Ready (Salman Khan)

I thought I was, but I really wasn’t.

Ready for Ready that is.

Having seen the original Telugu version  and then the Tamil remake Uthama Puthiran  I felt that I really should watch the Hindi version to complete the set. So despite some strong reservations I went with a group of friends thinking that moral support would be needed. And I was right!

The original Telugu film was so successful because of the chemistry and personality of the two leads. Ram and Genelia were able to take a fairly ridiculous story and make it engaging because they were both so likeable in their roles. Similarly, there was chemistry between Dhanush and Genelia in the Tamil remake and the comedy was funny and appropriate. Sadly though, the Hindi version has none of these things. The leads aren’t likeable, there is no chemistry and the comedy is incredibly juvenile and inane.

The weakest part of the film in all versions is the story, which doesn’t hold up very well to being remade when the whole point is completely missed. Ready was originally a coming of age story about a young man becoming ‘ready’ to settle down and commit to the girl he has fallen in love with. This seems to have totally escaped Rajan Aggarwal and Ikram Akhtar when they re-wrote the screenplay.  While I applaud the idea of making Asin more independent and more in control of her life, the way in which this was attempted just made her appear conniving and manipulative. Not attractive at all.

Briefly, Prem Kapoor lives in a huge house with his many uncles and aunts.  He helps his next door neighbour’s daughter run away to marry the man she really loves, and as a result the family guru organises a bride for Prem in an attempt to make him more responsible. I really don’t see how that was supposed to work, but nevertheless that was the plan. Meanwhile Sanjana has run away from her forced wedding to her cousin. Her parents are dead and her two feuding uncles both want to gain control of her fortune by marrying her off to their respective sons. Sanjana escapes to the airport, but rather than getting on a plane and heading back to the USA, she decides to pretend to be the prospective bride Pooja that Prem has come to meet. She ingratiates herself into the household by putting Prem down at every turn. This was also probably supposed to be funny, but just wasn’t. There are many cameo appearances by a lot of stars who really should have known better, and a cast of thousands as the respective uncles, aunts, cousins of Prem and Sanjana.

The rest of the story more closely follows the original. The two warring sides of the family turn up and Sanjana ends up imprisoned. Prem tracks her down and in the course of rescuing Sanjana manages to civilise her warring relatives with the help of his own family. This also involves befuddling their accountant, Paresh Rawal as Balidaan ‘Baali’ Bhardwaj, who is the only actor prepared to actually commit to his character. This redemption of the families felt very rushed and there was no real attempt to explain the reasons behind the feud. There was much more time spent on toilet humour and throw away one-liners that just weren’t funny, rather than trying to make any sense out of the plot. I know that it doesn’t make much sense in any case, but it is so disjointed here that it’s hard to work out exactly why Prem’s family all show up. The only thing that did make me laugh was a subtitle referring to scrabbled eggs, and I don’t think that was intentional.

The various supporting actors propped up as much as they could of the story but really the film is a showcase for Salman, so everything revolves around his character. l do like Salman Khan and think he was fantastic in Dabangg and Partner, but he doesn’t seem to make any effort whatsoever here. He seems to play himself rather than the character of Prem and there are just too many self-referential ‘jokes’. Usually these manage to amuse but even the time-honoured tradition of Salman taking off his shirt seemed tired and lack-lustre here. There are some pretty locations though.

I strongly suspect that Salman choreographed his own routines since there was very little actual dancing, even in the item song above with Zarine Khan. Even worse was the remake of Devi Sri Prasad’s Ringa Ringa from Arya2. Thrusting, scratching, shaking, twitching and grimacing at the camera is not dancing! There is no comparison at all with the original – click on the link above after watching Dinka Chinka and you’ll see what I mean!

I‘ve seen Asin dance and act in Sivakasi and Pokkiri, so I know she’s capable of so much more than she was given to do in this film. The lack of chemistry between her and Salman is perhaps not too surprising given the age difference, but at times it makes for somewhat uncomfortable viewing. The only reason I can see here for Prem to fall in love with Sanjana is that she’s the only woman who isn’t instantly in love with him, or perhaps it’s because she is just as manipulative and self-centred as he is. It’s totally irrelevant to the plot in any case and not much time is spent on the romance in the second half. I’ve never been much of a fan of Anees Bazmee’s films and this certainly isn’t going to change my mind. There is no coherent development of the story and far too much reliance on pee and fart jokes rather than actual comedy.

If you do want to watch this film I would recommend Telugu version instead – a much better film with actual dancing and funnier comedy. This film just kept losing points for me as I was so disappointed with it in comparison with the original. I also know that Salman can be much better than this and it’s really frustrating to see him put in such a mediocre performance. I really didn’t like this Ready at all!

