Planet Bollywood

Thums Up - Thums Down for the Week - 21 Oct 2008
  Himesh reincarnates “Karzzzz”, as audiences say goodbye to “Hello”…and Bollywood is "Outsourced"!
  - Samir Dave
Selection based on Planet Bollywood critics recommendations           Let us know what you think about this
 

Thums Up - Recent Films Worth Watching :-)
 Karzzzz
 PB Rating: 3.5 out of 10  Public Rating (by 400 unique users): 5.17
 Director: Satish Kaushik  Producer: Bhushan Kumar, Krishan Kumar
 Music: Himesh Reshammiya  Lyrics: Sameer
 Starring: Urmila Matondkar, Himesh Reshammiya, Shweta Kumar, Gulshan Grover, Danny Denzongpa, Imran Hasnee, Rohini Hattangadi, Dino Morea, Raj Babbar, Asrani, Bakhtiyaar Irani
 Genre: Thriller  Recommended Audience: Parental Guidance
I really wanted to hate this movie. I really did. I absolutely detested the great formerly capped nasal voiced singer slash Johnny come lately actor Himesh Reshammiya (HR) in the horrible "Aap Ka Suroor". I am still plagued at night by nightmares of a nasal twanged voice repeating undecipherable words over and over again. I am still burning with the question as to how those rickshaw drivers mysteriously appeared as a deus ex machina to save HR at just the right time (shame on you lazy script writers). So you can imagine dear reader that I was not looking forward to “Karzzzzzzzz(cough)zzzz” at all. I wanted to hate it. I wanted to make fun of the formerly capped one now strangely mopped top HR. Yet, I found myself strangely appreciative of this diminutive titan that is the perfect example of the guy next door. Apna HR, the people’s hero. He rose from nowhere to become the number one music director, to the number one (and arguably first) Indian rock/pop star, to one of the biggest box office draws of Bollywood (“Aap Kaa Surroor” was one of the biggest hits of 2007 and if advance collections are any indication, “Karzzzz” too will smash records). The songs from the soundtrack that I once found annoying, slowly (via the constant play on the music channels) and hypnotically have started to brainwash me into liking them. So, I sat down to watch the film, remembering the entertaining but flawed “Om Shanti Om” of last year, itself a remake of the original Ghai directed “Karz” with one z. What a surprise then, that the new remake directed ably by Satish Kaushik, is actually pretty good. It’s a throwback to yesteryear, yet modernized enough to appeal to a wide demographic audience. Honestly, I’ve never been a great fan of Satish Kaushik as a director. It’s not that he lacks talent; he is more than capable of directing well, it’s just that his vision somehow seems to be lacking that epic quality that would distinguish him from the other standard directors and move into the upper echelon. Yet, with this film, he’s shown that he knows just how to remake what is considered to be a classic, and leave his stamp on it. But, what a surprise! The biggest strength of the film is the great mop top Himesh Reshammiya who has developed into a genuine actor. Gone is the hammy, cheesy HR of “Aap Kaa Surroor”. Gone is the stilted dialogue delivery and funny for all the wrong reasons expressions. It seems like he’s finally come out from under the shadow of the cap. Now we have some real acting that actually makes you believe that he is Monty the reincarnation of Kamini’s (Urmila Matondkar) husband whom she killed to gain his extravagant wealth. It’s classic Bollywood cheese and the entire film is masala-rific fun! Don’t get me wrong, HR is no thespian, but then he doesn’t need to be. He’s a pop culture actor, for a pop culture audience that has grown up on techno-bhangra-flavor of the moment fads. The fact that he actually can act, just sweetens the pot. Still, HR would have been stranded if he didn’t have the well-nuanced performance of Urmila to bounce off of (so to speak). Urmila is perfect as Princess Kamini, the caricature of an evil woman who will stop at nothing to get her way. What could have come up as laughable instead becomes a study in evil yet vulnerable tragedy thanks to her performance. Oh, I almost forgot that Shweta Kumar is in the film. Her role is almost non-existent, as the love interest and her acting talent leaves something to be desired. In other words, she leaves absolutely no impact on the audience. What little we see of her comes off as stilted and unnatural (perhaps HR can train her with his techniques…. hey it worked for him). Gulshan Grover is wasted as the ludicrous and often times painfully corny villain La Juda with a silver musical hand who appears for all of five minutes or so in the entire film. We are supposed to believe that his musical hand is used to not only convey the BWAHAHAHA evilness of the villain, but to strike terror in our hearts with the musical bleeps ‘n’ bloops that he uses to communicate. He looks like some clownish bald version of Liberace. Memo to make up artist, there’s a scene where Gulshan’s bald cap seems to be too loose for his head. If you’re going to use a bald cap…use it right! The always-excellent Danny Denzonpa is criminally under utilized but managed to steal every scene as the mobster uncle with a heart who constantly quotes classic Bollywood films (Super Hit)!. Asrani is his usual slightly funny self. The songs come at you fast and furious, seemingly every five minutes as if to remind you that you should buy the cd. Dino Morea is surprisingly effective in the role of Monty’s previous incarnation. On top of all that, no Bollywood masalarooni film is complete without a tender heart-tugging tear splashing moment between a forlorn mother and her long lost son. I dare your Bollywood dil to not tear up during the emotional scene between HR and Rohini Hattangadi who plays the mother whose son is now reincarnated. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry (sometimes for the wrong reasons), but one thing is for sure, you will be entertained. I never thought I would say this, but Himesh Reshammiya, the actor, has arrived whether you like it or not.

