Tag Archives: Arjun Kapoor

Movie Review: Ek Villain Returns (2022)

3 Stars (out of 4)

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Eight years after its release, Ek Villain finally got a sequel. Ek Villain Returns is a marked improvement over the original.

The sequel begins with a shocking attack at a party. A man disguised with a smiley-face mask tosses revelers about the apartment in search of his target: an up-and-coming singer named Aarvi (Tara Sutaria). She records the moment he finally finds her on her phone, pleading with him by name: “Gautam.” But is that really who’s behind the mask?

Flashing back six months, we learn that Gautam (Arjun Kapoor) is the spoiled son of a wealthy man. Gautam wants to win at all costs, and he sees boosting Aarvi’s career as a way to do so. Their unscrupulous partnership leads to a romance that fractures when Gautam betrays Aarvi.

The last person to speak with Aarvi before the party attack is a driver for a ride share service named Bhairav (John Abraham). Bhairav — who is also a part-time zookeeper at a zoo that clearly lacks professional accreditation — is questioned by the police and released, but of course there’s more to his story.

Bhairav gets his own six-month flashback to him stalking a woman named Rasika (Disha Patani) who works in clothing store. She works on commission, so she’s happy enough to have a reliable customer, and they do form something of a friendship. Because he has no romantic or sexual experience, he thinks they’re in love.

Like its predecessor, Ek Villain Returns is about toxic masculinity. Whereas Ek Villain faltered by implying that there were things that women could have done to prevent being murdered by a misogynistic killer, Ek Villain Returns is clearer in affirming that women are autonomous beings who can make their own choices and need not be perfect. They also need not return the affection of any man who gives it to them, and that prioritizing men’s feelings over women’s is unfair and dangerous.

By establishing all of the characters as flawed, those who are capable of growing are given space to do so. Gautam and Aarvi are arrogant and unethical, but not beyond redemption. Rasika is a bit flippant, but she’s seen mostly through the lens of Bhairav’s perception of her — and it’s hard to trust that his perception of her is accurate, since he wants something from her. One of Bhairav’s problems is that he’s only interested in one side of a given story, and he assumes the worst of every woman he encounters.

Here’s the thing about Bhairav: if you’re going to have a character who can’t get a date despite having the face and body of John Abraham, he’s got to be much more socially awkward or creepy than the movie makes him out to be. (Also, there’s a nineteen-year age difference between Abraham and Patani. Ew.)

The issues with Bhairav are mostly a case of filmmaker Mohit Suri wanting to have his cake and eat it, too. He needs Bhairav to be a dangerous incel, but he wants steamy scenes between Abraham and Patani as well. We get the steamy scenes at the expense of Bhairav being as weird as he should’ve been.

That said, all of the actors understand what’s being asked of them and get the job done. Patani and Abraham are sexy. Kapoor and Sutaria have a more playful romance and share a great rapport. This is a couple I’d like to see paired up again in the future.

Overall, Ek Villain Returns knows what kind of movie it wants to be and gets things mostly right. And it represents a big step up from the film that spawned it.

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Movie Review: Bhoot Police (2021)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Bhoot Police (“Ghost Police“) is a really satisfying, high-concept horror comedy.

Brothers Vibhooti (Saif Ali Khan) and Chiraunji (Arjun Kapoor) are exorcists for hire, carrying on the legacy inherited from their father, the renowned spiritual healer Ullat Babu (Saurabh Sachdeva, in flashbacks). However, the brothers’ business is a grift. Non-believer Vibhooti rationalizes their work as harmless since their sham spells put peoples’ minds at ease, but Chiraunji isn’t so sure. He’s convinced that their father’s encoded spellbook holds some key to the spirit realm, if only he could figure out how to read it.

Chiraunji asks his dearly-departed father for a sign, and Dad delivers. Chiraunji drops the spellbook, and a hidden scroll unlocking the book’s code pops out. The book lands at the feet of a woman named Maya (Yami Gautam) who needs the brothers’ help. Decades ago, Ullat Babu banished a ghost from her family’s tea estate, but the ghost seems to have returned. Now that Chiraunji can decipher his father’s book, perhaps he can perform a real exorcism and save Maya’s business.

