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Rustom (2016)
4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Underwhelming. Waste of Potential., 16 August 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Sepia tone in the beginning – Check. Typical Villains and vamps – Check. Overdressed actors overacting – Check. Big cars, empty roads and horse races – Check. Incessant smoking as if it were a fashion statement – Check. Poor visual effects – Check. And that sounds exactly like a Bollywood film trying too hard to be a period film. And what about the script? Oh well, nobody seems to have given it a thought.

Based on the film's posters, if you thought that the movie was made by Neeraj Pandey (of Baby, Special 26, and A Wednesday fame), you have been fooled. IMDb merely lists his name as miscellaneous crew with the title 'presented by', not sure whatever that means! The film is instead directed by Dharmendra Suresh Desai who is two movies old and Rustom happens to be his first featuring a big star.

The story is apparently inspired by the real life 1959 court case of KM Nanavati v. State of Maharashtra which was the last case to be heard as a jury trial, after which, the government abolished the process. The film deals with the events leading up to the eventual acquittal by the jury. A simple reading of the Wikipedia page on the case tells you that the story had enough meat and didn't have to resort to extraneous stories.

Akshay Kumar plays the lead character, Commander Rustom Pavri who discovers that his wife Cynthia (Ileana D'Cruz) has been having an affair with Vikram Makhija (Arjan Bajwa, remember the 2008 film Fashion?). He obtains a pistol from the navy and uses it to kill Vikram point blank and then surrenders before the police. Pavan Malhotra plays Vincent Lobo, the cop who digs deep to unearth the multiple layers in the story.

The filmmakers chose to complicate the story by bringing in the angle of corruption with the antagonist being involved in it. It somehow rationalizes the protagonist's act. Also, the portrayal of Cynthia seems to have been done keeping in mind the views of the Indian audiences on extra marital affairs and have therefore shown her as a victim and Rustom as someone who had to kill Vikram to avenge the latter's wrongs to the nation.

Bollywood is far below the Hollywood benchmark when it comes to making serious defense based or courtroom dramas. Case in point was 'Shaurya' which was a poor remake of 'A few good men' which failed to impress despite casting some of the finest character actors. Rustom is also no exception as it fails to deliver on the promise.

Numerous clichés and caricatures spoil the seriousness of the film. The newspaper editor who runs articles in support of Rustom is almost shown as a buffoon. Esha Gupta plays Vikram's brother Preety Makhija in an utterly vamp-like manner, replete with smoking through long cigarette handles, elaborate makeup and garish lipstick. And then we have the classic Bollywood movie judge who goes on hammering 'Order, Order'.

Akshay Kumar's primary costume in the film is his pristine white Navy uniform.. It doesn't matter whether he is working aboard a ship, drinking at home, cooling his heels in police custody or his multiple appearances in court; it stays spotless. While appearing unreal, the only purpose is can possibly serve is to help woo women audiences!

With a 50 crore budget, it could have surely done better on visual effects. The orange sky behind the ship and the artificial fluttering flag in Akshay's entry scene look utterly unconvincing. Instead of wasting money on shooting a romantic song in a foreign locale, they could have at least made the Indian setting look more convincing.

Talking of music, it was mostly forgettable and the film would've done well without songs. The background score is loud in an attempt to build seriousness, but doesn't impress. I would be surprised if someone came out of the movie hall humming any song!

Despite its flaws, Akshay Kumar is the sole savior of an otherwise disastrous film. He is convincing as he plays an upright defense officer. Among the others Pawan Malhotra does well as the cop. Ileana D'cruz and Arjan Bajwa are passable. Sachin Kehdekar the annoying lawyer. Manoj Bajypayee was an invisible narrator and rather unimportant.

Verdict: Rustom had the potential of being a gritty courtroom drama, public sympathy and relationships gone awry. Instead, we get a sympathetic portrayal of an honest officer amidst a corrupt defense deal and a whole lot of inane caricatures. At best, it can pass boredom on a Sunday afternoon whenever it is aired on television.

5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Scores on effects, fails on narrative!, 22 July 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Christopher Nolan is known to experiment, such as the the non-linear narrative of 'Memento' and well written characters in 'The Dark Knight'. A director of his caliber also made the disappointing pseudo- intellectual 'Inception'. Sadly, 'Interstellar' too comes across as a let-down of sorts, despite interesting science.

'Interstellar' has all the ingredients of a typical space sci-fi film: spacecraft, wormholes, stasis, strange planets, time travel, a black hole, robots running on artificial intelligence, father-daughter drama, etc., in the background of a dying Earth. While these concepts aren't new to Hollywood, the big budget allowed for the visual spectacle. Still, it is marred by choppy narrative, clichéd dialog and poorly developed characters that we hardly care about.

