Thursday, August 25, 2016

Happy Bhag Jayegi 

 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.

Monday, August 15, 2016


Once Upon A Time

The one good thing about Rustom is that Akshay Kumar is slowly moving towards playing more mature characters, and the chiseled dignity he brings to Rustom Pavri suits him, even if it means he wears a gleaming white uniform all the time—in jail too.

That’s about all—the rest of the film is a goofy version of the Nanavati case of 1959, which was played out in tawdry, tabloid-y melodrama, resulting in the abolishment of the jury system. Taking the core of the idea of a naval officer killing his wife’s lover, Desai throws sense and logic to the winds, concentrating instead on period details—how many Parsi garages must have been raided to get all those impeccable vintage cars! Still, he cannot get any degree of authenticity in the Parsi backdrop, or get actors to speak with the right accents.

What is vaguely disturbing is that even in 2016, the director cannot show a woman willingly having an affair. In the 1963 film Yeh Raaste Hain Pyar Ke, based on the same case, the wife had her drink spiked; in Rustom, the wife Cynthia (Ileana D’Cruz) needs a convoluted build-up to fall into playboy Vikram Makhija’s (Arjan Bajwa) arms. She spends the rest of the film weeping and moaning with guilt.

Rustom Pavri shoots Vikram and calmly spends time in jail, reading and playing chess with the investing officer Vincent Lobo (Pavan Malhotra), while outside, the Parsi editor of  tabloid, Eruch Billimoria (Kumud Mishra, miscast) whips up support for a fellow Parsi and sells more papers.

The most superfluous character in the film is Vikram’s foxy sister Priti (Esha Gupta) unintentionally comic in her flapper wardrobe, long cigarette holder, red lips and moll-like demeanour.

Almost everybody in the film—except Rustom Pavri—is ridiculous in some way—either overacting, or overdressed.  The courtroom scenes with a comic prosecutor (Sachin Khedekar) and sneering judge (Anang Desai) are much too theatrical.

Desai adds another patriotic angle to the story, but at the core of the real case and this film, is the fact that people who flock outside the courtroom with pro-Pavri banners, think it is alright for man to kill a man who laid a hand on his ‘property’—in this instance, his wife—and that a cad like Vikram deserved to die. The morality remains warped—then and now.

Mohenjo Daro 

Pre-Historic Wreck

No matter what you think of Ashutosh Gowarikar’s films, at least he was original. Why then would he want to stake his reputation and spend a small fortune to make a wannabe Baahubali?

He sets his Mohenjo Daro in 2016 BC, in the famous seat of the Indus Valley Civilisation, and ignores even the slightest geographical or historical authenticity; worse, he lifts so many plot points from the Southern costume blockbuster.

Like the hero of Baahubali, Sarman (Hrithik Roshan) has dreams of Mohenjo Daro, and the reason is pretty much the same, but let there be no spoiler. The nephew of an indigo farmer, he insists on going to Mohenjo Daro against his uncle’s wishes and finally has his way. The city is magnificent (full marks to set design), and a trading hub, where people from all over the world come by to do business, sing and dance in fancy dress.

Sarman falls in love at first sight, with Chani (Pooja Hedge), the extravagantly gowned, bejewelled and hatted daughter of the priest. The man who rules the place with ruthless cruelty is Maham (Kabir Bedi) whose nasty son Munja (Arunoday Singh) runs wild in the marketplace. Everybody wears strange costumes, hairstyles and headgear, and speak a formal Sanskritised Hindi.

Chani is engaged to Munja, so the story moves along predictable lines—song, dance, secret meetings, snarling villain. Sarman also instigates a farmer’s revolt against taxes raised by Maham (unfortunately, no cricket!)  Since he is so gym-toned and muscled, Sarman is made to engage in a fight with two massive cannibals in a Roman-style arena. (He has had some experience battling a flying crocodile in the opening sequence.)