The performances in Bhoot Police are a lot of fun. Khan’s opportunistic cad Vibhooti is contrasted against Kapoor’s earnest, sentimental Chiraunji. Gautam’s warmhearted Maya is balanced by her party girl sister Kanu (Jacqueline Fernandez, whose energetic performance is slightly over the top). Amit Mistry and Javed Jaffrey do exactly what needs doing in their supporting roles.

Because Bhoot Police feels silly and fun, it’s easy to miss how much thought went into its construction. Making the brother’s disparate personalities the main driver of conflict and then doubling it by adding two sisters with a similar dynamic adds depth to the story. There’s a goofy subplot with Jaffrey as a police inspector who’s hunting the brothers that has an unexpected payoff. The story behind the ghost haunting the estate is surprisingly emotional. All these layers give the actors a lot to work with and keep the plot moving along.

None of this should be a surprise given the team behind Bhoot Police. Director Pavan Kirpalani previously directed the excellent psychological thriller Phobia, starring Radhika Apte. That film required a great understanding of character, which is present in the characters in Bhoot Police as well. Both of the brothers suffered from the trauma of their father’s death but found different ways of coping with it. Revisiting the scene of their dad’s most famous exorcism forces the brothers to finally confront their feelings about him.

Kirpalani wrote both Phobia and Bhoot Police with Pooja Ladha Surti, who also edited both movies. She’s Sriram Raghavan’s go-to co-writer and editor, too, having worked with him in those capacities on Andhadhun and Badlapur (among other films).

Bhoot Police‘s other co-writer and assistant director — Sumit Batheja — wrote the dialogue for the hilarious action comedy A Gentleman.

With such talented people behind the camera, it’s no wonder that Bhoot Police is as enjoyable and well thought out as it is. The cast in front of the camera brings the story to life with a seeming effortlessness. If only every comedy could be made with this much care and deliberation.

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Movie Review: Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar (2021)

4 Stars (out of 4)

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In 2012, Arjun Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra made their lead debuts in the romantic thriller Ishaqzaade. They made an excellent duo, turning in nuanced performances in a story that tackled a number of thorny subjects. Reunited nearly a decade later in Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar (“Sandeep and Pinky Have Absconded“), Kapoor and Chopra remind us that they might be at their best when they’re together.

Writer-director Dibakar Banerjee’s chilling opening scene sees a car full of rowdy bros gunned down as the opening credits come to an end. Shortly thereafter, we learn that their murder is a case of mistaken identity.

The real target is Sandeep “Sandy” Walia (Parineeti Chopra), a high-ranking executive at Parivartan Bank. She’s dating her boss, Parichay (Dinker Sharma), and is pregnant with his child. As Sandy waits at a restaurant for her boss/boyfriend, a messenger — Satinder “Pinky” Dahiya — arrives with a note from Parichay asking her to accompany Pinky to a different location.

Pinky is trying get his suspension from the police force overturned by doing jobs for a well-connected goon named Tyagi (Jaideep Ahlawat). Pinky assumes he’s been hired to turn Sandy over to some thugs who will scare her (he doesn’t care why). When he realizes Tyagi intended to have him killed along with Sandy in order to cover up her murder, Pinky reluctantly takes Sandy to a border town where they can cross into Nepal.

Pinky’s emotional arc is pretty conventional and self-contained. He needs to shed his tough guy self-image and learn to care about people other than himself. He does so first by realizing the special considerations Sandy has to take to protect her own health for the sake of her unborn child. Pinky’s progress is also helped along by Munna (Rahul Kumar), a young man who looks up to Pinky and needs a shoulder to cry on. Pinky’s compassion toward Munna — however grudgingly it’s given — yields dividends when Tyagi shows up in town.

Sandy’s arc is more complex and ties in with the film’s themes about misogyny, double standards, and capitalism. Sandy’s just as morally flexible as Pinky, if not more so — comfortable with both large scale corruption and simple interpersonal lies — but she’s often pressured to act by external forces. Parichay convinces her that the only way to save the bank is for her to do something illegal, so she acts in a way that saves her company and her relationship with him at the expense of faceless customers she thinks she’ll never meet. When she needs a clean place to stay, Sandy convinces an older couple — known simply as Aunty (Neena Gupta) and Uncle (Raghuvir Yadav) — to rent a room to her and Pinky even though they have no money. It’s an understandable act of deception for an expectant mother worried about her health.

