Tag Archives: Anees Bazmee

Movie Review: Welcome Back (2015)

WelcomeBack1 Star (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

Even at their best, writer-director Anees Bazmee’s movies are mediocre. At their worst, they are unbearable. Welcome Back is one of the worst.

In the eight years since the events of Welcome, gangsters Uday (Nana Patekar) and Majnu (Anil Kapoor) have left their criminal pasts behind, striking it rich as hoteliers in Dubai. Deciding that it’s time to get married and start their own families, they fall for the same woman: an heiress named Chandni (Ankita Shrivastava), who’s always accompanied by her mother, Maharani (Dimple Kapadia).

The guys’ marriage plans are put on hold when Uday’s father (also played by Patekar) reveals that Uday has another sister — Ranjhana (Shruti Haasan) — he needs marry off first. The “decent” guy they find for her, Ajju (John Abraham), turns out to be a don pretending to be something he’s not — just like Uday and Majnu.

The plot unfolds at furious pace but burns out quickly. After the first thirty minutes or so, very little that happens feels necessary. Everything else appears to be the indulgence of Bazmee’s whims. Helicopters? Camels? Vampire dance party? Check.

Welcome Back‘s story spins so far out of control that Bazmee doesn’t even try to give the film a real ending. He leaves his characters hanging in mid-air, literally and figuratively.

Watching the film becomes an endurance test in the second half, when Naseeruddin Shah shows up as yet another don, Wanted Bhai. At this point, Welcome Back descends to Gunda-level geographic incoherence. Wanted lives in a mansion on an island only accessible by plane. Yet — while on the island — Uday and Majnu are able to drive to a desert and to a mountain range. They also find a graveyard on the island, evoking more memories of Gunda:

It’s hard for any performances to stand out in a movie that requires its characters to behave so stupidly, but Shrivastava is pretty good as a gold digger. Her covert expressions of disgust while wooing the much older bachelors are funny. Kapadia is also exceedingly glamorous.

Another member of the cast stands out for the wrong reasons. Shiney Ahuja plays Wanted’s drug-addicted son, Honey, who is obsessed with Ranjhana. (Azmee doesn’t even bother explaining how Honey knows Ranjhana.)

In 2011, Ahuja was convicted of raping a member of his household staff and sentenced to seven years in prison. He is out on bail while appealing his conviction (a major difference from the American justice system, where sentences are effective immediately, and appeals are adjudicated while the defendant is behind bars).

Azmee says that he didn’t take Ahuja’s conviction into account when casting him in Welcome Back, simply believing that Ahuja fit the part. “I am a filmmaker,” Bazmee told IANS, “and I do not think about anything more than that.”

Are we supposed to believe that there were no other actors who could have played this particular supporting role? While Azmee may not be bothered by Ahuja’s criminal past, many people will be. When we see Ahuja grinding on Shrivastava in a “sexy” dance number, it’s impossible not to reminded of the fact that he was convicted of sexually assaulting a woman.

Acting in films is a privilege, not a right. There was no reason for Azmee to cast Ahuja in this role at the expense of another actor without a violent criminal past. If Azmee can’t appreciate why this is a problem, is he the right person to helm a multi-million dollar film?


Movie Review: Ready (2011)

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy or rent the movie at iTunes
Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

Ready has so much working against it — chiefly, that it’s directed by Anees Bazmee — that I was surprised to enjoy it as much as I did. Its success is due entirely to its stars: Salman Khan and Asin.

Khan plays Prem, a slacker who lives in a giant house with his parents, two of his uncles, and their wives. His family wants him to marry Pooja, an American girl he’s never met or even seen before. At the airport, Prem discusses with one of his uncles his plan to flee before Pooja arrives.

The conversation is overheard by a young woman dressed in full bridal regalia named Sanjana (Asin), who’s just fled her own wedding. She pretends to be Pooja, ready to start married life and turn Prem into a responsible adult. His family is instantly smitten with the fake Pooja, and Prem begins plotting ways to get rid of her.

It’s not long before Prem discovers Sanjana’s true identity. She explains that she’s running from her two feuding gangster uncles, both of whom want to marry her off strategically so as to gain power. Prem takes pity on pretty Sanjana and falls for her. It’s not long before she’s kidnapped by one of her uncles.

Khan’s character, as always for him, is the toughest and smartest guy in the movie. However, instead of relying on his usual bullying bravado,Khan imbues Prem with wit and charm to get what he wants: for Sanjana’s uncles to end their feud and agree to let him marry her. Khan is terrific when he does more than fight his way through a movie, though he gets to do plenty of that in Ready, too.

