Planet Bollywood

Thums Up - Thums Down for the Week - 7 Oct 2008
  Abhishek Bachchan fails to fly in “Drona”, while Sanjay Dutt and Imran Khan are not enough to ‘Kidnap’ good reviews…and “Shoot on Sight” slips in under the radar!
  - Samir Dave
Selection based on Planet Bollywood critics recommendations           Let us know what you think about this
 

Thums Up - Recent Films Worth Watching :-)
 Shoot On Sight
Any film that has Naseeruddin Shah in it is always ratcheted up another notch due the experienced actor’s excellent talent. This slightly rough film is no exception as the senior thespian takes center stage in a movie that delves into the film topic of the year…. terrorism. By this point you might think that you have seen it all, after all movies in this genre typically start or lead to some kind of tragedy which brings out the bleakness of humanity within the people that survive. These films explore a full range of emotion as people cope with violence beyond reason. “Shoot on Sight” has a provocative title and certainly first time producer Arun Govil (an organizer of many Bollywood shows in the United States) has picked an unorthodox first foray into production. Dealing with the underground bombings in London (2005) the film centers on Shah’s character who plays a Pakistani born officer of Scotland Yard. To add fuel to the fire, he’s married to a European (excellently portrayed by Greta Scacchi) and has a childhood friend who has turned into a fundamentalist fanatic (Om Puri, who breaks away from his usual banal comedies, to show us that he truly is an amazing actor). The screenplay by Carl Austin is for the most part well written, but the film’s slight weakness is with the heavy handed direction by Jag Mundhra who in the past has made skin flicks like “Tales of the Kamasutra” 2 and 3 and the uneven “Provoked” (starring Aishwarya Rai). Mundhra’s style of direction lacks the subtle grace that is needed for a film such as this. There are times when the strong hand of a talented director can aid a weaker screenplay; however, in this case I can’t help but feel that the direction is a bit lacking. The saving grace for Mr. Mundhra and the producers is the stellar cast whose performances are a joy to behold. The film is to be praised for dealing with not only terrorism, but also inter-racial marriages (inter faith marriages as well) and the not so subtle racism inherent in religious fanaticism. Thought provoking, yet flawed, the film deserves a viewing.

 1920
 Director: Vikram Bhatt  Producer: Surendar Sharma, Amita Bishnoi, Bhawanti Gabrani
 Music: Adnan Sami  Lyrics: Sameer
 Starring: Rajneesh Duggal, Adah Sharma
 Genre: Thriller  Recommended Audience: General
Vikram Bhatt has been the epitome of a lazy director. He usually swipes his stories from Hollywood films, and though his movies have a lot of style, they are lacking in substance. The silver mop topped director is better known for his brief affair with actress Amisha Patel, than for his body of work (especially in recent years). This year he tries to recapture the magic of his horror hit “Raaz” and forget the disaster of last year’s “Fear” with his latest, “1920”. Supernatural films seem to be in vogue on the silver screen these days. With “Phoonk” making a tidy profit for Ram Gopal Varma, all eyes are now on “1920” to see if the horror genre can reach new heights in 2008. Luckily for beleaguered fans of this genre (good horror films in Bollywood have been quite rare), Vikram Bhatt presents a film that has a frozen in time quality to it. Any film that has a castle as a backdrop automatically gives the viewers the chills and provides a setting that is ripe for a ghost to scare the audience out of their seats. The cast comprises of newcomers Rajneesh Duggal, Adah Sharma, and Anjorie Alagh and the director succeeds in getting stellar performances out of all of them. A strong screenplay (for the most part) gives the actors a chance to shine, and the directors close attention to detail keeps the viewer in the 1920s. That period setting puts a new spin on the age-old tale of possession (something that was dealt with in last year’s more contemporary “Bhool Bulaiya”). It’s that unique setting, combined with some classy music by Adnan Sami, and a well-written screenplay that gives this movie more than a ghost of a chance at the multiplex. Take your date to see this film, it’ll give you a chance to put your arms around him/her and enjoy a few spooky thrills. Perhaps Harry Baweja will get some inspiration Bhatt and make a sci-fi horror movie set in the year 2050? Now, that’s a scary thought.

