Arrambam (2013)

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Arrambam is yet another Southern Indian film to use Mumbai as its backdrop, but really this action thriller could be set anywhere and still have the same impact.  Although there are a few Mumbai landmarks seen, the story is less about the location and more about the motivations behind the lead character’s quest for revenge, so despite Om Prakash’s excellent cinematography the background just isn’t important.  The action takes off immediately from the opening frames and there’s no time to take a breather until well into the second half. It’s fast, furious and best of all lots of fun as Ajith and Arya take on corruption in politics, the police force and basically just about everywhere!  There’s an excellent extended guest appearance from Rana Daggubati and even Nayanthara gets a chance to get in on the action and show off her ruthless side.  On the minus side, the songs aren’t too inspiring and there are a few gaping plot holes, but there is enough going on to make Arrambam an entertaining mass masala flick despite the lack of logic.

ArrambamArrambamArrambamArrambamThe film opens with a series of bomb blasts in Mumbai, and Police Inspector Prakash (Kishore) is charged with tracking down this latest terrorist.  The man they are looking for is Ashok Kumar (Ajith), who has an unusual recruitment scheme to enlist the help of computer expert Arjun (Arya).  Also involved in Ashok’s master plan are his sidekicks Maya (Nayanthara) and Mango (Krishna) who assist Ashok with kidnapping Arjun and forcing him to hack into a number of computer networks.

Arrambam

Despite this rather inauspicious beginning, Arya’s character actually adds some light relief to the film, starting with a flashback sequence to explain why Ashok targeted him in the first place.  This features Arya heavily made up and wearing a fat suit as a stereotypical computer nerd at college.  Even with his daunting appearance and apparent flatulence, Arjun is still pretty popular due to his ability to hack into the college computer system and change grades as required for the other students. However when he encounters Anita (Taapsee Pannu) and decides that she is his soul mate, he’s inspired to exercise and loose the flab. 

During a rather disconcerting song where a now trim and fit Arjun sprouts blue wings for no apparent reason, he manages to woo the girl and ends up heading to Mumbai for a job interview.  One which doesn’t turn out anything like the way he expected.  Arya still keeps the nerd mentality even though he’s updated his fitness levels and appears suitably geeky throughout while also managing to keep up with the action.  It’s helped by his choice of T-shirts, but he gets the attitude right and his lack of awareness of the world around him is absolutely classic. Taapsee is ditzy and rather shrill as his reporter girlfriend but thankfully she’s not on screen often enough to be too annoying. 

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While Ashok keeps telling his various victims to ‘keep it simple’, he himself makes things incredibly complicated by kidnapping Arjun and using threats against Anita to force Arjun’s compliance.  The first half keeps the thrills coming as Arjun attempts to escape and inform Inspector Prakash about Ashok and his criminal activities while trying not to endanger his girlfriend.

But of course that’s only part of the story and the second half involves a long flashback where Ashok’s motives are explained and suddenly the tables are turned.  The fast pace of the first half isn’t maintained and the film slows down considerably in the second, but there are still some good action sequences including a shoot-out sequence with Ashok’s old partner Sanjay (Rana Daggubati) and a high speed boat chase in Dubai.

Arrambam

Ajith is in his element here and writer/director Vishnu Vardhan has kept Ashok’s character deliberately ambivalent while making sure he has plenty of charisma and charm.  Ashok punctuates the end of his sentences by putting on his sunnies (which at least lets you know the conversation is over), and he is always über cool and classy despite his terrorist activities.  The relationship between Ajith and Arya also works well although the sequences with Rana and Ajith stand out as some of the best in the film.  The camaraderie between the two actors feels very genuine and it’s easy to believe that they are long term friends and partners with their teasing banter and rapport during police operations. 

