Tag Archives: Dimple Kapadia

Movie Review: Welcome Back (2015)

WelcomeBack1 Star (out of 4)

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Even at their best, writer-director Anees Bazmee’s movies are mediocre. At their worst, they are unbearable. Welcome Back is one of the worst.

In the eight years since the events of Welcome, gangsters Uday (Nana Patekar) and Majnu (Anil Kapoor) have left their criminal pasts behind, striking it rich as hoteliers in Dubai. Deciding that it’s time to get married and start their own families, they fall for the same woman: an heiress named Chandni (Ankita Shrivastava), who’s always accompanied by her mother, Maharani (Dimple Kapadia).

The guys’ marriage plans are put on hold when Uday’s father (also played by Patekar) reveals that Uday has another sister — Ranjhana (Shruti Haasan) — he needs marry off first. The “decent” guy they find for her, Ajju (John Abraham), turns out to be a don pretending to be something he’s not — just like Uday and Majnu.

The plot unfolds at furious pace but burns out quickly. After the first thirty minutes or so, very little that happens feels necessary. Everything else appears to be the indulgence of Bazmee’s whims. Helicopters? Camels? Vampire dance party? Check.

Welcome Back‘s story spins so far out of control that Bazmee doesn’t even try to give the film a real ending. He leaves his characters hanging in mid-air, literally and figuratively.

Watching the film becomes an endurance test in the second half, when Naseeruddin Shah shows up as yet another don, Wanted Bhai. At this point, Welcome Back descends to Gunda-level geographic incoherence. Wanted lives in a mansion on an island only accessible by plane. Yet — while on the island — Uday and Majnu are able to drive to a desert and to a mountain range. They also find a graveyard on the island, evoking more memories of Gunda:

It’s hard for any performances to stand out in a movie that requires its characters to behave so stupidly, but Shrivastava is pretty good as a gold digger. Her covert expressions of disgust while wooing the much older bachelors are funny. Kapadia is also exceedingly glamorous.

Another member of the cast stands out for the wrong reasons. Shiney Ahuja plays Wanted’s drug-addicted son, Honey, who is obsessed with Ranjhana. (Azmee doesn’t even bother explaining how Honey knows Ranjhana.)

In 2011, Ahuja was convicted of raping a member of his household staff and sentenced to seven years in prison. He is out on bail while appealing his conviction (a major difference from the American justice system, where sentences are effective immediately, and appeals are adjudicated while the defendant is behind bars).

Azmee says that he didn’t take Ahuja’s conviction into account when casting him in Welcome Back, simply believing that Ahuja fit the part. “I am a filmmaker,” Bazmee told IANS, “and I do not think about anything more than that.”

Are we supposed to believe that there were no other actors who could have played this particular supporting role? While Azmee may not be bothered by Ahuja’s criminal past, many people will be. When we see Ahuja grinding on Shrivastava in a “sexy” dance number, it’s impossible not to reminded of the fact that he was convicted of sexually assaulting a woman.

Acting in films is a privilege, not a right. There was no reason for Azmee to cast Ahuja in this role at the expense of another actor without a violent criminal past. If Azmee can’t appreciate why this is a problem, is he the right person to helm a multi-million dollar film?

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Movie Review: Finding Fanny (2014)

Finding_Fanny_Theatrical_release_poster3 Stars (out of 4)

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“No one deserves an incomplete love story.” Finding Fanny humorously and thoughtfully explores the ways that waiting for an answer suspends us in time.

The above quote is spoken by the film’s narrator, Angie (Deepika Padukone), a 26-year-old widow living in Pocolim, a tiny town in Goa. Life’s forward progress stopped for Angie when her husband (Ranveer Singh) choked to death on their wedding cake, though she’s serene about her situation. She lives with her mother-in-law, Rosie (Dimple Kapadia), the queen bee of Pocolim.

Angie’s best friend is Ferdie (Naseeruddin Shah), the town’s mailman. His forward progress stopped forty-six years ago when he wrote a letter proposing marriage to a girl named Fanny Fernandez, but never received a response. He’s the only boy in the church choir with white hair.

One night, the letter Ferdie mailed to Fanny is slipped under his door, unopened and undelivered. Angie organizes a trip to help Ferdie find Fanny and discover what her answer would have been. She enlists the help of her mother-in-law, her recently returned childhood sweetheart, Savio (Arjun Kapoor), and Don Pedro, (Pankaj Kapur), a visiting artist obsessed with voluptuous Rosie and owner of the town’s only car.

