Tag Archives: 2010

Movie Review: Hisss (2010)

1 Star (out of 4)

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When a director disowns a movie she spent months filming, you know the finished product must really stink. That’s exactly what American director Jennifer Lynch did, following the release of the Hindi film Hisss.

Lynch claims that producers wrested control of the film away from her during the editing process, ultimately creating a movie that little resembles her vision for the project. The filmmaking process was so trying that a documentary about Lynch’s experience called Despite the Gods is currently making the festival circuit. Now that’s a movie I want to see.

Hisss is ultimately a good-looking version of the type of schlocky, low-budget monster movies regularly shown on the Syfy channel. Compared to any other films, it’s a mess.

It’s not just a mess; it’s messy. By Bollywood standards, Hisss is incredibly gory. Also, compared to standard Bollywood fare, there’s a lot of nudity and explicit sexuality (although a scene showing Mallika Sherawat humping a ten-foot-long snake puppet would be unusual in any type of film).

Hisss’s (not often I get to use the same letter four times consecutively!) premise is that an American man named George (Jeff Douchette) must prevent his death from brain cancer by stealing the immortal essence of a snake goddess, or nagin. In order to lure the nagin, he captures her male cobra mate, played by the aforementioned snake puppet.

The nagin assumes the human form of Mallika Sherawat in order to search for her stolen mate. While in the guise of a seductive and frequently naked woman, the nagin seizes the opportunity to murder some male human rapists and abusers in gruesome fashion. All that’s left of one of her victims are his undigested bones, cellphone, and Pamela Anderson t-shirt.

The strange deaths are investigated by Vinkram (Irrfan Khan), a detective dealing with his wife’s recent miscarriage and a mentally ill mother-in-law. Vinkram’s wife, Maya (Divya Dutta), assists her husband when a lovely, mute, naked woman — the nagin — is brought to the police station. Maya’s ill mother is the only one who sees a connection between the woman and the deaths.

Dutta and Irrfan bear no responsibility for the movie’s failures. Both are solid in the movie’s only compelling storyline, as they cope with the possibility of never becoming parents. Scenes involving Maya’s childlike mother are sometimes awkward but reinforce that Maya and Vinkram are good people.

The other storylines aren’t nearly as interesting. It’s hard to get invested in the nagin’s journey, since she never speaks, and the closest she ever gets any kind of meaningful character development is when she’s molting. The nagin is less of a tortured-soul type of monster like Dr. Jekyll or the wolfman than she is a killing machine. She’s Jaws with a taste for misogynists.

Few acting demands are placed upon Sherawat beyond occasional bouts of wordless howling. Half-naked writhing is her main contribution to the film, and she does an admirable job of it. Her character is just too undeveloped to garner sympathy.

Least sympathetic of all is George. Most of his dull scenes are filmed in a windowless underground room where he electrocutes the snake puppet as part of his plan to attract the nagin. George periodically surfaces to abuse and murder his Indian assistants, who should realize that whatever money he’s offering isn’t worth the risk of being shot by George or eaten by a giant snake.

Given the scenes that made it in to the final cut of Hisss, I’m not sure that Lynch’s version would’ve been a masterpiece. Still, I would’ve liked to have seen it. Regardless, Despite the Gods is bound to be more entertaining than the film that spawned it.

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Movie Review: Paan Singh Tomar (2010)

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Paan Singh Tomar lived a fascinating life. A gifted athlete betrayed by his government, his story went largely unnoticed until thirty years after his death. But the movie made about him doesn’t quite do him justice.

The film opens in 1980 with a sort of framing device: a reporter seeks an interview with the legendary dacoit (“bandit”) Paan Singh Tomar. I say it’s only sort of a framing device because the action of the last thirty minutes of the film all takes place after the interview.

Paan Singh (as he’s referred to) explains that he’s not a bandit, but a rebel. He narrates his story to the reporter, starting in 1950 as a young army officer. Paan Singh (Irrfan Khan) angles for a spot on the national track and field team — an offshoot of the army — because the athletes get larger portions of food at mealtime than soldiers do.

Since TVs weren’t common household items at the time, Paan Singh’s athletic achievements go largely unnoticed outside the big cities. His wife doesn’t learn that he’s set a new record in the steeplechase until he tells her himself on one of his brief trips home to his small town.