ArrambamArrambamWhile Taapsee really is the drama queen the corrupt Home Minister Rane (Mahesh Manjrekar) describes, many of the other female roles have a strong presence.  Nayanthara gets to threaten, bluster and fight in many of her scenes and does an excellent job, keeping her fight sequences realistic and looking suitably athletic to carry it all off, while Suman Ranganathan is also very good in her small role.  I’m always happy to see Atul Kulkarni pop up although his role as the chief of police doesn’t really give him much scope here, and the rest of the supporting cast are equally kept mainly in the background.  Although I like Yuvan Shankar Raja’s soundtrack, the songs don’t work well in the film mainly because they disrupt the flow of the story. The item song featuring Akshara Gowda is particularly painful and seems completely pointless since it really doesn’t suit her character of the home minister’s daughter at all.  I don’t think that such a fast paced action thriller needs any songs other than the background score but at least the Holi song had more energy and made a little more sense in the context of the story.

Overall, I really enjoyed Arrambam.  It’s fast paced, slick and stylish with plenty of action and I loved that one of the female characters was involved in the mayhem too. You go girl! The excitement and tension of the first half isn’t sustained through the second, but with Rana added in to the mix the action is still full on. Worth watching for Ajith and Arya as long as you can ignore the lack of logic and just sit back and enjoy the ride!

Ajith boat

Krishnam Vande Jagadgurum

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Krishnam Vande Jagadgurum is complex, controlled, visually beautiful and highly entertaining. Taking themes ranging from corruption, environmental vandalism and the disenfranchisement of the poor to Telugu film standards of revenge and justice, director Krish keeps it all in hand, gathering momentum to the dramatic showdown.

B Tech Babu (Rana) is an actor in his grandfather’s traditional Surabhi theatre troupe, performing devotional plays as well as ones based on old films and stories. (I was delighted to recognise bits of Patala Bhairavi)  He is planning to leave the theatre and go work in the US. But Subramanyam (Kota Srinivasa Rao) dies and Babu feels compelled to ensure his final play is staged at a fair in Bellary. Devika (Nayantara) is in the region filming an expose of land grabs and illegal mining practices. She interviews workers and tracks down rural folks displaced from their lands. Boy meets girl, he is smitten, she is annoyed, but they both keep on with their work and their romantic relationship is a minor facet of the story. Their connection grows as they are thrown together under an external threat. Redappa (Milind Gunaji) is the villain of the piece. His goons threaten the theatre company and he is out to prevent any interference in his mining business so has his sights on Devika. He has a deeper tie to Babu than is initially apparent and his relationship to all the various players is gradually revealed.

It is a little complicated but I felt I followed most of the plot despite this being another Adventure Without Subtitles. I had to really concentrate on who was who, and was completely taken in by one of the plot twists until the truth was revealed. I saw this with two friends – one who dislikes seeing unsubtitled films and the other had only seen one other Telugu film – and they both found it hard going. The audience were whistling, cheering and laughing at a lot of the dialogue, real belly laughs at that, so I am looking forward to seeing this with subtitles. Hopefully the DVD doesn’t take as long to release as Vedam did.

KVJ backstage Babu

I think this is easily Rana’s best performance to date. When Babu’s grandfather died, there was no weeping and chest beating but a definite sadness and quiet loss. There are lighter moments and some glimpses of vulnerability as well as the heroics. Rana’s dialogue delivery and the costumes for the plays within the movie were lots of fun.

KVJ Babu takes a break

He switched between young lad about town and theatrical mode with ease. I got a sense of the character’s struggle with tradition and his fundamental sense of fair play. The fight scenes were excellent and Krish knew how to use his hero to best effect. All Rana did in one sequence was stand suddenly and the audience cheered madly as the bad guy’s knee and hip joints popped and crunched. Plus Rana has Toes of Death.

Despite his ability to carry off a choreographed fight Rana cannot do the same for the other kind of choreography. He can execute dance steps but has no timing at all. The editing was very kind, and it largely worked in Ranga Marthanda, but his shortcomings were all too evident. I wonder if now Charan and Bunny are married, they don’t have time to coach their mate. Poor Rana. But he has an excellent heroic run and he is very tall. My rowing coach used to say to me whenever I had had a disastrous training session ‘you can learn technique but you can’t learn height’.

