Tag Archives: Chetan Pandit

Movie Review: Married 2 America (2012)

1 Star (out of 4)

Whether a matter of bad luck or poor planning, it’s unfortunate that Married 2 America debuted in India a month before Kahaani (and released two months after Kahaani in the U.S.). Both movies share a remarkably similar premise, and since Kahaani is probably the best Hindi movie of 2012 so far, Married 2 America looks terrible by comparison.

But even without the high bar set by Kahaani, Married 2 America would still be a snoozefest. It feels more like an extended episode of a soap opera than an event worthy of the big screen.

Married 2 America — an utterly meaningless title — opens with scenes of a tragic dam collapse in India. A torrent of water decimates a model village straight from the set of a 1950s Godzilla movie. Small kudos to the special effects department for using real miniatures and not bad CGI effects, at least not until another laughable flood scene later in the movie.

Fast forward two weeks to the New Jersey home of unhappily married couple Ravi (Chetan Pandit) and Anjali (Archana Joglekar). Ravi is consumed by his work, though he won’t tell Anjali what the problem is as he rebuffs her romantic overtures. He acts like a jerk to her, then leaves for India without so much as a hug good-bye.

After no contact from her husband for almost four months, Anjali finally seeks answers from the American architectural firm Ravi works for. His inexplicably British boss Mr. Jason tells Anjali that Ravi probably abandoned the marriage because, “As a wife, you were too perfect.”

Anjali goes to India herself where she learns that Ravi built the dam that collapsed in the opening scenes. The tragedy claimed the lives of hundreds of people and left thousands more homeless. There are plenty of people who might want Ravi dead, especially if the collapse wasn’t an accident.

Let me jump back to Anjali’s visit to the architectural firm. It’s revealed early on that Ravi goes missing after uncovering evidence of a conspiracy. He never tells his company about it, so it’s not as though Mr. Jason has any reason to cover up Ravi’s disappearance. Mr. Jason is just mean to Anjali for no reason and apparently unconcerned that one of his star employees has flown the coop.

The story drags on forever as Ravi and Anjali are separately kidnapped by two different mafia dons, only to both escape on the same night in attempts to free each other, only to then be captured by the don who formerly held his or her spouse. Married 2 America has a two-and-a-half hour runtime because of nonsense like this.

The acting is uniformly terrible. Many of the supporting cast sound as though they’re reading from cue cards. Pandit and Joglekar sleepwalk their way through the film with dead-behind-the-eyes performances. Ravi’s televised speech in which he belatedly admits to sort-of loving Anjali is particularly cringe-worthy.

Since none of the actors are up to emoting, the corny soundtrack goes overboard with emotional cues. It adds to the melodramatic and soapy feel of the movie. The song montages featuring Anjali looking forlorn are a joke.

Skip Married 2 America and watch Kahaani instead.


Movie Review: Raajneeti (2010)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy or rent the movie at iTunes
Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon
Buy Prakash Jha’s book The Film and Beyond on Amazon

Early in Raajneeti (“Politics”), a veteran politician worries that the hot-headed young members of his party will screw up everything that he and his allies have worked for their whole lives. And that’s exactly what happens in this political soap opera.

Prithvi (Arjun Rampal) and Veerendra (Manoj Bajpai) are rising stars in a political party headed by Veerendra’s father, Bhanu. Bhanu’s brother, Chandra (Chetan Pandit) — who’s also Prithvi’s father — is his right-hand man. Chandra’s youngest son, Samar (Ranbir Kapoor), returns from studying in New York for his uncle’s birthday party.

When Bhanu suffers a stroke on his birthday, it sets off a power struggle between Prithvi and Veerendra, who sees himself as rightful heir to lead the party, despite his villainous mustache and penchant for satin suits. Handsome Prithvi is more popular, but he’s not such a great guy either. Bhanu recovers enough to name Chandra acting president in the hopes of maintaining party unity. It doesn’t work.

Veerendru tries to consolidate his power by taking under his wing a popular local athlete interested in running for office. The jock, Sooraj (Ajay Devgan), is the adopted son of Chandra’s chauffeur — and also the secret love-child of Chandra’s wife, Bharti (Nikhila Trikha), making him Pritvi & Samar’s older half-brother.

When Veerendru and Sooraj resort to violence to achieve their ambitions, Samar steps in to help his brother (the one he knows about, not the secret half-brother). Aiding him is Bharti’s brother, Brij (Nana Patekar), who’s long been the family’s clean-up man. The violence spirals out of control, ruining the lives of everyone involved.

With so many characters, it’s hard to keep track of everyone in Raajneeti. Oops, I left out two of the women critical to the story. There’s Sarah (Sarah Thompson, who played Eve in the final season of Angel), Samar’s American girlfriend. And there’s Indu (Katrina Kaif), who loves Samar but is forced into a political married to Prithvi by her wealthy father.

The story sounds convoluted, and it is. But the filmmakers take nearly three hours to tell the story, allowing enough time to give each character depth. There are no heroes in Raajneeti, and no one’s really innocent apart from Sarah, and that’s only because she’s an outsider.

I found Sarah’s perspective invaluable in the film. Every Hindi movie I’ve seen on the topic portrays Indian politics as violent and corrupt. It makes me wonder why anyone would want to enter the field, given the high mortality rate of Bollywood politicians. It was nice to have an onscreen avatar acting as shocked by the carnage as I was.

Indu also plays an important role, giving women a voice in a male-dominated arena. While she could’ve acted a few scenes more forcefully, Kaif is competent in her portrayal of a manipulated woman. It’s an ambitious choice for Kaif, and the right one if she’s looking to branch out from comedies.

While no one character dominates the screentime, Raajneeti wouldn’t work without Patekar as Brij. His character is involved in almost every critical decision, even if peripherally. Brij is a clean-up man who never gets his own hands dirty, allowing him to remain in good standing with the constituents. Patekar plays him as cool and controlled, manipulating people with a smile.

Brij is the eye of a storm that spirals out of control in the last 30 minutes of the movie. Subtle intrigues are abandoned for an orgy of violence that strains credulity. An important rule that the old politicians adhered to is to always get someone else to pull the trigger for you. The young upstarts forget that, and an unnecessary bloodbath ensues. It might make for a good movie, but it seems like bad politics.