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

September 16, 2015

The Newcomers Roundtable 2015

Filed under: What's new — Rajeev @ 11:49 pm


In this interview with Rajeev Masand, five of Bollywood’s most promising newcomers – Heropanti‘s Tiger Shroff and Kriti Sanon, Dum Laga Ke Haisha‘s Bhumi Pednekar, Mardaani‘s Tahir Bhasin, and Citylights‘ Patralekha – talk about the direction they’d like to take their careers in, the opportunities they’re hoping will come their way, and why nepotism can only take you so far.




(The Newcomers Roundtable first aired on CNN-IBN)

September 11, 2015

That 80s feeling!

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 8:36 pm

September 11, 2015

Cast: Sooraj Pancholi, Athiya Shetty, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Aditya Pancholi, Sharad Kelkar, Vivan Bhatena

Director: Nikhil Advani

In 1983, Subhash Ghai turned Jackie Shroff and Meenakshi Seshadri, then a pair of relative newcomers, into bonafide stars with Hero. Fashioned as a love story between the daughter of a powerful police officer and the goonda assigned to kidnap her, the film followed a familiar narrative involving a generational clash, parental disapproval, and rebellion, while packing in some killer tracks by Laxmikant-Pyarelal.

Nikhil Advani’s remake of Ghai’s film, also titled Hero, stays faithful to the original blueprint…but faithful to a fault. Intended as a launch pad to showcase the potential of star-sprogs Sooraj Pancholi and Athiya Shetty, the new film is so steeped in 1980s naiveté and old-fashioned melodrama that it fast becomes a slog.

Sooraj (Pancholi) and Radha (Shetty) quickly fall in love after he whisks her away to a snow-bound cottage in Jammu, pretending to be a cop dispatched by her father to keep her safe. I know what you’re thinking…but yes…despite living with a police officer father and brother, she still doesn’t smell anything fishy about the situation. When the truth finally comes out – that he kidnapped her on the instructions of a criminal seeking leverage with her dad – Radha, now deeply invested in the romance, insists that Sooraj wipe the slate clean and start a respectable new life with her.

Plot contrivances aside, Hero doesn’t bother with even such basic niceties as a coherent screenplay and continuity. The sloppy editing results in gaping holes of information and logic, and the clunky dialogues are a throwback to the not-so-good-old-days of yore. Tigmanshu Dhulia glowers and bellows as Radha’s dad, Aditya Pancholi is strictly one-note as Sooraj’s criminal foster-father Pasha, and a last-minute twist involving Vivan Bhatena as a potential suitor for Radha will make you groan.

A pair of newcomers making their debut in the year 2015 deserve better than this outdated drivel, but Sooraj Pancholi and Athiya Shetty try to make the most of the situation. Given that he’s Salman Khan’s protégé, it’s no surprise that Sooraj, who we’re first introduced to in an impressive training montage, knows his way around action, and looks good without his shirt…which happens often in this film. Athiya, required to be shrill and bimbo-like in the film’s initial scenes, appears confident and natural, even if a little raw. There’s clearly potential in the pair to do bigger, better things. In one of the film’s few genuinely moving moments, they display an aching vulnerability while simply looking at each other from afar, their eyes brimming with tears, no words uttered. Hero just about scratches the surface.

This is lazy, indifferent filmmaking, and a colossal bore for most of its running time. A video featuring Salman Khan singing the terrific title track at the end is too little too late. I’m going with two out of five.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

White noise

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 8:35 pm

September 11, 2015

Cast: Zac Efron, Wes Bentley, Emily Ratajkowski, Jonny Weston, Shiloh Fernandez, Alex Shaffer

Director: Max Joseph

We Are Your Friends starring Zac Efron is a vacuous film set in the world of DJ-ing and EDM. If you have to look up the full form of EDM, you’re already too old for this movie. The real problem, however, isn’t that the film alienates anyone who was born before the iPod was invented, but that its characters never feel even remotely authentic or interesting.

Efron stars as Cole, a struggling DJ living in the unfashionable San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles, who bides his time loitering or promoting nightclubs with his three slacker buddies in between unpaid spinning gigs. He gets a massive break when he’s taken under the wing of an older, successful DJ (Wes Bentley), but when Cole falls for his mentor’s girlfriend (Emily Ratajkowski) you know where things are headed.

Despite offering an earnest performance, Efron’s never quite convincing as a talented musician, and his friends are stock stereotypes who say things like: “Don’t bro me if you don’t know me.” The plot itself is so crammed with clichés that if you start jotting them down you’ll end up with something the size of a grocery list. Yet to be fair, director Max Joseph brings some visual flair to the predictable narrative. In one impressive sequence at an art gallery, Cole, while on a drug trip, sees paintings come to life.

The film, sadly, never takes flight, and a key reason for that is the sheer emptiness of the writing. The death of a significant character doesn’t have the desired impact because the part was never fleshed out to begin with. Cole’s realization in the final act comes off as phoney and the film’s message unmistakably trite.

I’m going with two out of five for We Are Your Friends. Cole claims to know how to manipulate the music in a way that it’ll seize your body and shut your mind off to everything else around you. You wait and wait, but alas, that never happens.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

September 4, 2015

Jokes apart

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 8:37 pm

September 04, 2015

Cast: Anil Kapoor, Nana Patekar, John Abraham, Paresh Rawal, Shruti Haasan, Dimple Kapadia, Naseeruddin Shah, Shiney Ahuja, Ankita Srivastava, Rajpal Yadav

Director: Anees Bazmee

Welcome Back, directed by Anees Bazmee, is overlong, over-plotted, and unmistakably silly. But it’s also incredibly funny in portions.

