Tag Archives: David Dhawan

Movie Review: Judwaa 2 (2017)

2 Stars (out of 4)

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Even with a new cast, Judwaa 2 feels dated.

Judwaa 2 is less of a true sequel to 1997’s Judwaa than a reboot, switching out Salman Khan in the lead role for Varun Dhawan (son of the director of both films, David Dhawan). Unlike a lore-heavy fantasy or superhero flick, watching the original Judwaa isn’t a prerequisite for watching Judwaa 2.

The reboot opens with Mr. Malhotra (Sachin Khedekar) flying home for the birth of his twin sons. A seemingly friendly fellow passenger named Charles (Zakir Hussain) slips some contraband into Malhotra’s bag, but Malhotra has already alerted the police, who attempt to apprehend Charles when he shows up at the hospital to collect his goods.

Charles escapes with one of the newborn baby boys as a hostage, accidentally dropping him on some train tracks. Charles blows up a building, lying that the boy was inside and vowing to come back some day for Malhotra’s other son. This seems like a disproportionate revenge response given that the police were already on to Charles and Malhotra just made their job a little easier.

As the cops haul Charles away and Malhotra grieves for the son he believes to be dead, a train bears down on the dropped baby. The boy — who will shortly be named Raja by the lady who discovers him — gets a metaphysical assist from his brother, Prem. The doctor who delivered the boys explained to the Malhotras that, because the boys were born attached at the arm (separated by a surgery that doesn’t even leave a scar, LOL), they share a connection that occurs “one in eight million” times. When the boys are within even a few miles of one another, they will feel each other’s emotions and physical sensations.

Sensing Raja’s fear at the oncoming train, Prem — displaying remarkable muscle control for a newborn — rolls to his side in his crib, causing Raja to roll safely off the tracks as the train passes by. The sequence is exactly as stupid as it sounds, made stupider by cheap-looking CGI.

The Malhotras flee to safety in London, where Prem grows up to be a wimpy nerd who is nevertheless built like a Mr. Universe contestant. Raja is a brash street urchin with a heart of gold who gets into trouble when he beats up rich guy Alex (Vivan Bhatena) for being a jerk. Raja and his adopted brother Nandu (Rajpal Yadav) flee to London to escape Alex’s wrath. Nandu is excited at the opportunity to sexually harass the air hostesses on the flight, and Raja hits on Alishka (Jacqueline Fernandez), the beautiful woman sitting next to him.

With the long-lost brothers finally in the same city, their metaphysical link reactivates. Raja feels the pain when a bully grabs Prem’s junk, and Prem slaps people when Raja gets into a fight. Prem also kisses his cute classmate Samaira (Taapsee Pannu) and her mother (Upasana Singh) when Raja smooches Alishka in an attempt to hide his face from the police.

While multiple Baahubali references root the story in the modern day, elements such as lazy plotting and the normalization of sexual harassment make Judwaa 2 feel out-of-date. There’s no reason why the gags involving the female love interests couldn’t have been updated to reflect the progressive direction many Hindi films have adopted regarding gender politics.

It’s a missed opportunity, considering the caliber of Judwaa 2‘s two leading ladies. Jacqueline Fernandez is perhaps Bollywood’s best female physical comedian. She sells every scene she’s in, no matter how silly she’s asked to be. If you can take your eyes off of her impressive dance moves, watch her expressive face during her song performances. She’s a total pro.

Taapsee Pannu’s performance is a reminder of her incredible versatility. She proved her dramatic chops in Pink and her action skills in Baby and its follow-up Naam Shabana, a spin-off created just for her. Judwaa 2 is a return to her roots in Hindi cinema; her debut film was the 2013 comedy Chashme Baddoor, also directed by David Dhawan. Judwaa 2 not only finds Pannu playing for laughs again, but dancing up a storm and flaunting a physique as impressive as any of her Bollywood contemporaries.