 Outsourced
From time to time, I like to shine the PB TUTD spotlight on movies that may have slipped through the radar, yet truly deserve a viewing. “Outsourced” may not be a Bollywood film in the true sense of the word, but it deals with the sub-culture of the calling center in a much more realistic and entertaining way than the recent Bollywood release, “Hello”. While “Hello” fails to leave an impact on the audience, “Outsourced” has a well written screenplay, good direction and wonderful acting by the ensemble cast. The film effectively manages to convey the often times funny life style that call centers have created in India. The juxtaposition of the modern with the traditional is handled with aplomb. The story revolves around an American call center manager who is fired, then sent to India to train what else….a call center manager. At first this seems to be a classic and standard fish out of water story, but it develops into much more as the manager from America, begins to understand Indian culture. From culture clashes to a surprise romance, the director and writer John Jeffcoat really keeps things going. The director’s vision is realized by the excellent performances from the lead actor Josh Hamilton and especially the actor who plays his love interest Ayesha Dharkar. Dharkar truly shines in the film. She’s funny, witty, down to Earth, and stunning as the Indian woman who steals the heart of the out of place American man. The film is worth watching simply for the lead performances, but adding to the entertainment value is the ensemble cast featuring Asif Basra, Arjun Mathur, and Larry Pine. All in all, a pleasant surprise of a sleeper movie that was missed during its theatrical release, but now can and should be viewed in the comfort of your home. Take a chance, and you won’t be disappointed. You might find yourself pleasantly "Outsourced" by this gentle gem of a film.

 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.

 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 :-(
 Hello
 Director: Atul Agnihotri  Producer: Percept Picture Company
 Music: Sajid Wajid  Lyrics: Jalees Sherwani
 Starring: Salman Khan, Sharman Joshi,Sohail Khan,Katrina Kaif,Isha Koppikar,Amrita Arora,Gul Panag
 Genre: Drama  Recommended Audience: Parental Guidance
Just say Goodbye, to Atul Agnihotri’s second film “Hello”. Though his first film, “Dil Ne Jise Apna Kaha” was enjoyable in parts, it was obvious that there was room for improvement in Agnihotri’s direction style. This time around, he’s roped in author Chetan Bhagat and attempted to adapt the writer’s best selling novel, “One Night @ the Call Centre” (his recent “3 Mistakes of My Life” also looks very promising). The main problem with “Hello” is the screenplay (written by Bhagat and Agnihotri). What could have been an excellent adaptation of a well-written novel instead is turned into a boring movie that never quite gels enough to leave an impact on the audience. Multiple storylines are always tricky to handle in an ensemble film. Anurag Basu did an excellent job at this with the wonderful, “Life in a Metro” last year, but for every good multiple character driven film, we get a dozen that just fail due to the screenplay and direction. “Hello”, unfortunately suffers from not only a poorly written screenplay, but also lackluster direction. Don’t have any high hopes that Salman or Katrina have substantial roles in the film. They don’t. Salman looks like he’s got a killer hangover from having too many whiskey shots, and Katrina Kaif plays an otherworldly character in an obvious promotional ploy (Salman is the director’s brother in law and…Katrina is for lack of a better description, the girlfriend in law) to bring audiences to the theater. Pity the actors who have really put their all into the film, specifically Gul Panag, Sharman Joshi, and Sohail Khan (yes, believe it or not the youngest Khan brother acts quite well). Isha Koppikar, Amrita Arora, Arbaaz Khan, and Sharat Saxena, all of who are just about ok, round off the cast. Perhaps, in the hands of a more capable director, the film could have turned out to be a crowd pleaser. The topic is definitely current and there’s an extreme curiosity about call centre culture. It’s too bad the director dropped the ball. Don’t say “Hello”, just say “GOODBYE”!

 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 (as evidenced by the clever storyboard drawings at the beginning of the 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 sinfully toned body (here`s another starlet that has joined the bikini brigade). 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.

 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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