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Daawat-e-Ishq (2014)
6/10
A nice, sweet love story. Needed a little more meat, spice & cooking to be great!
19 September 2014
This is a sweet, but extremely predictable story. One where you wish there was more meat, literally, to justify the title. You visually do see lots of food, in some cases being consumed too, but apart from stray mentions of 'my grandfather's recipe', you don't really talk about food – the favorite dishes, the taste…and thus what is cooked up is just another love story.

Tired of incessant dowry demands from would-be suitors, Parineeti, one day, decides to get even. Till then, along with her father, Anupam Kher, she ekes out a normal, humdrum, middle class existence as a Hyderabadi Muslim, complete with dreams of America. Inspired by a huge settlement in a local dowry case, she decides she will entrap some rich, dowry demanding family and then use the settlement money to fulfill her dreams. Off they go to Lucknow, under fake identities. And meet Aditya Roy Kapur, who runs, one of the city's most popular eateries. And then the plan changes. Or doesn't it?

Being a Habib Faisal movie, it obviously gets the milieu right – whether its that of a Hyderabadi Muslim (with their sing song dialect), or that of a wannabe middle class person (dreams of America while being a salesgirl at a local shoe store, wants a guy who speaks good English – even better if with an American twang), or even the scared/worried father, desperate to get his daughter married off. In fact, one of the more endearing sub-plots, which was briefly introduced but not really built on, related to Anupam Kher's job as a legal clerk, his own knowledge of the law and the court system yet, despite some egging from colleagues, his inability to fly – ie make the transition from being a clerk to becoming an advocate – despite retirement being just around the corner.

Aditya and Parineeti, both, did justice to their roles, making their slightly over-the-top characters come to life. I particularly liked Aditya's screen presence, he has this slightly gangly look but more than makes up with his expressions and a shy, disarming smile. Hope he doesn't take up any more drunk, suicidal roles. The supporting cast, including the various demanding parents and suitors, was fascinating to watch – their mannerisms, the way their 'requests for help' were communicated (since no one actually uses the word dowry) and also the communication between spouses.

All in all, a good film, a sweet love story, but one which doesn't really rise above the average Bollywood romcom and one where the title, Dawat-E-Ishq, seems like almost an after-thought, to differentiate itself from other films in this genre, without any substantial meat in the script

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Finding Fanny (2014)
8/10
Delicious, quirky characters add fizz to this funny film
12 September 2014
Naseeruddin Shah : is a shy, solemn loner, the post master in a village where no one posts or receives any mail, still is a choirboy singer even though his days of being a boy are well behind him. And he brays, nay, sobs inconsolably as he receives a marriage proposal he'd made to his beloved Fanny via mail, forty-six years ago. It was never posted ! And the only one who understands him, is willing to help him is the girl he considers to be like a daughter, who he thinks will make one lucky bugger a great wife and will also be a super mother…Deepika…

Deepika Padukone : ethereal, leggy, flashing that dimpled smile of hers, a vision in floral dresses, floating through their tiny Goan village, remains upbeat despite all that's happened to her, with her husband choking to death on her wedding day, she till today isn't sure whether she should've accepted her hubby's proposal or gone with his friend instead, her quiet admirer, the quiet, quite infatuated… Arjun….

Arjun Kapoor : left town the day Deepika was going to get married. Rumour has it he went to Mumbai and was successful in some business. Is now back in their village. Not happy about how things have turned out. Prone to angry outbursts. Alone in his dilapidated house, which is falling apart. And working on his old car, which is also falling apart. Which he's just sold to… Pankaj….

Pankaj Kapur : is the new man in town, an award winning artist, a painter who earns huge sums for his every brush stroke. Is enjoying his solitude, the idyllic sylvan surroundings, his alcohol. And is also indulging in his fetish for 'big' women…by ogling at Dimple…

Dimple Kapadia : who does have a really large ass ! Also happens to be Deepika's mother in law and house mate, the woman who makes the tiny village tick, the one who organizes everything and loves being the centre of attention…the type who will try to commit suicide but will cough first to make sure someone is watching…the stingy type who will hide the cookies if she thinks her guest is eating too many…the type who feels too many drinks don't agree with her legs. Gout? Inquires Pankaj, solicitously ? No, she laughs, it makes them spread open…

These five quirky characters set off on a drive to locate Naseer's precious Fanny. In the dilapidated car. From the village that we're assured is so tiny, you cant locate it on a map. And interesting things happen on the way.

This is one of those delicious movies where its not so much about the story but more about the characters and the conversations. Where the script and the dialogue is, quite refreshingly, actually king. Where the music sets the mood but doesn't overpower. Where the performances by the stalwarts, Pankaj, Naseer are every bit what you would expect – they get into the skin of their assigned roles, changing body language, their walk, their way of talking to ensure we believe in them. Pankaj, in particular, has more scope to display his intensity, especially in a little bit towards the end.

Dimple is very good too, dominating yet hesitantly finding her way through the challenges life has thrown at her. Arjun has probably the most unidimensional role and he does it credit. In acting chops, probably the one who has to go the furthest, but he can still hold his head high after this one. And Deepika…ah, sweet, lovely, Deepika! Anyone who doubts whether she can act…I mean, really act…better be advised to watch this one. None of the histrionics, over the top gestures and mannerisms of say, Chennai Express…just subtle changes of expressions, a slightly quizzical mien of inner happiness with just a smidgen of indecision.

This is one of those films which is about journeys, self-discovery, life and more. The lessons made easy with the humour and the idiosyncratic dramatis personae. Set in a place where we all wish we could be…simpler, where time seems to stand still. And its not so much about Finding Fanny, but finding love…at any age…

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6/10
Baseball with an Indian flavour in a Disney fairytale
10 May 2014
Feel good, fun film, very predictable but still manages to hold attention thanks to its Indian flavor and the self-discovery some of the characters go through, particularly Jon Hamm.

Jon is a sports agent down to his last throw of dice when he convinces a Chinese entrepreneur (Tzi Ma) to fund a search for new baseball pitcher from India's vast pool of cricket bowlers, setting it up as a talent hunt, criss-crossing the country. After many a hiccup, they finally narrow it down to 2 candidates, Suraj and Madhur and whisk them, along with Pitobash (a wanna be baseball coach, translator) to the USA to get them to train, get ready for a tryout in a very tight deadline. Things don't go exactly as planned and Jon at one point complains about having signed up for a talent contest, not to become a primary care-giver.