As good as Khan is, he’s outshone by cute and feisty Asin. Thanks to her, Sanjana is always likeable, even when she’s lying. Her character gets to show the most emotional range, and Asin is more than up to the task.

Prem and Sanjana can’t trick the mafia dons on their own, and they call on Prem’s family for help. Everyone in the family gets a few good lines, spreading the jokes around to make this something of an ensemble film. Paresh Rawal gets a few good lines of his own in the second half of the movie, playing the gangsters’ accountant. Convinced that he has godlike powers, his attempt to animate a statue of a beautiful woman is the best moment in the movie.

The aspects of Ready that don’t work are the same ones that never work in Bazmee’s movies. The movie is too long and with too large a cast, spawning boring sideplots featuring extraneous characters. Bazmee uses scatological humor to get cheap laughs. How cheap? A character stops in the middle of a footchase in order to break wind. No set up or context, just a fart for its own sake. 7-year-old boys will find it hilarious.

In Ready, Bazmee’s bad habits are made manifest in a side story involving one of Sanjana’s cousins, a rude schoolboy named Amar. Prem scares the boy’s rudeness out of him so effectively that the kid pees his pants, as shown in a closeup of the boy’s crotch. Gross.

There’s no need for the side story except to reinforce the moral of the movie: respect your elders. The moral message would make sense if Prem and Sanjana hadn’t spent the entirety of the film tricking and lying to the older members of their families.

The way language is used in the movie could present a problem for audience members who don’t understand Hindi. The English subtitles seem to translate dialog verbatim and don’t capture the flavor of jokes that rely on wordplay. Since that’s the case with so many of the jokes, English-only audience members miss out on much of the fun.


Movie Review: Thank You (2011)

1.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy or rent the movie at iTunes
Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

The more I think about Thank You, the more confused I become. The first two-thirds of the comedy are enjoyable enough, but a serious and preachy third act unravels the entire story that precedes it.

Thank You centers on the womanizing exploits of Raj (Bobby Deol), Vikram (Irrfan Khan) and Yogi (Suniel Shetty). Yogi’s already been caught cheating by his wife, Maya (Celina Jaitley). Suspicious of the other louts’ extramarital activities, Maya introduces Vikram’s wife, Shivani (Rimi Sen), and Raj’s wife, Sanjana (Sonam Kapoor), to her “best friend”: a private eye named Kishan (Akshay Kumar).

Kishan develops a crush on cute, trusting Sanjana and aims to expose her husband for the cheater he is. Raj and his buddies aren’t able to continue their deception for long, and all their secrets are revealed. Maya and Shivani are prepared to move on with their lives, but Sanjana isn’t. She wants Raj back.

Here’s where things get confusing, in retrospect. Kishan agrees to help Sanjana reunite with Raj. His plan is to make Raj jealous by pretending to be Sanjana’s new boyfriend. Presumably, Kishan’s real intention is to show Sanjana how much better he is than Raj and win her for himself.

Without giving anything away, the third act seems to indicate that a potential romance between Kishan and Sanjana was never really an option (or something that either of them even desired). The tension in the second act, at the time, appears to be whether Sanjana will pick Raj or Kishan. Without that tension, the whole second act is, in retrospect, just a big waste of time.

Perhaps sensing the shoddy construction of his parable, writer-director Anees Bazmee has Kishan explain the moral of the story with a condescending speech in the final scene. But the message as delivered by Kishan runs counter to the one that the movie had conveyed to that point. I liked the story that Bazmee actually told better than the one he apparently thought he was telling.

The real shame of Thank You‘s narrative collapse is that most of the movie is pretty funny. The set pieces are good, and the jokes translate well cross-culturally.

Particularly deserving of praise are Shetty and Sen for their performances as Yogi and Shivani, respectively. Yogi, having been previously outed as a cheater, revels in watching his two buddies get caught for the same crime. Shivani is the most put-upon wife and therefore the most eager to take revenge on her husband. Shetty and Sen take full advantage of their opportunities to ham it up.

The weakest member of the cast is Kapoor. Still a relatively new actress, everything about her performance — from her physical presence to her voice — lacks gravity. She’s pretty and stylish, but that’s not enough to make her a lead that an audience cares about.


