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Dabangg 2 (2012)
Crass movie, but doesn't give you a headache!, 25 September 2013

Dabangg 2 is another one among the many of the south-style flicks that are raking in the big bucks these days in Bollywood. Specifically the genre is Telugu-Tamil mainstream style which is usually about unrestrained machismo, a homely looking damsel in distress, some Newton- defying stunts and an odd item number.

Per se, I'd avoided the first 'Dabangg', presuming it to be a mindless film. But, this one happened more because it was with a large group, where any movie becomes bearable. After all, one goes to movies like these expecting absolute garbage.

So, the movie is about the Robin Hood Cop, Chulbul Pandey (Salman Khan) who has now taken a transfer to the big city, Kanpur. There, he runs into the local goon and politico Bachcha Bhaiya (Prakah Raj). One thing leads to another and Chulbul kills Bachcha's brother who has threatened a local girl, sending these two on a warpath.

Chulbul's wife Rajjo (Sonakshi Sinha) is now pregnant and his well wishers, including his perpetually hungry foodie boss (Manoj Pahwa) convince him not to engage in a tiff with Bachcha Bhaiyya as he is now a family man and has lot to lose. But, Chulbul can't be talked out of it so easily. When Bachcha hits it below the belt, Chulbul vows revenge which forms the rest of the story. How these movies end is an easy guess!

Talking about Acting, Salman Khan still can't act and director Arbaaz sleepwalks in his role as Chulbul's brother Makkhi. And all that Sonakshi Sinha had to do was to look homely. And then, what's the obsession with Prakash Raj as the villain? As good an actor that he may be, it has become too tiresome actually!!

What sucks is its woeful editing, one scene cuts from the other suddenly. Seems like a hurriedly packed up jumble of scenes placed in the following order: there is a joke, followed by a stunt, followed by a song; and the cycle repeats over and over.

The much talked about item song 'Fevicol Se' has Kareena Kapoor gyrating to some Desi beats and hinglish lyrics. But, it lacks the zing that 'Munni Badnaam' had created in the earlier Dabangg. But, silly as it may be, the song stays in your mind.

In short, Dabangg 2 is a film that you can watch if you leave your brain in the car park, not expecting the least bit of logic from it. If the current trend is to be believed, the day is not far when there will be hardly any difference between Telugu-Tamil movies and Bollywood flicks, barring language and the lead star hailing from the Hindi belt.

As such, Salman Khan's name is enough to draw crowds. So, the mantra seems to be: 'who cares about logic as long as people laugh & producers make fast buck!!'

Murder 3 (2013)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
A watchable suspense in the second half, 25 September 2013

The Bhatt camp has off late done good business with formula movies. 'Murder' series eponymously concerns murder mystery, 'Raaz' that has something to with the supernatural and 'Jism', well the name says it all. One common factor is skin-show and songs that go on to become hits. And there's the Emraan Hashmi factor.

First time Director Vishesh Bhatt is believed to have said that their films are "succeeding backwards". True, the quality is depleting but this hasn't really affected their business. So, is this movie a game changer for Bhatt camp or not?

An official re-make of the 2011 Spanish film "La cara oculta", the film is about a successful model photographer Vikram (Randeep Hooda) who finds his girlfriend Roshni (Aditi Rao Hydari) suddenly gone missing and the events that follow thereafter. One drunken night in a bar gets Vikram close to a hostess Nisha (Sara Loren) who soon start a romance. But Vikram's house seems to have some dark secrets.

The dullest part in the movie is the first half, which seems like a series of songs with a bit of story thrown in and is exceptionally boring. At first we are told how Vikram met Roshni in Cape town, and then dealing with his romance with Nisha. The hero is shown to be living alone in a palatial home on the outskirts of Mumbai. Wondering how on earth did he manage to commute everyday in a self-driven car! Phew!

And if you can manage to sit through this for an hour, then comes the surprise! The whole story goes into a different tangent from there on. Although a bit contrived, you soon accept it and flow along with the story. As with any suspense film, you are better off not knowing it till you actually see it. Then, the problem is that, by the time the film starts to get better, it may have alas, lost its audience already.

Randeep Hooda, who looks more a goon than an actor makes a sincere attempt to act, in a role where he is brooding and mysterious. The girls on the other hand outshine him. Sara Loren, who earlier made a debut as Mona Lisa in 'Kajraa Re' with Himesh Reshammiya is here with a changed name. And there's Aditi Rao Hydari playing the kind hearted girl who leaves everything behind to travel with her lover to India.