Set in unspecified future, Earth's capacity to sustain life has diminished; crops are dying and there are dust storms. Agriculture takes precedence over everything. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is a former NASA test pilot turned farmer. A widowed Cooper lives with his father in law and children Tom and Murph. An inquisitive young Murph (Mackenzie Foy) is obsessed with the idea of a ghost in her bedroom and is always trying to decode signs.

As it turns out, the signs are coordinates to a hidden space station of NASA, headed by Professor Brand (Michael Caine), in search of life sustaining planets so as to evacuate Earth. Predictably, our hero, Cooper is the only man who can pilot the mission to outer space, beyond our galaxy accessed through a wormhole. Damn, a trespasser at a hidden space station is suddenly asked to commandeer a spaceflight without any serious briefing or training!

Joining Cooper on the mission are Amelia Brand (Anne Hathaway) and two other scientists that are expendable. Their mission is finding three of the ten manned probes that went through the portal earlier and have reported seemingly positive findings. Again, don't ask why manned missions when they had advanced AI robots like TARS and CASE? That brings us to the existential question: why a manned follow-up mission, huh?

The overarching premise behind the mission is that certain benevolent 'beings' have opened up a wormhole and left clues through gravity- based anomalies. The aging professor has been working on a mathematical model to evacuate Earth. The model fails since it needs data from a gravitational singularity, where space and time can be bent. If Plan- A, to evacuate fails, Plan-B to populate extraterrestrial planets with genetic samples humans.

Unbeknownst to the fatality of Plan-A, the crew continues to explore planets. One Planet has time distorted to a level where an hour on it equals seven years on earth. The planet doesn't make the cut due to its shallow waters and gigantic waves. The second is an icy planet with ice-clouds (filmed in Iceland) and a crazed explorer (Matt Damon) who tries to kill Cooper so that he can execute plan B at the third planet, Miller; Result: needless drama.

As with every movie involving vehicles, terrestrial or extraterrestrial, fuel shortage and damage to the craft and the need for Singularity data are key plot elements towards the climax. Apropos, they need to slingshot past the black hole to the third planet which Amelia bets on, as her loved one went there during the original Lazarus project. Oh, a movie is so incomplete without a love angle! Glad there wasn't any romance between Cooper and Ameila.

And then, our hero, Cooper dives into the event horizon of the beautifully depicted super-massive black hole and reaches singularity. But what is this singularity? Just like the limbo being linked to Cobb's dreams in 'Inception', the singularity in 'Interstellar' is actually a four dimensional tesseract presenting a single location to Cooper at various points in time. And the location? You guessed it: Murph's bedroom. How convenient!

So, who's the ghost in Murph's life? Cooper! And the 'beings'? Cooper again! He opened up the wormhole near Saturn that took him through the same spot half a century later. Doesn't this create an inconsistent causal loop just like 'Grandfather Paradox' or a chicken going back in time and laying an egg that it is born out of? But then, an average moviegoer doesn't care as long as there are spectacular sights and happy endings!

'Interstellar' is lengthy and tiresome, narrative is patchy and has excessive inter-cuts during crucial scenes. Spoiling experience further is the jarring and ominously heavy background score by Hans Zimmer that muffles out dialog. Acting is just passable: McConaughey is hardly a fit, Jessica Chastain as the grown up Murph is decent as the scientist and Michel Caine seems to be having his fourth outing with the director.

Nolan's fiction works for audiences who believe they enjoy intelligent films, but actually watch them without thought or logic. As contradictory as it sounds, truth is stranger than fiction. Nolan's 'Inception' was full of plot holes, irrespective of whether it was deliberate or inept storytelling. Usually, a good narrative should have a logical end, except that it is Nolan and he likes keeping things ambiguous. I haven't come across anyone who understood 'Inception' or 'Interstellar' fully, despite claiming that they loved it.

About the science in 'Interstellar', Nolan found played it safe by bringing a scientist on board, Kip Thore, as a consultant and executive producer. This would've surely had an impact on the depiction of a spinning black hole and other stuff like the four- dimensional tesseract within the event horizon, boxy but versatile AI robots, etc. Nonetheless, I'm still amazed at how an astronaut can dive into a black hole and come out totally unhurt!!

If anything, Christopher Nolan must be admired for dreaming big. Sadly, this movie is a waste of a great concept turned into an average movie that sells only the basis of special effects bankrolled by a big budget. While die-hard Nolan fans would rave over this, discerning movie connoisseurs won't appreciate the poor storytelling.

