R…Rajkumar (2013)


Prabhu Dheva (where did the extra ‘h’ come from?), the dance guru, directing Shahid Kapoor, one of the few Hindi actors who can dance – surely that has to be a good thing?


Well… the premise is there, but in delivery R…Rajkumar is not as good as expected.  While the dancing is excellent (and it is fantastic to see a director make full use of Shahid’s talents in that respect), there are a few too many distasteful misogynistic moments to make this film anything other than just OK.  Shahid makes a reasonable attempt at masala served southern style, and his goofy shirts, dreadful hair and love struck Romeo are entertaining if somewhat reminiscent of Siddharth in Nuvvostanante Nenoddantana.  Although Shahid does his best, the story is standard fare, and adheres strictly to the usual Telugu formula complete with cartoonish fight scenes and ineffectual heroine.  It’s such a shame when all the ingredients are there to make a much better film, if only a little more thought had gone into the screenplay.


Romeo Rajkumar turns up in a small town where two rival gangs are battling for control of the opium trade, managing to arrive just at the right time to save Chanda (Sonakshi Sinha) from a stray bullet. Simultaneously he falls deeply in love with her after just one brief glance – so deeply in fact, that the mere sight of his ‘lollipop’ (gah!) is enough to halt him in his tracks.   And I do mean completely stop – no matter what – even when taking part in an assassination or when driving the getaway car after another attack on a rival gang. Much hilarious comedy ensues. Well, to be fair, it is funny the first time or two, but it just gets repeated a few too many times.

Rajkumar signs up with Shivraj (Sonu Sood) and soon becomes one of his top men in the fight against rival gang boss Parmar (Ashish Vidyarthi) becoming good friends with Qamar Ali (Mukul Dev) in the process.  The first half is full of outrageous shirts, bad hair and some amazing dance moves from Shahid along with a brief appearance from Prabhu Deva himself.


But while Shahid is blowing kisses and generally making an idiot of himself, there are darker scenes such as an apparent rape in the police station which is treated as an everyday occurrence and not worthy of further mention.  Further threats of violence and rape against the heroine are also treated as comedy and while some of the lewd dialogue is funny, most is offensive rather than comical.


Sonakshi Sinha starts off as a feisty village girl with great attitude as she beats up a gang of louts who dare to wolf-whistle at her and her friends. She berates Rajkumar for his unwanted attentions repeatedly, until she manages to overcome her aversion to eighties hair and loud shirts and decides that maybe Rajkumar isn’t so bad after all. But that’s the end of any personality for Chanda, who rapidly becomes vapid and useless, totally unable to defend herself against her uncle and his plans for her marriage, and completely helpless in the face of Shivraj’s attempts to seduce her. It’s a role Sonaskshi Sinha has done many times in the past but she has less conviction in her character here, and it shows.  There is no energy in her performance and zero chemistry with her co-star which makes me wonder why Prabhu Deva didn’t pick someone like Trisha or even Charme Kaur (who turns up in a song) who surely would have brought more oomph to the role.


Equally disappointing is Sonu Sood who is less menacing and more buffoonish than expected as a gang boss.  Ashish Vidyarthi is even more of a caricature as his rival, while Asrani is actually rather restrained in his role as spiritual advisor to Shivraj.  It’s bitter sweet to see Srihari appear here as the über villain Ajit Taaka, in one of his last appearances.  Generally he’s fine in spite of a rather unconvincing storyline and one rather bizarre scene where he appears gyrating with some bikini clad women on top of a hotel in (supposedly) Hong Kong. Best to just ignore and move along – when did masala ever have to make sense?

What does work well in the film are the songs by Pritam.  Prabhu Deva does an excellent job with the choreography, as for example here in Saree Ke Fall Sa where he uses the backing dancers and a few basic props to good effect.  The only exception is the last item song with Ragini Dwivedi and Scarlett Wilson which is shambolic with much less of a southern feel.

While the film initially feels like a series of short comedy sketches, everything slows down in the second half and becomes a little more serious with more fight scenes and fewer songs.  The inevitable final showdown is good, although I don’t think Shahid is quite as convincing in ‘back-from-the-edge-of-death’ recoveries as, for example, Shahrukh in Chennai Express, which does make the last fight scene funnier than I think it was meant to be. The film could definitely do with fewer rape references, and a more socially responsible hero would have made for less uncomfortable viewing.  Still, Shahid puts in a good performance and seeing him dance up a storm southern style, makes R…Rajkumar worth a watch, even if it doesn’t quite reach the heights I expected.


Phata Poster Nikla Hero


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.


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.

Teri Meri Kahaani

At the opening of the Indian Film Festival last week in Melbourne, Kunal Kohli promised us a simple but funny love story in his latest film, and I think that Teri Meri Kahaani keeps that promise. It’s a shame that he was here with Shahid Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra last week rather than for the world premiere in Melbourne last night, but there was still plenty of anticipation and excitement in the totally sold out theatre. I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting too much from the film given that most recent Hindi releases have been disappointing and yet another love story seemed unlikely to tread new ground. My main hope was that there would be at least one song where Shahid would actually get to dance, but as it turned out there were two great dance numbers, some wonderful costumes and scenery, and the film was really sweet and enjoyable.