The biggest blunder is that the set hardly looks realistic. The home, which we are made to believe that it is from the pre-independence era doesn't remotely look like one. It is difficult to describe the lacunae further without discussing the suspense. Hence, leaving it at this so that you can figure it out. But for their own good the Bhatts need to pull up their socks rather than stay in the 'succeeding backwards' comfort zone.

Given the kind of movie that 'Murder 3' is, it is an outright verdict is difficult. If you are looking for Emraan Hashmi style sleaze and songs a la Bhatt camp style, this movie doesn't have those. If are looking for edge-of-the-seat thrills throughout, then look elsewhere. Instead, if you are willing to sit through and daydream till interval time, your immense patience would be rewarded with a watchable suspense.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Like a trip to the loo with humor & romance thrown in, 25 September 2013

The latest trend in Bollywood are films with a small-town flavor. Recent examples include 'Raanjhanaa' set in Varanasi or 'Ishaqzaade' whose characters and story are set in a UP town. The days of the typical Mumbaiyya theme in Bollywood are gone for good. Maneesh Sharma's 'Shuddh Desi Romance' had the promise of presenting a bold take on love and relationships, set in the modern times, away from the metros.

Riding on the success of 'Band Baaja Baaraat' and 'Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl', Maneesh Sharma mixes up both the themes with 'Shuddh Desi Romance'. There is a bit on weddings, in-your-face dialog from his first film and the angle of multiple women from the second. But, unlike his first two films, lead character here, Raghu (Sushant Singh Rajput) is an under confident, self-doubting and is mostly an aimless guy.

The film beings with Raghu's baaraat (groom's wedding procession) as he is set to marry Tara (Vaani Kapoor). With no real family around, Raghu dabbles with being a paid baaraati for the wedding planner Goyal (Rishi Kapoor) who is his mentor of sorts. During the off season for weddings, he doubles up as a tourist guide in Jaipur.

Included in the fake retinue is Gayatri (Parineeti Chopra) whom Goyal masquerades as the protagonist's sister. Enroute, she and Raghu discover that they have a deeper connect for each other and end up kissing, one of the many kisses in the film. Consequently, Raghu abandons his wedding after excusing himself for a loo break.

Thereafter, Raghu starts living with Gayatri, pretending to the world that they are related as siblings, while actually being in a live-in relationship. Gayatri is portrayed as a cigarette smoking girl, who had an abortion from one of her many relationships.

Just as Raghu and Gayatri think of marriage, in come the toilets. Thereafter, Tara enters, complicating the mix and confusing Raghu into a choice between two women. What happens to each of these characters in the triangle forms the rest of the story, which attempts to put its best foot forward to making things comical.

The end result however is underwhelming. The best of 'Shuddh Desi Romance' is in its first half, with many humorous situations and funny lines. The characters too are endearing and there are no villains. But where the writing fails is when it doesn't bring about a connect with either of the characters or let you empathise with any.

For actor Sushant Singh Rajput, this role is markedly different from the passionate coach that he played in 'Kai Po Che' and does a good job as someone finding it difficult to commit. Parineet Chopra faced the prospect of competition from her cousin Priyanka's remade 'Zanjeer' releasing on the same weekend. However, 'Shuddh Desi Romance' seems to have won the initial battle at the box office.

Among the other actors, Vaani Kapoor, a model turned actress is impressive as the smart, uber confident girl who conveniently plays with simpleton Raghu. And by now, we seem to have gotten used to seeing Rishi Kapoor play the father/ uncle/ mentor role played to perfection. The other supporting cast, portrayed among his friends and baaraatis bring in the much needed comic relief to the film.

So, why does the small -town trend work? Most of the Indian populace still lives in smaller cities and towns. Even among the metropolitan city dwellers, a significant number of them are migrants from towns or are, at best, second generation city folk. While the appearances may have changed, many of us in India still retain a 'desi' flavor. On top of it all, it is they who bring in the bucks for movies and malls.

Verdict: Despite its promise, the film fails to impress as the plot gets derailed mid-way and so does its comedy. The film's lead women are deliciously written for cinematic charm rather than to reflect anything real. The most unpardonable of the plot blunders are the seemingly endless trips to the toilet, a hallowed venue for intense reflection on life's big decisions! Seriously, the movie could've been so much better.

