Showing posts with label deepika padukone. Show all posts
Showing posts with label deepika padukone. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Let's talk about ... Deepika Padukone!

I haven't done an installment in my "Let's talk about" series in ..gosh, quite a while. I figured it might be good time to bring it back up, as I'm trying to give my blog a bit of a revival, and what better way to do it, then discuss a star who's only still at the beginning of her career, and somebody I like, but don't consider myself a fan of. Yet? Maybe?

Deepika Padukone started out as another model pushed out into the world of cinema, forced to learn on the job, and who some people probably didn't think we'd be seeing much of, seven years from her debut. And yet, here we are - she's undeniably gorgeous, but people seek her out as an actress because she's a star, and she can have great, evocative performances. When it comes to on-the-job training, she hasn't floundered all that much - her early films aren't great, but show me a star whose first films are all great picks, great performances and considered classics to this day. That almost never happens.

I think I went with the majority view on Deepika throughout her career. I wasn't in love with her in Om Shanti Om - good dancer, breath-takingly gorgeous, yes, but an amazing actress? I didn't really think so, even though I also thought the role(s) were flimsy as hell. Farah Khan, for all her other virtues, has never written great female characters.

I haven't watched most of Deepika's body of work so far, but based on the films I did see, her steady improvement as an actress sort of snuck up on me. One day she was an actress I didn't really mind one way or the other, and the next I'm watching Break Ke Baad on the plane and thinking, "Damn, this lady is the best thing about this film!". (She was also in another film I watched on a plane journey: Chandi Chowk to China. Uhh. The less said, the better, probably.)

I've missed some key films where the progress probably happened - Love Aaj Kaal has been on my "I'll get to it, whatever, it can wait" list for nearly five years now, and I'm still like, whatever, it can wait. Was she good in Aarakshan? Sadly, would have to watch Aarakshan to find out, which is just not a very appealing prospect. I did see Housefull, but then, that was Housefull, which was not exactly the film for powerhouse performances.

But luckily for me, and for my enjoyment of Miss Padukone's work, I did finally get to Cocktail, where she breathed life into Veronica, a character who was probably much less on the page. And then came 2013 and you couldn't throw a rock without hitting a Deepika Padukone blockbuster. I've still yet to see Ram Leela or Chennai Express, but Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani was a gem, and will be remember long after some of those other films will have been forgotten, or at least I hope so. The future looks extraordinairily bright for Deepika, and I honestly couldn't be happier - unlike some people who rely on the value of their looks or their famous last name and rest on their laurels when they arrive onto the silver screen, it seems like she's put in the work, and it's shown up as fast improvement in her performances.

I didn't watch many Koffee with Karan episodes from this latest season, partly because ugh and mostly because argh, but I did see the wonderful episode with Deepika and Priyanka, where they had a great, genuine rapport with one another, and they both seemed like precisely the sort of smart, cool-headed women that gossip rags never want to portray actresses as, because all women are catty divas, right? Priyanka's had her gifts appraised by the industry already, but I think Deepika's best work is just around the corner, hopefully. The more capable, interesting film makers see her as an actress and less as eye candy to put in Race 2 or something, I'm sure we'll see new achievements from this lady.

So, I throw to ball to the audience. What do you think of Deepika? (And please tell me if I'm an idiot for missing out on some of her performances not mentioned here. I will gladly correct such mistakes.)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani - precisely that, and then some.

Two years ago I saw Zindagi Milegi Na Dobara, a comedy-drama about love, travel, friendship, youth and a little bit about growing up. I reviewed it with a slightly rambling audio review, and if you're too lazy to give that a listen, I'll recap my thoughts on the film: I liked it, but I didn't love it, and the whole experience made me rather pensive about what it means to grow up as a viewer. Suddenly things you adored about films are things you're no longer impressed by, and might even start to find annoying. I would have loved Zindagi Milegi Na Dobara, when I was younger, because it's heartfelt cheesiness and focus on male friendship above all else would have worked its magic on me, and everything that I still found good about the film - the music, the performances, the comedy - would've been heightened further.

I don't bring this up to draw a direct comparison between these two movies, even though they share a cast member (the darling Kalki Koechlin) and some common themes of youth and friendship and travel or because I saw both films in the same theater at Helsinki International Film Festival. I bring this other film up because the experience I had with it, and the experience I had with Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani to me seem like siblings - watching Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani was also a very personal experience, and some of the things I loved about it may be completely universal but at the same time I felt like the movie was talking to me. Just me.

