Tag Archives: Asin Thottumkal

Movie Review: All Is Well (2015)

AllIsWellZero Stars (out of 4)

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Few movies have angered me as much as All Is Well. It’s cruel and offensive, making light of human suffering for the sake of an easy moral lesson.

This is a huge surprise given that Umesh Shukla is behind the camera. The last film he directed (and co-wrote) — 2012’s OMG: Oh My God — is funny, understanding, and generous of spirit. Then again, Shukla also directed 2009’s Dhoondte Reh Jaoge, a rip-off of The Producers that I also described as offensive. Maybe OMG was the aberration, and All Is Well is Shukla showing his true colors again.

All Is Well fancies itself a comedy about a bickering father and son, played by Rishi Kapoor and Abhishek Bachchan, respectively. When Bhalla (Kapoor) isn’t losing money via his unpopular bakery, he’s yelling at his wife Pammi (Supriya Pathak) and son Inder (Bachchan).

Growing up in such a hostile environment turns Inder into a complete misanthrope. After having been kicked out of the house for calling his dad a loser, he’s spent ten years in Bangkok, avoiding his parents and struggling as a musician.

Inder’s misanthropy is most acutely directed at Nimmi (Asin Thottumkal), a brain-dead chatterbox who is in love with him. Nimmi is so oblivious that she can’t recognize Inder’s contempt for her. Her arranged marriage subplot is shoddily tacked on to the main story, in which Inder is tricked into coming home to settle his father’s debts. Everyone is an unrepentant jerk throughout, and few cinematic “happy endings” have felt less earned.

All Is Well does wrong by so many people. Dwarfs and people with dark complexions are the butt of needless, hurtful jokes. The movie — written by Sumit Arora and Niren Bhatt — has no respect for women, hence why Nimmi is portrayed as a total dumbass, desperate to marry.

No character suffers as much as Pammi, who is a human plot device. Inder returns to India to find his mother in an “old folks home” suffering from Alzheimer’s. (Note that Pathak is only 54.) The movie makes the following untrue claims about Alzheimer’s, all in the name of moving the story forward:

  • The progression of Alzheimer’s can be stalled if you keep the patient happy at all times.
  • Alzheimer’s is caused by familial neglect, somewhat on the part of one’s spouse, but mostly due to neglect by one’s children.
  • Alzheimer’s can be improved, if not outright cured, if said neglectful children move back in with their parents.

I haven’t mentioned it at this website, but earlier this year, my mother died in her mid-sixties after suffering for five years with a degenerative neurological condition. Not Alzheimer’s, but another incapacitating disease with no specific cause and with a similarly slow decline (both mental and physical) and grim prognosis.

It’s hard to watch a parent undergo such hardship without any hope of a cure and without anyone to blame for it. There was no accident, no source of infection. There was no one to yell at, no one to sue — not that it would have helped. She was predisposed to get sick, she did, and it was horrible.

So, for Umesh Shukla, Sumit Arora, and Niren Bhatt to imply that someone like my mom might suffer a terrible death because her kids didn’t pay enough attention to her is bullshit. It’s offensive, and it’s mean.

To make light of such a dreadful condition for the sake of a comedy film is beyond callous. Pammi might as well be just another prop, the way she’s shuffled from car to house, forced into a situation she can’t possibly understand. She utters only a handful of words, which is a tremendous waste of an actress of Pathak’s caliber.

There’s no reason to see All Is Well. None. Something this hateful shouldn’t be rewarded.

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Movie Review: Khiladi 786 (2012)

Khiladi_786_poster2 Stars (out of 4)

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There’s a lot to like in Khiladi 786. The well-organized plot allows for plenty of humorous turns, and Akshay Kumar gives a charming performance. Yet needless racism keeps me from recommending Khiladi 786.

During a throwaway number about forty minutes into the film, Kumar’s character dances, surrounded by a troupe of male Indian dancers wearing blackface makeup and Afro wigs, while female Anglo dancers writhe around wearing bikinis.

Kumar apparently doesn’t find blackface offensive, since he donned it himself in Kambakkht Ishq. If he did, he surely could’ve had the number changed since his wife, Twinkle Khanna, is one of the film’s producers. Since Kumar and Khanna already consider blackface acceptable, arguing with them over the obvious sexual objectification of Anglo women seems pointless.

The offensive dance number negatively affected my perception of an otherwise enjoyable movie. Kumar plays Bahattar Singh, a crook with superhuman speed and strength. Bahattar, his father, and his uncle work with the local police to stop smugglers on Punjabi highways. The work is dangerous and illegal, and the family splits the proceeds from their warrantless searches with the police.

Because seemingly everyone in the state of Punjab knows that Bahattar is thief, he can’t find a single local woman willing to marry him. This follows the family tradition of marrying foreigners. Bahattar’s mother is Canadian, his grandmother is African, and his aunt is Chinese.

(I also had a problem with the musical cues that accompany the introduction of each of the foreign women. The Chinese aunt appears to an East-Asian string-instrument theme, the African grandmother gets drums and chanting, and the white Canadian mother gets jazz saxophone. We get it. They aren’t ethnic Indians. That’s obvious from looking at them, though I’m not quite sure how jazz represents Canada. I would’ve gone with prog rock.)

