Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

June 24, 2011

Zoya Akhtar on ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 11:35 pm

In this interview,  Zoya Akhtar – director of one of my favourite films recently, Luck By Chance – talks about her new film Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, a coming-of-age ensemble piece starring Hrithik Roshan, Farhan Akhtar and Abhay Deol.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Total drag!

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:56 pm

June 24, 2011

Cast: Sanjay Dutt, Ritesh Deshmukh, Arshad Warsi, Ashish Choudhary, Javed Jaffrey, Mallika Sherawat, Kangana Ranaut

Director: Indra Kumar

In a scene in Double Dhamaal Ritesh Deshmukh, disguised as an older Gujarati businessman, twice whacks Sanjay Dutt in the nuts by swinging his golf club in the wrong direction. Dutt winces in pain. Given the standard of humor in this film, it’s a fairly funny scene. And director Indra Kumar knows it. Which is why he throws in another scene in which a gorilla is kicked in the groin. And then another one in which Dutt lines up Ritesh and his buddies and whacks each of them in the crotch with a golf ball. How many times do you repeat the same gag, before it stops being funny?

Double Dhamaal, unlike the 2007 film whose sequel it is, has absolutely no plot to speak of. The film’s entirely unfunny first half involves Dutt conning the four protagonists – Ritesh Deshmukh, Arshad Warsi, Ashish Choudhary and Javed Jaffrey – into selling sewage water as oil. The tables turn in the second half, when the boys decide to strip Dutt of his ill-earned riches and his joy. Their hare-brained plan involves changing many disguises so they can dupe him without it being traced back to them. So at one point Ashish Choudhary slips into a monkey suit, and must kiss face with a real gorilla. (If you think that’s sick, wait till you see him in a slinky dress, baring enough cleavage to put Rakhi Sawant to shame). Ritesh Deshmukh smears black face-paint and wears an Afro wig so he can pretend to be a Caribbean lover-boy who seduces Dutt’s sister. Arshad Warsi poses as a smart sardar who offers to handle the security of Dutt’s casino. And Javed Jaffrey, the ‘slow’ one in the group, pretends to be….umm…a slightly ‘slower’ version of himself.

The only genuinely clever bits in Double Dhamaal are the repeated film references. There are jokes directed at Guzaarish, Taare Zameen Par, Peepli Live, and even at the actors in this very film. Satish Kaushik’s character, an underworld figure named Batabhai, repeatedly insults the younger foursome by beckoning them with such names as “Multi-star cast ke side hero” and “Hit film ke flop hero”.

But little else tickles the funny bone here. Actors yell out their lines instead of saying them, every gag is repeated over and over again, and the double entendres get tiresome after a point. Mallika Sherawat and Kangana Ranaut, who star as Dutt’s girlfriend and sister respectively, are easy on the eye but make as much of an impression in this film as good-looking wallpaper does in an ugly room.

The earlier Dhamaal, although generously copied from It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World, had several moments of inspired lunacy. This sequel is a lazy effort made on a bigger budget, but evidently with half the integrity and spirit.

I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five for director Indra Kumar’s Double Dhamaal. Aside from a few laughs post-intermission, this film is a crashing bore.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Hot wheels

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:47 pm

June 24, 2011

Cast: Voices of Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, John Turturro

Director: John Lasseter

What’s common to all Pixar films – whether they’re about toys, monsters, fish, or garbage-recycling robots – is their ability to get viewers to emotionally invest in their stories and their protagonists. The same unfortunately isn’t true of their latest film Cars 2, a fine adventure in the mould of James Bond films, but one that’s missing that indescribable something that pierces straight to the heart.

Cars 2 picks up a few years after the first film, which ended with race-car champ Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) realizing that there’s more to life than just fancy sponsorship deals and the celebrity lifestyle. The new film opens with Lightning McQueen returning to Radiator Springs to spend time with his hometown buddies. Almost as soon as he arrives, he’s challenged to race overseas in the first World Grand Prix, a championship set to take place in Japan, France, Italy and Britain that will determine the world’s fastest car. This time he takes his pit-crew pals along and his best friend, rusty tow-truck Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy).

When exposed to the big, new world outside, Mater embarrasses Lightning McQueen with his ‘aww-shucks’ behavior and his small-town manners. This leads to a hurtful confrontation between the friends, soon after which Mater gets embroiled in a top-secret spy mission at the behest of British super-spy Finn McMissile (voiced by Michael Caine) and his partner Holley Shiftwell (voiced by Emily Mortimer). Lightning McQueen meanwhile must face his arch-rival, Italian race-car Francesco Bernoulli (voiced by John Turturro), while simultaneously trying to reconcile with his best friend who he has upset.

There’s no place for moist eyes or lumps-in-the-throat in this fast-faced actioner that’s crammed with too many subplots all at once. Mater, who’s brought front-and-centre as the protagonist of this film, worked well as the sidekick in Cars, but doesn’t come with the personality of a leading man…or car.