Paan Singh leaves the army when a cousin, Bhanwar Singh (Jahangir Khan), attempts to seize all of the local farmland for himself. Paan Singh is offered the chance to move his family to safety and coach the national track and field team, but he elects to fight for his farm. He asks the local police for help, citing his service to the country in the army and in competitive athletics. The police have never heard of Paan Singh Tomar, but they know Bhanwar well, thanks to the generous bribes he pays them.

Unable to stop his cousin peacefully, Paan Singh and the other displaced farmers wage a guerrilla war against Bhanwar.

The events of Paan Singh Tomar’s life are certainly exciting enough to inspire a feature film. The problem is in the way the plot unfolds. It’s as though writer-director Tigmanshu Dhulia is ticking off boxes on a biographical checklist, rather than telling a story. Scenes are too brief, ending abruptly before moving on to the next too-brief scene.

In an effort to hit all of the biographical highlights, character development is minimized. Paan Singh’s wife, Indra (Mahie Gill), has little to do apart from submit to her husband’s groping on his brief visits home. I’d have thought she’d have a lot to say about his choice to spend his military career away from her and their children, only to spend the rest of his life running from the law. We never hear her side of the story.

There’s little time allowed to explore the motivations of the characters, and that includes those of Paan Singh himself. The nobility of his choice to fight for his family farm is tempered somewhat by the means by which he finances his guerrilla war. He and his gang kidnap people and use the ransom to buy weapons. But, even after the situation with Bhanwar is resolved, the kidnappings continue. Why?

Was retaking his farmland for his family Paan Singh’s real goal? Was it simply revenge? Is he really a rebel or just a vigilante?

Even with his lack of character development, Khan gives a gripping performance as Paan Singh. As the movie progresses, it’s easy to get caught up in Khan’s charisma. It’s only after the movie ends that the questions of “Why?” come to the forefront. Paan Singh Tomar doesn’t offer enough answers.

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Movie Review: Mirch (2010)

2.5 Stars (4 Stars)

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Mirch (“Chili Pepper”) stands out from other Bollywood fare because of its subject matter: women’s sexuality. It’s a topic that makes some people skittish, yet Mirch addresses it with a sense of humor. However, the otherwise amusing movie fails to reach its full potential.

The movie is actually a series of four short stories — two set in the ancient past, two set in modern times — held together by a framing device. A rookie screenwriter, Maanav (Arunoday Singh), can’t find anyone willing to buy his original screenplay because the subject matter is deemed too dark and not “sexy” enough. So Maanav comes up with another plan: turn four stories from the ancient Panchatantra into a film.

The four stories all feature sexually liberated women who use their wits to get the better of their jealous, promiscuous spouses. Maanav’s girlfriend, a movie editor named Ruchi (Shahana Goswami), convinces her producer boss Nitin (Sushant Singh) to listen to Maanav’s pitch, even though it appears Nitin has his own designs on Ruchi.

The four stories unfold as Maanav’s narration gives way to cinematic depiction, starting with the two historical vignettes. First is the story of a frisky wife (Raima Sen) whose manual laborer husband becomes suspicious of her eagerness to hop in the sack with him.

Second is a story of a young bride (Konkona Sen Sharma) married to an impotent old king. The bride is desperate to lose her virginity, and she chooses a young courtier (also played by Arunoday Singh, who appears in two other stories as well) to do the deed. However, the courtier will only consent if the bride agrees to do it in front of her husband.

The characters in the “real life” storyline acknowledge a need for stories set in modern times, shifting the time period forward for the final two stories. Sen returns in the third story as another devoted wife whose husband (Shreyas Talpade) tests her fidelity. Sharma likewise returns for the fourth vignette, as a wife who catches her husband (Boman Irani) trying to cheat on her.

All of the stories start with straightforward premises but end with a twist: either the wife turns the tables on her husband, or she was hiding a secret all along. In every case, the stories acknowledge the fact that women have their own desires apart from fulfilling their husbands needs. Sen and Sharma carry the movie, playing their characters as provocative rather than overtly sexual.

While the vignettes have their charms, the framing device is uneven. The interludes between the mini-movies seem to be driving toward a love triangle finale that would force Ruchi to choose between Maanav and Nitin. A new character is introduced at the last minute, seemingly invalidating the implication that Nitin was ever interested in Ruchi.

Mirch also makes the unfortunate mistake of putting a character in blackface. When the husband in the third story dons a disguise in order to seduce his wife, he covers his skin in dark makeup. It’s a crude attempt at humor that’s loaded with racist undertones. A wig and a fake mustache would have been sufficient.