His business partner, Aasif (remember him from Ghost Town ?) and tenant, Lake Bell, are the ones helping keep things on track, while Alan Arkin and Bill Paxton as the baseball scout and coach, try to help with their wise counsel, while Darshan Jariwala plays a cameo.

This is a film that doesn't really go deep but keeps things moving while skimming through what the characters are going through. The adjustment issues – Jon's to India and then later for the Indian trio in America are humorously and quickly told. The relationship between Jon and Lake – beginning with a broken down washing machine, then Skype and later at home is crucial to the plot. And most fascinating of all is watching Jon's character, the deal hungry, self-centered sports agent, try and figure out what life is about – of course, with a few helpful nudges from friends

Sport movies usually suffer from predictable endings and this one is no exception. It drags a bit in the second half too but the music score by A R Rahman helps gloss over that. It's a true story apparently but one, surprisingly not too many Indians are aware of, so in that sense, the chief objective of doing the talent hunt, to popularize baseball in India, doesn't really seem to have worked. Unfortunately, going by the low key promotion, release and the small crowds, even the film wont help do that here

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4/10
People fall in and out of love or marriage mandaps too easily
7 September 2013
People fall in and out of love too easily. Change their mind about marriage too conveniently. I understand promiscuity but this is a different level of flippancy. You also don't get what's it about Sushant that he gets too fairly hot women to lust for him.

Sushant Singh runs away from one marriage, from the actual jai-mala stage. Because he is not sure. Neither are we about why he runs away. He seems like a typical, dil-phenkh, sadak- chhaap boy, nothing memorable about him, not much to look at either. But first Parineeti falls for him. Then Vaani Kapoor, the girl he had left at the Hindu equivalent of the altar, also does so. Cue a couple more escapes from weddings and you wonder what the hell is going on…

The only character who remains consistent, understandable is Rishi Kapoor. A man who employs both Sushant and Parineeti as fake baraati's and otherwise runs a wedding catering / baraat business. His advice, concern for the three leads remains genuine. And even though there are plenty of 'I love you's', kisses and sex, not once do you feel anything is real or heart- felt…which kind of allows the whole movie to pass you by as well, without any regard for its leads.

Some of the jokes are funny. The rustic touches are good, the atmosphere, small-town feel works and the performances sincere. Pity you just don't agree with either the overall plot or the characters created.
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8/10
Slow, gentle, thought provoking and a visual delight
20 July 2013
A movie that moves so slowly, languidly that you'll swear you know snails who're faster, turtles who seem rocket-fueled compared to this one.

Visuals that make you rock back, admire their beauty, of the planet we inhabit and the meanings within

Stray thoughts, casually tossed up in conversations that go nowhere, which make you ponder

For me, Ship of Theseus, while obviously making you think of the question it asks in its opening frame, manages to do more because it chooses a non-confrontational, subtle (not heavy- handed, preachy) approach. One, which is the precise opposite of what, say a Rakeysh OmPrakash Mehra chooses to do. The beauty of this approach is that different people, based on their proclivities, their journeys in life, the stage of life they are at, can choose to draw completely different things from the film

The movie, for the record, is about three (unrelated?) stories.

Aida El-Kasheef, who took up photography post losing her eyesight, but thanks to technology and her boyfriend's loving support (including verbally describing the visuals she has taken), is doing amazingly well.

Neeraj Kabi, a monk, fighting a court case against pharma companies to force them to treat the animals they use for R&D testing in a more humane manner. Determined to live life as per his conscience, his terms

And Sohum Shah, who can't understand his grandmother's disapproval of his desire to make money. He just wants to be respected, treated well for the good person he is.

There are several comments about the choices we make. Our obsession with money, with what we eat, the desire of media to make heroes out of people, the ruthlessness of big business, the ability of intelligent people to easily argue both sides of a debate while not taking a stand, the sense of humanity still retained by the poor.

The cinematography reveals the beauty within the inherent ugliness of our urban cities. Visuals of a slum-dweller giving shelter to ducks, other animals. A monk, swathed in white, crossing a bridge with huge sewage pipelines on either side while a river, who's water has turned black, flows leisurely underneath. The light filtering through under a ugly flyover. The sun peeping through between Aida and her boyfriend while they argue, look over the city from a rooftop. Monks crossing a giant field filled with ugly, electricity-generating windmills. The rising sun making red walls glow deeper. The narrow alleyways of our slums, which cars or plump people find difficult to access. And the struggle of a centipede to cross over a busy path with oblivious people stepping all around it.

I feel the movie should be seen without any thought or search for deeper meaning. Let it wash over you and make of it what you will, but later. It has the potential to make you think, ponder over things around us. And for sure to make all of us reach for organ donation forms. Which is a great thing by itself…the ability to prolong life even in our death…to live longer, almost attain immortality by a simple act of kindness…
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RED 2 (2013)
6/10
A notch below the previous one but still fun !
20 July 2013
One of those, like the first one, where its all about the ride rather than rationality, as we watch our Retired & Extremely Dangerous lot, come together again, on another romp, this time a global one, criss-crossing Paris, London and Moscow in search of Nightshade

Nightshade was a secret plan, one about which our boys, Bruce or John, had no clue but thanks to a Wikipedia article, are now implicated, leading to all hell breaking loose. Chased by the CIA, MI6, a deadly Korean contract killer with a personal agenda (Byung-Hun) and the KGB (in no particular order), the guns never stop firing, nor the bombs going off. Bruce's inability to cope with his thrill-seeking girlfriend's (Mary-Louise) desire to be in the thick of the action forms a charming thread through the narrative.

Along the way we meet some familiar faces (Helen Mirren, Brian Cox) and some new ones (a horrendously made up Catherine Zeta Jones, the cheerful battering ram, Neal McDonough, the wine-loving, secrets repository, David Thewlis, and the amazingly intelligent Anthony Hopkins). Some are good guys. Some bad. But all over the top, determined to go down blazing…

I don't know if the intended target audience for this are senior citizens or those who one day aspire to become one. But its great fun, enjoyable as long as it isn't taken too seriously.
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5/10
For fans of Arnie or for those who measure movies by number of bullets, bodies or blown up cars
19 January 2013
Mindless action, where not much makes sense, the kind only Schwarzenegger can pull off, despite looking and playing the part of an ageing Sheriff, making a last ditch stand against a notorious criminal.

