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

December 31, 2010

My best and worst films of 2010

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 7:06 pm

The Hits & The Pits of 2010: the films I loved and hated this year!

(This feature first aired on CNN-IBN)

5 Lessons We Learnt at the Movies in 2010

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 7:03 pm

The movies teach us invaluable lessons each year, and it’s important to remember them while stepping into the new year so we don’t repeat old mistakes again!

(This feature first aired on CNN-IBN)

Wrap party 2010: A year in review

Filed under: What's new — Rajeev @ 7:00 pm


It’s been a year of some small surprises and more than a few big disappointments. Each year when I’m picking my best and worst films, I jog my memory back to the ones I felt most strongly about. The films that made me smile and sulk.

Picking films that one enjoyed this year wasn’t terribly difficult. How much choice does one have? At the fifth position this year I discovered I couldn’t choose between two films I really enjoyed, so you’ll find a tie there, but believe me, I couldn’t think of a seventh film I’d want to squeeze into that list!

Drawing up a list of films I hated was more difficult. I only have 5 slots, and there’s so many to choose from. Ultimately I picked the ones that were the biggest disappointments for me (based on the talents of the people involved and the expectations they shattered), and the ones that just made it hard for me to sit there in my seat for the entire duration.

So without any further ado, here’s presenting my Hits & Pits of 2010: the films I most enjoyed and the ones I most violently detested this year. These are personal choices, and you’re welcome to disagree with them.


5 PHAS GAYE RE OBAMA:  A refreshingly smart comedy about the repercussions of recession on the kidnapping industry in central India, this delightful film directed by Subhash Kapoor made it clear that all humor needn’t be derived from pratfalls and slapstick gags. Consistently well acted and brimming with original ideas, Phas Gaye Re Obama was one of the year’s surprise treats.

5 DO DOONI CHAAR: This heartwarming Dilli middle-class story gave us a dose of reality, cushioned with humor. A slice-of-life tale about a school teacher trying his best to buy a car on his modest salary, Do Dooni Chaar was perceptively written and directed by Habib Faisal. But the performances of its lead actors, Rishi and Neetu Kapoor, gave it its soul.

4 PEEPLI LIVE: The poor farmer sucked into a media circus when he pledges suicide. It’s a story we’re familiar with. Yet, director Anusha Rizvi made us care for the mostly forgotten rural class. A biting satire on farmer suicides, a bureaucratic system and a hungry media, Peepli Live is a smartly-written and realistically portrayed film that engaged us on every level.

3 ISHQIYA: Everyone in this film was in love, but in such deliciously different ways. Two petty criminals find themselves mooning over their beautiful widowed landlady, only to realize that she has a mysterious agenda of her own. Directed by Abhishek Chaubey, Ishqiya was a cracker of a film: unpredictable and untamed, but all heart.

2 LOVE SEX AUR DHOKHA: Dibakar Banerjee’s riveting film placed a voyeuristic camera in three separate situations and captured human behavior at its most basic. A young couple elope and marry, but there’s no happily-ever-after-ending for them. A supermarket salesgirl succumbs to the affection of a sly co-worker who betrays her. And a disillusioned item-girl gets her revenge on a slimy pop-star. The film made a lasting impression with its hard-hitting comment on society, and its seductive narrative. Featuring no stars, each of the three stories in LSD was presented in the found-footage format.

1 UDAAN: A warm coming-of-age film that touched your heart. You could feel the desperation of the film’s teenage protagonist as he struggled to break free of his controlling father. Into this story, director Vikramaditya Motwane wove the boy’s hesitant bond with his six-year-old half-brother. Udaan stands apart because it’s fearless, uncompromised filmmaking that catches you at the gut.


5 RAAVAN: This major misfire by one of the country’s most well regarded filmmakers felt like a string of disjointed scenes had been slapped together. You could blame the loose script for most of the problem, but Abhishek Bachchan’s disappointing central performance as the outlaw who kidnaps a police officer’s wife did little to help. Mani Ratnam failed to turn an interesting idea into an engaging film, and every minute watching Raavan felt like an opportunity wasted.

