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

September 13, 2013

Playing dirty

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 11:44 pm

September 13, 2013

Cast: Ritesh Deshmukh, Vivek Oberoi, Aftab Shivdasani, Karishma Tanna, Manjari Fadnis, Bruna Abdullah, Suresh Menon, Pradeep Rawat

Director: Indra Kumar

You don’t go in to watch a sex comedy and come out complaining that it’s got too many dirty jokes. That’s like going to the beach and grumbling about the sand. Grand Masti, directed by Indra Kumar, is a smutty movie. And far from being embarrassed or apologetic about this, everyone involved wears it like a badge of honor.

Working around the same premise as 2004’s Masti, in which three friends decide to get some action on the side when they’re tired of begging their preoccupied wives, the sequel sees married desperados Meet (Vivek Oberoi), Amar (Ritesh Deshmukh) and Prem (Aftab Shivdasani) hit their college reunion to relieve their pent-up sexual frustrations. The difference between both films is that the earlier one banked on naughty sexual innuendo to inspire laughs, while this one is packed with vulgar sight gags. In fact, the humor in Grand Masti is relentlessly crude…there are so many close-ups of erections and cleavage that it stops being funny after a while.

Occasionally, you’ll find a clever line sandwiched between the lame jokes. Complaining that his wife Tulsi (Manjari Fadnis) never has time to satisfy him in the sack because she’s always attending to his demanding family, Aftab says: “Meri Tulsi mujhe chhodke poore aangan ki hai.” Another time, referring to Rose, Mary and Marlowe, the wife, daughter and sister of their college principal, one of our heroes says: “Aapke ghar ki auraton ke naam, naam kam invitation zyaada lagte hain.” My favorite joke in the film is one in which our protagonists run into an old college friend and his wife at an airport, and can’t remember their names. The joke works because it’s cheeky, and because it’s performed with perfect timing by each of the actors, even the secondary ones.

Alas, clever lines are few and far between in this bawdy film that makes repeated references to food items as body parts…nariyalnimbooaam and even doodh ki factory. It’s all consistently infantile; the kind of humor we grew out of in college. The gags too are mostly recycled from earlier hits. Jim Carrey’s famous ‘rhino birthing scene’ from Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls is plagiarized completely, as is a sequence from Austin Powers in Goldmember involving a character on his fours, a woman searching for something in a bag, and the shadow it casts on a tent. From the same American film, the makers of Grand Masti also borrow a gag centered on a urinating fountain.

As many as six actresses are paired opposite our three heroes, but each is such an unmemorable stereotype, not one leaves an impression, except for all the wrong reasons…or perhaps the right reasons, given the nature of this film. Of the boys – or the men, playing college boys to be fair – Ritesh and Aftab have a natural flair for the funny, while Vivek makes a little too much effort. Credit to all three nevertheless for committing themselves unflinchingly to this puerile film. Such a shame they’re barely challenged.

The sad truth is that Grand Masti revels in making you cringe, not laugh. Adult humor tends to work best when some things are left to your imagination. But the makers of this film force-feed the audience images and dialogues and references so discomfiting, the only laughs you’ll hear are nervous chuckles.

I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five for Grand Masti. It’s vulgar, but too silly to qualify as an ‘adult comedy’.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Not so sweet revenge

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 11:42 pm

September 13, 2013

Cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Randeep Hooda, Shernaz Patel, Sharat Saxena, Elena Kazan, Vipin Sharma

Director: Ahishor Solomon


John Day, directed by first-timer Ahishor Solomon, is a film that should come with a statutory warning. The convoluted plot gives you a throbbing migraine, but I’d also caution you to go see this film on an empty stomach or you might lose your lunch over the gut-churning violence depicted throughout. In one scene, Randeep Hooda’s character, a corrupt cop named Gautam, violently locks lips with a gangster, then bites off the poor guy’s tongue and spits it out, even as the victim spouts blood like a fountain. Our protagonist, John Day, played by Naseeruddin Shah, is also given to ferocious bursts. When cornered by thugs, he sinks his teeth into one fella’s neck and tears off a chunk of flesh.

The two leads cross paths when bank manager John decides to deliver payback to those responsible for his daughter’s death and his wife’s accident. Along the way, he uncovers a powerful secret behind a file of papers that Gautam is desperate to lay his hands on. Gautam, who is secretly working for the mafia, has a depressing past involving sexual abuse. No wonder he’s become a raging psychopath who bludgeons men with iron rods at the slightest provocation.