Arnold is the sheriff of a small town, having chosen to return from LA after seeing too much of blood and crime. His team of deputies are bored and completely unused to any action. The most exciting thing one of them has faced was rescuing a cat, while another shakes in terror when gunshots are fired and a third shoots beef joints for kicks. But all that changes when master drug kingpin Eduardo Noriega, just escaped from the FBI's clutches, finds reason to include the sleepy border town in his plans.

Forest Whitaker is the FBI agent determined to recapture Noriega but is strangely unable to do anything tangible, apart from rub Arnold the wrong way, while Johnny Knoxville and Rodrigo are residents of the village who do their best to help their Sheriff.

Logic takes a definite backseat as the plot unfolds. The FBI coming across as markedly toothless and at a loss on what to do, even when the details of the escape plan become known, with Noriega and his mercenaries outwitting and outpacing them reasonably effortlessly till running into our angry hero and his merry men.

Fans of Schwarzenegger will not be disappointed, nor will those who rate movies based on the body / bullet count or by the number of vehicles blown up. Anyone looking for something else, a little bit more, will come away feeling something was amiss.
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Broken City (2013)
7/10
Its slow, its gripping, its all about characters with varying shades of grey
19 January 2013
Russell Crowe loves being in power and will do anything to stay there. He is the Mayor of New York, a wheeler dealer, media savvy, into bed with big business and real estate (sounds like one of our politicians, doesn't he) and is not afraid to using a bit of brawn or blackmail when he gets a chance.

Mark Wahlberg is tough as nails cop turned private detective. The kind of guy though, who'll quit alcohol for seven years to please his wife (Natalie Martinez). Or the kind who'll let his clients run up a tab of $42,000 almost making him broke, kept afloat only by the diligent efforts of his devoted secretary (Alona Tal). He'd left the force under a bit of a cloud, the full story behind that being revealed later. But now, seven years after he'd left the police, he gets a call from the Mayor's office.

The mayor, right in the thick of a neck & neck re-election campaign, wants Wahlberg to check on his wife, Zeta-Jones, whom he suspects of adultery. And is willing to pay extra.

The film is a slow, gripping portrayal of politics, love, betrayal and the lust for power. Of murder, shady real-estate deals, adultery and blackmail. The calm, collected Wahlberg is a fine balance to Crowe's physicality and restless energy. Add Catherine Zeta-Jones' smouldering presence and barely concealed antipathy for her husband. A rival, Barry Pepper, who is determined to be mayor. A police commissioner, Jeffrey Wright, who doesn't get along at all with the Crowe. And you have a film that unravels slowly but surely, the whole picture never revealed till right at the end.

What I like about this film is that everyone here has shades of grey, no one is black or white. Probably, the world today is such a place it wouldn't allow anyone pure to truly exist. This is not a film that will blow your mind away, or make you clap with excitement. But, it's a simple story well told. And some of their well-etched characters just might stay with you in the trek back from the cinema.
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Inkaar (2013)
6/10
A great (sexually) charged first half doesn't quite go all the way
18 January 2013
Flirting. Sexual harassment. Power politics. Consensual sex. The corporate rat race. Love. All ingredients blend seamlessly and a bit confusingly as the lives of two people intersect, both high in terms of hierarchy, both unwilling to back down and both it seems, with motives other than what is apparent. The first half is quite good, builds things up well. The second falls apart with an end that's unexpected as well as disappointing.

Chitrangda, the National Creative Director of an ad agency, has filed a complaint against her boss (?), the CEO, Arjun Rampal. He also happens to be her former mentor (has taught her everything she knows), lover, friend and adviser. The story unravels as the two depose before a panel, headed by Deepti Naval and populated by other agency people like Vipin Sharma, Shivani Tanksale, each of whom have their own point of view, their own loyalty and friendship. Frequent flashbacks trace the past, including incidents brought up as proof or rebuttal, sometimes the same episode shown from different perspectives.

The first half is tight, filled with tension. A scowling Arjun Rampal feels insulted at having to talk to the panel, angry that he is being of accused of something he he denies. "What is the difference between flirting and harassment ?", he thunders once. "Who has benefited from whom ?" he asks, "I've taught her everything she knows !". "Yes, he's taught me everything", replies a feisty Chitrangda, "but does that mean I should spread my legs every time he walks by?". They both come across as honest, earnestly trying to convince the panel the other is at fault.

Other motives creep in the second half. Other people, other vested interests enter the picture. And suddenly, we're not really sure what the two characters are about ? What makes them tick ? What is the true reason behind the case ? How will it solve itself ? But when the end happens, there is a feeling of being let down – its not consistent with either Arjun or Chitrangda's character, nor does it seem logical.

Arjun suits his role, putting his limited facial expressions to good use, coming across every inch as a man with a touch of hubris, one to whom flirting comes naturally and scoring has never been an issue. Chitrangda sizzles as she tries to balance the different aspects of her character – part Alpha Female, part giddy teenager, part vengeful, part seductress and a little bit of a victim of her own success and circumstance. Vipin Sharma, Asheesh Kapur and Viveck Vaswani also stand out in their respective cameos.

Advertising agencies are always seen as being more bohemian, more permissive than other workplaces. Successful women often do have to face the slur of having slept their way up. Love is usually hard to find in modern office spaces, commitment probably harder, especially from men at the top. There are several insights that make sense, issues raised that hit uncomfortably home. But unfortunately, it doesn't tie up or come together perfectly. At the end of the film, I'm not sure what either Arjun or Chitrangda were about anymore. And that's not a nice feeling to leave with, in a drama dominated by these two characters …

PS : My bias for Chitrangda is well documented in my reviews of her earlier films, so not repeating that disclaimer here… More at www.apurvbollywood.blogspot.com
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7/10
Deliciously whacky
11 January 2013
Pankaj Kapur is the life and soul of this film, delivering an acting masterclass and a riveting performance, that, combined with the overall sheer zaniness and its excellent, rustic dialogue, keeps you hooked and helps gloss over the wafer-thin plot and limited acting skills / suitability of Imran for the lead role

Whether in the opening sequence, while trying to cajole the Theke wala before ultimately driving his limo through his shed. Or trying to persuade the well to move out of his way. Or inciting a revolt amongst the farmers against himself, the man who knows how to make a plan take off but not land, who speaks flawless English when sober and thet Haryanvi when drunk on his favourite desi, Pankaj Kapur is the man with a vision.