Ayan Mukerji does an absolutely stellar job in wringing something really fresh out of the scene we've seen a million times in Hindi films: the uptight, studious girl Naina (Deepika Padukone) with the flirty, out-going dude Bunny (Ranbir Kapoor), at a train station, in the beginning of a journey they're about to go on together. A part of the triumph is just that instead of being these characters we've seen before a million times, as clusters of characteristics that form polar opposites (she's serious, he's funny and so forth), Naina and Bunny are actual characters. They form a chemistry and a friendship that is very much the extrovert making the introvert enjoy life and loosen up a little, but it's also more than that. 

The film is fluffy and funny and enjoyable, but it's also got this layer of realism about its young characters. The two other friends that complete the central cast - Kalki Koechlin as Aditi and Aditya Roy Kapoor as Avi - are not just friends to our lead characters, they have their own motivations and aspirations as well. These young characters accomplish their aspirations, fail to, change their aspirations because they've changed as people, all the things that people do at this point in their lives, when the world feels completely conquerable. 

I don't mean this to sound like an over-enthusiastic celebration of youth - I'm sure the question about aspirations, and what you want your life to be are relevant to many people at various stages in life. It's not an age thing, necessarily. But I guess that's where the personal film experience comes into play; I felt like YJHD was asking all the questions I'm asking myself right now. Bunny's enthusiasm for travel gains a new layer on the second half, when he has a series of conversations about his new job and his chosen nomadic life style with his friends from back home, really struck me. Travel is about living life to the fullest, in many ways, and gaining new experiences, but it can also hide something - a literal escapism from home, or from settling down. After all, if you never stop, you also never stop to think about where you're actually going, and where you should be going, or staying, instead.

If you've not seen this movie, reading this review might make it seem like a particularly serious fare, which I assure you it is not. The reason I fell in love with these characters was because they feel true to life, but also because they're just so funny. The narrative is woven with delightful, bouncy song-and-dance, from the opening number that features a great guest star appearance and there's rarely a moment when the film stops being entertaining. I love the depiction of friendship - joyous but not without problems, and not without being able to overcome those problems, and there is also a healthy friendship depicted between the two women at the centre of the film.

Is there anything wrong with the film? Well, no film is flawless, and there are a few comedic side characters who I did roll my eyes at a little. But for the most part, it's been a while since I've been this smitten, walking out of a Hindi film. I'm sure a part of it is just the giddiness of the theater experience (such a rarity for me) but most of the credit goes to the script: taking tropes I like, and turning them into more fleshed out characters with interesting dynamics and facets that just seem very true to life, all of these little things came together in YJHD rather beautifully. I haven't spoken word one about the two leads in this film, but it's almost like I don't feel the need to point them out specifically - I already know Deepika Padukone is definitely among the better new faces of the past couple of years, and Ranbir Kapoor is good, despite still not being a favourite of mine. Their chemistry is easy and comfortable here, and something I'm sure I'll enjoy in many future viewings.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Trashy Sequels 2013: Race 2 and Murder 3.

I really could not tell you why I decided to watch Race 2. I'm not a film critic, I'm not getting paid to watch and write about it. I'm also not a fan of the 2008 original Race movie - in fact, I devoted my entire review of it to praising the fact that stupendously bad Hindi films are still being made, and that film being an indicator of just how bad it can get. Race 2 continues this proud tradition, but with all the updated sleekness that I assume a budget twice the size of the first Race film can afford.

Not that plot or characterization is of particular importance in this film, but let's recap a bit anyway. Saif Ali Khan is back as Ranveer, sans his Bipasha Basu as Soniya, though she makes a brief appearance in a flashback. His new rival/friend is John Abraham, an Indian mobster who loves nothing more than money. Deepika Padukone is his half-sister, developing feelings for Ranveer's smooth-talking ways (picture me rolling my eyes as I type this mess). Then there is John's girlfriend, played by Jacqueline Fernandez, who seems to know Ranveer from somewhere. Unfortunately RD, Anil Kapoor's unfunny cop character from the first film, is also back, this time with assistant Cherry, Ameesha Patel. 