The film’s plot, suspiciously similar to the Spanish crime thriller Box 507, involves land-grabbing conspiracies, double-crossing cops, and crooked politicians. Yet John Day never achieves the nail-biting unpredictability of that film because it’s handled so amateurishly, and often edited in a haphazard fashion. But it’s the religious overtones that are most baffling here. From a gun hidden in a carved-out Bible to repeated images of Christ and the holy cross, and even a chase scene unfolding to the tune of Silent Night, the Christian references in this film could give The Da Vinci Code a run for its money.

With over-complicated plot turns and heavy-handed performances, the film is difficult to endure. Thespian Naseeruddin Shah, who usually makes acting seem as easy as riding a bicycle, fumbles around this clunky film…and he’s sporting orange-dyed hair to boot. Randeep Hooda, meanwhile, overdoes the snarling, and tires you with all the cussing and the gruesome violence. His girlfriend in the film, played by Elena Kazan, provides unintentional laughs here, playing a permanently drunk babbler who at one point pulls out a hip flask in a bank.

The film then is sloppy and contrived; it’s an unoriginal and uninspiring thriller that’s let down by flabby writing. I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five for John Day. Shernaz Patel, who plays the part of Naseeruddin Shah’s wife, spends more than three-fourths of the film passed out in a coma. Lucky her.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Lazy boys

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 11:40 pm

September 13, 2013

Cast: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, Salma Hayek, Maria Bello, Maya Rudolph, Nick Swardson

Director: Dennis Dugan

Grown Ups 2 wastes no time in setting up its tone. In the very opening scene, Adam Sandler’s character Lenny wakes up to see that a deer has wandered into his bedroom. The animal then proceeds to urinate in his face. This is the first of many gags involving puke, pee, and poop that seem to propel this plot-less film forward…not to mention the ‘burpsnart’, which, as it turns out, is a combination of a burp, a sneeze, and a fart.

As someone who didn’t hate the earlier Grown Ups film – I remember writing that “the unlikely cocktail of gross frat-boy humor and sweet sentimentality surprisingly works” – even I have to admit that this sequel is a lazy, putrid comedy that appears to have been made only so Sandler and his friends could get more rich.

In the earlier film, Lenny, a successful Hollywood agent, reunited with his high school buddies and rediscovered the simple pleasures of small-town life. Now he has moved back home for good with his trophy wife (Salma Hayek) and three kids. His friends, of course, are still around – played by Kevin James, Chris Rock, and David Spade – and while they may be middle-aged husbands and parents, the film drills the same message of the earlier film – that they’re really oversized children deep inside.

There’s nothing much by way of story here; the film feels like a bunch of tasteless jokes strung together. At one point, Lenny and his pals clash with a bunch of frat boys, led by Twilight’s Taylor Lautner, and what follows is a scene in which these four grown men must get naked and jump into a lake. But that’s not even the worst bit in the film. There’s a tie for the most unpleasant scene in Grown Ups 2 – the first is a bit in which David Spade licks the bicep of a transgender woman, and the other is a car wash sequence involving boys in tight shorts and a horrified Kevin James.

Unlike the 2010 film which had some genuinely funny bits because Sandler and his co-actors appeared to be enjoying themselves flexing their comic chops and coming up with what looked like impromptu jokes, this one feels insincere – nobody’s even making an effort here. I’m going with one out of five. Please God, let there not be a Grown Ups 3.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

“She has that namak,” says Irrfan Khan on Nimrat Kaur, his co-star in ‘The Lunchbox’

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 11:29 pm

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, The Lunchbox stars Irrfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur talk about their new film that’s been making waves at film festivals around the world. The actors reveal what appealed to them most about the script, about our obsession with food, and why the film’s casting worked.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Adam Sandler, Kevin James & David Spade on ‘Grown Ups 2’

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

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, recorded in Cancun (Mexico), the stars of Grown Ups 2 – Adam Sandler, Kevin James and David Spade – reveal why they made a sequel to the 2010 hit, they discuss the advantages of working with friends, and spill the beans on that nude scene they shot for the movie.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

September 6, 2013

Shahid Kapoor on his reputation as a difficult actor: “I’m trying to make amends”

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 11:46 pm

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, Shahid Kapoor talks about his long gaps in between film releases, his ability to know if a film he’s shooting isn’t going right, and the efforts he’s been making to shake off the reputation he’s acquired of being a difficult actor. The 32-year-old bachelor also reveals what kind of girl he’d like to settle down with.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Love actually