Varun Dhawan is charismatic in his double role, but there’s not much that we haven’t seen from him before. His resume is already heavy on comedies, and this isn’t one of the better ones. It’s not just the poor treatment of the female leads at his characters’ hands that makes Judwaa 2 feel like a throwback. There’s an offensive fight sequence involving a group of black men whom Raja refers to as “the West Indies team.” Raja repeatedly taunts them, ending his sentences with a Caribbean-accented “mon,” even though the men themselves say the word “man” with British accents.

Other than those issues, Judwaa 2 isn’t as morally problematic as it could have been (faint praise, indeed). The dance numbers are fun, and Fernandez and Pannu make more out of their roles than they’re given to work with. Judwaa 2 is a watchable movie, but not a memorable one.

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Movie Review: Main Tera Hero (2014)

MTH_Poster3 Stars (out of 4)

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Ever since the traumatizing experiences of watching Do Knot Disturb and Rascals, director David Dhawan’s name has struck fear in my heart. But after last year’s cute comedy Chashme Baddoor and now Main Tera Hero (“I’m Your Hero“), I have less reason to fear.

Main Tera Hero infuses the romantic comedy genre with action to accompany some impressive dance numbers. The hero at the center is played by Varun Dhawan (David’s son), whose substantial charisma hints at a long career ahead for a young actor in only his second film.

Varun plays Seenu, a worthless trickster so loathed in his hometown of Ooty that all the residents wave a gleeful farewell to him when he boards the train to Bangalore. He arrives at university and begs a statue of Krishna — who talks back — to help him focus on his studies. Seenu turns to see beautiful Sunaina (Ileana D’Cruz), hair streaming in the breeze, and he interprets her appearance as a sign from God. Seenu doesn’t linger to hear Krishna bemoan having a devotee dim enough to mistake a gust of wind for divine intervention.

Seenu’s pursuit of Sunaina is complicated by the fact that Angad (Arunoday Singh) — a burly police officer with anger issues — already has his eyes on her. Seenu turns the mischievous nature that made him so loathed in Ooty into an asset, and he tricks Angad into letting him court Sunaina.

D’Cruz rocks some great facial expressions throughout the movie, but she’s at her best during this courtship phase. Seenu tries to win Sunaina with the song “Palat Tera Hero Idhar Hai,” but Sunaina spends most of the song being startled by him. It’s hilarious to watch her jump as a horn plays behind her or Seenu surprises her at a movie theater.

Seenu’s pursuit is derailed at the movie’s halfway point when a secret admirer of his — Ayesha (Nargis Fakhri), a gangster’s daughter — tricks Seenu into coming to Bangkok to rescue Sunaina. This twist isn’t set up well, but it provides an excuse to get Varun, D’Cruz, and Fakhri into swimsuits and chilling poolside at a Bangkok mansion. That’s the whole point of the movie, right?

There’s plenty of skin on display, as well as an overabundance of pelvic thrusts. David Dhawan repeatedly positions the camera on the ground and points it up at Varun’s crotch. Thanks for pointing out exactly where Varun’s penis is, David, since we couldn’t see it through his pants.

More than just a thrusting pelvis, Varun does some good work in Main Tera Hero. He’s always engaged, throwing in subtle gestures and glances that maintain interest while Seenu does utilitarian things like walk from Point A to Point B. He’s also a tremendous dancer, and the movie’s several dance numbers allow him to show off.

Main Tera Hero has a really strong supporting cast, from Rajpal Yadav as Angad’s much abused sidekick, Peter, to Saurab Shukla as Ayesha’s father’s much abused sidekick, Balli. Ayesha’s father (played by Anupam Kher in an awesome wig) speaks with an echo, a tic that resulted from him being born in a valley. The “echo” is just Kher saying the same word three or four times at the end of a sentence, making the joke that much funnier.

The echo bit fits nicely with other surreal elements — like talking statues and balloons that wink — that help make sense of the random sound effects of which director Dhawan is fond.

The weak link in the cast is Fakhri. Though she speaks more Hindi dialogue in Main Tera Hero than she has in her previous films, she still sounds like she’s reading a cue card for the first time when she delivers lines in her native English.

