Film: Nautanki Saala; Cast: Ayushmann Khurrana, Kunaal Roy Kapur; Director: Rohan Sippy; Rating: **
No, no, this can’t be Mumbai. Or India. Or even Planet Earth. No one even in his right or even wrong mind saves a weirdo from hanging himself from a tree in a public square, in a metropolis that’s chocabloc with pedestrians and pavement dwellers. No one in his twisted mind, takes the wacko suicidee home at the risk of invoking the wrath of his garrulous girlfriend.
And no one should ever write, produce or direct 'Nautanki Saala', which initially annoys you, then lulls you into slumber, and then deepens the creases on your forehead. Oh no, the bright and bouncy Ayushmann Khurrana has just committed career harikiri.
Directed and co-written by Rohan Sippy, this acknowledged remake of the Paris comedie 'Apres Vous', is as absurd as it gets. Merde, merde, merde, this is Sippy Jr’s fourth jab at filmmaking, and like it or not, he still has to earn his spurs.
Once again, he trains his camera on SoBo locations (Ballard Pier essentially, the innards of Liberty cinema and the interiors of the art deco Liberty), but elects to narrate a plot which isn’t even vaguely Mumbaiyya. For one, there have been no Raavanleela theatre shows running for years every evening at swishy auditoria. And for more iritation, both the lead characters – Ram and Mandar – are about as likeable as a visit to the dental clinic. Eeeek.
Ram who portrays Raavan – ha, ha, get the irony guys? – on stage is such a nice guy that he allows the portly Mandar (Kunaal Roy Kapur) to blow his life to smithereens. Seems Mandar is hopelessly in Love with a florist salesgal (Pooja Salvi), but she isn’t, and so our Ram-cum-Raavan must play Cupid. Turns out to be a charade that’s plain stupid.
Because abracadabra -- Cupid falls in love with La Florist, and plants those rubbery Emraan Hashmi kisses on her lips. Not done. Everyone’s mega-furious now and the finale must be played out on the Liberty cinema stage – where the audience comprises wildly clapping souls and once in a while, also Japanese tourists. Huh?
But then nothing makes sense in this rom-bore where much is made about candle-lit dinners in over-lit restaurants. Then, there’s this elaborate, tortoise-paced sequence with a cataract-eyed grandma (guys, please don’t waste theatre stalwart Sulbha Arya in such inane roles). And whoa, there’s plenty of tiresome male bonding between the suicidee and his saviour. Asks someone, “Which is the best part of your Raavanleela?” Prompt comes the answer, “Intermission.” It should have been “The End” actually.
The notion of love is made out to be some sort of ping pong game: break-ups and liaisons are contrived for the script to take its predictable route. Also, self-praise is thick in the air, what with the saviour describing himself as “sweet and hot.” The women on the scene are no more than dumbettes. In a lyric one of them even trills that she’s “as hot…like a tequila shot.” Such modesty, really.
Technically, the cinematography is cool but uneven. Truly, the only uppers are the songs in the second-half, marvellously composed but indifferently shot. The background music is as attention-seeking as it gets.
Surely, Rohan Sippy can find better, more Indian material than this French import, which he has distorted beyond recognition.
And surely, he can inspire his cast to deliver far more inspired performances. Pooja Salvi, particularly, looks as if she’s not all there. What was she dreaming of? Kunaal Roy Kapur HAMS so outrageously that you don’t want to see him ever again…unless he improves drastically.
Okay right, so 'Vicky Donor' is a tough act to follow. But this! Alas, Ayushmann Khurrana is mediocre and thoroughly ill-at-ease, like an Alice in Blunderland.
Film: Commando; Direction: Dilip Ghosh; Actors: Vidyut Jamwal, Jaideep Ahlawat; Rating: **1/2
A strapping, beefy soldier on a mission takes on a particularly repugnant small-town rogue to keep a pretty damsel out of harm’s way in this predictably visceral Action flick that plays out more like a violent cut-and-thrust computer game than a movie about real, believable people. While the stunt scenes are impressively staged and filmed, the good versus evil confrontation is as old as the stunning peaks and vales around which the action unfolds.