The world as presented in Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar allows women no margin for error and gives men full discretion over the terms of their existence. Sandy climbs the ranks in her field through hard work but becomes disposable once she asks for something for herself. She makes a mutually beneficial deal with a local bank manager (played by Sukant Goel) who abruptly changes the terms, then resorts to violence when she refuses to comply. Uncle values his pride more than Sandy’s safety.

Aunty tells a story to Sandy and a group of other women about being so angry at Uncle that she packed a bag and left the house. He followed her out and asked where she was going to go. Realizing she had nowhere else she could go, she turned around and went back in the house. Everyone laughs, but the truth of the story is incredibly sad. All of the options for women in Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar are bad.

The only woman with a chance of making things right is a lawyer named Sejal (Archana Patel), hired by Parichay to track down Sandy. Like Sandy, Sejal is smarter than the men around her, so Parichay withholds information from her about the reasons why Sandy fled and what he plans to do with her when she’s found. Though at first she seems like another pawn working to preserve the power of capitalism and patriarchy, Sejal is Banerjee’s way of introducing hope into the story. Sandy didn’t see Parichay’s true colors in time, but if Sejal can, maybe she can balance the scales of justice a little bit.

Every performance in the movie is spot-on, down to the smallest roles. But boy do Chopra and Kapoor do an amazing job of reminding you just what they are capable of, especially when they’re working with a great director. Banerjee’s story — co-written with Varun Grover — heads in unexpected directions but never feels like it’s being clever for its own sake, and it does so at a pace that is neither too fast nor too slow. Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar is totally engrossing and dense enough to merit a second viewing.

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Movie Review: Panipat (2019)

1.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Panipat: The Great Betrayal — director Ashutosh Gowariker’s attempt to cash in on Bollywood’s current historical action flick trend — is a slog.

Panipat is made for a Hindi-speaking audience well-versed in Indian history, and it poses several challenges for audiences outside that demographic. If Panipat were a book, it would come with several maps, some family trees, and an extensive glossary. Absent those supplementary materials — and with subtitles that leave many important Hindi words untranslated (at least in the Netflix version) — I’ll do my best to explain what happens using terms that I think are close, if not completely accurate.

The film opens in the mid-18th Century, with the Maratha Empire finally defeating the Nizam Sultanate after a two-year-long campaign, shoring up its hold on the midsection of what is now modern-day India. The Emperor’s wife, Gopika Bai (Padmini Kolhapure), worries that military commander Sadashiv (Arjun Kapoor) is so popular that the people will push for him to be made head of state over her son, Vishwas (Abhishek Nigam). She convinces the Emperor, Nana Saheb (Monish Bahl), to take Sadashiv off the battlefield and appoint him Finance Minister.

Being a soldier, Sadashiv only knows how to solve problems by force. He attempts to shore up the empire’s dwindling finances by sending threatening letters to all the ancillary kingdoms that are behind on their tax payments. This upsets a Mughal noble, Najib-Ud-Daulah (Mantra), who asks the Afghan ruler Ahmad Shah Abdali (Sanjay Dutt) for help.

With Afghan forces headed south, Sadashiv agrees to lead the undermanned, under-resourced Maratha army north to stop them, since no one else wants to. The Marathas and the Afghans make alliances with the neighboring kingdoms on their respective journeys, culminating with a decisive battle at the fort of Panipat.

Most of the film is a slow road trip punctuated by natural disasters. Before that are the film’s prettiest scenes, set at the beautiful Maratha palace. The decor is vibrant, the grounds are beautifully landscaped, and the architecture is grand. Designer Neeta Lulla’s costumes are stunning.

At the palace, Sadashiv marries his spunky childhood sweetheart Parvati (Kriti Sanon), who joins him on the excursion. Sanon gives the best performance in the film, but her character is a transparent attempt to appeal to a modern audience. Parvati is a commoner who marries a royal. She’s the empire’s first woman doctor! She fights with a sword! Sadashiv begs her not to kill herself if he dies in battle, just to make Panipat seem more progressive than Padmaavat.

Kapoor’s performance is not particularly charismatic, but neither is Sadashiv as a character. He’s inflexible to the point of causing many of the empire’s problems — first with his heavy-handed letters and later with his refusal to negotiate with Abdali. Sadashiv insists that he’s fighting to protect all of Hindustan from Muslim invaders, even though Hindustan at the time was not a unified nation but a collection of kingdoms, some of which were ruled by Muslims.