As he explains to his delicious (his words, not mine) partner in crime, Shabana, he finds the sight of agricultural fields boring. He would prefer smoke belching factories, a concrete jungle, cubby-hole apartments for workers, whom you pay salaries with one hand and set up glitzy malls to take it all away with another. Shabana, a minister bank rolled by Pankaj's wealth is only too willing as an accomplice, even playing footsie with him during meetings with officials. And the marriage between her son, a superbly played idiot by Arya Babbar and Pankaj's feisty daughter, Anushka should settle matters once and for all.

The only impediment is Pankaj's valet cum driver cum drinking parner, Imran. A leftist, rabble rousing, JNU educated (that explains everything, doesn't it ?) villager, he wants to rally the remaining farmers to not give up their land, to continue to farm.

Shabana's dark, villainous turn, reminiscent of her evil-exuding role in Loins of Punjab Presents is excellent. Arya throws himself enthusiastically in his role of a well-meaning, slightly daft Mama's boy. Anushka doesn't have much to do apart from fetching apples from the bottom of the pond, sympathizing with the villagers and going around bit confused but she does it well.

There is a message here somewhere. Not that hard to get, nor a particularly new one where the rich, the powerful and the politicians combine to loot the common man who is soon left with no option but to succumb to the crumbs being offered to him. In any case, it's a message told with flair, panache and a craziness involving more than a few pink buffaloes…
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7/10
Of Soulful Sentiment & Sunny Smiles
5 October 2012
For someone who has been born and brought up on English medium schools, and I don't say this proudly, but for whom English is his first language of thought, it is very hard to put self in Sridevi's shoes. Someone, who doesn't know English, but in all other ways is very competent. Someone, who is constantly the butt of family jokes and jibes, especially by the husband and the rapidly growing daughter. That the film succeeds in making us feel her angst, and her ways of coping with it, showing the kind of situations she encounters, especially when she goes to New York, is a tribute to the story and the performances, especially the virtuoso acting masterclass by Sridevi, who shows, in more ways than one, that she's still got it !

The debilitating effect of not knowing the language is brought alive by her mispronounciation of 'Jazz', a visit to her daughter's PTA, her solo trip to New York, handling immigration, her ordeal there buying coffee and various snide ones by both her husband ('She is born to make laddoo's') and her daughter ('Why did you take my book if you cant read ?'). Redemption arrives when she decides to take English lessons, while in New York, visiting her sister to help with her niece's wedding. She finds unlikely allies in the sister's house and a gallant, romantic French fellow student. And suddenly, life is not so bleak anymore.

The film tries hard not to get too sentimental, balancing every tear with a chuckle or a smile. Amitabh Bachchan's delightful cameo, the other madcap students in the English class, none as zany as Salman Khan, the Pakistani, the cheerful nature of her son, her own special, sari-clad Michael Jackson impersonation, all serve to smoothen out the various trials and tribulations thrown her way.

Sridevi makes you root for her, getting her every expression, every frown, every smile spot on. Most of the other characters are stereotypes – the busy, indifferent husband, the cute son, the gallant Gaul, the bombastic Pakistani etc. But she has shades to her character, moments of weakness followed by instances of strength. Waffling indecision followed by gutsy action.

Isn't life about communication, rather than the language ? About the message, rather than the medium ? When / How did we get so snobbish about how different people speak, their accents. As the film rightly asks, why have we become so judgemental merely based on the persons attire, language ? Surely there is more to life than that ? More at www.apurvbollywood.blogspot.com
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Heroine (2012)
2/10
Deeply flawed, dark, depressive film
22 September 2012
"What a stupid movie", my wife exploded, as we left the theatre, "in the first half, we were at least watching her dresses, her jewellery, her looks. Second half didn't even have that", she fumed.

Allow me to elaborate further. This is one bad-ass, regressive, depressive, narcissistic, over- indulgent, formulaic and overall, pathetic film. There are at least three occasions when you feel its ended, your spirits soar, only to have them cruelly dashed as it finds another useless story thread to explore. You feel absolutely nothing for any character, least of all the central character, who is shown to be rude, ill-mannered, insecure, manipulative, vacillating constantly between career and love, needy, dependent, unprofessional and about emotionally as stable as a suicide bomber at a security checkpost.

Am not quite sure what the film was about. Kareena, obviously, plays the title role, constantly seeks what she doesn't have and disregards what she does. Her central motive or motives remain unknown through the film as she runs through commercial films, edgier topics and off- beat films as part of her career. She runs through different men, Arjun Rampal and Randeep Hooda, being the primary. She changes staff and endorsement deals with rapid regularity. Her known temperamentalness obviously causes producers and even her heroes to shy away from her. Her end-goal, right till the end, remains as mysterious as her rise to stardom.

If we are supposed to feel sad at all this, any sympathy for her, then the loud music, constant shrieking, rivers of tears and some extremely hammy acting by some of the character actors (especially the gay designer, journalist) help nip that in the bud admirably.

Normally, the central character performance is what usually redeems such a film, but despite being a huge fan of Kareena's acting abilities and looks, she is saddled with such a hopeless, flawed character that nothing can be salvaged from it. The only saving grace, if at all, is her constantly careening cleavage, which provided a few moments of solace.

There are so many beautiful things in the industry to explore. I've known artistes to work amazing hours, to be ready on time for shots, work round the clock on triple shifts, to be patient, firm, never lose their cool. Like Kareena in real life, they explore different roles, experiment with different looks. But unfortunately, in the eyes of the writer-director, this wouldn't have made an interesting enough film and so he gives us a caricature of a human being instead, who is deeply troubled psychologically and inflicts mental agony upon the hapless audience as well. More at apurvbollywood.blogspot.com
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Arbitrage (2012)
7/10
Gripping portrayal of how lonely it can be at the top...
14 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Its lonely at the top. Especially, if you only deal in the currency of money ('What else is there?') and you have a wife (Susan Sarandon) who needs money for charities ('But its only 2 mill?') and head a firm that is broke, shored up by a loan that needs to be repaid and is looking to sell-out while maintaining the all important façade of success, prosperity through it all, even while his own daughter (Brit Marling) is trying to get to the bottom of the fudged accounts.

