Tag Archives: Farah Khan

Movie Review: Veere Di Wedding (2018)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Veere Di Wedding (“Friend’s Wedding“) released to higher expectations than usually precede Bollywood buddy comedies, yet its four female leads rose to the challenge, turning out a warm, relatable, and very funny movie.

Well, relatable if you overlook how obscenely rich the characters are, driving around in cars that cost as much as a house (at least here in the Midwest). The only speaking character who isn’t wealthy is a maid who appears in one scene, crying after being beaten by her abusive husband. Her wounds are addressed in a couple of lines before she’s forced to participate in the excitement of one of the rich friends’ upcoming nuptials. It’s one of the film’s few off moments.

The friend getting married is Kalindi (Kareena Kapoor Khan), one of a quartet of lifelong buds that includes stuffy lawyer Avni (Sonam Kapoor Ahuja), stay-at-home mom Meera (Shikha Talsania), and drunkard Sakshi (Swara Bhaskar). Reuniting in Delhi for the wedding gives the women a chance to cut loose, but also resurfaces buried conflicts, primarily between the adult children and their parents.

There isn’t really a villain in Veere Di Wedding. The conflict is driven by complicated family dynamics, a boundless well that keeps the plot moving and gives everyone in the audience something to identify with. Kalindi became estranged from her father (Anjum Rajabali) following her mother’s death. Avni’s mom (Neena Gupta) is desperate for her daughter to wed. Meera married a white man named John (Edward Sonnenblick) against her dad’s wishes. There’s tension in Sakshi’s household over demise of her short-lived marriage.

The family of Kalindi’s fiance, Rishabh Malhotra (Sumeet Vyas), is the most colorful source of drama, often literally so. Eager to fill the void left by Kalindi’s mother, Rishabh’s dad (Manoj Pahwa), mom (Ayesha Raza), and aunt (Alka Kaushal) take over the wedding planning, their tacky, kaleidoscopic taste in decor and attire sending Kalindi into a daze. Kapoor Khan’s glazed expressions as they parade garish garment choices in front of her are hilarious.

Yet Veere Di Wedding is careful not to make too much fun of the Malhotra family. Kalindi herself says that she knows how important the pomp and circumstance are to Rishabh’s family, rejecting Rishabh’s offer to tell his family to back off.

That’s what’s amazing about this movie: the characters are so nice. The four friends will do anything for one another. Rishabh and Meera’s husband John are loyal and supportive partners, as are Kalindi’s uncle Cookie (Vivek Mushran) and his boyfriend Keshav (Sukesh Arora). Conflict is borne from hurt feelings and stubborn grudges, not from any inherent malice. The resolution to a subplot involving Kalindi’s well-intentioned stepmother Paromita (Ekavali Khanna) is especially touching.

That good nature makes Veere Di Wedding a joy to watch. Hype over the film’s bawdy language and (tame) masturbation scene is overblown. It’s important that female movie characters be given as wide a range to inhabit as male characters, and Veere Di Wedding does so in an uplifting, unthreatening way. It’s a welcome change to see topics such as sexual compatibility and the changes that happen to a woman’s body following childbirth discussed from a female perspective in a mainstream Bollywood film. Farah Khan’s choreography of the song “Tareefan” — in which white men are treated as eye candy instead of white women — is noteworthy, too.

What gives Veere Di Wedding lasting appeal beyond its present cultural significance is that it really is charming, thanks to the performances by the lead quartet. Kalindi’s bewilderment in the face of her in-laws stands in contrast to Avni’s stuffiness, which is at odds with Sakshi’s constant insobriety. Even maternal Meera goes wild on the dance floor. Kapoor Khan, Kapoor Ahuja, Bhaskar, and Talsania each bring something different to the table, and their efforts combine to make a movie that’s a real treat.

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Movie Review: Happy New Year (2014)

Happy_New_Year_Poster_(2014_film)3 Stars (out of 4)

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Director Farah Khan knows how to give the people what they want. Happy New Year is exactly what it’s supposed to be: loud, flashy, sexy, and tons of fun.

Everything you need to know about the film’s tone is conveyed in the first five minutes, during which a muddy, shirtless Shahrukh Khan is sprayed clean with a hose. It’s so overt that one can’t help but laugh, while simultaneously being wowed by Khan’s ripped abs.

Khan plays Charlie, a guy who’s been down on his luck ever since his father (played by Anupam Kher) was framed for robbery by Charan Grover (Jackie Shroff), a diamond merchant. Charlie’s chance for revenge comes when Grover publicly announces his plans to transfer some diamonds through Dubai, holding them in a safe at the Atlantis, The Palm hotel.

First Charlie recruits his dad’s old buddies: explosives expert Jag (Sonu Sood) and safe cracker Tammy (Boman Irani). He rounds out the team with Jag’s hacker nephew, Rohan (Vivaan Shah), and Nandu (Abhishek Bachchan), a drunk who’s a dead ringer for Grover’s son, Vicky (also Bachchan). The crew agrees to the job before Charlie tells them the kicker: they have to enter the World Dance Championship in order to get into the hotel.