The adrenaline-pumping Commando – A One Man Army arouses about as much emotion as an early morning jog on a treadmill.
Produced by Vipul Shah and directed by Dilip Ghosh, the film un-spools at a fair clip (if you discount a ridiculously out-of-place Love ditty in the first half and a gratuitous item number in the second), but it makes no impression either on the mind or the heart.
The film alludes to the “ten thousand” power-crazed, greedy people who have been gnawing at the entrails of the nation, but the well-meaning spiel somehow rings hollow amid all the vacuous hullabaloo that Commando rustles up. As the male protagonist puts it through a stray line of dialogue, the law of the jungle prevails here. You either kill or get killed. So, even if you were to treat this as a game of cat and mouse, it would run out of surprises within the first 30 minutes.
When the film opens, the hero, Karan Vir Dogra (Vidyut Jamwal) of the 9 Para Commandos of the Indian Army, is in a Chinese army prison. He has been captured on suspicion of being on an espionage mission.
A slimy minister (neither his portfolio nor is location is specified with any clarity) orders the commando’s officer, Colonel Akhilesh Sinha (Darshan Jariwala), to erase the man’s name from the rolls in order to prevent the China from using him as a political pawn.
The colonel launches into a passionate eulogy on the commando’s many physical and mental virtues and his superhuman powers of endurance to make a case for a rescue mission. The politician responds with utter nonchalance: “The nation is more important than a soldier.” The officer has no answer.
After braving all manner of third degree torture for a year in a dark and dank prison cell, the unbreakable commando manages to escape, with hatred embedded in his heart for the rulers of the nation. He makes it over the border into a nondescript Punjab town that is lorded over by a brutal hoodlum named Amrit Kanwal (Jaideep Ahlawat), who calls himself AK-74 because he was born on a moonless night that year.
Politicians and policemen do the baddie’s bidding. He also has his sights on the town’s hottest lass, Simrit Kaur (Pooja Chopra), and is bent upon marrying her.
The girl takes to her heels and runs into the commando, who himself is on the run from a variety of foes. The rest of the film is a string of chases and bloody skirmishes in the jungle that leave a trail of corpses.
The protagonist is a man of few words and expresses himself mainly through his prowess as a hand to hand combatant. One can say pretty much the same about the film itself: it allows the action to take precedence over character development.
So the dramatis personae aren’t flesh and blood figures the audience can develop any empathy with. The hero is an automaton-like terminator, the villain, a man born without pupils in his eyes, is a complete caricature and the motor-mouth female protagonist is pretty and pretty dumb.
There is no denying that both Jamwal and Ahlawat, each in his own way, have tremendous screen presence. Jamwal does make a good action hero because he isn’t just brawn. He also has expressive eyes that can be put to infinitely better use than they are here.
Ahlawat’s venal villain, who reads SMS jokes to his human quarries and cracks up before he kills them, is more funny than menacing. The two actors would be better advised to choose better vehicles than this film to display their wares.
Despite all the bravura technical effort that has clearly been put into Commando, the end result simply isn’t compelling enough to merit more than two stars.
Film: "Chashme Baddoor"; Cast: Rishi Kapoor, Lilette Dubey, Ali Zafar, Siddharth, Divyendu Sharma, Taapsee Pannu and Anupam Kher; Director: David Dhawan; Rating: ***1/2
"Dum hai, Boss!" - the perky young Miss Congeniality in David Dhawan's "Chashme Baddoor", a far cry from the shastriya sangeet trainee tutti fruti-eating Deepti Naval in Sai Paranjpye's film, exclaims whenever she is impressed by her loverboy's dialogue-baazi.
Exclamation marks are the only punctuations in this seamless Comedy of courtship played at an impossibly high octave, without getting shrill.
'Farce' things first. Barring the core theme of two friends maliciously nipping the third friend's romance in the bud, and some mischievous sequences and characters from the original, which have been entirely re-interpreted as 'swines of the times', Dhawan's "Chashme Baddoor" is far(ce) removed from Paranjpye's original.
