Sunday, November 22, 2009
Wanted - celebrating cross-regional talent exchange.
I wasn't overly impressed with Aamir's Ghajini but I suppose I have to thank it for allowing Hindi industry to see that the action entertainers the Tamil and Telugu industries churn out and have been for a very long time are worth taking a look at. The action direction, the cinematography and often the stories and acting can be all-around top-notch. Overlooking these films is a mistake, and remaking them can be a venture that benefits everybody; the viewers, the producers and the stars.
Wanted definitely belongs to the successful bunch of Southie-to-Bolly remakes, and isn't to be grouped with those haphazardly directed Priyadarshan remakes that barely anybody remembers or cares to remember they are even remakes in the first place. I suspect Wanted benefited a lot from transporting some of South's talent along with the script. Prabhudeva (or Prabhudheva as the name is spelled in the credits) lends his talent to the direction and the choreography (of course!). Prakash Raj plays a villain like only he could. The cinematographer Nirav Shah has worked in most industries but the fights are shot like this is a gritty Tamil action masala, not Dhoom 2.
I'm beyond happy with this exchange of talent. If you must remake, why look outside India for good stories? And while, admittedly, a lot of these remakes can turn out much lamer than the original, this is one example where I think they got it right. Of course, I've seen neither Pokiri or Pokkiri, the Telugu original or the Tamil remake, but the feel of the film is pitch-perfect and reminds me of all my Southie favourites of this genre.
I'm definitely with Shweta, theBollywoodFan, Ramsu and Nicki (no review yet, Nicki?) on this: Wanted is a gem.
Radhe (Salman Khan, in absolute top form ..if only he was this good all the time!) is an unapologetic goonda. If he gets paid, he kills and he sides with the gangster who pays him more, forming no lasting alliances. He is absolutely unstoppable. In Mumbai, you have two gangsters, each fighting to gain a bigger share of the power pie, a police commissioner desperate to stop them and from this jumble of a plot, we get two head villains; Prakash Raj playing Ganibhai, a gangster arranging things comfortably from abroad and Mahesh Manjrekar playing a grossly corrupt cop, sleazily courting the heroine Jhanvi (Ayesha Takia).
The story is surprisingly good - I say surprisingly because I was only expecting a mildly okay one to excuse all the gory kills Salman delivers in this movie. It keeps you hooked to the movie, and is paced very nicely. I have to mention the small but significant presence of Vinod Khanna in this film, one of the reasons I had to see it. The concentration of "People Veracious Really Likes" in this movie is pretty damn high. More of films like this, please! (Mani Ratnam is clearly listening, as he's making the Hindi Raavana - Abhishek and Vikram, yes!)
Another reason why the film stole my heart during the first thirty minutes or so is the mix of comedy and romance. While the "comedy track" (a staple on Southie films of this kind) in Wanted was kind of lacking, the interesting romance was infused with comedy at first and it's an absolute riot. Not to spoil anything, but Radhe's constant hallucinations and the cute elevator scene made me crack up constantly. As Jhanvi begins to realize just what kind of a man she's gotten involved with, we see her struggle with it, as one realistically would. I like the uncertainty in the romantic storyline, and Salman and Ayesha shared lovely chemistry.
Prakash Raj is, as expected, awesome. His Ganibhai is cool and clever, but not clever enough to never be completely outwitted, and not cool enough not to be rattled. He's a sleaze, but knows the game he's playing. There's a brilliant self-aware moment in the film where he tells Radhe, "You look like a romantic hero." and Radhe coolly replies, "You look like a villain in a b-grade Hindi film."
But let it be known to the Hindi-film-watching masses; Prakash Raj is a grade A villain, all around. This movie can serve as evidence.
Salman Khan doesn't really act as much as he is and does. The way he channels this role is great, though. Radhe has both the cool romantic hero that has a sense of humor about himself and the merciless killing machine inside of him. Most of the time I forget why I like Salman as an actor, and then films as good as this one, carried so nicely by his broad shoulders, remind me why.
If I had one complaint about the film, it would be that as lovely as the picturizations are, supremely choreographed and just plain fun to watch, the songs aren't all that. I don't find myself humming them, or wanting to listen to them again. They are memorable only because of the visuals; Jalwa with its ace guest appearances and some of the others thanks to dancing and how good the actors look.
I would definitely place Wanted among my favourites of the year, but not recommend it for those people who despise violence and plenty of inventive, gory deaths. For Southie fans such a disclaimer would not be necessary, but for Hindi film fans more used to lighter violence or no violence whatsoever, I feel like giving a warning is only fair.