Sunday, 29 June 2014

Film Review - Ek Villain

Where There Is a Villain,There Is a Way 
Film: Ek Villain
Cast: Siddharth Malhotra, Riteish Deshmukh, Shraddha Kapoor
Directed by: Mohit Suri
Duration: 2 hrs 8 mins
Rating: * *

Directed by Mohit Suri, Ek Villain is a slightly frustrating and exasperating experience. A blatant rip-off of the Kim Jee-Woon’s Korean flick I Saw The Devil (2010), there is way too much Bollywoodization of the script. This is not exactly a carbon copy but a true copy all the same, albeit unattested.

Written by Tushar Hirandani with some very heavy duty dialogues by Milap Zaveri, had they stuck closer to the original film, it would have been more appealing but all the romance and not to mention the songs that pop up makes it look like you were watching an extended version of Aashiqui 2.

Just minutes into the film, we see a murder being committed. Aisha (Shraddha Kapoor) is thrown off a building by a man in a trench coat (Riteish Deshmukh) and his identity is revealed right away. Never mind that later, when couple of other characters fall from the same place, they have minor injuries, that can fixed with some Dettol and Band Aid strips.

Anyway, in flashback we are told that the girl’s hubby Guru (Siddharth Malhotra) was a hit man in Goa who has a change of heart after he meets her. A traumatic childhood was responsible for his explosive nature and he was rescued by a don (Remo). The murderer meanwhile is a telephone linesman who can’t speak up for himself when others yell at him, including his wife who keeps taunting him.

He gets even with them with a screw driver, no, not the drink.

If you think the second half will turn into a taut thriller, then you are as wrong as the man from the MET office. 
Another disappointment is the way the film is structured. It gives you the impression that there is a pay off at some point but that never happens. Take the Narkasur scene for instance, it is made to look as if it is an important plot point and shot stylishly but has precious little relevant connection with the story.

Flashbacks are overused and the audience is fed with all possible information instead of letting them work it out themselves. As for the dialogues, the young man holds his girlfriends hand while the train is pulling out of the station at considerable speed and delivers lines like “Mera haath thaam lo aur mujhe andhere se ujaale mein le chalo” (Take my hand and lead me from darkness into light), Oh please!

You feel sorry for Mohit Suri, he seems to have given his best shot to a muddled screenplay.

Siddharth Malhotra and Shraddha Kapoor are competent on the acting front but it is Riteish Deshmukh who pulls up a surprise. We know that he has a knack for comedy but he pulls off this role as well with admiration.

Like most plagiarized films, Ek Villain also misses bull’s eye.

Published in The Navhind Times on 29th June 2014

Film Review - Transformers- Age of Extinction

Crash, Boom, Bang
Film: Transformers- Age of Extinction
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Nicola Peltz
Directed by: Michael Bay
Duration: 2 hrs 45 mins

Rating: * * 1 / 2

Upto almost the half way point, the fourth film of the Transformers franchise is a reasonably enjoyable experience, but once all the noise and fury starts, all the good work is undone with a climax that lasts longer than an Ashutosh Gowarikar film. It is as if director Michael Bay seems to have taken a vow not to complete a Transformers film without the mandatory n number of explosion and action scenes, however irrelevant they may be.

Non Transformers fans may or may not remember the showdown that took place in Chicago in the previous installment. A new character is introduced this time, Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) who is also a wizard of sorts with equipment. It turns out that his truck is actually Optimus Prime (voice of Peter Cullen) who is being hunted by the Government authorities- they want to capture all the Transformers for their own agenda. Yeager along with his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) and her boyfriend (Jack Reynor) are on the run along with the Auto bots. Stanley Tucci plays a Steve Jobs like visionary whose company manufactures robots and he is in cahoots with the CIA.

Like every Transformer movie there is a lot of heavy metal action. And like every movie of this franchise you don’t know which Transformer is fighting with whom. If only, Michael Bay could keep a simple color code for them making it easy to identify.That will help but only to a certain degree. They would still need some novelty in the story as this is all getting too predictable and monotonous.