4 TEEN PATTI: Possibly the most incoherent film of the year. This Amitabh Bachchan starrer about a maths professor who takes his students gambling as research for a new theory was pretentious to the point of being offensive, and came packed with the silliest dialogue you’ve ever heard. Directed by Leena Yadav, Teen Patti was badly scripted, badly directed and badly acted. One of those rare films that had no redeemable quality whatsoever!

3 ACTION REPLAYY: Mind-numbingly dull and excruciatingly boring, this shameless Back To The Future rip-off had none of the energy or the euphoria you expect from a time-travel film. Instead, director Vipul Shah focused on a predictable romantic track between a geek and a spunky girl, and practically blinded us with tacky retro bling. Action Replayy was the least fun I had in a film that promised a rollicking good time.

2 NO PROBLEM: How anyone could come up with this title for a film containing so many tasteless jokes is beyond me! Director Anees Bazmee’s spectacularly stupid comedy about a bank heist gone wrong featured an assembly line of neurotic characters played by actors delivering their worst-ever performances. Between Anil Kapoor molesting Akshaye Khanna in drag, and a gorilla farting in Anil Kapoor’s face, it’s hard to decide which scene was more embarrassing in No Problem.

1 ANJAANA ANJAANI: Constructed from a script that was more than likely scribbled together on bits of toilet paper, this romantic-comedy about a boy and girl who meet when they try to commit suicide was arrogant and cynical in equal measure. Director Siddharth Anand delivered a cold, soulless film that featured pretentious characters that only spoke in cliché. Anjaana Anjaani squandered the talents of its promising stars and for me, was the year’s most frustrating film to sit through.


Harischandrachi Factory: For its loving portrait of the Father of Indian cinema and the invaluable gift of film he gave us.

Antardwand: A patchy but hard-hitting account of real India, where men are kidnapped and forced to marry at gunpoint.

Striker: Despite its flawed screenplay, the film’s meticulous detailing transported you into the heart of Malvani in the 80s.

The Japanese Wife: A tad stretched, but this odd marriage between a Bengali professor and his Japanese penpal was evocatively shot, and made you feel as if you were staring at a painting.

Dunno Y…Na Jaane Kyon: Not even comedies made me laugh this hard. This supposedly sensitive gay love story came with corny lines, OTT performances, and a joke of a title song rendered by Lata Mangeshkar herself. It’s the year’s most unintentionally hilarious film, and it’s a shame if you missed it!


Akshay Kumar isn’t funny anymore! The puerile humor in Housefull may have been the last straw. The dismal response to Khatta Meetha, Action Replayy and Tees Maar Khan has proved that the Khiladi Kumar needs to reinvent himself… and quick!

There’s more to Deepika than those long legs! Unlike fellow newbie Sonam Kapoor who was mostly insufferable in both I Hate Luv Storys and Aisha, Deepika Padukone showed us a glimpse of some real potential in her performances in Lafangey Parindey, Break Ke Baad and even that snoozefest Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey.

The big guys need to pull up their socks! Mani Ratnam, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Ashutosh Gowariker and Farah Khan delivered some of their most disappointing work in 2010. Big budgets and big stars couldn’t save Raavan, Guzaarish, Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey and Tees Maar Khan from stinking up the cinemas. All four filmmakers need to get their mojo back!

Home is where the heart is! The audience responded warmly to home-grown stories set in the Indian heartland. Dabangg, Raajneeti, Ishqiya, Peepli Live and Phas Gaye Re Obama captured a unique slice of Indian life, while routine stories set in fancy foreign locations – like Anjaana Anjaani, Kites, We Are Family, Jhootha Hi Sahi and Break Ke Baad – failed to make a mark.

Greed is good! The only leading man to have as many as 6 major releases in the year, Ajay Devgan disproved the “less is more” theory by delivering hits in Atithi Tum Kab Jaoge, Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai, Raajneeti and Golmaal 3, even though Aakrosh and Toonpur Ka Superhero came croppers. Likely to land a Best Actor nomination for Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai, he’s having his cake and eating it too!

