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

January 25, 2008

Not a fun day…

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 7:30 pm

January 25, 2008

Cast: Ajay Devgan, Ayesha Takia, Arshad Warsi, Irrfan Khan

Director: Rohit Shetty

I’m not sure how to approach writing a review of Sunday, because I can’t seem to make up my mind about the film. It was certainly more watchable than a lot of bad comedies I’ve seen recently, but I can’t exactly say it’s a film I enjoyed in its entirety either. Director Rohit Shetty’s Sunday, remake of a super hit Telugu film, is what I suppose you’d describe as a comic thriller.

Ayesha Takia plays a young, Delhi girl who can’t seem to account for the last Sunday in her week. She remembers going to a nightclub on Saturday night, and then she spent almost all of Monday with her friends. It’s the Sunday in between that she has no recollection of. It’s important for her to find out though, because suddenly she’s being chased by goondas who’re trying to kill her, and a taxi-driver who’s demanding money for a ride he insists she took with him. It’s pretty clear these people and these events are linked to that mysterious Sunday, so she enlists the help of a local cop, played by Ajay Devgan, to solve the jigsaw puzzle.

The first half of Sunday is a pretty smooth ride. If you’re willing to suspend disbelief and give the film a chance, it’s very likely you’ll find yourself amused at least until the film breaks for intermission. Arshad Warsi as the smart-ass taxi driver and Irrfan Khan as his struggling-actor buddy provide most of the laughs in this picture.

Particularly hilarious is that scene in which Irrfan, all dressed up to audition for the part of Ravan in an upcoming mythological film, finds himself sharing a ride with a canine friend. It’s one of those rare laugh-out loud scenes because it’s written so well, and it’s performed so spontaneously by Irrfan.

Also quite humorous is that scene in which Ayesha Takia scares the heebie-jeebies out of Arshad and Irrfan after she takes a ride with them late that Saturday night. A few such scenes stand out among the string of pedestrian jokes that the film is full of, including those tasteless gay jokes that are done in abundance here.

Sunday slips up in its second half, when the film takes the thriller route. The so-called suspense, when revealed, is so lame that you wish they hadn’t digressed from the comedy at all. At a running time of approximately two hours, Sunday still feels very long because there’s very little happening in terms of movement of screenplay. Too many songs and none that are particularly memorable, further slacken the film’s pace.

Of the cast, it’s interesting to see Ajay Devgan lighten up a little, but he was way funnier in Golmaal by the same director, and that’s because Golmaal was a way better script. Ironic that Ayesha Takia’s cast as a dubbing artiste who can modulate her voice to suit various jungle animals — how you wish she could modulate her voice when expressing something as basic as different emotions.

Nevertheless, she’s cute as a button and there’s little else expected of her in this film. Sunday belongs to Arshad Warsi and Irrfan Khan who save this film from being entirely pointless, by injecting such a generous dose of spontaneous humour.

That aside, sadly, there is little else on offer here. So I’m going with two out of five and an average rating for director Rohit Shetty’s Sunday, it’s a just-about tolerable watch for those with high patience levels. For the rest, surely you can find something better to do on a Sunday!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

January 18, 2008

No happy ending!

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:00 pm

January 18, 2008

Cast: Shreyas Talpade, Lena Christensen, Vijay Maurya, Naseeruddin Shah

Director: Nagesh Kukunoor

For every one of us who’s come to expect original and sensible entertainment from Nagesh Kukunoor, his latest film, Bombay To Bangkok will prove to be a disappointment.

Come to think of it, it’s exactly the kind of movie you don’t expect from him because it’s predictable, the casting’s all wrong, and in the end it just seems like a complete waste of time. In fact, I’m willing to bet Nagesh’s heart wasn’t in this film at all.

Bombay To Bangkok stars Shreyas Talpade as a cook who sets off to start a new life when he chances upon a purse stuffed with US dollars. When he discovers the money belongs to a local don, he takes the next flight out of the country and lands up in Bangkok, slipping his way into a group of Indian doctors on a charitable mission. He loses the purse soon enough, and ends up falling hook line and sinker for a Thai massage girl, which is of course a polite way of saying Thai prostitute.

