Tag Archives: Elli Avram

Movie Review: Naam Shabana (2017)

2 Stars (out of 4)

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Taapsee Pannu’s supporting character Shabana was the best part of the 2015 spy thriller Baby, so spinning off an origin story for her made perfect sense. However, Naam Shabana is dull, doing neither the character nor the actress who plays her justice.

Too much time is spent on the “origin” part of Shabana’s story. We know that she is being recruited by a spy agency thanks to a number of long-distance shots of her overlaid with the markings of a camera’s viewfinder. It’s the same view through which two Indian spies scope out notorious gangster Mikhail in Vienna, right before Mikhail kills both of them.

The long-shots of Shabana are interspersed with the events of her ordinary college life. She’s on the university judo team, she hangs out with her pals, and she takes an economics class with Jai (Taher Shabbir Mithaiwala), a hunk with a crush on Shabana. She shares the details of her tragic childhood with Jai, adding backstory on top of backstory.

By the time the inciting incident triggers Shabana’s first contact with the head of the spy agency, Ranvir (Manoj Bajpayee), the movie is a quarter of the way over. There’s so much build up just get the ball rolling. Even then, the ball rolls very slowly.

Shabana first has to prove herself to the agency, even though they’ve been following her for years. There’s the obligatory training montage. Right when we’re ready for her to take the field and kick butt, Shabana disappears from the narrative for a full twenty minutes while other agents track down a crook named Tony (Prithviraj Sukumaran), whom they hope can lead them to Mikhail. When Shabana finally rejoins the fray, the action is interrupted by a ridiculous item number featuring Elli Avram.

Naam Shabana has about ninety minutes of material stretched to fill two-and-a-half hours. When one example of something would suffice, we’re shown two, just to pad things out. Although Baby creator Neeraj Pandey didn’t direct Naam Shabana — that credit belongs to Shivam Nair — Pandey did write the screenplay, complete with his tendency toward overly long runtimes.

A further disappointment is the way Shabana’s character is fleshed out from her small role in Baby. She’s mostly robotic, with a brief moment of hysteria that is drowned out by composer Sanjoy Chowdhury’s over-the-top score. (Did anyone else find the film’s closing theme awfully similar to the opening of “Day Tripper” by The Beatles?)

Shabana’s primary relationship is with her supportive but concerned mother (played by Natasha Rastogi). Their relationship provides the perfect opportunity to explore the natural pulling away from parents by young adults as they leave school and start their own lives–only taken to the extreme when the young adult becomes a spy. Instead, Mom simply vanishes from the story once Shabana joins the agency. It’s a huge miss in that it would’ve given a talented actress like Pannu more to do than just look cool in fight scenes (which she definitely does).

Cameos by key Baby cast members like Akshay Kumar, Anupam Kher, and Danny Denzongpa are well-integrated, but they come too late to rescue Naam Shabana from its plodding pace.

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Movie Review: Kis Kisko Pyaar Karoon (2015)

KisKiskoPyaarKaroon1.5 Stars (out of 4)

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One of the things that matters most in a comedy of errors is how the main character gets out of the mess he’s created, but the resolution to Kis Kisko Pyaar Karoon (“Who Should I Love“) is the film’s downfall.

The man responsible for the troubles in Kis Kisko Pyaar KaroonKKPK, henceforth — is Shiv Ram Kishan (Kapil Sharma). His efforts to help three different women end up with him married to all three. He marries Juhi (Manjari Phadnis) to honor her father’s dying wish. He marries Simran (Simran Kaur Mundi) to preserve her dignity when his buddy leaves her at the altar. And he’s forced to marry Anjali (Sai Lokur) by her gangster brother, Tiger-Bhai (Arbaaz Khan).

Shiv’s best friend, Karan (Varun Sharma), persuades his pal to move all of the wives into the same apartment building: Juhi on the fourth floor, Anjali on the sixth floor, and Simran on the eighth floor. That cuts down on Shiv’s commute, giving him more time to woo the one woman he truly loves, a dancer named Deepika (Elli Avram).

Much of the plot consists of near misses in which Shiv’s scheme is almost revealed. The funniest of those bits involve Anjali’s feisty maid, Champa (Jamie Lever). The least funny involve Tiger-Bhai, who can speak perfectly but is completely deaf, a gimmick that becomes tired almost immediately.