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Movie Review: Crook (2010)

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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There’s a lot going on in the subtext of Crook regarding the different facets of racism and the immigrant’s struggle to balance integration with tradition. With a different structure– one that allowed the subtext more time to develop — Crook could’ve been a truly memorable movie.

The hero of Crook is Jai (Emraan Hashmi), a small-time video pirate in India. His adoptive father sends him to Australia under a false identity in order to give Jai a fresh start. Jai starts his new life in Melbourne as Suraj, a taxi driver working his way to permanent residency (unless he can find a cute Australian woman to marry first).

Two Aussie women catch Jai’s eye: a blonde stripper named Nikki (Shella Alan) and a student of Indian descent named Suhani (Neha Sharma). Nikki quickly falls for Jai, but Suhani’s strict brother, Samarth (Arjan Bajwa), intends to marry her to someone else.

Further complicating matters is a series of racially motivated attacks on Indian-Australians by white Australians. Suhani tries to bring Australians of all colors together and is frustrated by Jai’s unwillingness to get involved. Jai fears attracting police attention by participating in protests. If the police discover his true identity, he could be sent back to India.

Crook portrays racism as a two-way street. The white Australians who attack Indians are villains, but so are traditionalists like Samarth, who rejects Australian culture in the hopes of recreating India on a new continent. The only innocents are people like Suhani, who respects the values of her family as much as the values that dominate her adopted homeland.

Such nuance presents a problem in that it makes Jai’s decision not to take a stand look decidedly unheroic. He spends most of the movie running away from trouble. While it makes sense given his false identity, the threat of deportation isn’t as imminent or thrilling as, say, the threat of death.

Further, since the audience knows that eventually Jai has to get involved, he needs to take a stand much earlier in the film than he does. It takes more than half of the movie before Jai finally tells Suhani the truth about his past. Even then, he still insists that the racial tension inflaming the city isn’t his problem. A film hero needs to take charge of his destiny in a more definitive way than Jai does.

While the set up of the love story is fine, it doesn’t leave enough time for the action in the second half of the movie to unfold. When violence breaks out, characters undergo abrupt personality changes and plot points feel rushed.

Overall, Crook is a fun ride with some interesting moral observations. It just falls a bit short of its potential.

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Movie Review: Paathshaala (2010)

0.5 Stars (out of 4)

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The first scene in Paathshaala contains a closeup of a boy’s crotch as he pees himself. Need I write more, or is that sufficient evidence that this is a terrible movie?

Paathshaala (“School”) strives to be the after school special version of Taare Zameen Par, a movie which itself is drearily on-the-nose in its critique of the Indian school system. Paathshaala lacks sophistication in its storytelling and bores as it attempts to make a statement.

Nana Patekar plays Aditya Sahay, principal of an elite private boarding school that’s low on funds. Shortly after the arrival of a new English teacher named Rahul (Shahid Kapoor), the well-respected principal announces bizarre changes at the school.

Sahay turns control of the school over to a management firm who want to increase the school’s profile and cash flow by entering all of the students in reality TV competition shows. Rather than studying, students spend the day auditioning for singing competitions and arranging themselves in human pyramids in the hot sun.

Why Sahay allows his school to be turned into a joke isn’t explained until the last ten minutes of the movie. The explanation is ludicrous: the school board demanded more revenue and, out of other options and not wishing to burden the staff and students with the problem, Sahay allowed the board to implement changes.

This is stupid for a number of reasons. First, there’s no reason for Sahay to keep the board’s demands secret. It would’ve been a more interesting movie had he explained the problem and the students themselves came up with the plan to compete on reality shows.

The second issue with Sahay quietly acceding to the board’s wishes is that it turns him into a villain. He assumes responsibility for the changes even as his students pay the price in injuries, exhaustion and missed educational opportunities. If Sahay loves his school as much as he claims to in a tedious speech at the end of the film, he never would’ve put his students at risk.

Sahay, however, isn’t even the focal point of the movie; Shahid Kapoor is front and center on the movie poster. Rahul is supposed to be the cute, cool new teacher. He wears jeans in class, high fives his students and plays guitar for them (though Kapoor doesn’t bother to strum the guitar as he “plays” it).

Rahul’s attempts to befriend his pupils would have the opposite effect in reality. The kids would think he was trying too hard to be one of them and dismiss him as a dork.

