Tag Archives: Annu Kapoor

Movie Review: Jolly LLB 2 (2017)

jollyllb22.5 Stars (out of 4)

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In spite of a compelling performance by Akshay Kumar as Jolly LLB 2‘s flawed hero, narrative inconsistencies keep the well-intentioned black comedy from achieving its full potential.

Kumar plays Jolly Mishra — a different character from Arshad Warsi’s title character in the original Jolly LLB — an ambitious lawyer who yearns to be more than an errand boy for the more established attorney, Rizvi. In order to raise money to establish his own practice, Jolly assures a pregnant young widow, Hina (Sayani Gupta), that Rizvi will take on her case, collecting the fees from her up front and keeping them for himself.

Hina’s case is politically dangerous. She believes that her husband, Iqbal (Manav Kaul), was falsely arrested on terrorism charges and murdered by police, all for the sake of securing a promotion for notorious Officer Suryaveer Singh (Kumud Mishra). With crooked, wealthy Lucknow attorney Sachin Mathur (Annu Kapoor) defending Singh, every other lawyer knows that Hina’s case is a lost cause.

When Hina learns from Rizvi that he never agreed to take her case, she realizes that Jolly duped her, declaring as much in front of Jolly, his wife Pushpa (Huma Qureshi), and his father, who spent decades working as Rizvi’s legal secretary. Devoid of hope, Hina kills herself. Rizvi fires Jolly, and Jolly’s father tells his son he never wants to see him again.

Jolly is a complicated character. He’s a doting husband to drunken Pushpa and a loving father to their son, but he doesn’t work for any ideals higher than his own ambition. It’s impossible to pay penance for driving Hina to suicide, but Jolly takes on her case in the hopes of righting some of the wrongs he did by her and her family. Kumar’s grounded performance makes us believe that Jolly can become a better man by the end of the movie than he is at the beginning.

The case pits Jolly — who has the truth on his side — against the nakedly corrupt Mathur, who is sleazy in typical sleazy movie lawyer fashion. The presiding Judge Tripathy (Saurabh Shukla) isn’t explicitly corrupt, just distracted by his daughter’s upcoming nuptials.

Tripathy is the weak link in Jolly LLB 2. It’s hard to figure out how exactly he fits into the story. He’s not funny enough to provide true comic relief, but he’s clearly too light for a somewhat grim case involving suicide and extrajudicial police killings. He’s prone to drawing out conversations, leading to dull patches. Unlike the other characters, his balance is off.

The judge is also tasked by the script with driving the tension in the courtroom, but he’s not consistent in the way in which he does so. Tripathy believes or discounts witnesses’ testimony depending on the needs of the story at that moment, not because of any internal logic. Some of his other decisions are so blatantly provocative that it dispels the illusion of organic story flow. We can all but see writer-director Subhash Kapoor pulling the strings.

In Jolly LLB 2‘s favor, Kumar and Qureshi look great together and share a comfortable rapport. Rajiv Gupta is the film’s unsung hero as Jolly’s harried assistant, Birbal. Shukla’s dance sequence as Tripathy rehearses for his daughter’s wedding is pretty funny.

Jolly LLB 2‘s sentiment is admirable, especially at a time when citizens in India and around the world are desperate for reassurance that their justice systems aren’t fundamentally irreparable. The story just needed more refining to maintain a consistent tone throughout.

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Movie Review: The Shaukeens (2014)

The_Shaukeens_23.5 Stars (out of 4)

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The Shaukeens (“The Romantics“) is more than just a cute story about a trio of sexagenarians who refuse to act their age. With its unique story structure and top-notch performances, it’s one of the best Bollywood comedies in recent memory.

Akshay Kumar plays a fictionalized version of himself in the film, which opens with a Kumar dance number. His narration explains that he has an integral part in the story of three lonely Delhi men who get into trouble while looking for love in Mauritius.

The three men are Lali (Anupam Kher), a shoe store owner whose religious wife won’t put out; KD (Annu Kapoor), a lecherous bachelor; and Pinky (Piyush Mishra), a widowed spice merchant too shy to talk to the pretty massage parlor owner across the street.

After being rejected by some local prostitutes for being too old, the guys try their luck while on vacation in Mauritius. They rent a house from a beautiful young woman, Ahana (Lisa Haydon), who returns early from her own trip after she breaks up with her boyfriend.

Ahana is gorgeous, but she’s a kook. She’s an aspiring fashion designer who makes hats from used toothpicks and decorates a pair of sunglasses with painted toenail clippings. Her emotions change minute-to-minute, driven by the numbers of likes she’s getting on Facebook. Haydon is just as funny as Ahana as she was in her foul-mouthed performance in Queen.