KVJ Devika at work

Nayantara is glammed up with false lashes and shiny perfect hair, but Devika is primarily focussed on her film and the cause she hopes to help. She has some contact with the CBI and I am not sure whether they were using her to get evidence or she was informing to them. There is a tough side to her and she doesn’t just sit back and wait for the men to sort things out.

Nayantara and Rana

There is no chemistry between Babu and Devika at first as the interest is on his side and he got her offside by acting like an idiot, but it does develop. Devika described Babu to her mother on the phone but that was based on him just being in front of her and looking good so I think she was giving her mum a wishlist rather than declaring an interest. Regardless, the romance is not necessary to make the story development make sense as the characters have other motives for their actions. Nayantara conveyed a sense of purpose and resilience often lacking in filmi heroines.

KVJ Venkatesh Sameera and Rana

The music sounded too familiar at times so I wondered if Mani Sharma had recycled some of his other work. The songs pop up all over the place but they provide a timeout from the action or explain important theories like ‘media is a circus’. If you have ever wondered what Rana would look like as a dwarf, on stilts, or wearing a lilac sequinned cowboy hat ‘Spicy Spicy Girl’ will provide answers. And they solved his dancing issues by getting him to flex to the beat. Venkatesh made a guest appearance in a fun item number with Sameera Reddy and the audience went nuts. The second item was not strictly necessary (are they ever?) but Hazel Keech was just dire. Oh for the love of Helen –  hire a girl who can dance!

KVJ Theatre Company

This is such a beautiful production. Backstage glimpses of the theatre company are dominated by jewel tones, gilding and rich fabrics in honeyed light while the town scenes are sun bleached with harsh shadows. The fairground lights and shapes were used effectively without being overwhelming. The contrast between the forest and the mines could not be more pointed.  People were dressed appropriate to their characters and apart from the songs, the costume team only got away with one lurid shirt – Redappa’s main enforcer wore a fetching mauve satin with shiny spots. A special shout out to whoever designed the theatre costumes for Rana – his Narasimha look was quite something.

KVJ Rana as Narasimha

A lot of the violence was directed at mouths – people had their tongues cut out, their lips pulled at, were forced to swallow boiling water. It was disturbing at times but seemed to be a literal representation of power silencing the poor and unrepresented. The action scenes use a lot of wire work and different film techniques to heighten the drama. The climax fight merges the symbolism of Narasimha with the film hero style in extravagant and memorable fashion.

The support cast includes Brahmi in a pointless gig as a rival actor, Satyam Rajesh and Raghu Babu as members of Subramanyam’s troupe, Murali Krishna Posani as a comedy taxi driver, Adithya as Babu’s murdered father, Murli Sharma in a pivotal role and many others. I liked seeing Krish’s attention to detail in the background scenes. The Surabhi company members were often seen repairing costumes or organising props and makeup and it felt like a working theatre group.

I found Krishnam Vande Jagadgurum immensely satisfying and never dull. Krish balances dialogue driven and action scenes, and draws out the themes to make a cohesive and substantial narrative. Rana excels as the modern hero with traditional inspirations and Nayantara was appealing as a heroine with a brain. This is one of my favourite films in 2012.  I’m crossing my fingers the DVD doesn’t take as long to release as Vedam did.

Department

Someone needs to take all of Ram Gopal Varma’s gadgets, lock them in the toy box and hide the key. A potentially interesting thriller, Department was swamped by RGV’s ‘rogue’ methodology. My guess is ROGUE stands for Ridiculously Overindulgent Gimmickry Undermines Everything. The nauseating (literally) camerawork and a dearth of story and character development made this a disappointing experience. But there were a few positives including an excellent effort by the wardrobe department and a handful of quite good performances.