Sadashiv serves primarily to illustrate Panipat‘s pro-Hindu viewpoint. The contrast between Sadashiv and Abdali is almost comical. Sadishiv fights in the heart of the battle while Abdali stays safely at the back. The Maratha army follows Sadashiv and endures starvation because they believe in his cause, while Abdali’s soldiers flee and his throne is usurped in his absence. Even Kapoor’s acting is calm and resolute compared to Dutt’s over-the-top delivery.

Panipat portrays the Afghans as essentially cavemen. Unlike the light, bright Maratha palace, Abdali rules from a dimly-lit, windowless great hall. Servants wearing fur cloaks carry platters laden with hunks of roasted meat. When Maratha Prince Vishwas is caught in battle by an Afghan soldier, the soldier is shown in close-up snarling like an animal.

Besides being problematic, Panipat just isn’t that interesting. Perhaps in the name of historical accuracy, the plot favors comprehensiveness over economy. Seemingly every lesser kingdom and minor noble is given a shout out, no matter how insignificant their part in the events that are the focus of the film. The result is a sprawling cast of characters who blur together. By the time any of them does something that affects the plot, I’d already forgotten who they were.

Perhaps this cast sprawl is less of a problem for the Indian audience for whom Panipat is obviously intended. I also understand if the English subtitles used in the original theatrical release chose to leave some Hindi words intact, as those subs are as much for moviegoers across India as they are for viewers outside of the country. I’m not sure if Netflix kept the original subtitles for its streaming release or created new ones, as is the practice of some streaming services.

But Panipat is a particular case where Netflix should have used the opportunity to make the film’s English subtitles as accessible as possible to its global audience. By not translating words like Peshwa, Gadir, and Wazir, it’s hard to understand the hierarchy of the region at that time. Even the geography is unclear, as Sadashiv seems to use Hindustan and the Maratha Empire interchangeably.

Again, maybe Indian audiences with the prerequisite cultural and historical knowledge found Panipat easier to understand than I did. As it is, it’s as uncompelling as it is inaccessible.

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Movie Review: Half Girlfriend (2017)

0.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Half Girlfriend is a tiresome retread of a familiar Bollywood setup. The world within the film exists for the manipulation and satisfaction of the male lead character, regardless of the toll it takes on the woman he pursues.

Just as in another problematic movie from earlier in 2017 — Badrinath Ki DulhaniaHalf Girlfriend tries to justify its outdated formula by having its main character hail from a state with a bad reputation regarding gender equality. Half Girlfriend‘s Madhav (Arjun Kapoor) is from Bihar, a state that borders Badrinath’s Uttar Pradesh. Neither movie is interested in actually addressing the causes or consequences of inequality in either state, just in appropriating a regressive mindset so that the female lead can be treated as a prop rather than a real person.

Lest we dismiss Madhav as some uneducated hick, the story — based on a book by Chetan Bhagat and adapted for the screen by Tushar Hiranandani and Ishita Moitra — emphasizes that he’s the son of a royal family. He lives in a mansion with his mother (played by Seema Biswas), who runs a school in their small town.

Yet, Madhav is so privileged and insulated that only after he graduates with a degree in sociology from St. Stephens College in Delhi does he ask his mother, “Why don’t any girls attend our school?” How did he not notice that earlier?!

As with so many Bollywood heroes before him, it’s Madhav’s job to bend the universe to his will. That primarily takes the form of him forcing everyone to engage with him in Hindi, even though instruction at St. Stephens is conducted exclusively in English. No matter how high the stakes, Madhav steadfastly refuses to apply himself enough to become proficient in English. The movie rewards him at every turn by having English speakers claim to have understood Madhav’s “heart,” if not his words.

Then there’s Riya (Shraddha Kapoor), with whom Madhav is smitten on first sight. “Such a beautiful girl plays basketball?” he wonders, insultingly. He’s apparently never heard of hoops legend/fashion model Lisa Leslie, which is surprising since Madhav’s a b-ball nut and a big fan of “Steven Curry.”

The basketball in Half Girlfriend is absolutely terrible, by the way. The camera only shoots the actors from the shoulders up since apparently neither of them learned how to dribble for their roles as college athletes. (Frankly, their entire performances in Half Girlfriend lack commitment.) Also, a scene in which Madhav wildly airballs dozens of attempted half-court shots is unbelievable. That’s a shot serious basketball players practice for fun from an early age.