Teri Meri Kahaani combines three love stories which all have a common theme but take place in three different decades.  Shahid Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra are the couple who fall in love each time but in all three stories there are complications which threaten to destroy their happiness. There isn’t anything outstanding or even very different in the love stories, but each reflects the era in which they are set and the variation in style keeps things interesting.

The film opens in sixties Bombay and the period has been wonderfully recreated with the help of computer graphics and some lovely rickety old trams. The recreation is explained in the end credits for anyone who is interested and it does looks very realistic to me, although I don’t really have any idea of how Bombay did look in the sixties.

Shahid plays Govind, a musician who has come to Bombay to find a job in the movie industry. Along the way he meets up with the latest rising star, Ruksar (Priyanka) and the two have an immediate connection. While Govind channels Shammi Kapoor and mooches around the studios looking for employment, he also finds time for romance – which in true sixties style he does by means of a song. Watch out for the backing dancers who totally throw themselves into the shimmy and shake!

Apart from the scenery, this whole section does feel very sixties with musical stings and lots of big brass sounds along with the rock and roll. The camera angles recall some of the classic sixties films and Shahid looks very dapper and dashing. Priyanka looks stunning and is a perfect fit as the typical sixties heroine in some very beautiful sparkly costumes. Prachi Desai has a special appearance and makes the most of her short time on-screen, although she really doesn’t have very much to do. It’s all very glamorous and the focus throughout is firmly on the lead couple who exude modern sixties style. But the course of true love never runs smoothly and just before the film moves to the present day, Ruksar and Govind look destined to part forever.

The film then moves to 2012 where Krish (Shahid) is a student based in Stratford-upon-Avon where he meets fellow student Radha (Priyanka) who is on a day trip with friends to the birthplace of Shakespeare. Again the couple have an instant connection and start an online relationship after Radha moves back to Nottingham. There are many, many references to Facebook and Twitter and this did get rather wearing, as surely they could have phoned each other occasionally rather than just sending endless pictures and updates to each other? But maybe that’s just a sign of my age and perhaps that’s really what young couples do these days. This still was the least satisfying of the three stories – Priyanka wasn’t very convincing as a student and neither character had much development beyond the romance. There were various friends of the pair, but they never got to say any more than a word or two to say, and again the story focused primarily on the two leads. Neha Sharma has the special appearance here but doesn’t have much of an impact. On the plus side, I used to live in  Nottingham, and it was good to see different parts of the UK instead of perennial favourite London.

The final story starts just before the intermission and it’s both funny and sad. It’s interesting that Kunal Kohli chose to have his couple studying in England and then immediately follow that with a story which deals with opposition to British rule in India, and features stereotypical heavy-handed English soldiers. It’s such a tired old chestnut and it would be really nice to see this handled in a different way for a change, but instead the British characters follow the usual formula although they do only appear peripherally.

This story is set in a village near Lahore in 1910 and is another change of style and a total change of pace from the previous two romances. The support cast do have more of a role to play here and it helps makes this the best of the three tales with more back story and development of the two main characters. Shahid plays Javed, a womanising layabout who introduces himself as God’s gift to women – literally! He’s a Muslim, while Priyanka’s character Ardhana is the daughter of a local Sikh activist, so already there are problems with the idea of any marriage between the two. Javed has some of the best lines in the film, and while many of them are really corny, the way that he speaks them in couplet form makes them seem funnier than they really are. His appreciative friends add to the humour and even Ardhana gets a few punchy lines as she berates Javed for his unsavoury reputation. Shahid’s costumes here were long kurtas which made him appear very chunky, but the unshaven look and scruffy hair did suit his character, and I liked his arrogant but relaxed manner as Javed. Priyanka again looked beautiful in some wonderfully colourful costumes and was totally charming in her village-girl role. Throughout the film, Priyanka and Shahid had sparkling chemistry together, but it was probably at it’s best and most apparent in these scenes.

Teri Meri Kahaani’s three love stories seem to hearken back to the films of Yash Raj with their focus on simple stories, lavishly made sets and beautiful costumes – perhaps not surprising since that is where Kunal Kohli started his career. The film depends heavily on the performances of the two main leads and both Shahid and Priyanka deliver, making a convincing couple each time. Sajid-Wajid’s music suits each era and it’s great to have a couple of big dance numbers where Shahid gets to strut his stuff and Priyanka at least looks as if she is enjoying herself. I loved the costumes and the sets and while the film is basically light and fluffy romance it’s cute and funny without being sickly sweet. I am a huge Shahid Kapoor fan and that probably does make me just a little biased, but this is definitely one of his better films in recent times. Kunal Kohli has gone back to basics and it works! Definitely worth watching if you are a fan of either of Shahid or Priyanka or just want a non-taxing enjoyable night out at the movies.