The film moves at a stodgy pace, has nothing new to offer and does not even have a comic-book cheekiness to it—it’s just dull and soporifically boring. It’s such a sad waste of talent and resources. Hrithik Roshan is usually so enthusiastic, but the film’s absurdity seems to have affected him too. Imagine being made to dance with a horn on your head! Can’t believe the indifferent music is by AR Rahman.

Monday, August 08, 2016

The Legend of Michael Mishra  

Bihari Romeo

There is some interest in Manish Jha’s latest, The Legend of Michael Mishra, because this director made Matrubhoomi, a dark, incisive film on the aftermath of unchecked female infanticide. His next, Anwar, sank without trace, so it is understandable that he would want to make a film in a popular format.

Unfortunately, he fails with this romcom that he makes in a quirky style set in a fully kitsch-ed up Bihar. When a word like ‘legend’ is used in the title, without irony, then what follows cannot be a juvenile love story.

FP (Boman Irani) runs a dhaba, where tourist buses stop with a well-planned puncture. He tells a bunch of passengers the story of Michael Misra—in Bihari style all ‘sh’ sounds become’ ‘s’, ‘f’ is pronounced ‘ph’, ‘w’ as ‘bh’ and so on.

As a young lad, Michael fell in love with a girl he saw dancing. He does not know anything about her, and hopes to recognize her one say from her style of saying “hello.” He grows up to be a kidnapper (Arshad Warsi), with a moronic sidekick Half Pant (Kayoze Irani--miscast), and finds the girl, Varsha (Aditi Rao Hyderi) at a Patna talent show, where she performs a ludicrous dance number with great confidence.

Though letters tossed into balconies, Michael learns that Varsha will reciprocate his love, if he reforms.  So he walks into a police station, amidst cowering cops and turns himself in. He ends up being sent to a distant prison forever.  Meanwhile Varsha goes on to become a movie star.

Jha tries so hard to entertain and charm, but watching the long film with every gag falling flat, and every performance a dud—including the ever bankable Warsi—can be wearisome. By the time the twist in the end arrives, most viewers would have zoned out.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016


Brawny No-Brainer

Hollywood had perfected the two-hero ‘bromance’-action genre over three decades ago with films like 48 Hours and Lethal Weapon; even with a readymade template in front of him, Rohit Dhawan could not get it right in Dishoom.
The idea isn’t too bad—an Indian star cricketer Viraj (Saqib Salim) is kidnapped two days before a crucial match with Pakistan. The incident takes place in a Middle-Eastern country (looks like Dubai), and a chain-smoking, trigger-happy cop, Kabir (John Abraham) is sent to solve the crime. Loath to deal with officious local cops, he picks as his partner, a chatterbox rookie, Junaid (Varun Dhawan), who till then has been assigned domestic chores for the boss and the hunt for a missing dog.
After setting up so well, the film trips on its own lazy scripting—there is no tension, little nail-biting action and a villain so tepid, he couldn’t scare a goose!  Akshay Khanna plays Wagah (because he doesn’t belong to any side), a bookie who wants to fix the match, because he is broke!
Joining the two on the hunt for the missing cricketer is a thief, Meera (Jacqueline Fernandez), for no reason but that she finds Kabir hot. Also, she had stolen Viraj’s phone from the kidnapper (Rahul Dev), and is a suspect.
Nobody expects sense in a film like this, but would a cop go illegally into a country and hunt for a dreaded criminal by showing his sketch around in the bazaar? Meera does a dance number amidst a bunch of wild men, at the end of which the cops are asked to drop their revolvers (“ours are bigger” says the bad dude), and immediately they are seen careening around the desert on bikes with sidecars. Were all those men waving around toy guns?

Varun Dhawan gets the best lines and his energy is infectious, but it’s not good for the male leads when the funniest scene has Akshay Kumar playing a campy character, who has Kabir and Junaid wading in his swimming pool in their undies, so that he can check out their, um, buns (his word). For the straight men to whistle at, there’s Nargis Fakhri doing a scene in a bikini. The one takeway from Dishoom? The compulsively hummable Sau tarah ke song.

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