Planet Bollywood

Thums Up - Thums Down for the Week - 31 Mar 2009
  It’s a Bollywood party, as Pink smiles in ‘Smile Pinki’, Bobby Deol frowns in ‘Ek – The Power of One’, Neil Nitin Mukesh sulks in the corner with “Aa Dekhen Zara’, and Vinay Pathak confuses everyone in ‘Straight’.
  - Samir Dave
Selection based on Planet Bollywood critics recommendations           Let us know what you think about this

Amidst all all the ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ mania, meet Pinki, the adorable star of the other Academy Award winner…. `Smile Pinki` plus Nandita Das directs the excellent `Firaaq`, Neil Nitin Mukesh is a reel life super-hero in ‘Aa Dekhen Zara”, and Bobby Deol has the limp ‘Ek’ - the power of none!!

Thums Up - Recent Films Worth Watching :-)
 Smile Pinki
Amidst the much-deserved hoopla over “Slumdog Millionaire”, it’s understandable if you missed the other Academy Award winner that focused on an Indian child, “Smile Pinki”. It’s a heartwarming and at times heart wrenching documentary focusing on a five-year-old girl from Utter Pradesh (Pinki) whose cleft lip creates tremendous social barriers that she bravely fights to overcome as the NGO Smile Train arranges her to have free corrective surgery. That it’s based on reality, and is not fiction makes the viewer truly feel all the emotions that this brave little child goes through. It reminded me of the old David Lynch film, “The Elephant Man” wherein the lead character is disfigured, and at one point has to sob to the mob making fun of him, “I am not an animal…. I am a human being…I am a man!” Pity that Indian society (and society in general) is at times blind to a person’s inner beauty. “Smile Pinki” makes us really look at society and ourselves on the whole, and how we treat people who are different than us (through no fault of their own). This innocent child is full of life and she will win your heart over (as will another boy named Ghutaru). Credit the director, Megan Mylan for bringing us this story without sensationalizing it. Keep in mind that though there may be thousands who receive the corrective surgery, there are still many more children that live with shame, disrespect and the hope that they will one day be happy. The script is life, the camera is our eye, and Pinki will teach you that nothing can stop the human spirit from soaring on high no matter what.

 Aa Dekhen Zara
“Aa Dekhen Zara” suffers from the Bollywood disease of style over substance and the motto that decrees to hell with a good screenplay as long as everything looks really cool. Neil Nitin Mukesh deserves better than this. The very talented dark horse newcomer proved that he is capable of acting as well as his direct contemporary Ranbir Kapoor if not better in “Johnny Gaddaar”. I realize that this film is an opportunity for him to reach the masses within the more traditional framework of Bollywood films, and though the initial proposal must have sounded good, I have to ask, “Why Neil!?!? Why select a film that has a nonexistent script?” Unfortunately, Neil is not here to answer the question, so we shall carry on with this review. The premise is interesting. What happens when you have a camera that sees through clothing, er…sorry, wrong film? Ahem, what I meant was, what happens when you have a camera that can look into the future? Well if you are a struggling photographer, you use it to further your career and bring you luck. Of course, being the superhero that he is, Neil has to have a villain in the form of the dastardly devilish looking Rahul Dev. Rounding out this super-hero triumvirate is Bipasha Basu, stuck in her sexy avatar. Hmmm…perhaps her power is to distract everyone with the magic of her rising hemline? Director Jehangir Surti has the talent to make everything look like an MTV video. It’s cool, it’s funky, and it’s absolutely MIND-BLOWING!! But what about a good script Mr. Director? Yes, Neil does the best he can. Yes, Bipasha looks rocking. Yes, Dev Patel looks evil. Yes, the premise is really interesting. Yes, the songs are enough to give the listener a sugar high. No, the script is not well written at all. Ultimately the story drags the film all the way down, making the viewer forget the film as soon as it’s over.

Yet here it is in the Thums Up section. Why, you ask? Well, because the film is worth a watch, for the acting, the music, and the glossy emptiness of the whole affair. Just don’t expect a cohesive story, for the film is so mysterious that you’ll never figure out the point of the mystery. But who cares about that!?!? Just bring on the shallow one-dimensional gloss and have a Bollywood blast!