Once Madhav decides that he wants beautiful, popular Riya for his own, he follows her everywhere, memorizing every detail she posts on Facebook. They strike up a friendship on the court, but she’s clearly not interested in him romantically. She pulls her hand away whenever he tries to touch it. Well, she tries to, but Madhav literally won’t let her go.

Madhav’s roommate Shailesh (Vikrant Massey) — who is otherwise the voice of reason in the film — says that the only way to know Riya’s feelings for sure is to “get her in the room.” In case that didn’t sound rapey enough, Madhav locks the door once Riya is inside. When Riya resists Madhav’s attempted seduction (the author writes euphemistically), he gets violent with her. Riya refuses to talk to him after that, triggering a sad musical montage of Madhav screwing up in a basketball game because he’s too upset to concentrate. Boo hoo.

Madhav’s violence toward Riya renders a romance between them unsatisfactory. However, because we know the beats of the male-entitlement Bollywood romance storyline, we know that Riya won’t be able to rid herself of Madhav that easily.

Half Girlfriend is monstrously unfair to Riya. Every man in her life is abusive to her in some way.  While Madhav claims to love Riya, he refuses to accept a relationship with her on her terms; he wants to possess her. Rather than protecting Riya, the older women in her life insist that she tolerate the intolerable and put a man’s needs before her own. Riya is utterly alone. If told from her perspective, Half Girlfriend would be a horror movie.

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Mr. Mom versus Ki and Ka

If you read my review, you know I have a lot of problems with Ki and Ka. It wasn’t the humorous exploration of gender roles promised in the trailer, but rather a disorganized reinforcement of Bollywood tropes that favor men at the expense of women.

Given how non-progressive writer-director R. Balki’s movie is, I wanted to know how Ki and Ka compares to an older film about spouses swapping traditional gender roles: 1983’s Mr. Mom, written by John Hughes and directed by Stan Dragoti. Note: spoilers for both movies follow.

Though the two movies differ markedly in their general setups, they do share some very specific details in common — leading one to believe that Balki has at least seen Mr. Mom, even if he didn’t quite get the point of it. Both movies feature wives who work in advertising, both of whom earn promotions when they create campaigns offering discounts on food products traditionally purchased by women. In both movies, the stay-at-home husband plays cards with neighborhood housewives and leads them in an exercise program.

In Mr. Mom, Jack (Michael Keaton) is an automotive engineer who gets laid off from his job. He takes over the care of the house and the family’s three children when his wife Caroline (Teri Garr) finds a marketing job.

Jack assumes that being a homemaker will be easy compared to engineering, only to discover just how much he doesn’t know. He struggles with everyday chores and his own sense of self-worth, now that he’s not the breadwinner. Caroline explains that what carried her through her eight years as a stay-at-home mom was a sense of pride in a job well done, whether it’s a task as simple as cleaning the kitchen or as complex as raising good kids.

Mr. Mom is an out-and-out comedy, and a very funny one at that. Jack’s struggles are played for laughs, especially in the hilarious sequence featuring an overloaded washing machine, three home repair people, and a runaway vacuum nicknamed “Jaws.”

That sequence highlights what is probably the root problem in Ki and Ka. For all of the lip-service Kabir (Arjun Kapoor) pays to the difficulty and nobility of housework, he never struggles with it. It’s not hard for him.

Kabir has no more previous experience taking care of a house than Jack does. Kabir grew up wealthy, presumably with servants in addition to his own mother to run the family mansion. We know that he earned an MBA, but after that, he makes no mention of having done anything like studying cooking or home maintenance. As far as we are shown, Kabir is just a 28-year-old jobless guy living in his childhood bedroom until he marries Kia (Kareena Kapoor Khan).

When he actually becomes Kia’s househusband, he does so with no problems. On their first morning together, he clears the clutter, gets himself ready, and makes breakfast all before Kia and her mom (Swaroop Sampat) wake up. When he botches their morning coffee, the joke is on the women, not him.

Kabir is then free to redecorate the family apartment as the train depot of his childhood dreams (removing all trace of Kia and her mom from the decor in the process, by the way). After folding laundry and cooking, his time is his own, freeing him to shop for clothes with his new lady friends.

