Jai Chiranjeeva

K Vijaya Bhaskar’s film is a rightfully neglected effort from the latter part of Chiranjeevi’s pre-hiatus career. While Chiru’s Megastar presence is always compelling, he can’t compensate for the desultory direction and derivative screenplay. On the upside, Arbaaz Khan makes Bhoomika look like a brilliant actor so she must be happy.

Pasupathi (Arbaaz Khan), obviously EVIL, steals a cargo ship to go to Mumbai. His henchman (Rahul Dev) is waiting there (again, obvious signs of EVIL). Pasupathi demonstrates a new fancy gun with computerised target tracking, and when Ramkoti (Jayaprakash Reddy) seems mildly disbelieving he shoots a child playing some distance away in the park. EVIL.

Meanwhile 40 something year old virgin Sathyanarayan Murthy (Chiranjeevi) comes to the big smoke to stay with his relatives. Some unfunny mistaken identity shenanigans result in sexual harassment, but it’s OK because he is filthy rich. Even a comedy fall from the roof involves heroics and mild sexual harassment (stopping a robbery, encouraging a couple to get it on, copping a feel of the one who will be One of The Ones). He continually crosses paths with Shailaja (Sameera Reddy) and of course sparks of all types fly. Sometimes literally.

After a big night Sathyanarayan passes out drunk and has a long flashback to the death of his much loved niece, Lavanya. She was a pushy little minx and, sadly, also the child murdered in Pasupathi’s gun demonstration. When Sathya learns that the doctor lied to him about Lavanya’s cause of death and colluded with the gang to prevent a police enquiry, things become more dangerous for everyone. Back in the present day, the doctor’s daughter Neelima (Bhoomika) becomes involved as she seeks justice for her dad who was killed to prevent further blabbing. She ends up in a fake marriage with Sathya so he can get a visa for the USA to go kill Pasupathy.

The film should be improbable but suspenseful, but almost everyone, including Sathya, seems go off task far too easily. For someone bent on revenge and believing he is on a mission from god, Sathya is easily distracted. There is always the opportunity to bust a move or rehabilitate a child beggar by telling her not to beg anymore because it just isn’t nice for a girl to do that. Chiru has to perform every style from slapstick to smack down and he is good, as he always is. But it’s more like a series of skits so the dramatic tension is lost, and Chiru has nothing to get his teeth into except the scenery. The songs by Mani Sharma are diverting and Chiranjeevi looks like he is having fun with the choreo. The action scenes are tailored to suit him and, despite being copied badly from films like the Bond and Die Hard franchises via Jackie Chan, they are a highlight. While it’s obvious he’d been living in a good paddock and wasn’t his svelte 80s self, he really goes for it.

However the attitudes are a bit 80s and it’s very vexing. Venu Madhav chases prostitutes and rejects one who is too dark. That was supposed to be funny. Shailu’s parents say they stopped her studying because she behaved like a boy – i.e. did what she liked. Shailu decides to stage a party and make Sathya pay for his insulting behaviour. Simple country lad Sathya has to be styled up as a parody of Chiru just to get in. Luckily pub = dancing. But his (drunk) song combines bhangra beats with a warning of how drinking and partying is not for nice young ladies and they should be careful not to make their parents cry with their modern ways. Neelu’s family pressure her to leave her father’s death alone and not cause embarrassment by looking for the truth.

The two girls are the only ones with a real sense of purpose. I quite liked Sameera Reddy. Shailu was not the most realistic character but Sameera has a robust energy that stood up well against Chiranjeevi’s presence and her dodgy wardrobe. She wasn’t afraid to go for it in the dances either. I didn’t necessarily agree with her decision making but I thought Shailu was articulate about what she wanted and where she drew the line. Bhoomika used both of her expressions, and despite having the potentially more substantial role she didn’t really make much of it. Neelu was tortured, threatened, kidnapped, her poor puppy Dandy was the victim of a Fatal Attraction bunny boiler scenario, and yet I barely remember anything about her. I have better recall of her bedroom furnishings, right down to the Australia shaped souvenir on her bedside table. Neelu has reservations but is won over by Sathya’s “revenge is better than happiness” speech. Plus he promised to only kill bad people. Shailu finds out Sathya intends to marry Neelu to get a USA visa but agrees because she loves him…and makes them have a church wedding as a Hindu ceremony is only for realsies. Points for actually having the discussion I guess.

