Tag Archives: Emraan Hashmi

Movie Review: Baadshaho (2017)

1 Star (out of 4)

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Baadshaho (“Kings“) — the latest collaboration between director Milan Luthria and writer Rajat Arora — is a disaster. It’s like they forgot what story they were telling as the movie went on.

In Rajasthan in 1975, a slimy politician named Sanjeev (Priyanshu Chatterjee) uses the federally declared “state of emergency” as a pretext to loot the ancestral wealth of Rani Gitanjali (Ileana D’Cruz) in retaliation for her rebuffing his sexual advances years earlier. Sanjeev sends the army — led by an officer played by Denzil Smith — to retrieve a treasure trove of gold from Gitanjali’s estate, arresting her on pretext of hiding it from the government.

It’s worth noting for the sake of international viewers that the role and duties of royal families like Gitanjali’s isn’t explained, nor is the government’s claim over ancestral wealth. The details of the “state of emergency” aren’t explained either, so it’s not totally clear why the story had to be set in the 1970s. Then again, the costumes and sets are so generic that the only clue that the story isn’t set in modern times is that no one has cell phones.

From inside prison, Gitanjali reconnects with her former security guard and lover, Bhawani (Ajay Devgn), who takes seriously his vow to always protect her. She tasks him not with rescuing her from jail but with making sure that her fortune never makes it to Sanjeev in Delhi. Bhawani assembles a team that includes a safecracker named Tikla (Sanjay Mishra), a woman with an unknown debt to Gitanjali, Sanjana (Esha Gupta), and Dalia (Emraan Hashmi), whose contribution to the group is tacky temporary tattoos and repetitive stories. Bhawani and Dalia trade unfunny quips that perhaps didn’t survive the translation from Hindi to English.

The army’s plan is to drive the gold eight hours to Delhi in an armored truck that looks like a bank vault on wheels, with multiple combination locks right on the back door — a design that renders the plan’s covert nature moot. The supposedly high-tech truck — which can be “tracked by radio” — includes a bright red button that can be pushed in the event of an emergency, turning the truck into an impenetrable bunker for the span of six hours. Obviously, this button plays a huge part in the story, right? One of the thieves gets trapped inside and needs to be rescued or something? Nope. No one ever pushes the button.

Driving the truck is Officer Seher, played by buff Vidyut Jammwal. Jammwal’s character in Commando 2 was introduced with a closeup of the actor’s bicep. Upping the ante, Baadshaho introduces Seher in a train cabin wearing nothing but his underwear.

Because the plan is so straightforward — there’s literally one paved road in the region that can handle the weight of such a heavy truck — obstacles and subplots are manufactured in order to make the movie run longer than an hour. Seher waits four days before setting off for Delhi, conveniently giving the thieves time to plan. Sanjana is grossed out by Dalia one scene, only to fall in love with him in the next scene for no reason.

One of the main reasons to cast Jammwal is to take advantage of his athleticism and martial arts skills. All we get in Baadshaho is a chase scene in which Jammwal runs at about sixty-percent speed so as to not immediately overtake Hashmi. Fight scenes are poorly executed, with actors falling from punches thrown nowhere near them. Bad editing obscures the action, which is often just shots of the actors’ bodies blocking views of the fight. Jammwal’s performance is still the best thing about Baadshaho, but we don’t get to see enough of him doing his signature stunts.

Worst of all is the film’s ending. Without spoiling any specifics, the movie’s climactic fight suddenly stops. The survivors — now in an entirely different location — express relief that the fight is over. Credits roll. What happened to everyone else?! Who lives? Who dies? Is justice done, and for whom?

It’s not even just that things end suddenly. Luthria and Arora don’t bother to resolve the film’s inciting incidents. It’s as though they lost track of the plot threads and forgot who the bad guys are. Beyond being unsatisfying, it’s simply bizarre. Without any kind of meaningful conclusion, Baadshaho is a total waste.

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Bollywood Box Office: May 13-15

The biopic Azhar opened very well in North America, especially given the modest expectations governing its release here. During the weekend of May 13-15, 2016, Azhar earned $127,266 from 51 theaters ($2,495 average). While those may not seem like blockbuster numbers, consider this: 13 Hindi movies have released in more theaters than Azhar this year, but Azhar‘s opening weekend total ranks tenth for 2016, and its opening weekend average ranks seventh. No other Hindi movie to open in fewer than 80 theaters has averaged more than $2,000 per screen in its opening weekend. Of the ten other films released into fewer than 80 theaters this year, the second best opening weekend average is just $1,157 (Rocky Handsome, which opened in 74 theaters). Distributors were cautious given that Emraan Hashmi isn’t a huge draw here, but Azhar turned out to be a modest hit.