Of course the brief road trip winds up far more complicated than expected, and tensions flare within the group. Ferdie reveals to Savio the reason why his formerly close friendship with Rosie ended, and Savio fights with Angie about what would’ve happened had he married her instead. Don Pedro’s lecherous ogling of Rosie doesn’t help matters.

Finding Fanny is a beautiful looking film, thanks to cinematographer Anil Mehta. There are lots of wonderful individual shots — Angie’s face as she stares pensively out the open car window, for example — as well as wide shots showing the vastness of the world outside of Pocolim that never before interested Rosie, Ferdie, or Angie. The visual beauty is enhanced by Mathias Duplessy’s vibrant score.

The actors keep their performances subdued. Much is communicated non-verbally, especially by the expressive faces of Padukone and Shah. At the same time, the characters are all funny, none more so than Kapadia’s Rosie. The members of the traveling party are eccentrics, not outrageous goofballs or weirdos.

The glaring exception to the subtly rule is a Russian man who now owns Fanny’s childhood home. His delivery is so loud and exaggerated in comparison to the other performances that it feels out-of-place.

Perhaps the film’s biggest fault lies in the development of Angie’s character (though that’s not a slight on Padukone’s terrific portrayal). It’s obvious what every other character wants: Savio wants Angie; Don Pedro wants Rosie; Ferdie wants the Fanny of his memories; and Rosie wants to live a dignified life that she controls.

It’s never clear what Angie wants, other than to reunite Ferdie with Fanny. She speaks in important-sounding vagaries that don’t really mean anything. Is the point that she’s still too young to know what she wants? That we should be at peace with what we have? I was never sure. That’s a letdown for a character who’s not only the film’s narrator, but also the most important person in the lives of Ferdie, Rosie, and Savio.

Still, Finding Fanny is one of the more intriguing movies to come out of Bollywood this year. The fact that the dialogue is in English just adds to the intrigue. It’s unique, enjoyable, and worth a watch.

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Movie Review: Cocktail (2012)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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An attractive cast and raucous party scenes are the lure Cocktail uses to draw the audience into an exploration of modern romance and female friendship. It’s a frothy concoction that packs a punch.

Country girl Meera (Diana Penty) arrives in London to reunite with her husband Kunal (Randeep Hooda), only to learn that the marriage was a scam to cheat her out of her dowry money. Alone in an unfamiliar city, Meera meets Veronica (Deepika Padukone), a party girl. Veronica’s decadent lifestyle is financed by her wealthy absentee father, and she offers Meera a place to stay without a second thought. Though opposites in temperament, the women become best friends.

During a night on the town, Veronica plays a prank on Gautam (Saif Ali Khan), a serial flirt who hit on Meera when she first arrived in London. Veronica and Gautam become romantically involved, and he moves into Veronica’s house as well, forming a truce with Meera.

In order to get his mother (Dimple Kapadia) to stop pressuring him about marriage, Gautam admits that he’s in a relationship. When Mom arrives unexpectedly from India, Gautam says that prim, proper Meera is his girlfriend, not drunk, half-naked Veronica. The charade continues on a South African vacation where things get predictably complicated.

The story is organized as a classic Bollywood tale-of-two-halves. The first half of the film is lighthearted as the friends get to know each other. Some of the best laughs come courtesy of Gautam’s uncle, played by Boman Irani.

The second half of the film becomes an interesting character study with meaningful dialog. Writers Imtiaz Ali and Sajid Ali offer insightful commentary on modern, hook-up culture through the characters of Gautam and Veronica.

As soon as Gautam starts his sham relationship with Meera, everyone in the audience knows that things will end badly, but Gautam honestly doesn’t. He thinks he can say sweet things to Meera and that she won’t fall for him, and that he can do this in front of Veronica without making her jealous. He treats his “no strings attached” status with Veronica as a contract, a shield from future emotional attachment. Khan is very good in the scenes when Gautam finally realizes that this is not the case.

Padukone is likewise captivating when Veronica finally appreciates the hollowness of her party lifestyle. “I know what everyone thinks of me,” she says, heartbreakingly. Veronica fights dirty for the life she thinks she wants, a life that seems destined for Meera but not her. As misguided as she is, Veronica is very relatable.