Movie Review: No Problem (2010)

1 Star (out of 4)

Buy or rent the movie at iTunes
Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

If you’re considering whether to shell out the cash to see No Problem, ask yourself if a movie whose resolution hinges upon a farting gorilla appeals to you. If so, then you may enjoy No Problem.

No Problem is the latest in a long line of schizophrenic Hindi slapstick comedies that wrongly assume that screaming and frantic action are hilarious. There is barely a narrative holding the story together between all of the running around. Rather, there are a number of loosely interconnected subplots driving the action, involving the following:

  • Yash (Sanjay Dutt) and Raj (Akshaye Khanna), two petty thieves trying to change their ways when they rob a small-town bank out of habit. They run from…
  • Zandulal (Paresh Rawal), the bank manager accused of colluding with Yash and Raj in the theft. He follows them to Durban, South Africa, looking for help from…
  • “Supercop” Arjun Singh (Anil Kapoor), who’s also after a gang of diamond thieves led by…
  • Marcos (Suniel Shetty), who’s fencing the diamonds through a government minister. Arjun can’t catch Marcos while he’s fending off attacks from his wife…
  • Kajal (Sushmita Sen), who has daily blackout episodes in which she tries to murder Arjun. Kajal’s sister…
  • Sanjana (Kangana Ranaut) has caught the eye of Raj, who proposes to her without realizing that her father is police commissioner.

There’s so much going on — and transitions between scenes and subplots are so clunky — that it’s impossible to give the characters adequate time to develop or endear themselves to the audience. I’m not even sure who the director expects us to sympathize with or relate to.

I love slapstick comedies. The goofy Tom Hanks movie The Money Pit is in my DVD player, and The Naked Gun remains one of my all-time favorite films. In fact, an early scene in which Arjun tries to arrest Marcos bears a suspicious resemblance to this scene from The Naked Gun:

But No Problem only goes for cheap laughs that rely on characters running in fast motion and illogically failing to recognize one another. If the dialog is funny in Hindi, the humor didn’t translate into English. The subtitled dialog is boring and excessive.

No Problem is the rare case of a movie that could’ve benefitted from more dance numbers to distract from the dull plot. Instead, the few dance numbers that exist are marred by a surfeit of distracting Anglo backup dancers, most of whom resembled chubby transvestites.

At its worst, No Problem crosses the boundaries of good taste. A male character in drag escapes the romantic advances of another man by declaring that he has AIDS. Given how the disease is ravaging sub-Saharan Africa, it is a tacky and thoughtless attempt at humor.

I enjoyed one of director Anees Bazmee’s previous films, the goofball comedy Welcome. That movie succeeded primarily because of its supporting characters, played by Nana Patekar and Anil Kapoor.

No Problem squanders its supporting cast. Suniel Shetty looks like he barely wants to be in the film. Sushmita Sen’s homicidal wife comes the closest to generating laughs, but even her character isn’t taken far enough.

The killer spouse subplot has a strange element to it. Arjun and Kajal have a young daughter whose role is to scream and cry while her mother tries to murder her father in front of her. What’s funny about watching a child suffer? The character isn’t essential to the plot (no, the clichéd instance when she floats away holding too many balloons doesn’t count), so there’s no reason for her to be in the movie.

It’s just another example of how No Problem misses the mark in an attempt to make a safe, unimaginative comedy.


Movie Review: Singh Is Kinng (2008)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Buy or rent the movie at iTunes
Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

There’s nothing subtle about this romantic comedy. Akshay Kumar overacts as a clumsy villager impersonating a mafia don impersonating a servant, as part of a convoluted plot to reunite the real don with his family. Gun fights and chase scenes are loud and frequent, but not very exciting. The film’s highlight is a music video featuring rapper Snoop Dogg, who gives a shout out to “the ladies hangin’ out in Mumbai” during the closing credits.

No Rating (violence); 135 minutes

This review originally appeared in The Naperville Sun on August 14, 2008

Movie Review: Welcome (2007)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon

When Rajiv (Akshay Kumar) meets Sanjana (Katrina Kaif), he thinks he’s found the girl of his dreams. Too bad her brothers are mobsters. Kumar is charming enough in Welcome, but Sanjana’s brothers, played by Nana Patekar and Anil Kapoor, steal the show as they try to curb their violent instincts to appease Rajiv’s family and see their sister married at last. The slapstick comedy moves along quickly, apart from a preposterous final action sequence that drags on a bit.

No Rating (violence, language); 160 minutes

This review originally appeared in The Naperville Sun on December 28, 2007