Planet Bollywood

Thums Up - Thums Down for the Week - 15 Jun 2009
  ‘Kal Kissne Dekha’ rings an ominous tone for the beginning of Jaccky Bhagnani’s career
  - Samir Dave
Selection based on Planet Bollywood critics recommendations           Let us know what you think about this
 

Another week, another movie that falls into the Thums Down section, Bollywood is unfortunately at times consistently bad, and Vashu Bhagnani’s ‘Kal Kissne Dekha`is ironically too predictable to succeed…

Thums Up - Recent Films Worth Watching :-)
 99
 PB Rating: 8.0 out of 10  Public Rating (by 400 unique users): 5.17
 Director: Krishna DK, Raj Nidimoru  Producer: Aditya Shastri, Anupam Mittal
 Music: Shamir Tandon, Ashu, Roshan Machado, Mahesh Shankar  Lyrics: Vaibhav Modi, Amitabh Battacharya, Shabbir Ahmed, Chintan Gandhi
 Starring: Kunal Khemu, Soha Ali Khan, Boman Irani, Cyrus Broacha, Simone Singh, Mahesh Manjrekar, Vinod Khanna, Amit Mistry
 Genre: Drama  Recommended Audience: General
Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall, ninety-nine bottles of beer, if one of them should happen to fall…. ninety-eight bottles of beer on the wall! What’s that you say? We are not talking about my favorite singing time pass beer game? Yaar, you must have caught me waiting for the strike to be over. You say it’s over!?!? Well, then, where are the good films? It’s been a dry year for Bollywood fans, that’s for sure, but that draught is ending with a trickle of film releases, of which we have Raj Nidimoru and Krishna D.K.’s offbeat, “99”.

If you are not intrigued by the title, then perhaps the premise of the film that focuses on small time crooks being chased by a big time crook through Mumbai and Delhi will pique your interest. That the film is well directed and technically sound is a bonus to our viewing experience. Add to that the chemistry of the ensemble cast that includes, Kunal Khemu (a talented young actor who always delivers), Cyrus Broacha (an actor to watch out for), Mahesh Manjrekar (quickly being typecast as the gangster stereotype), Vinod Khanna (still shining after all these years), Boman Irani (the gem of the movie), Simone Singh (surprises with her performance), Amit Mistry (excellent), and Soha Ali Khan (one of the best and most under-rated actresses) and you have quite an enjoyable movie..

Forget the music, for I know that I pretty much have, as it’s just in there for the marketing aspect of the film, with no impact on the story at all. Another downside to the film is the pacing which is quite uneven, but all is forgiven due to the excellent performances by the cast. For overall enjoyment, you can’t go wrong with “99”, for it will reinforce that the chase…is always the sweetest until you are caught!


 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, Rahul Dev 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!


 Straight
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.


 Firaaq
 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.

Thums Down - Recent Films that Disappointed :-(
 Kal Kissne Dekha
What if you took every romantic cliché from the 90s that you could possibly find, shook it all up, and then regurgitated it in a film released in 2009? Add to the mix, a strange subplot about the lead character being a psychic who can predict the future, and you have the makings of an eccentric and ultimately bad film. Producer Vashu Bhagnani launches his son Jaccky with a mess of a film. The film feels like Vivek Sharma, who gave us the very enjoyable “Bhootnath” last year, directed it on autopilot. He’s tried his best by shooting in exotic locales, with high production values, but ultimately is let down by that which destroys many Bollywood films, and that is the poor script. The story meanders from one plotline to another; ultimately petering out into a climax for a film that has lost it’s steam halfway through.

But enough of that, I guess the story doesn’t really matter when it’s Jaccky’s debut! Ok, the young man can act well and dance extremely well. When dancing, he doesn’t look like a spastic ostrich, like a lot of actors do. He resembles the younger brother of Uday Chopra at times, which doesn’t bode well for him. Yet, there’s a certain charisma to the debutante actor that one can’t deny. If he has the right kind of film, he just might make it, otherwise he’ll be doomed to the world of Sohail Khan and Hurman Baweja, meaning that he’ll appear in all sorts of awful B movies. Actress Vaishali Desai does fairly well, but doesn’t have the same charisma as Jaccky, and one wonders if we will really ever see her again. Rishi Kapoor plays the buffoon of a scientist gone bad. Ritesh Deshmukh has a pointless cameo that goes nowhere. About the only minor saving grace of the film is the catchy music by Sajid Wajid.

So what is the story, you ask? Small town boy comes to out of town college, meets snooty rude girl, falls inexplicably in love with her, fights some bullies, befriends those bullies, forgets those bullies, girl has a change of heart, boy predicts the future, is befriended by a mad scientist who wears a bad wig, mobster appears in useless subplot, boring patches of film that will make you fall asleep and all hell breaks loose. That’s about it in a nutshell.