Rush (2013/I)
2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Dramatic tension and Authenticity of F1 in the 70's, 24 September 2013

Making films about real life characters always presents a challenge; more so if one of them doesn't live to see the day his tale is made into a film. Coming from director Ron Howard, known for films like 'Apollo 13', 'A Beautiful Mind', 'Da Vinci Code', 'Rush' is about two great personalities in the high adrenalin Formula 1 racing.

The story begins on the start line where Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) narrates the story of how James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) influenced his life and the days of Formula 1 in the 1970's where it was not uncommon for drivers to die in accidents.

James Hunt, who in real life was known as a playboy is appropriately portrayed on screen. There's a scene from his early days where he walks into at a hospital to get his injuries treated and lo behold, he seduces the nurse in James Bond style! Then, we are introduced to his career in Formula 3 where he drives for Lord Hesketh's team.

Although the film marks the meeting of Lauda and Hunt in the F3 race on a sour note, it is believed that the duo were actually friends and shared an apartment during their early days. Was this an error? Or was it deliberately avoided to bring about dramatic tension between its lead stars right from the start? We wouldn't know.

The character of Niki Lauda starkly contrasts with Hunt as he is cool, calculating, working with the team on developing the car and isn't bothered about partying or popularity. In real life too, it is believed that Lauda never let the achievements get into his head and he gave away his trophies to a local garage in exchange for car wash.

Discussing the story itself isn't necessary for the review as most of the critical elements of the plot are based on actual, well known events. Its most poignant moment is how Lauda returns to track merely six weeks after a near-fatal crash with bandages on his wounds and leads the championship till he pulls out of the season's last race at Fuji when the treacherous weather conditions made the race too dangerous.

'Rush' does a wonderful job in recreating the F1 races, the imagery of powerful engines, tires ready to zoom as pedal hits metal, and the infamous Nürburgring crash of 1976. In fact, Niki Lauda in his interviews has praised the filmmakers for portraying the crash and his treatments in a realistic manner and that the scenes 'shocked' him.

Reportedly, the actors weren't allowed to drive real Formula 1 cars. So, the film makers are said to have used F3 cars with the bodywork of F1 cars of that era to make them look like the real deal. Still, they drove some mean machines. Wow!

The actors have done a good job and look like their real life counterparts. Chris Hemsworth still seems like Thor with the long hair, but less bulky. Daniel Brühl, an acclaimed German actor embodies the role of Lauda, Olivia Wilde as Suzy Miller, Alexandra Maria Lara as Marlene Knaus and Pierfrancesco Favino as Clay Regazzoni have done a neat job and there's not a moment where it feels inauthentic.

What works for the movie, other than the stunningly recreated visuals is the emphasis on its characters. At its soul is the portrayal of how Hunt and Lauda influenced each other's lives and careers. Although the two champions were very different by their outwardly lives, they shared a common passion for racing and winning and looking at each other to seek the much needed challenge and why you need enemies!

Verdict: if you are one of those who like Bollywood family dramas branded as racing films, like Ta Ra Rum Pum, let me assure you that 'Rush' isn't for you. But, if you are a Formula 1 fan, don't even think twice; just go for it.

Simple story, elegantly told, 23 September 2013

The trailers were so appetizing! Who wouldn't have been hungry enough to watch one of the most awaited films around this time of the year? 'The Lunchbox' seems to have it all to be a good film: actors like Irrfan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui and the appeal of seeming like a well told story.

The story of this film is a no-brainer. Someone's lunch box gets delivered to someone else and eventually sets off a love story, of two people who never met. Exchanging notes simply seems like technology that pre-dated stories of chat room friends eventually in love like 'You've got mail' which came at the turn of the century. But the simplicity in its storytelling makes it effective and worthwhile.

Ila (Nimrat Kaur) is a housewife juggling tasks, like preparing her kid for school, cooking up lunch for her husband before the dabbawala arrives and chatting up with an old lady in the neighborhood who share stuff over a basket that is passed on between their homes. On the other hand is a widower Saajan Fernandez (Irrfan Khan), who works in an insurance company and is on the verge of retirement. After a good day at office, his only pastime is to smoke cigarettes in the balcony of his old Bandra home.

