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

September 2, 2011

Body without soul

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:34 pm

September 02, 2011

Cast: Salman Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Hazel Keech, Raj Babbar, Rajat Rawail, Aditya Pancholi, Mahesh Manjrekar

Director: Siddique

Given the fact that Salman Khan’s fans will pay money to watch a three-hour home video of the actor taking a nap, how you wish he’d exercise his influence and popularity to get good movies made. Bodyguard, his latest, is another lazy remake (of a Malayalam film) that banks squarely on the actor’s considerable charm to make up for its archaic plot, sluggish pace, and puerile humor.

When a wealthy zamindar learns that bad guys are after his daughter so they can settle scores with him, he seeks professional protection for her. Luckily for him, Lovely Singh is available, having just completed an assignment protecting movie star Katrina Kaif from over-enthusiastic fans at a live concert. Salman Khan, of course, stars as Lovely Singh, an earnest and brave bodyguard who wears permanently tight clothes and shades, a Bluetooth headset clipped to his ear. Don’t be fooled by his delicate name; Lovely Singh has rock-hard abs, and he can overpower a dozen baddies at once. Divya (played by Kareena Kapoor) is the young lady he’s been hired to protect, and Lovely takes his job seriously. Tired of being followed around everywhere, including the ladies loo, Divya hatches a harebrained plan that involves disguising her voice and calling him up repeatedly as an anonymous admirer so he becomes too preoccupied to keep an eye on her.

Since recent hits like Wanted, Dabangg and Ready have reiterated the futility of applying logic to Salman Khan starrers, we’ll overlook even gaping plot holes in the name of ‘mindless entertainment’. But Bodyguard suffers from that most fatal flaw that’s unforgivable in the final reckoning – it’s boring! Montage after montage of Lovely Singh becoming smitten by his anonymous caller will drive you up the wall. Ready may have been a far lazier and offensive film, but lethargic pace wasn’t one of its problems.

Much of the reason for the film feeling slow has to do with its unduly stretched comic track involving a cretinous, over-weight oaf named Tsunami Singh (played by Rajat Rawail), whose crude misadventures include entering a girls campus dressed in drag, where he’s beaten and virtually stripped. Director Siddique gives this supporting character way too much screen time although the gags are painfully stupid. There are other jokes too – at the expense of fat people, a midget, and a gay student, but I suppose it’s no point bringing those up, seeing that they’ve become staple in Bollywood comedies.

More engaging in comparison are the film’s stylishly shot action scenes, which nevertheless feel like they’ve been cobbled together from the bits that didn’t make it into Wanted or Dabangg. In one fight sequence that feels way too familiar, Salman’s shirt rips off his back when a gushing water pipe is aimed at him. Still, there’s some pleasure to be had watching him swing from one train into another, or sprint on the roof of a speeding train, or uproot a tree trunk in the middle of a fight to whack an opponent in the face. Despite its outdated script (that channels Kuch Kuch Hota Hai in its final act) and little scope for establishing burning chemistry between its leads, it’s stray moments like these, in addition to a few romantic scenes in which Salman reveals his charming, goofy side, that are the best bits in Bodyguard. The film’s foot-tapping music definitely works in its favor, and the sight of Salman’s biceps bouncing to the beats of a track is worthy of a wolf-whistle at the least.

I’m going with two out of five for director Siddique’s Bodyguard. No question it’s going to make a lot of money at the box-office, but you have to be a die-hard fan to forgive this film its many flaws. The rest must resign themselves to the fact that there’s truth in that dialogue Aditya Pancholi’s character says about our hero in the film: “Iska time accha chal raha hai.”

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Happy endings

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:32 pm

September 02, 2011

Cast: Kalki Koechlin, Prashant Prakash, Gulshan Devaiah, Puja Sarup, Naseeruddin Shah

Director: Anurag Kashyap

Appearances can be misleading, as you see in the case of Ruth, played by Kalki Koechlin in That Girl in Yellow Boots. On the outside, Ruth seems like just another foreigner navigating herself through the usual red tape you witness at the immigration office. Yet, peel the layers, and you discover a half-British, half-Indian girl who has come to Mumbai on a mission – amongst the millions of anonymous faces in the city, she is searching for her father.