A couple of questions come to mind after watching the film. Was that Sanjay Dutt in a blink and you’ll miss it cameo? What’s up with Rishi Kapoor’s idiotic wig? Why oh why couldn’t the writers have written an interesting story? Why throw in the obligatory college bully who has a change of heart, just so he can disappear by the second half? Come on Ritesh, is this what your career has come to? What am I doing wasting my time watching this!?

Unfortunately I am unable to predict the future, except in this one case. I predict the film will be a flop that you will watch it in a moment of weakness, and afterwards realize that you should have listened to me and avoided the movie entirely. Don’t say that I haven’t warned you.


 Team - The Force
Like a bad hallucinogenic nightmare from which you cannot awaken, “Team – The Force” will force your smile into a sneer. Yes, the film is that bad and it’s understandable why it was in the can for a year before getting a pity release. The sad part about it is that, though the film has no competition and is coming out after the strike that has left people hungry for new Bollywood content, it has still failed horribly at the box office. The story (if you can call it that) surrounds three silly best friends (Sohail Khan, Vrajesh Hirjee, and Yash Tonk) who are basically loafers living off of the kindness of their landlord and surrogate father (Kulbhushan Kharbanda). They want to make it big in the music business, yet never show any talent, other than lusting after every girl that comes around. Enter, ‘da’ don (Sayaji Shinde) who for some secret reason wants the bungalow that they live in. Ba da bing, ba da pow boom, the trio become super adept at fighting off gangsters (which can be done solely by Sohail Khan’s freakishly high pitched laugh). Oh yeah, Amrita Arora is in it to jiggle it. Finally the music by Daboo Malik (brother of Anu) is tepid to say the least. If you want to preserve your sanity, don’t even bother with the weak force of “Team – The Force”.

 8x10 Tasveer
 Director: Nagesh Kukunoor  Producer: Shailendra Singh
 Music: Salim Sulaiman, Neeraj Sridhar, Bohemia  Lyrics: Irfan Siddqui, Sameer, Bohemia
 Starring: Akshay Kumar, Ayesha Takia, Sharmila Tagore, Javed Jaffrey, Girish Karnad, Anant Mahadevan, Benjamin Gilani, Rushad Rana, Utara Pawkar
 Genre: Thriller  Recommended Audience: Parental Guidance
Hmm…let’s see. Once upon a time there was a talented writer/director named Nagesh Kukunoor who wowed audiences with down to Earth tales that everyone could relate to. From “Hyderabad Blues” to “Rockford” to “Iqbal” to “Dor”, each film was seen and remembered fondly. But then, one day, his evil twin, who decided to make the incredibly mundane “Bombay to Bangkok” and now the ridiculous “8x10 Tasveer”, replaced the talented director. Sure we’ve had clunkers from him before like the forgettable “Hyderabad Blues 2” and “Bollywood Calling”, but even those had some redeemable qualities. Now all we get are movies that are badly written, and directed with a heavy hand, certainly not a tale that ends happily ever after.

Joining Nagesh, is the unfortunate Akshay Kumar who was riding high last year at this time, but is quickly falling back down to Earth, through no fault of his own. This is the second time that he has been let down by the director, the first flop this year being the awful “Chandni Chowk to China”. Needless to say, I was originally really looking forward to seeing Akshay in a rare dramatic role, since most of his recent films have been mindless comedies.

“Tasveer” on paper has an interesting premise that deals with Jai (Akshay Kumar) as the central character who has the amazing ability to pick up the psychic residue from photographs. He’s literally able to jump into a person’s past. This (as one can imagine) can be very tiring, and Jai gets tired every time he swims into the past, but not as tired as the viewer gets wading through this dull directionless film. Jai’s father is killed under mysterious circumstances, but luckily his mom (the wasted Sharmila Tagore) has snapped a photo of dear old dad, right before his death. The rest of the film is spent with Akshay looking almost constipated with a dour expression on his face. Ayesha Takia who was excellent in ‘Dor’ really has nothing to do here and shares absolutely no chemistry with Akshay. The story finally winds to its inevitable conclusion, and that’s where Nagesh the writer, sabotages Nagesh the director by not providing a satisfying wrap-up to all the subplots. Honestly, I wish I could have had the psychic sense to stay away from this film, but if you want to watch it, perhaps it’s best to see it late at night when you are half asleep with one eye open, otherwise you will rip this tasveer apart. Smile!


 Ek - The Power of One
 PB Rating: 5.5 out of 10  Public Rating (by 401 unique users): 5.16
 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.


 Lottery
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!

Previous Weeks Thums Up - Thums Down »
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 • ‘Besharam’ is no ‘Dabangg’!
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 • Ranbir and Deepika ‘s chemistry burns up the screen in ‘Yeh Jaawani Hai Deewane’
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