Irrfan Khan is a phenomenally talented actor and he delivers yet another gem. However, despite all the make-up he looks too young to convincingly play a guy approaching sixty. Nawazuddin Siddiqui does a great job in a supporting role, delivering the witty lines with precision. Nimrat Kaur, who can be seen in the recent Dairy Milk Silk Commercial, seems like an apt choice for the role she played.

There are elements of lazy writing that the writer-director Ritesh Batra has chosen when one of the lead characters is looking for an outlet to convey her thoughts to the audience. Ila then communicates with a neighborhood Aunty (Bharati Acherekar) who is never seen on screen. Both these ladies seem to discuss everything that happens with each other the whole day. After a while, when you hear Nimrat Kaur's character say 'aunty' for the umpteenth time, you would burst into laughter.

Although the film, at times, seems slow-moving, one must give it a benefit of doubt because it wouldn't have been possible to display loneliness and to use quiet to portray disquiet in the characters' lives, each of whom has lost his soul running the hamster's wheel in Mumbai. Had its pace been any faster, the film would have lost all charm and would have been a soulless 45 minute film instead.

Its essence is mostly that of a short story told on the big screen. It brings forth questions such as: Would you fall in love with someone you never met? And also breaking the barriers of age and how the society would look at it. Or rather, is love a mere form of escape from stark realities, such as that of a bored housewife and an aged widower who both have issues as to how life turned about to be for them?

Verdict: If you are the kinds who likes movies made about common folk, tales of love and hope amidst the loneliness drowned by the din of the city that never sleeps, this movie is for you. Nonetheless, don't expect the film to be a perfect ten on the scoreboard either. 'The Lunchbox' is worth watching.

A funny pastime flick with tons of actors but without any real plot, 18 September 2013

Three years after the first 'Grown Ups' movie, Lenny Feder (Adam Sandler) has joined his old friends Eric Lamensoff (Kevin James), Kurt McKenzie (Chris Rock) and Marcus Higgins (David Spade) after moving back to his hometown along with his wife Roxane (Salma Hayek) and kids. Soon, they need to deal with funny situations involving their old friends and the local college frat boys.

Looking at it critically, the film could have just begun anywhere and ended up nowhere! Wait, no story? Are you kidding me? How can a movie exist without a central plot or a conflict that works itself out in the end? Well, they do it in 'Grown Ups 2' which credits Adam Sandler as one of the writers!

The movie has numerous themes, like the issues of teenage kids of the lead characters who get into funny situations, a couple of them involving dating. Then, there are some gags involving accidents, baldness, farts, etc. which are not entirely unusual. And the kids and the grownups have a run-in with some college boys over the use of a secluded lake. And there's a scene involving a funny car-wash!

'Grown Ups 2' has a massive star-cast. Along with those already mentioned here, there's Twilight's Taylor Lautner playing one of the frat boys, the tall basketball star Shaquille O'Neal playing a cop and there is wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin who has been cast as a former school bully with a sizzling girlfriend (April Rose) who doubles up as a ballet teacher to one of Lenny Feder's kids.

The movie tries hard to be funny. Take that incident involving a heavily drugged bus driver using the bed and toilet on display at a K-mart. Another one involves Lamensoff's lame gag that combines a burp, sneeze and a fart. A scene of a deer pissing on Sandler is extremely lame brand of humor. When you know that the film has Adam Sandler in it, you know the sort of humor that the film would have.

Nonetheless, 'Grown Ups 2' also has its funny moments too. Some of its original but adult humor involves the faux exercise routine for the film's women. Also, the fact that Salma Hayek can pull of a glamorous role in her late forties is noteworthy! And the scene showing the attack by the Frat Boys led by Lautner, one tends to ask 'Hey, why isn't he turning into a werewolf?'

Verdict: Movies like 'Grown Ups 2' are those that are lazily made; imagine a movie without even a real plot. As such, it won't make it worthwhile to visit to visit the big screen and pay big bucks. It has its share of fart jokes, but guess what, watching this film isn't altogether regrettable either. You could as well enjoy this on a lazy weekend when there seems nothing better to do.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Rated down only because it lacks originality in its humor, 18 September 2013

Looks like adult comedies are here to stay! 'Grand Masti' happens to be the successor to the 2004 comedy film 'Masti', although the only link between the two films is its three male leads. While the first film was more about clean entertainment and played on typical clichés of marriage jokes, 'Grand Masti' resorts to a host of adult jokes, mostly drawn from forwarded funnies for a plot.