 The Last Lear
 PB Rating: 5.0 out of 10  Public Rating (by 400 unique users): 5.17
 Director: Rituparno Ghosh  Producer: Arindam Chauduri (Planman Motion Pictures)
 Music:  Lyrics:
 Starring: Amitabh Bachchan, Arjun Rampal, Shefali Shah, Preity Zinta, Divya Dutta, Jishu Sengupta, Prosenjit
 Genre: Art-Film  Recommended Audience: Parental Guidance
To be filmi or not to be…that is the question. Oh pray thee what dost thou think of Ritupurno Ghosh’s “The Last Lear”? Tis a Shakespearean tragedy to be sure, directed with a skilled hand and presented with utmost love to thee. Tis wordy beyond belief, is quite tedious to bear, yet tis pleasing to thine eyes in some strange hedonistic way. The skilled thespians Amitabh Bachchan and Shefali Shah bring the wonderment of their characters to life. Preity Zinta, how I wish thee were a bit better in thy role. Arjun Rampal is deserved of a special mention as sir king of the wooden expression enacts a breakout performance and is the star who hath stolen the show. Just as Shakespeare is not everyone’s cup of tea, perhaps for those with an open mind, it will be the type of brainy stuff that will steal thine heart. Ritupurno….Ritupurno….wherefore art thou…? Whew!

 Ru Ba Ru
Let’s be honest here, this movie has zero chance at the box office due to the lack of publicity. Plus, it stars two newcomers. Randeep Hooda is known more for hard-hitting violent films (“D”) than for being a chocolate hero lover boy and Shahana Goswami (who has given an excellent performance in the recent release, “Rock On”) doesn’t have the typical glamour look of the other popular actresses in Bollywood. Another thing going against it, is the fact that it’s directed by newcomer Arjun Bali who has yet to prove himself. If that wasn’t enough, the music also, has failed to really catch on. So, why would you spend your hard earned cash on this film? Though the film is a copy of the Hollywood flick, “If Only”, it’s directed well, has excellent performances by the lead pair, and has just the right balance of drama/romance. The viewer truly believes that Randeep and Shahana’s characters are in love, and they act beautifully together. It’s worth a watch simply for their performances. If you’re in the mood for some good old-fashioned romance, then do yourself a favor and watch this with your significant other.

 Welcome To Sajjanpur
 PB Rating: 8.0 out of 10  Public Rating (by 400 unique users): 5.17
 Director: Shyam Benegal  Producer: UTV Spotboy
 Music: Shantanu Moitra  Lyrics: Swanand Kirkire & Ashok Mishra
 Starring: Shreyas Talpade, Amrita Rao, Ravi Kishan, Ila Arun, Divya Dutta, Yashpal Sharma, Rajeshwari Sachdev, Ravi Jhankal
 Genre: Family  Recommended Audience: Parental Guidance
Ever since his first movie, “Iqbal” (which features his best performance to date) to his witty performance in “Dor” and even to the disastrously mediocre “Bombay To Bangkok” one thing is evident, and that is that Shreyas Talpade is an amazing actor capable of delivering nuanced performances. Nowhere is this more apparent than in veteran director Shyam Benegal’s (“Zubeida”) latest film, “Welcome to Sajjanpur”. The legendary director moves away from his usual hard hitting dramatic style of film making to tackle a more lighthearted comedy and what results is a very enjoyable comedy that actually doesn’t require the viewer to leave his brain at the door. This is comedy, that doesn’t fall prey to the usual inane ineptitude of the Bollywood comedy genre. Instead, what the viewer gets is a wonderful ensemble cast of actors that work together to bring the witty screenplay to life. This ensemble cast includes Amrita Rao, Yashpal Sharma, Illa Arun (who delivers a standout performance), Divya Dutta, Ravi Kissen, Rajeshwari, and Ravi Jhankal. Shreyas Talpade serves as the lynchpin that holds the entire film together as the letter writer who uses his skills to “shape” the lives of people around him. The pleasant (if not awe-inspiring) music by the talented Shantanu Moitra (“Parineeta”) is another plus as the rustic sound of the compositions adds a simple pleasure to the film. This is one of those movies that is in danger of being overshadowed by the latest mega-hyped Bollywood film featuring empty antics and bikini clad women. If you are in the mood to see something truly refreshing, take a trip to Sajjanpur…and you will be welcomed with open arms.

