Phata Poster Nikla Hero

phata-poster-nikla-hero-poster

Shahid Kapoor is just so likeable. Rajkumar Santoshi should thank his lucky stars he landed a lead actor who could partly overcome some of the major flaws with his patchy action comedy. I didn’t hate the film, but I’m glad I saw it on ‘Tightarse Tuesday’ when tickets are half price and my expectations are that little bit lower.

Vishwas Rao (Shahid) is a young man who has been obsessed with film heroes all his life. His Ma Savitri (Padmini Kolhapure) is a strong woman who raised him alone, working as an auto driver to pay the bills. She has her own reasons for wanting Vishwas to be a good policeman. He wants to be an actor, and when events conspire to send him to Mumbai it seems he might be getting closer to his dream. Dressed as a cop for a photo shoot, he is mistaken for the real thing and his double life starts. A police inspector to his mum and feisty ‘Complaint’ Kajal (Ileana D’Cruz), and a struggling actor to everyone else, Vishwas is headed for comedy complications. Especially once the mob and an expat terrorist get involved. Hijinks ensue.

Phata-Poster-Nikla-Hero- a very filmi boy

Shahid is required to play broad range of emotions from juvenile comedy to emotionally distraught mummy’s boy and steely eyed action hero and he does it all with aplomb. The comedy is not to my liking but I respected his effort to make it all work. The action scenes have the flavour of the month South Indian style, right down to the dramatic earth tremors when Vishwas stamps his foot and the extremely aerodynamic rowdies he despatches. Shahid dances his way through these scenes rather than fights, and I think a bit more grunt was warranted to live up to the mass standard. He declaims heroic threats with conviction and does puppy eyes with the best of them. No one feels sorrier for themselves than an Indian film hero, and Shahid oozed self pity as Vishwas contemplated a life of not being a big movie star. And he does get to dance a bit which made me happy. Especially a wildly silly pole dancing prelude to a confrontation with the bad gang. It’s a great role for him to show off his acting and have some fun.

phata-poster-nikla-hero-Ileana

I liked Ileana’s role as Kajal, the social worker and love interest. She has her own thing going on, and initially is only interested in Vishwas as an honest policeman in a force overpopulated by corrupt idiots. But she is drawn by his innate goodness or perhaps the way he fills out his rented uniform.

phata-poster-nikla-hero-dynamic duo

Their romance develops and is a part of their lives but it isn’t the whole story and is taken for granted rather than overplayed. Ileana is expressive and lively, occasionally veering towards the Genelia Line (beyond which lies Manic Pixie/Escaped Psychiatric Patient territory).  She only does one really stupid thing, and even that was because Vishwas didn’t think to tip her off before she spoke.

The real heroine is Vishwas’ mother Savitri. She is the kind of filmi ma who sees trouble and immediately tucks her pallu at her waist and wades in to help. She raised Vishwas on her own after her husband, a corrupt cop, took off. I think Savitri had read the “Nirupa Roy Guide to Filmi Parenting” but applied her learnings selectively. She laid on the emotional blackmail when she thought Vishwas was doing the wrong thing, and wasn’t averse to invoking god and suicide when he baulked. But as she came to understand her son rather than just seeing her idealised boy, she changed her mind. Their relationship was the emotional core of the film, not the fluffy romance. I also liked seeing a single parent family where the mother had dignity and her own income and wasn’t existing on some nebulous mix of charity and whinging.

phata-poster-nikla-hero-no need for subtletyPhata-Poster-Nikhla-Hero-Shahid

Where the film lost me was partly the comedy. I did enjoy the film references from an excellent cameo by Salman Khan, Shahid’s impressions of yesteryear heroes, right through to Vishwas paraphrasing the famous “Mere paas Maa hai”. They even worked in a Salman style tearing off of shirt, very appropriate for the Chulbul Pandey obsessed fake policeman!  But there are too many comedy uncles and so much slapstick. I started off enjoying a scene where a fat middle aged don and a fat middle aged cop started fighting but were puffed within a few blows. It was funny and believable as these old adversaries tried to face off. But then it went on and on and on, then added another bumbling policeman and there was a kind of bumble-off and that went on for too long and meanwhile there was a timebomb ticking away but hey, let’s go back to the bumble-off. There are ways of building tension and using comedy to defuse it while still maintaining the momentum. Santoshi doesn’t seem to know any of them.

Phata-Poster-Nikhla-Hero-colour and movement

The soundtrack by Pritam is serviceable. None of the songs have made much of an impression on me for the music alone. “Tu Mere Agal Bagal Hai” is more memorable for the excellent colour and movement and Chihuahua inspired choreo, and Dhating Nach for the inexplicable inclusion of Nargis Fakhri as the item girl. The thing I remember most is not the soundtrack so much as the background soundtrack. It is such a busy, noisy film. Every single gesture is underscored with a chord, a whistle, a trill, a whole freaking orchestra duelling in every conversation. Bosco-Caesar handled the choreography and when they could get Shahid on his own, they gave him decent material to work with. But I guess they gave up on the ladies and went for draping them over trees, or Shahid, in preference to actual dance steps.

Overall I felt that Rajkumar Santoshi couldn’t decide what to concentrate on so he just did a bit of everything and thought that was vintage masala style. Good masala still has pace and purpose. If a character is leading a double life, that can be revealed to heighten the drama or add a twist. But in this case a “twist” was revealed before it needed to be, then was reiterated by several supporting characters in conversations with each other. It was clumsy and again, made the pace drag. Also I take issue with villains who have no sound business plan and seem to plot destruction just for the sake of being bad. Also – what kind of doomsday bomb needs a sophisticated detonator but also has a big red “on” button and an equally big blue ‘off’ button? A comedy bio-weapon, that’s what. I didn’t find it all hilarious and I couldn’t take the supposed jeopardy very seriously.

This is an honest, if unsuccessful attempt at a good all round entertainment and I liked some elements a lot. If you’re a Shahid fan, you’ll like his performance regardless. If you have a tolerance for stupid comedy and slapstick, you’ll find much more to love than I did. Worth a watch, but would be just as good on DVD.

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!

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!