Tashan

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Tashan is not really a good film. I am at best indifferent to the cast. And yet I have a fondness for the movie that surprises me. Maybe it’s nostalgia for the total masala style, maybe the excellent work by the costume department, or the spectacular locations. But if you need to see a colourful movie that makes you throw popcorn at the screen and at your friends, this could be quite rewarding.

Vijay Krishna Acharya opens his film with Jimmy (Saif Ali Khan) in a car, underwater, and at gunpoint. How he got there takes up the first half. Most of the fun seeing this was the “surely they’re not…oh yes, they did!” moments and laughing at the shenanigans as the cast justify the next big set piece. There is a heavy use of flashbacks and characters speaking directly to the viewer so it heightens the unrealistic and fantastical mood, as do the songs. Jimmy and Pooja (Kareena Kapoor Khan) meet when Bhaiyyaji (Anil Kapoor) hires Jimmy as his English tutor. As Bhaiyyaji mangles every language he knows, Jimmy and Pooja fall in love. There is the matter of Pooja’s debt to Bhaiyajji, but there are also cases full of cash coming to the office every month. Bachchan Pande (Akshay Kumar), is an unhinged hitman hired by Bhaiyyaji. He is told to get Jimmy and Pooja and all manner of double crosses and shenanigans ensue. Who is what they seem, and who can you trust, especially when large sums of money are at stake? Things get complicated. And then everything blows up.

Saif Ali Khan used to be quite appealing when he was the second lead. As a leading man, he is inexplicable. It’s not that he doesn’t try to act, and it’s not just the porno moustache, it seems that his charisma has the depth of a teaspoon. And what is with the red belt he wears for the whole film? He is almost completely superfluous to the second half, yet he clearly refused to go home and just hung around whining until they promised him a big heroic Dhoom style action scene. Jimmy is not heroic though. He is self-serving most of the time, and a sleaze. He didn’t so much evolve as have a character transplant for a few minutes. I think one of the biggest issues is that the only person Saif seemed to have chemistry with was himself. He had a gleam in his eye when talking to himself or direct to camera, which was lacking in ensemble scenes.

Kareena has total commitment to the trout pout but Pooja is an interesting character who does more than pose. She does seem to have a polarising effect on the wardrobe team, or maybe it’s just their special way of showing love. Pooja is manipulative, and she has a clear goal in mind. Her romantic scenes with Jimmy have no spark to speak of, where her crackling chemistry with Bachchan is evident as is their knockabout friendship. Unlike Jimmy, Pooja has lots of layers to her character to reveal. Her contribution to the final fight scene is quite something, and I may have cheered out loud. Nice to see a lady causing the distress and staying ahead of the game.

I feel I ought to like Akshay Kumar more. But I have flashbacks to Tees Maar Khan (one of only two films I have walked out on) and I retrospectively dislike his films I may once have been more tolerant towards. And there is the established Youtube Poker rule that Akshay and a body of water will result in something hideously disturbing. But his Bachchan Pande is the saving grace of this film in so many ways. He is overwhelmingly self-confident, handy in a fight, and not overly complex intellectually or emotionally. And he has an excellent intro scene. Bachchan is also the one character with real principles, so I found myself caring more about what happened to him. Akshay gets lots of action scenes (by Peter Hein so you know, it’s pretty cool) as well as some discombobulated hick comedy, and it suits him down to the ground. And the shoe department agreed his grounding is important – he gets some excellent and flamboyant footwear.

God, I feel for the team that had to remove Anil Kapoor’s pelt. You know there would have been hedge trimmers first, then electric clippers, then waxing. I reckon we’re talking at least a full day of hard labour. My friend interviewed Anil a few years ago and told me ” One of my opening remarks was: “Anil, you have a lot of hair for your age. Is it hair weaving?” He pulled up his jacket like this and I quickly told him I got the drift…” I’m haunted by that anecdote. Anyway, his performance is fun and so over the top it all kind of makes sense. Unlike his outfits. Bhaiyyaji is determined to make it to the big league of dons and never averse to a bit of killing and mayhem along the way. His mangled Hinglish is hilarious and a bit sad as he worships Jimmy’s ability to speak like George Bush or Prince Charlie. Starting out as an urbane businessman he deteriorates into a snarling (shaved) beast, and Anil Kapoor goes all out.