Had the gimmick of cameras mounted on actors and props been used with restraint it could have been really striking.  For example, a chase around the Crawford market area – it looked great as the camerawork enhanced the sense of speed and confusion of the pursuit. But it is hard to appreciate someone’s acting when the camera crawls up one nostril and emerges from their ear, or is spinning around the bottom of a tea cup. The background score is what I’ve come to expect from RGV – loud, intrusive and annoying so combine that with the dizzying visuals and it is unpleasant.

The story is a standard of the cop genre: a young, slightly idealistic officer is teamed up with a shady older legend on the force. Sanjay Dutt and Rana Daggubati had a good dynamic between their characters and they played off each other well. Sanjay has a brooding reserve that suited Mahadev’s moral ambiguity, and he was world weary and cynical to the core. Mahadev has his own agenda, which is revealed all too slowly. Shivnarayan was no young ratbag to be easily distracted or lead astray– he was focussed on his career and working towards his goals. But he is realising there are many more shades of grey than he expected. Rana is a competent actor, and he certainly looks right for this role. He seemed more at ease in the second half when the action ramps up.

Mind you some of the dialogue is so stilted no one could make it work. There are great insights along the lines of “A mistake done intentionally is not a mistake”. If only I had been in charge of the Cliche Department, I would have found a much more inspirational desk calendar to pinch quotes from. A subtitle that spelled gangrene ‘gang-grin’ was another highlight.

The underworld aspect is less successful. Sawatya (wildly overacted by Vijay Raaz), and his opposition – a mysterious voice on the phone – are at war. But they didn’t provide adequate tension for the machinations of the plot to make sense or be interesting. Sawatya’s deputy DK (Abhimanyu Singh) is ridiculous, stupid, and not at all convincing. People keep banging on about Abhimanyu Singh’s intensity but I think he is just a really bad actor. Even as a corpse, he hams it up.

Amitabh as Sarjay Rao spent the first half chewing the scenery and the second being enigmatic. It wasn’t the performance I was hoping for although he was an interesting character. Excessive exposition drained the potential drama and made the characters less interesting as they did little thinking for themselves. The police would get news of their target’s whereabouts apparently out of thin air. There is no consistent internal logic, too many contradictions, and the story just doesn’t hold up. RGV seems to think he has discovered the concept of moral ambiguity and the idea is pounded home. It’s clumsy and tedious.

Lakshmi Manchu was quite good as Mahadev’s wife. Satya was from a police family so she had already worked through any moral issues she may have had about her husband’s activities. Shivnarayan’s fiancée, Doctor Bharti (Anjana Sukhani) made less sense. She seemed to have few concerns about her intended being an ‘encounter king’, and no thought about what it might mean to be married to someone who was pissing off gangsters at a rate of knots. Madhu Shalini as Naseer had a potentially interesting role – a female gangster who was as tough as nails. But her motivations weren’t clear or consistent, the relationship with DK was not believable and her acting ranged from terrible to mediocre. However I don’t think anyone would have fared well in the scene where she basically fellated a kulfi as she and DK fantasised about taking over and killing everyone. It was gross.

Nathalia Kaur got a lot of (RGV generated) publicity for her debut. Her assets are obvious and just in case you missed anything that camera gets right in there (the gold undies were unexpected and I am so glad she was wearing them). But for an item girl she lacks sensuality and relies on making what I can only describe as ‘porno face’.  Even with the minimal demands of the choreo, her ‘dancing’ was terrible. I don’t usually have a problem with the skanky item, and appearances by the likes of Mumaith Khan, Malaika Arora Khan, Rambha and others are often a highlight. This made me uncomfortable as between Nathalia’s performance and the dirty old man camera gaze creeping all over her body, it is just nasty.

Luckily someone in wardrobe realised the movie was off the rails and took a bold step that almost saved the day. Nasia and DK form their own gang – we dubbed them the Fashion Gang.