Now problem is, he doesn’t speak any Thai, and she doesn’t speak no Hindi, so their communication is limited to whatever little English the two of them can muster up. Before they know it, they’re on the run from the angry don’s son, a struggling rap artiste by the way, who’s been instructed by his dad to bring the money back and fix the fellow who had the nerve to steal it.

Betrayed by a script that’s full of flaws, Bombay To Bangkok is unimaginative and indifferent for the most part, and doesn’t once suggest that it’s the brainchild of the same filmmaker who gave us such gems asHyderabad BluesTeen Deewarein and Iqbal.

The humour here is of the slapstick variety, and that may not have been a bad thing, except that none of the jokes are original, you’ve seen them all before.

At best a few scenes really work – my favourite being the one in which the rap-artiste chhota don visits Shreyas’ mother to find out where her son is hiding, and comes away confused to say the least. It’s an outstanding scene and undoubtedly the only clever joke in the film.

What’s missing from this film is Kukunoor’s very distinct brand of everyday wit. The kind of humour that set apart films like Hyderabad Blues and Rockford and even Bollywood Calling. Or even his little moments which stay with you forever. Like that scene in Iqbal in which the deaf-mute boy’s mother threatens his mentor at the gate of her house, warning him that she’ll kill him if he doesn’t make sure her son excels at the game.

Or that absolutely lovely scene in Dor, in which Ayesha Takia, Gul Panag and Shreyas Talpade dance so uninhibitedly to the beats of Kajra Re in the desert. These are the moments that define Nagesh Kukunoor’s films, and I’m sorry to say Bombay To Bangkok is sorely lacking in such memorable moments.

The fundamental requirement for any romantic comedy to work is a crackling chemistry between its two leads. But Shreyas Talpade and his leading lady, Thai actress Lena Christensen, couldn’t look more disinterested in each other even if they were paid together.

Much of the problem with Bombay To Bangkok in fact, lies in the miscasting of the female lead. She’s vapid, has less than three expressions to speak of, and has terrible dialogue delivery – even though you’re not meant to understand most of what she’s saying, since she’s speaking in Thai, of course.

It’s the supporting leads whose romance you’re happier to embrace instead – Vijay Maurya as the rap-artiste don and the prickly psychologist he loses his heart to. Naseeruddin Shah, popping up in one single scene, is expectedly effective as the Senior Don whose idea of torture involves twisting his son’s navel piercing.

But the only saving grace of this film, also the only reason it’s even remotely watchable is Shreyas Talpade who plays his part so convincingly, that you’re embarrassed at how he’s been wasted in such a pointless film. Uninhibited and spontaneous, he keeps you transfixed every time he’s on screen.

Ironic, that for a film whose most popular song goes “we are same, same, but different”, Bombay To Bangkok is actually the same kind of nonsense you’re used to seeing in abundance at the movies, and sadly very different from what you’ve come to expect from Nagesh Kukunoor’s films.

With its shoddy camerawork, indifferent direction and weak writing, Bombay To Bangkok can’t even deliver what the film’s heroine offers the hero when they first meet – “make happy” – well, no, this film doesn’t “make happy”.

I’m going with two out of five for director Nagesh Kukunoor’s Bombay To Bangkok, it’s his most disappointing film yet. We can only hope he’s back in form the next time round because it would be such a shame if Kukunoor’s gone cuckoo!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

January 11, 2008

Theatre of the absurd

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:17 pm

January 11, 2008

Cast: Ajay Devgan, Vidya Balan, Pankaj Kapur

Director: Rajkumar Santoshi

Much like his signature films Ghayal and Damini, the theme of Rajkumar Santoshi’s latest Halla Bol is also essentially one man’s clash with a corrupt system.

In Halla Bol Ajay Devgan plays Sameer Khan, a shallow Bollywood superstar who’s forced to question who he really is when he witnesses a gruesome murder first hand, and realises the culprits will get off scot-free because nobody — including himself — will testify.

A scathing comment on society’s apathy and indifference towards other people’s problems, Halla Bol tends to be too simplistic, too idealistic and in the end too preachy to really make much of an impression.