Theen Maar

Theenmaar is a fairly faithful remake of the Hindi film Love Aaj Kal, with a few minor changes and thankfully a lot more Southern style action and drama.

We do think that Pawan Kalyan has the most enthusiastic fans we have ever encountered. There was a good turnout at India Talkies, especially considering this was the second night showing, and more ladies and families than we usually see. In many of the Cape Town location scenes, bikini clad extras strutted around to no audience reaction at all. But let PK appear in shot and the roof almost came off! And we must add – it was the guys making the most noise!

Pawan Kalyan is Michael, a chef working in Cape Town while he waits for an opportunity to be a stockbroker in New York. Trisha is Meera, a fine arts graduate who specialises in restoration work (or something). Michael is selfish, impulsive, charming but ultimately high on talk and low on commitment. His dialogues are hilarious and he actually used the vintage line ‘Coffee, tea …or me?’ which had us in fits of laughter. It was followed up by a kiss so clearly the old material hasn’t lost any of its magic…or maybe it’s all in the delivery? And he does speak Italian (not so well, but it was actual dialogue in actual Italian delivered with great gusto).

Trisha plays Meera as vain and princessy, accepting compliments on her beauty with a smile and an ‘I know!’ Their relationship is shown in a series of montages deteriorating from the happy honeymoon phase to him being bored and her being restless and the performances develop more subtlety as the characters situations change.  Meera loves Michael but goes back to India to pursue her career dreams. They both try to move on from this relationship, but really don’t, and the question of will they or won’t they get back together is the story.

Paresh Rawal introduces the flashback story of his friend Arjun (Pawan Kalyan) and his love, played by Kriti Karbandha. The Varanasi locations and slightly faded colour palette are simply stunning. Arjun is a student activist, albeit one who never seems to do any study, a man of few words and deep feelings. Arjun and his nerdy mates follow Kriti around Varanasi and these are some of the funniest scenes.

Pawan Kalyan’s expressions flicker from nervous to smouldering to determined and back again as he wordlessly conveys his feelings and confusion. There is a fabulous vintage style song with Arjun and his mates skipping around and dancing like madmen and it is just brilliantly done. Kriti didn’t have a lot to do except stand around and stare at Arjun and is a bit low energy in many of her scenes. She does come to life in her dances and those scenes are where she looks her most appealing. Her family don’t approve of Arjun and his determination and resilience are a total contrast to Michael’s floundering and apathy. His body language is completely different to Michael – Arjun stands up straight, shoulders back, head up and looks people in the eye where Michael’s gaze is always shifting or angled and he rarely stands still or takes a stand.

One of the side effects of Filmi True Love is that all other partners end up as Romance Roadkill. Australian Misha or maybe Michelle (played by someone maybe called Jahna) and Sonu Sood as Meera’s new man are adequate in their roles, but they aren’t given a lot to do. Sonu makes more of an impression, mostly because he gets more dialogue and also has a confronting scene with Trisha. We did find it interesting that although the relationship between Meera and Michael was clearly physical, it was only the white girlfriend who was overtly shown as having a sexual relationship. It is obvious she is a pale (pun intended) substitute for Meera, although she did spark a truly funny Dirty Harry impression by Michael.

The remaining support cast were their usual selves. Tanikella Bharani was Michael’s Skype savvy dad, Paresh Rawal was avuncular and natty in golf knits, Mukesh Rishi was imposing and mean as the olden days father. The actors who play Arjun’s friends are really expressive and fun, and have a fab collection of Seventies polyester body shirts and flares. The male backing dancers were great and looked the part – if they were random street dancing IT guys, they looked like IT guys. There were too many skinny white girls in the club dances. Considering we were supposed to be in Cape Town, there was little diversity in the ethnic makeup of the extras so it was a bit odd. Another very strange thing – no Brahmi. We really can’t recall the last Brahmi-less film we have seen. Ali however did turn up in a fairly restrained (for him anyway) cameo.

Mani Sharma’s music is well matched to its place in the story.  We particularly liked a gorgeous temple song dedicated to Shiva that used perfect retro Bollywood choreography. The club numbers were fun, and Pawan Kalyan went all out to entertain. The costumes were occasionally puzzling – we have no idea who was styling Meera’s return to India wardrobe but apparently going home means wearing lots of patchwork and garish harem pants. A big hurrah for whoever designed Arjun’s look. We loved Pawan Kalyan in the simple kurta and jeans.

Imtiaz Ali’s story is a great basis, and Trivikram did really well in translating it into the Southern film style.  We missed a lot of the dialogue based jokes, but judging by the audience reaction, they were very funny indeed. The action scenes are way more energetic than in the Hindi original. We aren’t sure about the climax fight that seemed to have been designed solely to allow a motorbike blow up but heroes must be heroes. Jayant Paranji kept the story ticking along for the most. There is a draggy section towards the end, but as usual the final scenes seem to happen at breakneck speed.

