Note: These reviews got deleted from ourvadodara.in, a site I no longer work for. So am posting the missing reviews here.
Hasee To Phasee
Drug addiction: not exactly an endearing quirk. Kym, played by Anne Hathaway, accidently crashed her car into the lake killing her brother in Rachel Getting Married. For Violet, played by acting titan Meryl Streep, it led to her husband’s suicide and her daughters abandoning her. John Belfort lost his senses popping Quaaludes in Wolf of Wall Street. In the real world, such names as Amy Winehouse and Philip Seymour Hoffman have already succumbed to drugs while Lindsay Lohan and Amanda Bynes are dangerously close. And nearly half the US is gunning for Justin Bieber’s deportation after the arrest and drug raid.
In Hasee To Phasee, Parineeti Chopra gets a sugar rush in one scene and often turns berserk loading herself with antidepressants. Quite an unpleasant case to hang around with, and I guess writer Harshavardhan Kulkarni attached this idiosyncrasy to her character just to steer clear of conventional romantic comedies. He wants us to chuckle as she stares bug-eyed and open-mouthed while sitting in a car or dragging a couple of ladies to her father’s office. Her oddity is so repellant we begin pitying not just her but every hapless soul who crosses path with her. Ranbir Kapoor’s goofiness in Besharam somehow charmed me. Here I desperately wanted a couple of doctors to send Chopra off to a rehab. But since its Bollywood, we are to believe that true love shall cure her addiction once and for all. So a dapper Sidharth Malhotra is brought in to bear with her nonsense for a while and then fall under her creepy spell. Supporting characters playing his relatives remain puzzled by her rather than showing concern. The film expects us to be humored by her antics, and then feel bad when an appropriate ‘sad’ music is cued. It also takes a cruel pleasure by throwing in a plastic Adah Sharma; last seen in the dreadful Hum Hai Rahee Car Ke, she bores us with another forgettable performance as Chopra’s elder sister and Malhotra’s fiancé. There are incredibly annoying subplots involving family members which again, are written with the intention of tickling our funny bone. My bone of contention is that a) Parineeti act was passed off as comedy and b) everybody involved actually thought this film to be funny.
This should be inducted to a special category of films with ‘n/a’ humor. I could not identify it, but positive reviews from a number of other publications suggest presence of wit and hilarity. I left the theatre scratching my head, and so did fellow patrons at Cinemarc. Not one paused to catch the song played during the end credits. I guess we were on the side who thought this was the most unromantic film of the year.
Anurag Kashyap, Karan Johar and Vikramaditya Motwane (director of Lootera) produced this film alongwith Vikas Bahl, which comes as the biggest surprise. Didn’t they find anything amiss in Kulkarni’s script – the lack of humor, the underwhelming characterization, the random subplots? It’s marriage time for Nikhil (Malhotra, and I’d like to note that I referred Wikipedia to get his name even though I saw the film only a few hours before), an event planner who borrows great sums from his future father-in-law. His dad is a retired IPS officer while his mother is a South Indian. His luxurious house teems with guests, including a foreigner. His problem is lack of commitment. He has an on and off relationship with Adah (I’m sorry but I just can’t recollect her character name). That’s Nikhil in a nutshell. Adah is a model and an aspiring actress. That’s just about everything we know about her.
Parineeti’s Meeta is more complicated, and apart from my plaint that this didn’t work as comedy, another problem is that the film gives us little time to understand her. This would’ve made more sense as Meeta’s story, and it’s a pity she’s reduced to a set of tics and sillies instead of a three-dimensional character. We know she’s super intelligent but a weirdo. She’s pampered by her father but kicked out by her family after demanding money for her project work, much to her father’s dismay, who gets a heart-attack after the incident but survives. She goes to China to complete her PhD, sets up a lab there and then gets back to India, this time to steal from her own home. But she’s not welcome by anyone, including elder sister Adah, who prefers dumping her in crappy conditions. We already know she’s a drug addict, but there are other peculiarities: she eats toothpaste, she never blinks, she eats a lot because ‘the pills make her hungry’ etc. She exasperates everyone including the audience, and yet our noble hero, who’s intrigued.
There’s festivity in the air, with much of the scenes taking place during sangeet and sagaai. Relatives camp at both homes, which includes a champu who’s enamored by Chopra. Their presence, leading to inane mini-scenes, bothered me instead of entertaining. Nothing made me laugh. Everyone from Parineeti’s side are Gujaratis, and so were most of the audience at my theatre. Gujaratis usually don’t mind laughing at harmless jokes at their expense, and even Jai Ho’s unfunny caricatures of Gujaratis generated a lot of laughs. Here there were none. Jokes fell flat and the theatre silent. I didn’t expect much from Siddharth, and didn’t much either. Parineeti, whom I absolutely adored in Shuddha Desi Romance, should’ve chosen a better script. The basket case she plays needs more than just love to cure her. Maybe a room at the de-addiction center.