Even though the plan is for Rohan to get the team to Dubai by rigging the vote, they have to at least appear like a real — if somewhat inept — dance troupe. Nandu recruits Mohini (Deepika Padukone), an exotic dancer, to help them, though she’s kept out of the loop regarding the team’s true mission.

Mohini is the film’s best comic relief. She’s enamored of men who can speak English, so she falls instantly in love with Charlie. Her eyes glaze over when he says something as simple as, “Excuse me,” and a breeze magically appears to blow her hair. During one song-and-dance number, things catch on fire or explode every time she touches him.

Padukone deserves as much credit for her fit body as Khan does for his. She’s in amazing shape, as evidenced by her athletic dance moves in the song “Lovely.”

Director Khan — who also co-wrote the film — goes out of her way to treat Mohini’s bar dancer character with respect, reminding the audience that women choose such professions for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with a lack of morals. Padukone does a wonderful job depicting Mohini’s resolve and self-respect.

The director’s progressive gender politics come through in the amount of skin she chooses to show as well. In a reversal of Bollywood norms, there are far more shots of Sood’s and Khan’s naked torsos than Padukone’s bare abdomen.

There’s also a nice example in Happy New Year of the difference between a racist character and a racist movie. The WDC’s defending champs hail from North Korea. When uneducated Nandu refers to the champs as Chinese, claiming that “they all look alike,” Charlie immediately rebukes him for it and greets the team in Korean.

On the other hand, the movie uses gay jokes as punchlines far too casually. Explicitly gay characters are costumed outrageously, and romantic overtures from one man to another are always shown as laughable or scary.

There’s also a brief shot in the film that will at the very least be jarring to Western audiences. The hotel vault holding the diamonds is lined by dozens of bodyguards of different ethnicities. The guard next to the door appears to be a white man, and he has a tattoo of a swastika on his right arm. I know that the swastika is a positive symbol in Hinduism, and perhaps the man is Indian. But in the West, the only white men with swastika tattoos are Neo-Nazis. Either way, in deference to international sensitivities, the filmmakers likely should’ve covered the tattoo.

Those issues aside, Happy New Year is exactly the lighthearted fare audiences want from a Bollywood spectacle. The characters are motivated by love for their family and country. Dance numbers feature colorful costumes and pyrotechnics. The talented cast supplies plenty of laughs. Kudos to Director Khan for giving her audience their money’s worth.

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New Trailers: August 15, 2014

The long-awaited trailer for director Farah Khan’s Happy New Year is out, and, dang, does that movie look like it was expensive to make. HNY stars three actors who I will watch no matter what movie they are in — Shahrukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, and Boman Irani — so I’m stoked. HNY is set to open on Diwali, which falls on October 23, 2014.

Also opening on October 23 is Rang Rasiya, a historical drama that played film festivals in 2008 but couldn’t secure a theatrical release until now. To say that Rang Rasiya will get crushed at the box office by Happy New Year is an understatement. Nevertheless, it features Randeep Hooda in various wigs and fake mustaches, so I’m looking forward to it.

Movie Review: Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi (2012)

3 Stars (out of 4)

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This will come as a shock to many moviegoers (and moviemakers): rich, attractive twentysomethings aren’t the only people who fall in love. Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi (“Shirin and Farhad Made It”) bucks conventional romantic comedy protocol to tell a love story about a pair of awkward fortysomethings who fall in love for the first time.

Boman Irani plays Farhad Pastakia, a nice guy who has never been able to find the right girl. Farhad’s lack of romantic success is partially due to his shyness, but his main problem is that he sells women’s underwear for a living.

Farhad’s career is inevitably the deal-breaker in meetings with the families of prospective brides arranged by his well-meaning mother, Nargis (Daisy Irani), and his busy-body aunt, Beroze. His job certainly doesn’t help him at the matrimonial mixers staged by the local Parsi community.

The Parsi community is almost a character in its own right in the film. Every meeting or mixer organized by the Parsis (an Indian community who practice Zoroastrianism) descends into a brawl. The scenes are silly but give a sense of the social obstacles preventing Farhad from meeting a nice Parsi girl.

One of the committee members trying to keep the Parsis from killing each other is Shirin Fugawala (Farah Khan). She and Farhad meet initially at his underwear shop, and they hit it off later at a Parsi mixer. Little does Farhad know that Shirin is the committee member who ordered the destruction of an illegal water tank in Farhad’s mother’s kitchen. When Nargis realizes that her son has fallen for her sworn enemy, she forbids Farhad from marrying Shirin.

The source of the conflict is kind of weak, although it is funny that Nargis holds such a grudge over being caught doing something illegal. She’s emotionally invested in the water tank, which serves as a reminder of her late husband. Farhad’s grandmother, who lives with Farhad and Nargis, isn’t about to let something so trivial stand in the way of her grandson’s happiness.