But making up for the lack of emotional complexity in this film is its excellent animation and the thrilling racing sequences. As a spoof of James Bond films, there is some clever humor and the nifty use of gadgets and gizmos. The film addresses such basic themes as friendship and loyalty, and also glosses over a not-so-subtle pro-environmental message. Cars 2 may have less heart than Pixar’s earlier gems, but as an animated adventure it’s not bad at all. They’ve set the bar so high, anything short of excellent feels like a disappointment.

I’m going with three out of five for Cars 2, directed by John Lasseter. There’s no shortage of fun and thrills, but it’s missing a hero to root for.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

June 21, 2011

“Shooting Bbuddah made me nostalgic,” says Amitabh Bachchan

Filed under: What's new — Rajeev @ 2:59 pm


Reminiscing about those early hits that earned him the tag of  ‘Angry Young Man’, Amitabh Bachchan talks about his new film Bbuddah and why it channels those evergreen blockbusters. The actor also talks about returning as the host of Kaun Banenga Crorepati in its fifth season, and dwells briefly on his forthcoming film Arakshan.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

June 18, 2011

Mallika Sherawat says she has better chances to succeed in Hollywood

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 9:05 am

In this interview, Mallika Sherawat says Bollywood is plagued with nepotism, and insists she has better chances to succeed in Hollywood which is more democratic in comparison.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Brain drain

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 12:19 am

June 17, 2011

Cast: Vinay Pathak, Kay Kay Menon, Suresh Menon, Amole Gupte, Minnisha Lamba

Director: Sagar Bellary

Bheja Fry 2, directed by Sagar Bellary, is a disappointing and not-so-funny follow-up to the original 2007 comedy that starred Vinay Pathak as a bumbling tax inspector who inadvertently turns the tables on a man intending to make a laughing stock out of him. In the new film, Pathak reprises his role as Bharat Bhushan, but the lovably dimwitted man-child has turned into an annoying oaf this time round.

The action unfolds on a luxury cruise and a marooned island in Bheja Fry 2, and Kay Kay Menon stars as the fraudster businessman whose turn it is to be mentally battered by our eccentric protagonist. Yes, Bharat Bhushan is still a fan of the golden oldies and breaks into an evergreen track at the drop of a hat. But you have little patience for his idiosyncracies now, which have gotten stale.

Joining the cast is Amole Gupte who plays a mad photographer on the island, and Suresh Menon who takes the part of Bhushan’s colleague, an earnest tax inspector investigating Kay Kay Menon. The laughs are fewer, the jokes less funny, and the set-up entirely familiar. Vinay Pathak succeeds in delivering a few moments of genuine comedy, but for the most part good actors like Kay Kay Menon and Amole Gupte are wasted in this lazily-scripted mess.

I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five for Bheja Fry 2. The original film, although entirely plagiarized, had a charming innocence to complement its outrageous humor. This one is dead dull, and a total waste of two precious hours.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

School’s out!

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 12:13 am

June 17, 2011

Cast: Ali Fazal, Satyajeet Dubey, Giselle Monteiro, Zoa Morani, Satish Shah, Lilette Dubey, Navneet Nishan

Director: Roshan Abbas

Set on a sprawling Delhi campus where students spend the bulk of their time attending drama rehearsals or dancing merrily in the corridors, Always Kabhi Kabhi directed by Roshan Abbas channels those breezy High School Musical movies…but alas this film doesn’t have the infectious charm of those feel-good Disney entertainers.

The kids in this film are your usual stereotypes: you have the resident nerd (played by Satyajeet Dubey), the firebrand (played by Zoa Morani), the charmer (played by Ali Fazal), and the pretty new head-turner (played by Giselle Monteiro). There’s little by way of plot here – the school’s putting up a production of Romeo & Juliet, and our four leads sign up for assorted duties. Alongside we get a glimpse of their troubled home lives. The nerd is under pressure from his overbearing father to get admission into MIT, the short-tempered, snappy one longs for the attention of her busy parents, the pretty one is being bullied into realizing her mother’s unfulfilled dreams, and Mr Popular has a strained relationship with his worrying father.

Much in the same sloppy vein as Faltu recently, the larger theme that’s addressed here is the lack of communication between adults and their children. Pretty much all parents are painted as villains, while teenagers are dubbed the misunderstood generation. Some of this might have worked if the characters or their situations felt authentic. But very little feels real or relatable in this film, aside from the sporadic use of status updates to take the narrative forward, and the exasperation of parents watching their kids spend so much time texting on the mobile phones.

The real problem is that the film neither feels accurately representative of this generation and its lifestyle, nor does it have an aspirational quality to it like those campus portions of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai did all those years ago. As a result it feels very boring, and a closing-credits item-song featuring Shah Rukh Khan doesn’t redeem it in any way.

Of the cast, Ali Fazal has a likeable presence, and Zoa Morani is blessed with abundant confidence. The clumsy script however, which throws in everything from a teenage pregnancy scare to a drugs bust, is limp to say the least despite the involvement of four writers.