Those were days of relative innocence. Whistling at girls at bus stops, chasing unwilling girls to their homes, and landing up at their doorstep under assumed identities were all considered innocuous bachelor bacchanalia. In Paranjpye's "Chashme Buddoor", it was a big deal that Rakesh Bedi managed to get into Deepti Naval's bathroom pretending to be a plumber.
In Dhawan's film, the very gifted Divyendu Sharma, who plays Bedi's part, just can't pretend to know the perky girl next-door intimately by her bathroom decor. He manages to take a picture of a tattoo on her waist to convince his love-smitten pal Sid (Ali Zafar) that the girl is... well, not chaste but quite a 'chalu cheez'.
While the writing gets 'chalu', it miraculously steers clear of being cheesy by a wide margin. Under the veneer of vicious courtship games played by two desperately single guys, Dhawan's "Chashme Baddoor" retains a core of innocence. A tongue-in-cheek virtuosity remains the film's greatest triumph. Sajid-Farhad's writing is wild, naughty and witty, but never vulgar. The whimsical word-play flows from a tap-dance of prankish internet-styled banter which is border-line silly but nonetheless very engaging in an off-handedly smart way.
If anything, the repartees flow much too furiously. From Anupam Kher's slap-happy mother Bharati Achrekar (effortly replacing Leela Mishra from the original) to Goan cafe owner Rishi Kapoor's unidentifiable assistant - everyone is a certifiable quipster in the new film. Among the three protagonists, Divyendu, playing an awful self-styled shaayar, gets the most tawdry lines of bumper-sticker wisdom, which the actor delivers with such punctuated panache, we can't help guffawing out our implicit 'irshaad'.
Comic timing is of vital importance to this film. And every actor gets it right, dead-on sometime dead-pan. To me, the film's most natural-born scenestealer is the southern star Siddharth. Seen lately in Deepa Mehta's "Midnight's Children", Siddharth nails his character's filmy flamboyance. Many would say Siddharth has gone over the top. But to sustain that high-pitched level of crazy energy throughout the film is no laughing matter.
Or, on second thoughts, this talented actor's performance is indeed a laughing matter.
Ali Zafar is far more sober and controlled than his co-stars. It takes some doing to remain steadfast in your stipulated sobriety while all your co-stars pull out all stops.
The laughs, so refreshingly liberated of lewdness flow almost non-stop. Adding a dollop of spice to the original script is an entirely unscheduled Love angle between Rishi Kapoor and Lilette Dubey. Lallan Miya (Saeed Jaffrey), who played Rishi's character in Paranjpye's film would have loved that. Outstanding both, Kapoor and Dubey make their onscreen romance look warm, cuddlesome and credible. Audaciously, Dhawan and his writer Sajid-Farhad have transferred the celebrated
'chamko' detergent demonstration-sequence between Farooque Sheikh and Deepti Naval in Sai Paranjpye's film to the Rishi-Lilette characters. Maybe the writers saw this pair's chemistry to be more frothy and foamy than the central romance?
Ali Zafar's courtship of the vivacious Taapsee Pannu is relatively 'thanda'. One reason for their frosty compatibility is Ali Zafar's reined-in performance. He deliberately plays his part a few octaves lower than his loud co-stars who are so hyper-strung that you sometimes wonder which drugs they are on.
This "Chashme Baddoor" moves wickedly at its own volition creating a crazy pattern of comic chaos that stops short of being anarchic due to the finely-tuned situational satire simulated in the writing out of a material that was created 30 years ago when there were no mobile phones and the height of male voyeurism was the Playboy magazine.
Dhawan's film doesn't take the characters' contemporary courtship games into areas that would offend the moralists. He knows where to stop. Just when my faith in remakes had been shaken by "Himmatwala" last week, David Dhawan had me shaking with laughter this week.
Carry on, Mr. Dhawan. David Dhawan's new-age interpretation of the 1981 film moves far away from the original creating for itself a new pathway of laughter and hilarity without showing any disrespect to the source material.