Who is one of the most prolific actors of Bollywood? Shah Rukh Khan? Akshay Kumar? Katrina Kaif? Kareena Kapoor? If you picked any of these bolly-thespians than you are wrong, for it has to be Vinay Pathak, who has lately been starring in one film after another. From “Bheja Fry” to “Mithya” to “Rab Ni Bana De Jodi” to “Oh My God!” to “Dasvidaniya” (and more) this very talented niche actor, has thrilled audiences with his eclectic performances and choice of roles. One constant is that he plays the everyday man who struggles with his sense of identity, and his place in the world so to speak. Now comes Pathak delivering another memorable performance in “Straight”. As the title immediately makes you think, the movie deals with one’s sense of sexuality, and how to come to terms with it. This is definitely not the kind of film that is everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s a shame, since for the most part it’s an entertaining film that pushes the boundaries of what we have seen before on the Bollywood screen.

Vinay Pathak once again plays the loser whose prospective bride runs away with another man on the auspicious wedding eve. He’s a successful restaurant owner, and the writer’s have playfully named the restaurant, “Gaylord” as a subtle joke to the audience. Dejected by women rejecting him left and right, Pathak’s Pinu Patel is the Hindi version of the forty year old virgin. Anuj Choudhary plays the strangely sexually ambiguous chef/comedian who kisses Pathak upon learning that he’s won the lottery. That he stays as a chef/comedian at the restaurant after winning the lottery requires a suspension of disbelief on the part of the viewer. Gul Panag is the hostess that falls in love with Pathak but is caught in the maelstrom of his confused sexuality. Chaudhary delivers a worthy performance that doesn’t fall into the clichéd territory of “Dostana”. Panag exudes a sensual sensitivity that shines on the screen. Director Parvati Balgopalan uses an interesting/creative technique for transitioning from one scene to another, but needs to work on her narrative flow as the script doesn’t quite gel in the second half.

What most reviewers have missed is that this film doesn’t pretend to be a Bollywood masala flick. It’s a small independent film that in the end is worth a watch simply for the performances. It doesn’t matter that the audience never truly learns whether Anuj is gay, it’s better left to our imaginations to wonder whether he is or not. The film is really about the journey of one man, and his ultimate sexual destination. Don’t listen to detractors who criticize the film for not being very polished. Give it a chance, and you will find yourself smiling by the end of the movie.

 Director: Nandita Das  Producer: Percept Picture Company
 Music: Rajat Dholakia, Piyush Kanojia  Lyrics:
 Starring: Paresh Rawal, Naseeruddin Shah, Sanjay Suri, Raghuvir Yadav, Tisca Chopra, Shahana Goswami, Deepti Naval
 Genre: Social  Recommended Audience: Parental Guidance
Trust Naseeruddin Shah to deliver a powerhouse performance each and every time. Fresh off his recent performances in “Shoot On Sight” and “A Wednesday” we are treated to another wonderful performance that will keep you riveted to your seat in the multi story/multi character film “Firaaq”. Just when you think there can be no further stories about Hindu Muslim riots, along comes a film that reminds you just how multi-layered human emotions truly are. If there are a million stories that can be told about love, there are just as many that can be told about hate. Combine the two, and you have a series of poignant vignettes starring some excellent character actors. Presented are six tales of humanity amidst the riots in Gujarat and just like in real life, the reel life version doesn’t provide any conclusive answers. The film marks the debut of actress Nandita Das as director. She shows the same sensitive touch and attention to detail in her directing as she does with her acting. One of the key strengths of the film is that the screenplay is very well written. Being a superb actor herself, Das has assembled a stellar ensemble cast that consists of Naseeruddin Shah, Deepti Naval, Shahana Goswami (who delivers an incredibly strong performance), Tisca Chopra, Paresh Rawal, Raghuvir Yadav and Sanjay Suri. If this excellent film is any indication of future potential, than we can expect even more well made films from Ms. Das in the future.

