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

July 10, 2009

The long route to nowhere

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 3:55 pm

July 10, 2009

Cast: Akshaye Khanna, Arshad Warsi, Amrita Rao

Director: Neeraj Vora

Shortkut starring Akshaye Khanna, Arshad Warsi and Amrita Rao is not what I’d call a bad film. But it is, most certainly a pointless one. It’s got a standard storyline and no surprises in its telling.

Akshaye Khanna plays an assistant director in the Mumbai film industry who’s just finished writing a script he wants to direct himself. His struggling actor roommate, Arshad Warsi steals the script and hands it over to a producer who promptly agrees to make the film and to cast Arshad in the lead.

So while Akshaye’s dreams of becoming a successful filmmaker are shattered, Arshad turns into an overnight superstar.

Over the course of two hours and fifteen minutes, director Neeraj Vora drives home the point that there are no shortcuts in life, only sincerity and hard work ultimately pays.

Problem is, the film’s so lifeless and boring, you find yourself searching for a shortcut in the cinema that could instantly take you back to the comfort of your home.

Remember, this is Neeraj Vora, the dialogue-writer of so many Priyadarshan remakes including Hera Pheri, and yet the comedy in Shortkut is so juvenile, you struggle for a half-decent belly laugh. Before you know it though, this film turns into emotional rona dhona, when domestic differences plague Akshaye and his movie-star wife, played by Amrita Rao.

Unable to find its groove in either comedy or drama, this film lumbers along unsteadily with a screenplay that lacks direction. And saddled with such uninspiring material, neither of the actors can muster up anything that even remotely resembles a performance.

Shortkut isn’t the kind of film that makes you angry. It just leaves you very bored. I’m going with one out of five for director Neeraj Vora’s Shortkut, it’s a long, tiresome journey to nowhere.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

July 3, 2009

Lewd awakening

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 4:14 pm

July 03, 2009

Cast: Akshay Kumar, Kareena Kapoor, Amrita Arora, Aftab Shivdasani

Director: Sabbir Khan

How much you enjoy Kambakkht Ishq is directly proportionate to just how low your standards have fallen. This battle-of-the-sexes saga starring Akshay Kumar and Kareena Kapoor is a loud, vulgar and seriously offensive film that has reportedly been made at a price of Rs 60 crore. In that much money, you could feed an entire starving nation. And you’d be blessed for it.

I’m not saying the makers of Kambakkht Ishq have no business spending so much money. I’m just saying, if you must spend Rs 60 crore, the least you can do is give us a good film.

Akshay Kumar plays Viraj Shergill, a Hollywood stuntman who beds a new broad every day but loves his bachelor lifestyle too much to settle for anything permanent. He meets his match in Kareena Kapoor who plays Simrita Rai, a medical student-cum-part-time model who hates the very sight of men, convinced they’re only interested in women for sex. The two of them clash when their respective best friends decide to tie the knot, but things take an unexpected turn when – believe it or not – Simrita accidently loses her musical watch inside Viraj’s body while performing a surgery on him. Mortified that she could be sued for her negligence, she must find a way to get him back on the operation table so she can retrieve the watch. He, on the other hand, can’t seem to figure out why his ears keep ringing with a musical chant every hour.

Watching Kambakkht Ishq you know you can’t apply logic to a film like this. There are dozens of questions that have no answers – Who allowed her to keep her watch on while performing surgery? What kind of battery does this watch run on for it to break into music every hour inside a man’s stomach? What kind of stuntman can afford a luxurious condo overlooking the sea? Where in the world can you expect to find Stallone lurking in alleys waiting to come to the rescue of hapless girls?

I could go on till tomorrow.

The problem with this film isn’t that it’s ridden with logical loopholes. Those you’re even willing to turn a blind eye to, in keeping with the film’s screwball nature. What is inexcusable is the consistently crude tone of the film. So while a scene in which a big black female customs officer practically rips through Akshay’s backside to search for drugs might still make you laugh, what isn’t very funny is a scene in which Akshay farts in Amrita Arora’s face for no reason at all. That’s just sick.

I also don’t see the humor in Akshay and Kareena referring to each other as “dog” and “bitch” repeatedly, and believe me, those are some of the milder profanities they use in the film. Besides, there are innumerable references to sex, virginity and homosexuality, and to be honest many of them just aren’t funny. Like the scene in which Akshay tries to set Kareena up with a girl because she’s made her dislike for men quite apparent. When Kareena responds that she’s not interested in sleeping with either a man or a woman, Akshay is ecstatic at the mystery he believes he’s just solved – “Virgin! You’re a virgin,” he taunts her.

What’s so funny, you ask.

I want to add here that slapping a woman is just wrong, and using that as comedy is plain offensive. In more scenes than one, Akshay Kumar physically abuses female characters – including one in which he slaps Amrita Arora across her face four times. I don’t care that Amrita Arora probably deserves some kind of punishment for her lousy acting, but I’m sorry Akshay, real men don’t raise their hands on women. Even as a joke.

Provocative, but just for the sake of it, director Sabbir Khan resorts to cheap gimmicks for the sake of cheap thrills – like a group of girls flashing their breasts to the men at a wedding reception, and Akshay Kumar grabbing Kareena and smooching her forcibly on the lips.

In terms of performances, there is very little that can be said about both leads. Kareena Kapoor an actress blessed with scorching screen presence and immense talent, stoops to a new career low with Kambakkht Ishq. I can’t imagine why any respectable actress would agree to play such a crass character and participate in the film’s sexist jokes which include – on at least two occasions – her yanking her neckline down to reveal more cleavage and raising her hemline up to show more leg. Although the film benefits from Kareena’s star wattage, it will remain an ugly blot on her resume. Akshay Kumar, for his part, recycles many of the same jokes from his earlier films and relies on broad physical comedy to draw the laughs. But he’s running out of steam, and the loud, coarse humor is getting repetitive. At his best when he’s comically endearing, one of the most entertaining scenes in the film is the one in which he’s discovered to his horror who will be performing surgery on him. Muttering and cursing her as the anesthesia kicks in, he leaves you in splits.

Judged purely on its screenplay, Kambakkht Ishq spirals downwards in its second half, when the tone shifts abruptly from comedy to sappy romance. Those supposedly emotional scenes in the film’s third act aren’t in the least convincing, and only slacken the film’s pace considerably.

On the upside, Kambakkht Ishq has attractive camerawork, and set in the heart of Hollywood you’re treated to a ringside view of such local attractions as the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Universal Studios and the Kodak Theatre. There is also the opportunity to see a few daring stunts being filmed, but those scenes sadly are too short.

The real humor in this film lies in the clever bits. Like that scene at an Action Awards ceremony where the audience rises to its feet to accord respect to what they think might be the Indian National Anthem when what’s actually playing is that musical marriage chant in Akshay’s body.

Unfortunately such moments are few and far between in what is ultimately a loud, vulgar film. Which brings me to another concern – Kambakkht Ishq has been rated U/A by the Censor Board which means children of all ages can see the film as long as they’re accompanied by an adult. I don’t mean to be a prude, but do we really want our kids to learn about sex from the movies? From this movie?

I’m going with one out of five for director Sabbir Khan’s Kambakkht Ishq Think of it as Welcome or Singh Is Kinng but about twenty times more tasteless. Of course it worries me that that description might excite some viewers to check it out!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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