Theenmaar is a really entertaining film that has something to say but doesn’t beat you over the head with a message. We can’t wait for the DVD!

Shankar Dada MBBS and Shankar Dada Zindabad

It’s Christmas. And we’ve been very good all year. Yes, really! So Santa brought us not one, but two Chiranjeevi movies for the festive season.

Shankar Dada MBBS and Shankar Dada Zindabad are remakes of the hit Munna Bhai Hindi film series.  Having seen both versions we have to say we like the Telugu versions much more. 

In Shankar Dada MBBS Chiranjeevi takes on the lead role as Shankar, the rowdy who has been pretending to his parents that he is a doctor who runs a charitable hospital in Hyderabad.  A series of mischances during his parents’ visit leads to Shankar vowing to become a real doctor to win back his father’s respect.

There is plenty of scope for comedy as Shankar, whose very name is enough to strike terror into the local community, heads back to school with the assorted nerds and geeks.  But this is THE Shankar Dada who may be a thug, but still has a heart of gold and some very cool ishtyle. As a student he just has to have a stylish walk, as pointed out to him by his trusty assistant ATM (Any Time Murder – a much more graphic moniker than Circuit).

And then of course there is the dancing. An area in which Sanjay Dutt cannot compete! Only Chiru could possibly pull off some of these ridiculous moves with such panache and style.


Shankar objects to the injustice he sees in the hospital and infuriates his teachers by his stand on social justice and medical treatment for all.  It is a bit of a worry, but possibly not surprising given the usual standard of filmi medicine, that he is more effective than the other doctors at the hospital with his outlandish cures. These rely heavily on the therapeutic benefit of hugs and spreading love to all with a big Chiru grin, which quite frankly would probably cure us of any ailments as well.  There is a lot of byplay on Shankar’s use of English, while although funny to us is likely much funnier within the context of the Telugu dialogue. 

The dean, Dr Ramalingeshwara Rao, is a proponent of laughter therapy which he has to rely on heavily as term progresses and Shankar makes his presence felt in the classes. This is used to good effect and Paresh Rawal is convincing in this role. His gradual breakdown into more manic behaviour as his carefully controlled world is invaded by Shankar is very funny. The beautiful Sunitha; daughter of the dean, Shankar’s childhood friend and a doctor herself, is the romantic interest.  This also causes her father some stress, and extra giggling therapy is required.

As a goon Chiranjeevi uses his physicality to good effect when threatening local business men who are tardy with their loan payments. As well as the capable ATM (Srikanth) his gang includes comedy stalwart and permanent scapegoat Venu Madhav. For a change the alternate comedy track is kept to a minimum and is amusing enough without distracting from the main story.

One difference from the Hindi film is that the Shankar Dada role has been expanded, but the character development for the other gang members has been reduced to accommodate this. ATM is a much less realised role than Circuit and the rest of the gang never really make an impression as individuals.  The scenes with Munna Bhai and Circuit having late night conversations in the laundry troughs are almost totally cut and this removes some of the more poignant moments we recalled from the original film. However the scenes with Thomas, a terminally ill patient, work much better in this version as Chiru shows much more empathy and concern, and his ‘treatment’ is all the more amusing and touching as a result

Sonali Bendre as Sunitha has very little to do other than keep her lip gloss shiny but at least makes a more age appropriate heroine for her mature aged student hero.

Like the original Hindi version, the film suffers from a really thin and basically implausible storyline.  And the sequel, Shankar Dada Zindabad falls even shorter in this regard. 

Shankar Dada Zindabad revisits the same characters as previous, but this time Shankar is in love with RJ Jahnavi (Karishma Kotak) and there is no reference to any of the previous MBBS story. He pretends to be knowledgeable about Gandhi in order to win the prize of  meeting Jahnavi and begins to hallucinate (or ‘haloginate’ as the subtitles would have it) that the great leader appears to talk to him and give him advice.

The story starts off well, but is a standard tale about a rich man’s greed versus the common man so stays in well travelled territory.  Shankar does his best to put the world to rights with a hug and snippets of Gandhian philosophy aka Gandhigiri.  As with the earlier film, the emphasis is on Shankar achieving a good result, regardless of his initial motivation.  The story unravels as Jhanavi feels betrayed, then neatly re-knits itself into happy ever after endings for all.

Although this is a light entertainment piece, it does still include some thoughtful dialogues and ideas. There are some interesting questions raised along the way about respect for culture, obeying your conscience (which may appear to you as a small man in a dhoti), being truthful and being proud of who you are.