Debutant actor Penty jumps into the deep end with Cocktail. Khan and Padukone are talented and sexy and have an established rapport, having worked together as romantic leads in Imtiaz Ali’s Love Aaj Kal. Even Hooda, Irani, and Kapadia are superb in their supporting roles. Penty’s performance isn’t quite as nuanced as those of her fellow cast members — she needs to learn to emote with her eyes and work on her dance moves — but she’s not a distraction. Meera isn’t as flashy as Veronica or Gautam, and Penty’s restrained performance suits her character.

The few complaints I have about the movie have to do with the sound design. There’s a paucity of background music in the first half, making it feel as though the scenes lack a connective thread. Also, the music that is there gets mixed very loud relative to the dialog, like when television commercials are significantly louder than the shows they interrupt.

If you watch enough movies, it becomes easy to predict how a plot will progress. With about thirty minutes remaining in Cocktail, I wrote the note: “How will this end?” It’s a lot of fun to be taken along for the ride for a change.

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Movie Review: Being Cyrus (2005)

Zero Stars (out of 4)

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Rarely do I wish that an Indian film was longer, given that the majority are nearly two-and-a-half hours long. But Being Cyrus, which runs only 89 minutes, seems far too short to give its damaged characters time to develop. Or maybe the characters and story were poorly conceived to begin with, and no amount of time would’ve allowed them to develop.

The presumptive lead character of the film is the titular Cyrus (Saif Ali Khan), an adult orphan who answers an ad for an artist’s assistant. The artist is Dinshaw Sethna (Naseeruddin Shah), a recluse so stoned that he doesn’t recall placing the ad. Dinshaw’s horny, attention-starved wife, Katy (Dimple Kapadia), insists that Cyrus move in with them and be their errand boy.

Early on, the film relies heavily on Cyrus’ narration (in English) to explain the complex relationships within the Sethna family. The withered patriarch, Fardounjee (Honey Chhaya), lives in squalor under the care of Dinshaw’s cruel and cheap industrialist brother, Farrokh (Boman Irani), and Farrokh’s meek young wife, Tina (Simone Singh). Dinshaw, again, is too stoned to care what’s happening to his dad.

Katy gives Cyrus a stack of cash and sends him to the city to bring treats to poor old Fardounjee. This angers Farrokh. However, Farrokh and Katy are carrying on a romantic affair over the phone. I’m not sure why she’d want to intentionally piss off her beloved, but there’s an awful lot about Being Cyrus that doesn’t make sense.

Following the introduction of an annoying police inspector played by Manoj Pahwa, Cyrus goes on a killing spree before the film culminates in an unforeseeable twist ending. (Damn you, The Usual Suspects, for spawning a generation of inferior twist endings!) There’s no possible way events could’ve been managed to work out the way they did, despite the claims of Cyrus’ accomplice to have controlled everything. There’s not even an attempt at retroactive continuity.

For a twist ending to work, there need to be clues to the ending sprinkled throughout the story. Being Cyrus doesn’t have any of those clues, nor even a narrative thread to speak of. Rather, the film jumps from scene to scene randomly. Most of the notes I wrote while watching the DVD consist of: “How did we get here?” and “Why is this happening?”.

Things would be different if Being Cyrus was a sophisticated or complex movie, but it’s not. It’s the messy first effort of director-screenwriter Homi Adajania, whose debut is light on context and character motivation.

Watching the loathsome, anemic characters of Being Cyrus bumble through the disjointed plot is a grim, unpleasant experience I wouldn’t wish upon anyone, no matter how brief the punishment may be.

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Movie Review: Tum Milo Toh Sahi (2010)

1 Star (out of 4)

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There’s a nice idea at the core of writer-director Kabir Sadanand’s Tum Milo Toh Sahi (“Let’s Meet First,” according to the subtitled translation of the title song’s lyrics). Sadanand wrote a story of six incomplete individuals who find happiness when they work together toward a goal. Unfortunately, he neglected to make any of the characters likable.

The action in Tum Milo Toh Sahi takes place primarily in the Lucky Cafe, a hangout for college students. The cafe is owned by Delshad (Dimple Kapadia), a grumpy grandmother who scolds her customers and ends every caustic command to her employees with, “Idiot.”

One of the few people Delshad is kind to is Anita (Vidya Malvade), the miserable wife of a workaholic. When her husband, Amit (Suniel Shetty), complains that Anita is as unhappy in their gorgeous new house as she was in their dumpy one-room apartment, we believe him.