 Aloo Chat
Aloo Chat, is a tasty dish best served from one of those street vendors in any major Indian urban area. Once you’ve eaten it all, you’ll feel a guilty pleasure of having what some consider the ultimate in junk food. It’s too bad then, that the film “Aloo Chat” is simply junk food with no redeeming factor. The film blatantly rips off the plot from “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge” (DDLJ), as a loved one tries his/her best to make their beloved’s family fall in love with him/her. This film doesn’t even try to cover up that fact, for in the first act; one of the lead characters pretty much admits that the story will be a copy (in an apparent nudge nudge wink wink to the audience). You see, the son of a strict Hindu family has gone abroad and fallen in love with a Muslim girl. Ah, so begins the tale of inter-faith romance. Well, his family is itching to get this young, virile man married in an arranged marriage and would never accept a Muslim girl as his fiancé. So, in desperation he tells his father that he has fallen in love with an American “gori” girl, hires an actress to play the girl, and has his real Muslim girlfriend (along with the fake American girl) come to stay with the family to try to win them over. Are you still with me? If not, don’t worry; it’s not as complicated as it sounds. Yet, strangely enough as the film progresses, you find yourself enjoying it like a spicy dish that has overstayed it’s welcome.

The film is complete time pass in the grandest of Bollywood traditions. It’s not art; don’t even try to elevate it to art. It breezes by to the inevitable conclusion that is telegraphed a mile away. Why, oh why can’t I stop watching the film? Why am I drawn to this love story that I have seen so many times? You’ll ask yourselves these questions as you continue to watch. Perhaps director Robby Grewal has applied the motto, even bad aloo chat is good aloo chat. Yet, I’ll tell you the real reason to watch the film. It’s Manoj Pahwa, whose turbaned eccentric turn as the uncle who plots the convoluted story will bring a foolish smile to even the most stone hearted of faces. Aftab Shivdasani, is just about there and one can not form an opinion as to his acting which is also neither here nor there. Khulbhusan Kharbanda plays the sourpuss dad who ultimately turns out to be smarter than everyone else. Linda Arsenio is charming as the non-Indian girl who is posing as Aftab’s fiancé. Aamna Shariff is sufficiently innocent, wearing a deer caught in the headlights look throughout the film. It’s the cast that really makes the film worth a midnight viewing. If you don’t expect art, you won’t be disappointed. Have some “Aloo Chat” and enjoy the Bollywood fantasy of love.

Thums Down - Recent Films that Disappointed :-(
 Ek - The Power of One
 PB Rating: 5.5 out of 10  Public Rating (by 410 unique users): 5.11
 Director: Sangeeth Sivan  Producer: K Sera Sera Productions
 Music: Pritam  Lyrics:
 Starring: Nana Patekar, Bobby Deol, Shriya Saran, Chunkey Pandey, Jackie Shroff, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Sachin Khedekar, Zarina Wahab, Pradeep Kharab, Upasna Singh, Jaspal Bhatti, Gurpreet Ghuggi, Sanjay Mishra Ritu Vij
 Genre: Action  Recommended Audience: Parental Guidance
Arrrgh! Forgive me; I cannot form any intelligent thoughts after watching “Ek – The Power of One”. It should have been called, “Ek – The Power of None”. What a terrible film that simply has no redeeming factor whatsoever. I wonder what the director was thinking. Yes, let’s put Bobby Deol in an awful wig that makes him look like a hippy that has just sucked a sour lemon. Yes, let’s put Nana Patekar in a skullcap that will make him look like a contemporary mad man and happening police officer. Yes, let’s plaster make up on actress Shriya Saran and make her look like an Indian geisha girl. Shall I go on? Take all of those, throw in the awful soundtrack by fading music director Pritam and you have the makings of a disaster. This remake of South Indian blockbuster, “Athadu” and should never have been remade into a Bollywood film. Yes, it harkens back to a much simpler time of “let’s please the masses” tomfoolery, but in this day and age, the film is more like an anachronistic timepiece than a relevant entertaining film. I’m sure there will be arguments from people that this is a frontbencher type of film. To that, I say, that a truly successful entertaining film is a film that is entertaining to not only frontbenchers, but to all benchers. The nonsensical story focuses on Bobby Deol as an orphan who is wrongly wanted by the police for a political assassination. Along the way he meets another man who is accidentally killed by the cops who want to catch Bobby for the so-called murder he has committed. Now comes the “good” part. Bobby decides that the best way to hide from the cops (who are hot ‘n’ cold on his trail) is to take the place of the murdered man. So, he heads on over to the murdered man’s family home in Punjab. Now get this, none of the murdered guy’s family recognizes that Bobby is not their long lost something or other. Isn’t that great? What a stroke of luck! How loved must he have been? Now this unfairly targeted would be assassin orphan feels the warmth of the family and the extreme warmth of Shriya Saran. Of course, CBI inspector Nana is hot on the trail of Bobby, and when the two meet, all hell shall break loose. Will Bobby be able to pull his fat out of the fire to live the loving life he’s always wanted? Will Nana, be able to come to terms with his inner self and release the anger that is within him? Will Shriya Saran, be able to do anything other than look pretty (a disappointing performance on her part, considering she did so well in the recent Hollywood-Bollywood release, “The Other End of the Line”, though to be fair to her, the screenplay doesn’t really give her much scope to perform). Does it matter? Tired is what this film is, and director Sangeeth Sivan has tried hard to make a masala film with spice, unfortunately what we get is truly half-baked and will leave you completely powerless.