Bahattar’s nuptial troubles present the perfect opportunity for marriage arranger Mansukh (Himesh Reshammiya), who’s recently been fired from the family wedding firm. He tries to fix up Bahattar with Indu (Asin Thottumkal), the reckless younger sister of a famous Mumbai don, TT (Mithun Chakraborty).

Indu knows that a woman from a family of criminals will only be accepted as a bride by another criminal, like her boyfriend, Azad (Rahul Singh). TT insists on marrying his sister into a good family, and the Singhs want the same for Bahattar, so Mansukh convinces the men of both families to masquerade as police officers.

Despite the fact that Khiladi 786 is an Akshay Kumar vehicle, the most important character is Mansukh. He’s desperate for Bahattar and Indu to get married in order to prove to his own father that he’s not a screw-up. To make that happen, he has to juggle the lies he’s told and encouraged others to tell. Mansukh’s uncle, Jeevan (Sanjai Mishra), hinders the process as much as he helps and provides comic relief.

Reshammiya plays Mansukh as animated, but not over the top. He needs to be the regular guy among a crowd of nutty criminals. Also, Reshammiya knows who the real star of the movie is.

Kumar plays much the same character as he always does: a sweet guy who’s tough when he needs to be. Bahattar notes: “Punjabis don’t come or go quietly,” which gives Kumar the freedom to act with extra exuberance. Bahattar’s superhuman speed is played to good comic effect, as he flattens bad guys in the blink of an eye.

The rest of the supporting cast is generally fine. Asin doesn’t have much to do, but Mithun Chakraborty gets to bash some heads in the final fight scene. There are a couple of side plots that come to nothing, involving characters like TT’s maid and an inspector played by Johnny Lever.

Of all the supporting characters, Azad is the funniest. Even though his name means “freedom,” he spends most of the film on the brink of being released from jail, only to screw it up and get himself thrown back into the pokey.

If it weren’t for one dumb dance number, Khiladi 786 would be a fun, harmless movie. There are just certain offenses that can’t be overlooked.

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Movie Review: Housefull 2 (2012)

1.5 Stars (out of 4)

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When is a sequel not a sequel? Housefull 2 is a strange, boring spectacle that has nothing to do with 2010’s Housefull.

Okay, not precisely nothing. Both are wacky comedies about mistaken identities and concealing romantic relationships from one’s parents. Both starred Akshay Kumar and Ritesh Deshmukh. But Kumar and Deshmukh don’t play the same characters as they did in the first movie.

In Housefull, Deshmukh played a card dealer named Bob while Kumar played an unlucky doofus named Aarush. In Housefull 2, Deshmukh plays millionaire’s son Jolly, while Kumar plays a sleaze named Sunny. Sunny then pretends to be Jolly. Confused, yet?

Jacqueline Fernandez and Malaika Arora Khan were both item girls in Housefull and also return as different characters in Housefull 2. Fernandez plays Bobby (not Bob, Deshmukh’s original character), and Khan plays a different item girl.

Here’s where things get weird. Boman Irani plays a character named Batuk Patel in both movies, but it’s not the same Batuk Patel! In Housefull 2, Batuk seeks to marry off his only daughter, Parul (Shazahn Padamsee) to the son of his best friend, JD (Mithun Chakraborty). In the original Housefull, Batuk’s daughter is Hetal (played by Lara Dutta), which is incidentally the name of Batuk’s deceased wife in Housefull 2.

The only character and actor to make the transition from one movie to the next intact is Chunky Pandey’s funny half-Indian, half-Italian schmoozer, Aakhri Pasta.

As if all this half-baked crossover isn’t bad enough, the plot of Housefull 2 is thin and stupid. Two feuding half-brothers, Daboo (Randhir Kapoor) and Chintu (Rishi Kapoor), want to secure the richest husband in England for their respective daughters, Bobby and Henna (Asin Thottumkal). When Chintu insultingly rejects the family of one possible groom, Jai (Shreyas Talpade), the young man vows to get revenge by making sure Henna is dumped at the altar.

Jai is pals with Jolly, England’s most desirable bachelor. They hire their college friend, Max (John Abraham), to pose as Jolly and trick Chintu and Henna. Max accidentally gets engaged to Bobby, so Jai and Jolly call Sunny to trick Chintu. Max and Sunny hate each other, but Daboo and Chintu live in adjoining townhouses, and — OH, NO! — what if they see each other?!

This covers the first forty-five minutes of the plot. Things only get stupider and more annoying until the end of Housefull 2‘s unbearable 155 minute runtime.

In addition to the sloppy story construction, there are continuity errors throughout. Henna has a pet “crocodile” that is really an alligator. Sunny falls asleep in a raft out at sea, and when he wakes up in the raft the next morning after it washes ashore, there’s already sand on his shoes. Henna puts her finger to her ear to indicate that she’s talking on a Bluetooth headset, but she’s not actually wearing one.