The rest of the teachers are mere caricatures. The nutritionist/lunch lady played by Ayesha Takia is there to look pretty. The kids are supposed to be cute but wind up as annoying screen fillers. In every respect, Paathshaala fails to make the grade.

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Movie Review: Aashayein (2010)

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Aashayein (“Hopes”) is the story of Rahul (John Abraham), an affable guy in his mid-thirties whose ship has finally come in. He wins big gambling on a cricket match, giving him the financial freedom to finally marry his girlfriend Nafisa (Sonal Sehgal) and buy a share in a luxury resort at the foot of the Himalayas. But when he collapses at a celebratory party, he learns that he may not have the time to realize his dreams.

Rahul is diagnosed with incurable lung cancer so advanced that he has only a matter of months to live. Nafisa wants to get married as planned, but Rahul doesn’t want to leave her a widow. He runs away to a hospice to spend his final days.

The hospice looks nothing like one imagines a real hospice. Instead of a clinic, Aashayein‘s hospice is a beach resort where meals are made to order. That the hospice purports to run entirely on donations strains credulity, but it gives Rahul an excuse to buy a room at the facility (sorry, poor people who were on the waiting list ahead of him).

There he meets a group of other terminally ill people: a businessman estranged from his family, a former prostitute, a sick boy with supposedly divine powers. It’s never stated definitively whether the boy, Govinda (Ashwin Chitale) is really magical (he says he just makes up stories, and they make people happy), or if the dreams he inspires in Rahul are merely manifestations of the dementia symptomatic of Rahul’s advancing illness.

The most compelling resident is the crass 17-year-old girl, Padma (Anaitha Nair). She’s rude and has a dark sense of humor, but she’s immediately smitten with Rahul.

Padma’s anti-social behavior stems from the fact that she’s acutely aware of all that she won’t experience in life. Unlike Rahul, she doesn’t have a supportive family or friends. It has the unfortunate effect of making Rahul seem like more of a jerk than the girl with the gallows sense of humor.

I think that writer-director Nagesh Kukunoor intended to portray Rahul as a screw-up who redeems himself. At the beginning, he’s seen smoking, drinking and gambling. But Rahul is a nice guy, at least at first: a good friend and a devoted boyfriend. Kukunoor seems to be saying that self-destructive vices outweigh human decency when it comes to judging character. I wasn’t convinced.

Rahul’s eventual decision to run away seems uncharacteristically mean. It would be one thing if he did it for his own sake, but he thinks he’s doing Nafisa a favor. She explains that Rahul only has to suffer for a few months, while she and his friends will suffer for the rest of their lives without him.

That said, Rahul’s running away is presented as one of the various ways people deal with devastating news: the businessman’s estrangement, Padma’s biting wit, the prostitute’s calm acceptance.

Rahul uses his money to enrich the lives of his fellow patients, both as a way of atoning for his past and as a way to feel like he matters. Whether or not he atones for hurting Nafisa, I’m not sure. As in real life, Rahul just doesn’t have enough time.

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Movie Review: Pankh (2010)

0 Stars (out of 4)

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Normally, I don’t write reviews of movies I don’t finish, but I’m making an exception for Pankh. I had to stop the DVD after 30 minutes, because director Sudipto Chattopadhyay’s ceaselessly spinning and rotating camera gave me motion sickness.

Pankh is Chattopadhyay’s first directorial effort, under the banner White Feather Arthouse Films. Chattopadhyay seems to think making an “art” movie is little more than a license to disregard the rules of competent filmmaking and get away with stuff the censor board would normally disallow.

The movie’s story is fractured into flashbacks and dream sequences that interrupt the flow of the action set in the present. The story revolves around a young man named Jerry (Maradona Rebello). When he was a child, Jerry’s mother, Mary (Lilette Dubey), tried to foist her own dreams of screen stardom onto her son, making him appear in movies dressed as a girl under the stage name “Baby Kusum.”

As an adult, Jerry predictably struggles with his sexual and gender identities. He seeks refuge in a fantasy world where he meets with a glamorous screen diva, played by Bipasha Basu.

The dream sequences are the most physically unsettling parts of the movie. In one, the camera, trained on Basu, rotates on a pivot while simultaneously tilting from side-to-side, like a rocking boat. I got dizzy watching it and turned the DVD off.

But stupid camera techniques are used in the present day scenes as well. At one point, as Jerry talks to an old acquaintance, the camera is turned 90 degrees to the left. Jerry’s face is visible in the top right corner of the screen, while his body is off camera. All that’s visible of his friend is the top of his head in the bottom left corner of the screen.