The film starts off with college seniors Amar (Ritesh Deshmukh), Meet (Vivek Oberoi) and Prem (Aftab Shivdasani) briefing the newbies on the A-B-Cs of college life. Just when one of their batch-mates Hardik (Suresh Menon) tries to hit on a girl, their new principal Robert (Pradeep Rawat) publicly shames him.

Cut to six years later, our three heroes seem to be having marriage woes. While Meet's wife Unnati (Karishma Tanna) doubles up as his ambitious boss at work, Amar is mostly ignored by his wife Mamta (Sonalee Kulkarni) who showers all her attention on their newborn. Prem on the other hand has to deal with Tulsi (Manjari Fadnis) who seems to be more devoted to her extended joint family at the cost of her husband. Note the names used for each of the wives are according to the roles they play!

Just while they are blaming their fate for their lives being stuck in a rut, they get a call from their old college (with a funny name when used as an acronym) about an alumni meet and week-long fun. But they are surprised to find that the college isn't what it was back then. Under Principal Robert, it seems to have degraded into a Talibanized regime with over-conservatism and fear of punishment.

Things just seem to look brighter when the trio meets up with their old teacher Rose (Maryam Zakaria), Marlo (Kainaat Arora) and Mary (Bruna Abdullah) and the prospect of a fling with them. Again, note the names of the three girls and its link with a popular joke that goes around the internet. But, it's all not easy as they have an obstacle to deal with – Principal Robert.

As such, 'Grand Masti' is a fun film, an amalgam of all the jokes usually forwarded on social media or on cell phones or funny internet videos. The only credit it can get is for putting them all together into a film, but none for any original creativity whatsoever. But then, for those people who have issues with adult humor, they better keep away from the film rather than criticize it for those jokes.

Among its three male leads, adult comedy specialist Ritesh Deshmukh does well, while the other two are already past their sell-by date. The film's six glamor girls do a good job of being pretty and an average job at acting. After a while, you wouldn't really care to remember who played what role! And, Pradeep Rawat, don't you remember him from 'Ghajini'? He plays the bad guy yet again!

Verdict: Going by the success of the genre of adult humor, looks like these jokes are here to stay. Indian moviegoers seem to be more accepting of it now, rather than living in denial as they had done for decades. But, since the film lacks originality and made from forwarded humor, you exactly know what to expect. So, those of you who enjoy movies like these don't wait till it is aired on TV because it would obviously be censored. Finding some cheap tickets would help instead.

Lucia (2013/I)
2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Psychological thriller that blurs the line between dreams and reality, 9 September 2013

Move over Christopher Nolan, India has its own top-notch dream based psychological thrillers. While Nolan's 'Inception' was widely acclaimed, there has hardly been anyone who understood the film in entirety; reason being, the story was inherently flawed. The latest Kannada film by Pawan Kumar, 'Lucia' plays around the concept of dreams and the blurring between reality and dream states; without the pizazz of special effects, but with better storytelling and editing.

The film begins with a patient, Nikki (Satish Neenasam) in a coma and a debate around euthanasia. Cut to flash back, Nikki is an average Joe, unnoticeable in the Bangalore crowd. He works at his uncle's decrypt movie hall as an usher and suffers from insomnia. The love of his life is Shweta (Sruthi Hariharan) who works at a local Pizza outlet who seems to want more from life than poor Nikki.

He is soon introduced to a wayside drug 'Lucia' that promises to cure his sleeplessness, but with other side effects that let him dream about the life he seeks. And lo, he turns into a movie star Nikki who also seems to have issues with a newbie actress Shweta; the track played out in monochrome. How Nikki deals with his life in both worlds forms the rest of the story, a suspense best left undisclosed.

The concept of lucid dreaming, in a way, reminded me of 'Vanilla Sky' where Tom Cruise's character who loses touch with reality and is lost under the dreamy skies like in the famous Monet painting. But the similarities end there. Another semblance is with Nolan's 'Memento' with two tracks, one in color and the other in Monochrome that merge into a logical ending. The editing in "Lucia" is as good as in 'Memento' and keeps the audience hooked; truly world-class editing there!

'Lucia' is a landmark film in the Kannada filmdom as it is the first crowd-funded independent film in Kannada. The opening credits show more than a hundred people who responded to Pawan Kumar's facebook post. The film was made with only INR 50 Lakh, a pittance as compared to the usual big budget blockbusters with top stars, foreign locales and cars blowing up in action stunts.