Yeager as the overprotective dad is fun initially but becomes run of the mill later and Stanley Tucci turns from being a creative entrepreneur to a comic character for no convincing reason.

The special effects are impressive, now if only they had they had a decent plot to back it up.

Published in The Navhind Times on 29th June 2014

Film Review - Gunaji

The Good Cowherd

Film: Gunaji (Konkani)
Cast: Upendra Limaye, Meenacshi Martins
Directed by: M.S Davan Rivoncar
Duration: 1 hr 30 mins
Rating: *  *  1 / 2

Based on the story by the well known Konkani writer Pundalik Naik, Gunaji is a simplistic tale of a cowherd who finds himself in a fish out of water kind of a situation. Of late, the number of Konkani films being made is on the rise and this augurs well for the small state. 

Being inundated by a dose of Hollywood and Bollywood films, it is unfair to rate regional films on the same wavelength but as Iranian and other world cinema have shown, you don’t need big budgets to make good cinema. All you need is a good story and a story teller who can use the medium.

At the heart of it, this is a gratifying tale and visually, the story is told in the old-fashioned way. The main protagonist Gunaji (National award winner Upendra Limaye) is a cowherd living in a remote village. The local sarpanch nominates his name for an award in Delhi and for someone who has barely left his village, Gunaji has to travel alone to the capital, to collect the award.                    

Everyone in the family, his wife (Meenacshi Martins), son (Damu Naik) and daughter-in-law (well known Marathi actress Mukta Barve) are excited but at the same time concerned about his trip. The comic element is introduced in the form of Luis Bachchan who plays a South Indian and is his designated escort in Delhi. At the award ceremony Gunaji gives a heartfelt speech about caring for animals and as a cowherd, makes a plea to save the cow.

While the story is touching, the technical aspects of the film could have been better. The background music for instance is overused to underline a situation instead of allowing the visuals to speak for themselves. There are also many close-ups when not particularly needed and zoom outs to get the other character in the frame, like in films of yore.

Upendra Limaye is a seasoned actor so it is no surprise to see him act with conviction. Luis Bachchan has a terrific sense of comic timing and proves why he is rated so highly on the stage. All in all, the flaws notwithstanding, Gunaji is a worthwhile watch.   

Published in The Navhind Times on 29th June 2014

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Film Review - Humshakals

Triple Trouble

Film: Humshakals
Cast: Saif Ali Khan,Riteish Deshmukh,Ram Kapoor, Bipasha Basu
Directed by: Sajid Khan
Duration: 2 hrs 39 mins
Rating:  ½ star

Dear Sajid Khan,

Hope this letter finds you in the torrid pink of health and spirits. I was worried sick about you after watching Humshakals. It has been a tumultuous time since I came out of the theatre, while trying to regain my own sanity,  my heart also went out to all those who actually paid money to watch this farce in the name of cinema. I am dreading that you might have suffered the same fate as some of the victims who went to see this film.

Some people had the choice of leaving in the middle of it and I am glad they exercised it, but some of them actually left even before the interval. In all the years that I have been watching films, I don’t recollect such a sight.

Having endured Himmatwala, it appeared that your creative juices had dried up and it couldn’t have got any worse. But sadly, we were wrong.

Make no mistake,  I was well prepared for all eventualities. I practiced sitting on a cactus for two and a half hours every day to get myself ready for it. What I wasn’t prepared for was being water boarded at the same time. 

When I saw that the film is dedicated to Kishore Kumar, Jim Carrey and Peter Sellers my hopes were raised. But later I was glad that two of the three gentlemen are not around and I sincerely hope Jim Carrey never gets to hear about this film.

So what were you thinking when you came up with this story where a hopelessly miscast Saif Ali Khan plays Ashok who appears to be competing with the Mittals when it comes to wealth. His best friend is called Kumar (Riteish) and they don’t have an occupation in particular, except attend board meetings where the scheming uncle (Ram Kapoor) wants to take over the business empire.