(This feature first aired on CNN-IBN)

December 25, 2010

“My husband and I go dancing on date nights,” says Madhuri Dixit

Filed under: What's new — Rajeev @ 12:49 pm


Bollywood’s original Dancing Queen Madhuri Dixit may have given up movies for marriage and motherhood, but she still finds ways to remain connected with her greatest passion, dancing. Currently in India to judge a dance reality show on television, Madhuri remains the final word on anything related to the art form. In this interview she talks about dancing dates with her husband Dr Nene, and whether her sons have inherited her dancing genes. She also reveals what she thinks of the current crop of dancing stars, and settles the debate once and for all on which one’s better – Sheila ki jawani or Munni badnaam hui.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

The con’s on you!

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 12:31 am

December 24, 2010

Cast: Akshay Kumar, Katrina Kaif, Akshaye Khanna, Arya Babbar, Apara Mehta

Director: Farah Khan

Director Farah Khan will stop at nothing to get a laugh out of you. No disability is too sensitive to make a joke of, and no stereotype too overused to flog one last time.

In a scene from her new film Tees Maar Khan, a dark-skinned thief nicknamed Ismail Koyla who only commits robberies in the night, is finally arrested when his shining teeth give away his hiding spot. In another scene in which a movie is being cast, a toothless villager presumably suffering from leucoderma is selected to play a British officer because he has white skin. A pair of conjoined twins only speak in unison and repeatedly hi-five each other. And three effeminate village boys forever dressed in pink assist a heroine with her make-up, and roll their eyes longingly at a hunky filmmaker.

If you’re outraged by such low-brow humor, Tees Maar Khan is going to be a long, hard slog for you.

Adapted from After the Fox, a 1966 comedy starring Peter Sellers, this film stars Akshay Kumar as Tabrez Mirza Khan or Tees Maar Khan, a master criminal who learnt to steal even before he was born, because his mother was addicted to classic Bollywood crime films while she was pregnant with him. When Tees Maar Khan is hired by the notorious Johri Brothers to rob a train stuffed with roughly 5,000 crore rupees worth of antiques, he pretends to be a Hollywood filmmaker named Manoj Day Ramalan, and under the guise of shooting a period film, enlists an entire unsuspecting village to help him with the heist.

Despite several staggeringly silly set pieces – including a sequence in an airplane in which Tees Maar Khan escapes from the clutches of two police officers – the film’s first hour races by briskly thanks to breakneck pacing, and at least two energetically choreographed dance numbers. But by the time you’ve settled into your seat post intermission, the screenplay begins to come apart. There’s a particularly awkward gag involving a headless horseman, and that leads to a supposedly poignant moment in the film that is entirely contrived. Even the train heist sequence isn’t filmed dramatically enough, and the Manoj Kumar tribute at this point seems forced and overstretched.

Tees Maar Khan, surprisingly, doesn’t match up to the standards set by Farah Khan with her previously directed films. Both Main Hoon Na and Om Shanti Om were smarter, funnier films that benefitted from the writer-director’s irreverent humour. But for this film she hands over the writing responsibilities to Shirish and Ashmit Kunder who appear to have drained the film of any smartness. The dialogues are repetitive, and the jokes in Tees Maar Khan are mostly puerile and not very funny at all. In fact, it’s an arrogantly written script that seems to take the audience for granted.

However, it’s a testament to Farah Khan’s directing skills that she makes even this disappointing film work on at least a few occasions. She draws out a winning performance from Akshaye Khanna as the Oscar-hungry filmstar Aatish Kapoor, who’s still hurting from having lost a role in Slumdog Millionaire on account of his foolish secretary. Despite the incessant hamming, Khanna easily emerges this film’s best joke. Katrina Kaif, in a smaller role, as Tees Maar Khan’s struggling actress girlfriend, submits herself completely to the silliness of her character, and at least succeeds in evoking a smile out of you.

In the choreography department, there are few who can rival Farah Khan. The Sheela ki jawaani number is one of the film’s early highlights, a sight to behold not only for the dance movements but for the complete staging of the production – the music, the costumes, the lighting, and the editing. The Wallah wallah set piece too, featuring Akshay Kumar and Salman Khan, has an infectious energy that is indisputable.

Even if you go in willing to suspend your disbelief, Tees Maar Khan is not an easy film to enjoy. Akshay Kumar works very hard to make the buffoonery look like fun, but he’s saddled with such poor material, it’s no surprise it doesn’t work.