6 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Deserves applause for taking Indian cinema to the next level, 22 July 2015

For a long time, I don't remember struggling for tickets. Multiplexes and apps had just made things too easy. But then, India's most expensive film to date, Baahubali seems to have changed the whole demand game. Instead of media hype that is typical of Bollywood, it was actually word of mouth publicity that got many people to watch the film. Consequently, movie screens were almost full and finding tickets was tough.

The story of Baahubali has everything that a political tale from the era of kings would have. There are cousins battling for the throne, played by Prabhas, as the protagonist with superhuman strength playing Baahubali and Sivudu and Rana Daggubati as the formidable antagonist, Bhallaladeva. Tamannaah (forget the ever changing spelling) Bhatia plays a masked tribal warrior girl Avanthika and Sivudu's love interest.

Talk about wars and kingdoms, comparisons with '300', 'Game of Thrones' or 'Troy' and their likes are natural. In reality, filmmakers have very little latitude in the variety of stories that can be portrayed and it is also possible that some copied/ inspired scenes may emerge, for all we know! Still, one mustn't forget that SS Rajamouli's Baahubali is a story on political dynamics that are not unusual in Indian history and epics.

The lead cast is supported by strong performances from Ramya Krishna, playing the matriarch Sivagami and Satyaraj as the brave, but morally obligated Kattappa and Nasser as Bhallaladeva's father Bijjaladeva. Minor roles include that of Anushka Shetty as Devasena and Sudeep as Aslam Khan, who may have bigger roles in the sequel.

Bang for the buck comes from visual effects that are comparable to any big budget flick involving VFX. The scenes involving the gigantic waterfall and bull fight are on par with the global best such as Avatar or Jurassic World. Having said that, a couple of scenes, like the avalanche and some shots of capital city could have been improved.

Complementing the stupendous visuals was the flawless sound mixing. The dialog, sound effects and the background score blend seamlessly. MM Kreem's ominous 'maahishmati saamrajyam' provides a perfect backdrop to the serious scenes. The songs were decent, however none of them can be categorized as hummable.

Editing was perfect in the second half, while the first half was quite shaky. The movie could've taken more time to establish the characters but instead, some of scenes look rushed up. Frankly, a few minutes of extra runtime wouldn't have mattered if the transitions between some scenes were smoother.

With massive sets, everything in Baahubali is on a grand scale. The Kingdom's capital was luxuriously large and the waterfall was unimaginably gigantic. The war scenes were realistic and captivating. Maybe, it would've looked tad more realistic if the capital's sets looked a bit weathered. The costumes were well done though.

The weakest area in the film, that I could fathom was the make-up. Our filmmakers are simply unable to get past the obsession of painting faces. Time they understand that in ultra high definition of digital cinema, the make-up overdose look uglier than blemishes on the faces, that are natural and acceptable these days. This is one lesson that they need to learn from 'Game of Thrones' that got the make-up spot on. .

The dubbing in Hindi was well done. Nevertheless, it would have been better if distributors had more shows of the original Telugu version with English subtitles running in Mumbai's multiplexes. It would've helped retain the original flavor of the film. Let's hope the distributors release the sequel on more screens!

Rupees 250 crore for two films may sound like a big budget. But, in dollar terms a 40 million budget not actually big on a global scale. Yet, the movie has achieved so much. it is therefore testimony to the fact that India has tons of talent and if budget isn't a constraint, in the right hands, unbounded creativity can be unleashed in India.

A brilliant movie like Baahubali coming from the South that is jeered for dark-skinned and fat stars is actually a slap in the face for Bollywood that is churning out trash as hits (at least for the likes of avuncular and narcissistic Shahrukh's Ra.One/ Jab Tak Hai Jaan or pseudo-intellectual Aamir's Dhoom 3 or a Salman who hasn't learnt one bit of acting in decades or Rohit Shetty blowing cars or Farah Khan's outrageous plot lines).

Verdict: Sure as hell, Baahubali is no perfect film. But, for what it's worth, watch Baahubali on the big screen and thus discourage piracy This is the least bit that a movie fan must do to encourage the good guys among Indian filmmakers to take bigger risks in the right path and tell us bigger and grander indigenous stories.

1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Worthwhile for its youthful romance and humor, 11 July 2014

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, popularly known as DDLJ has been one of the biggest cult hits of Bollywood and an epic love story. What had made that famous Yash Raj movie tick was that it had the youthful element of adventurous love despite the fact that the girl is about to be married to a boy of her father's choice. And then, the lover boy goes all out to win over her parents and gets the girl.

Karan Johar has attempted to re-create the same magic by making a largely DDLJ inspired film Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania. It has oodles of romance, comedy and a bit of beating and getting beaten up plus a couple of likable songs. But, will this film make it as big as DDLJ? I don't think so. Partly due to short shelf life of films and partly due to generation change from the days of Bollywood style true love!