I could forgive the nauseating camera work if it had a point. In The Blair Witch Project, the shaky handheld camera shots were supposed to make it feel like a documentary. Chattopadhyay uses the camera the way he does in Pankh just because he can.

Chattopadhyay tries to make Pankh edgier with somewhat scandalous content. Jerry smokes and does drugs. Characters swear profusely in English, and their Hindi curse words are bleeped. In one fantasy scene, Jerry is depicted as Jesus carrying a cross. Jerry and another male character are shown masturbating.

As a filmmaker, Chattopadhyay is like the 13-year-old boy left home alone, trying to get away with doing as many “adult” things as possible before his parents return. There’s no maturity to his attempts at edginess. I can only imagine how painful — physically and emotionally — it would’ve been to endure the final 70 minutes of Pankh.

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Movie Review: Lamhaa (2010)

2 Stars (out of 4)

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I should start by noting that, in the case of this review, the star rating above is likely instructive only to my fellow Americans and other Westerners who have an average or below-average understanding of the ongoing dispute over Kashmir. To fully appreciate Lamhaa (“Moment”), one needs a familiarity with the history, geography and politics of Kashmir that I (and I suspect most Americans) don’t have.

While I got the gist of the movie and enjoyed many of the performances, I came away uncertain of the motivations of various factions and what their relationships to one another are. Since I can’t be sure how much of the fault for the misunderstanding lies with the filmmaker and how much lies with me, I can only half-heartedly recommend Lamhaa to American filmgoers.

The plot concerns the return of an Indian Army officer, Vikram (Sanjay Dutt), to Kashmir, where he served during deadly riots that engulfed the region in 1989. Various separatist groups are working with politicians and industrialists to inflame public passion for autonomous self-rule and spur another round of riots twenty years later. To what end, I’m not sure, though it’s clear that money and power are at stake.

When Vikram arrives on the scene, he’s shown in slow-motion tossing his backpack over his shoulder and striding purposefully toward the camera. It’s the tough-guy-fantasy version of a beautiful blonde swinging her long hair over her shoulder in slow-mo. Besides the silly slow-mo, the cinematography is quite good, with quick zooms and a hand-held feel akin to the Syfy series Battlestar Galactica.

In trying to uncover plans for the renewed uprising, Vikram assumes the identity “Gul.” He meets Aziza (Bipasha Basu), the hot-tempered daughter of a local politician, Haji (Anupam Kher). Haji adopted Aziza after her own politician father was assassinated, raising her to lead a female gang of thugs known as the Fatima Squad.

Vikram saves Aziza’s life, and she gradually begins to trust him. When her childhood sweetheart, Aatif (Kunal Kapoor), pledges to run for office without using Haji’s violent tactics, Aziza begins to realize just how dangerous Haji is. She and Vikram work to uncover exactly what Haji has secretly been planning.

The actual unfolding of events is much more muddled than my recap. There are insurgent groups training child soldiers; industrialists doing business with the governments of India and Pakistan as well as the insurgents; “half-widows” trying to learn the fates of husbands arrested years ago by the Indian army.

Elements like the half-widows seem inserted into the movie just for the sake of providing a complete picture of the problems in Kashmir. They do little to advance the plot. The song montages are similarly needless time-fillers. A montage of Dutt’s character playing with little kids is particularly awkward.

What makes Lamhaa truly confusing are the frequent changes in location throughout Kashmir, India and Pakistan. Each new location is labeled at the bottom of the screen, but the labels are covered up by English dialog subtitles. There are scenes of border crossings, but thanks to the subtitles covering the location names, I have no idea which borders were being crossed.

The final impression given by Lamhaa — and the one that I believe the director wanted to convey — is that Kashmir is a complex place controlled by people whose desire for power and wealth overrides the needs of citizens with serious problems. I only wish a true understanding of the movie didn’t require the use of a map and some Venn diagrams.

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Peepli Live Fails in Oscar Bid

On January 19, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its shortlist of nine films vying to be the five nominees in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 83rd Academy Awards. India’s submission, Peepli Live, didn’t make the list and is out of the running for the Oscar.

The recent comedy Tees Maar Khan jokingly referenced the perception that movies about poor Indians are guaranteed Oscar winners. Considering the subject matter of awards show success Slumdog Millionaire and India’s most recent Best Foreign Language Film nominee, 2001’s Lagaan, there’s a degree of truth to that belief. Unfortunately, that belief seemed to guide the decision to submit Peepli Live, even though it’s nowhere near Lagaan in terms of quality.