Ali, Divyendu and Siddharth's audacious antics, with Rishi Kapoor and Lilette Dubey's age-defying romance thrown in for added measure, make the trio of girl-crazy heroes in Paranjpye's film look like angels. This is David Dhawan's wickedest comedy of one-upmanship since "Mujhse Shaadi Karogi". You can't miss it. The attention-grabbing chest-thumping gibberish-spewing rowdy boyz won't let you. Dum hai, Boss!
Film: Himmatwala; Cast: Ajay Devgn, Paresh Rawal, Tamannah, Mahesh Manjrekar, Zarina Wahab; Director: Sajid Khan; Rating: *1/2
Revisiting the past isn't always a good idea. Especially when it comes to remaking an almost forgotten 80's film that didn't really break any new ground, apart from giving us one of the most colorful songs in the history of Indian cinema and making a super star out of Sridevi. If those were the benchmarks Sajid Khan (who claims to have watched the film 36 times!) is set out to achieve, he should have dropped the idea and gone on to make another Housefull.
The 80's make a tacky come back in Himmatwala. Yes, the props and the sets are in sync (posters of Madonna from her Like a Virgin days) and the colors are jarring enough to remind us ofDoordarshan's pre telecast static screen days, but despite the trickery and tom foolery, what lacks is the right approach to making a regressive age old story of revenge and justice. Ajay Devgn play Ravi who returns to his village to find his mother (Zarina Wahab) and sister (Leena Jumani) ostracised and shunned away by the evil sarpanch (Mahesh Manjrekar) and his side kick (Paresh Rawal). How the poster boy along with his lover girl (Tamannah) tackles the odds stacked against him with the help of divine intervention and a CG enhanced tiger is what the film is all about. Along the way there are ample skits and scenes to compensate for the lack of a better plot and sense of logic.
Khan who is a self-proclaimed Wikipedia of the film world, throws away any little inspiration or learning he might have absorbed over the course of watching cinema across genres and resorts to the same old routine of rhyming words and using limericks to weave dialogue and narration. So we are confused when we hear lines like 'mein tumhe ek baar kho chuki hu, dubara nahi khona chahati', whether the film is a tribute to its era or a spoof (when Ajay reminds Tamannah it’s the 80's and she should tear her dupatta and cover his wound), or a cross breed of the both?
Khan has a dry sense of humour and that comes across not just while talking to him, but also while watching his films. No other film maker might have thought of usingwords like 'YouTube' and 'Nazi' in his one liners and got away scot-free. If this was his first film, the jokes might have been marginally funny, but revisiting the same formulaic routines to create humour is like trying to pump air into a flat tyre that's already about to burst. The sequence with the tiger who doesn't look menacing enough fails to have the right roar.
Ajay seems like a misfit from the very first frame. It's not just the way he looks but the way he feels that doesn't seem right. His awkwardness while dancing might be excused, but the same can't be said during moments when he has to mouth inane dialogues and resort to the often imitated but never duplicated Golmaal style Action scenes. The only scene where he feels at home is when his character references his overused and overdone 'ata majhi satakli aahe' line (perhaps a cue Khan should have taken?). Tamannah doesn't wow you any bit either. She acts on cue, dances well, and even manages to look decent, but as a debut there is nothing strikingly mesmerising about her. Paresh Rawal and Mahesh Manjrekar reminded me of Thompson and Thompson from Tintin, as both are caricatures of similar nature. Even though the former has the best lines, it is the latter that impresses with his craft. The Nainon mein sapna song looks much better on the big screen, but again lacks the mammoth canvas and larger than life appeal it should have had.
Coming from a director who claims to represent majority of the country's audience and hascarved a niche for himself through TV shows, Himmatwala is a sorry excuse for a film.
Film: Rangrezz; Cast: Jackky Bhagnani, Priya Anand, Amitosh Nagpal, Vijay Verma, Raghav Chanana, Rajpal Yadav; Director: Priyadarshan; Rating: *1/2
The word Rangrez refers to someone who dyes clothes. But in Priyadarshan’s film of the same name, there is no such direct reference to its origin. If at all the director was trying to use it metaphorically, the effort has been squandered.