The biggest problem with Race 2 is that it's actively annoying and insulting to one's intelligence and other senses. I don't think a couple of songs can be even called music - even if you're a fan of electronically altered singing voices, this amount of autotune renders every human effort into hopeless robotic noise that is not pleasurable to listen to, even in a club setting. There's some sleek action that is entirely too reliant on wire work, so much so that it stops being interesting in its defying of reality, and more just unbelievable and dragging on needlessly. In some ways, Saif is more of an uber-capable agent man in this than in last year's Agent Vinod, jumping from windows and from tops of buildings like he's Spiderman. 

Then there are the twists and the incredibly dumb dialogues we all know and dislike from the first movie. The twists once again make sure you don't really trust or care about any character. There is none of that feeling of betrayal when one character appears to be bad when you previously believed them to be a good guy. In the world of Race movies, it doesn't matter. They'll re-align themselves three times by the time the film is over, so you're better off just about following along and not caring too deeply.

It almost feels a bit silly to talk about performances in films like this, where the dialogues are an insult to whatever modicum of talent each actor on the cast has. I'm sure you've seen the best ones quoted on Twitter or in other reviews, but here's a sampling of the groanfest we've come to expect: "So hot .. I'm burning with envy." "Cherry, I don't have time to pop your cherry." "You're gonna be so dead and I'm gonna be so rich."

Ameesha Patel and Anil Kapoor's plotline is particularly painful since they have set out to ruin fruit as a healthy snack for everybody who enjoys an apple or a banana every now and then. Who thought this was a good idea? 

But perhaps the most horrible thing about Race 2 is that it's simply so goddamn boring. It aims to cater to the most base needs of the audience - some violence, some twists, some bare skin (of both sexes) - and fails entirely to actually entertain. It's not so bad it's good, or fun to watch to cackle at the horridness. It's just dull and irritating. 

Murder 3, in true Bhatt sequel fashion, seems to have nothing to do with the first two movies, other than the confused title. It is also a very trashy sequel, but manages to at the very least be interesting in its utter stupidity. There is just one twist here, and it's silly as all hell, but it's the type of twist that makes sure you want to see the conclusion to it, no matter how inane.

Vikram (Randeep Hooda on a bad hair day) is mourning over the disappearance of his girlfriend Roshni (Aditi Rao Hydari) by getting heavily drunk. The girl who works at the watering hole he visits, Nisha (newcomer Sara Loren), takes him home one night because he's not in shape to drive himself home, and the two eventually begin a relationship. There is something strange about Vikram's house, however, Nisha soon discovers, and what ever did happen to Roshni, anyway?

Randeep Hooda (who is on a seriously, seriously bad hair day, and I cannot emphasise enough how much this diminishes my enjoyment of the movie) has the odd talent of portraying guys who just seem off in a way, which lends the first half of the movie a strange atmosphere. It feels like every warning bell in Nisha's head should go off, but apparently this guy who lives alone in a house far away from the city, with a girlfriend who's mysteriously vanished into thin air, is just dreamy enough to have sex with (yes, there are sex scenes, in a film from the Bhatt house - I'm as shocked as you are!). Or maybe Nisha's character is written as pointlessly stupid, only possessing a brain when the script wants her to have one.  

The only shining moments for Randeep (on a continuous, very, very bad hair day) are the scenes where he gets to play drunk, as he does quite a good job of it. Sara Loren is merely okay - she opts for under-acting instead of over-acting, which fools you into thinking she's quite capable, but in reality all she has to do is this blank frown of horror at various noises. It's not great acting.

As such, the film belongs to Aditi Rao Hydari, who I really enjoyed in London Paris New York (even if I didn't love the film itself). Her acting can be over-the-top at times, and her character is written as not precisely the sharpest pen in the pencil case, but at least she tries to spin this ridiculousness into a believable direction, and somewhat manages it.

The post-interval twist creates quite an intriguing dramatic circumstance, that made me actually interested in how the film was going to end. It's completely unbelievable and silly, of course, but in a way that kept me hooked until the end, and a part of that was Aditi's better-than-the-film performance. There's another twist the film could've taken, but opts out of, which proves that ultimately films like these are just absolutely horrible to women, and to the female characters they portray. I almost want to discuss spoilers with regards to this film - where it could've gone, and where it opted to go. 