There are also gender-bias flaws inherent in this kind of male-hero-centered film. Seenu falls in love with Sunaina on first sight, and uses his love to justify his pursuit of her despite her repeated objections. Later, Seenu fails to see the hypocrisy in his condescending dismissal of Ayesha’s love-at-first-sight for him. That kind of love, he claims, is mutual, even though it took several days for Sunaina to fall for him.

Accepting those flaws, Main Tera Hero is nevertheless pretty harmless. It has some laughs, energetic dance numbers, and an attractive cast. It’s exactly what it’s supposed to be.

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Opening April 4: Main Tera Hero

The action-comedy Main Tera Hero opens in Chicago area theaters on April 4, 2014. David Dhawan directs his son, Varun, and co-stars Nargis Fakhri and Ileana D’Cruz.

Main Tera Hero opens on Friday at the AMC 600 North Michigan 9 in Chicago, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 8 min.

The South Barrington 30 is also carrying over Queen, which continues to post big returns at the North American box office.

The Lunchbox carries over at the Century 12 Evanston in Evanston and Renaissance Place Cinema in Highland Park.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend include Legend (Telugu, with English subtitles) at the Muvico Rosemont 18 in Rosemont and Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge; Rowdy (Telugu) at the Rosemont 18 and South Barrington 30; and Balyakalasakhi (Malayalam), Cuckoo (Tamil), and Oru Kanniyum Moonu Kalavaanikalum (Tamil) at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles.

Movie Review: Chashme Baddoor (2013)

Chashme_Baddoor_(2013_film)_Poster3 Stars (out of 4)

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Chashme Baddoor is an enjoyable comedy, and I’m not just saying that because Ali Zafar is adorable. And his hair looks so soft. And when he smiles, I feel like I’m floating.

Knowing that David Dhawan is responsible for both the film’s direction and updating the screenplay from 1981’s Chashme Buddoor, I expected the film to be as crude and tedious as some of his other recent comedies, like Rascals and Do Knot Disturb. Though it has a few annoying elements, Chashme Baddoor is a sweet, funny film about the ways love can interfere with friendship.

The plot focuses on three best friends living it up in Goa: bookish Sid (Ali Zafar) and two aspiring Lotharios, Jai (Siddharth) and Omi (Divyendu Sharma). Their landlady, Ms. Josephine (Lilette Dubey), and the tough-guy owner of the local bar, Mr. Joseph (Rishi Kapoor), can’t understand why a guy with as much potential as Sid hangs out with two losers.

The film introduces Jai and Omi first, which is something of a mistake, since they’re not as likeable as a Sid. The apparent risqué humor of Omi’s romantic poetry doesn’t translate well from spoken Hindi into English subtitles, and Jai is too brash. Their antics are often accompanied by irritating musical cues that had me reaching for my earplugs.

Jai and Omi take turns trying to woo the cute new girl in town, Seema (Taapsee Pannu). Both flame out, but conceal their failure from each other and Sid, inventing stories of romantic conquest. When Sid — having never seen Seema before — falls for her, Jai and Omi conspire to break the couple apart before Seema can reveal their rebuffed flirtations and subsequent lies.

More than just a pretty face, Zafar does a fine job playing Sid as a regular guy. He’s shy, but not mousey; scholarly, not nerdy. Sid’s presence has a calming influence on his buddies, and Omi and Jai are at their best when they’re with Sid.

Pannu likewise does a fine job with Seema, who is feisty without becoming a shrill caricature. She’s youthful but a bit more worldly and confident than Sid, enough to lead him to believe that she could be a lot more worldly than him.

Anupam Kher plays a double role as Seema’s father and uncle. Kher’s characters are even more outrageous than Omi and Jai and are accompanied by even noisier sound effects. This isn’t my favorite performance by Kher.

Kapoor and Dubey, however, are very cute as Joseph and Josephine, a pair of single adults whose courtship is heartwarming. Their story could’ve been more thoroughly integrated into the main plot, but they are delightful every minute they are on screen.