I’ve won! I’ve won millions! I now sit with my expensive Apple notebook typing words of ecstasy on the French Riviera. What’s that you say? I’m dreaming!? How unfair! We all know that feeling of not winning the lottery. You know how sad you feel, as you hope to win the next time? Well, that feeling of sadness is nothing compared to the film, “Lottery” which is definitely not a winning proposition. Because no one demanded it, “Lottery” features the debut of Indian Idol winner Abhijeet Sawant in a non-award winning role that most will find difficult to appreciate. Hemant Prabhu is the director who makes us feel like losing this lottery. Abhijeet Sawant should not be in front of the camera, as he is totally incapable of carrying the film. The convoluted plot surrounding a guessing game, criminals, a model, and a girl next door, is not able to hold the viewer’s interest. The amateur direction by Hemant Prabhu, is made worse by the amateur acting by Abhijeet Sawant, Rucha Gujarathi, and Manisha Kelkar. All in all, you’ll feel like a loser instead of a winner if you watch this film. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather go on dreaming about winning the real life lottery. All it takes is a rupee or dollar and a dream!

 Jai Veeru
 Director: Puneet Sira  Producer: Narendra Bajaj , Shyam Bajaj
 Music: Bappa Lahri  Lyrics: Sameer, Omer Inayat
 Starring: Fardeen Khan, Kunal Khemu, Arbaaz Khan, Rajesh Khattar, Dia Mirza, Anjana Sukhani
 Genre: Suspense  Recommended Audience: Parental Guidance
Ah, the golden days of cinema. Amitabh and Dharmendra, friends for life. Jai and Veeru sharing the ultimate bro-mance! Alas, that time has long since passed, and we are left with the decidedly frown inducing film, "Jai Veeru" starring Fardeen Khan, Kunal Khemu, Arbaaz Khan, Dia Mirza, Anjana Sukhani and Rajesh Khattar. The story (if you could call it that) has to do with an undercover police officer (Fardeen), a garage mechanic who is his best friend (Kunal), and a villain who is no one`s friend (Arbaaz). Oh, there`s a romantic angle somewhere in there, but it`s not really worth mentioning. Fardeen Khan hasn`t had a release in a while, and this movie puts another nail in his acting coffin. Kunal Khemu is ok, and Arbaaz delivers his usual creepy performance. Puneet Sira lacklusterly directs the film to a conclusion that is yawn inspiring. Instead of watching this film that has no pulse on friendship, romance, or an interesting script, take a cold shower and sing, "Yeh Dosti..." from "Sholay". I`d write more, but I find myself totally uninspired by this disaster of a film.