Unlike Jack in Mr. Mom, Kabir does little household cleaning. Kia’s longtime maid handles the dirty work. Even during the narrative’s short-lived budget crisis plot point, Kabir deems the maid’s services essential, even though her salary is one of the couple’s biggest monthly expenses. Why is she essential? They only live in a two bedroom apartment, with no kids. How hard is that to keep clean?

It’s harder to tell an insightful story about gender roles when the main characters are upper class. They keep a maid because they can afford to, allowing Kabir the time to become a celebrity icon of social progress while still making it home to cook dinner.

Because Kabir is rich — and always has been — he never pays a price for his unusual lifestyle choice. Wealthy people live by different rules than the rest of us anyway, so how is his experience analogous to anyone who’s not an elite? What social price would Kabir and Kia have to pay if she were the ad firm’s receptionist rather than an executive? Sure, Kabir’s dad doesn’t approve, but Kabir has already disinherited himself and written his dad off as the stick-in-the-mud he is.

Ki and Ka makes it seem as if being a homemaker is so easy anyone can do it, disregarding the social, emotional, and practical challenges of the job. Even though Mr. Mom is more than thirty years old, it’s more insightful as to what being a stay-at-home spouse entails — and it’s a lot more entertaining, too. You can buy or rent Mr. Mom at Amazon or iTunes.

Movie Review: Ki and Ka (2016)

KiAndKa0.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Don’t be fooled into thinking that Ki and Ka (“His and Hers“) is a progressive examination of gender roles in contemporary India. This is Mansplaining: The Movie.

Kareena Kapoor Khan plays Kia, a marketing executive with a clear career path: get promoted to vice president of her company and eventually become CEO. She knows that marriage and especially kids often hamper women professionally, so she’s not interested in either.

She meets Kabir (Arjun Kapoor), son of a rich construction magnate. Rather than inherit his father’s empire, Kabir wants to follow in his deceased mother’s footsteps and be a homemaker.

However, we don’t see any evidence of Kabir working toward that goal. We don’t see him cooking, cleaning, or organizing — none of the activities that are central to the job of homemaking. All we see during his courtship of Kia is him hanging out in bars or tooling around a playground on his Segway. Apparently, his aspirations are enough for him to get his dream job, despite the fact that he’s both unqualified and unmotivated.

But that’s the point of writer-director R. Balki’s film: Kabir’s desire to defy gender stereotypes makes him a hero. He’s lauded for his choice, going so far as to appear on TV on Woman’s Day to explain to everyone how noble he is for cooking and tidying up. He fails to note that he still employs a maid to do dirty work like dusting.

Kabir’s deification comes at Kia’s expense. She apologizes over and over again: for hurting his feelings, for taking him for granted, for being jealous. Other than saying “sorry” for crying too loudly during their initial meeting, Kabir never apologizes to Kia because the screenplay never puts him in a position to do so. In typical Bollywood hero fashion, Kabir is infallible, incapable of doing wrong because he is a man.

It’s worth noting another sequence which chucks any remaining vestiges of Ki and Ka‘s feminist credibility out the window. Kabir starts an exercise program for the women in his building, premised on the ideas that all women think they are fat and that they secretly want to be ogled by strange men on the street.

If Balki’s dated takes on equality weren’t problem enough, the movie is lifeless. The first fifteen minutes of Kabir & Kia’s courtship is a sequence of barroom conversations, with cinematographer P. C. Sreeram’s camera making constant, incremental zooms to give the illusion of dynamism while the actors just sit there. The most excitement we get is a shot of Kia walking slowly alongside Kabir as he rides his Segway. Even the song numbers are mostly montages.

The screenplay’s structure leaves much to be desired. There are no subplots at all, and only a couple of hollow supporting characters. Neither Kia nor Kabir have any friends until they magically appear for scenes in which everyone talks about how great Kabir is, never to be heard from again.

None of the conflicts between the couple lasts more than a few minutes, and there’s nothing at stake in any larger sense either. Their relationship is never in danger, as emphasized by a climax that is literally impossible to have unfold in the tidy way it does.

Characters repeatedly refer to Kabir as “every woman’s dream husband.” The goal of feminism is not to make men do chores. If Ki and Ka is R. Balki’s idea of social progress, he’s missed the point.

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Movie Review: Tevar (2015)

Tevar_Official_Poster2 Stars (out of 4)

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Arjun Kapoor’s lead character seems more like an interruption than a necessary element of Tevar (“Attitude“).

