyone can do justice to that kind of a dark theme, it has to be Bhardwaj. There wasn’t much that could go wrong with this one. That’s exactly what I thought when I entered the theatre, more than seven months ago, to watch a movie called “Raavan”. And we all know what happened with that one. I might be accused of being a little harsh here but this film might be Vishal Bhardwaj’s “Raavan”. In what is his weakest film yet, Bhardwaj takes the tantalising prospect of a “black widow”, and turns it into a haphazard story of a woman who seems to have a fetish for murdering her husbands, even when just leaving them would have been enough. Priyanka Chopra plays Susanna Marie Johannes, going from a coy-20 something to a crazy-50 something during the film. As she tells one of her husbands, there’s no worse accident than marriage in a woman’s life. But she herself suffers that accident several times and when she tires of each of her husbands, she kills them off without batting an eyelid at times, and flits to the next one within the blink of eye. Bhardwaj skims the surface of each of the characters, and we never get a sense of the desperation, and later the madness that Susanna’s character should have displayed to be capable of multiple murders. In the end, you don’t feel for her character or any of the men she killed. There is not much action and the murders get repetitive, especially because you know they are all going to die in the end. In fact, the last one seems hurriedly inserted just to make up the right number. Of the performances, Priyanka Chopra tries her best to be Susanna, but is hampered by a lacklustre script and even worse make-up. Her face in the last few scenes looks like a wall with peeling paint. That is not how women look in ther 50s. Vivaan Shah, as her admirer is restrained and does his part well. What is it with some of our best directors making such duds these days? There was Mani Ratnam, Ashutosh Gowariker and now Vishal Bhardwaj — the latter being someone who has always delivered brilliance in almost all aspects of storytelling. We should perhaps overlook this one as a weak link in an otherwise great career and move on. ‘Ek film maaf’.

7km2The basic premise of Vishal Bhardwaj’s enticingly titled “7 Khoon Maaf” is enough to generate excitement about the film. A woman marrying several times and killing off each of her husbands is the kind of story you don’t get to see too often in Bollywood, and if anyone can do justice to that kind of a dark theme, it has to be Bhardwaj. There wasn’t much that could go wrong with this one.

That’s exactly what I thought when I entered the theatre, more than seven months ago, to watch a movie called “Raavan“. And we all know what happened with that one. I might be accused of being a little harsh here but this film might be Vishal Bhardwaj’s “Raavan”.

Anjaana Anjaani: Suicidal story

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Making a film with just two characters and about their journey towards love is a concept that has worked quite well. The Ethan Hawke starrer “Before Sunrise” and its sequel “Before Sunset” come to mind immediately. These films had at their centre a great love story between two very interesting people and their interaction with each other itself was enough to take the story forward. It is of course entirely to the credit of the director and the scriptwriter that he can achieve that. And no matter how many foreign locales director Siddharth Anand shoots in and no matter how American his characters talk and act, he doesn’t come even close to creating that kind of interest and sympathy for them, or his film for that matter. “Anjaana Anjaani”, which is about Kiara and Aakash, two very whiny people who meet each other when they are trying to kill themselves, but by the time they change their mind, you might want to do the deed for them. They spend the 2-and-a-half-hour film driving around deserts and swimming in freezing water, pretending they are friends, when you could have saved them that trouble and told them they were going to fall in love in the first five minutes of the film. Their exchanges are childish to say the least and have none of the freshness and originality you might expect from a film that is anyway re-hashing an old formula. Both Ranbir Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra share a good chemistry on screen, but give the sense that they are trying too hard to make up for the listless script. The last scene especially is so bad it is cringe worthy and both actors ham it up like there is no tomorrow. Avoid this one unless you want to die of boredom

AA2Making a film with just two characters and about their journey towards love is a concept that has worked quite well in the past.

The Ethan Hawke starrer “Before Sunrise” and its sequel “Before Sunset” come to mind immediately. These films had at their centre a great love story between two very interesting people and their interaction with each other itself was enough to take the story forward.

What’s Your Raashee: Celestial Disaster

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Ashutosh Gowariker’s “What’s Your Raashee” is supposed to be a light, romantic comedy about the search for a perfect bride.

It stars Priyanka Chopra in twelve different avatars, playing a girl from each zodiac sign and Harman Baweja as Yogesh Patel, the eligible groom who has to choose one of those girls.

Dostana: A spectacular first half but nothing great overall

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‘Dostana’ is a path-breaking Bollywood film alright. Maybe not for gay rights but certainly the number of times the word ‘gay’ has been used in a single film.

Indians hoping for a “Brokeback Mountain” may do well to stay away from this slapstick comedy about two men pretending to be a gay couple in order to lay hands on a top-notch condo overlooking the sun-kissed sands of Miami.

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