Even during its darkest moments, Chashme Baddoor never gets too dark. When romances and friendships are at risk of falling apart, there’s always a sense that the relationships can be saved, because the characters are all good at heart. This is unapologetic light entertainment that succeeds because it maintains a carefree air throughout.

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Worst Bollywood Movies of 2011

In 2011, Bollywood produced a number of movies that advanced the role of women in film and pushed the boundaries of traditional storytelling style. This post is not about those movies. This post is about the worst films of the year. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)

Video services like YouTube and Netflix have allowed smaller studios to bypass the theater distribution system and reach an international audience via the Internet. While the development is a welcome one, it doesn’t mean that every film available online merits viewing. Inept, low-budget stinkers like Cycle Kick, Love Express and Impatient Vivek aren’t worth it, even for free.

Neither is a showing on the big screen a guarantee of quality. Indie film I Am Singh made it into Chicago area theaters but left after just one week. Aarakshan, Thank You, Dum Maaro Dum and Mausam all had large budgets and star casts but failed to impress.

While a number of this year’s movies featured empowered female characters, Turning 30 did its best to undermine feminism. The movie — written and directed by a woman — features a lead character who spends most of the movie wallowing in self-pity after she’s dumped. Turning 30 ends with the appalling suggestion that self-respect and a happy marriage shouldn’t be as important to women as having babies.

This year’s worst Bollywood movie manages to combine all of the above offenses into one unwatchable mess. It’s sloppily made, despite having a budget large enough to pay an A-list cast. It’s sexist. As a bonus, it’s also full of racist stereotypes.

The Worst Bollywood Movie of 2011 is Rascals.

Director David Dhawan is a repeat offender, being the man responsible for my worst movie of 2009, Do Knot Disturb. Rascals — a farce about two crooks fighting for one woman’s affections — seems tailor-made for comic action set pieces. Dhawan even cast action stars Sanjay Dutt and Ajay Devgn as the leads, but gave them little to do besides talk.

The movie’s female lead, played by Kangana Ranaut, spends the bulk of her screentime strutting around in a bikini while whining in a shrill voice: not exactly the postergirl for women’s lib.

Dhawan set Rascals in Thailand, then cast scores of blonde women to serve as gyrating backup dancers and dark-skinned African actors to play armed criminals. Were there no local Thai actors to fill those roles? Why make those casting decisions except to appeal to racist stereotypes?

All those problems aside, Dhawan’s biggest sin in Rascals is laziness. There are numerous continuity errors and bloopers that would’ve been easy to rectify, but Dhawan didn’t bother. Perhaps he thinks his target audience members — misogynists who find two men slapping each other hilarious — don’t care about stuff like a plot that makes sense. Maybe he thinks they’ll pay their money to see heroes like Dutt and Devgn on screen no matter how stupid the story.

I’d like to believe that we moviegoers are smarter than that.

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Movie Review: Desi Boyz (2011)

2 Stars (out of 4)

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Desi Boyz borrows liberally from the plots of movies like The Full Monty and Loverboy while failing to really understand either. Both of the Hollywood comedies are about ordinary men pressured into selling their bodies (in one way or another). In the process, they learn that romance is about more than looks, and that men and women both have insecurities about sex.

Debutant writer-director Rohit Dhawan misses the point of the movies he’s aping, and instead casts two of the hunkiest actors in India — John Abraham and Akshay Kumar — to play a pair of down-on-their-luck Londoners forced to dance at bachelorette parties for dozens of sexy, scantily clad women.

Abraham plays Nick, a financier, and Kumar plays Jerry, a mall security guard and (gasp!) college dropout. Jerry is  responsible for his young nephew, Veer, following the deaths of the boy’s parents. Nick is planning a dream wedding for his girlfriend, Radhika (Deepika Padukone).

Their plans fall apart when they are both laid off. In order to keep child services at bay, Jerry signs on with an escort service called Desi Boyz. Nick reluctantly agrees to help Jerry for Veer’s sake. While their new careers forestall financial ruin, child services take Veer when they learn the source of Jerry’s income. Radhika spots the guys performing at a bachelorette party and dumps Nick.

