Planet Bollywood

Thums Up - Thums Down for the Week - 1 Jul 2009
  ‘New York’ takes Bollywood by storm, as Katrina Kaif, Neil Nitin Mukesh, and John Abraham take audiences for a wild ride!
  - Samir Dave
Selection based on Planet Bollywood critics recommendations           Let us know what you think about this
 

‘New York’ rises to the top of the must see list, getting a big fat Thums Up, but look out for the quirky ‘The President is Coming’ and the formulaic ‘Paying Guests’ to put a smile on your face!

Thums Up - Recent Films Worth Watching :-)
 New York
 PB Rating: 8.0 out of 10  Public Rating (by 400 unique users): 5.17
 Director: Kabir Khan  Producer: Aditya Chopra
 Music: Pritam, Pankaj Awasthi  Lyrics: Sandeep Shrivastava, Junaid Wasi
 Starring: John Abraham, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Katrina Kaif, Irrfan Khan
 Genre: Thriller  Recommended Audience: Parental Guidance
Probably one of the most horrific tragedies that I have ever witnessed was the terrorist attack on New York on September 11, 2001. I still remember my thoughts at the time, as I could only observe the second World Trade Center Tower come crashing down. If that wasn’t horrible enough to witness with one’s own eyes, the rampant paranoia in the days following the event were even more difficult to experience. In the short time after 9/11, having brown skin immediately brought with it the stigma of suspicion and fear. This suspicion and fear not only came from some private citizens, but also from the people in authority. There were stories of Sikhs being beaten up by groups of civilians, and if that were not disturbing enough, there were the whispered tales of innocent Indians, Pakistanis and Middle Eastern individuals being detained. The whispers continued, telling of the harsh treatment of these detained people, even though they were innocent.

To be sure, the days during and right after are dark times for everyone around the world. We’ve seen Hollywood deal with the tragedy in several films, but now it’s Bollywood’s turn with the aptly titled “New York” which deals more on the aftermath of the tragedy and the out of control paranoid fear that eventually harmed even more innocent people.

Now some reviewers have claimed that ‘New York’ is not about 9/11, and that is false. You cannot say that, because without the tragedy of 9/11 you could not have a movie like ‘New York’. If the basic plotline of an innocent man being wrongly accused, accosted, and tortured by authorities who think he might be a terrorist sounds familiar to the basic plot of excellent Pakistani film, “Khuda Kay Liye”, then you are right. It’s the way that the screenplay of ‘New York’ unfolds the drama, the director’s vision, and the stellar cast that make the Bollywood film different than its Pakistani counterpart.

Director Kabir Khan may not be a household name, but he has proven to be quite a good filmmaker with his past release “Kabul Express” and the documentary, “The Forgotten Army”. It’s not often that a very good documentary maker can jump genres to become a very good filmmaker, but lucky for us that he was able to do so, and seems to be getting better with each film. His direction truly sets “New York” miles ahead of most other Bollywood releases, resulting in a film that should be universally accepted by not only the masala crowd, but also by the serious minded as well. The movie would be much less in the hands of a less capable director.

The story revolves around the tried and true formula of three friends Sam (John Abraham), Omar (Neil Nitin Mukesh) and Maya (Katrina Kaif). They meet, they bond, they begin to build the foundations of a friendship that should last a lifetime, until that friendship is torn asunder post 9/11. All films need an antagonist, and this time around it’s Agent Roshan (Irrfan Khan) whose actions provide the catalyst for all the twists and turns of the plot.

Yash Raj has produced one of their best films, as “New York” is entertaining from first frame to last. The three lead actors each act with sincerity. This is, without a doubt John Abraham’s best film, as the normally wooden actor shows a remarkable emotional depth this time out. Neil Nitin Mukesh captivates the audience in every frame he is in and disappears into the character of Omar. Katrina Kaif, who is normally relegated to playing female caricatures, finally shows that she can portray a realistic character, and is truly a fine actor. She holds her own against the guys and audiences will remember her performance.

The music by Pritam is catchy and familiar enough to be pleasant. Luckily for us, Kabir Khan makes sure that songs are not just dropped into the narrative in a disruptive way, which would have spelled doom for a movie like this. Instead we get an organic progression from narrative to song and back again.

The rest of the production team, from cinematography, background score, and set design have all done a very commendable job. An A effort, “New York” is that rare thought provoking, yet entertaining film wherein director, actors, and screenplay all deliver their best resulting in a movie that stays with you even after it is finished.


 The President is Coming
Insane! Outrageous! Implausible! Strangely addictive! Quirky! Unsettling! All these words describe the off the beaten path release, “The President is Coming”. If you’ve already seen ‘New York” and need a break from the hot ‘n’ heavy stuff, you can’t go wrong with this little movie that pushes the boundaries of comedic eccentricity. Ably directed by Kunaal Roy Kapoor, the intelligently smarmy screenplay by Anuyab Pal delivers doses of hilarity mixed with oddly faux dramatic moments.

Based on former President George W. Bush’s visit to India in 2006, the show takes an absurd look at not only Bush’s infamous inanity (many of his infamous quotes are scattered throughout the film), but also is a wicked commentary on the stupidity of reality shows, as some proud young Indian man or woman has to be selected to shake George W. Bush’s hand and never wash that hand again! The film follows Bush’s visit, as well as showcasing the six very emotionally scarred individuals who are competing in this government sponsored reality show contest.