The Vishal-Sekhar songs are what they need to be for a film, and the picturisations range from WTF to delicately lovely, making the most of their spectacular locations. Nothing can really explain “Dil Dance Maare” though. Kareena is more of a gyrate on the spot kind of dancer, and Saif does uncle stomping with a bit of flailing so I didn’t see much value added by Vaibhavi Merchant there, although the backing dancers earn their money.

Tashan is the kind of film that takes off and doesn’t stop until it stops. It’s high on visual impact and the pace never drags. See it if you need a rattling masala timepass, and don’t mind characters breaking laws of the land, laws of logic, and laws of physics. 3 ½ stars!

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Go Goa Gone

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I like a good caper, I like zombie movies and I don’t mind copious swearing. So Go Goa Gone should have been tailor made for me. Sadly, after a promising start – featuring Chiru in Golimar! I cheered! – the film fell away into rote dialogues and predictable predicaments.  Raj and DK had a great idea but the execution didn’t quite do it for me.

Luv (Vir Das) and Hardik (Kunal Khemu) are dope smoking slackers, nominally employed but really living off their good friend Bunny (Anand Tiwari). Luv breaks up with his girlfriend Priyanka and Hardik decides that all he needs is another woman to cure his woes. So off to Goa they head, freeloading on Bunny’s business trip. Luv meets Luna (Pooja Gupta) who invites him to a rave on a deserted island. Following much recreational drug use, the boys wake up the next day to discover the party goers have become zombies with a taste for blood. The boys rescue Luna, run into Boris (Saif Ali Khan) the mafia dude who ran the party and they all hustle to get to safety.

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The first section of the film sets up the characters of Luv, Hardik and Bunny. Although different personalities on the surface, they’re all whiny boys who don’t take responsibility for much and have little clue. Luv is the more appealing as he seems to have a faint notion of how to be decent and Vir Das generally nails the right balance of silly and serious. Hardik (imagine the puns) is more self-centred and less inclined to bestir himself to make an effort. Kunal Khemu plays most scenes just for laughs, sometimes to great effect. Bunny is the good boy who wouldn’t mind being bad but lacks opportunity. The dialogue is mostly one liners, some hilarious some not, and insults. If you find calling someone ‘fucker’ over and over really funny, this is your movie.

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Pooja Gupta is very good as the smart and sensible Luna. She deals with the undead and the unceasingly horny with the same air of faint dismay, and generally runs away from trouble not at it so I approved of her. She is a very pretty girl but despite spending most of the film in micro shorts and a strappy top, she isn’t just eye candy. I loved her scenes with the boys as they each thought they were sharing a moment with her and she shut them down ruthlessly.

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Boris is a caricature. In fact, I think Saif took his character references from Bob Christo. With a bad wig, fake tatts, a dodgy accent that he maintains even after admitting he isn’t Russian, he is a charismatic presence without being in the least bit real.

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I think Boris is also indicative of the confusion within this film about whether it is a comedy or a horror or both. The gore is very gory so that was a bit darker than needed with the comedy and the horror element isn’t scary enough. The zombiefication occurred after the rave goers took a specific $5000 pill which fried their brains, but then was transmitted by bite. So there’s no logic in the threat, and it’s a really bad business model if you kill your clients after one dose. They were just shuffling zombies of varying acting ability. But there are some moments of the quirky genius I expected from the team that delivered 99 and Shor in the City. Hardik lures a zombie girl away in a brilliant filmi song inspired romp around trees and through the woods, his facial expressions totally at odds with the music and body language. They take a boat called the Tatinic to the island, the Russians subtitles are in a specific font. There are lots of details to enjoy.

There is an overt anti-smoking and anti-drug message that is about as subtle as a zombie bite. One of the warnings struck me more as an effort to placate Goan authorities for yet again portraying Goa as a place overrun with crime and drug addled ‘zombies’ than anything else. A further warning at the end was heavy handed and careless. I felt the second half just lost momentum as it needed to ramp up.

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It’s a very stylish film (except for a few zombie ravers who looked a bit like accountants), and the Sachin-Jigar soundtrack works well with the sharply edited visuals. Some subtitles are out of synch with the dialogue, which surprised me in a project that otherwise had good production values.

I laughed at some lines, but didn’t find this terribly funny especially in the second half. It’s a kind of Delhi Belly of the Living Dead, and neither as fun or frightening as it could have been. Worth a look, but not the zom-com I hoped for.