I wanted to bury my head in my neighbors pop corn tub and wake up hoping that it was a bad dream when Ashok and Kumar start, growling, barking and behave like dogs.  The reason? A scientist gives them a mind altering drug called MAD.

I hope I am not speaking out of turn when I say that considering the kind of films you are making, a little bit of alteration to your mind won’t be such a bad idea at this point.

Now if the existing loony characters weren’t enough, you put in another set of the same guys with same names and faces. Logic has never been your forte but the lack of it  film plummets to new depths in this film.  And if that wasn’t enough, you introduced another set of the same guys so we had all these doppelgangers.

And pray, what were the actresses doing in the film? Apart from participating in songs and wearing short dresses I mean. Plus, the way the British have been portrayed I just hope a diplomatic row doesn’t break out between our two countries.  We can kiss the Kohinoor goodbye for another century now. 

The only funny bit I liked was when the hospital warden decided to torture his patients by showing them Himmatwala. I have an unsolicited idea for your next film – a character wants to commit suicide but he can’t decide if he should jump off the bridge or blow his brains off.  In the end, he decides to watch Humshakals to achieve his goal.

You were a genuinely funny guy on television Sajid bhai but what happened to your mojo on the big screen? Politically incorrect jokes can be fun if they are in the right vein but your gags directed at gays, differently abled people, dwarfs are anything but entertaining. And the lesser I say about the men in drag the better, I don’t want to remind myself of how Ram Kapoor the man fell for Ram Kapoor the ‘woman’.

It remains a mystery how you managed to rope in the actors. I presume they were paid a fat cheque. Saif Ali Khan made some terrible choices at the beginning of his career but none were as bad as this, he doesn’t have that knack for comedy, so please convey this to him. Riteish Deshmukh on the other hand managed to salvage some of the situation.

I will end by beseeching you to get well soon and earnestly request you by quoting a line from the film - “Hume torture mat kijiye sir, hum aapke pair padte hain


Published in The Navhind Times, Goa on 22nd June 2014 


Film Review - Chef

Sumptuous and Delightful                          

Film: Chef

Cast: Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo

Directed by: Jon Favreau

Duration:  1 hr 54 mins

Rating: * * * *

From being an actor in independent films to directing blockbusters like Iron Man, Jon Favreau has come a long way. With Chef this time, he has donned both the hats as actor and director (not to mention producer) in this little gem which is one of the most pleasing and feel- good films of the year.

Favreau, the writer should also get kudos here because in terms of a story, Chef may not be very elaborate but the writing is so good that it’s a breezy ride from start to finish.

Irrespective of your culinary tastes, it is bound to whet your appetite literally and otherwise.

Carl Casper (Favreau) is a no-nonsense chef at a restaurant that is doing well, the owner (Dustin Hoffman) though will not allow him to deviate from the standard menu. A decade ago, Carl had made a name for himself as someone who was not a cookie cutter but now, much to his chagrin, he has become one. After a scathing review from a food critic (Oliver Platt,) Carl quits his job in a not so amicable fashion.

Professional crisis gets compounded with personal issues – as a divorcee, he can’t find time for his 10 year old son who lives with his separated wife (Sofia Vergara). 

But Carl picks up the pieces and eventually does what one should always do – follow your heart.

Right from the start, the film is lightweight, entertaining and funny. Social media like Twitter has been used very cleverly and to great effect as a part of the plot. There are also some very endearing characters, like John Leguizamo who plays the sous chef. The spunky writing also ensures that even characters who don’t have many scenes make their presence felt, Robert Downey Jr. Scarlett Johansson and Hoffman don’t have much of a screen time but yet they make their mark.

Even the way in which the plot is established and the characters are introduced is admirable, in less the five minutes at the opening, we know who stands where and this is achieved thanks to the razor sharp editing.

The films story could well be Favreau’s in one way, he directed couple of independent films made some main stream pictures and now is back to making simple yet heartwarming films. Chef will leave you satisfied like you had the most sumptuous meal in a while. 

Published in The Navhind Times on 22nd June 2014