All these mistakes — combined with the crap story– point to the fact that Housefull 2 is just a cash grab designed to trick people who enjoyed Housefull (myself included). A cast full of stars can’t save something this inept and nonsensical.

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Movie Review: London Dreams (2009)

londondreamsZero Stars (out of 4)

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2008’s Rock On!! is a great Hindi film about a rock band and the tensions that develop between band members. Though London Dreams is also about problems within a rock band, it’s every bit as bad as Rock On!! is good: shallow and lacking an understanding of human emotions.

London Dreams is about Arjun, a Punjabi boy who dreams of becoming a great musician. However, his family hates music, blaming that particular form of entertainment for the death of Arjun’s grandfather.

When Arjun’s father dies — an event Arjun interprets as divine confirmation of his musical destiny — the boy moves to London with his uncle. Arjun runs away in the airport and buys his way into a music school with pocket change. (What? It could happen.)

As an adult, Arjun (Ajay Devgan) is so singularly focused on his goal of headlining Wembley Stadium that he won’t let anything distract him, going to far as to whip himself with a belt to suppress his sexual urges for his backup dancer, Priya (Asin Thottumkal). Arjun’s band, London Dreams, takes England by storm, even though their music is mediocre.

Arjun’s childhood friend, Mannu (Salman Khan), leaves his life of philandering in Punjab to live with his pal in London. For kicks, Arjun invites Mannu to perform on stage with London Dreams.

There’s a freak confetti accident during the performance, and Arjun gestures to Mannu to take over as frontman. Turns out, slacker Mannu is a more charismatic singer than Arjun. Mannu gets all of the accolades, as well as Priya’s affections, and Arjun sets about trying to destroy his best friend and take back the spotlight for himself.

Overall, London Dreams is a sloppy movie. The same footage is used for concerts that are supposed to take place separately in London, Paris and Rome; try to spot the girl in the blue basketball jersey in the crowd at all three concerts.

Worse, the band members barely even pretend to play their instruments. The old, mohawked drummer never comes within an inch of the cymbals he’s supposed to be playing. Heck, he’s not even an official member of the band, which consists of two singers, two guitarists and a backup dancer. It’s impossible for them to produce the music that makes up the movie’s soundtrack; it should have also been impossible for Mannu to auto-tune his own voice without the aid of a microphone and computer.

Trumping all of the movie’s other problems, the lead characters in London Dreams are deplorable. Arjun is a sociopath, and Mannu’s alternately a promiscuous lout and a simpleton. Their relationship with each other doesn’t develop, and Arjun never faces any consequences for being a terrible person.

Skip London Dreams and rent Rock On!! If nothing else, the music’s better.

Movie Review: Ghajini (2008)

1 Star (out of 4)

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Ghajini, director A. R. Murugadoss’s Hindi version of the Hollywood thriller, Memento, might’ve been more successful had it borrowed even more heavily from the original film that it already does.

Ghajini‘s premise is so similar to Memento‘s that Murugadoss included a note at the opening of the film: “We acknowledge other stories that have dealt with this issue.” They needed to; the premise is almost identical. The film’s protagonist, Sanjay (Aamir Khan), lost his ability to form new short-term memories after a fight with some goons who killed his fiancee, Kalpana. Now he wants to avenge her death.

Murugadoss didn’t just appropriate the plot. He also copied Memento‘s signature gimmicks, including the protagonist’s use of Post-It Notes, Polaroid photos and tattoos to act as his memory, as he learns more about Kalpana’s murderer.

Unlike Memento, where neither the protagonist nor the audience learns the identity of the murderer until the end of the movie, the identity of Kalpana’s killer is revealed in the first twenty minutes. He’s the film’s title character, Ghajini. So there’s no mystery about who killed Kalpana. The only questions are why he killed her (turns out it’s over something stupid and unrelated to the main plot) and how will Sanjay inevitably kill him.

Fortunately for Sanjay, the loss of his short-term memory apparently imbued him with superhuman strength. Khan spends most of the present-day sequences staring wide-eyed at the camera, before roaring and stomping about, Incredible Hulk style. Though he was a career businessman before his head trauma, he now can pummel henchman by the dozen. At one point, Sanjay punches a villain so hard that the guy’s head turns completely backwards on his body.

Perhaps the most awkward aspect of Ghajini is its flashbacks to the early days of Sanjay’s romance with Kalpana. The longest flashback sequence makes up the middle hour of the film and is, on its own, a typical yet entertaining Bollywood romantic comedy about mistaken identities. Asin Thottumkal is engaging as Kalpana, a role she originated in the 2005 Tamil language version of Ghajini. But the light-hearted flashback scenes feel totally inappropriate sandwiched between the humorless, ultra-violent action sequences of the present-day storyline.

There are actually some things that Ghajini does well. The chemistry between the lead couple during the flashbacks is terrific. The cinematography and fight choreography are excellent, and the film features some beautiful songs by A. R. Rahman. But the choppy story structure makes the film’s three-hour run time feel even longer, and it’s riddled with logical errors that Murugadoss should’ve corrected when making Ghajini for the second time. A film as good as Memento deserves a better remake than this.

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