They dress really badly, over accessorise and spend too long fussing over their clothes when they should be running away from Rana. Meanwhile Shivnarayan has had an epiphany. He had temporarily lost his mojo once he was out of uniform and in civvies. There was some unfortunate double (acid wash) denim, and a regrettable lurex bandanna incident. But by the second half he had developed a signature style and was teaming jeans and a simple (very snug across the shoulders) linen shirt or a (so tight it looked painted on) polo shirt with minimal accessories – watch, shoes, belt and gun.

Classic and classy. He became the Fashion Police! He pursues and kills members of DK’s Fashion Gang – the guy in the green and purple stripy shirt, the guy in the gingham bandanna, the bedraggled beardy man, finally the leaders themselves. So when Sanjay Dutt turned up wearing double acid wash….well. It was riveting. Not enough to make this a film worth seeing, but it did keep me entertained just when I was giving up.

I feel bad for the actors in Department, especially Sanjay Dutt, Rana, Deepak Tijori and Lakshmi Manchu who I think gave solid performances. It’s a shame they have been undermined by RGV’s self indulgent antics and the lack of quality story and dialogue. Honestly I can’t recommend this is worth seeing. Unless you enjoy seeing those Crimes  of Fashion soundly punished!

Nenu Naa Rakshasi

Did I like the film? Well, I wasn’t bored often (except for the comedy), I had plenty to think about, there are some good performances and the  first half is gripping. Puri Jagannadh has tried to frame an introspective psychological study in a mass thriller story, and ultimately fails, although he did set some interesting ideas in play. The issue of suicide is raised but left for us to make our own judgements for the most part. I appreciated the ambiguity that allowed for some viewer reflection instead of being hit over the head with one single message for the whole film. I disliked the final scenes which looked like they had been tacked on to change the overall tone of the story, but the pre-ending ending was lame too. So yes, yes I did like the film overall though there are clearly massive flaws and I am struggling to articulate why they didn’t quite outweigh the positives.

Abhi (Rana) is a hitman motivated by hospital bills for his mother. He is kind of geeky, a loner, and not at all a flawless killing machine. His story is told in an exposition to camera, giving his reasons for becoming a killer and his view of life and love. He isn’t ice cold homicidal perfection and I found this characterisation appealing.  He stresses when the police wander into a cafe, runs into trouble instead of away, acts impulsively when he could have waited for a better opportunity, that sort of thing. When the vengeance and coincidence kicks in, Abhi loses some of that humanity, increases in heroic unstoppability and becomes less believable. He sees Meenakshi (Ileana) and falls for her instantly, sparking some half-arsed stalking (in between kills) and an ‘MTV clip directed by John Woo’ fantasy.

She isn’t too bright if she can’t spot Rana following her in a crowd. Jeez!

Puri Jagannadh shows what Meenakshi does (she records video of people committing suicide and uploads it to Youtube) but doesn’t fully reveal why she does this until very late in the film (there are clear hints early). That was a miscalculation as I didn’t really connect with Meenakshi. In the psychological drama aspect this lack of character depth unbalanced the whole thing for me.

Superintendent Vikram (Subbaraju) and his young daughter move in across the hall from Abhi. I was quite alarmed by her being allowed to wander unsupervised into a stranger’s apartment, but whatever. They provide some emotional engagement for Abhi and some tension as the men become friendly, which is a bad idea for a hitman. Vikram is hunting the Youtube suicide film person as well as investigating the spate of shootings. Subbaraju plays it straight and gives a strong and energetic performance as the righteous cop and loving father. His investigations, together with a rowdy swearing revenge against Abhi, fuel the thriller aspect of the story.

Abhimanyu Singh is the batshit crazy villain who is just too insane and dysfunctional to be believed. He seemed to kill more of his own men than he did his intended victims and his twitchy and fey mannerisms were just hammy. He was so nuts he wasn’t really menacing and so it was all a bit underwhelming for me.