Summary: Arjun Kapoor repeats his Aurangzeb act, Ranveer his Ram albeit hammier while Priyanka brings back jungli billi. Thanda & Thakela.
Gunday claims its pehelwan protagonists played by Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor are blood brothers. The dialog ‘Two Dil Ek Jan’ is spoken often to reinforce this. But the audience surely knows better! For whatever it claims, Gunday plays like a love story between two men who cloak their homosexual impulses under feigned macho-giri. The girl here is plainly a temporary yet fatal (and fetching cos it’s the stunning Priyanka Chopra) diversion.
The great American critic Roger Ebert had a similar opinion when he reviewed the unfunny Hollywood film This Means War. It starred Chris Pine and Tom Hardy as two alarmingly close CIA agents and “buddies” who simultaneously seduce Reese Witherspoon. Gunday could be retitled ‘Naughty Munde’ and made more sense!
Ali Abbas Zafar, who debuted with Meri Brother Ki Dulhan, a movie also about two dapper men and an irresistible girl, has unintentionally made a gay love story.
This is no Dedh Ishqiya, a film with deliberate undertones of lesbianism between its female leads, and that’s what makes Gunday so side-splittingly awkward at times. Before my comments are ranted off as ‘homophobic’, I’d like to clarify that I wholeheartedly support equal rights to love and marry. If a film about homosexuals looks thoroughly unconvincing and ‘straight’, I’d rubbish it too. Now here are my arguments as to why the male leads Bala (Arjun) and Bikram (Ranveer) seem like lovers.
The most hilariously symbolic one –they wear matching PJs with large heart-shaped design on the pichwada. They share the bed. They mud-wrestle in a slow-mo sequence with expressions that hint they’re lovin’ it. Unconvinced? Okay, hear this. There’s a scene in which these angry young men pound each other in an abandoned warehouse after one mistakenly believes he’s been betrayed. After a bout of punching-punching-and-kicking-kicking, they pause and stare into each other’s eyes like raging bulls. Then they charge, the camera going slow-mo again. Now it’s usually the hero who does his own ‘shirt-ripping’. Here the two men rip each other’s shirt to resume fighting bare-chested. It’s more a strip than a rip! And to top it, the instrument supplying background music is a Spanish guitar. It’s the ending that reinforces their dostana, but since I’ll be forced to transgress my no-spoiler rule, I’d rather leave it to your imagination.
The mention of coal-mafia in the film’s promos would’ve brought to your mind Anurag Kashyap’s hard-hitting Gangs of Wasseypur. However, this being a Yash Raj film, there’s hardly any violence that’ll disturb. And if you’re looking forward to learn a thing or to either on partition or the 70s or illegal coal business or the underworld, there are no notes to take. For Gunday is set in the Yash Raj’s fancy fantasy world of Calcutta in the 70s, which means you’ll get a ride through the obvious (a) a durga pooja where each extra has been hired from the modeling industry (b) a dazzling Cabaret number (c) a visit to the machi-mart (with poor dead fishes being used as weapons in one fight), and (d) non-Bengali supporting cast hopelessly attempting the bhalobashi accent. Okay, what else? Oh, yeah ‘partition’ and ‘immigration’. The movie justifies the heroes’ aggression with a backstory of them as ‘underdogs’ wronged and ill-treated in their childhood. Irrfan Khan, playing cop-in-pursuit A.C.P. Satyajit Sarkar, recounts their legend, beginning with the time they were about ten of age.
The child actors take on rough and tough roles, showing more bravado and shaanpatti than Jamal and buddie Salim from Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire. They’re supple and strong too, jumping into an open train carriage from a ramp at a distance like record long-jump athletes. The story tells they’ve taken close to ten years to expand their coal business, begun early. And yet, like rookies, they’re still doing the rangdam patti of leaping into carriages and nicking coal.
But we are to blindly accept that they somehow rule over Calcutta. There’s an unconvincing montage sequence showing market diversification as evidence. So whenever they threaten to create tabahi, you can only imagine them shooting a few cops and creating a minor stampede. Kingpins of Calcutta, meri jooti! The production design evinces effort and polish, but it’s noticeably sanitized to get the Yash Raj look. Glitz triumphs over the ordinary, the grime and the ugliness you’d expect from this world.
Arjun repeats his dadagiri, rowdy rascal act from Ishaqzaade and Aurangzeb and makes Bala embarrassingly insipid. When he’s around Priyanka, both he and Ranveer, overbearingly hammy, switch to a puppy dog look in a jiffy. Priyanka plays a cabaret dancer named Nandita but with a dirty little secret of her own. And the film drops this implausible twist like a wet brick. We go “Aah! I knew this crap would happen!” because the film doesn’t even try making her character suspenseful or mysterious until that point. Classic Bollywood masala – loud, wobbly, random and inconsistent. At least Irrfan’s act is a relief; he’s done such roles countless times but he plays it (in his own words) larger-than-life here, which is a change from the somber, brooding character he usually takes. Sadly, everything else in Gunday is thanda and thakela.