Other Hindi movies still showing in the United States and Canada:

  • Baaghi: Week 3; $19,342 from 27 theaters; $716 average; $423,418 total
  • Fan: Week 5; $5,018 from six theaters; $836 average; $2,301,200 total
  • 1920 London: Week 2; $984 from five theaters; $197 average; $24,084 total
  • Kapoor & Sons: Week 9; $727 from one theater; $2,660,140

Source: Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Movie Review: Azhar (2016)

Azhar_Hindi_poster1.5 Stars (out of 4)

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A film about the scandal-plagued life of a former Indian cricket captain deserves a grand scale, but Azhar feels like a made-for-TV movie.

I can’t testify to the accuracy of Azhar‘s story, as I know nothing about Mohammad Azharuddin. I never saw him play a minute of cricket, which puts me in the same boat as almost every Indian under the age of twenty.

That said, Azhar requires no foreknowledge, since all the dialogue is on the nose. Here’s how the cricket chairman drops the bombshell on Azhar (Emraan Hashmi) the night before the captain’s hundredth appearance for the national team: “Azhar, I have some bad news for you. You have been accused of match fixing.”

In case the dialogue isn’t direct enough, the actors go out of their way to make things extra clear. When Azhar decides to fight the cricket association’s lifetime ban in court, the prosecutor, Meera (Lara Dutta), tries to question M.K. Sharma (Rajesh Sharma), the bookie accused of bribery. She tells Sharma that she wants dirt on Azhar, causing Sharma to make an exaggerated gulping noise, leap out of his chair, and whip his head over each shoulder to see if anyone is behind him.

During the course of the eight-year-long court case, we get flashbacks to Azhar’s earlier life, including his relationship with his grandfather, his marriage to Naureen (Prachi Desai), and his affair with Sangeeta (Nargis Fakhri). The romantic plotlines make Azhar seem like a jerk, in which case he’d better be a helluva cricket player.

This brings me to the movie’s single biggest failing: it makes cricket look totally boring. According to Azhar, cricket is just a sequence of slow-rolling ground balls, with a few balls occasionally bopped into the stands. There’s no tension or excitement whatsoever.

Director Tony D’Souza uses so many tight shots during the cricket scenes that it’s impossible to tell what a match actually looks like. The entire frame is filled by a ball skittering past an outstretched hand or a ball plucked out of mid-air by another hand. Did the fielder have to run to catch it? How high did he jump? Where were the other fielders in relation to the play? D’Souza’s direction offers no clues.

The director applies this same framing to Azhar, so we never get a sense of how good a player he is. Hashmi spends most of his time on the field standing with his hands on his hips. Never has an actor playing a star athlete seemed so non-athletic.

Another problem with the main character is that he looks exactly the same throughout, whether Azhar is supposed to be twenty or almost fifty. It’s impossible to tell by looking at Hashmi when any given scene is taking place.

This is not one of Hashmi’s best performances, but it seems as though he’s doing what’s asked of him. D’Souza’s style doesn’t allow for subtlety. Periodic reverb on the dialogue recording further distracts from the film’s performances.

Neither Desai nor Fakhri have much to do, though Desai proves herself the better of the two at crying. Kunaal Roy Kapur is proficient in the thankless role of Azhar’s lawyer. Dutta’s no-nonsense performance is the best in the film.

There are a lot of people in the world who never witnessed Mohammad Azharuddin at his peak. We don’t know him. Azhar doesn’t give us a compelling reason to care.

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Movie Review: Hamari Adhuri Kahani (2015)

HamariAdhuriKahani1 Star (out of 4)

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“He is so stupid.” In an otherwise quiet theater, one woman spoke for all of us as Emraan Hashmi’s character in Hamari Adhuri Kahani set out to do something moronic. This is not a good movie.

That’s not to say that Hamari Adhuri Kahani (“Our Incomplete Storyin English) isn’t fun, albeit unintentionally. The audience laughed heartily when Hashmi’s character’s mother said, in all seriousness, “Who is this wandering soul who feels like a kindred spirit?” More chuckles when a hotel owner asked, “Is this a business meeting or an insulting session?”