Rishi (Jackky), Vinu (Amitosh) and Pakya (Vijay) are three friends living the simple life. The protagonist believes in living a moralistic life and championing the right cause, then there is the simpleton who wants to set up a computer centre and earn a decent living while the third is a typical tapori with thebest one liners and providing comic relief.If these characters seem prototype then wait till you are introduced to the premise. When a fourth friend, their ‘diaper dost’ (cause langoti yaar is so 1920’s)Joy (Raghav) tries to commit suicide over matters of the heart, the trio jump into Action decidingthey will put their lives on the line to unite the lovers. Having successful careers can wait, cause nothing is more exciting than some car chases, kidnapping drama and heart wrenching monologues about friendship and sacrifice.
Don’t be fooled by this simplistic story. The screenplay springs up a major surprise in the second half when every thing you watched and believed in is rubbished off.In fact the climax and the events leading to it are full of WTF moments which will numb your senses beyond belief. Add to it a bunch of supporting actors (a hamming politician whose loudUP dialect matches her garish lipstick, Rajpal Yadav doing what he’s done in every Priyadarshan film) dragging down the pace making the proceedings unbearable.
While the motive might be sincere, the execution lacks the same sentiment. There are too many parallel plots, unnecessary diversions, songs that pop up like burnt toasts, and dialogues that read out of a rejected TV soaps pilot episode.Among the cast, Vijay Verma has the right spunk and effervescence. Amitosh Nagpal is earnest in his approach but is marred by a half baked character. Jackky Bhagnani seems at ease playing Rishi.
He excels in scenes where he interacts with his friends and exudes confidence. Priyadarshan loses track mid way and instead of exploring new ground often falls back on his tried and tested formula which seems outdated. Had the screenplay focused on the dynamics and interpersonal play between the friends and lead to a climax that wasn’t bulldozed by heavy dramatics and lengthy dialogues, Rangrezz might have had a different verdict.
P.S. – Gangnam Style comes right at the end, so sit through the credit roll if watching the desification of Psy’s infectious hit gets those hips shaking!
Film: Aatma; Rating: **1/2
Aatma – starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Abhay) and Bipasha Basu (Maya) – is not as bad as Vikram Bhatt or Ram Gopal Varma’s masterpieces, but it’s not as slick as Oren Peli’s (of Paranormal Activity fame) interpretation either. Bipasha Basu’s howling is the only thing that tears the curtains of our ear drums and Nawaz’s character warns us of the many dangers of having an evil husband. Doyle Dhawan (Nia), who plays Nawaz and Bipasha’s kid in the film, is a tad unconvincing. The fear, the excitement, the joy of connecting with your dead father – it’s missing. She’s flaunting tight curls and acting possessed, but that isn’t enough to scare the daylights out of the audience. Suparn Varma could have paid some heed to the way he’s directed the kid who’s an integral part of the film.
So the story has been pretty clear from the promos so far. But the ending is unpredictable. Bipasha and Nawaz are a couple. Tired of Siddiqui’s never ending torture, the two end up getting divorced. Unfortunately, Siddiqui passes away, but his soul refuses to leave the world. And an evil husband’s ghost is like an embarrassing situation – it arrives out of nowhere and is not needed at all – not even for alimony. So this aam aadmi – looking like daddy – wants to take his daughter along with him – God knows where – as if he will get to play hide-and-seek with her in the parks of heaven. He is determined to snatch her from the clutches of Bips. Basu’s mother is played by Shernaz Patel and she portrays this supportive mommy who feels a presence too, but doesn’t experience anything till the end. The way Bips stops the sinister Nawaz from harming their daughter is quite a twist.
Some of the scenes are really well shot. Not run-of-the-mill at all – they simply prove that the makers have put in some thought before presenting the dish to people who have an appetite for horror films. In this one scene, Darshan Jariwala who plays a pandit, has this thin film of a flimsy sheet appearing magically on his face and asphyxiating him. The effects here are super and it’s sure to send shivers down your spine. Also in another part, Bipasha’s friend asks her to keep sharp objects under her pillow that might help keep nightmares at bay, and the very next moment you see those knives, cutters and saws hovering in the air – quite an enterprising ghost, eh!