Amit works for Blue Bell, a national chain of Starbucks-like coffee houses bent on eradicating the competition. When the company announces a plan to acquire the Lucky Cafe, Amit takes charge of the project in the hopes of paying off Delshad with a minimum of fuss.

Delshad refuses to sell, so Blue Bell wages a campaign of corporate terror to force her out of business. Amit participates willingly, at the expense of his marriage.

Delshad gets some unexpected assistance from Subramaniam (Nana Patekar), an equally grumpy retired law clerk; Shalini (Anjana Sukhani), a snobby college girl; and Bikramjeet (Rehan Khan), a naive hick. Shalini and Bikramjeet are superfluous characters, but Delshad’s relationship with Subramaniam makes some sense. Both of them missed out on love  in their youth because they were focused on their careers and family obligations.

Unfortunately, all of the characters exhibit extreme forms of the single traits they are supposed to exemplify. The defining characteristic of Delshad, Amit, Subramaniam and Shalini is that they are all mean. It’s not fun to watch, and it blurs the contrast between the evil corporation and the regular people being trampled on. The regular people need to be virtuous in the face of powerful opposition, not jerks who kind of have it coming.

Tum Milo Toh Sahi has a number of other problems. The music is cheesy adult contemporary pop, and there’s too much of it. Every mention of Blue Bell is accompanied an annoying vocal theme, and there are several bland musical montages.

The English subtitles are poorly translated. More accurately, they’re poorly transcribed from English to English. Amit, speaking in English, mentions that he’d like a croissant (said with a mild French inflection). Croissant is transcribed as the non-word “crosone” — another reminder that Tum Milo Toh Sahi needed a lot more work and attention to detail before it went to print.

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Retro Review: Dil Chahta Hai (2001)

4 Stars (out of 4)

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I’m a Farhan Akhtar fan, whether he’s working as an actor-producer in movies like Rock On!!, Luck By Chance and Karthik Calling Karthik or writing and directing action flicks like 2006’s Don. If there’s any filmmaker who could parlay Bollywood success into Hollywood success, it’s Akhtar. After watching the first film he wrote and directed, Dil Chahta Hai, I’m more convinced than ever.

Akhtar’s debut effort is part buddy comedy, part coming-of-age drama about three friends fresh out of college. Sameer (Saif Ali Khan) falls in love fast and gets his heart broken easily. Akash (Aamir Khan) is a cynic who only believes in brief flings. Sid (Akshaye Khanna) has a view of love that’s somewhere in between.

The plot gives equal amounts of time to all three of the guys, making it hard to tell if there’s really a main character in Dil Chahta Hai. The honor probably goes to Akash, as he goes through the most profound character transformation, but it’s nice to see a buddy movie that’s really about buddies, not just a main character and his sidekicks.

The story follows the three pals as they reluctantly begin their adult lives. On a road trip to Goa, they pledge their undying friendship to one another, but things change when they return home.

Sameer balks at his parents’ plans to choose a bride for him — until he meets the bride-to-be. Pooja (Sonali Kulkarni) is pretty and independent, but she already has a boyfriend. Sameer sets about trying to win her for himself.

Sid’s love story is unconventional. He befriends an older, divorced woman who moves into the neighborhood and takes an interest in Sid’s paintings. Tara (Dimple Kapadia) is no seductress, but Sid becomes captivated by both her beauty and her tragic life story.

When Sid discloses his feelings for Tara to his friends, Akash and Sameer initially react with surprise. When Akash jokes that Tara — an experienced divorcee with her own house — is the perfect woman for all of them, Sid punches him. Sid leaves the next morning to study at an artist’s colony, and Akash leaves for Australia a few days later. On the plane, Akash runs into a girl he’d once flirted with at a nightclub (played by Preity Zinta), thus beginning his own love story.

The charm of Dil Chahta Hai is its realism. Akhtar made a point of writing dialog that sounds authentic, rather than the flowery exposition or lengthy speeches typical of a lot of movies. It’s predictable, but in a way that allows the emotions of the story to come through organically.

Akhtar’s careful to balance the melodrama with humor. True friendships thrive on a diet of laughs, so Dil Chahta Hai is often very funny. Some of the numerous song-and-dance numbers are even a bit surreal, further lightening what could be a heavy movie.

I’d say that Dil Chahta Hai is a great Bollywood movie, but it doesn’t even need the qualifier: it’s just a great movie. One of these days, some Hollywood studio is going to notice Farhan Akhtar and throw millions of dollars at him to make movies for a global audience. The world will be better for it.

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