 Director: Vikram K Kumar  Producer: Big Pictures
 Music: Shankar Ehsaan Loy  Lyrics: Neelesh Misra
 Starring: R Madhavan, Neetu Chandra, Sachin Khedekar, Murli Sharma, Poonam Dhillon
 Genre: Suspense  Recommended Audience: Parental Guidance
Oh my God!! I realized the other day as I was watching the latest saas, bahu, aur clown serial on xyz T.V, that either I am hearing strange voices in Hindi, whispering odd things, or I am going utterly insane (cue repeated “zhoom” “zhoom” “zhoom” sound effects as the camera runs up to an insanely fast close up of my quivering almost insane face). It’s then that I realize, that (happily), I am not going insane, but am slowly losing my sanity while watching two and a half hours of a film in which the ghost of doom is a possessed T.V. set (I kid you not). Coincidentally patterned a bit like the Hollywood horror flick, “The Ring”, apna Bollywood version, “13B” fails to add anything to the Indian horror genre. Does the title “13B” fill your heart with terror, or does it make you think of the name of the motel room door in the no-tell motel? If you fall under the latter, then you will certainly get more chuckles than thrills with this movie. It’s not the fault of poor Madhavan, who gives it his all. His performance is probably the only saving grace of the film and it’s sad that even after all these years, this southern superstar has not been able to get that breakout role he really deserves. Vikram Kumar shows potential as the director, but once again the dreaded poorly plotted screenplay syndrome drags the film down into the dark corners of horror oblivion. Yesteryear heroine Poonam Dhillon is always wonderful to watch, and Deepal Dobriyal almost steals the show. The music by Shankar Ehsaan and Loy is fair, but will quickly be forgotten. Music should be left out of horror films, though at times there is nothing more horrific than seeing our actors attempting to dance! Still, if you want to fear the menacing television set and want to kill (pun intended) a little time, then this tedious film might be for you. “13B” or not to B, that is the question. Watch the static on the television screen and be afraid. Ohhh, now that’s spooky!

 Karma Aur Holi
In order to maximize the effects of this sadly lacking in color film, I watched it on Holi itself. It wasn’t the best way to spend this ‘Holi-Day’ (ouch), but I certainly must have earned some good Karma points for putting myself through the torture. You may have heard about this film and the controversy surrounding it? It seems that Sushmita Sen was very unhappy with this international venture, and proceeded to run a smear campaign against it, to which the producers responded by spreading the rumor that Ms. Sen is shown in an explicit sex scene in the film. The promos showcased that supposed scene, which comprises mainly of Ms. Sen’s quivering lip as Randeep Hooda (who was her boyfriend at the time) hovers over her. Ms. Sen says one thing, her co-star Suchitra Krishnamurthy issues a rebuttal and the tabloids have a field day. Director Manish Gupta is not a very well known name, but he did direct the very enjoyable (though filmed on a shoe string budget) “Indian Fish, in American Waters”, a film you should definitely track down and watch. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for his latest, which totally fails to entertain in any way. While “Indian Fish, in American Waters” had an odd charm about it, this film is pretty much a disaster. I wish there was something positive that I could say since Mr. Gupta is obviously talented and capable of better. What makes this film even stranger is that one of the producer’s is Drena De Niro (famed Hollywood actor Robert De Niro’s daughter). Does this feel like a very weird dream yet? If not, let’s throw in an oddly miscast Naomi Campbell (yes indeed, that supermodel with the anger management issues) and you get an even more bizarre film that is laughable due to her phoned in performance. You will find neither the beautiful colors of Holi, or gain any good Karma by watching this film. Awful, derivative and clichéd, your best bet is to simply move on to one of the films in the Thums Up section rather than watch this movie.

Previous Weeks Thums Up - Thums Down »
 • `Why "Krrish" 3 wasn`t so super!`
 • BWAHAHAHA….`Grand Masti`!
 • ‘Besharam’ is no ‘Dabangg’!
 • `Shuddh Desi Romance` Sheds New Light on Love!
 • Ranbir and Deepika ‘s chemistry burns up the screen in ‘Yeh Jaawani Hai Deewane’
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