Tuesday, September 20, 2016
Sunday, September 11, 2016
Saturday, September 03, 2016
The Lady Fights
It is a rule in films that if a character has a skill, it will come to full use in the script. That’s why the leading lady in Akira is seen learning martial arts (and sign language) as a child.
There is also another rule in Indian films—if a woman is a trained fighter, she cannot just enjoy her power, or put it to good use; she has to go through the full gamut of suffering, a kind of punishment as it were, for not being suitably submissive. In this AG Murugadoss film, everybody seems to strain to give grief to Akira Sharma (Sonakshi Sinha).
Taught by her father (Atul Kulkarni) to fight against molesters of women, she thrashes a bunch of goons, and ends up in a remand home, because nobody is willing to testify on her behalf. What she goes through in there is not deemed important; the film catches up with her fourteen years later, when she unwillingly shifts from Jodhpur to Mumbai along with her mother, to live with her brother and his snippy wife. In her new college, she gets into a fight with the college bullies, but that’s just for starters.
In a parallel plot, the supernasty ACP Rane (Anurag Kashyap) and his loyal cohorts murder a man to steal a bag full of cash. He gets into a blackmail situation that necessitates more killing, and in a very convoluted way, Akira gets involved in the mess. She ends up in a mental asylum from where she has to punch and kick her way out of the traps laid for her by Rane. Konkona Sensharma makes a too brief appearance as a pregnant cop (inspired by Fargo?), who acts as a foil to Rane.
Sonakshi Sinha is competent enough, and does not play Akira as a obvious toughie; unfortunately for her, Rane and his shenanigans result in her being off the screen for long stretches. Kashyap plays the baddie with such relish that he makes everyone else pale in comparison, including Akira, who spends most of her time looking helpless and the remaining in action set pieces that are too quick to leave an impact. A dash of flamboyance and fire would have made Akira more likeable.
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
We don’t have a culture of superhero comics in India, so when a homegrown character has to be created, a large chunk of the material comes from Hollywood, added to time-tested Bollywood tropes, and in Remo D’Souza’s A Flying Jatt, there’s plenty of Sikh religious symbolism.
The result is a mix of very silly comedy and solemn bombast stirred with tacky special effects. The target audience must have been small children, who may not be able to figure out Superman, Batman and the rest, but can appreciate Tiger Shroff dancing and showing off martial arts moves.
He plays Aman, the son of a strong Jatni mother (Amrita Singh), who stands up to a real estate guzzling industrialist, Malhotra (Kay Kay Menon), a man who is polluting the city with smoke and effluents from his factories. Aman is a timid martial arts teacher, and shy around the half-wit, squeaky fellow teacher (Jacqueline Fernandez), whom he loves.
Malhotra summons a white giant Raka (Nathan Jones—from Mad Max: Fury Road to this khichdi) to beat up Aman, and both end up with superpowers—Aman’s are a bit hazy, since he remains scared of heights and dogs, but acquires a mean fist; Raka (a very old Bolly name) survives a toxic dump, gets black blood, a black soul and the ability to thrive on waste and pollutants.
Aman’s mother and brother (Gaurav Pandey) think it is cute that their boy is a superhero—they watch Hollywood films to tutor him in the ways of superheroes, and she stitches him a costume. Now go save the world they say, and it’s a while before Flying Jatt gets his groove, after a few funny false starts.
While the film remains at a silly, spoofy level it’s somewhat bearable; when it starts getting serious and preachy, it goes off the rails. Raka, with his shiny white teeth and black smoke hovering around him, mainly goes around saying “Ha” or “Surprise Surprise” and makes for a most ineffectual villain—the kind of guy who would lose his powers if the city folk cleaned up the streets and planted more trees. Who would have thought that a superhero film would end up being about Swatchh Bharat? You don’t know whether to giggle or to groan.
It’s all too much for poor Tiger Shroff to hold together—he can dance and he can fight, but he is expected to act too, looking all solemn when he being given sermons (in animation) about brave Sikhs by his mother. Nice to see Amrita Singh chewing up the scenery, but she is not given much to do. If this is the start of a franchise, the Remo D’Souza needs to get back to the drawing board.
Thursday, August 25, 2016
The Runaway Bride
With audiences at the multiplexes getting younger, our filmmakers keep trying their hand at romcoms and seldom achieve the right balance of romance and screwball comedy. It’s to Mudassar Aziz’s credit that he almost manages it with Happy Bhag Jayegi. Unfortunately, our audiences expect films to be a money’s worth two hours or more, that necessitates needless padding and kills the fizz.
The Happy of the title is Harpreet Kaur (Diana Penty), who causes a great deal of trouble for all around her, but somehow, through all that chaos your know nothing bad will happen to her—it’s not that kind of film.
Happy is in love with Guddu (Ali Fazal), so, on the day of her wedding to small time politician-goon Daman Singh Bagga (Jimmy Shergill—has played this before), she pulls on running shoes over her glittery outfit and jumps out of the window into a fruit truck. When she emerges from a large basket, it is in the home of Pakistani diplomat Javed Ahmed (Javed Sheikh). His son Bilal (Abhay Deol), reluctantly being groomed for a political career, is dragged in to clear the mess created by Happy’s intrusion. This includes the justified annoyance of his fiancée Zia (Momal Sheikh).
As it happens in such films, a whole lot of characters run about on both sides of the border, getting into situations that range from mildly funny, to idiotic to hilarious.
The goofy, almost-plausible premise of the film, the essentially nice characters (even Bagga is not a snarling nasty), the refreshing lack of jingoism that inevitably creeps into any Indo-Pak film, and a peppering of witty lines, makes Happy Bhag Jayegi a charmer.
But then it overstays its welcome, and gets tiresome after a point when the laughter vanishes. Happy is one of those irritatingly self-absorbed characters, who expects the world to dance to her tunes—a bit like Tanu in the Tanu Weds Manu films, which may not be a coincidence, since Anand Rai is a co-producer on this one—but Diana Penty does not have Kangana Ranaut’s chutzpah to pull off the part. The one who does his role with complete confidence and calm is Abhay Deol, making a welcome return after a long-ish absence.
Happy Bhag Jayegi is not exactly a must watch, but won’t make the viewer regret the time spent or the price of the ticket either.