As with the first film, the message is about love, respect and truth. The disparate characters that Shankar has helped throughout the film all cross paths in the last scenes to hit us over the head with the message one final time. Pawan Kalyan shows up in a small but pivotal appearance to give his support to the message and prove that the men in that family have very nice eyes.

Srikanth is again present as the reliable ATM, as are the other gang members. Despite the presence of Prabhu Deva as director this film also disappoints a little in the dancing.  There is one exception: a fantastic number featuring hippies, people in animal costumes, clowns and also to our great delight a guest appearance by our favourite, Allu Arjun. The rest of the dance numbers are OK but not quite up to the standard of the first film.

Karishma Kotak stands around looking pretty while waiting for Shankar to save the day, and does well enough at this. There are some sweet moments with the group of elderly men who make their home with her, and this part of the story does work reasonably well. The gang run around doing their thing but the plot here is so worn and predictable that it’s hard to pay any attention to their antics. There is the obligatory comedy side plot involving Brahmi as an astrologer and the various supporting actors all do their best to keep the story, such as it is, moving along.

Both these films rely heavily on the performance and star power of the hero and really entertain best when Chiru is on screen. Chiranjeevi switches effortlessly between the hardened gang leader and the affable humanist. In this he does a much better job than Sanjay Dutt who excelled as the don, but his smile never quite reached his eyes so he lacked the warmth and humanity of Shankar. The comedy is funny the first time round but doesn’t stand up to repeated viewings and we are bombarded so much with the ‘love is all you need’ message that it totally loses all effectiveness.  ATM suffers in comparison with the Hindi character of Circuit but Srikanth does as best he can with his reduced role.   However, the films still entertain more than the Munna Bhai versions, thanks mainly to Chiranjeevi, the soundtrack and dances, and the ability of most of the cast to look as if they are enjoying themselves.

Heather says: Both these films are enjoyable to watch because of Chiranjeevi and his great screen presence. I have to confess that I did originally get Shankar Dada Zindabad for the Jagadeka Veerudiki song, and the first film was just a bonus, However MBBS is the better of the two films and having enjoyed the original Hindi version I was a little surprised at how much better this version is. While I thought that Sanjay Dutt was excellent as the gangster, when he smiled at the children he really did look more like a tiger eyeing its prey rather than a cheery doctor. Chiru on the other hand while excellent as the rowdy, was much less scary in these later scenes and his genuine and real-life humanitarianism shone through. Although I did miss Boman Irani’s terrible bald wig, that was more than made up for by the supporting actors who were all very capable. I did prefer Arshad Warsi to Srikanth, but this was also partly due to the difference in the characters of Circuit and ATM.  The story is thin and rather tired, but Chiru manages to instil enough life to make it a fun watch. This one gets 3 ½ stars from me.

Shankar Dada Zindabad is just an excuse to watch more Chiranjeevi, and a little Allu Arjun. The cast all do their best, but the film really never excites, not even when they are on the Gold Coast in Australia for a song. I do really like the appearance of Prabhu Deva, Ravi Teja and Allu Arjun in Jagadeka Veerudiki and it was also a nice surprise to see Pawan Kalyan pop up at the end. The idea behind the story was interesting but there were too many clichés in the delivery to make it hold my attention. This film gets 3 stars from me which is just because of a couple of the songs that I really do love and the brief appearance of Allu Arjun – worth ½ a star alone.

Temple says: I’m not a fan of the Munna Bhai films, primarily because I don’t really like Sanjay Dutt, so found them a bit of a chore to sit through despite Arshad Warsi doing his best. So it was a pleasant surprise to find myself  enjoying the films in Telugu, and only partly because of Chiru. Although, I do think that if you don’t appreciate Chiranjeevi there isn’t a whole lot else going on.  I think both films are a little better written and better paced than their Hindi counterparts so make for better story-telling. The hero centric style does mean the peripheral performances are diminished but not reduced to the point of not mattering. The casting is pretty good in both – Paresh Rawal and Sonali Bendre were very good in MBBS, and it was fun to see the majority of the ensemble back for Zindabad.

One point of interest for me was looking at these films in light of Chiranjeevi’s political career. There are resoundingly clear messages around respect for culture and history, respect for people despite caste barriers, truth and love. So in my ignorance of AP politics, I was pondering what this said about the politician as well as the character in the film, and did this role have some synergy with his political persona. I’m sure I will be enlightened in due course. My DVD of MBBS also had a very interesting little addition at intermission:  a plea from Chiranjeevi to the audience to consider donating their eyes after death and encouraging people to talk about it with their families, which I think was a great use of celebrity and sort of appropriate to the film.

Like Heather, I found Zindabad less engaging than MBBS, but will always be grateful to our fabulous DVD guy Sunil for finding me subtitled copies at a bargain price! Both films get 3 stars from me – they’re a good timepass and the songs are really fun.