Tag Archives: Arbaaz Khan

Movie Review: Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai (2017)

Zero Stars (out of 4)

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Trying to explain what Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai is about is a futile task. Not even the writer of the movie, Amreetaa Roy, was up to the task of succinctly describing her own film. Here’s the summary she submitted to IMDb:

The film presents the naïve vulnerability of human life, the sincere saga of love and pain, and the glimpse of human emotions in raw form. So much of human nature is captured within the frames of the film, yet it takes you to the various land giving a realistic view of existence – the story traversing from a small town of Rajasthan, moving to the city of dreams – Mumbai and then goes on to the city that never sleeps – New York, ride us through interesting characters, each one with a diverse and unique character adding slice of life. Written by Amreetaa Roy

That rambling mess of a plot summary captures all the problems with Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai (JIKNH, henceforth). It has no identity or focus because it tries to be about every issue and every emotion all at once.

Our onscreen guide through JIKNH is Alia (Manjari Fadnis), who experiences — directly or indirectly — virtually every kind of gender discrimination a woman can face. That extends to the closing credits of JIKNH, in which her name appears third in the cast list despite her playing the film’s main character.

In spite of a deprived childhood in Rajasthan in which Alia’s material and emotional needs ranked a distant fifth behind those of her two younger brothers and her parents, she excels as a student, developing an affinity for writing. As a college student, her no-nonsense attitude attracts the attention of an older, villainous rich guy, Vikram (Ashutosh Rana).

To this point, Alia’s story is one of resilience and self-sufficiency in spite of her family’s utter indifference toward her. Every indication points toward her graduating and building a successful life for herself, possibly with younger, not-so-villainous rich guy, Alex (Himansh Kohli). So it makes no sense when she quickly cedes to her drunken father’s request and accepts Vikram’s marriage proposal, especially since she knows Vikram to be a violent lech with multiple mistresses.

Predictably, marriage to Vikram is a nightmare. Alia escapes with the help of her tough-as-nails maid, Laxmi (Supriya Pathak), after Vikram demands that pregnant Alia abort the female fetus she’s carrying (checking off another item on the list of Gender Issues the movie feels compelled to address).

As Alia starts a new life in Mumbai, JIKNH‘s Social Issues checklist branches out from gender-based problems like spousal abuse and the diminished earning power of rural women to topics like elder care, the education of orphans, and vaccination. Eventually, Alia winds up in a Middle Eastern war zone, directing the medical care of wounded civilians in her capacity as a journalist. Alia is out to save everyone from everything.

While in Mumbai, Alia gives birth to Vikram’s unwanted daughter, Natasha, whose existence is only worth mentioning in passing since the girl disappears for long stretches of the film. Her presence might interrupt the budding romance between Alia and a third rich guy: American philanthropist Aditya (Arbaaz Khan). They share a lunch date presided over by an offensively stereotypical horny gay waiter whose sexuality is treated as a joke.

That joke isn’t nearly as funny as the fact that Alia’s and Aditya’s love theme is an instrumental version of “The First Noel.”

International audiences will want to give JIKNH a pass not only because it’s an unwatchable disaster with no continuity or sense of direction, but because the English subtitles frequently disappear, including during the closing lines of the film.

The last quarter of the movie takes place in America, and JIKNH does a particularly awful job of depicting the States, even by Bollywood’s low standards. The white actors are unbearable, and there are some serious geography problems. According to director Keshav Panneriy — who also edited the film and is married to the movie’s writer — the island of Manhattan is nestled within a mountain range, and its nearest airport is in Maryland.

The American portion of JIKNH does yield some of the movie’s most sophisticated dialogue. Confronting a man who harasses her and her friend on the street, Alia retorts in English: “Yes, we have a nice ass, and we are proud of it. You are just an ugly ass who makes the whole neighborhood stink!”

Links

  • Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai at Wikipedia
  • Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai at IMDb

Movie Review: Kis Kisko Pyaar Karoon (2015)

KisKiskoPyaarKaroon1.5 Stars (out of 4)

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One of the things that matters most in a comedy of errors is how the main character gets out of the mess he’s created, but the resolution to Kis Kisko Pyaar Karoon (“Who Should I Love“) is the film’s downfall.

