Everybody's allowed to gain a new quirk over the New Year, right? Mine just happened to be an instant obsession with Randeep Hooda (all thanks to Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai) and shortly after, the perusal of his filmography. At first I was steadfast - I would only watch him in films that gained the man critical acclaim, because I wasn't some obsessive, no, just a curious film aficionado following the lead of an interesting new acquaintance.
I couldn't even tell you why I went near-completist on the man's career. He's not the most incredible actor I've ever seen, yet he has this amazing presence and intensity that just completely hooked me in. He also acts pained well, which is very much my thing (see also: Vinod Khanna, and some others, but mostly just Vinod Khanna). Then there's the good looks and the gravelly voice, which don't precisely hurt him any. Am I alone on this ledge of fanaticism? It's perfectly possible. Is my interest inadvisable for others considering how many crap films I ended up watching just for him? You may judge for yourselves.. I think he became this indulgence for me, like a guilty pleasure that isn't all that guilty. I'll gladly watch him play all sorts of psychopaths (because let's face it, the dude has been kind of type-cast that way) until the end of time, and will do so in the future.
So here's my haul so far.
Jism 2 (2012)
The whole "I'll only watch Randeep Hooda in good films" resolution didn't last very long, considering I watched this film like two days after. I've reviewed the film already, and safe to say it was not a very good one (it does earn the descriptor "hot", but only to precede the word "mess"). Still, either Mr Hooda was pretty good in it or I am already incredibly biased, and surely it couldn't be the latter?
Oh dear, oh dear. This is without a doubt the worst film I've seen in the past 12 months, and it really does not deserve a full length review: it's more or less pointless, the plot meanders and gets its heroine Mahi (Kareena Kapoor, delivering a good performance from a horribly written inconsistent character) from one crisis to the next. The secondary cast is for the most part absolutely atrocious - the only stand-outs are the tolerable Arjun Rampal, Ranvir Shorey, the always-reliable Shahana Goswami (though her part in the film ends with the most despicable, pointless lesbian-not-lesbian plot thread) and of course, Randeep. Sadly his character seems written only to eventually highlight Mahi's tendency to make mistakes. Still, he gets to be cute, so I guess that was worth something.
Speaking of Shahana Goswami, she co-stars this romantic drama about a live-in couple who bicker over inconsequential things and then get a second chance to make things right, following an accident. The plot is a complete copy of a Hollywood film, which wouldn't really be a problem for me personally, if the result wasn't such a tedious, limp film. Set in Thailand, the film offers some nice visuals and pretty naturalistic dialogue, but somehow the two stars (who I consider both to be good actors) just can't liven up the material. I actually stopped watching about 2/3 of the way through, as the film was simply so dull it didn't seem worth it sitting through the predictable rest.
Jannat 2 (2012)
This film only shares some cast and crew members with the original 2008 film, so really the title is a marketing ploy to cash in on the success of the first film. Emraan Hashmi plays Sonu Dilli, a small time gun dealer, who gets hassled by alcoholic cop Raghuvanshi (Randeep Hooda) to become his undercover contact in the illegal arms trade. Meanwhile, Sonu's life gets more complicated as he falls in love with Jhanvi (Esha Gupta) and courts her, while keeping his criminal past and present a secret.
I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed this film. What really make it a worthwhile experience were the character carved out by Emraan and the hilarious reluctant partnership he has with ACP Raghuvanshi. I loathe to use the term 'bromance' but this really is it - instead of a will-they-won't-they couple, we get to watch the will-they-or-won't-they-trust-one-another chemistry between Emraan and Randeep, and it's just kind of awesome. Raghuvanshi, despite chugging down whiskey every chance he gets, is also a stone-cold badass, and probably gets the best lines of the entire film. Their partnership is so great in this, I want to rewatch just for that. Esha Gupta as the romantic interest is limited, but don't let that bother you.
After watching this film, I sought out the first Jannat, and while good (I may need to make a post dedicated to both of these films), it's clear how much Emraan Hashmi has improved as an actor. He's merely okay in 2008 - in 2012, he shines, and gives the character so much flavour with such confidence, it's plain fun to watch. The film is very violent, and got an A rating, but if you're keen on watching either of the leads in more things, definitely check it out it.
I'll openly admit that Ram Gopal Varma-produced or directed films are not my specialty, so I may be missing some serious context, seeing as how this film is a prequel to his classic film Company. 'D' tells the story of Deshu, a guy who works his way up the ranks of Mumbai underworld, until he practically runs it with business-like efficiency, until some people he's worked for decide they don't like how much power he has in the city. This rather standard plot could really be heightened by a good script with decently complex characters, or really supreme performances. Sadly, D has neither. The writing is bland, the characters mostly flat and while there are some good performances in the fray (I liked Randeep as the lead, as well as Chunky Pandey and Isha Koppikaar), for the most part the film just feels predictable and occasionally pretentious. There are so many scenes where dialogue is tuned out of and you just heard music while the actors mime carrying out the discussion. I kept thinking, "what the hell is this?" - perhaps it was something to do with censorship, but when nearly every dialogue scene had this trick used, it got really old very fast. Did the writer just forget to write half the damn script?
The inspiration is obvious but what could've been a really solid gangster flick ends up being pretty run-of-the-mill in my books. Randeep carries the film - sadly it's not much of a film to carry.
Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster (2011)
The king in a world where kingdom is a dying concept, Saheb (the ever-dependable Jimmy Shergill) cares more about his business dealings and mistress than whatever's the matter with his off-kilter wife (Mahie Gill). His enemies recruit Bablu (Randeep Hooda) to kill Saheb while working in his household as a driver, but instead the wife has the new employee round her little finger..
Having had this film recommended to be a couple of times, I knew it'd be good, but it still managed to surprise me. For such a seemingly simple film, there's a lot you can read into its portrayals of characters, their status in society, their motivations. Loyalty, power, prestige.. There are a lot of themes that get jumbled into the mix of interesting performances, so much so that I think I need to write a proper review of this film as soon as possible.
It was just fantastic to see Mahie Gill in a major role once again, and while at first I found her a bit exaggerated, eventually I understood how the character was the one who was exaggerated - or who chose to be that way. The biwi manages to manipulate even the audience. As far as Randeep goes, Bablu isn't exactly a character he's never played before, but the journey he takes during the movie, and how the character morphs during it, is a really fascinating part of the movie. A special shout-out to Deepal Shaw, who plays another servant at the house, and was such a great, vibrant part of the film - I wish there had been more of her.
The film probably warrants a longer review, so I'll write one up eventually. Look forward to that!