Still, the amazing thing about watching this film after sitting through Race 2, is that it seems like a masterpiece of thrilling cinematic story-telling in comparison. I realise it is not - it's a stupid thriller that spins a plot to allow for some "bold" and "daring" sex scenes to be in there, while remaking (officially - to give them credit) a Colombian thriller called The Hidden Face. It does not deconstruct love, the claim made by producer Mukesh Bhatt, as there isn't a tale of love told here - at least not believably enough to count. I'm not sure who I'd recommend this film to. Probably no one - it's a film, it exists, you can watch it, but I'm not entirely sure why you would. Aditi Rao Hydari is good but not that good, and there isn't enough Randeep Hooda goodness here to sate a fangirl of his. Maybe give the Colombian original a spin instead?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Cocktail: mix one interesting character with two irritating ones. Shake well.

In all honesty, I probably shouldn't have watched Cocktail, Homi Adajania's breezy NRI romantic drama. There were just too many things that I knew, from the get-go, would not work for me. The trailers looked bland as all hell (and as a big fan of Mr Adajania's debut film, the twisted black comedy Being Cyrus, I was puzzled as to why he decided to go mainstream with something so dull). Saif Ali Khan looked too old for the two heroines, Deepika Padukone and newcomer Diana Penty. Overall the film just gave me try-hard vibes - it was attempting cool, easy-going, modern, and not quite pulling it off, even with Imtiaz Ali behind the script. 

Then people came back to me with their takes on it, Rum titled Saif's wooing of the girls "Uncle Pyaar" and Beth was also less than impressed. This review from FirstPost largely coloured my initial impressions of the film - in fact, I think I still agree with it. However, folks also mentioned Deepika's performance as a major positive, and so I was curious, and eventually that curiosity won over.

The film starts off with Gautam (Saif Ali Khan), flirting with every good-looking girl he sees, to the point of irritation and almost to the point of sexual harassment. He runs into Meera (Diana Penty), who has just landed in London for the first time. She clueless wanders around the city until she finally locates her new husband Kunal (Randeep Hooda), who unceremoniously dumps her because he only agreed to the match to get some money from it all. Meera, heartbroken, runs into party girl Veronica (Deepika Padukone) who allows her to stay the night, for as long as she needs to.

Veronica really was the highlight of the film. While the characters are largely unfortunate stereotypes (the flirty stud, the proper old-fashioned Indian girl, the reckless party girl), a combination of the writing and Deepika's acting carve the most real character out of Veronica. Yes, her behaviour does seem mostly derived out of her distant, cold relations with her family - her only contact to her father are checks he sends to support her - but there's something more there as well, a certain care-free life philosophy and attitude that is real and refreshing to see. There are some minor discrepancies, like I'm sure every girl, whether she's English, Punjabi or Brazilian, realizes it's a good idea to put on more than a shirt when your boyfriend's mother drops by for a sudden visit. 

The friendship we see between the two girls is also wonderful, and I was beginning to hope Saif's role would be a mere cameo, so we could just focus on the two. It's an unlikely friendship, but one that feels genuine and relatable all the same, and it's one I would've gladly seen more of. 

Diana Penty does fine in her debut performance, but there were some moments in the story where the meekness of her character required more to be shown in her eyes or general appearance, and she just quite doesn't deliver. Towards the end, I began to see Meera as more of a stereotype, less of a character, and the fact that the script makes her do some pretty dumb choices (in my opinion) doesn't help much. The fact she ever even falls for Gautam seems unbelievable to me.

The music fits the kind of modern, cool, love triangle drama the people behind this movie probably set out to make, but didn't quite accomplish. I liked the music a lot, in fact, and the song picturizations tended to inject the flick with some much-needed life, especially on the second half.

Honestly, the less said about Saif as Gautam, the better, but let me expound on this regardless: even if I was to look aside the age factor, and the unappetizing "flirting" he does in the beginning of the movie, I would loathe this character. He's supremely unfunny, a complete douchebag, his character growth is not very believable and he's also just kind of gross? The other male characters are a tiny bit better - Boman Irani does a short but likable stint as Gautam's uncle, and Randeep Hooda's character turns out to be not quite the inhuman asshole you first see him as. In fact, Kunal is almost ludicrously underwritten - we never get to see how or why Meera sort of forgives him, why he's an asshole at first but okay later on, why he always looks like he's just come from a barfight.

