Tag Archives: Aditya Roy Kapoor

Movie Review: Aashiqui 2 (2013)

Aashiqui_23 Stars (out of 4)

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Sibling producers Mukesh and Mahesh Bhaat are the main perpetrators of Bollywood’s tendency to call any new film a sequel in order to trade on the reputation of a previously successful film. I’m almost willing to forgive them in the case of Aashiqui 2: a focused, well-told story that deserves to be seen, even if it has nothing to do with the 1990 hit Aashiqui.

Aashiqui 2 jumps right into the downward spiral of rockstar Rahul (Aditya Roy Kapoor). Having squandered most of his fame by being an unreliable, quarrelsome drunk, Rahul is ready to quit the music biz. Unfortunately for stars like Rahul, they are industries themselves as much as they are artists. Rahul’s best friend and manager, Vivek (Shaad Randhawa), isn’t about to let Rahul walk out on the gigs he’s secured for his temperamental diva buddy, no matter how lowbrow they are compared to the stadiums Rahul once played.

After bailing on a gig after a fight with an audience member, drunk Rahul winds up in a hotel bar. He’s blown away when he hears one of his songs being sung by the young woman who fronts the hotel’s resident cover band. Convinced that he can turn the singer, Aarohi (Shraddha Kapoor), into a star, he gets her to return to Mumbai with him.

Rahul’s focus on Aarohi’s career at the expense of his own drives a wedge between him and Vivek, but Rahul’s hunch about Aarohi is right. She makes it big, and the couple falls in love. However, Rahul’s alcoholism prevents them from enjoying her success.

The straightforward plot allows a lot of time for character growth. A character as complicated and potentially loathsome as Rahul — a rich guy willing to throw away a life others would kill for — needs time to grow on the audience. He gets that time, and the audience is able to appreciate the overpowering hold that alcohol has on him.

After his grating performances in Action Replayy and Guzaarish, I was ready to write off Aditya Roy Kapoor as hopeless. I’m glad I didn’t, because he has turned into a fine actor. He humanizes Rahul, giving insight into the troubled artist’s ever-changing moods. Even as Aarohi’s success validates his instincts and pleases him emotionally, it reminds him that he used to be the one in the spotlight.

Shraddha Kapoor is at her best during the film’s many dramatic scenes, but she struggles during scenes of Aarohi’s success. Whenever she’s in front of an audience, Aarohi looks like she’d rather be anywhere else. Her reaction to autograph and interview requests is, “I’ll do it later.” I doubt that a performer as standoffish as Aarohi could achieve the kind of popularity she supposedly does.

The supporting cast is solid, especially Mahesh Thakur as the fatherly record producer Sehgal. As Aarohi contemplates abandoning her career to help Rahul dry out, Sehgal asks her, “If your love was his cure, then why hasn’t it worked yet?”

Since the movie is about a pair of singers, the soundtrack plays a prominent role in Aashiqui 2. While the songs are good, the soundtrack lacks variety. Virtually every song is a power ballad, including the one Rahul opens his concert with at the start of the film. (Who opens a show with a power ballad?)

During that same scene, it’s not clear why the guy in the audience who starts the fight has such a problem with Rahul, whom he claims ruined his life. The same guy shows up again later as a now-successful singer, still holding a grudge against Rahul. This subplot requires more explanation.

The few hiccups in Aashiqui 2 don’t derail the plot, and the focus stays on the characters, where it belongs. This is a smart film that knows just what it wants to be and delivers. I’m just sorry it didn’t get the wide U.S. theatrical opening it deserved.

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Movie Review: Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013)

YJHD2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Writer-director Ayan Mukerji’s debut movie, Wake Up Sid, was a nuanced coming-of-age film grounded in realism. While Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (“This Youth is Crazy”) is also a coming-of-age film, it plays out as a male fantasy in which selfishness is rewarded, and there are no consequences for bad behavior.

The regressive storyline that dominates the second half of Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (YJHD, henceforth) is a disappointment, given how much the film has going for it. It’s packed with blockbuster-caliber dance numbers, gorgeous scenery, and a strong first half, anchored by Deepika Padukone. But all that can’t make up for the inattention paid to the film’s core relationships and the lack of development of the ostensible lead character, played by Ranbir Kapoor.

YJHD‘s story structure is confusing because, until the mid-point of the movie, Padukone’s character, Naina, is the lead character. She narrates an extended flashback of a mountain trek vacation eight years earlier, when she was eager to ditch her nerdy image and have an adventure before starting medical school. On the trip, she reunites with some high school classmates — Aditi (Kalki Koechlin), Avi (Aditya Roy Kapoor), and Bunny (Ranbir Kapoor) — and falls in love with Bunny. The trip ends, and the friends go their separate ways.