Certain portions in the movie just don’t stick to the clichéd horror story telling pattern and that’s good. A couple of sequences defy ideas like ghosts are fabled to appear only during midnight and are supposed to look like super scary zombies.
Bips has stuck her nose to the grindstone. She plays the role of a daunted mother with amazing ease – managing her tiny tot, dealing with the demands of her work and shooing away her husband’s ghost – she’s doing it all at once. As they say, women are good at multitasking. The only thing we and especially our ears couldn’t take is her loud crying.
Do we even need to say anything about Nawazuddin. Make him a thug and he will steal you hearts; make him an apparition and he will vanish like a column of smoke, leaving an imprint on everyone.
The concept is super – a small girl stuck between a dead father who claims to Love her and a living mother who genuinely wants her betterment. The asphalt was laid out; unfortunately instead of smoothening it, Verma ends up creating only gravel.
Film: Jolly LB; Director: Subhash Kapoor; Rating: ***
A Mumbai film that sets out to make a point about something that is wrong with the world around us often ends up losing its way in a maze of preachy pomposity. Not so Jolly LLB. It knows exactly where it is going.
Despite a somewhat thin storyline, or probably on account of it, the film stays on course for the most part. It addresses a serious theme – the anomalies inherent in India’s judicial system – in a jocular manner but steers well clear of unwarranted flippancy.
Jolly LLB has its heart in the right place. And it’s a heart that is backed by a ticking mind and a responsive conscience. The film, which relies on both humour and pathos for impact, is buoyed by a clutch of outstanding performances and a directorial style that is marked by admirable lightness of touch.
Writer-director Subhash Kapoor keeps it simple and shipshape. He pulls no punches in poking fun at the loopholes in the country’s justice delivery system. But he does not let the critique degenerate into objectionable mockery. Nowhere does he seek to call the audience’s attention to either the technical aspects of the film or the cinematic elements that constitute its spine.
He lets the screenplay do all the arguing on his behalf. The writing holds up rather well – it has legs strong enough not to give way under the weight of the ‘big picture’ that Jolly LLB seeks to project through a plain David-versus-Goliath skirmish in the court of a judge who is always a step ahead of the duo.
A cynical legal eagle, Tejinder Rajpal (Boman Irani), locks horns with a small-town eager beaver, Jagdish Tyagi, alias Jolly, who is a Johnny-come-lately in a tearing hurry to make a mark in the district and sessions court of Delhi. A spoilt brat, at the wheels of an over-speeding Land Cruiser, has mowed down a whole lot of people sleeping on a pavement. But thanks to his affluent and influential family’s money power and the aforementioned topnotch lawyer’s insuperable legal acumen, the boy is acquitted by the court.
The struggling eponymous advocate is a guy who is down on luck. He has just moved from hometown Meerut to the big city in pursuit of fame and wealth but is nowhere near achieving his ambition. Not averse to adapting to the wily ways of the legal frat, Jolly figures out a way to attract instant media spotlight. He files a PIL seeking a reinvestigation into the Land Cruiser hit-and-run case.
A mightily riled Rajpal throws all he has into the ring and his means are more foul than fair.
Jolly, on his part, has to dig deep into the reserves of his Meerut-bred tenacity to stand up to the bullying, both psychological and physical, of his more seasoned opponent. Like so much else in this country, this legal tussle assumes the dimensions of an unequal clash between the haves and the have-nots. So it is easy for the audience to decide who to root for – the underdog of course.
The director however refrains from settling for a simple reductionist approach to the good-lawyer-pitted-against-bad-lawyer drama and adds several believable layers to the narrative. Jolly has a schoolteacher-girlfriend back in Meerut and this no-nonsense damsel (Amrita Rao) is his bellwether when he is in moral distress and needs course correction.
Our man also has a steady supporter in the aged owner of the courthouse cafeteria (Ramesh Deo).
The latter is another hapless victim of a system that is often manipulated to deny justice to those that don’t have the necessary means and connections, those that are doomed to sleep on pavements and are run over by the Cars of those who couldn’t care less.