Don’t get me wrong: as the story is constructed, the fate of Sonakshi Sinha’s character, Radhika, depends entirely upon Kapoor’s Pintu. That’s because Radhika is the most embarrassingly helpless character Sinha has played yet, which is saying something. Instead of a hapless plot device, I wish she’d been capable of saving herself — rendering Pintu altogether unnecessary.

Because Tevar is just another formulaic, hero-driven, Bollywood action flick, the movie opens with a lengthy introduction of Pintu. Surprise, surprise: he’s a slacker who just wants to hang out with his buddies, who repeatedly tell him how cool he is. As is typical in such films, his only flaw is a lack of a girlfriend. Not that he couldn’t get one if he wanted one. He just doesn’t want some chick to cut into his bro time.

Once Pintu’s intro is over, we get to the movie that I really wanted to see. Manoj Bajpayee plays Gajendar, a goon who does the dirty work for his older brother, a politician played by Rajesh Sharma. Gajendar falls madly in love with Radhika when he sees her dance in a concert.

On the advice of his sidekick, Kakdi (Subrat Dutta), Gajendar tries to impress the much younger Radhika, doffing his sweater vest in favor of jeans and a motorcycle jacket. The attempt fails. Gajendar is further humiliated by Radhika’s reporter brother, who threatens to take down both Gajendar and his brother if he contacts Radhika again.

Here’s what I wanted from Tevar: Gajendar tries to pretend he’s something he’s not in order to win Radhika. When that doesn’t work, he resorts to his old, violent ways. Radhika has to figure out how to stop Gajendar and save her family. Why shouldn’t the heroine be the one with “attitude” for a change?

What I got was Radhika waiting helplessly for someone to rescue her. Pintu just happens to get there first. Whenever Radhika takes control of her own destiny, she does something idiotic like leave her hiding place to check on the well-being of Pintu, who is essentially invincible.

That invincibility neuters all the fight sequences. Stuff breaks and people go flying, but the scenes lack gravity and danger. The epic eye roll Gajendar gives when Pintu rises from what should’ve been a mortal blow is spot on.

Pintu’s invincibility is such a powerful aphrodisiac for Radhika that’s she’s willing to abandon the complicated plan to get her to safety just to hear Pintu say, “I love you.” It’s stupid and insulting.

Sinha’s cringe-inducing performance aside, the acting in Tevar is pretty good. Kapoor is charming when the script permits him to be. Bajpayee is one of Bollywood’s go-to villains for a reason. It’s hard to take your eyes off of him.

Yet Dutta managed to steal my attention from Bajpayee on a number of occasions, not with anything flashy, but by doing little things to make Kakdi seem like a real person, not just an automaton who performs only when he’s the focus of a scene. While Gajendar is in the foreground, staring transfixed by Radhika’s dancing, Kakdi is in the background ushering people to their seats and clapping along with the music.

Dutta shows some real menace in spots, too, as when Kakdi strolls in slow motion toward Pintu, flanked by armed guards. Maybe there’s room for another go-to villain in town.

Ultimately, Tevar sublimates its unique elements in order to give us more of the same. Putting a different actor in the role of morally righteous superman doesn’t change anything.

Links

Opening January 9: Tevar

The first Bollywood film to hit Chicago area theaters in 2015 is Tevar, opening January 9. The action drama stars Manoj Bajpayee, Arjun Kapoor, and Sonakshi Sinha.

Tevar opens on Friday at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, Regal Gardens Stadium 1-6 in Skokie, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 30 min.

PK carries over for a fourth week at all of the above theaters (except for the River East 21), plus the AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge.

Other Indian movies playing at MovieMax this weekend include Gopala Gopala (Telugu), Nagaravaridhi Naduvil Njan (Malayalam), Mukunda (Telugu), Chinnadana Nee Kosam (Telugu), and Lingaa (Tamil).

New Trailer: November 11, 2014

Sonakshi Sinha is imperiled yet again in Tevar, which releases theatrically on January 9, 2015. This time, she needs to be saved from Manoj Bajpayee by Arjun Kapoor. Kudos to Subrat Dutta for landing roles in seemingly every movie these days: Bheera in Roar, the eccentric director in The Shaukeens, and now one of Manoj’s henchmen in Tevar. Check out the trailer: