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November 20, 2009

Jail stays behind traditional bars

With Jail, Madhur Bhandarkar continues his take on reality. This time, he looks behind the closed bars of a jail to look at the stories that reside there.

Parag Dixit (Neil Nitin Mukesh), a financial whiz- makes money by the plenty and lives life to the fullest with his air-hostess girlfriend Mansi (Mugdha Godse) in tow. Unfortunately for him, his roommate turns out to be a drug peddler and operates without his knowledge. The police catch Neil and accuse him of co-conspiring with his roommate, who lies in an ICU, in a coma. 

Falling prey to the notoriously slow judicial system, Parag ends up in jail, still pending trial. How he handles this new environment, and the stories of other individuals that inhabit the world behind bars, makes up the crux of the story.

The basic premise of ‘Jail’ is one that can be claimed to have been lifted from a Jeffrey Archer novel, or the countless masala movies that are churned out of Bollywood every year. Where it differs is in the portrayal of the jail, forever consigned to be fairly open cells housing 1-2 prisoners, ‘Jail’ shows them for being what they really are. But unlike some of his earlier ventures, the exposes and the inside look ends there. There is nothing new that Madhur uncovers here: the underworld, the wrongfully-in-jail characters, the politicians holding court have all been seen before. Another problem is that the characters are too stereotypical. The good boy, the bhai’s henchman, the gay couple seem out of a story and not real life. And that is where ‘Jail’ falters.

Madhur Bhandarkar is known for his brilliant direction that keeps us motivated to sit through potentially depressing themes and stories. While this is his least depressing venture till date, he fails to deliver the same brilliant speed and sense as always.

Neil Nitin Mukesh does a good job of portraying Parag, the man who is wrongfully incarcerated. It takes an immensely brave man to take up a role which is so challenging in nature.  He’s on screen for more than 90% of the screen time, going through so many different emotions, and also the much-talked about nude scene. He makes Parag believable. Kudos to Neil.

Mugdha Godse gets very less scope as Mansi, but manages to do a decent job. Manoj Bajpayee as Parag’s sympathizing co-inmate is the narrator of the movie, but somehow gets only a perennially sad expression to work with. He manages to still pitch in a good performance. His performance in the flashback sequence is his high point. This has to be expected though, with the film showcasing and focusing on Neil throughout.

The music in ‘Jail’ is simply there to make up the numbers. Even the legendary Lata Mangeshkar’s ‘Daata Sun Le’, though rendered as well as her songs are, could have been done without. ‘Bareily ke Bazar mein’ is absolutely useless placement wise and is only just bearable in terms of song quality.

Kalpesh Bhandarkar captures the jail well on screen, giving the viewer as if he’s looking at a sea of humanity and brings home the gruesomeness of the jail. Nitin Desai should bag the award for the best art direction unless a Sawariya or Devdas like set comes up in the movies coming up in the next month. The jail is incredibly well etched out, right down to the wall carvings.

Final Verdict: Overall, Jail is only slightly above average. Watch it on the big screen only if you must. Wait for a TV release in my opinion. 2.5 out of 5.

Please, 'Do Knot Disturb'

Do Knot Disturb sees the return of David Dhawan’s favorite story, the infidelity story. This coincides with the return of his favorite actor, Govinda. So, is it worth disturbing the theaters for?

Govinda plays a man who cheats on his wealthy wife (Sushmita Sen) with a hot model (Lara Dutta). Unfortunately for him, his wife finds out and sets her childhood friend (Ranvir Shorey) to gather evidence against him. Now, Ranvir has had a crush since childhood on Sushmita, so decides to go the full hog to get any evidence. Govinda decides to put his wife’s suspicions to rest, so he hires a waiter (Ritesh Deshmukh) to act as Lara’s boyfriend. But Lara also has a real boyfriend (Sohail Khan) who suffers from anger pangs. What follows is the mayhem of Do Knot Disturb.

Now, Dhawan is surely a believer in chaos theory. But he needs to understand that there are limits to the amount of chaos someone can fit into a scenario. DKD descends into a farcical situation where the chaos is not funny, it’s just chaos. Also, is a slap comedy? Given the situation, yes. Are 2? Suppose so. DKD, unfortunately, has a plethora of slaps. Everyone seems to be slapping everyone, and it’s not funny. 50 slaps is not comedy, it’s a slap fest. Poor work by the writers. Let’s bear in mind here that Dhawan is working with a sub-par script. That makes me feel sympathetic for him to some extent. He tries his best to make this ensemble rise above the script, but fails; hampered by the shoddy work done before him.

Govinda tries hard and succeeds to some extent. But playing the man with the roving eye in David Dhawan’s movies has been his main role throughout his career. He looks a little overweight in some parts of the movie, though. Riteish Deshmukh does a good job. He stands tall in front of Govinda, and even steals the show from him in some scenes. He is the best performer in the movie.

Sushmita Sen should have picked another movie for her comeback. She has a miniscule role with nothing to do. Lara Dutta looks glamorous, but has little else to do. Sohail Khan is good in a small appearance, but could have done better in a meatier role. Ranvir Shorey shouldn’t be in this movie. And all the ‘John Matthews’ jig, only increases the runtime by 20 minutes, while adding nothing, including laughs.

The songs are the regular David Dhawan fare, with only Neeraj Shridhar’s ‘Bebo’ being hummable. The sets are good, and look realistic. In fact, they seem the only realistic thing about this movie.

Final Verdict: After having ranted so much, you must have guessed my final verdict. Please, give it a miss. 1.5 out of 5.

November 18, 2009

A visual feast: 9

Shane Acker plunges into a full-length remake of his 2005 award winning short of the same name. An apocalyptic world is something Hollywood evidently loves, what with the recent release of 2012 and countless other apocalyptic adventures.

The Plot: ‘9’ is set in a post-apocalyptic world where all humans are extinct. We meet ‘9’, a rag doll with life, given sentience by the humans. The purpose of this gift is unknown to us. The world around ‘9’ is barren, lonely and scary. Corpses and debris fill the landscape, and there’s an enemy around. The last of the machines is still activated, on a vicious mission to destroy any life forms.

From the very outset, it is clear that this is not a feel-good animation movie for kids. It’s dark and scary. At times, the story does feel predictable, but the innovative setting and slick action more than makes up for it. The roots of ‘9’ lie closer to ‘Terminator Salvation’ than ‘Wall-E’. What makes ‘9’ different from other post-apocalyptic flicks is its strange set of characters/creatures. The last time a doll was the main character in a movie, Chucky was tearing up unsuspecting kids with a knife.

The Visuals: Brilliant. The imagery on show is the best aspect of ‘9’. It wouldn’t have counted for too much in any other film; but as it is an animation flick, you have to give it the plaudits it deserves. The landscape, the machines, the dolls; everything is extremely well-eked out.

The Cast: It’s hard to go wrong with actors like Christopher Plummer, Elijah Wood, Martin Landau and John C. Reilly. The voice acting is indeed very good, especially by Plummer in the patriarchal role of ‘1’. He brings an air of self-assumed grandeur to the character that you feel like shaking him by the scruff and making him listen to 9. Full credit must go to the cast for making the dolls believable.

The Verdict: 9 is visually stunning, and has a good story to boot. Watch it on the big screen if you can, but do watch it. 3.5 out of 5.

November 17, 2009

'Ajab' Prem ki not so 'Ghazab' kahani

Given the hype and promotion surrounding the release of this movie, not to say anything about the rumors surrounding the lead pair; you would have to have been living in a cave for the past few weeks not to have heard about this one. So, what is this Kahani all about, and is it worth a watch?

Prem(Ranbir Kapoor), a simple small-town guy, runs a Happy Club in the town with his bunch of cronies. He stays happy and lives life to the fullest, uniting distressed lovers and getting scolded by his father and shielded by his mother, something seen in countless Hindi movies. Prem’s life turns topsy-turvy when Jenny (Katrina Kaif) comes to town and he falls for her immediately. As the two get acquainted with each other, a series of incidents follows, some humorous, others romantic. Just when Prem starts to think about settling down with Jenny, she tells him that her boyfriend (Upen Patel) is waiting for her. Heartbroken, he sets out to unite the two, as that is the right thing to do. There’s nothing too ‘ghajab’ about this kahani, honestly speaking.

The screenplay increases the quality of the product a little, embellishing it with dialogues and situations that sometimes make it hard for you to stifle a smile. Cases in point, the Saawariya spoof, the Katrina top incident and the ball dance.

Raj Kumar Santoshi attempts a new genre in Ajab Ghazab, the rom-com. People have harkened back to Andaz Apna Apna, but the two films are as different as chalk and cheese. While Andaz Apna Apna was a slapstick comedy that would have gone wrong in a less experienced director’s hands, this is a romance with parts of comedy that has been the main bread-earner of studios like Yash Raj. Santoshi slips into this mode effortlessly, and nowhere does it seem like this is his first attempt. The problem is, unlike the screenplay that did add to the movie, Santoshi’s direction does not add to it. He just plays out what he got like how he got.

Ranbir Kapoor is a class act. This is yet another movie where he performs brilliantly. He rises above the average story and actually makes it work. Be it the comedy scenes, the romantic scenes or the dances, he does it all with aplomb and charms the females in the audience while he’s at it. It’s fair to say then, that this movie would have failed without him. This Prem is surely ‘Ajab-Ghazab’.

Katrina Kaif has grown better as an actress with time. Watch her in APKGK, and compare it to her earlier works and you’ll see the difference. She may not be the finished article yet as far as acting goes, but she’s getting there. And she looks STUNNING! Sigh. The supporting cast, featuring Smita Jayakar and Darshan Zariwala as Prem’s parents, Govind Namdeo as Upen Patel’s father and Zakir Hussain as a madcap gangster, does a commendable job. Upen Patel expectedly disappoints, and you wonder if he was meant to.

Pritam delivers another hit soundtrack with APK… The songs fit well with the narrative and don’t jar on your ears. Main Tera Dhadkan Teri, Tera Hone Laga Hoon & my favorite, Tu Jaane Na are all chart-busters. The Salim-Suleiman duo does a decent job with the background score. Goofy and romantic sounds expectedly fill the background for most of the duration of the movie.

The cinematographer does a good job of showing us the small-town. After all, there are only so many ways you can portray the same city on celluloid. The editing is good and consistent, save for one occasion when Katrina is suddenly shown to have been kidnapped. To be fair to the filmmaker though, it could have been deliberate. The visual effects, though present for only a short duration, are good.

Final Verdict: Despite claiming to be a ‘Ghazab’ kahani, APKGK is a run-of-the mill rom-com that only rises above the regular product courtesy of the great performances and taut direction. The end result: it’s a one-time watch for the excellent performances. Did I mention Katrina looks stunning? Sigh! 3 out of 5.