The film opens with an introduction to its lead characters. Rakesh 'Humpty' Sharma (Varun Dhawan) is a happy go lucky young man brought up by his equally chilled out father (Kenny Desai) who runs a bookstore in Delhi. Kavya Pratap Singh (Alia Bhatt) is girl from Ambala engaged to an NRI chosen by her authoritarian dad (Ashutosh Rana). Patriarch Singh detests love marriage after the failure of his first daughter's choice and wants the whole affair to go on in the way that he deems fit.

Kavya wants her wedding to be a grand affair. After noticing that her friend in Delhi, Gurpreet has bought herself a designer lehenga, she demands her family buy one for her too. When denied, Kavya quarrels with her family and goes to Delhi to make enough money to shop a designer. It was here that she meets Humpty and she arranges a deal to get him through a pass mark in his bachelor's degree.

For Humpty, he has fallen for the pretty, feisty and smart girl and chases her despite knowing that she is about to get married in a month and a half. But as is the case in all romance flicks, Kavya falls for Humpty after he helps Gurpreet with a problem and then delivers upon his promise to buy her a lehenga (although the latter seemed extremely contrived). Although Kavya heads back to Ambala to go on with the wedding plans, Humpty chases her and vows to win her father's heart.

The story takes a serious turn as Kavya's father and brother turn belligerent towards him. Upon Kavya's insistence, father Singh gives Humpty a chance by putting him on the task of finding at least one fault in the NRI boy Angad (Siddharth Shukla) that he has chosen for his daughter. The rest of the story is filled with humor as Humpty and his two friends go all out; plus the essential ingredient, emotional scenes.

While the plot is decent, the ending of Humpty Sharma ki Dulhania has far less impact than the epic scene of DDLJ where Shah Rukh Khan is on the train awaiting Amrish Puri to release his grip on Kajol and the latter running in all her bridal finery to board the train. Who can ever forget that scene!

This is just her third movie and Alia hasn't put a foot wrong, either in her choice of movies or performance. She has played a college kid, a soul searching sojourner and now a feisty bride with aplomb. Notwithstanding the dumb Alia jokes on the internet, the numero uno slot in Bollywood is just a matter of time for the actress who can carry off innocence and attitude perfectly well.

Varun Dhawan's character is not that of a typical macho hero, but a regular guy who wears his heart on his sleeve who falls in love with the girl. Siddharth Shukla, a popular face on TV makes his film debut. However, his role hardly has much scope. One of the most noteworthy performances is that of the acclaimed actor Ashutosh Rana as the stern father. He fits well into the Bollywood baddies hall of fame.

Verdict: When compared, there is no chance that débutante director Shashank Khaitan can manage what a débutante Aditya Chopra did 19 years ago. On a stand-alone basis, Humpty Sharma ki Dulhania is an enjoyable film and it's a choice you won't regret. The song 'Samjhawaan' is very likable too. You can watch it with your family, laugh at the jokes and yes, believe in the power of love!

Mahabharat (2013)
6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Crappy animation ruins the potential, 2 January 2014

India's 'Most expensive' animated movie, really? Why are the filmmakers Pen making fools out of the public? Is India's technical prowess down to this? Not at all. The animated 2013 Mahabharat by Amaan Khan is a downer by epic proportions.

The film begins by claiming that it has been designed to acquaint the younger generation about the stories from the great Indian epic Mahabharata and about the values contained therein. It begins with two little boys, brothers, fighting over a coin. Then, a messenger bird appears and narrates the tale of what a quarrel between brothers over greed, ego and power struggle could lead to.

Since the massive story of a hundred thousand stanzas needs to be consolidated into two hours of film, the script only touches upon the important highlights. The birth of Karna and the other Pandavas and that of the Kauravas is told as a passing reference. And there is no reference to Bhishma or Pandu & Dhritarashtra lineages.

The main story begins at the point where Pandavas and Kauravas showcase their skills at an arena in the capital Hastinapur. Patriarch Bhishma (Amitabh Bachchan) oversees the duels: Bheem (Sunny Deol) vs Duryodhan (Jackie Shroff) and Arjuna (Ajay Devgan) vs Karna (Anil Kapoor). In the end, Yudhishtir (Manoj Bajpayee) is anointed as the crown prince, thus angering Duryodhan and Shakuni Mama (Anupam Kher).

The tale then continues to portray the Pandavas' wedding with Draupadi (Vidya Balan) and explains the logic behind five husbands and then introduces the character of Lord Krishna (Shatrughan Sinha). Following Draupadi's insult of Duryodhan and the counter-insult after the game of dice, the Pandavas go to the jungles. On their return, evil Duryodhan doesn't return their kingdom and war between cousins is imminent.