From instantly memorable characters like the strangely over sexual Namit Das, to the divorced ruthless woman who will stop at nothing played viciously by Konkona Sen Sharma, to the over the top overly American ishtyle call center guru Vivek Gomber, to the insufferably mentally challenged rich girl Ira Dubey, to the obviously rascist Hinducentric Satchit Puranik, and finally to the incredibly annoying Gujarati stock broker Anand Tiwari, the viewer will instantly fall unknowingly and quite unfortunately under their spell.

The ensemble cast acts so well that they literally become the characters. This film could have degenerated into stupidity and at times almost falls into the realms of the absurd, but the actors quickly pull the viewer back at just the right times thanks to the screenplay. Plotlines run the gamut from secret homosexuality, secret terrorism, a not so secret sex tape, and of course former President Bush’s many public faux pas.

Don’t watch this with any sort of serious mindset, instead have a drink, kick back and enjoy bouncing off the walls for an hour and a half. By the end of the film you’ll be asking yourself, “WHY SO SERIOUS!?”


 Paying Guests
Poor Subhash Ghai, the showman has had a tough time at the box office, what with his production house not delivering any smash hits, and the terrible crash of the poorly directed “Yaadein”. Now his production house, Mukta Arts plays it safe by delivering a comedy that falls into every cliché in the Hindi film comedy caper guidebook! Improbable situations? Check! Crazy characters? Check! Double meaning innuendos? Check! The always-hilarious misunderstandings that drive the wafer thin plot forward? Check!

”Paying Guests” doesn’t try to be the next avante garde film, instead it treads familiar territory and strangely enough is a harmless timepass film (mostly due to Javed Jaffrey and Shreyas Talpade as the guys who have to dress as women in order to rent a room as paying guests). No one will win any awards for this, other then perhaps the award for best dressing in drag in a Bollywood film.

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll feel a dreaded hint of boredom settle in, but director Paritossh Painter just barely delivers a film that you can at least tolerate for a bit of time.


 Let`s Dance
Why oh why is this limp film barely dancing into the Thums Up section you might ask? It’s no “Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na” that’s for sure, but dancer Gayatri Patel does fill the dancing void that exists right now. To be honest, none of the current “hot” female actors can really dance too well. No, the hyper thrusting of hips and other unmentionables does not constitute dancing, nor does being good at aerobics whilst wearing skimpy outfits (though certain members of the audience may enjoy that). Gayatri Patel really dances her heart out, and does it very well. Aarif Sheikh directs the film and the screenplay is redundantly boring at times (based on any number of dancing films produced by Hollywood), Gayatri Patel is worth watching and is the lone saving grace of the film. There are other actors but no one is really worth mentioning. Your best bet, just fast forward to the dance numbers for they and the music are the best part of this otherwise graceless movie. So dance your heart away Gayatri, you made it to PB’s Thums Up section. Hopefully apna Bollywood will give you a chance to dance again.


 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!


Thums Down - Recent Films that Disappointed :-(
 Runway
 Director: Suniel Tiwari, Praful Tiwari  Producer: Reeta J Shukla
 Music: Shamir Tandon  Lyrics: Shabir Ahmed
 Starring: Amarjeet, Tulip Joshi, Lucky Ali, Shawar Ali, Deepak, Sharat Saxena
 Genre: Action  Recommended Audience: Parental Guidance
In a few words, “Hum Phirr Milenge”…not! Like a girlfriend or boyfriend that just can’t take the hint and leave you alone, “Hum Phirr Milenge” just keeps hanging around until it’s inevitable tiresome conclusion. Let me see if you’ve heard this one before, as the story centers around a love story with its ups `n` downs and a riff on Romeo and Juliet. Directed (seemingly in his sleep) by Manish Goel and starring Sarwar Ahuja and Kkhushi, the film plods along and is the perfect cure for insomnia.

 Kirkit
I love to play “Kirkit”…don’t you? In fact, you’d be better off donning those crisp white cricket uniforms and playing a game rather than watching this film that feels like an overly long match in which your favorite team is always losing. Shashi Preetam directs (or tries to) this tragic tale of Shakespearean proportions. Two groups of guys are on the prowl in Goa. Looking for booze and women (in that order), the two groups hate each other and so naturally decide to play a cricket match to decide the winning batch of bad boys. Jackie Shroff looks dazed `n` confused throughout the movie, and it looks like he showed up only to collect the money. There’s really nothing redeemable about this film and it only succeeds in giving kirkit, I mean cricket a bad name.

 Hum Phirr Milenge
In a few words, “Hum Phirr Milenge”…. not! Like a girlfriend or boyfriend that just can’t take the hint and leave you alone, “Hum Phirr Milenge” just keeps hanging around until it’s inevitable tiresome conclusion. Let me see if you’ve heard this one before, as the story centers around a love story with its ups and downs and a riff on Romeo and Juliet. Directed (seemingly in his sleep) by Manish Goel and starring Sarwar Ahuja and Kkhushi, the film plods along and is the perfect cure for insomnia.


 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”.

Previous Weeks Thums Up - Thums Down »
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