Add to this an affair with a sexy artist (Laetitia Casta) that goes wrong, thanks to a sleepy mistake, a cop (Tim Roth), who is determined to nail him and the son, (Nate Parker), of an ex- employee, who is in the hot seat thanks to you, life doesn't seem to be particularly easy for Richard Gere.

And it doesn't get any easier as he fights everyone who tries to get in his way, his own daughter, the people from the bank trying to buy him, the audit firm going through his books, or his own wife, who suddenly isn't sure what she really wants from her husband.

The pressures shown are real. The situation shown, realistic. As he points out during a conversation when he is trying to explain how he got in this financial mess, things sometimes just go wrong. One bad decision, leads to losses, leads to your getting in deeper, attempting to cover up that hole and soon…BOOM…you're in way over your head, while everyone around you, just wants you to continue to be the ATM you've always been.

Wealth suits Richard Gere in movies, he just looks the part so much. The other impressive actors here were Nate Parker, really convincing, trying not to snitch even when the going gets tough and Tim Roth, the man responsible for the going getting tough.

Enron. WorldCom. Satyam. The world has seen many real life situations where big, reputed companies have gone under. This is a reel-life explanation, at least in part, of how such things come to pass. I found it gripping, engaging and thought provoking. As in real life, you don't know till the end, how it will pan out…

More at www.apurvbollywood.blogspot.com
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Barfi! (2012)
8/10
Thoroughly enjoyable fable, light & bubbly...
14 September 2012
This is a fable, a beautifully shot, light, airy, bubbly fable. It will make you laugh. A lot. And cry, or mist up, a little. If you're still not a fan of Ranbir, you will walk away as one. And the background songs just don't stop playing in your head.

There are some deeper layers, as well. Why is it in India that we cannot take care of our disabled children ? Why do we get threatened by them, so scared of social approbation that we are willing to abandon our own flesh and blood, despite having the means to look after them ? Why is it that playing safe seems to be ingrained in our blood ? In love, 9 times out of 10, we will choose the guy who is rich and doesn't make us cry to the guy who is poor but makes us laugh ?

Ranbir, a deaf, mute, has never let this inhibit him. He is always happy and always upto something, not all if it legal, much to the chagrin of the local cop, Saurabh Shukla, who blames him singlehandedly for reducing his waist size from a respectable 52 to a mundane 42. He falls in love with the elite, gorgeous girl, visiting Darjeeling, Ileana. She is engaged to be married to Jishu, a prize catch, the dream of every girl in college. But she has never encountered anyone as free spirited as Ranbir.

Ranbir, though, is the son of a lowly driver. Who works for another elite, powerful family. Who have an autistic daughter, Priyanka. Who has been left in an old age home, Muskaan, run by the gentle, ageing, Haradhan Bandhopadhyay. When Priyanka's nana, the man who runs the house with an iron fist, but has a soft corner for his grand daughter, decides to bring her back due to his ill health, the lives of all the characters get affected and change…

The photography and the music is so good that I'm out of superlatives here. Am sure tourist traffic to Darjeeling is going to increase and the music of this film will be played many years from now, a rarity in todays world, where songs struggle for a shelf life beyond three months. Am not so sure about the editing. The flashbacks, the talking heads. Not sure they were needed in a story which was reasonably fast paced and as entertaining as this. Its almost become a fad now, to not tell a story linearly…

Ranbir is amazing. Gets every expression just right. Whether his happy face, the ridiculous expressions he uses to make others laugh, his angry 'speech', or his bewildered look when things go wrong, as they have a tendency to do with him. Ileana is stunning in western dresses, early on in the film. She is nice as the adarsh Bengali nari later on, but didn't think much of her older avatar. Undeniably a great actress. Priyanka proves her acting chops once again, conveying her battles with her inner demons appropriately

Special praise for Saurabh Shukla. The film would've been flat without his Hardy to Ranbir's Laurel. Or Bhola Raja Sapkota, Ranbir's comrade in arms and translator in chief. Or Rupa Ganguly, Ilena's mother, who understands her daughter's predicament and does what she thinks is best for her.

Amongst the moments of the film are the opening credits (set to the song 'Film shuru), the comic chase sequences between Saurabh and Ranbir. The Darjeeling scenes between Ranbir and Ileana – on the train, or cycle or even the horse. And the scene when Haradhan bawls his eyes out, when the apple of his eye, Priyanka leaves the ashram, is just touching beyond belief.

After a long time, a film which doesn't just show perfect, rich, urban people. But people who, despite their imperfections, seem determined to be happy. There is a lesson in there for all of us. More at ww.apurvbollywood.blogspot.com
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Joker (2012)
4/10
Children's Fairy Story
31 August 2012
Switch off mind, detach before entering hall. Put remaining senses on 'watching fable' mode. Go with a group of kids, preferably under 10. And there is a chance you may enjoy it.

There is an American, the villain, named 'Simon Goeback'. A discussion about mineral water project which occurs thrice. Shreyas speaks in gibberish throughout, which is funny only the first five minutes. And yes, there is an item number with the chirpy Chitrangdha.

Apart from that, there is little to recommend in the film. The plot, about someone using aliens to get his village attention, is laughable, the acting ordinary, the character development sketchy and unidimensional, the songs barely bearable.

This would've been an interesting synopsis which lost its way as it became a full fledged script. Probably approved more at star level than story. And for that I'm dearly sorry…. more at www.apurvbollywood.blogspot.com
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4/10
Cute but stretched and very predictable
31 August 2012
Boman, a Parsi, is 45. Dominated by his loving mother. Cherished by his grand mom. Is sweet and honest, even explains the truth patiently to a prospective brides family when his mother exaggerates to get the rishta through. Is tired of people belittling his profession, that of a lingerie salesman, despite everyone having to wear underwear. Is hounded by some well- meaning relatives, who ask too many questions and try to run his life.

He gets a shot at romance when he meets and falls for Farah, another Parsi, whom he meets in his shop. She is feisty and straightforward, lives with her comatose father and unwed paternal aunt. She hits it off with Boman, both enjoy a few moments of romance. But soon, thanks to a squabble regarding an ancient tank, Boman is forced to make a choice between Farah and his mom.