Hamari Adhuri Kahani is among the most earnest, corniest movies ever. It feels like it was written by a clever 15-year-old girl who isn’t as worldly-wise as she thinks she is. That it is actually written by a man in his mid-60s — Mahesh Bhatt — is a problem.

Vidya Balan plays Vasudha, a hotel florist and single mother of a 5-year-old son, Saanj. Her husband, Hari (Rajkummar Rao), ran off just after Saanj was born, yet Vasudha is regularly caught off guard by questions about her husband’s whereabouts. After five years, she doesn’t have a pat answer?

Her world is turned upside down when her exemplary customer service impresses hotelier Aarav (Hashmi). Aarav is a teen-girl-fantasy: a lonely rich guy who wants nothing more than to make all of Vasudha’s dreams come true. That he wants to do so primarily to make up for his own childhood as the impoverished son of a single mother who worked in a hotel just makes things weird.

Vasudha and Aarav are overly melodramatic about everything. He makes an entire plane full of passengers wait so that he can smell some flowers that remind him of her. She’s torn by the fact that she’s married, even though Hari is a cartoonish jerk who may be a terrorist.

As if emotional fireworks aren’t enough, there are actual fireworks. Also a hotel fire, bullets, and landmines. Essentially, Hamari Adhuri Kahani is a series of wordy, teary-eyed scenes with cheesy dialogue followed by explosions.

Since every scene is overwrought, it’s impossible to misunderstand what’s happening in the movie. Still, international audience members will miss out on the significance of many cultural and religious references. Vasudha’s marriage fulfills some sort of religious obligation, and though the particular religion isn’t named, it’s clear that she’s basically property transferred from her father to her husband. (I can’t verify if this is orthodox to the religion depicted, but director Mohit Suri’s point is explicit.)

Vasudha’s future plans are also questioned in cultural context: is she going to be like Sita in her marriage to Ram or like Radha in her relationship with Krishna? Again, I’m not overly familiar with either parable, but the meaning is apparent: does Vasudha want to be a devoted wife even at the expense of her own life (Sita-Ram), or does she want a more egalitarian kind of love (Radha-Krishna)?

The cultural and religious references are used to criticize the historically unequal treatment of women in India. One older woman says ruefully, “Even after they are dead, men still control a woman’s body.” The movie’s feminist sentiment feels hollow for a couple of reasons.

First, Vasudha is a dud. It’s hard to care about such a passive heroine. When she finally decides to take action, the action is to beg Hari to stop being such a jerk.

Second, Vasudha’s romance with Aarav is a relic of Bollywood stalker love stories. In a dramatic conversation in the middle of desert in front of an approaching sandstorm, Aarav uses as proof of Vasudha’s love for him…a piece of paper upon which he has written her name multiple times. Wait, what? How exactly do his schoolboy doodles prove that she loves him?

It doesn’t ultimately matter, since Vasudha eventually begs Aarav to teach her how to love again (more begging!). There’s not much Balan and Hashmi can do with such one-dimensional characters. Same for Rao, who just shows up periodically to be mean in different wigs.

The resolution to Aarav’s arc is telegraphed, yet it’s so cornball that it’s hard to believe that Suri will go through with it until it actually happens. When it does, it is sublimely ridiculous. Hamari Adhuri Kahani is stupid, yet I left the theater with a smile on my face.

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Opening June 12: Hamari Adhuri Kahani

The romantic drama Hamari Adhuri Kahani — starring Vidya Balan, Emraan Hashmi, and Rajkummar Rao — opens in Chicago area theaters on June 12, 2015.

Hamari Adhuri Kahani opens Friday at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 9 min.

Dil Dhadakne Do carries over at all of the above theaters, plus Regal Gardens Stadium 1-6 in Skokie, Regal Round Lake Beach Stadium 18 in Round Lake Beach, and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge.

Tanu Weds Manu Returns gets a fourth week at MovieMax, South Barrington 30, Cantera 17, and Woodridge 18.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend include Premam (Malayalam) at the Muvico Rosemont 18 in Rosemont and MovieMax, which also carries Ranna (Kannada), Kerintha (Telugu), Inimey Ippadithan (Tamil), Romeo Juliet (Tamil), Jyothi Lakshmi (Telugu), and Ivide (Malayalam).