The man responsible for the troubles in Kis Kisko Pyaar KaroonKKPK, henceforth — is Shiv Ram Kishan (Kapil Sharma). His efforts to help three different women end up with him married to all three. He marries Juhi (Manjari Phadnis) to honor her father’s dying wish. He marries Simran (Simran Kaur Mundi) to preserve her dignity when his buddy leaves her at the altar. And he’s forced to marry Anjali (Sai Lokur) by her gangster brother, Tiger-Bhai (Arbaaz Khan).

Shiv’s best friend, Karan (Varun Sharma), persuades his pal to move all of the wives into the same apartment building: Juhi on the fourth floor, Anjali on the sixth floor, and Simran on the eighth floor. That cuts down on Shiv’s commute, giving him more time to woo the one woman he truly loves, a dancer named Deepika (Elli Avram).

Much of the plot consists of near misses in which Shiv’s scheme is almost revealed. The funniest of those bits involve Anjali’s feisty maid, Champa (Jamie Lever). The least funny involve Tiger-Bhai, who can speak perfectly but is completely deaf, a gimmick that becomes tired almost immediately.

There’s a cute subplot involving Shiv’s divorced parents, played by Sharat Saxena and Supriya Pathak. Shiv tries to conceal the truth from both of them, but they are too busy falling back in love with one another. Romantic music swells and a fan softly blows Mom’s hair when Dad sees her. It’s a more compelling relationship than all four of Shiv’s combined.

KKPK is about thirty minutes too long, the close calls losing their tension as they accumulate. When it’s finally time for Shiv to answer for his actions, he gives a speech deflecting all responsibility onto his wives, blaming (what he perceives as) their fragile emotional natures. He even holds his mother partially responsible, claiming that he’s just following her orders to never break a woman’s heart.

Shiv offers a bleak assessment of modern marital obligations. By his reckoning, he’s holding up his end of the bargain by providing each wife with a nice apartment and money for shopping. It’s enough that he tells each of them, “I love you,” even though he doesn’t mean it.

They should also be happy with the five minutes he spends with each of them each day. Never mind that none of them work, and that Simran’s only human contact comes from short-tempered Champa. Juhi and Anjali don’t have maids and are alone all day, yet Shiv thinks five minutes is enough fulfill his duty to them.

Speaking of duty, none of these marriages appear to have been consummated. The most physical contact Shiv has with his wives is a peck on the check. That, and his aggressive rejection of Anjali’s sexual advances. Though there’s some mention of him rotating nights with each spouse, the movie never shows him waking up in any of their apartments. Isn’t sex one of Shiv’s marital duties?

It’s a question that directing duo Abbas Mustan and writer Anukalp Goswami choose to ignore. Instead, we are left with Juhi, Simran, Anjali, and even Deepika defined only in relation to Shiv, a mouse of a man. Given how funny most of KKPK is, the story’s resolution is a real disappointment.

Links

  • Kis Kisko Pyaar Karoon at Wikipedia
  • Kis Kisko Pyaar Karoon at IMDb (listed as Kis Kisko Pyaar Karu)

Movie Review: Dabangg 2 (2012)

DABANGG_2_Poster2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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2010’s Dabangg was such a good time that it set a high bar for its sequel. Dabangg 2 is almost as much fun, but it inadvertently raises some ethical questions about heroism and modern systems of justice.

Salman Khan returns as Chulbul Pandey, a charming, unstoppable supercop. Having cleared his small hometown of criminals in the first movie, Pandey requests a transfer to the larger city of Kanpur. Almost immediately, he becomes a hero to the citizens of Kanpur and the nemesis of a local gangster and aspiring politician named Baccha (Prakash Raj).

The opening twenty minutes of the movie are amazing. Scenes from the original Dabangg play during the opening credits to bring the audience up to speed. Then Pandey beats up a warehouse full of goons before abruptly breaking into song. It’s an obvious rehash of the best sequence from the original film, but it’s just as enjoyable the second time.

Chulbul Pandey is far an away Salman Khan’s best character of recent years. Unlike many of his other action roles that take themselves deathly seriously, Khan gets to have fun with Pandey. He plays pranks on his father (played by Vinod Khanna), flirts with his wife, Rajjo (Sonakshi Sinha), and is adored by his fellow police officers, with whom he’s willing to share credit for his good deeds. In this role, Khan is — dare I say — kind of cute.

Sinha, reprising her role from the first film, is a drag. Though Pandey dotes on Rajjo like the newlywed he is, she spends the whole film either annoyed or depressed. She perks up for a few dance numbers, but that’s it.