Beneath that calm exterior, Ruth is in turns vulnerable and resolute. She makes her money by giving out happy endings in a seedy massage parlor, but finds herself often used by her parasitic druggie boyfriend. As Ruth fights for survival in a dark corner of this urban landscape, That Girl in Yellow Boots attempts to put the audience through an emotional wringer too. But while director Anurag Kashyap gives you a bunch of riveting scenes, realistically flawed character sketches, and even light, comical quirks in this bleak drama, it’s tough to stay with Ruth through her journey because That Girl in Yellow Boots becomes predictable subsequently, and loses its initial momentum.

One of the stumbling blocks is the protagonist’s relationship with her boyfriend (played by Prashant Prakash). You find yourself losing interest through a prolonged sequence where Ruth tries to break his drug addiction by handcuffing him in her tiny apartment. Yet, there are touches that are quintessentially Kashyap. The cinematography and sound design help build the world in which she lives, so you feel like a spectator looking in. The audience is thrown a bunch of red herrings as you wonder who Ruth’s father really is; and even when the director presents some morally reprehensible characters, he leaves you to do the judging.

The best bits in the film come from smaller roles. Puja Sarup is wonderful as the massage parlor receptionist who constantly chats inanities into her mobile phone. Watch how she gabs on at one point about star signs, even while Ruth is trying to come to grips with her life. Gulshan Devaiah also offers a fantastic portrayal of a small-time Kannada gangster Chitiappa who knows very well how to issue threats and steal Ruth’s entire savings, but fumbles about with a television remote. Naseeruddin Shah brings warmth through his role as Ruth’s only considerate customer, and Kalki Koechlin holds her own in the central part. She’s often touching as the conflicted Ruth, trying to keep afloat despite the emotional upheaval.

Kashyap, who co-wrote the film with Koechlin, closes with a bold climax that uncovers the disturbing issue that the film addresses, but he doesn’t go for an easy resolution. I’m going with three out of five for That Girl in Yellow Boots. Even if the story itself leaves you wanting more, the storytelling makes you go the distance.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Small film, big heart

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:31 pm

September 02, 2011

Cast: Manzar Sehbai, Humaima Khan, Atif Aslam, Iman Ali, Mahira Khan, Shafqat Cheema

Director: Shoaib Mansoor

There’s an inherent sincerity in Khuda Ke Liye director Shoaib Mansoor’s new film Bol, that compels you to look beyond its shortcomings. This film raises important questions about the terrifyingly regressive attitude towards women in Pakistan’s patriarchal society, and casts a critical eye on various prejudices perpetuated in the name of religion.

At the centre of this bleak drama is a middle-aged, God-fearing medicine man Hakeem (played by Manzar Sehbai), who has fallen on hard times. He lives in a crumbling house in Lahore with his wife and seven daughters, and a eunuch ‘son’ he has been ashamed of since birth.

Hakeem is prone to angry outbursts, and he uses religion to control his family. His daughters were only allowed to attend school till fifth grade, and the ‘son’ can never step out of the house. Bullied by their tyrant father, the children rebel behind his back. One of his daughters has fallen in love with the neighbor’s son, a part-time musician (played by Atif Aslam) with whom she performs at a concert on the sly. The other girls break into dance the moment their father steps out of the house. The eldest daughter (played by Humaima Khan), who has returned home after a failed marriage, clashes with her father on virtually everything – from interpretations of the holy book, to the injustice he metes out to their eunuch brother. Hakeem’s misguided commitment to doing what he thinks is right, lands himself and his family in a mess that proves hard to come out of, and one that eventually results a secret liaison with a prostitute-courtesan.

Much like the director’s previous film, Bol has its heart in the right place, but resorts to melodrama and over-the-top histrionics to make its point. The film’s uneven pace and its relentlessly dark tone will tire you out in places, and the filmmaking itself is shoddy. But despite the script holes and the sloppy storytelling, Bol is an important film that deserves your time. Director Shoaib Mansoor never shies away from revealing uncomfortable truths, and does an earnest job of addressing prickly issues like homosexuality, contraception, education for women, and Islam’s attitude to music.

I’m going with a generous three out of five for Pakistani director Shoaib Mansoor’s Bol. Look beyond its kitchen-sink drama treatment, and you’ll notice it’s a brave film with an urgent message at its heart.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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