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Neal N Nikki - Stupid yet enjoyable romantic comedy
13 December 2005
Boy meet girl, boy hates girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy engaged to girl's sister, etc. etc. etc. We've seen it a million times in Hindi Cinema. But usually, the boy and girl are traditional, goody-two-shoe perfect Indian beings who spout about tradition and culture and damn the west. Well, not in Neal N Nikki. Neal and Nikki make out and have sex. Basically, anyone expecting traditional Indian entertainment aka Yash Chopra's hit from 1995 Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge will be sorely disappointed. Ten years later, he makes Neal N Nikki, the anti-DDLJ. These two are so out there, if they ever met the lead pair from DDLJ, Raj and Simran's heads would explode! I enjoyed it better than Salaam Namaste. Completely unpretentious and fun. Moronic and utterly stupid at times, but pretty progressive the way it looks at sex and the love lives of twenty-somethings. Uday Chopra is an SRK wannabe who needs to get his own style. We have too many guys trying (and failing) to pull off the arrogant "cool dude," and Zayed and Uday are NO SHAH RUKH KHAN. Even when Shah Rukh tried to act like a stud, he still came off as dorky, which was charming. These guys try way too hard to ape his style, but really seem to believe that they're the next best thing. Sure, Uday has muscles and height but is a terrible actor. He has no depth, no range. His lipstick also distracts. Tanishaa is mediocre, but shows some sparks of Kajol. She did a much better job emoting in Sarkar- here, she went over-the-top in some scenes. I believe if she goes light on the make-up and tries to restrain herself, she'll do better. She's not one-tenth of her sister in terms of talent. Kajol could go over-the-top without hamming, or could overplay a role and make it look charming and spastic, aka the beginning of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Tanishaa is a wannabe. A toned body is the last thing an actress needs (Look at frumpy, but talented Kajol). Still, she's funny in some scenes, especially the "Are you a virgin?" conversation. Richa Pallod follows the trend of her costars and is neither all that attractive nor talented. She's bland in that Shreya Saran, Ayesha Takia, Bhumika Chawla kind of way where you wouldn't be able to pick her out in a crowd of extras. Clearly, gone are the days when actors and actresses were actually unique, instead of talentless star kids (We're looking at you, Kareena/Esha/Zayed/Fardeed/Tusshar) or cookie-cutter supermodels with the same personality (If you replaced Priyanka with Lara in a movie, would anyone really notice?). The music was enjoyable too, and the locations were nice. Gorgeous cinematography and a polished product. With stronger stars, this one could've been better, but as it is, not bad. If critics can digest the turgid Salaam Namaste, which I found disappointing in spite of mammoth expectations, they should dish out some compliments for this one too. Granted, I had low expectations from this one, but not bad! Pretty fun! Don't think about it and enjoy the candy floss airhead romance. 7/10.
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Shabd (2005)
9/10
Did no one get this movie? Here's my analysis of Shaukat's story and motives...
24 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Sanjay Dutt plays Shaukat, a writer and domineering control freak who tries to force his wife Antara (Aishwarya Rai) into an affair with her colleague Yash (Zayed Khan) in order to survive his writer's block and write a critically acclaimed, bestselling novel. Here's what I got from the movie. (1) - Shaukat plays a control freak to the hilt, who feels like his ability to artistically create something carries over to reality. He fools himself into truly believing in the power of his work, that he's so talented he somehow has the ability to not only control his wife's actions, but also her innermost thoughts and feelings. When Shaukat realizes that he can't control Antara (I can't believe I still remember these names, by the way - I haven't seen the film since opening night back in Feb) he goes insane and loses his own grip on reality. (2) - I don't know why anyone would be interested in this cautionary tale for artists- I think the point of the movie for artists is to realize that you can't take your work so seriously as to have it control you to such an extent as Shaukat did. Realistic, natural art can't be manufactured, it flows from within. He can't forcefully create a love affair between Antara and Yash because this isn't in his control. He's so wrapped up in making a "realistic" story after such extreme critical rejection that he tries to force a situation that naturally can't occur. When he realizes that he's ultimately powerless, he loses his mind. Lets look at Shaukat's motivations besides his need for critical success and the desire for the power to make situations happen - his desire to "play god" so to speak. Abstract notions aside, I think Shaukat was also bored with his marriage and his life. He marries his student who appears to be a mysterious and beautiful young woman. He sees her as this enigma, a woman who he thinks will always be able to keep him on his toes, guessing. Antara doesn't turn out this way. She turns out to be a simple girl who eventually becomes a professor and falls into a life of predictability in marriage and work. Shaukat's notion of women is anything but simple - his character Tamanna is supposedly based on how he views his wife- mysterious, sexy, beautiful, and ultimately conniving and manipulative. But this is NOT the woman simple Antara really is. He wants to make her into something she's not because he's bored with the real Antara, so he sets out to spice up his marriage through his work by throwing this character based on what he WANTS his wife to be into an affair with Yash. Antara really doesn't enter into an affair with Yash, only managing to stay friends with him and turning him away at the end. So Shaukat fails to recreate his wife's personality and make his wife and marriage more interesting - another ironic reality he can't seem to face. She tells Shaukat in the beginning, while he's having writers block, "Don't look for your story in me, I'm just a simple woman with simple dreams." He doesn't want the simple woman, he wants the temptress he imagines in his writings. Unfortunately for Antara, he prefers Tamanna, evidenced by the her sexy dance he imagines at the restaurant while they're dancing to "Sholon Si." He sees the temptress Tamanna dancing seductively to the music surrounded by men rather than his boring, docile wife Antara, who only manages to submissively slow-dance with him. Ultimately, Shaukat can't face the fact that he's a loser, professionally as a writer and personally as a bored husband. He wants a certain lifestyle of the flashy, sensual, and mysterious wife and a hotshot career as a writer. He ends up a reclusive failed writer living in seclusion and falling into a life of marital boredom. Antara and Shaukat's dance at the end in the asylum is his submission to these facts and willingness to try to accept the ordinary life he has rather than the exciting life he covets.