The plot is also littered with allusions to the realities of a law enforcement structure that is steeped in corruption. The most notable of these is a sharply satirical scene in which a creepy cop called Ram Gopal Varma (Sanjay Mishra in a brief but crucial cameo) auctions a plum posting in an old Delhi police station as a host of tainted officers seated before him bid for the transfer.
It is difficult to imagine this film without the first-rate pivotal performances by Arshad Warsi and Boman Irani. The two consummate actors match each other step for step.
Even when the courtroom exchanges touch emotional tipping point and threaten to turn overtly shrill, restraint remains their stock in trade.
But, equally, Jolly LLB wouldn’t have been half the film it is without the sterling show that Saurabh Shukla, as the all-knowing Judge Tripathi, puts up. His is a delightfully effortless performance that etches out the core of the satire.
Barring the off-kilter musical score, which is completely out of sync with the predominantly naturalistic drift of the film, Jolly LLB is a jolly good film.
Cast: Irrfan Khan, Jimmy Sheirgill, Soha Ali Khan, Mahie Gill, Raj Babbar, Rajeev Gupta; Director: Tigmanshu Dhulia; Rating: ***
There is a brilliant sequence in the first half of Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster Returns where a small-time politico is wrestling with a laptop he doesn't know how to switch off. His visitor lets the 'chutbhaiya neta' get red-faced at the blue film, and only then reaches across and finds the right button, both for the machine and the man. In this brief joust, Tigmanshu Dhulia shows just how good a director (and writer; the dialogues are his) he can be: here are characters being played to the top of their strengths, speaking in a tongue they own, leaving us smiling with pleasure.
If Dhulia had been able to maintain the pitch and balance of this memorable bit, the sequel to his 2011 Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster would have been a triumph. The 'return' is a better film, but it stops short of being excellent. The smooth build-up in the first half leads to a confused, too-crowded second, which lets the film, and us, down.
But while the going is good, it is all most gripping. The sequel starts from where the first film had left off . Saheb ( Sheirgill) is now a cripple, bound to a wheelchair. Biwi ( Gill) spends her time being soused, having become adept at negotiating the curves her bitter spouse throws at her while displaying all hers. And Gangster ( Irrfan) is the interloper who turns up to make things more interesting.
The story-telling in the first half is so seamless that you overlook the things that had been a problem the first time around. This is UP, we are told ( Irrfan's character is even called, ahem, 'Raja Bhaiyya' ) but we never really know where exactly; there's a whiff of several neighbouring states in the 'rajwada' and their polo matches and their parties : the pretty young princess ( Ali Khan), who is adored by Raja Bhaiyya, and who becomes barter in the battle for power between him and his mentor ( Babbar), and Saheb, is generic North Indian. So is the walk-on cast , which includes the superb Rajeev Gupta as the fumbling-watcher-of-porn-on-laptop.
How politics and lost glory and intrigue and the greed for power mesh together, tempting and corrupting everything they touch, is the theme that runs though the film, just like in the earlier one, which was fashioned as a tribute to the classic, `Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam'. Saheb is more concerned about holding on to his seat than tend to his needy wife, nor be mindful of the younger woman's feelings. Both Gill and Ali Khan and their surroundings are sketched with vivid, bold strokes, and Gill is more in control in this than she was in the earlier (she does a good job with staggering just slightly, the mark of a practising alcoholic), but the latter comes alive only occasionally.
It is the men who rule. Jimmy Shergill fits his part well, but it is Irrfan who rises above the film in a terrific performance : he is wounded poet and warrior, and passionate lover who is betrayed and betrays. He keeps us with the film in both its highs and lows.
Cast:Sanjay Mishra, VM Badola, Pragati Pandey, Ranjan Chhabra, Pramod Pathak, Zakir Hussain; Director: Anshul Sharma; Rating: ** 1/2
People like us like to go and on about inflation and rising costs, but the chatter is confined to newspaper headlines, and squiggly TV graphics. Poverty as a central theme has been pushed so far from our flashy multiplex obsessed times, that it is almost like encountering an alien creature when it raises its head in a film. Especially when it is done with such sincerity as it is in Saare Jahaan Se Mehenga, a film that reminds us how crushing the spiraling bhaav of the proverbial aata and daal can be.
