Planet Bollywood

Thums Up - Thums Down for the Week - 17 Jul 2009
  Thrill to the snap crackle bubble gum pop of `Kambakht Ishq’, but if you really want to see something rocking, then take a ‘Shortkut` to check out Pankaj Advani’s `Sankat City`!
  - Samir Dave
Selection based on Planet Bollywood critics recommendations           Let us know what you think about this
 

It’s got thrills with stunt man Akshay Kumar, it’s got chills, it’s got lots of Kareena Kapoor and Amrita Aurora getting “jiggy” with it, style wins over substance as `Kambakkht Ishq` is Bollywood at its cheesiest best, ‘Shortkut’ laughs only at itself, and `Sankat City` turns out to be the dark horse winner!

Thums Up - Recent Films Worth Watching :-)
 Kambakkht Ishq
 PB Rating: 5.5 out of 10  Public Rating (by 400 unique users): 5.17
 Director: Sabbir Khan  Producer: Sajid Nadiadwala
 Music: Anu Malik, RDB, Salim and Sulaiman  Lyrics: Anvita Dutt Guptan, RDB
 Starring: Akshay Kumar, Kareena Kapoor, Sylvester Stallone, Denise Richards, Brandon Routh
 Genre: Action  Recommended Audience: Parental Guidance
Akshay, Akshay, where forth art thou? Ok, so “Kambakkht Ishq” isn’t Shakespeare, but you know what? That’s ok. Bollywood is in this interesting phase right now as it tries to gain the respectability that other forms of international cinema has. So, it is that we find an Indian film industry that is experiencing severe growing pains as it tries to hold onto that which makes Bollywood special (da cheeeeeeese) and yet be more acceptable by audiences all over the world. There are two ways to go about it; one is to make a grim ‘n’ gritty film that takes itself too seriously, with an overly complicated plot and some cutting edge direction. The other, is to embrace that special mix of corniness that makes Bollywood so special, but give it modern production values, music, and a wafer thin plot that’s just distracting enough to make an audience enjoy the two and a half hours they have spent watching it.

“Kambakkth Ishq” giddily falls into the latter, and it’s nice to see a film that harkens back to the Bollywood of old, when blockbusters didn’t take themselves to seriously and audiences simply had to sit still and enjoy the mindless brain freeze. Keep that in mind as you watch this immensely enjoyable movie, for if you expect a movie that will change the world, you better move along, as you won’t find it here.

Is this film, mega producer Sajid Nadiadwala’s best? Probably not, though it is his biggest most expensive production to date. The result is a movie that is über slick in its presentation, with excellent production values, decent direction, MTV inspired cinematography, and competent acting. Director Sabbir Khan has been given a lot of money to spend and every cent of it shows up on screen. This isn’t one of those movies that looks the same on the big screen as well as the small television screen (as many films do), this is one of those films that one has to see on the big screen to get the full effect. Cinematographer Vikas Sivaraman is able to effectively give the right atmosphere to each scene, no matter where it is taking place. Anu Malik’s music grows on the listener and is just about right for a movie like this, though RDB’s “Om Mangalam” video takes the cake as it is one of the highlights of the film.

Yes, American stars like Sylvester Stallone (whose garbled attempt to say kambakkht ishq in a cool manner just makes one giggle), Brandon Routh (who really has nothing to do, but look like Superman), and Denise Richards who becomes the romantic rival for studly Akshay Kumar’s affections add a B movie glamour to the proceedings. It’s fun to see them out of their element, and invading Bollywood. Stallone is a certifiable legend, but I’m still not sure what Routh and Richards bring to the film. All three are blown away though by apna Akki ‘n’ Bebo.

