Tag Archives: Amitosh Nagpal

Movie Review: For Here or to Go? (2015)

3 Stars (out of 4)

For Here or to Go? opens in these theaters Friday, March 31, 2017.

Even though For Here or to Go? made its festival debut in 2015, its 2017 theatrical release could not be more timely. The film examines America’s complicated immigration system not from a policy level, but from a personal one.

Ali Fazal — known to Bollywood fans from movies like Fukrey and Bobby Jasoos and to Hollywood fans from his role in Furious 7 — plays Vivek, a programmer on an H-1B visa working for a big corporation in Silicon Valley. He’d love a job at a startup, where he’d have a better opportunity to put his ideas to work, but his visa status effectively prevents it. Most small startups lack the resources to sponsor visa employees, and he has less than a year left on his visa anyway.

This puts Vivek and countless other foreign employees in a kind of holding pattern, stuck in jobs they don’t want and unable to get new ones. With low odds for getting a green card that would enable him to live and work in the United States permanently — it takes ten months just to get in the line to wait for a green card! — Vivek and his roommates haven’t even bothered to buy furniture. What’s the point, when they’ll have to leave it behind when their visas run out and they’re forced to return to India?

This limbo state is bad for Vivek’s social life as well. It’s impossible to find a lasting relationship when he doesn’t know where he’ll be next year, or even sooner than that if his company should unexpectedly fold, which would give him just days to leave the country.

Vivek’s romantic problems are strictly theoretical until he meets Shveta (Melanie Chandra, nee Kannokada, the pride of Park Ridge, Illinois) at a yoga class. She’s the first American-born Desi woman to give him the time of day. They have fun together, taking center stage during a Bollywood-style flash mob.

While Shveta is an all-American girl, her rich dad, Vishwanath (Rajit Kapur), is trying to convince Desi tech workers to return to India as a sort of penance for his role in the “brain drain” phenomenon, which was the subject of Swades back in 2004. One of the most disheartening aspects of For Here or to Go? is the sense that problems like “brain drain” and the unwelcome feeling experienced by many immigrants have been around for a long time and have only gotten worse since the film was completed, even before the ascent of the Trump administration. Under Vishwanath’s tutelage, Vivek starts to wonder if maybe India is the best place for him after all.

The story is rounded out by Vivek’s roommates, Lakshmi (Omi Vaidya) and Amit (Amitosh Nagpal). Lakshmi is determined to become an American citizen, believing that the US offers him a better chance at happiness as a gay man than India does. Amit has his own visa issues, and his glibness regarding immigration laws worries Vivek.

The pacing of For Here or to Go? — directed by Rucha Humnabadkar and written by Rishi Bhilawadikar — is slow in spots. There are also some logical problems, such as why Vivek never learns that his mentor, Vishwanath, is Shveta’s father.

The film also loses focus as the plot progresses. Instead of sticking with Vivek’s story, For Here or to Go? tries to cover the whole Indian immigrant experience in America. The issue of racist violence against Sikhs and how that impacts their desire to live in the US — a rich enough topic for an entire film of its own — gets wedged into a scene that’s only a few minutes long and has no bearing on the central plot.

Thankfully, some nice performances make up for screenplay scope creep. Fazal is always reliable, whether he’s acting in English or Hindi films, and he’s quite sexy in the movie’s sole romantic scene. Chandra is totally adorable. Vaidya and Nagpal are both charming as well.

For Here or to Go?‘s best selling point is that it’s a really good tutorial on the US immigration system. That’s equal parts praise for a film that makes a dull-seeming topic interesting, and condemnation for a system that’s so complicated it needs a fictional medium to make it comprehensible to the general public.

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Movie Review: Besharam (2013)

Besharam2 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

Besharam (“Shameless”) was likely sold to investors using the following equation: Ranbir Kapoor + antics = super hit. The equation will probably prove correct, but that doesn’t mean that Besharam is a great movie.

Writer-director Abhinav Kashyap is so confident in Ranbir’s ability to charm audiences that he offers only the barest hint of a plot. The movie starts with a brutal scene of a gang led by Bheem Singh Chandel (Javed Jaffrey) blowing up a police van with a rocket launcher and siccing an attack dog on an officer. The gangsters disappear for forty-five minutes, until they hire Babli (Ranbir) to steal a car for them.

In the interim, we get to know Babli, a mechanic who supplements his income by fencing stolen automobiles with the help of his best friend, T2 (Amitosh Nagpal). Their profits fund the orphanage where they grew up and still reside as adults. The head of the orphanage, Masterji, knows that Babli and T2 are crooks, but he takes the money anyway, while expressing hopes that the younger boys will grow up to find legitimate jobs.

Babli meets a beautiful woman, Tara (Pallavi Sharda), who’s unimpressed with his sleazy come-ons. Spurred by the challenge, Babli pursues Tara, only to inadvertently steal her new Mercedes on Chandel’s behalf. Having hurt Tara, Babli finally discovers that other people are affected negatively by his actions.

From this point in the story, most movies would focus on Babli’s character development as he reforms his ways to impress the girl and right the wrongs he’s committed. Kashyap takes the opposite tactic. Babli is made into a hero, with everyone — including Tara — apologizing to him for having judged him too harshly and vowing to emulate his shameless ways.

This story turn just doesn’t work. Babli, through his self-centered carelessness, not only steals from Tara, he endangers the lives of everyone he cares about, including all the kids at the orphanage. Masterji, T2, and their friend, Bhura, are beaten and kidnapped because of Babli, yet no one is upset with him.

Kashyap tries to blame Babli’s flaws on classism. Tara is set up as an elitist who’s only interested in money and status and who looks down on a mechanic like Babli. First of all, why shouldn’t she be allowed to marry a peer who (like her) has a high-status job? Second, and more importantly: BABLI STOLE HER FRIGGING CAR!

Babli also claims that, because he’s an orphan, he had no one to teach him right from wrong. So, didn’t he pick up any sense of morality in school? And what the hell does Masterji teach the kids at the orphanage? “Here’s a roof over your heads and some food. Figure the rest out yourselves.”

Babli’s orphan status is used to shoehorn Ranbir’s real-life parents, Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh, into the movie as a pair of married police officers. As soon as they mention that they never had children, it’s obvious that Babli won’t be an orphan by movie’s end.

For what it’s worth, Ranbir is really darned charming. His charisma is the only thing that makes the movie watchable. Ranbir is at his best in scenes with Nagpal, as the friendship between Babli and T2 is the movie’s strongest relationship.

What I’ve always enjoyed about Ranbir is his ability to shine in a variety of roles, but Besharam may mark the start of Ranbir Kapoor: The Franchise. I fear that Ranbir has earned so much industry clout that he’ll be pigeonholed into “charming” roles, playing the role of Ranbir much in the way superstars like Salman Khan, Shahrukh Khan, and Akshay Kumar seem to play the same type of character in every movie. It’s a trap that can be avoided, but only if he’s careful.

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