Like 2007’s Welcome, the plot is centered on Uday Shetty (Nana Patekar) and Majnu Bhai (Anil Kapoor), a pair of best friends and underworld dons who’ve been tasked with the responsibility of finding a suitable husband for another one of Uday’s half-sisters (Shruti Haasan). The difference, this time, is that Uday and Majnu are reformed mobsters, and the prospective groom, Ajju Bhai (John Abraham), a feared goonda who just happens to be the son of good ol’ Dr Ghungroo (Paresh Rawal) from the earlier film.

That scenario is further complicated by the fact that Uday and Majnu have fallen for the same girl (newcomer Ankita Srivastava), a petty con artist posing as a princess, whose conniving mother (Dimple Kapadia) insists that the men must get their sister married before thinking of settling down themselves.

Most of it filmed in Dubai, no doubt taking advantage of generous subsidies, there’s a lot going on in Welcome Back, and none of it is particularly smart. But Bazmee and his writers keep the gags coming at a fast and furious pace, mixing up the corny with the truly inspired. So the set-up to the romance between Shruti and John – wherein both mistake each other for being deaf-mute – is lazy and predictable. But a scene in which Nana and Anil’s characters find themselves playing antaakshri in a cemetery is rib-tickling, laugh-out-loud good.

It’s Nana and Anil, in fact – along with the impossibly gifted Paresh Rawal – who’re the real stars of this film, bringing so much manic energy and good-natured stupidity to a familiar, shopworn premise. The other big strength is the consistently terrific dialogue that gives even bit players their moment to shine. Witty one-liners, occasionally laced with double-meaning jokes, are delivered at lightning speed. Presuming Dr Ghungroo’s son will be a chip off the old block, one of Majnu’s henchmen says: “Baap ganna hai toh beta gud hoga hi naa.” (“If the father’s as sweet as sugarcane, the son will be like jaggery after all.”) Got the pun? In another instance, when his sister’s wedding is being called off, Nana says: “Humne mehendi se lekar Daler Mehendi tak sab intezaam kar diya tha.” (“From the mehendi ceremony to hiring Daler Mehendi to sing at the wedding, all arrangements had been made.”) One of my favorite lines though is delivered by a droll Dimple Kapadia as she embarks on another con-job: “Dye karne ke umar mein kamai karne nikle hain.” (“At an age when one should be dyeing one’s hair, one is trying to earn a living.”)

With so much going for it until this point, it’s a shame Welcome Back falters in its final act, where much of the focus shifts to a hammy Naseeruddin Shah, playing a blind super-don named Wanted Bhai, whose druggie son (Shiney Ahuja) becomes obsessed with marrying Uday’s sister. It’s a shame Naseer – essentially a poor replacement for Feroz Khan from the earlier film – is never as comically menacing as Khan’s legendary RDX.

It also doesn’t help that the climax is one big bloated mess of underwhelming set-pieces, including sky-diving henchmen, a camel stampede, an attack by mini-helicopter bombs, and a CGI sandstorm. All of it is infantile and tedious, and as the film limps towards the 150-minute mark, you just want it to be over.

I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for Welcome Back. It’s pedestrian but unpretentious; I was surprised by how much I laughed.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Cold cuts

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 8:36 pm

September 04, 2015

Cast: Ed Skrein, Ray Stevenson, Loan Chabanol, Radivoje Bukvic

Director: Camille Delamarre

Going in to watch a Transporter movie that doesn’t star Jason Statham feels a little bit like cheating on your wife. The first three films were what you’d describe as a guilty pleasure thanks to the undeniable charisma of Statham, his deadpan delivery, and his no-nonsense fighting style.

In The Transporter Refueled, the latest installment of the franchise, Statham is replaced by rising British star Ed Skrein in the role of lethal courier-for-hire Frank Martin, who undertakes to transport any package anywhere, no questions asked. Unfolding in the South of France, this reboot sees our hero hired by a mysterious woman named Anna (Loan Chabanol), who along with her three female accomplices forces him to help them exact revenge on the men who sold them into the sex trade. To ensure that they have Frank’s co-operation, they hold his grizzled father (Ray Stevenson) captive.

Director Camille Delamarre brings nothing original to the new film, choosing instead to stick with the franchise’s dependable mix of high-octane action and wafer-thin plot. So we get repeated scenarios where Skrein dispatches an endless procession of henchmen in occasionally interesting ways, including one bit in which he niftily employs a row of drawers to vanquish them.

Despite the breakneck pace, the film’s 96-minute running time feels long. It’s because there isn’t a modicum of wit or genuine feeling to fall back on in the few moments between all the car chases and violent encounters. There’s also something particularly exploitative and distasteful about Frank and his father indulging in sexual relations with the girls they’re helping, even if it’s mutually consensual.

The Transporter Refueled smells like a hack job at best, a lazy attempt to cash in on a successful brand. Leading man Ed Skrein can act and looks the part too, but he’s got very little personality.

I’m going with two out of five. Bring Statham back. Or inject something fresh into these movies.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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