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

June 26, 2009

Terrorism lite

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 4:21 pm

June 26, 2009

Cast: John Abraham, Katrina Kaif, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Irrfan Khan

Direction: Kabir Khan

Director Kabir Khan’s New York, based on extensive research conducted by the filmmaker himself, brazenly accuses the FBI of illegally detaining hundreds of Muslims suspected to have terrorist links post 9/11 and of putting them through extreme forms of torture, only to release months later when no evidence against them could be gathered that many of them were innocent.

Surprising then, that the same film’s basic premise involves the FBI itself waiting and watching and monitoring – but never arresting or even probing – a very serious terror suspect who they have ample dope on. It’s not until he’s planted bombs all across the FBI headquarters that they swing into action.

In another instance, a lady who works as a human rights activist, merrily goes about her life knowing full well her husband’s involved in terrorist activities, but doesn’t confront him, hoping he’ll have a change of heart eventually.

It’s holes like these that make New York a tiresome watch.

Omar, an Indian immigrant in the Big Apple (played by Neil Nitin Mukesh), is picked up by the FBI and threatened to be detained as a terror suspect unless he agrees to help them investigate an old college buddy of his, Sam (played by John Abraham).

Confident that Sam is innocent, Omar reluctantly goes along with the plan, and hence reconnects with Sam and his wife Maya (played by Katrina Kaif), who Omar nursed a crush on way back in college. Torn between his affection for Sam who appears perfectly clean, and the commitment he made to FBI officer Roshan (played by Irrfan Khan) who’s convinced Sam is hiding a dirty secret, Omar ends up stumbling into a shocking truth that leaves all their lives forever altered.

New York has its heart in the right place and its intentions are entirely honorable. The film wants to take up the issue of innocent people who sometimes turn to crime or terrorism as revenge against unlawful detention. It’s a relevant issue no doubt, but because the film is constructed from such a sloppy script, that point is lost under all the creative liberties and convenient short-cuts that the screenplay takes.

The film doesn’t quite work on an emotional level either because the acting’s rather weak. It’s hard to feel sympathy for characters who fail to convey emotions convincingly. Look at the scene in which our three protagonists watch the Twin Towers being attacked on television – I think I can safely say, eight years ago sitting in Mumbai, I was more disturbed than these fellows appear to be right there in the heart of New York.

It doesn’t help matters that the dialogue’s clunky and full of lines that make you cringe. Irrfan Khan – easily the film’s biggest strength – is often saddled with patronising sermons, including one particularly ill-timed one in the film’s closing scene. He is the conscience of this movie, he stands for the modern Muslim, and what he says is almost always important – now if only the film didn’t feel like such a cop-out.

New York wants to be a meaningful film about a relevant issue, but the makers don’t seem to have the courage in their convictions. As a result, it’s evenly ‘commercialised’ with all the trappings of a typical Bollywood potboiler. In the end, the only bits that engage are the early campus scenes where all three actors are only required to play versions of themselves.

I’m going with a generous two out of five for director Kabir Khan’s New York. But watch the excellent Pakistani film Khuda Kay Liye to see how a terrific script and convincing performances can go a long way in telling a similar story. This film, unfortunately, lacks both.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

June 19, 2009

Such a drag!

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 4:26 pm

June 19, 2009

Cast: Javed Jaffrey, Shreyas Talpade, Ashish Chaudhary, Celina Jaitley, Neha Dhupia, Riya Sen, Sayali Bhagat

Director: Paritosh Painter

Paying Guests directed by Paritosh Painter is a comedy that’s based on a premise so weak, you’ll just about muster up a few chuckles; don’t expect this film to make you laugh.

Javed Jaffrey, Shreyas Talpade and Ashish Chaudhary play three Indian friends in Pattaya who lose their jobs at the same time and soon after find themselves kicked out of the apartment they share, by their cranky landlord played by Asrani. Now they have no roof over their heads, no money for rent, and to add to it, a fourth friend (played by Vatsal Sheth) has landed up to bunk with them. Obviously our heroes never consider selling off their trendy clothes and fancy watches and using that money for rent – no, if they did that, this stupid film would end right there.

What happens instead – rather conveniently – is that they come across an Indian couple – played by Johnny Lever and Delnaz Paul – who are happy to rent out a room against zero deposit, but only to married couples. Borrowing the oldest trick in the Bollywood Book of Cliches, Shreyas Talpade and Javed Jaffrey go drag and pretend to be the wives of the other two. The landlords are fooled and the room is obtained. But the hiccups start when their girlfriends begin to show up one by one.