The movie is cute, well-acted, clichéd and predictable. It would've been interesting as a short story, but seems stretched as a feature, with the conflict being nothing more than a storm in a teacup, the resolution as obvious as the recipe for a boiled egg. The writing is good, but here the dialogue needed to overcome the threadbare story and the characters needed to be able to surprise you occasionally to ensure interest was maintained. Neither occurs and so the movie remains in the territory of watch, but only with a remote at hand… More at www.apurvbollywood.blogspot.com
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Ek Tha Tiger (2012)
4/10
New genre created : Mindless romance, with just a dash of action
15 August 2012
This film creates a new genre. We've had mindless comedies, romantic comedies, action films. This one is a mindless romance, with a touch of action and lots of unintentional comedy. Missing is the slickness or tightness or the set piece sequences of action films. Missing is the emotional depth of earlier romantic YRF films, here it is literally like two songs and the romance is done. And most sadly, missing are the memorable, larger than life characters of several films from the same production house, giving us only cardboard cut-outs instead.

Nothing makes sense. Not Salman's, a deadly RAW agent's, mission, to find out what a professor is upto (surely there are easier ways of surveillance in todays era of satellite technology and phone taps ?). Not his finding Katrina there, as the professors housekeeper, who's apparently had full access to his house for the last six months but spends most of her time dancing with her vacuum cleaner & choreographing plays. Not Salman's falling for Katrina (didn't really take much to make him fall for her). And then the inevitable discovery of who is who in reality and the equally inevitable drama that follows.

You're left with several questions as you watch. If you were an agent on the run, would you behave as our friendly neighbourhood RAW man behaved, or would you show more discretion ? For example, if you were caught on CCTV, (even mouthing the words 'we need to run'), would you peacefully be watching a fight in an open square the next day ? Surely there would be some practical conversation with Katrina before taking some of the steps they take ? And perhaps some emotional conversations with her, before or after falling in love ? Everyone, though, RAW, ISI, our lead pair, behave as if they're inhabiting planet dreamland.

Salman looks cool, though a bit stiff and definitely overweight. Katrina looks gorgeous, none more so than while wearing a kilt during a song. Some of the comic moments of the first half are good – Salman's collecting milk amongst his neighbours comments, the DD / Zee joke, the hotel check in and even in the second half the small solution to the door with multiple locks, all bring smiles to the face but the meandering storyline quickly wipes it off. The visuals of the song 'Banjara' were good, wish the lyrics were as memorable.

No amount of fancy locations, super slo-mo action, A list leads can paper over the fundamental lack of a sensible story. I walked in expecting a slick action thriller. What I got was a mushy, senseless romance. Best to walk in with no expectations, then perhaps there is a chance it works for you. More at www.apurvbollywood.blogspot.com
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Total Recall (I) (2012)
5/10
They lost the plot and characters in the action, sets, gizmo's
3 August 2012
They lost the plot somewhat, actually almost literally, in all the frenetic action sequences, the bullets flying, the fancy gizmos and high speed chase scenes.

In the future, where the world is divided into the rulers (United Federation of Britain) and the oppressed workers (The Colony), an ordinary worker (Colin), who yearns for better, decides to go to Rekall, a place which will guarantee him happy memories via a brain chemical implant. His world changes upside down as he discovers he can be a lethal killing machine, so can his hot wife (Kate) and things are definitely not what they seem to be.

They kept it reasonably tight till the halfway mark but then it just descended into a cacophony of gunfire, explosions and people yelling at each other.

One of the things, though, that intrigue me about futuristic movies is to have a look at the gadgets. They have a knack of becoming real in time to come. The fridge with the digital display, the 'eyeballs' into the room, the mannequins with lights and the phone implant into the palm were all fascinating in the 'I want one of that' kind of way.

The sets were impressive, the actors did what they could but it was all too fast and too furious. Never got a chance to really feel for anyone, for us to really care for the characters or their cause.

There is something timeless and philosophical though, about the basic premise. That of the Rulers vs the Oppressed. Masters vs Slaves. Many books and films have spoken of it and the way the have's of today are constructing walls around themselves, you do wonder sometimes, if the have-not's patience is wearing thin. Just for provoking that thought and our recall of the gentler, more amiable Arnold Schwarznegger version of 1990, this movie can be given some brownie points. More at www.apurvbollywood.blogspot.com
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Jism 2 (2012)
3/10
A great unintentional comedy
2 August 2012
I found the following things funny about the film

•Sunny Leone's constantly heaving bosom through the entire film. Its just the speed which varies and at its peak (pun intended), it clocks in a shade faster time than the Titanic. •The afore-mentioned bosom manages to convey more emotion than Arunoday in the entire film •One song begins with such sustained yowling that even Sunny Leone develops a painful look that is reasonably convincing. •When the intelligence agency chief, Arif Zakaria, better known as The Wig Who Walks, meets Sunny for the first time, he requests her to 'come' twice within the first couple of minutes •The story credit for Mahesh Bhatt. Should've been a debit. •The reliance on old school acting. Bite lips, heave bosom, yell, smash things, look constipated to demonstrate pain, anguish. •In a major score for consistency, the same constipated feeling was conveyed through the selection of the lead vocalists as well. •The predictability of the end which was only overshadowed by its sheer dumbness

This is a great unintentional comedy to watch in a group, a kind of a soft porn film, masquerading as a full feature. If you can ignore the lack of a story, acting skills, plausible characters and tuneful music, you may even have fun viewing this.

She is hired by an intelligence officer, Arunoday, (who sleeps with her first, kind of like a 'test the goods' sort of thing), for a dangerous mission. To get close to her ex-lover, Randeep Hooda, a renegade officer and currently freelance assassin, and to get some data from him. From the first frame onwards, nothing any of the characters does makes any sense. The only things worth admiring are Sunny's constantly revealed assets, the locations and the tasteful interiors of the various homes chosen.

Sunny, obviously not hired for her acting chops, prefers to ignore dictums like 'vastra aurat ka gehna hote hain' and appears to be in greater load shedding mode than the much maligned Northern power grid. Arunoday is in sleepwalk mode throughout and Randeep is wasted in his vacuous shayari spouting role. The tortuously slow pace of the film doesn't help either

As I look at the original film poster again, its clear that some things are better off under wraps. The film is 132 minutes long. With a little skillful editing, could've shaved off about a 100 odd minutes…
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9/10
Pity the people who will attempt to remake this in 10-15 yrs and have to top this
20 July 2012
My first action on exiting the hall after the morning show was to book for another show in the evening and round up the entire family to join me for that.