The first half is pretty punchy and l really enjoyed it. The second half loses that energy. For Abhi there is hope for a better tomorrow and he is looking for something to hold on to. Meenakshi on the other hand has disengaged from the world and withdrawn emotionally. They both understand the fragility of life but it motivates them in opposite directions. The Abhi/Meenakshi storyline in Venice detours into a meandering romance and the dramatic stuff happens mostly in India so it’s very uneven. By the time they reach the pretend Easter Island sculptures, the plot has been lost.

Rana is expressive but understated most of the time, and that suited Abhi’s character. His attraction to Meenakshi and his frustration with her is evident. His scenes with the kid next door are nice and the lighter moments are fun, plus his parade of silly walks in the Michael Jackson rip-off  inspired Padithnammo shows that he is prepared to make a goose of himself for our entertainment.

The actual dancing was restricted to a drunk song in Venice and in the club number with Mumaith. It’s not his strength but he isn’t completely unwatchably terrible and I would say he falls firmly into the ‘actors who try to dance’ category. He did look self conscious in a handful of scenes. Rana was very impressive in the action sequences as he is so imposing, and the fight choreography and filming was excellent. The hero entrance scene was great, and had all the visual trademarks I expect from Puri Jagannadh. Abhi supplemented his sharpshooting with some very handy knife and martial artsy skills apparently acquired during the interval so that was time well spent. The ladies in the audience all squealed when Rana said ‘I love you! Something something full package!’ I think they liked his package.

Ileana is beautiful, and certainly gave it her best in a couple of key scenes. She was far more impressive than in the recent Shakti. She plays Meenakshi as perfectly pleasant but distant for most of the film so there isn’t a lot to say about her performance. This is a spoiler–Meenakshi films someone who decides he wants to live after all, and asks her to help him get to a hospital. She refuses saying she is just there to video not to change the course of events and walks away, which was quite powerful. Later on it is revealed that she did indeed call for an ambulance so her actions were at odds with her stated beliefs and this is a problem with the character as I don’t think that was really explored or challenged. Her backstory when it eventually showed up was so clichéd and undermined what was a fairly original idea for a heroine. I also have a problem with her ninja scarf disguise which disguised nothing. Firstly, it left most of her face uncovered and secondly, how do we all recognise Ileana instantly? The hips.

Mumaith Khan appears on and off throughout the film, and really her only contribution was to make me think ‘Is she gonna?’ When she eventually danced, it was a standard club number but still fun (also notable for the silly hat team having their way with Rana). Her facial expressions are so much more lively and spontaneous when she dances than when she acts. Mind you, she was stuck in the comedy side plot with Ali and a plus sized lady of colour so she may well have been having suicidal thoughts of her own. I was.

It’s a very stylish film, lovely to look at but the team often use tricky angles and edits just because they can. There is good attention to detail in the wardrobe and set design, and the editing is excellent in the action scenes. The music is formulaic and more effective as a background score than in the songs. There is not one healthy romantic relationship in the film, and that may be deliberate but it seemed to be more an excuse for bad comedy or dubious behaviours in the name of love. Oh for a better script and more balanced direction!

I want to get this on DVD so I can see what I missed in the dialogues and to enjoy the beautifully executed action scenes. But I think I’ll stop before the end, and concentrate on the more successful crime drama aspect.

Dum Maaro Dum

Maybe it was the relief of seeing something interesting, or the after effects of emergency dental surgery, but I really liked Dum Maaro Dum. It’s a standard cops and gangsters story, with bit of Pulp Fiction flavour (right down to a character called Vincent Vega). It’s a film to see for what happens and how, although there are few significant surprises and too many contrivances that deflate the second half. Ultimately the straight up thriller isn’t blended so well with the masala elements so it’s not as satisfying as it could have been, but it’s still good fun.