Cocktail is one of those films that doesn't really impress while watching, but starts to come apart even more when you actually think it through more - why did this character do that, or accept this, or have a mature discussion about that problem, but not this one. It gets to the point where I just want to push it aside entirely, for whatever redeeming features the film has got, however few. Kudos to Deepika, and hopefully she finds more substantive roles like this coming her way. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Three films I forgot about: Break Ke Baad, Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, Love Sex aur Dhokha.

One of the ways this blog is supposed to work is as a sort of opinion repository, which I can access to recall what my initial thoughts on a movie were, or what my thoughts after a multitude of rewatches ended up being. But then it so happens that I am absolutely lazy and occasionally forget to write about films I watch. The following three are some films I watched in the last 18 months that I then completely forgot to write about.

Break Ke Baad was a plane film for me, so I must've watched it when flying to Asia in early 2011. Or flying from Asia, little later than year. I honestly can't recall. As a plane film, this one is perfect - I don't particularly care for either of the stars, so I wasn't very likely to seek this one out, but I was nonetheless very enthusiastic to see more of Deepika Padukone and Imran Khan. They are a part of the new generation of stars I rambled about in this post: the folks who haven't yet quite impressed me but I keep hoping I'll get on the bandwagon soon enough.

The film itself is a simple enough romcom story: two childhood best friends, falling in love, and complete with the sorts of misunderstandings and failures in communication that happen when you've got two very different people interacting in a new mode - going from friends to loved ones. I remember being very unimpressed with the film initially, but sometime over the second half I was won over. I'm usually more forgiving when it comes to plane films anyway. When you're on a plane, I find myself in that weird, almost unreal state between sleep and consciousness. My ears are clogged, there's a lot of background noise, I'm surrounded by strangers.. It's all just weird. So when at that point I can submerge myself in the world of a film, it works a little better than if I was on the ground, in my bedroom, watching it on my laptop. So by the finale I was in tears - Deepika has a monologue bit that just kind of broke me.

But then .. it was a plane movie.

Mere Brother Ki Dulhan seemed to have everything going for it but somehow still failed in my eyes. The quirky romantic comedy setting of Imran's character seeking a bride for his brother (Ali Zafar!), and finding one who he happens to have a past with (Katrina Kaif) sounds like a pretty solid Bollywood entertainer. Add good songs, lots of Hindi filmi referential fodder, and a flashy YRF coating on the whole thing, and I should be melted into a happy puddle at this film's feet, right? Correct! I'm not that hard to please, honestly.

And yet...

Katrina's character's "rocker chick" style and "outrageousness" felt so try-hard it was unbearable instead of just cheesy (and therefore acceptable, the kind of thing you forgive a film that's otherwise charming). The manipulation from the main pair of the whole situation would have been fine, had I liked either as a character, but they both seemed very cardboard and bland. Ali Zafar's character, regardless of the fact he was kind of an asshole, ended up winning my sympathies more and the secondary pairing was pretty much a highlight of the whole film for me.

And what about those filmi history references? They didn't even make me crack up a smile. It was like they didn't try very hard to make the references clever or creative, it was just reference after reference and after a while, it was just like "Oh you referenced that movie, oh you referenced another film, oh yes Sholay is a famous film, well done, yes Raja Hindustani did have a scene like that, you are correct!". It just didn't really come together. Of course, this is all entirely subjective. I'm the kind of reviewer that probably likes or dislikes a film depending on how much coffee I drank that morning. But still. I keep thinking of films I enjoyed which also had a ton of filmi references. And I just can't help but think they put more of a creative spin on those jokes than this film did..

This film is not very new by this point but I did only watch it late last year, and it's definitely worth talking about, for all those who didn't see it: Love Sex aur Dhokha is a little, more independently produced than mainstream Hindi film, that slots comfortably in the "found footage" film genre. It's composed of three, slightly interjecting stories of precisely what it says on the box. Since the actors are unknowns, the film manages a brilliant, slightly eerie vibe of how this could actually all be very real, even when at the back of your head you know it's a completely fictional story, if somewhat based on real events (such as DPS MMS Scandal).

A part of what makes LSD so brilliant is how it uses the "found footage" genre's tools to create smaller stories than previously (after all, the genre was kicked off by Blair Witch Project, a supernatural horror film, and later made it big when JJ Abrams did his Cloverfield, a found footage monster actioner). Horror is probably the automatic choice for this genre, because the idea of people going missing, vanished into nothingness, with all that's left is a recording of what precisely happened to them, is a powerful starting point for any film.