You’ll laugh, you’ll giggle, you’ll find yourself begrudgingly liking the film due to the direction and the actors. Akshay Kumar as the brown Hollywood stuntman for white stars defies logic as the stuntman who looks nothing like the stars he is filling in for. He could do roles like this in his sleep, as his comic timing is impeccable. The fact that he shares a palpable chemistry with Kareena Kapoor is an added plus. She excels when she has a feisty character to play, and delivers a performance that may not be worthy of a Filmfare award (though she’ll probably be nominated), but is at least worthy of a laugh or two. She does well as the doctor who inexplicably models on the side, as well as wears revealing clothes that leave very little to the imagination and if it’s one-thing Indian men have, it’s a lot of imagination! Amrita Arora is ok, and is mainly there to beef up the sexy quotient, while Aftab Shivdasani is just, well, wimpy.

In any case, “Kambakkht Ishq” is what it is, and makes no apologies for it, and neither should you. Go see it, giggle, ogle, and remember it fondly.


 Sankat City
 PB Rating: 9.0 out of 10  Public Rating (by 400 unique users): 5.17
 Director: Pankaj Advani  Producer: Anubhav Sinha
 Music: Ranjit Barot  Lyrics: Panchhi Jalonvi, Mehboob
 Starring: Anupam Kher, Kaykay Menon, Rimi Sen, Chunky Pandey, Yashpal Sharma, Manoj Pahwa, Dilip Prabhavalkar, Hemant Pandey, Jahangir Khan, Veerendra Saxena, Shri Vallabh Vyas, Rahul Dev
 Genre: Comedy  Recommended Audience: Parental Guidance
Unfortunately, “Sankat City” may be a film that is overshadowed by some of the more glitzy releases of the last few weeks, but it’s a diamond in the rough and fans of quality cinema should make it a point to support films like this. First time director Pankaj Advani shows talent as his first film breaks the standard rules of Bollywood narrative to give the plot an added boost and keep the audience involved in the world he has created.

There are no big name stars in the film, though it’s probably better off that way, as I can’t see any of the biggies doing justice to the roles in this film. You need real actors, not ones acting like they can act or posing like models, or simply being praised for anything they do.

That’s why the cast in the film is perfect. Kay Kay Menon has already proven that he is a multi-faceted actor and is perfect as the car thief who gets in over his head. His partner in crime is the talented Dilip Prabhawalker. What happens when two small time car thieves steal something of great value from a big time gangster? Well, when that gangster happens to be Anupam Kher (who reins his inherent wackiness in), things are going to get funny really fast. It helps that Rimi Sen, Rahul Dev, Chunkey Pandey (who thankfully is not lisping or trying to speak in a “tota” accent), Manoj Pahwa, Sanjay Mishra really provide the right support for the main leads.

The direction deserves special notice, for Advani did the best he could with what must have been a shoe string budget. The end product may not have the slickness of a “Kambhakkt Ishq”, but it is far superior in quality.

So, what are you waiting for!?!? If you can make it in Sankat City, you can make it anywhere! Make sure you see this film, tell them PB’s TUTD sent you!


 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!?”


 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 :-(
 Shortkut
Anil Kapoor’s production house previously brought us the incredible “Gandhi, My Father”, in which Akshaye Khanna proved that he is one of the most talented actors of our generation. Please tell me that you’ve seen that movie? If you haven’t, go watch it right now; I’ll be here waiting for you when you get back.

Welcome back! Now, you’ve seen “Gandhi, My Father” and are fully aware of what Anil Kapoor is capable of producing. So, what went wrong with his latest, “Shortkut”? I don’t know if he got burned (in terms of profit, or lack of it) with his first home production, but it seems like this time around Mr. Kapoor decided to play it safe, and what safer way can there be then making one of those mindless comedies that are the rage these days? Well, I hate to burst the bubble here, but even mindless comedies take a lot of effort to be so effortlessly mindless. A great story (ok, even a so so story) is needed, but what you also need are those madcap misunderstandings that make the audience chuckle so much, plus some cringe worthy dialogue. “Shortkut”, directed by Neeraj Vohra (who is capable of being funnier), somehow falls short though everything and the kitchen sink is thrown at the audience.