The film’s unarguably well-intended and has its heart in the right place, but it’s nothing like any of Santoshi’s best films because it’s got a severely flawed screenplay, and a narrative that’s straight out of the eighties.

Once a master storyteller whose screenplays served as guidebooks for aspiring screenwriters, it is ironically Santoshi’s script for Halla Bol that’s the root cause of all the problems here. The film’s first half is too long and yet when you leave the hall for a breather during interval, you can’t help feeling like the story’s barely unfolded.

Santoshi takes way too long to establish Ajay Devgan’s character, going into elaborate scenes to convey what we’ve understood in the first ten minutes already. Worse than that, the director takes too many cinematic liberties to get out of tricky screenplay situations, and as a result the film comes off looking way too contrived.

How do you explain that scene in which the protagonist’s mentor, Pankaj Kapur, turns up suddenly in a truck, no less, to save the fellow from being crushed by the villain’s henchmen under the wheels of another truck?

It’s an implausible scene and doesn’t fit in this film, in fact it’s a scene straight out of the Transformers movie. It’s ridiculous how we’re expected to believe that a girl who sold a kidney to afford legal fees for fighting the case against her sister’s murderers, would suddenly do a volte face in court, even under maximum pressure.

In all fairness, Halla Bol does have its share of dramatic moments that’ll instantly remind you of the Santoshi we’re all familiar with – that scene in which Vidya Balan, playing Devgan’s wife gives the media a fitting reply when her husband’s badgered with uncomfortable questions.

Or then that scene in which Ajay Devgan relieves himself on the floor of the corrupt politician’s home — these are clap-traps, and Santoshi knows exactly how and when to use them.

In the end, despite its best intentions, Halla Bol fails to drive its point home, and it’s a pity because the film boasts such a brave performance by Ajay Devgan. I say brave because the actor sticks his neck out and takes on a character that few leading stars would have the courage to play.

Ten, perhaps twelve years ago Halla Bol may have connected with an audience raised on a staple diet of melodramatic films, but today, it’s just a blast from the past. So I’m going with two out of five and an average rating for all this hullaballo over Halla Bol.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

No face for the movies

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

January 11, 2008

Cast: Nikhil Dwivedi, Amrita Rao, Pawan Malhotra, Anil Kapoor

Director: E Niwas

Ask any serious movie buff and he’ll agree that there’s nothing worse that suffering a boring film. Sitting in my seat watching director E Niwas’ latest film My Name Is Anthony Gonsalves unfold on screen, I felt like I was being punished for a crime I didn’t commit.

The film itself is hard to describe because you’re not quite sure what to make of it. Sure it’s a thriller on one level, but for a thriller it’s a pretty bad one because it’s entirely predictable and doesn’t once take you by surprise. It’s also meant to be a light-hearted comedy on another level, but the humour isn’t very smart either.

Newcomer Nikhil Dwivedi plays Anthony Gonsalves, a waiter in a shady suburban bar that’s run by local dons. An orphan who’s been raised by the priest at a local church, Anthony’s spent most of his twenty-something years obsessing about being a movie star, but like he’s been told on many occasions, he just doesn’t have the face for it.

Even as he continues to struggle to make it in the movies, Anthony happens to chance upon an ugly secret that shows him a whole new side of a friend he thought he knew inside out. It’s up to him now to decide whether he wants to make the right decision or the easy one.

Despite an earnest performance by newcomer Nikhil Dwivedi, My Name Is Anthony Gonsalves is a dull-as-dull-can-be drama which is held together by the flimsiest script that may have ever been written. The film wastes the talents of such actors as Pawan Malhotra, Mithun and even poor Amrita Rao.

There’s just one time I smiled during this film and it was in that scene in which our aspiring actor protagonist gets an acting lesson from Anil Kapoor who explains to him Stanislavsky’s lessons of acting. Don’t miss our good ol’ Anil Kapoor mispronounce poor Stanislavsky’s name, not once but thrice in that single scene.

For that scene alone, you might want to risk watching this film, for my part, I can’t go with anything else but one out of five for E Niwas’ My Name Is Anthony Gonsalves. I think I can sense the late Manmohan Desai contemplating legal action against these guys for ripping off the title of his outstanding song for this ridiculous film.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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