There is an air of impending doom about the film, of heightened senses, pumping adrenalin, jaw dropping stunts, which is enhanced, impeccably, by a mouth-watering background score. Full of chants, and pulsating drum beats. With clear battle lines drawn between a larger than life villain and a hero, who, in the best traditions of Hindi films, just refuses to fade away.

There is more than a touch of a Hindi film about it, as our hero battles with foes from within and outside. Foes, like Bane (Tom Hardy) who are well prepared, have planned their attack for years and will stop at nothing to fulfill the League of Shadows plans for Gotham's ultimate destruction. Anne Hathway (Catwoman), Joseph Gordon Levitt (a police officer, Blake) are unlikely allies with Gary Oldman (the Police Commissioner) and Michael Caine (Alfred) providing the usual support cast.

There is a beautiful symmetry given to the story, most loose ends tied up neatly towards the end, questions answered, doubts clarified and the film leaving a strong, central message. Hope never dies. The point of a symbol like Batman, is precisely that anyone can be Batman…

There is so much to love and learn about the film. The sheer scale of the stunts, and the vivid imagination that goes behind them. The build up of towards the climax, the battle royale as the forces of good line up versus the forces of evil. The delicate side stories weaved in so simply, with minimal diversion of attention and time, that help explain it all, humanize the characters. Hans Zimmer's electric score, which falls to a pin drop silence at times, and builds to a heart pumping crescendo at others.

I loved the delicate messages thrown in. How the fear of death is possibly the most powerful impulse. That hope is necessary for despair. Of how our government can so easily be brought to its knees. How easily we can gravitate towards lawlessness, the rule of the jungle.

There are moments when you wonder 'how' ? There are clearly moments which defy logic. But that is when the spectacle takes over. You cheer for the good guys and hope and pray for them to win, against all odds. Wouldn't want to have it any other way… More at www.apurvbollywood.blogspot.com
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Bol Bachchan (2012)
5/10
A delicate balance of funny and cringe-worthy moments
6 July 2012
To the old, sweet, amazingly funny, classic comedy, Golmaal (Hrishikesh Mukherjee, 1979), apply the Higgs Boson particle to it ie attempt to make it a 'mass' film, an 'entertainer'. So add liberal doses of silliness, unnecessary plot complications, shrillness, crassness, slow motion fight sequences and many, many blown up vehicles. Also add a few sequences & a few jokes that really make you laugh. Just pray that the cringe-worthy moments don't outnumber the LOL moments & that depends entirely on your sensibilities.

The broad outline of the original story is retained. Ajay Devgn, local tough & rich landlord, employs Abhishek as a supervisor. Unfortunately, Abhishek, a Muslim in the film, has to pretend to be a Hindu in front of Ajay. One lie leads to another and soon he has to invent a gay, Muslim identical step brother, a mother, the mother's identical twin sister etc. Prachi, Ajay's sister, is Abhishek's love interest. Asin, Abhishek's sister, is Ajay's love interest. And Jeetu Verma is there as Ajay's evil cousin only so that muscles can be rippled and bones broken. Neeraj Vora as Ajay's sidekick and Asrani and Krishna as Abhishek's uncle and son, respectively are there to attempt to wring a few more laughs from you.

Ajay's character likes to speak English and mangle it beyond belief, and this ability provides many of the comic, funny moments of the film. You watch in awe, wondering what he will come up with next, a bit like when you watch Sidhu comment on cricket. It works in short doses and appears a bit stretched in the second half. 'When elders get cozy, youngsters don't put nosy' or 'Thank you for the Complan Boy' (compliment) don't seem rib tickling but given Ajay's fulsome delivery and the situation, it does generate quite a few laughs.

Abhishek plays his two roles quite straight, pun intended. The sequence where the gay character has to dance to a medley of songs in unison with two of Ajay's henchmen is crass but makes you laugh in parts. Asin is strangely muted in the film, while Prachi also has a small role, without much meat.

The movie is too long, the songs aren't great, the fight sequences too similar to what we've already seen from Rohit Shetty's earlier films. There is a vision here to make it a comedy for the masses and judging by the loud laughs from the audience, he's got it right.

I feel, with the same cast, just keeping it along the lines of the original could've worked just as well, but I fear I would be in the minority in the industry. Would love it if there was a face-off between an intelligent, well made comedy (like a Vicky Donor, Khosla ka Ghosla) & a 'mass' one like this, with similar level of star power in both. I wonder which film would then have a bigger box office ? More at www.apurvbollywood.blogspot.in
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6/10
Epic, badlands kind of film
22 June 2012
"Then there was the whole concept of coal mining, which is a culture unto itself, the most dangerous occupation in the world, and which draws and develops a certain kind of man." Martin C. Smith

Manoj Bajpai wants revenge on Tigmanshu Dhulia who had treacherously killed his father.

Sometimes there comes a story which has an epic kind of sweep. Spanning generations, introducing several characters, all caught up in empire building, love, lust and enimity. There isn't much point to them, the protagonists aren't clearly defined, the storyline meandering, their lives entwined in the events that befell the nation and the small town that the story inhabits.

Set in the backdrop of Wasseypur, a small part of Dhanbad, capital of India's coal belt, numerous characters come and go. India gains independence, Emergency is imposed, coal mining is first unionized and later nationalized. However, the story, at its core remains about Tigmanshu's star rising ever higher and Manoj building his own empire from humble origins, while seeking revenge.

There are times when you wish things would happen quicker. That there were less characters. Or that there was a point to some of them, who are introduced to either only die or shine bright for a few frames before being forgotten.

The environment is beautifully captured, including the lingo, the mannerisms whether it's the abject despair of the poor mine worker, condemned to live his life in the black shafts. The bestiality of the butcher, as he hacks away at his meat. The cowardice of the cops. The empty bravado of the minister's goons. Or the naked lust as hungry men eye their next catch, the woman to slake their base desires, even as the wife lies at home, pregnant.

However, there are several things which let the film down. For a film set in the coal belt, we see very little of it. Apart from one memorable scene where, caked in the black coaldust, a few men fight for their lives and another where coals water absorption properties are highlighted, there is too little was about the black mineral and much more made of ancillary businesses. National events of importance are also given short shrift or brushed over, their impact shown quickly, transitions happening smoothly rather than in real life where each change creates havoc in such a tiny eco-system.