LSD does something more mundane - it makes the footage portray its characters in a way that feels intimate and real, and then when things go wrong, the viewer just feels for them. It's not horror, where you're asked to reflect their anxiety and terror yourself, but there's more range to the emotions than just running around scared. There's empathy, joy, uncertainty, betrayal... There is a bit of horror, too, but mostly at the fact that if you made the wrong choices in life, messed with the wrong people, stepped over the line one time too many, this might happen to you.

However, the benefit of sticking to realism, and not trying to showcase the supernatural or gruesome killings, is enormous, and this film is utterly worth watching, if only for how the stories seam together. The soundtrack - yes, there is one, and the way it's integrated is pretty interesting - is also very much worth listening to.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Indian Film Advent Calendar #24: The one script to completely disgarded.

Writing a plot outline to a successful Hindi film - how hard can it be? Armed with only some pictures and an imagination largely unused for the better part of this decade, I set to task.

This is going to be largely nonsensical, probably terrible and any resemblances to existing Hindi films are intentional and nonconsequential because nobody's going to make this, right? Right?! (All producers reading, if you're crazy enough to give me money - it is the season of giving in my part of the world! - the email is culling.songs@gmailDOTcom.)

The film is simply called - Paramparaparamparamparamparapa... bas! (short international title: P..b! or Pb or What, Are You Kidding Me? or Nobody Is Going to Ever Make/Watch This Movie). Our story takes place in an alternative historical universe, where India exists in a peculiar timewarp between our current world and ancient Mesopotamia. Only not really. Think Dharam-Veer, only less sensical, because historical accuracy has never been my strong point. But to make this wildly unique, the universe is entirely of its own. Anything can happen ..and does!

Aamir Khan plays Ram, a humble prince of The Royal Kingdom of Neo-India (the old one was run into the ground by an emperor played by Uday Chopra - there was a flashback scene of this but we cut it out ..instantly), who just want to drink Coke and find the love of his life. Little does he know that he is actually second-in-line to the throne, and separated at birth from his identical twin (yes! wait, what?)..

..Raju, played by Akshay Kumar. As you can see, Raju works as a humble mechanic nowadays, constantly covered in oil but not always wearing shirts. But for the sake of the censors and the health and safety of the audience, he does always keep his jeans buttoned up. Promise!

Raju was kidnapped as a baby by an evil witch Roberta (played by black-and-white-Helen, because with modern technology we can do that sort of stuff). After the witch passed away, her clumsy, evil son Robert (played by Akshaye Khanna) left Raju to live with a childless mechanic Girilal (played by ..uhh we'll figure it out later - he'll probably die a tragic death early on in order for Raju to feel a sense of loss and make sure he stands up to the evil that is the Kingdom).

But little does he know that Robert is still around! Doing ..something evil! Look at that evil grin! So evil!

So Raju loses his guardian and after wiping some of the excess motor oil - but not all, are you crazy? - he goes to the King (which are mostly just images of Prithviraj Kapoor from Mughal-e-Azam because we gotta save money somewhere!) and demands justice. Because, you know, if it weren't for the awful kingdom and their taxes and something something, his guardian Girilal would be still alive today! There he meets Ram, and the two brothers clash over the issue of oil costs. Stern political debate follows. Statistics are brought up. We'll probably cut that bit out.

To solve the issue, Ram has to go visit Raju's workshop and there he runs into..

Sita, Girilal's daughter whose mother passed away years ago. She has separated herself from the world of motor oil and instead writes poetry, helps sick children and models on occasion. You know, the usual. Ram naturally falls in love with her but disguises the fact by pretending to be a university friend of Raju's. Sita questions this because Raju never went to university. Ram explains this is the university of mechanics design and time travel. He demonstrates this by singins a song where they are transported to 1990's Switzerland. Sita is impressed and falls in love with him.

Meanwhile Robert plots something evil to overthrow the King and kill Ram. His initial plan of turning the 90's Switzerland in which Ram and Sita (hey, that sounds familiar -- maybe I'm just imagining things) have travelled to into a molten lava pit, but his actions are thwarted by ...

