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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Ghazi Attack 

Underwater Battle


There have been so few films about the wars India has fought in recent times, that anything seems to be a welcome addition to films on contemporary history.

And, amidst the well-documented reports of the Indo-Pak war of 1971, there is the mostly unknown incident involving an incident at sea (there is a swarm of disclaimers at the beginning), on which Sankalp Reddy’s The Ghazi Attack is based—suitably fictionalised 

The setting is the Bay of Bengal, where the Pakistani submarine Ghazi led by Captain Razzak (Rahul Singh), is sent to sink India’s warship Vikrant. Going by intelligence reports, S-21, an Indian submarine under the command of the hot-headed, Pakistan-hating Captain Rann Vijay Singh (Kay Kay Menon) is assigned the duty of checking on any Pakistani intrusion. His deputies are the calm Lieutenant Commander Arjun Verma (Rana Dagubbati); and Officer Devaraj (Atul Kulkarni) and there is an internecine battle of egos being fought as well.

The sets of the submarines are very well-created and the feeling of claustrophobia is heightened with the tension building inside the testosterone-filled sub (the only female being a redundant Bangladeshi refugee played by Tapsee Pannu) and the exchange of fire power outside.

The main attraction of the film is that it came out with so little advance publicity that audiences do not know what to expect. What they do get is a competently made war film—a little too ambitious for its own good, but keeping the pace brisk, the story-telling interesting and the predictable climax as exciting as can be. The making is lean, without too much melodramatic fat, and no pushing of patriotic buttons over what is built into the story.  A bit of ‘dialoguebaazi’ and simplistic portrayal of the Indian and Pakistani sides could be overlooked in the interest of entertainment.




Sunday, February 12, 2017

Jolly LLB 2 


Winning Case


It’s not very often that the Hindi film industry is able to produce a film that is entertaining and meaningful in its own fairytale way. Subash Kapoor’s Jolly LLB had a struggling lawyer take on the rich and powerful. In Part 2, the character of the struggling lawyer is played by Akshay Kumar, which ups the ante a bit. He may not be doing any action, but a star needs a bigger set of obstacles to overcome.

The film is set in Lucknow, where Jagdishwar Mishra Aka Jolly, is the fifteenth assistant of a prominent lawyer, who is made to do menial jobs and never allowed to forget that his father was a clerk in the same office. In his hurry to get his own chambers and go independent, he deceives a client and is left guilt ridden by the tragedy that follows.

He decides to go on a pursuit of justice to bring to book the cop Suryaveer Singh (Kumud Mishra), who killed an innocent man in a fake encounter.  In court he is up against an arrogant and influential lawyer Pramod Mathur (Annu Kapoor--brilliant), whose assistant’s job is to produce a rate card and even bill the client for the tea, biscuits and fan!

Suryaveer Singh’s corruption has also made him almost invincible, which Jolly realizes when he is shot at in a crowded market. That makes him go after the entire corrupt force with a tenacity his enemies did not expect. He meets his match in court—Mathur is experienced, clever and not at all hampered by scruples. The scenes of the trial, like a fight to the finish between Jolly and Mathur, are greatly enlivened by Saurabh Shukla (who won a National Award for the first film) returning as Judge Sunderlal Tripathy, with more quirks than anyone can count. He knows he is called Teddy Bear behind his back, but behind the eccentric behavior and rotund appearance is a man who respects law and makes no compromises.

The film is serious in purpose but has a lot of humour to make the bitter pill go down. The UP ambience and language is perfectly created and the dialogue is sharply witty. There are some implausible script contrivances, and needless songs, but these can be overlooked, because the film does not have any dull moments.

Kapoor has the ability to move and amuse the audience at the same time, which makes Jolly LLB2 such a satisfying watch. In his new ‘serious actor’ avatar, Akshay Kumar excels and effortlessly does the henpecked husband (to Huma Qureshi’s Gucci-craving Pushpa) as well as the committed lawyer role well. His performance is aided and enhanced by the wonderful supporting actors—theatre has obviously become a big hunting ground for talent scouts.




Sunday, January 29, 2017

Kaabil 


Justice Is Blind

It would be safe to assume that nobody will see Kaabil for the plot-- the promo gives away enough. So then the old-fashioned script should be engaging enough to keep audiences hooked. Unfortunately, Sanjay Gupta (picking the idea from Blind Fury and scenes probably from some from Korean films) makes a leaden, sleep-inducing film. 

 What is so baffling that the idea of a man taking revenge for the rape and suicide of his wife-- that was done to death in the eighties and nineties-- even made it to the screen in 2016.  Hrithik Roshan must have been tempted to play a blind man, but that's about all the novelty there is in the film. 


A meeting between the visually challenged voice artist Rohan (Hrithik Roshan) and pianist Surpriya (Yami Gautam) is arranged by an absent Mrs Mukherjee and the two fall in love in the matter of minutes, even though they are sure they don't want to marry because "two negatives cannot make a positive" (who writes lines like this!) It has already been established that Rohan does not treat his lack of sight as a handicap and has a particularly well-developed sense of smell and hearing.  

 After the remarkably economical opening scenes, Gupta wastes a lot of time over a boring romance and foreshadowing in thick layers. Then the two get married and in a matter of days, she is raped by Amit (Rohit Roy), the brother of the local leader Madhavrao Shellar (Ronit Roy), and his friend (for some reason it is specified that Wasim is a Muslim butcher's son). The corrupt cops (Narendra Jha, Girish Kulkarni), far from solving the crime, add to the couple's trauma. Inexplicably, a friend who is otherwise hanging around all the time is nowhere to be seen in the time of crisis. 