'Mahabharat' 3D or 2D depending on the format that watches it in, focuses on the events of the famed battle, the message of Krishna to Arjuna and the aftermath of the war. While the animation is extremely loathsome, one can't help but appreciate the attempt to capture the essence of the values contained in the epic in about 2 hours.

The acting talent is only reflected through the voices of its actors. While Big B's baritone voice is the most resoundingly awesome one, the faces of the characters bear mild resemblance to the actors, leave aside the muscular bodies. In a way, it was fun to see big names lend their voices to evergreen characters in the Indian psyche. If only the visual feel lived up to the mark of the actors voices! If at all!

Nonetheless, since it is an animation film, much of its merits would be analyzed against what is seen on screen. While they have attempted the use of rich colors, the use of movements and shadows is too tacky. If you remember playing decade old versions of action games like Counterstrike, you would know what I'm talking about. The visuals have an overall substandard feel and seems like a cheap TV show.

With animation, comparisons are inevitable too. While it would be unfair to compare it with Hollywood, does it stand up to homegrown cartoons? It doesn't. In fact, they could have done better by sticking to simpler styles, much like the old-world comics and give life to a simplistic style of animation. They couldn't have emulated the 2011 Tintin film, but could've at least emulated Chota Bheem.

Background score and songs are not only bad; but they are also poorly timed. It is understandable that the screenwriters have used songs to convey the passage of time based events; however, this was not effective. The editing too is so hopelessly lost that one background tune suddenly cuts into another.

Verdict: Earlier this month, a news report said that the film has been insured for INR 50 crore. Going by the lack of interest by audiences and empty movie halls, surely, the insurance companies have something to worry about. Doesn't that say enough already? If you are still keen on it, save your money, wait till it comes on TV.

Dhoom:3 (2013)
0 out of 47 people found the following review useful:
Slick stunts but a boring overdose of Aamir Khan, 22 December 2013

'Dhoom 3' should ideally be named 'Doom' as it is much unlike its predecessors. While the first 'Dhoom', 2004 set the standard as a film with bike stunts, the second film took the plot international in 2006 and reached new heights with Hrithik's villainous role and super-svelte Aishwarya Rai. The third edition takes the franchise downhill into the depths of boredom and seems like modeling portfolio of Aamir Khan.

For a wafer-thin plot that it has, here's the summary: Angered at the suicide by a circus owner (Jackie Shroff), his son Sahir (Aamir Khan) seeks revenge against the bank that mercilessly closed the circus. Since the thief scribbles 'tere aisi ki taisi' in Hindi after robbing banks, Chicago cops seek the help of Mumbai police to solve the crime.

And then enter ACP Jai Dixit (Abhishek Bachchan) and his funny side-kick Ali (Uday Chopra). It is worthwhile to note that the son of the angry- young-man still hasn't got a promotion in nine years since the first Dhoom film. The story then has a suspense (not revealed in the review) which isn't actually interesting and loads of action.

Aamir Khan's perfection lies exposed as nothing more than a publicity stunt and a sham. Throughout the film, he wears one of these two expressions: One, "I'm soooo serious", Two, "I'm soooo smart" with that trademark smug smile of his. If you only see the actor and not the character he plays, I'd surely brand that as bad acting. And if you gave the star a benefit of doubt, one can say, he was miscast for the role.

Bachchan Junior and Uday Chopra are nothing more than mere props in the film As the popular internet humor goes, they're there, thanks to 'Yash Raj Rozgar Yojana'. Not only the boys, the leading lady Katrina Kaif hardly has any role, barring a gratuitous strip-tease in 'Kamli' to please Aamir so that he casts her in his 'Great Indian Circus'.

The only man who has any role in the film is Aamir Khan who is present in almost every frame of the film. In a way, it reminded me of some Kamal Haasan's films where the self-obsessed star who is not much unlike Aamir has to be present in every scene. There is a sheer overdose of Aamir Khan, bordering on narcissism.

Another major irritant in the film is the oft repeated lines, sometimes with a tune, 'Bande hai hum.. ' that is supposed to bring out some sentimental connection with the antagonist's past. The only effect that is has on the audience is that of annoyance. The songs are extremely disappointing and the film suddenly breaks into a song when it is not needed at all. And yes, Aamir's tap dance is outright stupid.

Okay! the circus was supposedly closed down by the bank and auctioned. But how is it that it is still there so that our star can visit the place and relive the pains of his childhood? And how does he take revenge? By stealing the bank? C'mon, just before the sub-prime crisis, he could have just made them lend some ninja loans and invest in toxic assets and they would have gone down the drain anyway. Touché!