To its credit, Lucia doesn't have any stars but each of them did well. For Satish Neenasam, it was his first as a lead actor and convincingly plays the regular local dude who may be seen in a down-market movie hall having big dreams. Sruthi Hariharan who is said to have had origins in dance and then moved on to films, does a decent job, both as the simple neighborhood waitress and as a budding actress.

Apart from the drugs and dreams, the underlying story in 'Lucia' deals with the needs and wants of its various characters who have two roles, one in the real world and then another one in the dream world with its own set of metaphors. What plays out includes the inherent conflicts in romance, class, language and other issues as well as an investigative undertone that begins with the first scene.

Songs from the film come with entertaining everyday lyrics composed by Poornachandra Tejaswi, a software engineer turned music director; and this is his first attempt. While some like 'Helu Shiva' come with a very modern touch, 'Thinbedakami' is funny and has a rustic feel.

So, does 'Lucia' lack anything? There is nothing that is grossly amiss as such. The only element of finesse which is left wanting is the dubbing, which seems mismatched in a couple of scenes.

'Lucia' premiered at the London Indian Film Festival this July and won the Best Film Audience Choice award. Already, the film is drawing enough attention in screens nation-wide as it has been released with English subtitles. So, even if you don't know Kannada, the subtitles are there to assist you.

Verdict: Those of you who may have given up on Kannada films, or others who think that all South Indian movies are about fat, dark actors dancing with fair skinned babes, prepare to get overwhelmed. 'Lucia' will keep you occupied with its story, every single second of its screen-time.

Satyagraha (2013/I)
0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Genuine cause at heart but fails to pack a punch, 2 September 2013

Prakash Jha's films have are usually about strong themes, and have something to do with Indian politics or hard hitting issues facing the nation such as caste based reservation, dynastic politics, or social issues such as kidnappings, custodial killings, bonded labor, etc., common in certain regions. This time, the subject is corruption.

Following the apparent accidental death of Akhilesh Anand (Indraneil Sengupta), an upright officer working for the Highways Authority, Minister Balram Singh (Manoj Bajpai) announces a reward. Predictably, his grieving widow Sumitra (Amrita Rao) has a tough time dealing with the local administration to get the check released. Enraged at this, patriarch Dwarka Anand (Amitabh Bachchan) slaps the Collector.

With the intervention of Akhilesh's childhood friend and business magnate Manav Raghavendra (Ajay Devgn), the arrest soon snowballs into a massive social media campaign against the high-handedness of the administration. Manav ropes in popular television journalist Yasmin Ahmed (Kareena Kapoor) to cover the event.

Somewhere in the film, the story follows the India Against Corruption's 2011 fast unto death campaign by Anna Hazare. Here, Bachchan turns into Anna; Manav who is the brain behind it, apparently seems like Kejriwal; an altruistic lawyer is like Prashant Bhushan, a cop gives up his job and joins the group, a possible likening to Kiran Bedi.

The film also flirts with a sub-plot on what could've been Akhilesh's expose on irregularities in highway construction contracts, remember the whistle-blower's murder case? With the main plot itself being a handful, Jha hardly had any time to touch upon the matter. Maybe it was only used as a plot element that could explain his death.

'Satyagraha' also suffers from Too many people being cast in the film. End result? They hardly get time to establish the characters they play. The angle of the opposition leader played by Vipin Sharma could have been better used.

Amidst all of this, what was Arjun Rampal doing? Except for being there as a seasoning in a dish. His meager role failed to justify his persona or his commanding voice. Kareena Kapoor's casting hardly mattered in the film. Even if a newbie or a second grade actor was cast, it would have not had any impact on the film.

Another passable creature was Amrita Rao, playing her typical typecast avatar as the quintessential good girl. If anyone noticed, there is a picture of hers from her film 'Vivah' pasted on to a bulletin board in the Anand household. Ah, how creative!

Having said that, some good acting by Manoj Bajpai, Amitabh Bachchan and Ajay Devgn salvage whatever that is left of the film. Nonetheless, it looks like we have gotten too used to seeing Bachchan play the idealist and Bajpai the antagonist.

Music isn't impressive barring the exception of the title song 'Satyagraha' on the tunes of a modernized 'Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram'. Another song which has a some potential to become a youth anthem in any anti corruption protest is 'Janta Rocks'.