In a cringeworthy scene, Supriya tells Rohan that she is now unworthy of him and in the next she commits suicide. Rohan swears revenge and it's no spoiler to reveal that he achieves it. But for characters going through such unimaginable suffering, there is not a moment of genuine emotion that would move the viewer--everything is so loud and overdone. 
  
Hrithik Roshan (looking strangely puffy) bravely tries to make something of the role, but soon resorts to hamming; he is also surrounded by supporting actors who do nothing to help. Yami Gautam has a toothpaste ad look throughout her brief role. The Marathi accent put on by the Roy brother is painful to hear. Kaabil must also get the dubious distinction of having the worst item number possible and Rajesh Roshan mangling his old hit, Saara zamaana. 


Raees 


Once Upon A Time In Gujarat


Of the three leading superstars in the Hindi film industry today, it is to Aamir Khan’s credit that he facilitates and participates in films with a positive social message. Salman Khan’s films are maturing too, so it is disconcerting to say the least to watch Shah Rukh Khan act in a film about a gangster and try to lend him a kind of respectability.

Rahul Dholakia, who made the courageous Parzania, probably tried to make a film about the repercussions of alcohol prohibition in Gujarat. (Hollywood is still nostalgic about crime in the Prohibition era of the 1920s). But then a superstar steps in, big production houses get involved and before a director knows it, his film has romance (Mahirah Khan as the love interest), songs, an item number (Sunny Leone) and an unabashed braggadocio. Maybe every star wants to do aDeewar or Nayakan once in his career, pretend on screen that the despicable character he plays is actually a saintly Robin Hood, whose heart beats for his people. So what if Raees, the protagonist of this film, sells illicit liquor? He also buys sewing machines for the mohalla women, and at times of curfew empties out his safe to buy food for the town.

This one is extra messianic, he wants to set up a ideal township; when he stands for elections, he wins. When a politician wants to take out an anti-booze procession via his area, the women come out to roll bottles into the street to halt the vehicles in their tracks. 

Of course, when there is Shah Rukh Khan declaring “Koi dhanda chhota nahin hota,” and living up to his reputation of having “Baniye ke dimaag aur Miyanbhai ka daring” then where is the question of even mildly criticizing the consumption of alcohol or looking at a hooch tragedy that takes place so often in our country? In Dholakia’s Fatehpura, everyone from schoolkids to postmen supply booze in a dry state, under the noses of corrupt cops and politicians on the take.

The one honest cop Jaideep Majmudar played by Nawzuddin Siddiqui with scene-stealing flair, is constantly transferred by the minister.  Raees’s downfall, the film suggests, comes not due to crime and mass murder, but his generosity and trust in the wrong people.

Raees is supposed to be fictional, but based on the life of a notorious Gujarat bootlegger and gangster Abdul Latif,  real incidents suitably glamorized or twisted to make Raees look like a grand hero.

The opening voiceover claims that the liquor trade in Gujarat is worth a mind-boggling figure in thousands of crores, which was made possible by Raees. Really? And that’s an achievement to be proud of?

The film may be well made, and a blockbuster at the box-office, but it is not the kind of film one expects from Rahul Dholakia or Shah Rukh Khan.


Monday, January 16, 2017

Ok Jaanu 



Much Ado About Nothing

  
For capturing the lifestyles of the young, ambitious and restless in Mumbai, Ok Jaanu is at least a decade too late. A remake of Mani Ratnam’s hit O  Kadhal Kanmani, that possibly scandalized Chennai or perhaps woke up the conservatives to how the young view love and marriage, fits rather easily in Mumbai. (When would you find trains and buses so empty, for one!)


In Mumbai, a live-in relationship would not shock many, nor would such a big deal be made about a choice between love and career. This is the age of long-distance and also open relationships, and a couple can decide how much time or ‘bandwidth’ they wish to allot to various aspects of their lives. As for marriage, it is not going out of style in a hurry, even among those who see themselves as modern.

There is something quite phony in this love story from the unimaginative meet-cute to the production design. In Mumbai, it would be tough if not impossible for a judge to have such a huge Malabar Hill bungalow; if he did live in a palace, he would not have to keep a paying guest. Then, the paying guest room in the home of an old couple would not be painted red and made to look like a bordello. For that matter, a seedy guest-house room in Ahmedabad looks quite vulgarly ornate too, where the young couple in question – game designer Adi (Aditya Roy Kapur) and architect Tara (Shraddha Kapoor) --make steamy moves to a Hamma Hamma remix, but don’t sleep in the same bed.

Tara’s aversion to marriage is vaguely explained – her parents’ marriage broke up; her mother (Kitu Gidwani) is Bollywood’s idea of a successful career woman—short-hair, brusque manner.  Adi has no such excuse—his brother is happily married from the look of it, and his wife delivers the most sensible lines in the film, about why Adi and Tara’s bubble is bound to burst. Because the two may be working professionals but behave like giddy teens.

The contrast to their “figure out kar lenge” kind of love is contrasted with the ploddingly tender, almost fifty-year-old marriage of their landlords, played with complete sincerity by Naseeruddin Shah and Leela Samson.  If marriage, according to writer Mani Ratnam and remake director Shaad Ali, means that one partner cares for the ailing one, then they make it look like a burdensome chore or weight to be dragged.

In the end, Ok Jaanu for all its contemporary posturing bares its conservative heart. The actors are charming enough, but  Naseeruddin Shah even on a bad day could out-act Aditya Roy Kapur and Shraddha Kapoor.


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