Peepli Live suffers from the same structural flaw as Taare Zameen Par, the Film Federation of India‘s unsuccessful submission to the 81st Academy Awards. Both movies — creations of Aamir Khan Productions — feature a main character in the first half of the movie who’s pushed out of the spotlight in the second half of the film.

The lead character in both films is an underdog: a poor farmer in Peepli Live and a dyslexic child in Taare Zameen Par. The first half of each movie establishes the dire circumstances that surround the very likable hero.

In the second half of each movie, both heroes largely disappear. The farmer wanders around in the background while TV news outlets fight over a story and an aspiring journalist tries to get a break. The dyslexic child cries in his room while his art teacher fights on his student’s behalf.

In both cases, the hero’s story arc is not resolved through his own actions, but through the actions of others. The hero only retakes an active role in his destiny at the very end of the film.

What’s disappointing about the Film Federation of India’s selection of an “issue” picture like Peepli Live is that it prioritizes subject matter over craft. There were a number of other Hindi movies more worthy of submission. The pool widens considerably when Indian movies of all languages are considered.

Movies eligible for selection needed to be released between October 1, 2009 and September 30, 2010 and complete a seven-day run in theaters. The primary language spoken in the film must not be English. The language rule likely eliminated The Japanese Wife from consideration. The same rule may doom Dhobi Ghat‘s chance for submission to the 84th Academy Awards.

Better candidates for nomination would’ve been Raavan, Ishqiya or the 2011 Star Screen Best Film award winner: Udaan. My personal choice would’ve been Road, Movie, which was the best movie I saw last year — Indian or American.

Movie Review: Tere Bin Laden (2010)

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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In the United States, it’s not especially fashionable to criticize the government’s (and military’s) response to terrorism, let alone to do so in an irreverent way. Tere Bin Laden (“Your Bin Laden”) fills that void, satirizing America’s penchant for preemptive military action.

Pakistani reporter Ali Hassan (Ali Zafar) wants to make it big in America. But, just days after 9/11, he’s mistaken for a terrorist and permanently banned from entering the U.S. He could sneak into the States under a false identity, but he can’t afford the fees a real terrorist outfit — “Lashkar-E-Amreeka,” whose headquarters have the slogan “Invading USA Since 2002” painted next to the front door — charge for the forged documents.

Seven years later, Ali’s stuck working at a low-budget TV station when he stumbles upon a chicken farmer who’s a dead ringer for Osama Bin Laden. With the help of two coworkers from the station, a militant radio host and an aspiring beautician, Ali tricks the chicken farmer into recording a fake Bin Laden terror video. Ali sells it for enough money to finally afford the forged documents.

Unfortunately, the video prompts the U.S. to close its borders and engage in new military operations in Afghanistan. It’s bad enough that Ali is stuck in Pakistan for good, but the U.S. intelligence service expands its hunt for Bin Laden to Pakistan, and soon enough, Ali is in their sights.

For the most part, the movie is a typical comedy about mistaken identities. But some of the jokes made at the expense of the U.S. are insightful and very funny. When a U.S. military commander presents the plans for a renewed offensive in Afghanistan, the plans are rendered as comic book panels, with American soldiers depicted as caped superheroes. Troops brag about capturing “Osama’s personal donkey.”

If you’re in the mood for juvenile humor, Tere Bin Laden certainly satisfies. Noora (Pradhuman Singh), the Osama lookalike, is a goldmine for comedy, given his profession as a raiser of roosters. There are more jokes about the male anatomy in Tere Bin Laden than in all of the 100+ Hindi movies I’ve seen combined.

The immature jokes hit a low point when Ali dons blackface makeup. And the goofy sound effects that permeate the movie are annoying, rather than funny. (The DVD menu features an irritating loop of a rooster crowing. Hit “play” as quickly as possible.)

This is Pakistani pop singer Ali Zafar’s first starring role, and he does an admirable job as Ali. He’s charming, effortless and completely adorable. The rest of the supporting cast is good as well, with a few notable exceptions.

The exceptions are the “American” characters. I use quotes because, almost across the board, the characters are played by Australians who can’t disguise their accents. Singh supposedly spent eight months training for Noora’s few lines of Arabic dialog, but there were no American actors available to play American parts?

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