Tag Archives: Dalip Tahil

Movie Review: Entertainment (2014)

Its_Entertainment2 Stars (out of 4)

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The distributors of Entertainment should require prospective international audience members to take a placement exam before entering the theater. Do you speak Hindi fluently? Have you seen every Bollywood movie of note since 1960? No? Then don’t bother buying a ticket, because you won’t understand most of the jokes.

It’s so frustrating because Entertainment‘s plot is straightforward and high concept. Akhil (Akshay Kumar) discovers that he’s the illegitimate son of a recently deceased millionaire, Pannalal Johri (Dalip Tahil). Thinking he had no heirs, Johri left his estate to his dog, Entertainment (Junior, a cute Golden Retriever). Akhil tries to get rid of the dog and claim the inheritance but learns that he’s not the only one after the money.

With Entertainment, directing duo Sajid-Farhad had the chance to make the kind of accessible, family friendly film that remains rare in Bollywood. Unfortunately, many potential audience members will feel left out while watching the movie.

As with many Bollywood comedies, there are loads of wordplay jokes that by their very nature don’t translate well from Hindi to English. Furthering the problem is that Akhil’s best friend, Jugnu (Krishna Abhishek), speaks exclusively in movie references. Only some of his references to the plots of classic movies are explained.

Worse, he cites dozens of popular actors, using the literal meanings of their names as the punchline. (The English equivalent would be names like Grace, Daisy, or John.) The production team’s stalwart translators display only the literal meanings for the English subtitles on screen. Though one can hear Jugnu say “Sonakshi Sinha” as part of a punchline, her name doesn’t appear on screen, only the direct translation. It botches the joke and clearly delineates non-Hindi speakers as outsiders.

Of course, the bulk of the audience for Entertainment resides in India, watches Bollywood movies, and speaks Hindi, but the easy-to-follow story and English title made this an obvious crossover movie. The final product squanders that opportunity.

Entertainment is much more successful when it demonstrates an understanding of movie conventions and uses them for humor than when it just has characters list the names of films and film stars. Some of Entertainment‘s funniest moments are when the movie breaks the fourth wall, usually at the hands of Akhil’s girlfriend, Saaskshi (Tamannaah Bhatia).

Saakshi is a TV soap opera actress who has trouble leaving her work at the office. She breaks into soliloquies in which she addresses the camera directly, and the results are always funny.

One more great bit of metafiction involves the other claimants to Johri’s fortune, stepbrothers Karan (Prakash Raj) and Arjun (Sonu Sood). Whenever Karan raises his hand to strike Arjun, Arjun cries and invokes their dead mother. This triggers a mournful old movie tune sung by a woman, which causes the brothers to cry and make up. This song isn’t just in their heads. It’s audible to everyone, causing Saakshi and Akhil to look around confusedly for the source of the spectral singing.

Though Kumar’s comic performances are hit-or-miss, he’s pretty good in Entertainment, because the slapstick isn’t overdone. The supporting performances are good, too, especially Bhatia, but also Johnny Lever as Johri’s estate manager, Habibullah. (There are a bunch of jokes involving people messing up Habibullah’s name, and I didn’t understand what was so funny about them, either).

If you speak Hindi and have a depth of knowledge of Bollywood movies, you’ll probably enjoy Entertainment. It has some good gags, there are tons of cute dogs, and the story moves quickly enough. If you don’t understand Hindi or aren’t a Bollywood historian, I’d skip it.

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Movie Review: War Chhod Na Yaar (2013)

War_Chhod_Na_Yaar_Theatrical_Poster2 Stars (out of 4)

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War Chhod Na Yaar (“Let’s Forsake War“) is neither as good nor as bad as it could have been. Given that the movie is a comedy about a war between India and Pakistan, the fact that it’s not a disaster is something of a success in its own right.

War Chhod Na Yaar (WCNY, henceforth) avoids many potential pitfalls by laying blame for the ongoing hostilities between India and Pakistan far up the chain, and not at the feet of the soldiers on the front lines. The film blames politicians hungry for votes, foreign powers hungry for money, and news outlets hungry for sensational headlines.

The action takes place primarily at a pair of army outposts along the border. The soldiers on opposite sides of the barbed wire fence exist under an informal truce built on the playfully contentious friendship between Indian Captain Raj (Sharman Joshi) and Pakistani Captain Qureshi (Javed Jaffrey), who secretly meet at night to play cards.

Their peace is threatened when the Indian Defense Minister (Dalip Tahil) reveals to a reporter, Rut (Soha Ali Khan), that war will break out in two days time. They travel to the Indian outpost where the minister enlists Rut’s help in creating a propaganda video to be released after the fighting begins. The minister quickly gets out of Dodge, but Rut stays to find out what life is really like for the soldiers. She and Raj fall in love in the process.

