Tag Archives: Brijendra Kala

Movie Review: Zero (2018)

0.5 Stars (out of 4)

Zero is a disaster for many reasons, but its biggest problem is that director Aanand L. Rai and writer Himanshu Sharma failed to realize that their film’s hero is a horrible person.

So why didn’t they notice that their creation, Bauua (Shah Rukh Khan), is an irredeemable prick? The filmmaking duo has a history of writing male leads who don’t respect the women they claim to love, like Kundan in Raanjhanaa and Manu in Tanu Weds Manu Returns. There’s also the assumption that Khan’s massive fanbase will automatically project their love for him onto his character, no matter who the character is or what he does.

Mostly they were blinded by the Zero‘s central conceit: using computer generated effects and film techniques similar to those used in the Lord of the Rings movies to shrink a superstar actor. Zero was never about the struggles of a man with dwarfism. If it were, they’d have at least gone through the pretext of casting a little person for the lead role. (Same goes for Anushka Sharma’s role as a woman with cerebral palsy.) This was always about spending a budget fives times as large as the filmmaking duo had previously worked with on fancy special effects and an expensive cast, trusting in those effects and stars to bring people to the theater — regardless of whether the movie was any good or not.

Other than his diminutive stature, nothing differentiates Bauua from any number of Bollywood male leads who believe their gender entitles them to anything they want. As the son of a rich father (played by Tigmanshu Dhulia), Bauua has coasted through life on Dad’s dime since dropping out of school in the tenth grade. Now aged 38 — Khan is 53, by the way — that means Bauua has spent twenty years doing absolutely nothing.

Nevertheless, he confidently turns down all the potential brides chosen by the matchmaker (played by Brijendra Kala) until he spots a photo of Aafia (Anushka Sharma). Bauua is initially turned off by the tremors caused by Aafia’s cerebral palsy, but he decides her use of a wheelchair makes them more-or-less equal. Never mind that he’s a high school dropout and she’s a world-renowned rocket scientist.

Bauua’s defining moment is his response to being rejected by Aafia after a presumptuous proposal in front of a bunch of elementary school students. Bauua shows up at a press conference to publicly humiliate Aafia, stating that while she may be able to lead a mission to Mars, she can’t pick up the pen he just dropped on the ground. Pleased with himself, he walks away, only to hear a commotion behind him as Aafia crawls on the ground and lifts the pen.

What Bauua does is unforgivable, yet Aafia immediately forgives him and their love blossoms. Aafia’s inexplicable forgiveness of Bauua is a clear example of Bollywood’s desperate need for female storytellers. Rai & Sharma aren’t done humiliating Aafia yet, as Bauua ditches her to take his shot with the country’s sexiest actress, Babita Kumari (Katrina Kaif, in the movie’s only role with any semblance of believable humanity).

After the intermission break, Zero goes full bonkers. Bauua replaces a chimpanzee training for a space mission (which is totally not insulting to little people or anything).

I’m not sure if it’s an intentional homage, but Zero has a lot of parallels to my favorite So-Bad-It’s-Good movie: Gunda. Both have a monkey and a baby that shows up out of nowhere. Vengeful Bauua frequently speaks in movie lines, Gunda‘s Bulla in couplets. There are montages that make no geographical sense, as when Bauua spends a song stumbling through Times Square, downtown Orlando, and Huntsville, Alabama — all of which are supposed to be the same place, apparently. Zero‘s opening dream sequence even reminded me of the scene in Gunda where Bulla’s sister is raped.

All of which is to say, Zero is a terrible movie. The only reason it merits even a half-a-star rating is because Katrina Kaif is so damned good in her role. The rest of the movie is a trash fire.

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Movie Review: Jannat 2 (2012)

jannat22.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

Jannat 2 is another Bollywood non-sequel sequel. Emraan Hashmi returns to play a different character than the one he played in 2008’s Jannat (“Heaven”), and neither of the storylines intersects in any way. With that in mind, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Jannat 2 is not entirely successful.

This time, Hashmi plays Sonu, a low-level gun dealer eager to leave his life of crime after he meets a beautiful doctor named Jaanvi (Esha Gupta). But Sonu is hounded by Pratap (Randeep Hooda), a detective determined to end the Delhi gun trade for good. Pratap blackmails Sonu into helping him track down Mangal Singh Tomar (Manish Chaudhary), the head of the illegal gun manufacturing business. Pratap promises to set Sonu free once Mangal is behind bars, assuming that Sonu survives.

Hashmi and Hooda are skilled at playing unsavory heroes, and they give strong performances in Jannat 2. Hashmi is effective at conveying the desperation of Sonu’s situation: twitchy and frantic while deceiving Mangal as Pratap’s informant, wide-eyed and hopeful when he’s with Jaanvi.

Hooda likewise plays Pratap as a man who’s barely holding things together, but driven by a mission. Pratap is cool and composed when he’s intimidating Sonu, but he privately turns to alcohol to dull the memories of his wife’s murder. Only his sidekick, Dadda (Brijendra Kala), really understands the amount of pain Pratap is in, and Kala imbues Dadda with much sadness and sympathy.

Sonu has a sidekick of his own, Balli (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub), who admits to being the more cowardly of the duo. He becomes more desperate throughout the movie, as he sees his friend pulling away from him and toward Jaanvi. Balli practically begs Sonu not to leave him, reminding Sonu that he will always be a crook and not the kind of stand-up guy Jaanvi deserves. Ayyub’s performance is another highlight of the film.

As much attention as Jaanvi is given as the impetus for Sonu’s change, Jannat 2 is really about the relationships between men: Sonu and Balli; Pratap and Dadda; and, most importantly, Sonu and Pratap. Jaanvi isn’t in the scene most critical to Sonu’s character growth, but Pratap is.

In fact, there’s not much for Jaanvi to do except stare blankly into the distance, looking pretty. Gupta gets a pass for failing to animate Jaanvi in her debut role, especially since the character is let down by poor writing.

For a doctor, Jaanvi is not very bright. Sonu spends the whole film lying to her that he runs a textile shop, and Jaanvi is never suspicious, despite never having actually seen his shop. The day after Sonu is released from a five-month incarceration — which he is up front about — he donates a large sum of money to Jaanvi’s hospital. Doesn’t she wonder how this guy was able to come up with so much money on short notice the day after getting out of the clink? (He earned it by selling booze illegally.) Doesn’t she wonder why he never introduces her to his family or friends, even as they discuss marriage?

A further knock against Jaanvi is that she’s mean to Sonu. When he seeks treatment for a hand wound at her hospital, she squeezes his injured hand in retaliation for getting fresh with her. She’s disdainful of him until he gives he donates his ill-gotten gains to her hospital, and then a song sequence convinces her that she’s in love. There’s no reason for Sonu to fall for a jerk like Jaanvi, apart from the fact that she’s pretty.

The writing throughout is film’s weakest aspect, beyond Jaanvi’s complete unlikability. Plot twists are predictable but not logical or inevitable. There’s no sense of the flow of time. Watch Jannat 2 for the performances by the leading men and their sidekicks, but don’t expect much from the story.

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