Given the gravity of the subject, 'Satyagraha' really had the potential to make its mark, which it somehow falls short of. Maybe, we have gotten too used to the same ensemble cast being re-cast time and again in predictable roles. And what to say about the plot losing itself somewhere, without coming up with radically creative solutions.

Verdict: Going by the films Prakash Jha has made and given the fact that the movie posters and promos make a clear reference to the Anna Hazare fast against corruption, you know what to expect. If you don't mind a movie that only scratches the surface on the subject of corruption, watching the film won't really hurt.

3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Over-The-Top Shah Rukh Khan minus the headache, 22 August 2013

The days of Shah Rukh Khan being the king of romance are clearly behind him; the failure of 'Jab Tak Hai Jaan' bears testimony to this fact. As he inches closer to fifty, he is still busy gyrating to masala numbers with actresses half his age. But, guess what, with 'Chennai Express', the masala formula seems to have worked in his favor.

After 'Om Shanti Om' and 'Ra.One', this is the third of Khan's films where he plays the regional card to generate humor. Nonetheless, his role in 'Chennai Express' is less inane; at least, he doesn't eat spaghetti with curds as in Ra.One. As with any Rohit Shetty film, there are cars flying before they blow up into pieces.

Rahul, naam toh suna hoga, as SRK is called in many of his films, is required to travel to Rameshwaram to immerse his grandfather's ashes. While he plans to get off the train mid-way and scoot with his friends to Goa, fate has other plans for him. Incidentally he helps Meena (Deepika Padukone) and a few goons to get on-board a running train in DDLJ style, played repeatedly to make it hilarious.

Following the funnily remixed Antakshari sessions with Meena, attempting to converse in Hindi so that the Tamilian goons don't understand it, Rahul understands that she is being Kidnapped. It turns out that Meena's father Durgeshwara Azhagusundaram (Sathyaraj) is a Don and wants his daughter to marry another goon, Tangaballi (Nikitin Dheer) and all that stands in between is the common man, err, Rahul.

The story is extremely weak and relies upon SRK's histrionics to make it funny. The many parodies to Khan's old films and popular dialogs evokes laugher. His popular pose with outstretched arms now comes with the self-deprecating line "Don't underestimate the power of the common man". It is axiomatic not to expect logic from its wafer-thin plot made like a formulaic Telugu/ Tamil commercial blockbuster.

Obviously, being a high budget film, the sets and locales look impressive on screen. Dudhsagar falls, portrayed as the train stop for Meena's village is shown in its monsoon majesty. The locations for Tamil Nadu have mostly been re-created in Panchgani & Wai with some scenes filmed in Munnar and a lake in Kerala where the village set makes it look idyllic. Visually, there is nothing to complain about.

The film's weakest link is Deepika's awful accent. She sounds neither like a Tamilian she portrays nor her native Kannada accent which is evident in television interviews. To confirm the awfulness, I did check up with a few Tamilians who watched this film and each of them expressed disgust at the way she mouthed those lines. Adding to the mess was her overdone facial expression, must have been a rub-off from SRK.

Other actors like Sathyaraj or Nikitin Dheer, who played the towering villain in Jodhaa Akbar did a reasonable job. The goons are very typical of any of Bollywood's typecast portrayal of south Indians as being dark and fat. But, going by the trend of south-style flicks raking in the moolah and being lapped up so lovingly by movie going public, Bollywood junta has lost its bragging rights about being better than southern films.

The film's humor is worthy of a special mention. Along with parodies of SRK's movies, which we have now got used to in many films, the song- humor is well done. One joke that stands out is when Deepika innocently asks SRK if he were fifty years old; and when he expresses shock, she asks if he is actually older than that!

Music is about average. Songs like 'Titli', 'Kashmir Main Tu Kanyakumari' and the title track are bearable. Fast paced '1-2-3-4 Get on the Dance Floor' could potentially join the Tamil flavored 'Chinta Ta Chita Chita' or 'Dhinka Chika' as dance floor favorites.

Verdict: An over-the-top film by SRK as usual with tons of overacting. The only thing that saves the film is the fact that it doesn't give you a headache and you can get out of the movie hall smiling, either mocking at the stupidity of the film or having enjoyed jokes in a brain-dead mode. Commercially though, the film has been successful.

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