Similarly useless is Pandey’s younger brother, Makhi, played by Khan’s younger brother (and the film’s director), Arbaaz. The younger Khan delivers his lines flatly, and a long-running gag about Makhi trying to solve a riddle doesn’t survive the translation from Hindi to English. I appreciate Arbaaz Khan’s contributions behind the camera more than his contributions in front of it.

The story is slow to get going. It’s obvious that there will eventually be a showdown between Pandey and Baccha, but Baccha doesn’t make any real threats against Pandey or his family until the mid-point of the movie. The climactic showdown is worth the wait.

The impetus for Baccha to act comes when Pandey brutally murders one of the bad guys in front of a crowd of people that includes his fellow police officers, rather than take the bad guy into custody. The story proceeds as though this is acceptable, and the morality of Pandey’s act is never discussed.

This is a problem because, until this point, Pandey is unquestionably virtuous. (I’m choosing to ignore his habitual thievery since he rarely steals from working-class people.) One of the gun-toting bad guys declares himself judge, jury, and executioner right before Pandey kills him, even though Pandey’s life isn’t in immediate danger. By ignoring the rules of democracy and bypassing the judicial system, how is Pandey any different from the man he kills?

Perhaps these are deeper questions than are supposed to be posed to a film about a guy who makes his entrance by driving a Jeep through a brick wall. Though the film is light on gore and skin, it’s not completely family friendly. In addition to Pandey’s morally troubling act, some of the brutality inflicted on his family is especially grim. After watching Dabangg 2, kids may have more questions for their parents than, “Did you see Salman hit that guy in the nuts with a pole?”

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Movie Review: Dabangg (2010)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

Every movie that stars Salman Khan is essentially the same. He plays a tough guy who doesn’t play by the rules who meets a girl who teaches him the meaning of love. There are action-packed fights, some awkward scenes of courtship and a few equally awkward dance numbers.

Typically, Khan’s movies are completely serious. The only attempts at humor are when Khan’s character berates and humiliates his underlings, and the jokes almost always fall flat.

Dabangg (“Fearless”) is the rare Khan vehicle that acknowledges the absurdity of his macho, alpha-male persona. Perhaps it’s just a chance for Khan’s younger brother, Arbaaz — the movie’s producer and co-star — to take the mickey out of his big brother. Whatever the reason, it’s easily the most enjoyable Salman Khan movie I’ve ever seen.

This time, Khan plays Chulbul Pandey, a cop who shakes down criminals for money. He nicknames himself “Robin Hood,” even though he keeps all of the money he steals for himself.

Dabangg opens with a fight in a warehouse. Chulbul takes on a gang of about a dozen criminals by himself, using only a firehose as a weapon. There are a few instances of Matrix-inspired special effects, but they are outshone by the intricate fight choreography, as Chulbul is surrounded by attackers.

The rest of the police force arrives while Chulbul exits the warehouse with a bag of pilfered cash. Asked what they should tell the higher-ups about the fight, Chulbul shoots a deputy in the arm, so that the officer can claim he was wounded in action and earn a promotion. Everyone is happy, and Chulbul walks away with the money.

The scene is immediately followed by a dance number to a tune about what a badass Chulbul is: “Hud Hud Dabangg.” The abrupt transition is hilarious, and the Khan brothers know it. As a fan of ’80s & ’90s action flicks starring Stallone, Seagal, Van Damme, Schwarzenegger and the like, I assert that many of those movies would’ve benefited from their own dance numbers.

Dabangg‘s plot is formulaic, with the requisite love story and predictable double-crosses. Chulbul falls in love with a woman, Rajjo (Sonakshi Sinha), who encourages him to reconcile with his estranged stepbrother, Makhi (Arbaaz Khan), and his step-father. Little does Chulbul know that Makhi is secretly working for Cheddi Singh (Sonu Sood), the corrupt politician from whom Chulbul stole in the opening sequence.

Dabangg is well-paced and doesn’t linger over Chulbul’s emotional development. He grows as a character, but the majority of his time is spent fighting, engaging in political intrigue, and dancing.

The dancing alone makes Dabangg a worthwhile movie for American fans of action flicks who like a little levity mixed in with their butt-kicking. Plus, the subtitles add an air of sophistication. Tell your friends you’re seeing a foreign film, even if you’re really just going for the shootouts.

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