I’m going with two out of five for director Farah Khan’s Tees Maar Khan. Working with Akshay Kumar for the first time, it’s surprising she delivered not the trademark Farah Khan entertainer one expected from her, but a typical harebrained Akshay Kumar comedy instead.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Slapdash superhero

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 12:18 am

December 24, 2010

Cast: Ajay Devgan, Kajol, Tanuja, Sanjay Mishra, Mukesh Tiwari

Director: Kireet Khurana

An incomprehensible voice-over by Sanjay Dutt in the opening sequence of Toonpur Ka Superrhero is meant to introduce us to the key characters of this dull live action-meets-animation film. Ajay Devgan is a movie-star named Aditya who is kidnapped and transported into the cartoon world, where he must help the good toons, or the Devtoons, overthrow the evil ones, called the Toonasurs. Aditya, for his part, sees this as an opportunity to win over his own son, who is unimpressed by the fact that his father needs a stunt double to perform those daring action scenes in his films.

Directed by Kireet Khurana, Toonpur Ka Superrhero suffers on account of its embarrassing lack of imagination. Virtually every single animated character is a stereotype, including the Gujarati housewife Big Ben, a music-obsessed fat-guy named Gappi, a Hindi movie-crazy sardar boy named Bolly, and the villain’s voluptuous moll Monica. The film’s humour too is of pedestrian standards, not much different from Devgan’s own Golmaal comedies.

Despite the occasionally impressive animation, Toonpur Ka Superrhero is an ordeal to sit through because it has neither the visual wizardry nor the engaging storytelling that recent films like How To Train Your Dragon and Toy Story 3 have allowed us to embrace. Even if our local animation films can’t look as slick as their American counterparts, there’s no excuse for sloppy writing and singularly unimpressive characters.

I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five for director Kireet Khurana’s Toonpur Ka Superrhero. It’s a solid waste of time, and I won’t insist that you subject your kids to this!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

December 24, 2010

Get a life!

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 11:26 pm

December 24, 2010

Cast: Akshay Oberoi, Sandeepa Dhar, Mohnish Bahl, Prachee Shah

Director: Vidhi Kasliwal

In a scene in director Vidhi Kasliwal’s Isi Life Mein, the film’s male lead Vivaan (played by newcomer Akshay Oberoi) is contemplating an adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew for an inter-collegiate dramatics competition. A friend points out to him that the play had an “MCP ending”, to which our hero delivers this priceless gem: “No offence Mr Shakespeare Sir, but we’re going to do it our way!”

It’s an ironic dialogue showing up in a film from Rajshri Productions, a banner that could do with a little reinvention of its own.

Isi Life Mein is exactly and precisely what you’d expect from it. Nothing more, unfortunately. There is a squeaky-clean small-town girl who tops her school board exams, but understands there’s no question of further study because she must be married. There’s her father who decides the only skill she must acquire now is cooking. There’s the hip city boy who is drawn to her simple charm. And there’s a clash between tradition and modernity.

This all-too-familiar tale channels Maine Pyar Kiya and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge in its core ideology, but doesn’t seem to possess the conviction of either film. There is a tedious predictability to the plot, and the characters are all bland caricatures that mouth clunky lines like: “Tumhare modern peedhi se mujhe yehi ummeed thi!

Director Vidhi Kasliwal makes a concentrated effort to disguise this movie as more contemporary than previous Rajshri films by throwing in a conversation about sex between the film’s leads, and even offers a female character who uses the f-word liberally. These are mere cosmetic touches, however. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more sanitized chat about sex, and even the bindaas girl with the potty mouth is taught to gargle each time a cuss word slips out.

The film’s female protagonist Rajnandini (I kid you not, that is her name!), played by newcomer Sandeepa Dhar, is a throwback to Bhagyashree’s character Suman in Maine Pyar Kiya, but without the mischievous spunk. Like her, the film too takes itself way too seriously, and therein lies its flaw.