The plot (which is based on a Malayalam film “Udayananu Tharam”) centers on a wannabe actor (Arshad Warsi), a totally hot ‘n’ happening starlet (Amrita Rao), and a frustrated director (Akshaye Khanna) whose script has been stolen by the wannabe actor inciting tons of ludicrous poses. When put together on the same film project, egos clash, tempers flare, and hilarity ensues…. or does it?

Who better, to star in Priyadarshan like comedies than Akshaye Khanna? To give him credit, he does a decent job. Joining him is the ultimate (and unfortunately typecast) sidekick Arshad Warsi. Put two and two together and you don’t have Munnabhai and Circuit…you have Akshaye and Arshad. I feel bad for these two talented actors who quite obviously are not getting the type of roles that can allow them to really shine. Amrita Rao sheds her clothing and girl next-door image leaving “Vivah” far behind (a pre-requisite for any actress who wishes to succeed in Bollywood) to try to provide the oomph to the limp script.

I really wanted to like this film, I truly did, and it had all the right elements, but those elements simply didn’t come together. Not a bad film by any means, just not good enough to get into the Thums Up section. Kick back a couple of beers, hold that someone special close and watch the movie through the corner of your eye…!


 Morning Walk
 Director: Arup Dutta  Producer: Tapan Biswas
 Music: Jeet Gannguli  Lyrics: Sanjeev Tiwari, Dibyendu Mukherjee, Nida Fazli, Shaan
 Starring: Anupam Kher, Sharmila Tagore, Rajit Kapoor, Divya Dutta, Shayan Munshi, Nargis, Avika Gor
 Genre: Emotional  Recommended Audience: General
On the surface, when first hearing about this movie, I thought that it might just be surprisingly good. Then I heard the soundtrack that though overlooked by mostly all the music charts, is truly one of the best of the year. Suddenly the prospects for the film itself started looking even better. Then I heard about Anupam Kher playing the lead opposite Sharmila Tagore and thought that this might turn out to be a refreshing adult romantic film (a rarity in the youth oriented Bollywood culture that is so prevalent today which is ironic since most of our male superstars are in their forties).

Alas, my hopes were completely dashed as the film turned out to be a damp squib. Director Arup Dutta is unable to rise above the weak script or coax his actors to deliver the performances they are capable of. The story that focuses on Anupam Kher’s character finding a long lost love on Facebook, and then friending her, only to find that she is tweeting someone else on Twitter. Okay, that’s not the story, but that would have been interesting, no? In reality, what we get is a conniving daughter in law (Divya Dutta), a weak son (Rajit Kapoor), and a emotional grand daughter (Avika Gor) whose lives are turned upside down with Anupam Kher discovers his lost love and more. What could have been a decent film instead turns into a contrived one. In place of watching this let down, it’s probably best to stick with the excellent soundtrack and hope that there isn’t a sequel called, “Evening Walk” or even the equally banal, “Day Walk”, or “Afternoon Walk”. In fact, let’s skip this walk all together shall we and see a film from the Thums Up section, while having a nice cool bottle of…. you guessed it….Thums UP!


 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
Run away! Run away! Run away! What’s that? Oh, ahem, sorry, I was just trying to convey the way I felt after watching “Runway”. Poor script, poor direction, poor acting, and poor music combine to give the viewer major discomfort while watching this film. Unless you are a Lucky Ali fan and are celebrating his return to the big screen, this film is not for you or anyone for that matter. In case you even care, the film is directed by Suniel – Praful and stars Amarjeet and Deepal Shaw. The movie instead is a tired tale of an assassin with a heart. Ho hum. Just stay away…please. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 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.

 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.


Previous Weeks Thums Up - Thums Down »
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 • Ranbir and Deepika ‘s chemistry burns up the screen in ‘Yeh Jaawani Hai Deewane’
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