Great camera work, flawless performances, several one-liners and very catchy music keep you engaged, though, as our two key protagonists slug it out and religion comes in, with different sects of Muslims engaging in war amongst each other. The story moves forward with a Godfather-esque gait, a kind of glacial majesty, in stops and starts, not always making sense. But then, isn't that how real life is ?
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8/10
Film with a heart of gold
15 June 2012
This is a modern day fairy story with a heart of gold. Slightly manipulative emotionally but forgivably so.

Sharman, a Parsi, chronic do-gooder, an honest RTO officer, probably below the new Parsi poverty line of Rs 90,000 pm, wants to send his son, Ritvik, to a cricket coaching camp at Lords, London. He's a cinch to get selected but the only hitch is the Rs 1.5 lac fee. Many loan rejections later, the only way out seems to be via a wedding planner, Seema . Who's willing to give him the amount as a gift if he can arrange a Ferrari for a few hours. So that a corrupt corporator's useless son can get married in it. The problem is, there is only one Ferrari in Mumbai. Belonging to Sachin Tendulkar.

Another problem is posed by Sharman's dad, Boman Irani, who hates cricket, thinks most cricketers are salesmen. And is dead against sending his grandson for the camp.

The story line is simple and thankfully remains so through the film, with possibly my only issue being with the suicide angle and the breakdown towards the end. Else, it remains light, chirpy and cheerful all the way through. The film is lit up by some very well written characters and excellent performances. The waiter at the Mumbai Cricket Association who wants an autograph because in an inconsequential match 38 years ago, the cricketer had taken 8 wickets on a dead pitch. The bumbling but good hearted security guard at Sachin's flat. Sharman's boss who informs him that the wheels of loans against Provident Fund grind correctly but exceedingly slowly. The cop nicknamed Mahatma Gandhi. The corporators dramebaaz son. The cricket coach. The bubbly wedding planner. The gun happy corporator. Sharman and Boman, who do an as expected great job. And above all, I loved the son. His smile lights up the screen and our hearts in a truly honest performance.

The background music, with the cricket song and also the title song deserving special mention. Keeps the mood effervescent through the film. Some moments, as mentioned above, and an unnecessary lavani number by Vidya Balan are the only discordant notes in the film, everything else being spot on.

The film is about our nations obsession with cricket. How it touches the hearts of millions. Of how some of our cricketers inspire a few hundred thousand to dedicate their lives to the sport. Its about the simple but sometimes forgotten values of life. Honesty. Behaving correctly. Doing good. And about something that most current newspaper headlines make us forget. That good things happen to good people…
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8/10
Visually stunning and I liked the story too
1 June 2012
This film deserves to be seen, if for nothing else, but for the wonderful, spectacular, visual tapestry it weaves. From the pristine snow clad garden of the opening frame, to the splendid redness of the rose & the drops of blood amidst the white. The army rushing to meet the dark force, who await with red pennants fluttering in the wind. The famed mirror which transforms into a molten, golden creature. The Queen, sheathed in milk during her search for eternal youth. Or shrouded by ravens as she seeks her enemy. The fort, standing tall and grey against the frothy waves. The lake, enveloped in a mist, with the fishing village by its side. And the two sides of the coin, the Dark Forest, guarded by a troll, grim, leafless, where your worst fears take shape. Offset by the Sanctuary, mythical, wondrous, inhabited by fairies, a moss covered tortoise and white butterflies.

And I liked the story too…

It follows the broad outline of the fairy tale but has enough newness, turns and twists to keep you hooked. The Queen, played with evil ease by a stony faced Charlize Theron. Chris Hemsworth as the rough hewn Hunstman. The motley rag tag band of dwarfs (Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone among others). Sam Claflin as William, who regrets having left Snow White behind. And, Kristen Stewart, who, to my surprise, does justice to this tale of a princess who discovers whether she has enough mettle in her to become queen.

The end credits are worth waiting for as well, with again some stunning visuals and a pulsating song to boot.

There is a strange, creatively fulfilling delight I feel as I watch old favourites come alive in new forms. Mirror Mirror was a quirky, funny retelling of the story of Snow White. This one is grim, grey, full of blood, war and fights. Yet has the charm, the magic and the purity of the original. It can cast a spell, but only if you still believe in fairy tales. More at www.apurvbollywood.blogspot.in
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Rowdy Rathore (2012)
6/10
Follows in Dabangg's footsteps and gets somewhere there
1 June 2012
A sizzling first half, aided in no mean part by Sonakshi's sensuousness, Akshay's comic timing and some really good laugh out loud moments changes into a fairly ordinary story of revenge, poor villagers and cruel dons & goons in the second half.

Akshay is a small time crook aided by his sidekick, Paresh. A deo ad moment when he is caught by a lady cop, smartly stealing two mobiles from the same guy in the same day and a shot of jewellery walking by itself are the standout funny moments of the first half. Things change when he meets Sonakshi, who's visiting from Bihar. Romance happens smoothly, with humour and without a hitch. And then a little girl curiously starts calling him 'Papa' and life changes completely.

The action in the second half shifts from Mumbai to a village called Devgarh in Bihar. Flashbacks, fights and crass item numbers happen in a plot seen a thousand times before. Nassar plays the long time ruling villain and Yashpal Sharma plays the long suffering honest cop.

I wish the tempo of the first half was maintained in the second. Couple of unnecessary songs add to the general pain, lots of which is inflicted upon the villains and their henchmen and a little reserved for the audience. The daughter is only brought in to attempt to wring a few tears out of the cast and us. The movie is over the top in any case and not amenable to logic but even then there are some ozone layer size loopholes in the story. Also, apart from the 'Chinta Ta Ta Chita Chita' tune there is very little musically to offer in the film

Akshay proves once again that if he is given a half decent plot and dialogue he is very good at comedy. Sonakshi is super, though her dialogue delivery needs to improve and I'm sure it will over time. However, there is something about her, her screen presence and charm papering over any acting loopholes. The sequence where Akshay presses an imaginary record player in his head to make her repeat her actions was fun and nicely done.

The fights are gory, lots of ketchup. The dialogues / story has a touch of 'Dabangg' about it and is enjoyable to an extent. Its not bad as a loud, mindless time pass, don't go in expecting anything else and you may not be disappointed. More at www.apurvbollywood.blogspot.in
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