Tag Archives: Amrita Rao

Movie Review: Satyagraha (2013)

Satyagraha_poster2 Stars (out of 4)

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Indian politics is tricky business. Not only is it plagued by the usual greed and corruption that seems to affect governments everywhere, but there’s also bribery at every level of bureaucracy, from the lowliest clerk to the highest minister.

Still, it’s not so complicated that it’s beyond comprehension, even to one who lives outside the system as I do. In Satyagraha, writer-producer-director Prakash Jha offers such obvious, detailed explanations for everything that it borders on condescending.

Among the larger themes critical of a government so bloated it can no longer serve the common man is the story of the moral improvement of an aspiring telecom magnate: Manav (Ajay Devgn). He’s introduced on the occasion of his best friend’s wedding. Akhilesh (Indraneil Sengupta) dreams of improving Indian infrastructure before one day following in the footsteps of his father, Dwarka (Amitabh Bachchan), and becoming a teacher. Dwarka criticizes Manav for choosing big business over a life of social service, and Manav leaves before he can see Akhilesh wed to Sumitra (Amrita Rao).

Three years later, Manav returns to the town of Ambikapur for Akhilesh’s funeral, which follows what appears to be a random road accident. (Be warned that his death scene is gruesome.) Investigative journalist Yasmin (Kareena Kapoor) discovers that Akhilesh’s death may have been connected to the collapse of a bridge he was working on. Also during Manav’s return, Dwarka becomes the face of a revolution, after he’s jailed for slapping a corrupt bureaucrat (who totally deserved it).

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the story, it’s just the way it’s told. Thematically, Satyagraha is like an imitation of Swades — a very heavy-handed imitation. Instead of allowing Manav’s inevitable change to social activist to occur in the course of the story, we’re told at every step of the way why things are happening. Dwarka’s preaching on the evils of capitalism are emblematic of the film’s tendency to tell more than it shows.

Even the music goes over the top to provoke emotions: A crowd gathers to protest Dwarka’s imprisonment; patriotic music swells; the crowd begins to sing: “The public rocks!” It’s corny.

Considering that Satyagraha is all about corruption, an instance of product placement — in which Sumitra instructs her maid to open up a box of name-brand rice: “because we have to cook the rice right” — feels particularly icky.

The A-list cast generally delivers performances befitting the actors’ stardom. Manoj Bajpayee is at his reptilian best as the most corrupt of the corrupt politicians. Arjun Rampal’s hair is as luxurious as ever in his role as a student leader.

Again, there’s nothing really wrong with Satyagraha. There are just more inspiring political films out there.

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Movie Review: Short Kut (2009)

shortkut2 Stars (out of 4)

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The message of Short Kut: The Con is On is that there’s no short cut to success. The message seems ironic, coming from a clone of the Malayalam film Udayananu Tharam, which itself was a remake of Bowfinger, an American movie that also featured Short Kut’s tagline: “The Con is On.” But Short Kut makes its point in amusing enough fashion, even if the villain does get more screentime than the hero.

The film begins with the hero, Shekhar (Akshaye Khanna), deciding to finally write and direct his own Bollywood film, after working twelve years as an assistant director. He’s adamant that he succeed on his own merit, so he keeps his relationship with superstar actress Mansi (Amrita Rao) a secret.

While Shekhar finishes his script, his former pal, Raju (Arshad Warsi), shows up to crash in Shekhar’s apartment. Raju is convinced he’s a superstar actor just waiting to be discovered, though everyone else knows he’s a talentless leech.

Raju steals Shekhar’s script and gives it to a producer who declares it so good that it would be a hit even if a total idiot played the lead. To prove his point, the producer gives the role to Raju. The film is a hit.

The rest of the story deals with the damage Raju’s theft does to Shekhar’s ego and his relationship with Mansi. However, the lovebirds don’t get as much screentime as Raju, whom fame has turned into an insufferable megalomaniac.

It’s easy to write scenes for Raju; the audience knows he’s a buffoon, and it’s fun to see him get his comeuppance. But there are a few scenes where Raju is cruel for cruelty’s sake, and it’s uncomfortable to watch. Worse, it distracts from the genuine struggle Shekhar is going through.

Short Kut drags in its second half, but it’s a watchable movie, overall. There are some nice scenes between Shekhar and his junior-artist friend, Anwar, as well as between Shekhar and Mansi. Unfortunately, the English subtitles disappear during a pivotal speech by Mansi, but the rest of the movie’s translation is pretty good.