Abhishek Bachchan is the reformed corrupt cop ACP Vishnu Kamath, sent to Goa to deal with the drug issue. I’m not always a fan of his, but I really liked this performance. His entrance was fabulous and exploded in a sparkly manga style. Kamath’s character is established by exposition so Abhishek has less to work with as it isn’t a development the viewer is involved in. But I could totally buy his conversion from corrupt cop to crusader. He was confronted with the consequences of being on the take and he made a decision. For the most he plays it straight as an officer with a past and on a mission.

I’m not sure whether I like what seems to be a constant need to pay homage to his father, as I then see Abhishek as someone doing an impression of his dad rather than successfully portraying a character. It works here as he was great with the one-liners and it is quite 70s dishoom stuff–and the Kaike Paan scene was very amusing!

Lorry (Prateik) is a drug mule, seduced by a woman in a sequinned bikini mere hours after the love of his life departed for the US. Yes. He is supposed to be 17 but even so, he was an idiot. He took the drug gig to get the money for college despite knowing better. And he is an athlete so we know they never make stupid decisions about drugs!

Prateik certainly does well in being irritating. I was so annoyed at the way he lashed out at his girlfriend when she won a scholarship he wanted. There wasn’t much character development in Lorry. I got no sense that he would be much the wiser after the drama played out as his life seemed destined to pick up where it left off. Prateik hammed it up in some of his post-arrest scenes and I thought he was OK without being great; but that may just be because I dislike his character so in fact he may have given the performance of a lifetime. The camera certainly loves him.

Joki (Rana Daggubati) is a musician, and for most of the film he is the moral compass of the story. I wonder why Rohan Sippy didn’t give Joki a back story to deal with the accent instead of dubbing. It’s not like he didn’t know who he was casting. Joki is in some respects the junior version of Kamath. He stood by and let the underworld taint the lives of people around him, and is forced to decide whether he will continue to turn a blind eye.

His journey to the same tipping point as Kamath forms a lot of the story, although Joki is rarely centre stage. He has to connect with several of the characters as well as explain bits of plot, and I thought Rana was convincing and appropriately low key in most scenes. The dialogue sometimes sounded slightly flat, so I am judging more on expression and reactions and I thought he was good. The writing lets Joki down as his motivations aren’t always well articulated, and later things take a turn for the WTF. I like an abundance of pleasing visuals and Rana features heavily in those moments. He looked great and I have to say the wardrobe team aced Joki’s style, the slightly hippy muso look but not too try-hard.

Bipasha Basu is Zoe, Joki’s old flame and currently in the possession of Biscuit (Aditya Pancholi in a creepy sleazy caricature). She is another of the characters having to deal with the consequences of bad decisions, and is more clear sighted than some about human behaviour.

I did have an eyeroll moment when her character was introduced as half English. ‘Aha’ I thought, ‘That’s how they justify her sleeping with men she is not married to and all the drug taking etc. She’s a skanky half white girl.’ Bipasha impressed me with Zoe’s transition from light-hearted to darker emotions. I didn’t get any sizzling chemistry between her and Rana, they seemed a couple who had been together for a while and were completely comfortable with each other.

There are a few things I found hard to swallow. The methods by which Kamath and Joki arrived at what they each knew were just too sketchily written and didn’t hold up. The villain Barbossa was a cipher not a character and failed to create real menace. All the characters were a bit underwritten so everything relied on being swept up in the story. When the other story elements dropped away in the hunt for Barbossa, the lack of tension undid the energy of the first half.

Things I enjoyed perhaps more than I should have included Abhishek stirring up a drug cocktail as though he was mixing paint, Mercy for his name and his fab satin shirts (I suspect I know why he was Goa’s oldest virgin just based on the pink ruffly number) and the very useful electric crematorium. Identifying an unknown suspect’s nationality by the label in their sequinned underwear seemed slightly improbable. On that basis, today I am Italian and yesterday was Chinese/Australian. Identifying said suspect at the airport by her sparkly undies was hopefully intentionally funny!