I’m going with two out of five for debutant director Vidhi Kasliwal’s Isi Life Mein. It’s hard to relate to the film’s impossible idealism or it’s one-dimensional leads. Watch it if you’re a sucker for those archaic family melodramas!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Paid holiday

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 11:18 pm

December 24, 2010

Cast: Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, Paul Bettany, Timothy Dalton

Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

It must take a special kind of talent to make a film as dull as The Tourist. This astonishingly clumsy thriller stars Angelina Jolie as an icy Brit named Elise, who’s being followed around the streets of Paris by a team of Scotland Yard detectives in the hope that she will lead them to her lover-in-hiding, who’s stolen millions of dollars from a dreaded London gangster. To throw them off the trail, Elise picks up Johnny Depp’s character, Frank, a math teacher from Wisconsin who’s vacationing in Europe. Pretty soon both the cops and the mobster’s henchmen are chasing after them through the canals in Venice, believing him to be the fugitive thief.

The premise itself has potential, and in the right hands this film could have been a throwback to those classic caper films like Charade and To Catch a Thief. But the sloppy dialogue and ridiculous plot twists turn this film into a close cousin of that other botched romantic thriller, Knight and Day.

For one, Jolie and Depp have zero chemistry, which is shocking to say the least, considering they’re both such desirable stars independently. Jolie looks particularly stunning in every costume change – and believe me, there are many! – but her distractingly good looks tend to be a hindrance in this film. So focused on getting her clipped British accent right, and so burdened under the weight of those eyelashes, she forgets to invest any personality into her character. Depp, who’s meant to look frumpy, appears bored out of his wits and seems to be going through his scenes mechanically.

There’s a twist in the end which you can see from a mile away; and even the action – which involves speedboat chases through the canals, and foot chases on building roof-tops – isn’t particularly thrilling.

Most shocking of all, however, is the pedigree of this film. It’s almost impossible to believe that three Academy Award-winners are responsible for this embarrassing film. Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck made the Oscar-winning German drama, The Lives of Others. His co-writers on this film include Christopher McQuarrie who won a Screenwriting Oscar for The Usual Suspects and Julian Fellowes who won the same for Gosford Park.

There is a word to describe films like The Tourist – they’re ‘paycheck’ movies. The kind of films that everyone involved is doing only for the money! Be equally smart yourself, and don’t waste your money on this film.

I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five for The Tourist. At best, it serves as a travel brochure for Venice. Save up and make a trip there instead!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Heads up

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 11:09 pm

December 24, 2010

Cast: Voices of Will Ferrell, Brad Pitt, Tinay Fey, Jonah Hill

Director: Tom McGrath

Both charming and surprisingly smart, Megamind is a fast-paced animated adventure about an evil genius who turns over to the good side after his nemesis is defeated. Will Ferrell lends his voice to the film’s protagonist Megamind, the bad guy with the enormous bulb-shaped blue head, whose rivalry with the insufferably vain superhero Metro Man (voiced by Brad Pitt) dates back to their baby days. When Megamind finally vanquishes his longtime rival, he realizes the slack-jawed do-gooder was the yang to his yin, and that life just isn’t fun without an enemy who keeps you on your toes.

Packed with clever one-liners and some funny physical gags, this film parodies your typical superhero film, poking fun specifically at the Superman movies. There are some exciting flying scenes that make good use of 3D, and the animation itself is top class.

Tina Fey voices the part of TV news reporter Roxanne Ritchi, who is the object of affection of both Megamind and Metro Man; and Jonah Hill voices the part of her fawning cameraman who Megamind grooms into becoming his next adversary.

Consistently enjoyable but in a familiar way, Megamind is well worth an evening at the cinemas. Will Ferrell invests our protagonist with a generous dose of spunk, and Brad Pitt sportingly caricatures his squeaky-clean ‘All-American Hero’ image. What separates this film from classics like The Incredibles or the Toy Story movies, however, is heart. While the characters in this film make for good company during its 96-minute running time, they seem unlikely to arouse the same kind of unconditional affection you feel for Woody and Buzz and Mr Incredible even after all these years.

Nevertheless, I’m going with three out of five for Megamind. It’s fun while it lasts and you’re not likely to be bored even for a minute.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

December 22, 2010

‘It hurts when they say I’m finished,” admits Rani Mukherjee

Filed under: What's new — Rajeev @ 6:24 pm


In this interview, before the release of No One Killed Jessica, Rani Mukherjee addresses those incessant marriage rumours, and responds to those stories that her career is finished. The actress reveals why she’d never hide her marriage, and insists no one but her fans can tell her when she’s done.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress