India Masala

Bollywood and culture in an emerging India

Players: Good action, bad acting

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You cannot help but compare the last film of 2011 with the first film of 2012. Both have a lot in common — “Don 2″ and “Players” are both heist films, both borrow heavily from Hollywood movies and have their share of over-the-top cheesy moments. There is just one thing that sets “Players” apart — there’s a lot more action in this one.

Director duo Abbas-Mustan make sure there’s plenty to keep you on the edge of your seat, and even though the film drags on longer than it should, you are still not looking to bolt from the hall.

Borrowing from the premise of “The Italian Job”, “Players” tells the story of Charlie Fernandes (Abhishek Bachchan), who plans to rob gold bars worth billions of dollars while it is being transferred from one country to another by train.

He enlists the help of hardened criminal Victor Braganza (Vinod Khanna), who helps him put together a team of a hacker, illusionist, make-up artist and Riya (Bipasha Basu), Charlie’s trusted partner in earlier crimes.

Mausam: Several seasons too old

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If director Pankaj Kapur hadn’t gone to pains to establish that “Mausam” plays out between the mid-90s and the early years of this century, you’d be forgiven for thinking this film takes place in the 20s — when there was no internet, no phones and no technology. Why else would two, reasonably well-off, intelligent people who obviously have access to technology be unable to trace each other? It makes no sense, and instead of feeling sad for them, you feel frustrated.

That, in a nutshell, is how you feel about “Mausam” anyway. The promos describe the film as an “epic” love story, but the only thing epic here is the running time. The film runs for almost three hours, during which Kapur plays out the same meet-separate-meet-separate theme till you tire of it.

No, Thank You

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I’m going to keep this one short because there’s really not much I can say about Anees Bazmee’s “Thank You” that I haven’t already said about films of this genre – in other words, the “leave your brains at home” films that we seem to churn out with alarming regularity. This one seems to be a re-hash of Bazmee’s earlier “No Entry”, which at least had a couple of nice songs and some funny moments. This one has nothing but offensive dialogue, bad jokes and even worse acting. Akshay Kumar plays Kishen, a modern day love doctor who spies on philandering husbands and helps their wives take “revenge” on them. The film runs on the premise that men are sure to stray, but, like the men in the movie, if they catch their wives even pretending to have an affair, they can take the high moral ground and lecture them on the sanctity of marriage. Bobby Deol plays one of those men, Raj, while Irrfan Khan and Suneil Shetty play his friends. All three are having affairs with various women and get away with it by throwing flimsy excuses at their wives, which the women gladly gobble up. That is, until Kishen comes into the picture, ensures that their wives exact revenge on them and leave the men pining. Of course, the fact that he’s been caught cheating several times and doesn’t even seem to regret it doesn’t stop Bobby Deol’s character from delivering a five minute monologue to his wife Sanjana (Sonam Kapoor) on how she’s hasn’t respected their marriage by flirting with Kishen. “At least I did it on the sly, but you are doing it openly”, he tells her. Who can argue with such sound logic? Of the cast, only Irrfan Khan looks remotely comfortable in his role, while everyone else is rank bad. Special mention to Sonam Kapoor who looks lovely but cannot emote genuinely in a single scene – especially for a woman who is supposed to be going through the heartbreak of infidelity. If you liked “No Problem” “Housefull” and “Kambakkhth Ishq”, then this might be the film for you. Everyone else, run far away from any theatre showing this film.

thankyouI’m going to keep this one short because there’s really not much I can say about Anees Bazmee’s “Thank You” that I haven’t already said about films of this genre – in other words, the “leave your brains at home” films that we seem to churn out with alarming regularity.

This one seems to be a re-hash of Bazmee’s earlier “No Entry”, which at least had a couple of nice songs and some funny moments. This one has nothing but offensive dialogue, bad jokes and even worse acting.

Aisha: Desi chick flick

As the end credits rolled in “Aisha”, I noticed that the credits for stylists/designers and clothes sponsors never seemed to end. That should tell you something. This is a film that is a lot like the characters in it – very very pretty, but, as a character in the film says “very shallow”. This is India’s first chick flick though, and even though there are holes in the script, plot points are very badly explained and Sonam Kapoor’s acting hampers the film significantly, it does tell you the story of India’s luxe set, for whom a Chanel bag is an important accessory even when you are roughing it out on the banks of the Ganges in a tent. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sonam Kapoor plays Aisha, ditsy, but well-meaning girl who wants to play match-maker to everyone around her. She comes across the perfect “project” in Shefali, an enthusiastic, but unsophisticated girl from a small town near Delhi, whom Aisha promises to take under her wing, and find her a “good boy.” She is aided in this endeavour by her smart-talking best friend Pinky, (Ira Dubey), while family friend Arjun (Abhay Deol) firmly believes that she should stay away from what is none of her business. Aisha of course, goes about her project with the attitude of a horse with blinkers, listening to no one and ignoring the obvious signs around her, until everything falls apart. Set in the upper-class Delhi milieu, Aisha does have a lot of fun moments and captures the essence of that milieu really well. Needless to say, the clothes, the bags, the set design (who has kitchens with all white cabinets and perfectly placed jars of pasta on shelves?) are all top-notch. Of the cast, Abhay Deol does what he is expected to do – look good and act well. Ira Dubey as the caustic Pinky is great, but the real star is Amrita Puri, who plays the wide-eyed small town girl thrown into high society with great élan. The film’s main star, Sonam Kapoor, disappoints coming off as awkward at some of the most crucial moments. The story is a straight lift-off from the Alicia Silverstone starrer “Clueless”, which in turn was an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma, so you can’t help thinking that if only the script were tighter and plot points weren’t so abrupt, this could have been a better effort. However, you might be willing to forgive the emptiness inside, because this film is oh-so-pretty on the outside.

aisha-1As the end credits rolled in “Aisha”, I noticed that the credits for stylists/designers and clothes sponsors never seemed to end. That should tell you something.

This is a film that is a lot like the characters in it – very very pretty, but, as a character in the film says “very shallow”.

IHLS: I hate boring love stories

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At one point in Punit Malhotra’s “I hate Luv Storys” one of the characters tells another “just follow all the clichés and go for it”. That could well have been Malhotra’s motto while making this run-of-the-mill love story that drags on for what seems like forever. Malhotra seems to take every single cliché you can think of and insert that into his film – while pretending that this is a different love story. Boy who is commitment phobic – check; girl who has an overdose of pink in her bedroom and believes in love at first sight – check; Hate turns to love – check; Boring boyfriend – check. IHLS is definitely not big on the originality factor, and you know how it is going to end. You just wish the journey to the end was pleasanter. Imran Khan plays Jay, a young man who doesn’t believe in love stories, and cringes at the slightest hint of mush, but ends up assisting a maverick director who only makes love stories. Forced to work with art director Simran on a film, he pooh-poohs her ideas of romantic and ideal love, and her “perfect” relationship with her boyfriend, appropriately named Raj (Sameer Dattani). You don’t really need me to tell you how it goes from here. Jay and Simran spend time together, fall in love, one of them realizes it, but the other doesn’t, and so most of the film is spent trying to get through situations that wouldn’t have been necessary if only the duo had had a heart-to-heart chat with each other. Along the way, there are a lot of really inane dialogues (“Women are like buses, if one leaves another one comes along, but ultimately there is only one bus which can take you home”), some awkward acting and a lot of rich, pretty people and palatial homes. In fact some of the best lines in the film are not spoken, but printed on the t-shirts that Jay’s friend wears. Malhotra spoofs movies like DDLJ and “Dil to Pagal Hai” and “Dil Chahta Hai”, but fails to rise to the standard that made these films the cult films that they are. The direction is amateur, and the pace of the film could have been shortened considerably without hurting the plot. There are some moments that make you laugh in the first half, but the second half is just downhill. By the time the climax rolls in you don’t care what happens to the two protagonists. Imran Khan tries to make the best of his role and succeeds to a large extent, but Sonam Kapoor is stuck with such a one-dimensional role that she can hardly do much. Simran, it seems has nothing else in her life except for the idea of love, and a great taste in clothes. ILHS is ultimately a very ordinary and boring love story. Go if you have the patience for it.

Bollywood actress Sonam Kapoor smiles during a promotional event for her film "I Hate Luv Storys" in Ahmedabad June 29, 2010. REUTERS/Amit DaveAt one point in Punit Malhotra’s “I Hate Luv Storys” one of the characters tells another to just follow all the clichés and go for it. That could well have been Malhotra’s motto while making this run-of-the-mill love story that drags on for what seems like forever.

Malhotra seems to take every single cliché you can think of and insert that into his film – while pretending that this is a different love story. Boy who is commitment phobic – check; girl who has an overdose of pink in her bedroom and believes in love at first sight – check; Hate turns to love – check; Boring boyfriend – check. IHLS is definitely not big on the originality factor and you know how it is going to end. You just wish the journey to the end was pleasanter.

Delhi 6: Mehra’s mirror has many faces

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At the end of the first half of “Delhi 6″, a friend messaged me to ask what I thought of the film.

“I like it so far,” I told him, “but I don’t see where this is going.”

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