When the action returns to the present day, Naina’s lead status ends with her mailing invitations to Aditi’s wedding. Bunny takes center stage when he accepts the invitation and returns to India after eight years abroad, having had minimal contact with his friends in the meantime (and apparently no contact with Naina whatsoever). The rest of the story is about Bunny finally realizing — at age 30 — that other people have feelings, too, and that perhaps he shouldn’t be so selfish.

There’s a great scene in Wake Up Sid in which slacker Sid (also played by Ranbir Kapoor) finally cleans the apartment he shares with Aisha (Konkona Sen Sharma), hoping to impress her. Instead, she chides him for expecting praise for something he should’ve been doing all along.

In YJHD, however, when Bunny admits that perhaps he should’ve called home more often — instead of ignoring his family and friends while enjoying his globetrotting lifestyle — Aditi, Avi, and Naina all but throw him a parade. Bunny’s stepmother assures him that it’s okay that he missed his father’s funeral, since all his father ever wanted was for Bunny to follow his dreams. As charming as Bunny is supposed to be, it’s hard to accept that there are no consequences for him spending thirty years as a self-interested jerk.

In contrast to Bunny’s virtual lack of moral development, Naina undertakes some serious soul-searching. On the trek, Naina forces herself to take risks, if only to confirm that she really is a homebody at heart, and that that’s okay. When she confesses to Bunny that socializing is more difficult for a nerd like her than it is for a popular guy like him, he responds, in essence, “Why? You’re fine the way you are.” It’s meant to be reassuring, but it speaks to the fact that Bunny can’t empathize with her feelings of social isolation.

During their eight years apart, Naina finishes med school and apparently has no other romantic relationships. It’s as if she put her life on hold until Bunny decides that he wants to grow up. When he does, she accepts him without reservations. Naina must work to become a better person, but Bunny is written as though his value is inherent and obvious. He just has to say the magic word, and he becomes a prize worth having. It’s lazy writing, and it’s a bit sexist.

YJHD also has trouble defining the friendships between the characters. The first half of the film is about Naina earning her spot as the fourth member of the group of pals, but she never interacts with all four of them together in the second half. When Aditi suggests to Avi and Bunny that they celebrate on the eve of her wedding, no one mentions including Naina. Naina gives a toast to her “best friend,” Aditi, but they have few scenes together where it’s just the two of them. Naina loses her status as a friend in the second half, reduced to the role of Bunny’s love interest.

The final shot of the film confirms Naina’s demotion from lead character in the first half to isolated love interest in the second. Naina and Bunny embrace, and the camera moves in to a closeup of Bunny’s beatific face, cropping Naina out of the frame entirely.

There are some really terrific dance numbers in YJHD — all in the first half of the film — including a show-stopping number featuring Madhuri Dixit. As talented an actor as Kapoor is, his performances in the dance numbers are where his star qualities really shine through. All of the four main actors do a nice job, and Kunaal Roy Kapur is funny as Aditi’s dorky fiance, Taran. The trekking scenes in Manali are lovely.

As one might ignore a lousy story for the sake of seeing the exciting stunts of a blockbuster action flick, it’s perfectly acceptable to see Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani for the entertaining dance numbers and beautiful scenery alone. The film’s story is definitely not its selling point.

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Movie Review: Guzaarish (2010)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Despite knowing in advance that Guzaarish (“Request”) is a story about a paralyzed man trying to end his life, I wasn’t prepared for the emotional walloping the movie administered.

Guzaarish is heartbreaking without being manipulative. The characters occupy various positions on the ethical spectrum. In a movie about empathizing with someone else’s decision even if you disagree with it, it’s easy to identify with all of the characters and find their motives believable.

Guzaarish opens with a montage set to the song “Smile” (popularized by Nat King Cole), showcasing the details of Ethan Mascarenas’ (Hrithik Roshan) daily life. Ethan is paralyzed below the neck as a result of an accident fourteen years ago, and his days now consist of being washed, dressed and fed by his nurse, Sofia (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan). Unable to use his hands to shoo away a fly that lands on his face, Ethan does as the song suggests and smiles.

In addition to being permanently immobilized, Ethan’s organs are shutting down. His diminishing lung function causes him to gasp for breath between sentences. Ethan asks his best friend and lawyer, Devyani (Shernaz Patel), to file a petition asking the court to allow him to commit suicide.

Everyone opposes the idea: the doctor who saved his life after the accident; Sofia, who’s cared for him every day since; his friend, Devyani; listeners to the radio show Ethan broadcasts from his bedroom; his new apprentice, Omar (Aditya Roy Kapoor), to whom Ethan passes on secrets from his days as one of the world’s top magicians. The court rejects his initial appeal, but Ethan is determined to take control of his own destiny.

The movie is not just about Ethan’s struggle, but how his decision affects those around him. One of the most powerful scenes takes place between Sofia and Devyani. After Sofia blames Devyani for enabling Ethan’s suicide pursual, Devyani reminds Sofia that she didn’t know him before the accident and can’t understand the life he lost. Devyani repeatedly walks toward the door, only to return with one last point in defense of her friend.