Satyajit, a magical angel (played by Shahrukh Khan), who has protected the twins (yes, really!) Ram and Raju and has since their birth. He was, however, at a wedding when the evil witch Roberta kidnapped Raju, but can you blame him? Who wants to miss out on a wedding? Free food, good music!

Raju, after having cleaned up most of the motor oil off and wearing a shirt, meanwhile is researching the price of oil at the National Library of The Royal Kingdom of Neo-India's Capital City Archives, where he runs into...

..a university student named Nisha (portrayed by Katrina Kaif). They debate the cost of motor oil and whether one is allowed to dog-ear library book pages. Nisha thinks it's perfectly acceptable, while Raju thinks it's sabotaging otherwise good books. They part ways in anger but can't get the arguments out of their minds.

And they probably fall in love, too. There's a song.

At the palace, the little sister of our heroes, Princess Ratnapriya (played by Raima Sen), has a problem of being courted by our terrible villain Robert and as if that's not enough, he has cast her under a spell to manipulate Ram into killing Raju. Ram, after falling in love with Raju's beautiful sister, however doesn't want to kill the man, as he is now forced to pretend their friends, which they are not. Comedy ensues. (Possibly. It might actually not be funny at all. If all fails, we'll do another time-travel scene.)

Satyajit the Angel - or as the audience calls him, Shahrukh - is observing the situation and making popcorn. There is a song sequence where he romances The Devil (played by Kajol), because we've got to draw people into theaters somehow, and borrowing a page from Karan Johar never killed anybody (if it has, please contact me immediately).

As luck should have it, and because if you think you're tired of reading this, I am far too tired of typing it, the Chancellor Daman (Boman Irani) who is like an advisor type person to the King finds a hankerchief that belongs to the evil witch Roberta at Raju's shop while visiting it to get a repair job on his scooter. This proves to Daman that Raju is indeed Rajeev, the missing prince who inexpicably ended up with a similar name under the guard of his former father-figure Girilal. He rushes to let Ram know of this discovery, but his attempt is thwarted by the evil Robert who challenges Daman into a game of internet karom, his only weakness.

Then Robert realizes he could've used magic and so he does, making Daman fall asleep against his keyboard.

Upon seeing this, Satyajit decides it's time to swing into angelic action, but he finds his hands tied - his powers are limited and he cannot tell the brothers that they are indeed brothers as him speaking would blow up their puny human minds. So he does what any good employee does - call his boss to ask how to deal with the situation.

So the Creator Of All Things, Yes, All Things (Rani Mukherjee) decides to some stuff needs to go down and fast.

And she employs all of her powers and sends her God Squad to help out Satyajit.

There's Goddess of Beauty (Deepika Padukone)...

..God of Gambling (Abhishek Bachchan)...

Goddess of Grace (Sharmila Tagore)

God of Non-chalance (Saif Ali Khan) and finally..

..Goddess of Dance (Hema Malini). You know, all the important ones. Obviously.

The God Squad is set to help Satyajit prevent the marriage between Princess Ratnapriya and Robert, which would allow him to directly get the throne after poisoning Ram and Raju at the wedding banquet (this is so why I never eat at weddings). During all this, Daman has woken up and is rushing to the palace to deliver the hankerchief that proofs the connection between Ram and Raju. But as the wedding festivities begin, Robert has one more ace up his sleeve not even the God of Gambling could've detected... Robert has the power of black magic to summon Death Himself (Vinod Khanna), pictured here with his missus, the lovely Lady Deceit (Neetu Singh), to aid him in his wicked deeds.

As Death Himself and the God Squad do battle on the metaphysical realm (which looks a lot like the glorious fields of Punjab), Raju comes to terms with the fact that Ram is in love with his (sort of-)sister Sita, and the price of motor oil is still rising. However, after developing a deep affection for books, he has now decided to quit his mechanic business and go to university to get closer to Nisha.

Little does anybody know that Nisha too is of royal descent, and secretly the princess of 1990's Switzerland, who has decided to study in Neo-India in order to avoid being recognized.

Wedding festivities continue (there's a song or twelve - hey, it worked for HAHK!) and Daman finally reaches the palace with the hankerchief that proves the brothers to be brothers. The truth comes out just as Satyajit reveals the wedding banquet to be poisoned and Robert's mother to be the evil kidnapper of Raju. Robert breaks down, claiming he did all his evil actions because of love for his mother, who has now passed away. He releases Ratnapriya from his spell, but it turns out Satyajit had already done that, and Ratnapriya was truly in love with Robert, secretly hoping her love would redeem him and his evil past.