Many of the jokes come at the expense of the Pakistani Army, who are portrayed as bumbling due to chronic malnourishment. The leader of the Pakistani troops, Commander Khan (Sanjai Mishra), is supposed to be played for laughs, but his character isn’t well-defined enough to really be funny. He’s a collection of character flaws rather than a character with flaws.

Another problem is that many of the jokes rely on Hindi wordplay and rhymes, and they don’t survive the translation into English. Likewise, certain jokes rely on regional and cultural knowledge that international audiences lack.

Joshi and Jaffrey are charming as the friendly officers, but Khan doesn’t pull off the reporter role. The soldiers from two hostile countries engage in a singing competition, but Rut doesn’t find it newsworthy enough to record with her video camera.

Tahil plays not only the Indian Defense Minister, but the defense minister from Pakistan, America, and China. The Chinese defense minister would’ve been recognizable in his army uniform and Chairman Mao hairstyle, so I could’ve done without the potentially offensive eye makeup. (And why are the Chinese minister’s two bodyguards African?) But Tahil is pretty funny as the American defense chief, who’s clearly modeled on George W. Bush.

WCNY portrays China and America as pitting India and Pakistan against each other in a proxy war. The U.S. gets off relatively easy under accusations of profiteering. China, on the other hand, is repeatedly criticized for flooding India and Pakistan with cheaply made products. The Pakistani army is so ineffective because all of their Chinese-made weapons are defective.

WCNY falls prey to a common mistake: over-explaining things rather than trusting the audience to interpret events for themselves. When the predetermined nature of the war is revealed on Rut’s cable news network, the film cuts to reaction shots of ordinary citizens as they take to the streets in outrage.

All the movie needs to show is the ruse revealed. The audience can figure out what would come next. The movie doesn’t need to show man-on-the-street interviews of random people saying how bad corruption is. We know it is!

I doubt that WCNY will inspire many other filmmakers to tread the tricky ground of India’s ongoing tension with Pakistan, but it does show that it’s possible to do so without being offensive. Now the trick is to make it funny.

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Movie Review: Prince (2010)

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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2008’s Drona aspired to be an original, inspirational Indian superhero movie, but failed to reach its potential. Prince, while derivative of Western superhero movies, succeeds as a fun action flick sure to spawn a sequel.

Prince (Vivek Oberoi) is an anti-hero who makes James Bond look like a slacker. Prince is the world’s greatest thief, capable of pulling off outrageous international heists while avoiding capture. He has an arsenal of high-tech gadgets. He’s unbeatable in a fight. Women love him. And, to top it all off, he can dance.

The morning after a job, Prince wakes up to find a butler he doesn’t recognize tending to a mysterious bullet wound on his arm. He can’t remember anything about his life, not even his own name.

Prince is kidnapped by a secret Indian government agency operating covertly in South Africa. The agency leader, Colonel Khanna (Dalip Tahil), explains that Prince lost his memory while stealing a valuable antique coin. Of course, Prince doesn’t remember where he hid the coin.

His girlfriend and criminal partner, Maya, offers to help him. Prince doesn’t recognize Maya but accepts her help. Things get confusing when two other women show up, also claiming to be Maya.

Everyone Prince meets gives him conflicting information about why the missing coin is so special. Is it a tool to entrap a master criminal named Sarang? A magical artifact? A nano-weapon? The only way for Prince to learn the truth and recover his memory is to find the coin.

Prince works because it is self-aware. Hanging inside Prince’s “batcave” of gadgets and costumes are posters of Batman, Spider-man and Iron Man, American superheroes whose movies obviously inspired Prince.

The film is an improvement on one of producer Kumar Taurani’s previous efforts, Race. While Taurani hasn’t lost his love of preposterous explosions that make vehicles flip in midair, Prince‘s lead characters are more appealing that the jerks in Race.

When writing the inevitable sequels to Prince, there are a few flaws from the original that the filmmakers would be wise not to repeat. First are the disappointingly slow chase scenes. If terrain is too bumpy for jeeps and mopeds to operate at high speeds, shoot the scene in a different location.

Second is the woeful misuse of a shark tank. There is but one use for sharks in movies: eating people. That no one falls in the shark tank during a late scene is unforgivable.

Another underused prop is the villain Sarang’s bionic hand. While it looks like something out of Terminator, is doesn’t do anything apart from giving Sarang’s punches a little extra oomph. He could’ve at least, you know, crushed a guy’s throat with it or something.

Apart from a few missed opportunities for grisly deaths, Prince is a fun action movie that, while not mentally taxing, at least makes sense within the rules it sets for itself. In order to enjoy a 2 hour 15 minute Bollywood action movie, that’s often all that I require.