I didn’t hate Deepika’s item number. Given this is a film about the drug trade, it actually worked well as one of the few scenes that showed the drug culture that sustains the business. The song and the choreography were dire but I think it was successful in giving the rave and party context and Deepika did what she was asked to do – stand around and look good.

The Abhishek Thayn Thayn ‘song’ was dire. He raps like my dad would if we let him. I really don’t know what they were thinking, and the timing of this interlude was all wrong. Bipasha’s last song was sad as it was almost a mirror image of her first song with Rana, but a reflection that became a horrible parody of her earlier happiness. The rest of the songs were unnecessary although I don’t dislike them at all. The background score was apt but it’s not memorable either.

The cinematography is excellent and the film looks great. The camera often creates a disorientation and fractured sense of time that suits the story. The second half drags, the ending is too pat and the closing visuals are overly sentimental, but it’s also satisfactory as I like a good comeuppance. Perhaps I laughed more than I should have (I’ll blame the painkillers…oh wait…wasn’t there a message about drugs?), but I was highly entertained.

Heather Says: For me, Dum Maaro Dum tries to mix the Usual Suspects with Dirty Harry and fails to quite hit the mark on either front. But I think it’s an entertaining watch with good performances from the core cast.

While the story is overall good, there are some gaping plot holes and the ever increasing body count ensures that the number of possible candidates for Barbossa grows ever smaller, not helping plot development. I found the dubbed voice for Rana to be particularly grating and doesn’t suit him at all, although this may purely be due to seeing his previous film Leader. Abhishek Bachchan is good in his role as the reformed cop but tends to ham it up a little too much in the scenes with his wife. He is convincing in his ruthlessness although some of the torture scenes were too over the top and ended up as amusing rather than gruesome. This may have been the intention though as they were really silly. Some of the best scenes and dialogue are with Kamath and his partners, Mercy and Rane. I loved Mercy’s collection of ‘date-night’ shirts which are the most lurid I have ever seen and perhaps explain why he is the oldest virgin inGoa.

Bipasha Basu is excellent as Zoe and I thought her transformation from happy fiancée to drug-addicted mistress is well shown – although she does perhaps look a bit too healthy. She does manage to convey her mental deterioration and distress at her situation and there is some definite onscreen chemistry between her and Rana. The development of their relationship shown by the photographs on the fridge is a clever idea and one I really liked. Rana is less convincing as Joki, and his relationship with Lorry is too contrived. But his character is better in his own story loop and I liked him much more in the second half when he was on the trail of Barbossa. Overall though Joki is the leasat satisfying character in the story and I would have liked to see more of his background. He wasn’t quite the free-wheeling spirit he was supposed to be.  This is the third film I’ve seen with Prateik, and he continues to be very impressive. His portrayal of Lorry is convincing and just naïve enough to be a believable character. The romance with his girlfriend was good, and he was excellent as the scared kid in jail trying to just survive.

The second half of the film starts to drag as it becomes obvious where the story is going to end and there are just too many diversions as the writers try to be clever and insert far too many twists and ‘surprises’ into the plot. None of which are vey twisty or surprising. The soundtrack has been a topic of conversation online, but it wasn’t very memorable and overall the songs were badly pictured, apart from Te Amo with Bipasha and Rana which was pleasant but not spectacular. The item song with Deepika Padukone was absolutely terrible with no choreography to speak of, and looked much more like a cheap MTV video for a wannabe Christina Aguilera. I really didn’t like it at all – and neither did the audience who were laughing!

There was a lot to like about this film. The comradeship between the three police officers works well and their raids are dramatic with some light-hearted moments to even up the blood-shed. Dum Maaro Dum is a watchable film and strong performances almost make up for the weaknesses of the story. A better climax would have helped immensely but there is enough in the story to make it one of the better Hindi releases this year so far.