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:37 pm

September 06, 2013

Cast: Sushant Singh Rajput, Parineeti Chopra, Vaani Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor, Rajesh Sharma

Director: Maneesh Sharma

For years Hindi movies have drilled the same conservative, and often regressive notions of love and marriage into our heads. Shuddh Desi Romance takes that conventional wisdom propagated to us in the movies and turns it on its head. What’s worth noting is that this movie comes from the stable of Yash Raj Films, the very studio largely responsible for breeding those notions through hits like Chandni, Dil To Pagal Hai and Bachna Ae Haseeno among others.

Directed by Band Baaja Baraat’s Maneesh Sharma and written by Chak De India’s Jaideep Sahni, Shuddh Desi Romance is set amidst the bustle of middle-class Jaipur, where unemployed youngsters will happily pose as friends and cousins in a traveling baraat for a few thousand rupees and a gold chain. When he isn’t conning white tourists into buying handicrafts from local merchants for a commission, Raghu (Sushant Singh Rajput) is busy falling in love. But he goes from sincere to conflicted to selfish in as long as it takes most people to change out of a wedding suit. So he’ll woo a girl, win her heart, then develop cold feet at the mandap. This happens thrice in Shuddh Desi Romance, which would be tiring and largely predictable if it weren’t for Sahni’s crackling dialogue and the charming characters he puts on screen. Gayatri (Parineeti Chopra) is a gregarious rebel Raghu meets on the way to his own wedding. She smokes, she’s had boyfriends, and she lets Raghu move in with her when he ditches his shaadi. Tara (newcomer Vaani Kapoor) is the damsel who springs a surprise on both Raghu and the audience.

Like most normal couples – hence, unlike the relationships we see in Hindi movies – sexual attraction is key to our protagonists’ equation, and the film doesn’t make a big deal about it. In fact, to give credit where it’s due, Sahni’s script never screams from the rooftops about the brave ideas it pushes so matter-of-factly. Skillfully avoiding melodrama or sloganeering, the film portrays a generation where single women can live in with their boyfriends without being banished by the housing society. This is a refreshingly real middle-class India where marriage needn’t be life’s sole ambition for young girls, and where women can hold their heads high and carry on with life despite having been ditched at the altar.

There’s so much to like about Shuddh Desi Romance, including Sharma’s nicely textured portrait of the Pink City. The film captures the sights and sounds of a busy metro in ways that most films don’t even try. Oblivious that he’s ruined someone’s appetite, a cook at a jalebi stall scratches his backside with a chhanni. It’s little details like these that sparkle with originality.

Pity then that the movie runs out of steam in its unconvincing final act, particularly during a confrontation between the two leading ladies that comes off as contrived. In other complaints, the talking-into-camera device is now overused, and seldom works unless what’s being said is profound, which isn’t always the case here. This in fact, adds to the film’s already verbose and occasionally repetitive feel.

What cannot be faulted, however, are the terrific performances from the central players. Vaani Kapoor makes an auspicious debut, carrying off Sahni’s firecracker lines with the comfort of a pro. Sushant Singh Rajput as Raghu, has an easy charm about him and unmistakable depth behind that scruffy exterior. But it’s Parineeti Chopra, reminiscent of a younger Rani Mukherjee, who this film belongs to. She has expressive eyes and an endearing manner about her, and turns Gayatri into the most real woman you’ve encountered on screen recently. The film also benefits enormously from the casting of an excellent Rishi Kapoor in the part of a feisty wedding caterer and Raghu’s father figure.

To a large extent, Shuddh Desi Romance reinvents the wheel as far as Bollywood rom-coms go. It’s aggressively non-formulaic, and gives us characters who refuse to conform. The minor hiccups notwithstanding, this is a charming little film. I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five. You’ll enjoy it.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Crap trap

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:35 pm

September 06, 2013

Cast: Ram Charan, Sanjay Dutt, Priyanka Chopra, Prakash Raj, Mahie Gill, Atul Kulkarni

Director: Apoorva Lakhia

Ramgopal Varma Ki Aag, which I consider the worst Hindi movie ever made, now has company in the annals of film history. It’s a coincidence that the second worst Hindi film I had the misfortune of watching is also a remake of a classic 70s hit – Zanjeer.

Directed by Apoorva Lakhia, who has previously unleashed such atrocities on our senses as Mumbai Se Aaya Mera Dost and Mission Istanbul, the new Zanjeer isn’t just a bad film, it’s a shameless exercise in laziness. As anyone who watches movies for a living will tell you, there’s some merit to be found even in awful films…a nicely picturised song perhaps, or a decent performance from a random supporting actor, possibly a relevant message buried somewhere in the mess. But I’m afraid there’s nothing polite that can be said about Zanjeer.

Prakash Mehra’s 1973 film starred Amitabh Bachchan as an upright cop pitted against a corrupt system. Superbly written by Salim-Javed, the movie shrewdly tapped into the nation’s collective frustration, and the Angry Young Man was born. Lakhia’s version features Telugu star Ram Charan as ACP Vijay Khanna, hot on the trail of oil Mafiosi Teja (Prakash Raj). Priyanka Chopra is Mala, an NRI girl and sole witness to a gruesome murder that could link Teja to the adulterated petrol scam. Closely following the blueprint of the earlier film, Vijay is helped in his mission by reformed illegal car dealer Sher Khan (Sanjay Dutt). There’s an informant too, in the form of an honest crime reporter (Atul Kulkarni), who at one point gives Vijay crucial information about Teja’s operations, all the while dancing in a Ganpati procession.

Not satisfied at being a hollow imitation, the new Zanjeer is embarrassingly ill-conceived and is packed with howlers from start to finish. Sanjay Dutt’s Sher Khan and our cop hero first engage in what comes off as a comedic fight scene that leaves them panting for breath. The next moment, they’re bonding during a Playstation game. At another point in the film, while asking that Vijay be protected, Sher Khan says: “Woh mera dost hai. Aur waise bhi Hindustan mein sher aur dost, dono ki kami hai”.

Dressed in badly-fitted gaudy suits and constantly pawing his moll (Mahie Gill in a career-ending performance) while delivering sleazy double-meaning lines like “Mona Darling, apna moonh sirf ek cheez ke liye kholna please”, Prakash Raj can’t recreate the gloriously over-the-top guilty pleasure that was Ajit in the role of the original Teja. The film, in fact, is a treasure chest of corny dialogue, with the choicest lines reserved for Prakash Raj. During a lavish meal with his associates, Teja says, “Chicken and chicks are the two meows of life.” While bribing Atul Kulkarni in a private theatre filled with skimpily-clad white women, he points to one lady and says to the reporter: “How about a massage? She gives the best happy ending.”

Lakhia cobbles together powerful moments from the original Zanjeer, but he brings neither imagination nor depth in his telling. In a cringe-inducing rehash of the memorable morgue scene, as the background score swells, Vijay tells Mala rather tritely, “I thought being a woman, you’d have a heart”. Meanwhile, the famous confrontation scene with Sher Khan in the police station feels strangely muted because Ram Charan can’t muster up the seething intensity that Bachchan brought to that moment.

Ram Charan, in fact, a successful and popular star in Telugu films, comes off as stiff as a wax statue in his Bollywood debut, with barely any emotion, forget brooding anger. His biceps pop out of his uniform, but he barely flexes his facial muscles. Ram Charan never gets under the skin of Vijay Khanna, making it hard to look beyond his kohl-lined eyes and his neatly styled hair. A portly Sanjay Dutt, his wardrobe comprising bright pathani suits, pretty much sleepwalks through his scenes as Sher Khan. Buried under bad prosthetic make up, or the result of too many hangovers, his eyes and face appear hard as a rock.

But the most grating performance comes from Priyanka Chopra, who was so good in last year’s Barfi, you have to wonder if that role sucked all the talent right out of her. Like a six year old on a sugar high, she chatters away inanities without pausing for breath; her Mala an idiot version of Jaya Bachchan’s memorable take on the character.

Having said that, the blame for this film rests squarely with its makers – co-writer and director Apoorva Lakhia, and Prakash Mehra’s own sons who have produced this drivel. If the new Zanjeer was merely a badly made film, you could dismiss the makers as talentless brats. But their biggest crime here is that they don’t so much as try to make a decent film. Their movie stinks of a blatant disregard for the audience’s intelligence and entertainment. It’s an obvious attempt to cash in on the brand Zanjeer and offer nothing in return.

I’m going with zero out of five, for the new Zanjeer. Without belittling their year-long battle with the film’s makers to be compensated for remaking their script, one has to wonder if screenwriters Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar might consider donating some part of their settlement towards admitting these guys in film school.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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