One By Two
One By Two screams AMATEUR post opening credits until the very end. On a report card, I’d put it this way:
Acting – either mind-numbingly boring, uselessly conventional or brain-scramblingly annoying
Direction – tired, nondescript and passionless
Cinematography – same as above. Also, unnecessary, claustrophobic close-ups and dull, rudimentary framing
Story – another bastard progeny of the ‘Wake Up Protagonist(s)’/‘Follow Your Dreams’/’Find You Real Self’ genre
Comments: A dreadful trailer forewarned me of previously released Yaariyan’s quality, so I avoided it. Two catchy numbers – Khushfehmiyan and I’m Just Pakaoed and promising promos got me excited for One by Two. Just got one likeable character in the entire film and a satisfactory end that together make ten minutes of the film’s runtime.
And the rest? Well, to call it dragging is an understatement. Remember those fitness videos in which a lissome, smiling female trainer would pep you up to perform a perfect split the way she’s doing it, and all you can do is widen your legs a bit until you felt a sharp pain shooting through your thunder thighs and then groan. The film seems that stretched, straining to move beyond each scene. By interval, I sighed five times. Placed my cell-phone under my chin to support my head from dropping asleep. By the end, I was hyperventilating and nearly zoned out. 140 minutes have never felt so soul-suckingly tedious.
A stylized representation would’ve helped this story. It’s necessary that we sense the director’s own commentary on the film’s various characters. Sofia Copolla and Harmony Korine shared their perspectives on Generation Y materialism in their films ‘Bling Ring’ and ‘Spring Breakers’ respectively. Sam Mendes’ American Beauty stylized both characters and situations while dealing with themes of loneliness and disconnection. In his directorial debut Don Jon, Joseph Gordon Levitt too successfully explored the subject of loss of intimacy in the Internet-driven world, not exactly unique, by stylizing his characters. Hong Kong Wong Kar-Wai used hypnotic music and camerawork in his debut Chungking Express to enliven sequences that had actors doing trivial stuff. Maneesh Sharma’s Shuddha Desi Romance offered an interesting take on marriage and live-in relationship.
Couldn’t Devika Bhagat, both the director and writer of One By Two, having penned scripts like Manorama Six Feet Under, Aisha and Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl, come up with something original, fresh or flavorful? She films interactions between secondary characters using close ups, shifting the focus to the dialogues than their effect on the protagonists. It seems she’s never heard of such a term as ‘off-screen sound’, which helps in streamlining the various actions of differing importance in scenes. In short, if every character is captured, if every dialogue is spoken in close-up, we assume what’s being said is important. Hence in One By Two, the nameless judges and anchor of a dance competition get to speak (that too complete sentences) in close-up or mid-shots even though their dialogues are of little importance. Why is Bhagat so keen on hearing them? Why does she spend aeons on dance sequences by unknown extras? Her cutaway shots during supposedly humorous sequences barely register a chuckle.
Her storytelling often muddles up as she tries juggling too many things. It opens like this. His name’s Amit Sharma; her name’s Samara Shah. His girlfriend breaks up with him; Samara meanwhile hooks up with her dance instructor. He hates his day job working on computers, and sulks aplenty post breakup; she quits the dance troupe after her instructor confronts her for hitting on other men while maintaining that their relationship remain casual. His mother keeps hunting for prospective bahu; she on the other hand takes looks after her alcoholic single mom. His hidden talent is music; we often find her swimming. He wants his ex-girlfriend back; she wants to win a dance competition. The two never meet face to face until the end, but each’s action affects the other.
For example, Amit rigs and manipulates the dance competition’s voting results so the best dancer is evicted; he does this to get the producer, also his ex-girlfriend’s current boyfriend, fired. Unfortunately, Samara gets the best audience response and is evicted through his manipulation. Life lessons such as ‘You are beautiful, you are kind. Never underestimate yourself’ to ‘Share your problems. Don’t get beaten down by life’ are sermonized throughout.
Certain sequences are inexplicable; one has an imaginary crowd following Samara in a herd-like manner as she listens to music on her portable audio player. It reminded me of the song and dance sequence from Amy Adams starrer Enchanted except the crowd here seemed clueless as to why they were following her. Samara befriends a Mumbai-cha-tapori who’s a fellow participant in the dance competition, and he’s a goddamn eyesore throughout. As Amit, Abhay Deol whines and sulks too much, while Preeti Desai, Abhay’s girlfriend in real life, can’t handle Samara’s heavy-duty scenes. I didn’t care for any of the supporting characters (the two playing Amit’s besties especially drove me nuts) except Shishika’s, who is the sole spunky presence in the entire film; she plays Amit Sharma’s marriage prospective arranged by his mummy, and is the only source of oxygen in a film that suffocates us with Amit’s paneer-induced farts. Yes, a hundred years of film, and fart jokes still exist. What a pity!