Thums Down - Recent Films that Disappointed :-(
 Kidnap
 PB Rating: 4.0 out of 10  Public Rating (by 400 unique users): 5.17
 Director: Sanjay Gadhvi  Producer: Shree Ashtavinayak Cine Vision Pvt. Ltd.
 Music: Pritam, Sanjay and Sandeep Vyas  Lyrics: Mayur Puri
 Starring: Imran Khan, Sanjay Dutt, Minissha Lamba, Vidya Malvade, Rahul Dev, Malaika Arora, Amrita Arora, Reema Lagoo, Raj Zutshi
 Genre: Thriller  Recommended Audience: Parental Guidance
I wish that I was kidnapped while watching this film, at least that would have broken me out of the dazed glaze of boredom that I felt throughout this tedious exercise in Bollywood excess. First off, the king of empty style over substance, director Sanjay Gadhvi shows that he is unable to deliver the goods outside of the Yash Raj camp. There’s certainly a lot of style ‘n’ sass in this film, but the screenplay by Shibani Bathija is not well written enough to keep the audience’s interest. A movie like this should have non-stop thrills and a feeling of rollercoaster like movement to what should be a climax that leaves the audience breathless. Instead we get a film that has a few excellent sequences but is for the most part vacuous. Can someone tell me who in their right mind thought that casting Vidya Malvade (who was just seen as a young woman in last year’s Chak De India) as the mother of an eighteen year old would be believable? In that same vein, in whose eyes does the mature faced Minissha Lamba look like a vivacious teen? These two are woefully miscast and though Bollywood films always require a certain suspension of disbelief, it is hard to believe these two in their respective roles. Sanjay Gadhvi tries his best though; as he basically strips Lamba down to get the juices flowing for all the frontbenchers as she traipses through the film showing her body and skin. He’s done it successfully before with the “Dhoom” films (specially with the sexing up of Aishwarya Rai), but it’s getting to be a gimmick that fails to cover up that the character is not well written. The saving grace of the film is Imran Khan, who in his sophomore effort (after the excellent “Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na”) shows that he is a talent to watch out for. The film is worth viewing just for his performance. As to Sanju Baba, he basically coasts his way throughout the film, as if he’s dialed in his performance via long distance. Let’s make a special mention of Pritam’s music; then again, the less said about it the better (other than the excellent “Mit Jaaye” by the brothers Vyas). It’s a shame that this film will be gone and forgotten soon, for it had the potential to be a really good action thriller. Instead we get a film from a director who really needs to reinvent himself. Perhaps Gadhvi will try again to “Kidnap” audiences with “Dhoom 3” next time.

 Drona
 PB Rating: 6.5 out of 10  Public Rating (by 400 unique users): 5.17
 Director: Goldie Behl  Producer: Shrishti Arya, Sunil Lulla
 Music: Dhruv Ghanekar  Lyrics: Vaibhav Modi
 Starring: Abhishek Bachchan,Priyanka Chopra,Kay Kay Menon,Jaya Bachchan
 Genre: Action  Recommended Audience: Parental Guidance
Drona-Man, Drona-Man…. does whatever a Drona can. Swings his sword, everytime. Catches Kay Kay with this rhyme. Hey there! There goes the Drona-Man! Perhaps for a moment I thought that Goldie Behl (director of “Bas Itna Sa Khwab Hai”) would actually surprise with a genre-busting trail blazing film with mythological elements and a smattering of sci-fi, opening the doors for more films in this genre. Alas, that is not the case as this train wreck of a film completely derails the audience’s good mood. The special effects are top notch and are truly groundbreaking (though the sandstorm face scene is a complete rip off of a similar shot in the “Mummy”). Yet, like the sporadically good “Love Story 2050”, the screenplay for “Drona is its biggest weakness. The story is lacking as it feels like the director/producer poured all the money into the special effects when they should have been investing in a good screenplay. Why is it that apna Bollywood honchos don’t realized that a well-written script is the best special effect money can buy? Instead we are treated to a by the books storyline whose predictable ending is telegraphed a mile away. They say that the measure of a true hero is the villain/challenges he/she faces. Yet, the villain in this film, played by Kay Kay Menon is laughably corny. Again, Bollywood fails to realize that a villain should be powerful, perhaps even more powerful than the hero for that is what would push the main character to beat the odds. We get the usual, “Bwahahaha, I am going to conquer the world starting with India while I make cheesy jokes and parade around with my ridiculous hairstyle”! Kay Kay, do you need the money that bad? As for Abhishek, he delivers another weak performance. I do give him kudos for keeping a straight face while wearing that ridiculous Drona costume. Let’s just say, it doesn’t strike fear into the hearts of evildoers. It almost looks like Elvis Presley’s patented white costume. Priyanka Chopra as the tough broad, who can fight as well as the guys, yet has a heart that is soft and tender just doesn’t work. Another flop for this unlucky actress makes this reviewer say, “Oop Cha”! Jaya Bachchan steals the show in the few scenes she has. The music by Dhruv Ghanekar makes me feel like I am watching a T.V. commercial. Again, what could have been a powerful mythological/sci-fi/fantasy tale instead has been ground through the Bollywood cheese-o-matic machine to create a boring and ultimately waste of time film. You’d need to be a hero to have the courage to watch this film. Just pop it in the good old DVD player and skip to the chapters with the special effects, but stay away from the rest.