Robert begs the princes to allow him to make amends with himself and being as magnanimous as Ram and Raju are, both being so humble and noble human beings, they agree to this - but they banish Robert from the Kingdom and insist that he transport himself to 1970's Hindi film industry, which they've heard is a pretty cool place. Ratnapriya decides to go with him, because she's a huge fan of Amitabh Bachchan.

Death Himself leaves the scene unnoticed and instead of a wedding between Robert and Ratnapriya, the festivities continue celebrating the reunion of the brothers and their love for the young women they met during these amazing (well, sort of) adventures they had and of course, the lowering price of motor oil.

And they all lived happily ever after.

Especially Satyajit, who took permanent residence in 90's Switzerland, and met a pretty cool girl on Eurorail...


This is the final Indian Film Advent Calendar post as it's now Christmas Eve. Happy Holidays to those who celebrate something during this time of year, have a great end of '09 for those who do not. Thanks for reading and not getting bored with these posts. It's been fun writing them!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Chandi Chowk to China - filmi math gone wrong.

How little did I enjoy Chandi Chowk to China? So little I almost did not want to grace this review with a picture or a poster of the movie. The only reason why I did is that I know people enjoy reviews with pictures more than reviews with none, and I want people to read this.

My view is not original: CC2C tanked in the box office, and it's all too easy to see why. But first, a smidgeon of background - I was skeptical of the bad reviews and the dismissals. I really looked forward to this movie, from the first poster to the nutty first trailers. The movie had so much going for it, it couldn't possibly be as bad as people were saying it was! Let's do the math..

1. Nikhil Advani has done draggy but tremendously entertaining films. After all, there isn't a director in Bollywood who hasn't done flawed films, but out of the great numbers of flawed films, Nikhil's have always stood out for me. Salaam-e-Ishq is great fun.

2. Akshay Kumar, doing kung-fu/martial arts type of thing. Easily the best thing about all of Akshay's bad 90's films was the parts where he got to kick some serious ass. Even better when those moves showed off his martial arts training. So a movie where it's all about the kung fu action? Hot damn, yes please!

3. Deepika's action heroine avatar. I'm not huge on Deepika, since she hasn't really had a chance to prove her acting chops yet but I'm always into heroines who go beyond damsel-in-distress. Okay, so her "Chinese" look was kind of odd but girl kicking ass? Gimme!

4. Kung fu, kung fu, kung fu. Fun action times for all!

And, as usual, asking yourself "How bad can it be?" ultimately ends up being the kiss of death for the movie that actually is bad. Very bad. Unbelievably, tragically, unsuccessful at whatever it is trying to achieve.

The plot is mind-numbingly filmi, and not in a good way. I can embrace the masala as the next person, but the clusterf*** of mistaken identities, slapstick comedy and of course, the flashback fight scene with a baby (insert groans) just made my head hurt. I wasn't feeling it. Akshay's character was annoying, unlovably stupid, the father-son connection between him and Mithun Chakravorty forced and the sole saving grace of the film was Deepika, until she visits a Chinese factory where they enable all the vapidness of the rest of the movie, with gadgets.

But okay, okay, I thought. I was seeing the movie for free, on a plane flight and I had 8 more hours to kill. Just bring me the kung fu, I thought - there was surely a 40 minute awesome kung fu movie hidden in this idiocy. I just had to wait for it.

Sadly, that awesome 40 minute movie turned into a 30 minute movie, and then 20 minute, 10 minute - oh lord - and then I was watching credits. In other words, it never came. I mean, sure, there was action. There were fight scenes. But I never wound up being into it. Everything was just so .. unexciting. Forced. Lifeless.

Early on the in the movie, Akshay's character Siddhu makes references to fusion food - Chinese curry, Indian noodles. If I were to compare the movie to a dish, I'd say this; I don't believe a good Chinese/Indian dish is impossible. It just depends on the chef, and the ingredients. The chef lost the plot here, and the ingredients from both countries were stale. Whatever potential was there, died in the making process. It might look pretty on the plate, but the taste is not good at all.

So, really, stay at home, order take-out. Watch anything but this movie.