Dhoom 3 also happens to be very lengthy and tiresome. In fact, everything in the film after the interval is a waste. To some of my friends who said they got up and left mid-way, they surely didn't miss much. There's hardly anything enjoyable in the dialogs either, and it just some pathetic piece of writing in a predominantly action film.

What salvages Dhoom 2 are some well done stunts, although each stunt is needlessly slowed down. Cars blowing up in chase sequences are a staple and there's the usual Hollywood style helicopter chase. The transformation of the bike into a boat is cool, although somewhat inspired. Stylish stunts and the special effects are the only saving grace and the only thing worth something in 'Doom', err 'Dhoom 3'.

Verdict: The movie's plot involves stealing. Yes, they steal your money with expensive tickets. I can only sympathize with those who may have paid 900 bucks per ticket at IMAX. What a rip off, seriously! If you still want to watch it, catch a morning show and cut your losses. You may just enjoy your popcorn more than the film.

Besharam (2013)
23 out of 36 people found the following review useful:
Average fare saved totally by Ranbir Kapoor, 2 October 2013

Ranbir Kapoor seems to have comfortably established himself as the next biggest superstar after the sun sets down on the Khans who are nearing their fifties. A natural actor that he is, most of his movies have been well received; even in those that didn't make money, his acting was appreciated.

Well, here is his new offering 'Besharam' that has a lot of masala: there's comedy, romance and action and directed by Abhinav Kashyap of 'Dabangg' fame. Predictably, some references and parodies from his earlier film are seen here; the lead character being someone who does wrong stuff but has a heart of gold or naming one of the key supporting characters as 'Chulbul' after Salman's old character.

'Besharam' begins with an introduction to Bheem Singh Chandel (Javed Jaffrey) a hawala kingpin in Chandigarh who needs stolen luxury cars for his business. His need gets him introduced to Babli (Ranbir Kapoor), a mechanic who is also a car thief. And since the hero ought to be a good guy, he is seen donating all his earnings to an orphanage he grew up in.

Wait: Babli is referred to as a smooth criminal and the first car theft that we see of his involves a massive chase drama with cops! And that's supposed to be super smooth, huh! Nonetheless, the chase sequence is used to introduce us to the cop-couple, who are also Ranbir Kapoor's real life parents, Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Kapoor, who are childless and eventually think of adopting someone.

One day, Babli's eyes fall on Tara Sharma (Pallavi Sharda) who is a middle-class girl with big dreams of living a big life and marrying into money. On one occasion she also insults Babli who has been trying to woo her. But it so happens that the Merc she bought to show off to her friends gets stolen by Babli, who doesn't know it's hers and delivers it to Chandel. But then, there's a twist in the tale.

As such, the story has nothing new. Some of its situations are so flawed and are a throwback to the 80's. Silly chase sequences, preposterous plot situations that are simplistic extensions of some weirdly idealistic scenario. And then there's the forced love angle between a lead pair that has no chemistry whatsoever. Of course, there's toilet humor too. Still, some of its better jokes are quite funny.

The film's weakest link is its lead actress. Pallavi Sharda, an Indian- Australian and trained dancer does not have the looks or acting skills or even screen presence to play a lead role. Also, despite the high heels she is seen wearing, she is way too short to be paired with Kapoor. The only plausible reason being casting an unknown girl would've been to keep the focus solely on their superstar!

But despite the weak plot and songs lacking punch, the only saving grace for the film is its lead actor Ranbir Kapoor and his ability to carry off any film; although that didn't apply to his debut film. His antics convince you to believe in his character and feel for him and also laugh at his lines which he delivers with an accent that only makes him seem more authentic.

Nonetheless, no heroic charm can save 'Besharam' unless it makes its money using the hype that surrounded its release and the news that it is being released on 3600 of screens, tad more than 'Chennai Express'. But if audience reactions to simplistic comedies are the way to go by, there is no reason to believe why 'Besharam' won't do well. After all, it has a big star and it's a comedy!

Verdict: Well, there's nothing much to expect as a story and some of its funny scenes are actually similar to old movies. If you are in a mood for masala entertainment and random humor, 'Besharam' would suit your funny taste buds. If you are slightly more discerning, you won't really like it. But, if you are a huge Ranbir Kapoor fan, none of these reasons apply anyways.

Prague (2013)
6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
A cerebral tale in an interesting backdrop, 30 September 2013

Writing a review about 'Prague' will be quite a task. The key factor being that the movie takes a while to sink in. It has all the elements that make it fit the bill of a film that would be well received at film festivals. It's a psychological thriller shot at an interesting location and some brilliant acting by relatively unknown faces.

Chandan (Chandan Roy Sanyal) is an architect who bags a project at Prague and he is to be accompanied by Gulshan (Mayank Kumar), his carefree buddy. Chandan's constant companion happens to be a mysterious Arfi (Arfi Lamba). But, what lies beneath is Chandan's battle with schizophrenia and his struggle with relationships.