Everything about this film feels recycled – the juvenile plot, the tired jokes, even the performances by the leads. You’ve seen this kind of film many times before and there’s virtually nothing novel being offered here. Writer-director Paritosh Painter resorts to every overused gag to draw the laughs – Gujarati characters mispronouncing words, your staple gay jokes, double-meaning dialogue, slapstick set-ups, and the standard trick involving tennis balls-for-breasts. None of it is very funny.

The girls in the film – Celina Jaitley, Neha Dhupia, Riya Sen and Sayali Bhagat – not exactly Bollywood’s answer to the Streeps and Sarandons, have precious little to do but flaunt their curves. Of the men, it’s only Shreyas Talpade who shows any spark for comic timing; and Johnny Lever can always be counted on to deliver a few genuinely funny moments.

That aside, Paying Guests is a rather painful picture that completely fails to even engage you. You couldn’t care less what happens to the characters in the end. Sadly, they all go home smiling. You wish you could too.

A thumbs-down and one out of five for director Paritosh Painter’s Paying Guests. This film is strictly for those who enjoy inflicting pain on themselves.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

June 12, 2009

Future’s so bleak…

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 4:28 pm

June 12, 2009

Cast: Jackky Bhagnani, Vyshalee Desai, Rishi Kapoor

Director: Vivek Sharma

Yet another film that features a protagonist who can peep into the future, Kal Kissne Dekha stars newcomer Jackky Bhagnani as small-town bumpkin Nihaal Singh who arrives all wide-eyed in Mumbai to pursue his college education. Evidently the makers of this film haven’t set foot on a Mumbai campus or they’d have known such sprawling universities have no address in Maximum City, sadly they only seem to exist in Karan Johar films – and even those are shot in London or Scotland.

Anyway, Nihaal soon falls for spoilt little rich girl Misha (played by first-timer Vyshalee Desai) after he saves her from a bomb that would have blown her into bits if he hadn’t ‘seen’ it with his special powers just minutes before.

Next thing he knows, everyone from his buddies to the college principal is hounding him with questions about their future. A physics professor (played by Rishi Kapoor in a ridiculous grey wig) assigns Nihaal to a personal project he’s been working on, and unwittingly gets the kid to help him create a device that could jam the city’s communications network.

What Nihaal doesn’t know is that the Prof intends to use this jammer to allow his terrorist buddy to sneak in and plant bombs across the length and breadth of Mumbai. You don’t need to be a genius to guess that in the end, Nihaal must use his special powers to locate each bomb before it goes off, and to rescue his sweetheart from the clutches of the bad guys.

Directed by Vivek Sharma (of Bhootnath shame), Kal Kissne Dekha is your outdated B-grade potboiler whose sole ambition is to herald the arrival of a second-generation film kid – in this case Jackky, son of the film’s producer, veteran Vashu Bhagnani. As an advert for the debutant, I suppose the film just about serves its purpose — Jackky can dance, Jackky can fight. But can Jackky act? From this film you cannot tell.

Convenient and incohesive, the script of Kal Kissne Dekha is filled with lazy lapses and holes so big you could drive a ship through them. You could forgive the absence of logic in this film and even the dozen-odd creative liberties that the script takes, if there was confidence in Sharma’s direction. Problem is, Kal Kissne Dekha is anything but an assured effort.

Supporting actors like Satish Shah, Farida Jalal and Archana Puran Singh ham through their scenes, and only Rishi Kapoor himself can enlighten us on why an actor of Rishi Kapoor’s calibre would accept a thankless role like this.

Your heart goes out to poor Ritesh Deshmukh who provides the film its gratuitous comic track, appearing as a guise-swapping don. If you look closely, you’ll notice an overweight Sanjay Dutt show up like a junior artiste in precisely three shots in a song sequence, and even the charming Juhi Chawla makes an embarrassing one-scene cameo.

None of this helps. Because Kal Kissne Dekha is made from the pocket and not the heart. The eye-watering foreign locations, the slick production values – they don’t distract your attention from the painfully predictable script and the amateurish execution.

Newbie Vyshalee Desai is too raw and fails to make any impression, and Jackie Bhagnani – for whom this film exists – has only his confidence going for him.

Kal Kissne Dekha is much like those bad ‘90s potboilers that we’d be happy never to revisit again. I’m going with one out of five for director Vivek Sharma’s Kal Kissne Dekha. Send your enemies to watch this one!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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