Puttan ( Mishra) works at a government-run animal husbandry outlet, helping reluctant cows and bulls to get in the family way. His bad-tempered father ( Badola) hovers around blackly, cursing all comers and goers from his rocking chair on the verandah which abuts the narrow street. It is a small mohalla in a small town in Haryana, but it could be anywhere at all, give or take a Jat accent and an overflowing drain or two. His wife Noori ( Pragati) runs a beauty parlour where first time dulhans are enticed into waxing half an arm as a gift to their husbands. And his younger brother Gopal ( Ranjan Chhabra) is a jobless sit-at-home who makes eyes at the mingy grocer's girl, when he does anything at all.
This milieu used to be an integral part of the Hindi movie scene till the 70s and 80s, and then vanished in post-liberalised India, only to surface on and off via those directors who are busy trying to get back` real' India into the movies. 'Saare Jahaan Se Mehenga' mainlines these characters and their constricted lives with compassion and knowledge, and makes it a surprisingly watchable film. The bane of their lives is rising costs, which stops them from having mutton, or `kheer', or `ghee' even once in two years. And, in a nice touch, the reaching out for instant noodles, amidst the gur and ration-waali-shakkar is made a commodity of desire between the young boy and girl: Maggi is 'modern', it is the future.
The film has been written zippily by people who know this world. It looks and feels authentic, minus exaggeration. And the actors look as if they belong. Mishra tamps himself down, which is a relief, and carries the film. Most of the cast is unknown : the actors who play the wife and the brother ( those curly, shoulder length lovingly tended locks which Chhabra Sports are spot-on) are effective. Badola goes over the top, though, and the plot wearies a bit by the end : complaining about aataa and daal is fine, but kaala dhan ( black money) locked in Swiss banks, which is what Puttan and co are made to get hot and bothered about too, becomes a bit much.
Still, there's enough for you to want to cheer on these people and their plan to banish `menhgai' and get 'sastaai' in their lives : roti, kapdaa aur makaan is still as much a challenge as it has always been.
Cast: John Abraham, Chitrangada Singh, Prachi Desai, Raima Sen, Mini Mathur, Zarina Wahab; Director: Kapil Sharma; Rating: **
The idea that a mommy's boy can, notionally, grow up is a deeply attractive one. This uphill task is what John Abraham's very-pleased-with-himself leading man is set up for in the self-explicatory 'I, Me Aur Main'. Given his job description, we know that Ishan Sabharwal will have to move a few notches up the growth scale: making him do it is the job of all the good-looking ladies in the cast.
Said Mister Sabharwal is in a steady relationship but doesn't want to commit. What did you expect? Which is a problem for girlfriend Anushka ( Singh). No surprises there either. Into the widening gap arrives the chirpy Gauri ( Desai), who is up for a chuckle which could, conceivably, turn into a cuddle. So here's the man oscillating between two women, while also keeping affectionate sister Shivani ( Mathur) and mother ( Wahab) busy trying to sort out his messes.
This could have been a slap-up rom com. But the trouble with this good-looking movie is that it is patchily written and performed, and often feels contrived. Of course over-indulgent mothers can turn their little boys into entitled monsters, but all it takes for 'maa' Wahab to realize it is one impassioned speech by 'behen' Mathur? Desai tries too hard at being perky. Singh, I've been thinking since her last outing in 'Inkaar', should stop looking so immaculately groomed, because she just comes off being same. And did I mention Sen who plays Abraham's snarky employer? No? Because we never see her being anything else.
But the women are still all right. It is the man, ironically, who is the weakest link. Abraham gets a lot of screen time but doesn't have the range to keep us interested all the way through, despite frequently flashing impressive upper body musculature ( no booty, alas, ladies please note ). To make up for his sins, he's handed a quite unexpected bit of baggage, but what we end with is this: whipping off apparel is the easy part, being grown up is a toughie.