Guzaarish isn’t all tearjerking melodrama. Ethan copes with his disability through a mix of gallows humor and randy flirtation, begging straight-laced Sofia to show him the “sexy legs” he knows are under her floor-length skirts. When Sofia finally cuts loose and dances one night, it takes Ethan completely by surprise.

Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali adds details like Sofia’s long skirts to play up the Portuguese influence in Goa, where Guzaarish is set. Ethan’s beautiful but dilapidated mansion is also built and decorated in Goan-Portuguese style.

Guzaarish‘s arresting visual style keeps with Bhansali’s once-opulent, now-lonely aesthetic. The mansion’s blue color-scheme is similar to the super-saturated colors the director used in Saawariya, and the expansiveness of Ethan’s home is reminiscent of interiors in Devdas and Black. Regardless of subject matter, Bhansali’s movies are gorgeous to look at.

The director also has a flair for highlighting Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s otherworldly beauty. With her pale skin and dark hair accented by bright red lipstick, there are moments in close-up where she looks more like a painting than a real person.

The few scenes in Guzaarish that don’t work are unnecessary side stories that are mercifully short. Characters — such as Ethan’s former assistant and his one-time rival — are introduced late in the movie without any previous mention and don’t have a role in the story apart from a brief flashback. Their interludes do nothing to advance the plot or reveal more about Ethan’s character.

Those distractions aside, Guzaarish‘s compelling story and breathtaking visuals make it a definite must-see.

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Movie Review: Action Replayy (2010)

1.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Look at the Action Replayy poster to the left. Bright colors and cheesy grins on the stars’ faces promise an all-out 1970s spectacle. The movie itself, however, is a half-baked, sloppy attempt at a romantic comedy that squanders its resources.

None of Action Replayy‘s shortcomings have anything to do with its stars, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Akshay Kumar. They make the most out of the material they were given. Bachchan is beautiful and effortless, and Kumar is equally charming.

The problems stem primarily from the movie’s underwhelming lead character, Bunty (Aditya Roy Kapoor): a young man of indeterminate age who is simultaneously bland and obnoxious. His girlfriend, Tanya (Sudeepa Singh), is desperate to marry him. Bunty refuses because he doesn’t believe in marriage, thanks to the poor example set by his unhappy parents, Mala (Bachchan) and Kishen (Kumar).

Conveniently, Tanya’s scientist grandpa has a time machine. Bunty hops in, sets the dial for 1975, and presses the giant red button Tanya’s grandpa explicitly tells him not to press. He travels back in time and sets off in search of his still unmarried parents, hoping to make them fall in love before they are arranged to be married.

First, Bunty finds the younger version of Tanya’s grandpa and shows him the time machine. He says, in essence, “You built this in the future, and I broke it. Now fix it” — as if gramps can learn in a matter of days what took him 35 years to learn.

Bunty finds his parents’ younger selves and sets about trying to make them fall in love. Kishen is a timid dweeb, as indicated by the appallingly fake-looking set of buck teeth Kumar is forced to wear. Mala is both a local beauty and a thug. The first half of the movie is spent showing why they hate each other. Not until the second half does Bunty begin to turn Kishen into a confident stud and Mala into a demure lady. He accomplishes this by shouting at them.

The most confusing aspect of the movie is why no one in the seventies has any questions for Bunty: Who are you? How do you know so much about us? Why are you wearing such unusual clothing, like that t-shirt with a picture of Yoda on it, even though Star Wars doesn’t exist yet? Why do you keep calling us “Dad” and “Mom”?!

This particular time-travel premise worked fine in Back to the Future, but Action Replayy doesn’t seem to understand why it worked. There’s never any threat to Bunty, the way there was to Marty McFly, who needed to get his parents together before he faded from existence. Bunty has unlimited time to get make his parents fall in love. If he fails, they’ll still be together — if unhappy — and he’ll still be born.

Action Replayy also sidesteps one of the most interesting aspects of Back to the Future, in which the teenage version of Marty’s mother develops a crush on him. Instead, Mala’s lifelong friend, Mona (Neha Dhupia), smiles at Bunty a few times before asking him late in the movie, “Do you love me?” Given that the Bunty doesn’t interact with Mona at all before this, his answer is obviously “No.”

If the movie was interested in having any real emotional impact, Bunty would’ve gotten to know his grandparents, who died either before he was born or when he was very young. Instead, he makes jokes about which of them will die first. That he has no interest in them is indicative of Bunty’s shallow character and the movie’s lack of emotional understanding.

The fact that accomplished actors like Om Puri and Kirron Kher (who play Grandpa and Grandma, respectively) weren’t given more to do is just another example of how Action Replayy fails to fully utilize the considerable resources at its disposal. It’s instead content to be a tepid romantic comedy with flashy period costumes.

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