Tag Archives: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan

Opening November 19: Guzaarish and Today’s Special

Friday, November 19, 2010, sees the opening of the Hindi movie Guzaarish and Today’s Special, an English-language movie that may interest Bollywood fans. Guzaarish (“Request”) stars Hrithik Roshan as a quadriplegic former magician and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as his nurse.

Guzaarish opens on Friday at the AMC Loews Pipers Alley 4 in Chicago, Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington and Regal Cantera Stadium 30 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 15 min.

Also opening this weekend is Today’s Special, which stars Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi as a chef forced to take over his family’s Indian restaurant. The movie is based on a play written by Mandvi and features Bollywood legend Naseeruddin Shah.

Today’s Special opens on Friday at the South Barrington 30 and Cantera 30. Check the movie’s official website for nationwide showtimes. It has a listed runtime of 1 hr. 39 min.

Besides Guzaarish, two other Hindi movies continue their runs in Chicago area theaters. Golmaal 3 gets a third week at the Pipers Alley 4, Golf Glen 5 and South Barrington 30. Action Replayy also gets a third week at the South Barrington 30.

Other Indian movies showing around Chicago this weekend include the Telugu movies Kathi and Yemaindia Eevela at the Golf Glen 5.

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.


Opening November 5: Action Replayy, Golmaal 3 and Bombay Summer

Two new Hindi movies and another older release debut in the Chicago area on Friday, November 5, 2010. The flashy romantic comedy Action Replayy (the extra “y” distinguishes it from “Action Replay,” the Gujarati play on which it’s based) stars Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Akshay Kumar as a couple living in an unhappy arranged marriage until their adult son travels back to the 1970s to make them fall in love.

Action Replayy opens on Friday at the AMC Loews Pipers Alley 4 in Chicago, Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington and Regal Cantera Stadium 30 in Warrenville. The national theater list includes three other Illinois theaters. The movie has a runtime of 1 hr. 40 min.

This Diwali weekend’s other major release reunites most of the cast of Golmaal Returns for Golmaal 3, a sequel about a bickering family. I named Golmaal Returns my Worst Bollywood Film of 2008, and it remains one of the most annoying movies I’ve ever seen. Needless to say, I have low expectations for Golmaal 3.

Golmaal 3 opens in the Chicago area at the same theaters carrying Action Replayy: Pipers Alley 4, Golf Glen 5, South Barrington 30 and Cantera 30. Its runtime is listed as 2 hr. 35 min.

On Friday, the Golf Glen 5 also debuts Bombay Summer, an independent Hindi movie that’s been on the festival circuit for a while.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend include Enthiran at the Cantera 30; Rakht Charitra (Telugu), Mynaa (Tamil), Uthama Puthiran (Tamil) and Va Quarter Cutting (Tamil) at the Golf Glen 5; and Brindaavanam (Telugu), Robo (Telugu) and Maleyali Jotheyali (Kannada) at Sathyam Cinemas in Downers Grove.

Movie Review: Enthiran (2010)

2 Stars (out of 4)

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This review covers the version of Enthiran dubbed into Hindi and retitled Robot (not that the original language matters to me, since I have to read the English subtitles, anyway).

The release of Enthiran, the most expensive Indian movie ever made, comes at an interesting point in India’s relationship with the Western world. Just a week ago, organizers of the Commonwealth Games — which are being held in New Delhi this year — responded to complaints from international athletes about the filthy, unsafe conditions of their accommodations by saying that perhaps the athletes’ standards were too high. And now, Enthiran proves to be more culturally charged than one would expect from an action comedy about a robot.

At its core, Enthiran is a shallow and conventional sci-fi story. A professor, Vaseegaran (Rajinikanth) creates a humanoid robot that he hopes to sell to the army. When the robot, Chitti (also played by Rajinikanth), proves too dangerous, Vasee programs the robot with human emotions.

Chitti falls for Vasee’s girlfriend, Sana (Aishwarya Rai), damaging his relationship with his creator. Chitti seeks guidance from Vasee’s mentor, Bora (Danny Denzongpa), who reprograms Chitti for evil.

Overall, the movie is just average. Rai overacts her role, though her performances in the dance numbers are up to her usual high standards. The soundtrack is surprisingly corny and unpolished, given that Oscar-winner A. R. Rahman composed the music. Most of the special effects look cheap, especially the cartoonish depiction of a fetus when Chitti performs a “high-def” ultrasound. Also, there are talking mosquitoes and robot lions.

The majority of the film’s large budget went into the final action sequence, and it shows. It’s an impressive battle, clearly inspired by the Hollywood blockbuster Transformers in terms of scale and destruction. Sure, it’s kind of silly, but it’s an incredibly fun sequence that’s worth experiencing on the big screen.

But Enthiran contains some cultural views on race and gender that are out of step with most of the Western world. American audiences will appreciate the campy value of the story and final action sequence, but will likely be turned off by values that seem racist and sexist.

Enthiran fetishizes violence against women. Sana is threatened with rape on three occasions, and one instance is particularly graphic (especially in a movie which only allows its lead couple to kiss on the cheek). Sana is trapped in a train car with a group of armed men seeking revenge against her and Chitti, pinned to the floor of the car by her arms and legs. As the lead goon leans over her, a dozen men behind him aim their cell phone cameras to capture Sana’s violation. A shot of Sana cowering in fear before Chitti inevitably rescues her would have sufficed without making the potential rape seem titillating.