Early on, during the openings credits, the movie sets the tone on what to expect in the Czech capital. Prague is shown to be a place with architectural wonders. And this turns out to be so for Chandan who is working on finding an idea for his project.

One evening, he chances by Elena (Elena Kazan), a danseuse and very soon, the two develop a bond. By the way, it's so convenient that she had spent some time in India, that too in Chandan's hometown of Kolkata and knows a bit of Bengali.

The rest of the story which includes a series of flashbacks, is better not discussed, for it could reveal the suspense. Nonetheless, despite it seeming like a 'thriller', it was possible to predict what the twists could be. Although, there are this cannot take anything away from the fact that it is a well-written film and the dialog has clever lines.

Most of the writing effort seems to have gone into development of its characters. Noteworthy among them is the role of Gulshan who is seen 'living his life to the fullest', a spirit that Chandan admires, but fails to emulate to due to other issues that hold him back. Elena on the other hand is beautiful and caring, but has a strong desire to give meaning to her gypsy roots, a reference to the Roma tribes of the region.

The scenes on the screen are shaded by dark undertones, the heady mixture of cigarette smoke, drugs, alcohol and women. Those that involve Prague's architecture are shown well. One scene that is exceptional is Chandan clicking pictures of his muse in a gypsy avatar where Kazan looks stunning.

Prague does have a few flaws. Despite it meaning to be a suspense, the plot can be worked out. It also has moments where it gets too involved into its characters that it is distracting at times. There are some repetitive moments which can be defended as having dramatic value. In all fairness, its genre is challenging in itself.

Made on a small budget and actors with no name-recall, the film is a bold experiment. Director Ashish R Shukla, who is also credited with the story, needs to be applauded for the effort. The newer breed of directors pushing creative limits is a positive trend that must be encouraged. It's a pleasant break from Bollywood's blockbuster culture.

Verdict: Don't shy away from 'Prague' because it isn't a star-studded big budget flick or that it lacks item numbers, if you are keen about those, then stay away. 'Prague' is a serious film and a bold attempt by a débutant director. Despite some of its shortcomings, a film connoisseur will be happy he watched this film.

Elysium (2013/I)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Stupid film with one-dimensional characters, 30 September 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Going by the standard Neill Blomkamp set in the Academy Award nominated 'District 9', his new offering 'Elysium' is a massive let down. While the earlier film had the powerful undercurrent of racism in South Africa, Elysium's attempt to take on the rich-poor divide comes across as flawed and executed without much thought.

Since, I really don't predict many people watching this after reading this, I thought of using some liberty to include spoilers in the review. Here it goes:

In the year 2154 (incidentally the same year that 'Avatar' is set in), Earth has become overpopulated, polluted and disease ridden. The elite have since escaped to a space-station style colony leaving the poor in a state of appalling health-care and sanitation standards while they dream of illegal immigration to 'Elysium'.

The protagonist of the story is Max Da Costa (Matt Damon), ex-convict on parole works for a company that makes robots and dreams of saving up to buy a ticket to Elysium. Things get rough after he is exposed to radiation while at work and has only five days to live. He then urges Spider, someone who arranges illegal ships to get him there, in exchange of one last con job, that turns out to be the keys to the kingdom.

Meanwhile on Elysium, Secretary of Defense Delacourt (Jodie Foster) rules with an iron hand, much to the disapproval of the rest of the administration. That includes using illegal agents to shoot down spacecraft intruding into Elysium air-space. She then urges a corporate honcho Carlyle to build an illegal program that will install her as President. It is this very program that Max unwittingly ends up stealing from Carlyle.

The film tells us very little about the people in Elysium except that they are on a perpetual holiday. The film makes it appear as if anyone having access to the main program running the system, runs the Elysium and concordantly, all human population. Preposterous! And does it take only a computer program to bring down an administration? So, you see, the audience wouldn't care a damn about Elysium folks.

What about earthlings then? That too, hardly evokes sympathy! In Max's neighborhood, he seems to be the only who cares about working in a proper job. So, what were the others doing? Busy enhancing the population? The view from space shows that the land surface of the planet had lost its greenery. So, how were the people still alive? Didn't the climate change affect the weather or crops?

Sometimes, the portrayal of earth, with the burgeoning population and issues like crumbling health-care & sanitation shown in the film, in some way would remind you of how India could look like within a few years if the population kept growing at the current rate and with the rich-poor divide continuing to widen. Shocking nonetheless!