While film’s promos focus on Abraham and Kumar as strippers, that plotline is dropped after the first half of the movie, never to be resurrected. The second half falls into the doldrums as Jerry goes back to college and Nick tries to win Radhika back by living in a trailer on her front lawn and smoking pot with her dad, played by the always delightful Anupam Kher.

All of this is supposed to enforce the tidy moral messages that dignity shouldn’t be sacrificed for short-term gains and that one can only succeed with a college degree. So why does Jerry, immediately upon getting his degree, blackmail someone into giving him a job with false accusations of sexual assault? What kind of moral message does that send?

There’s similarly inconsistent character growth in the Nick and Radhika storyline. Nick, the supposed champion of hard work, ultimately wins Radhika back by being a slacker. Radhika is no peach herself, leading on a nerdy suitor played by Omi Vaidya solely to make Nick jealous.

Desi Boyz would’ve been more interesting had Vaidya and Kher played the guys forced to become strippers. Or Nick’s character could’ve been marginalized, shifting the focus onto Jerry as he supports Veer and pays his way through college working as a male escort. (How did broke, jobless Jerry find the money for college anyway? The movie doesn’t explain).

Rohit Dhawan has some potential as a filmmaker if he can keep his stories focused and his characters consistent. I like his debut better than most of the movies I’ve seen by his father, filmmaker David Dhawan.

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Movie Review: Rascals (2011)

Zero Stars (out of 4)

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Director David Dhawan is responsible for my worst Bollywood movie of 2009: Do Knot Disturb. Dhawan looks on track to reclaim the title this year with Rascals, a movie that exemplifies filmmaking at its laziest.

Let me start with a small example of the laziness that permeates Rascals. Early in the film, a tough guy named Anthony (Arjun Rampal) walks into a bar to watch a soccer game, and he places a bet on Brazil. Cut to the TV for a shot of the game, and it’s a game between Germany and Argentina.

A mistake like that wouldn’t have been a big deal if the movie was otherwise competently made. But here’s what it tells me about Dhawan’s level of respect for the audience: he has none. He thinks that moviegoers will be happy to spend two hours watching Ajay Devgn and Sanjay Dutt slap each other while Kangana Ranaut struts around in a bikini.

The problems stem from the crap story at the heart of Rascals. The plot is essentially a dumbed-down version of Bluffmaster!, but without a moral compass. Devgan and Dutt play Bhagat and Chetan (respectively), a pair of thieves who each independently steal from Anthony on the same day. Both flee to Bangkok, where they become rivals for the affections of Khushi (Ranaut).

Bhagat and Chetan spend the bulk of the film trying to thwart each other’s advances on clueless Khushi. Anthony doesn’t reenter the story until the last twenty minutes or so.

Rascals feels much longer than its two-hour runtime. Scenes are introduced without any set-up, and frequently without narrative purpose. Despite having two action stars as its leads, there are few action scenes, but lots of boring conversations between characters. Ranaut’s shrill delivery makes these scenes almost unbearable.

It’s not entirely Ranaut’s fault that her character so irritating. Khushi isn’t written to have any sort of depth or personality: she’s a dumb sex object, as is the only other major female character in Rascals, an escort named Dolly (Lisa Haydon).

A reliance upon stereotypes is another example of creative laziness in Rascals. Women are stupid and only good for sex; white women are particularly slutty (as evidence by the suspiciously high number of scantily clad, blonde backup dancers in Thailand); men are sex-crazed.

Not wanting to let an opportunity for casual racism slip by, Dhawan includes a scene in which Bhagat and Chetan are caught up in a bank robbery. The robbers are all black Africans. In Thailand.

I won’t go so far as to say that Dhawan is racist or sexist (though I can’t figure out why he thought it was cool to have Anthony vent his anger toward Bhagat and Chetan by slapping his innocent sister in the face). I just think he’s careless. Careless about the messages his movies send, not to mention careless about details.

Details like having the characters in Rascals celebrate Christmas just days after they celebrated Valentine’s Day.

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