There’s a cute subplot involving Shiv’s divorced parents, played by Sharat Saxena and Supriya Pathak. Shiv tries to conceal the truth from both of them, but they are too busy falling back in love with one another. Romantic music swells and a fan softly blows Mom’s hair when Dad sees her. It’s a more compelling relationship than all four of Shiv’s combined.

KKPK is about thirty minutes too long, the close calls losing their tension as they accumulate. When it’s finally time for Shiv to answer for his actions, he gives a speech deflecting all responsibility onto his wives, blaming (what he perceives as) their fragile emotional natures. He even holds his mother partially responsible, claiming that he’s just following her orders to never break a woman’s heart.

Shiv offers a bleak assessment of modern marital obligations. By his reckoning, he’s holding up his end of the bargain by providing each wife with a nice apartment and money for shopping. It’s enough that he tells each of them, “I love you,” even though he doesn’t mean it.

They should also be happy with the five minutes he spends with each of them each day. Never mind that none of them work, and that Simran’s only human contact comes from short-tempered Champa. Juhi and Anjali don’t have maids and are alone all day, yet Shiv thinks five minutes is enough fulfill his duty to them.

Speaking of duty, none of these marriages appear to have been consummated. The most physical contact Shiv has with his wives is a peck on the check. That, and his aggressive rejection of Anjali’s sexual advances. Though there’s some mention of him rotating nights with each spouse, the movie never shows him waking up in any of their apartments. Isn’t sex one of Shiv’s marital duties?

It’s a question that directing duo Abbas Mustan and writer Anukalp Goswami choose to ignore. Instead, we are left with Juhi, Simran, Anjali, and even Deepika defined only in relation to Shiv, a mouse of a man. Given how funny most of KKPK is, the story’s resolution is a real disappointment.

Links

  • Kis Kisko Pyaar Karoon at Wikipedia
  • Kis Kisko Pyaar Karoon at IMDb (listed as Kis Kisko Pyaar Karu)

Movie Review: Mickey Virus (2013)

MickeyVirus1 Star (out of 4)

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Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

There are moments in Mickey Virus where the film appears to be an engaging thriller, but it falls apart under the barest scrutiny. As the runtime stretches beyond two hours, the missteps pile up in the run-up to a climax that makes no sense.

Debutant writer-director Saurabh Varma set himself up for failure by making Mickey Virus about hackers. I’m no programmer, but all of the tech stuff in the movie is laughable:

  • The lead character, Mickey (Manish Paul), plays a video game that looks like something that came out on the Dreamcast.
  • The super-sophisticated security system on a hacker gang’s website is a Flash animation of a car chase.
  • A screen full of random numbers and letters purports to be code.
  • Mickey tries to figure out someone’s password, and the first thing he tries is the young woman’s own first name.

I know septuagenarians who could write more believable tech stuff than this. It could be forgiven if the plot were air-tight, but that’s just as bad.

Mickey comes to the attention of some police officers investigating the murders of a pair of foreign hackers on Indian soil. The cops suspect a gang of hackers is behind it, but they need their own hacker to poke around on the internet and find the evidence for them.

Even though Mickey meets the police officers within the first fifteen minutes of the film, he doesn’t get involved with their case until after an hour has transpired. He spends the rest of the time avoiding his mother’s phone calls and romancing a woman named Kamayani (Elli Avram, who got the job more for her willingness to disrobe and make out with Manish Paul than for her acting chops).

The action doesn’t get rolling until Mickey is framed for a crime he didn’t commit and has to clear his name. Even then, the evidence is so easily explainable that one wonders why Mickey doesn’t just tell the cops, “I’m being set up. Help me find out who’s doing it.”

The ultimate explanation comes out of left field, with no set up and no possible way it could’ve transpired. That the revelation happens during the course of a tedious speech just compounds the problem.

This is a shame, because Mickey’s a good character. He’s talented, but he’s awkward with women and he’s not a know-it-all. He’s almost a regular guy (a rare specimen among Bollywood heroes). Paul is decent in the role, too.

Still, this is a movie worth skipping. When crafting a thriller — especially one centered around computers — screenwriters need to write for the most well-informed members of the audience and hope that the less-informed will keep up. Better that than writing for the least-informed and hoping that best-informed won’t notice.

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