The film is so poorly written that one hardly feels for any of its characters or care about what they seek to represent. Our hero's only motivation to reach Elysium is to fulfill his dream and the urgency comes because he is about to die. And what was Alice Braga's silly role in it? One can remember her equally pointless role in the futuristic 'Repo Men'. And Max's conversation with Braga's kid seems forced.

There are numerous other inconsistencies, like how Max recovers from his injuries, and then the exoskeleton being bolted to his body using big screws and then being stabbed by a knife during fights. He seemed more like Terminator rather than a real human. And he carries the program in chip attached to his head. Duh!

Joining Foster & Damon in the wasted actors list is Sharlto Copley who played the lead actor in 'District 9'. He plays the mercenary, Kruger. His character seems to have a sudden transition from an illegal, later disavowed mercenary to a President hopeful. What a sudden transition! Surely, this bit could have done with some improvement.

The only thing a movie like this can brag about is special effects and some cool gadgets. The car-like space shuttles are so quick, compact and convenient, powerful weapons that are exceedingly compact. But this is hardly adequate to save the film.

And lastly, let's talk about the ending: The reprogrammed code now considers all Earthlings as citizens and the system dispatches them medical facilities so that they too can live forever, and that too disease free! And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the film ends! Seriously, that's their hare-brained plot. What a waste of time and money!!

Verdict: Elysium may have bagged good ratings; but, please don't get carried away by it. Even if you are in the mood to leave your brain back home in the refrigerator, this film can still irritate you and make you feel like walking out in between. Avoidable!

Cocktail (2012)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Average fare romance flick with shallow characters, 25 September 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Although 'Cocktail' was peddled as a movie for the those in their 20s, there was nothing in particular that pertained to the youth. In fact, if the writers thought that the 20's something generation was as shallow as their characters, they are surely mistaken. 'Cocktail' is just your average Desi romance flick with some good songs.

The film opens with Gautam Kapoor (Saif Ali Khan) flirting with a flight attendant on the way to London, something he repeats with many girls in the film. On another flight is a newly wedded conservative girl Meera Gupta (Diana Penty) on her way to meet her husband of a sham wedding. And then there is the carefree Veronica D'Costa (Deepika Padukone) for whom partying is a way of life.

Circumstances lead to a helpless Meera finding shelter in Veronica's home. The two soon become close buddies. Gautam who is in a casual relationship with Veronica moves in with them. Later, after a run in with his mom and uncle who may not be approving of Veronica, he pretends that Meera is his girl. The two don't like each other much, but as the movie progresses, sparks fly between them.

While we are accustomed to seeing Saif in yuppie playboy roles in 'Hum Tum', he must realize that many years have now passed since he did them. And his age now shows. Although his mom in the film Dimple Kapadia says he is 32, he surely looks a decade older, closer to his actual age, 42. Despite this glaring drawback, some of his Casanova antics are funny although some others are way overboard.

There was a quite a bit of noise about Diana Penty's debut but there is nothing remarkable about her. She is overshadowed by Deepika, both in the looks department and acting. In fact, Diana Penty was the first choice to play Ranbir's love interest in 'Rockstar' which eventually went to Nargis Fakhri. After watching cocktail, it was evident that if Penty was cast in Rockstar, the film wouldn't have had as much impact.

Deepika Padukone, for one, has actually learned some acting skills. Compared to what she was in 'Om Shanti Om', she has come a long way. Also, she carries off her designer wear with aplomb. Amidst all the gloom, her acting is an asset to the film.

Where the film fails are with its poor writing and shallow characters who are seen partying around most of time as if they are on an unending holiday. None of them have must depth to their personality. Boman Irani & Dimple Kapadia contribute to some funny moments, but isn't enough to keep it going.

The worst thing about cocktail is that it aligns with the hypocritical Indian moral view where Veronica, the promiscuous party-girl is a bad girl while a god-fearing and docile type casted Meera is supposedly virtuous and gets the guy in the end. All this when our hero manages to 'patao' every other girl around except Meera. Maybe it's only the hunt that gets him interested in her rather than anything else.

Songs like 'Tumhi Ho Bandhu', 'Daaru Desi' are already runaway hits. But with Pritam being the Music Director, we would never know the source till one looks up YouTube with the search string 'pritam songs + copy' . As far as the Punjabi folk song 'Jugni' is concerned, the movie makers have purchased rights for its use.

'Cocktail' comes across as a confused film. Did they want to show a purely romantic flick like 'Love Aaj Kal' exploring urban relationships? Or did they want to play safe with some 'homely girl vs. party girl: who gets the boy' theme? Or was this meant to be a comedy? In fact, it is a cocktail of these three, with the recipe gone awry.

Now for the verdict: Don't be fooled by its name coz this cocktail isn't going to get you intoxicated. Probably, one can call it a mock-tail instead. Don't even watch it on TV.

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