 Saas Bahu Aur Sensex
Not having high expectations can sometimes be a benefit for a movie. You go into the theater and as the lights dim, expect nothing much more than to be mildly entertained. Or if you are home, you pop in that DVD (official release of course) and sit back expecting not to fall asleep. How refreshing then that the oddly titled, “Saas Bahu Aur Sensex” is a little film that packs a lot of punch. Director Shona Urvashi (part of the small circle of talented female directors in the male dominated Bollywood landscape) deftly handles the multiple storylines of the ensemble cast. Of course, the best reason to watch this film is for Kirron Kher’s (wife of Anupam Kher whose latest release “A Wednesday” is a must see) excellent performance. She is absolutely a delight to watch and the silver (or television) screen lights up every time she appears. Shona Urvashi keeps the film moving on against the backdrop of the Sensex, by keeping the focus on the human element. Bollywood purists take note: This film is presented by Hollywood powerhouse studio Warner Bros. in a sign of things to come as Hollywood invades Bollywood. Drama, broken romance, unrealized dreams, and playing the stock market come together to form a cohesive screenplay. The excellent cast features, Farouque Sheikh, Tanushree Dutta, Masumeh, and Ankur Khanna. All the actors deliver fine performances, in a movie that will leave you foaming at the mouth as you anxiously wait for word on whether your stocks are rising, or falling.

 Hulla
 PB Rating: 6.0 out of 10  Public Rating (by 400 unique users): 5.17
 Director: Jaideep Varma  Producer: Sunil Doshi
 Music: Indian Ocean  Lyrics:
 Starring: Rajat Kapoor, Sushant Singh, Vrajesh Hirjee, Mandeep Mazumdar, Kartika Rane, Dibyendu Bhattacharya Dinesh Thakkar Nassar Abdulla Shailesh
 Genre: Comedy  Recommended Audience: Parental Guidance
I am sure regular readers of the Thums Up ‘n’ Down section know that I love offbeat movies that can push the cinematic envelope. “Hulla” is one movie that I thought would be something refreshingly different since the theme has to do with one’s inability to sleep due to some inane simple thing. Whether it is the dripping of a leaky faucet or in this case, the blowing of a whistle, there’s nothing that annoys more during those nebulous hours of the night. Director and writer Jaideep Varma has an interesting concept and fills it up with oddball yet interesting cast of characters (of which Darshan Jariwala of “Loins of Punjab” excels); however, the film simply fails to leave a lasting impact on the viewer. If any fault could be pointed out, it’s the weak screenplay that doesn’t fully play up the novelty aspect of the story. The lead actor Sushant Singh delivers a fine performance, but he can’t carry the entire film on his able shoulders. This could have been a wonderful little dark comedy, but it simply falls flat. Watch it in the middle of the night when the leaky faucet or neighbors next door are keeping you from falling asleep. It will probably resonate more at that time.

 Chamku
 Director: Kabeer Kaushik  Producer: Vijayta Films
 Music: Monty Sharma  Lyrics: Sameer
 Starring: Bobby Deol, Priyanka Chopra, Arshad Warsi, Ritesh Deshmukh, Irrfan Khan, Danny Denzongpa, Rajpal Yadav, & Arya Babbar
 Genre:  Recommended Audience: Parental Guidance
It’s a pity really that this film will probably not help Bobby Deol’s career in any way. Especially more so considering that this is probably his finest performance to date. For an actor that is not known for his thespian skills, that is high praise indeed. Should we pity Priyanka Chopra more? She’s given her third flop of the year, and this once promising actress is now more known for her recent item number in the upcoming “Drona” than for her acting prowess. Should we pity Dharmendra’s production house, that decided that a Naxalite turned romantic hero film titled, “Chamku” would in any way succeed at the box office? How about some pity for music director Monty Sharma, who was not able to capitalize on his previous hit soundtrack “Saawariya” with the quickly disappearing from public consciousness soundtrack for this film? I think the majority of the pity should be reserved for those viewers brave enough to seek out this film and watch it. The screenplay had potential, but the way that it is visualized/realized by director Kabeer Kaushik fails to leave the kind of impact this type of movie should have. Irrfan Khan, Riteish Deshmukh, Rajpal Yadav and Danny Denzongpa (who are all very talented actors), are all wasted. This film will probably be one that you catch on cable sometime in the near future, do watch it, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Previous Weeks Thums Up - Thums Down »
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