Even more shocking is a sequence in which Chitti saves a teenage girl from a burning building. The girl, who’s taking a bath, protests being rescued naked, but Chitti deems saving her life more important than her potential embarrassment. When Chitti deposits the girl safely in front of her mother, there is an audible gasp from the throng of onlookers and reporters. The girl’s mother looks at her daughter with disgust, and Vasee, covering the girl with his jacket, berates Chitti for bringing the girl out in such an immodest state. The girl then runs in front of a truck, killing herself.

The scene is disgusting because the human characters react as though, under the circumstances, the girl’s suicide is expected — that she should have been left to die, rather than rescued naked. It reminded me of the deplorable actions of Saudi Arabian religious police in 2002, when they refused to let girls flee a burning school because they weren’t dressed appropriately, resulting in fifteen deaths. Valuing a girl’s perceived dignity as more important that her life is an unacceptable attitude in 2010.

Enthiran is also problematic in the way it equates dark skin with a propensity for evil. When Bora reprograms Chitti, he gives the robot a new external appearance, including dark-colored skin. The skin darkening is an unnecessary symbol of transformation, since Chitti’s also given a distinctive pompadour wig. Also, all three of the characters who threaten to rape Sana during the movie have notably darker complexions than the film’s heroes.

Given how goofy and fun Enthiran is as times, it has the potential to become a cult hit in the United States. But I’m not sure that American audiences will be able to overlook the outmoded ideas toward race and gender. I wish the film’s creator, Shankar, would’ve considered how these issues would be perceived internationally, especially since neither the nude girl’s rescue or evil Chitti’s dark skin are critical plot elements.


Movie Review: Raavan (2010)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Filmmaker Mani Ratnam’s latest, Raavan, is his modern retelling of an ancient Indian epic, The Ramayana. By shifting the focus away from the poem’s hero and onto the villain and his victim, Ratnam successfully updates the classic story.

In a nutshell, the Ramayana (at least the part Raavan is about) tells of the kidnapping of Lord Rama’s wife, Sita, by the demon king Ravana. With the help of Hanuman, the monkey-god, Rama rescues Sita.

The story’s denouement has always troubled me. After the rescue, Rama asks Sita to prove her purity by stepping in to a sacred fire, since she had spent a long time with Ravana as his captive. She steps out unharmed, thus proving that she hasn’t been molested (and therefore unfaithful) during her imprisonment.

The couple rules happily until unfounded rumors about Sita’s purity crop up again. Rama banishes his pregnant wife to the forest. Years later, Sita arranges for Rama to meet his twin sons. After they win his approval, Sita asks the ground to swallow her up, and she disappears.

Perhaps if I’d grown up with the Ramayana as my source for spiritual parables, I might not find the ending of the story so sad for poor Sita. Due to her unflinching loyalty, she’s considered the pinnacle of wifely virtue. I’m happy to be an imperfect wife if it means not being burned, banished and buried alive. But Sita gets her say in Raavan.

The movie begins with a wave of attacks on police officers in a remote, forested area of India controlled by a warlord named Beera (Abhishek Bachchan). During the chaos, Beera kidnaps Ragini (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), the wife of the new police chief, Dev (Vikram).

Beera’s plan is to wait fourteen hours and then kill Ragini. Beera changes his mind after she jumps off of a cliff to avoid giving him the pleasure of killing her. Ragini survives the jump, and her fearlessness intrigues Beera. He holds her captive, as Dev searches for his wife with the help of a spry forest ranger named Sanjeevani (Govinda).

Raavan is undeniably gorgeous. Perpetually overcast skies saturate the greens and browns of the forest, and Ragini’s mustard yellow dress makes her glow like a flame. It’s hard to believe the exterior locations where the movie was shot are even real, so amazing are the rivers, rocks and waterfalls that populate Beera’s realm.

The first half of the movie is mostly a chase, as Beera draws Dev further into the jungle. I began to fear that there would be no explanation for why the two hate each other, apart from the fact that Beera’s the villain and Dev’s the hero. But the second half explores why Beera and the villagers who harbor his gang are at war with the police. As Ragini learns more, she prays for the strength to stay angry at Beera, even as she starts to sympathize with him.

Bachchan’s performance as Beera is generally strong. In the epic, Ravana has ten heads. In the movie, Beera exhibits some schizophrenic symptoms, arguing aloud with the voices in his head. His quirks are more distracting than menacing. There’s no doubt that he’s a violent man, but there’s a moral code governing his actions.

The Rama and Hanuman characters get second billing in Raavan. Govinda is well-suited to play the fidgety sidekick. Dev’s duties are pretty straightforward: find the girl, kill the bad guy. Yet he does many things that aren’t heroic at all. Eventually, these dubious actions form a pattern of behavior. Is he perhaps the story’s real villain?

Throughout Raavan, Ragini transforms from fighter to observer to negotiator. She has a powerful will to live on her own terms, refusing to be a victim, yet with more flexibility than either of the men in her life are capable of. Rai Bachchan endows Ragini with both a savage sense of self-preservation and dignity — fitting for a modern version of the ever-loyal Sita.

Note: The movie has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 35 min., but it’s closer to 2 hrs. 15 min.