This is a beautiful story of a man who wants too much from life and ends up not getting any of it. It's rather cruel in a way, this writer is given an initial taste of success and a life of fame, only to have it taken away.

The performances, barring Zayed Khan who was awkwardly terrible were excellent. Aishwarya plays two different characters - Antara, the vulnerable woman and Tamanna, the bewitching, mysterious, and conniving fantasy Shaukat wants Antara to be. She does both characters remarkably well and with a lot of subtle facial nuances. Her facial expressiveness brings a level of depth to both characters. Sanjay Dutt is brilliant as the alpha-male writer who refuses to accept mediocrity in life and in work. His presence is commanding. No one could have played Shaukat the way he did. Maybe if Bachchan was younger, he'd have the style and panache to do it, but no one else in my opinion. Dutt has that movie-star arrogance and charisma to make the role believable. And he has some smoldering chemistry with Aishwarya Rai. I've never seen Aish look so alluring with another male costar - she's like a block of ice with everyone else. But it looks like she's got a thing for Sanjay with the way they interact on screen. What a great looking couple. The film is beautifully shot, like a wonderfully dark painting. Everything looks classy and gorgeous, especially the songs. The movie may have been confusing but if you take the time to really explore these characters and the untold motivations behind these characters and their actions. It's all there, you just have to think about it and look hard enough. Art is subjective, even if you don't agree with my interpretation, you'll still take something of your own away from the movie. Brilliant, abstract stuff, loved it! 9/10
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Sheesha (2005)
Neha Dhupia is suddenly stunning...
23 February 2005
One expects a lot of sex and exposure from a Neha Dhupia vehicle post Julie, and for once, the hype doesn't disappoint. She didn't look all that great in her debut vehicle Qayamat, but here, she not only stuns with her finely tanned look, but tears up her femme fatale role with some decent acting chops. The glimmer of talent seen in Julie (when she was actually acting as opposed to getting felt up by two disgusting male costars) is still present. Sonu Sood is a good match for tall, dusky Dhupia and cuts a finely sculpted physique, which is more than I can say of Yash Tonk or Sanjay Kapoor. He plays second fiddle to Dhupia (who plays good girl/bad girl in a double role), but the two share some remarkable chemistry. The sexual tension is adequately built up and, for an erotic thriller with little/no/implied nudity, the movie's fairly absorbing. The story is rather pedestrian, but if you can overlook that, you'll enjoy the chemistry between the two leads, the stylish flair, and dark ambiance of the mystery. Indian noir...who'd have thought?
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Lakshya (2004)
9/10
Lakshya is absolutely excellent: A Class Product from India!
21 February 2005
Absolutely fantastic. Hrithik Roshan is brilliantly understated in this coming-of-age epic. World-class production values and high father-son, soldier-soldier emotional content that's not forced (Like the overdone mess LOC). The war scenes were brilliant. People must remember, this film was NOT BASED ON KARGIL. Akhtar took the war as a backdrop to show Karan's transformation - his path from irresponsible and misguided childhood to manhood. This film was quite an experience. I just can't understand how this flopped (If grossing 22 Crores in India can be termed "poor box office performance"). Man, my countrymen really take the cake. Garbage like Veer Zaara (Stunning locales, beautiful people, and amazing music, but overall POOR in terms of content) and Kal Ho Na Ho are lapped up by audiences, but Yuva and Lakshya are rejected completely. After Shah Rukh Khan murdered Asoka with his obsessive megalomania and J.P. Dutta took jingoism to an all-time low in LOC, Lakshya is an epic motion picture. Somewhat muted and subtle, but never EVER slight. Hrithik's a star.
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