When Ahana discovers that Akshay is in town filming a movie, she asks rhetorically, “Who do I have to sleep with to meet Akshay Kumar?” The guys take this offer seriously and start trying to unite Ahana with her celebrity crush in order to cash in on the reward.

The version of Akshay Kumar in the movie is an alcoholic jerk who’s desperate to be taken seriously as an actor. While the guys try to weasel their way into his company for Ahana’s sake, Akshay tries to impress an eccentric, award-winning director (played by Subrat Dutta), who has Akshay practice his lines with a chihuahua. For reference, Akshay has a card with photos of himself displaying different emotions. It’s hilarious, and I want one.

Every few years, Kumar takes a break from wacky slapstick roles and loud action flicks to do a movie that reminds you that he can really act. This is one of those movies. He plays everything totally straight, and he’s so funny as a result.

Kher, Kapoor, and Mishra share a great camaraderie. Their characters are distinct and balance each other out, but they’re all equally over their heads in their romantic pursuit of Ahana. KD is sleazy in an endearing kind of way. As the least educated of the group, Pinky gets the most jokes made at his expense, but he also gets the funniest bits. Who forgets to pack a swimsuit for a beach vacation?!

The story includes some weird breaks in form throughout, including a dream sequence, a hallucinatory dance number, and a single instance of fourth-wall-breaking dialogue delivery. Director Abhishek Sharma and writer Tigmanshu Dhulia go far enough to keep audience members on their toes without pushing them away.

The Shaukeens released with relatively little fanfare, which is a shame. This is a movie sure to amuse anyone who appreciates a well-told story and who is sick of formulaic movies.

[Update: A comment below by Dr. Lunch reminded me of a point I wanted to make. The Shaukeens will feel accessible to international audience members because it’s plotted a lot like a 1980s Hollywood comedy. Also working in its favor is that it’s light on references to other Bollywood movies, a common source of jokes in Hindi films that can create a barrier for those without a depth of Bollywood knowledge.]

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Movie Review: Vicky Donor (2012)

3 Stars (out of 4)

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Vicky Donor is a reminder to Bollywood that a clever story is more important than star power when it comes to making a good movie.

Anupama Chopra recently wrote in the Hindustan Times about a new wave of “high concept” movies coming out of India. The term refers to a movie based on a simple premise but with an interesting or ironic twist, the film equivalent of a catchy pop song. The accessibility of the story sells itself, which is a new development in star-obsessed Bollywood.

Ayushmann Khurrana and Yami Gautam — newcomers to the Hindi film industry — helm Vicky Donor, a romantic comedy about a professional sperm donor. Khurrana is Vicky, a 25-year-old slacker who lives with his mother and grandmother above his mom’s beauty salon.

Only reluctantly does Vicky agree to become a donor. He caves under the relentless pressure of Dr. Chaddha (Annu Kapoor), the owner of a fertility clinic with marginal success rates. Chaddha — who claims to have a sixth sense for these things — sees in handsome, athletic Vicky a potential supplier of high quality genetic material. He explains that his upper-middle class clientele will pay big bucks in hopes of raising the next David Beckham or Aishwarya Rai.

When Vicky finally hands over a sample to Chaddha, Vicky’s little swimmers are given the highest marks for quality. Soon, Vicky is making regular donations and reaping the financial rewards while trying to woo a lovely banker named Ashima (Gautam). When Ashima confesses a secret about her romantic past, Vicky balks at the chance to tell her what he really does for a living. This creates big problems later on.

The subject matter naturally lends itself to jokes, but Khurrana and Gautam play their characters with complete sincerity. They’re nice young people who go through a relatively normal courtship, despite Vicky’s secret occupation.

As far as Vicky and Ashima know, the biggest obstacle they face as a couple is their families’ prejudices. Vicky’s Punjabi family distrusts Ashima’s Bengali family, and vice versa. For international audiences unfamiliar with Indian regional biases, there’s more than enough exposition to explain the hostility. That the film does so in a funny way is a bonus.

The movie is ultimately stolen by Kapoor as Dr. Chaddha, whose relentless pursuit of Vicky’s gametes is hilarious. Chaddha is a man obsessed with his work, from the toy sperm hanging from his rearview mirror to his t-shirt depicting a field of swimming sperm alongside the words: “Do it!”

Kapoor certainly delivers the laughs, but he makes the doctor more than just comic relief. Chaddha genuinely cares for Vicky, and he tries to fill a void in fatherless Vicky’s life. It’s touching the way Vicky’s low points distress Chaddha, who treats Vicky as more than just a stud.

There’s one insensitive moment near the end of the film that stands out as a negative in an otherwise good-natured script. Ashima affectionately refers to a cute East Asian child as “that little ching chong.” While I don’t think any malice was intended, the term is still offensive.

Overall, however, Vicky Donor is a surprisingly sweet and innocent film about an adult topic. It’s worth checking out.

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