Pasupathi likes to believe he is the puppet master but while all of his plans seems grandiose, the execution kind of fizzles out. I mean, it takes a miracle from god and Lavanya but eventually Sathya notices the building sized portrait of Pasupathi on the side of a skyscraper over the road and deduces that might be the top secret HQ he has been searching for. A bomb that took several minutes to describe and would supposedly vaporise a building only set fire to a small section of the car park. If I had been Arbaaz’s school careers counsellor I like to think I would have steered him away from “acting”. But since the rest of the baddies are played for cartoonish laughs, he does kind of fit in.

Among the many interruptions to the big comeuppance there is a long comedy interlude with Brahmi. I kept shouting reminders they should be off doing revenge-y things but nobody seemed to care. Even on the way to find the baddies they had to stop for a dance break at a wedding. MS Narayana has a running gag appearance that does nothing but isn’t offensively awful. Sunil is Ramkoti’s useless son and while I find him likeable as an actor I kind of wished the death threats had come to fruition. Even Tanikella Bharani annoyed me with his turn as a travel agent. My Comedy Uncle Intolerance has not waned.

I don’t hate the film as there are enough bits and bobs that make it mildly entertaining, plus there’s Chiru. But I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone but a Chiranjeevi completist. Watch the songs, you’ve seen the rest in one form or another. 2 ¾ stars!

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Dabangg

Masala is back in Bollywood! Oh yes!

After what seems to be far too long, here is a Hindi film with all the elements we fell for in the first place – songs, melodrama, romance, over the top fight scenes,  good guys, bad guys and lots and lots of explosions.

Salman plays Chulbul Pandey, a somewhat corrupt cop, but one who loves his mother – so we know at heart he must be a good person.  Chulbul’s widowed mother Naina, in an small but significant role by Dimple Kapadia, married Prajapati Pandey (Vinnod Khanna).  Together they have a son who Prajapati favours over his step-son Chulbul. Our hero grows up feeling like an outsider and determines that when he is older, he will be the one with all the power and influence.

Fast forward 20 years where Chulbul is now a police officer with enough money to buy and sell his step-father many times over (that moderate corruption we mentioned), and a rather thin moustache.

Chulbul has a strained relationship with his step-father and spineless, self-centered step-brother Makkhi; Arbaaz Khan with a more robust and unruly moustache and an appalling selection of shirts. Makkhi is desperate to wed Nirmala, but her schoolmaster father cannot afford the dowry Prajapati insists on. Meanwhile Chulbul falls for the enigmatic Rajo, the daughter of a drunk.  This is the debut film for Sonakshi Sinha and although she was very lovely there really wasn’t very much in her role for her to work with.  But the relationships with her father and brother seemed genuine which added a fuller dimension to her storyline. She did have some very beautiful costumes too!

Along the way, Robin Hood Pandey, as he renamed himself, makes an enemy of the chest baring Chhedi Singh. Sonu Sood seems to be making a career out of playing the manically evil antihero – something he does so well – and we do not mind the shirtlessness one bit.  Singh is the youth representative for Anupam Kher’s political party, and Chulbul’s policing  is cutting into his supply of money from running various shady deals.

There is a wonderful item song featuring Malaika Arora Khan choreographed by Farah Khan.  This let Salman ruin Sonu Sood’s night while indulging in some excellent uncle dancing and Malaika did what she does best, so this was great fun to see.  We applaud a film that condenses political confrontations into a dance.

Various plots are hatched and foiled, loved ones die, marriages are arranged and un-arranged, peoples’ values are put to the test.  Finally it culminates in a chance to blow absolutely everything up, bare some more chests and let Salman save the day.

This is Salman’s film. Perhaps it is the presence of Arbaaz as producer, but Abinav Kashyap really seems to have drawn every last bit of charisma from Salman and used him to best advantage.  The action sequences choreographed by S. Vijayan are brilliantly filmed, and manage to give a nod to many great action sequences from recent Hollywood and South Indian blockbusters.  Despite having Helen in the family, Salman has never been the greatest dancer.  The choreography by Raju Khan and Shabina Khan has cleverly allowed Salman to showcase what he does do well, and the colour and movement of the backing dancers disguises the fact that he really isn’t the most nimble person on the floor.

The film does lose momentum after the interval, but soon picks up the pace and the finale has enough action to appease our South Indian accustomed filmi taste.

This is a great entertainer of a film. We give it 4 and 1/2 stars! It gets extra points just because we have been suffering Bollywood Masala Deprivation Syndrome and this may be the cure!