I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five for director Roshan Abbas’ Always Kabhi Kabhi. Watching this film is like attending a concert put up by ten-year-olds. It’s amateurish, and tedious to sit through, and the only thing you can appreciate in the end is the earnestness behind the effort.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

June 17, 2011

Chasing the green

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 11:32 pm

June 17, 2011

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Tim Robbins, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong

Director: Martin Campbell

Based on the DC Comics superhero created all the way back in the 1940s, Green Lantern stars Ryan Reynolds as an irresponsible pilot named Hal Jordan who turns into a superhero when he puts on a coveted green ring that he receives from a dying alien. Now member of the Green Lantern Corps, an army of warriors dedicated to protecting the universe, Hal must put his strength behind vanquishing Parallax, a tentacled blob of evil that is threatening to wipe out everyone and everything in sight.

Closer home, here on earth, the spirit of Parallax takes over science professor Hector Hammond (played by Peter Sarsgaard) who turns into a bulgy-headed psycho that Hal must battle. His love interest, meanwhile, is a fellow pilot (played by Blake Lively) who only shows up as respite in between the bloated action set-pieces.

Reynolds is charming as the green-outfitted superhero, and does well in the film’s cheeky-comedy sequences. But Parallax is such an abstract villain that there’s never any sense of real danger in the film. For me, Green Lantern failed because of its over-dependence on CGI and special effects; there were times I felt I was watching a jazzy video game. The story is simplistic, there’s barely any character depth to speak of, and the acting is mostly hammy. Coming so close on the heels of the superb X-Men: First Class, you can’t help feeling underwhelmed and a tad cheated too.

I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five for Green Lantern. It’s bright and shiny, but its battery runs out too soon.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

June 11, 2011

Vikramaditya Motwane on the film that changed his life

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 11:25 am

In this interview, Vikramaditya Motwane – director of 2010’s best film, Udaan – talks about the film that changed his life.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Devil in the detail

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 12:24 am

June 10, 2011

Cast: Kalki Koechlin, Gulshan Devaiya, Shiv Pandit, Neil Bhoopalam, Kirti Kulhari, Rajeev Khandelwal

Director: Bejoy Nambiar

Hindi cinema seldom makes films about unapologetically amoral characters. The protagonists in director Bejoy Nambiar’s Shaitan are a group of five wayward youngsters who snort cocaine, get drunk, and drive around recklessly through the streets of Mumbai. This is a group of mostly ‘poor-little-rich-kids’ who’re emotionally estranged from their families. When they mow down two innocent people in a rash-driving accident, they must come up with big money to close the case. Going to their parents is not an option; hence one of them, Amy (played by Kalki Koechlin), an NRI with unresolved mommy issues, suggests that her friends fake her kidnapping so they can demand ransom from her dad. Expectedly their plan spirals wildly out of control, and that’s when the devil inside each of them decides to rear its ugly head.

First-time-feature director Nambiar tells his story confidently and stylishly, and uses various narrative devices like voice-overs and flashbacks-within-flashbacks to keep things from getting predictable. One of the film’s most exciting sequences is a shootout and subsequent chase in a crowded chawl cut to a remixed version of the classic song Khoya khoya chand.

But Nambiar punctures the narrative repeatedly with Kalki’s visions of her mother, and those flashbacks serve no purpose but to justify and apologize for Kalki’s eccentric personality, which in turn is a disservice to the very bravura of this film. It’s hard also to connect with these characters or empathize with their condition when Nambiar seems to be putting all his effort into distracting you with his fancy technical skills.

He has more luck when he shifts his focus to the track involving the tightly wound cop (played by Rajeev Khandelwal) who remains unfalteringly committed to his job, even as his marriage is coming apart. There is a smoldering intensity to those wordless scenes in which Khandelwal watches his wife leave their home, or when he loses his patience with a bureaucratic officer in the divorce court. Khandelwal is easily this film’s biggest strength, and even his tiniest moments have something to offer – like that scene in which he kicks a resistant auto-rickshaw driver into action.

The film’s other key weapon is its remarkable soundtrack that is credited to as many as five composers. Nambiar uses music cleverly to maximize dramatic impact. Of the central cast, the three boys – Neil Bhoopalam as Zubin, Shiv Pandit as the rakishly charming Dash, and Gulshan Devaiya as KC – get a better shot than the girls at realizing their characters. But the film itself goes south post intermission, with giant loopholes in the plot and repetitive scenes, not to mention that cop-out climax. What could have been a terrific, thrilling film is ultimately an impressive first-time feature. Nevertheless, Nambiar makes a confident debut and delivers a brave, engaging film that shouldn’t be missed.

I’m going with three out of five for director Bejoy Nambiar’s Shaitan. It isn’t as daring as Anurag Kashyap’s debut Paanch whose themes it clearly mirrors, but it’s got many moments that’ll surprise you.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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