Movie Review: Mr. X (2015)

Mr._X_Official_Poster1.5 Stars (out of 4)

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When I described the plot of Mr. X to my father and brother, they both asked: “If you can’t see the hero, then why is the movie in 3D?” Good question. Having seen the movie, the best answer I can give is that director Vikram Bhatt is the market for a yacht and wants to pay for it with the 3D upcharge for tickets.

The use of a pointless 3D gimmick fits in a movie that is a collection of half-baked ideas. It’s a romantic revenge critique of the Indian justice system with a side of superhero origin story that’s also a sci-fi action thriller about an invisible cop.

Emraan Hashmi plays Raghu, an anti-terrorism agent in love with a fellow agent, Siya (Amyra Dastur). In order to save Siya’s life, Raghu is blackmailed into publicly murdering the Chief Minister.

Raghu flees, only to be cornered by his blackmailers and tossed into a pit of chemicals, a la the Joker in Tim Burton’s Batman. He survives an explosion at the chemical plant, but not without severe radiation poisoning.

Raghu’s friend Popo’s sister (stay with me) works at a pharmaceutical company, and she gives Raghu an experimental drug that will either cure the radiation poisoning or kill him immediately. He lives, with the side effect that he’s now invisible except in sunlight or under blue neon lights.

In the course of taking revenge on those who tried to murder him, Raghu encounters his greatest obstacle: Siya, who is all impulse, no introspection. She never questions why a good cop like Raghu killed the Chief Minister, deciding that their love must have been a lie and professing to hate him. When he finally tells her what really happened, she loves him again.

The reunion is short-lived, because she pulls a gun on him when he rejects her plan to arrest the culprits in favor of just killing them. Her feelings are absolute, until they change completely.

What’s funny is that Siya’s law-and-order approach actually works until Raghu shows up with a gun and sparks a hostage situation. He claims to be a “protector of justice” while actively working against a system that seems functional.

All this is to set up Raghu/Mr. X as a kind of folk hero, and Bhatt uses my least favorite Bollywood trope to do so: the man-on-the-street interview. A news report is interspersed with shots of everyday dopes praising Mr. X with stupid crap like, “I’ve heard Mr. X is totally cute.”

The problem — besides the sheer laziness behind this trope — is that the public doesn’t know the motive for Mr. X’s murders. They don’t know that he was set up. As far as anyone knows, the people Mr. X kills are upstanding public servants, yet the moronic interviewees hail Mr. X as a superhero.

As mentioned above, the 3D adds nothing to the film. However, the CGI invisibility effects are pretty good. Raghu appears and disappears smoothly as he moves from light to shadow, with sometimes only parts of his body disappearing. Bhatt uses the lighting to direct the audience to areas in each shot where Raghu is likely to turn invisible.

However, the practical effects leave a lot to be desired. A chase scene in which Raghu disappears leaves us with a visual of a wobbly, riderless motorbike being pulled along by an offscreen mechanism. It looks equally dumb when Raghu vanishes while holding Siya in his arms, making her appear to float in mid-air. The film’s fight choreography is awful.

Raghu is a hard guy to like because he doesn’t show much personality, except for when Siya makes him mad and his eyes get all buggy. It’s not Hashmi’s most interesting role by a long shot. Dastur is at least committed to Siya’s absolute sense of morality, but she needs to train her voice not to sound so shrieky when she screams. Siya’s wardrobe is outstanding.

Mr. X rates high in terms of novelty, but its execution doesn’t justify an overpriced 3D ticket.

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Opening April 17: Mr. X

One new Hindi film opens in the Chicago area on April 17, 2015. Emraan Hashmi plays a vigilante with the power of invisibility in the sci-fi thriller Mr. X.

Mr. X opens on Friday at MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. All three are carrying the movie in 2D, but the Cantera is showing Mr. X in 3D as well. The movie has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 15 min.

Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! gets a third week at the South Barrington 30, Cantera 17, and AMC Showplace Niles 12 in Niles. MovieMax is holding over Dharam Sankat Mein for a second weekend.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend include: OK Kanmani (Tamil) at the Muvico Rosemont 18 in Rosemont and MovieMax, which carries the Telugu version — OK Bangaram — as well; Son of Sathyamurthy (Telugu) at MovieMax and the Rosemont 18; Patta Patta Singhan Da Vairi (Punjabi) at the Century Stratford Square in Bloomingdale; and Ori Devudoy (Telugu), Kanchana 2 (Tamil), Oru Vadakkan Selfie (Malayalam), and Ennum Eppozhum (Malayalam) at MovieMax.