Boman Irani is always entertaining. Though he primarily works in Bollywood as a supporting character actor, his versatility allows him to give nice-guy Farhad both vulnerability and playfulness. Irani is charming and performs to his usual high standards.

Farah Khan is likewise an unconventional choice for a lead actress. Best known as a director and choreographer, Khan usually plays herself in front of the camera. Khan is great as Shirin, a woman who isn’t single because of any flaws, but because she has more important priorities than marriage. Shirin gets along so well with Farhad initially because she’s under no pressure; she’s sure the relationship isn’t going anywhere.

Overall, the film is more amusing than laugh-out-loud funny, though there are a few great lines. Early on, a well-meaning aunt tries to find a date for Shirin, and each bachelor in her stack of photos is older than the next. The aunt points to a picture of one old-timer and says, “He’s young at heart. He just underwent a bypass.”

Links

  • Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi at Wikipedia
  • Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi at IMDb

Movie Review: Tees Maar Khan (2010)

3 Stars (out of 4)

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Farah Khan knows how to stage a spectacle. She’s done it for years as Bollywood’s most sought after choreographer, and she did it with her second directorial effort, the vibrant Om Shanti Om (her directorial debut, Main Hoon Na, was comparatively low-key). With Tees Maar Khan, Farah Khan reasserts herself as Bollywood’s queen of bombast.

Tees Maar Khan is an outrageous comedy filled with larger than life characters. As such, there’s only one man to play the lead: Akshay Kumar. Kumar usually plays a charming ham these days, but few of his recent movies have been able to match his natural charisma. Khan is able to take all that is good about Akshay Kumar and let him shine.

“Tees Maar Khan” (TMK) is the alias of the thief Tabrez Mirza Khan (Kumar). He eludes the police with the aid of his three henchmen: Dollar, Soda and Burger. The Johri brothers — a pair of conjoined-twin smugglers (played by identical twins Raghu Ram and Rajiv Laxman) — hire TMK to steal a heavily guarded trainload of antiques.

TMK plans to stop the train by tricking a bunch of villagers into mobbing it, all under the guise of making a movie. To make the ruse believable, he hires a famous actor, Aatish Kapoor (Akshaye Khanna), assuring him that the role is Oscar gold. TMK enlists his girlfriend, Anya (Katrina Kaif), to play the fake movie’s heroine, if only to keep the aspiring actress from naively doffing her clothes for lecherous directors promising Bollywood stardom.

Khan understands exactly what it takes to make a goofy, campy movie. Everything about Tees Maar Khan is loud: the dialog, the music, and especially the costumes. The writing in Tees Maar Khan is consistently funny and is supported by strong performances all around, especially from TMK’s sidekicks and the villainous twins.

Khan likes to work on a big scale. The exciting dance numbers cover large areas and include several costume changes. There are hundreds of extras involved in the village scenes. The scale of the movie is impressive.

But at some point, there’s simply too much of everything. Comedies should err on the side of being too short, and Tees Maar Khan is too long. The opening scene in a police station is a waste of time that delays the introduction of the main character. A dance number involving Salman Khan is fun, but totally unnecessary.

What’s more, the Salman Khan number is such an obvious stunt that it breaks the spell of the movie. Salman’s real-life romance with Kaif is the only reason he’s in the film. Imagine how dated the movie will feel if they ever break up. Given the popularity of Kumar, Kaif and Khanna, it’s not as if Tees Maar Khan needed the additional star power to draw an audience.

My biggest complaint about Khan as a director is her penchant for including celebrity cameos and insider Bollywood references, just because she can. I know that Khan’s biggest audience is in India, but her movies are as visually polished as anything coming out of Hollywood. Why not reach out to a wider audience?

TMK tries to in several ways. The actor Kapoor bemoans turning down a role in “Dumbdog Millionaire.” He’s later tricked into believing that TMK is Manoj Day Ramalan, the younger brother of “Fifth Sense” director Manoj Night Ramalan. It’s funny stuff that avid moviegoers everywhere will get.

But for every universal joke, there are twice as many references to classic Hindi movies or Bollywood gossip that international audiences won’t understand. Even for domestic Indian audiences, I’m not sure if the material is supposed to be funny or if it’s just supposed to elicit a “Hey, I know who she’s talking about!” response. If the latter, the references won’t mean as much ten or twenty years from now. It’s not a good long-term strategy.

I hold Farah Khan to such high standards because I think she’s so talented. If you ask most Americans to name a Bollywood movie, they’ll mention Slumdog Millionaire or Bend It Like Beckham. Both films are actually British productions which borrow elements of Bollywood movies. It’s time for a director working in India to define Bollywood for the Western world, and I think Farah Khan’s the one to do it.

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Opening December 22: Tees Maar Khan and Toonpur Ka Superhero

Christmas Eve falls on a Friday this year, bumping this week’s movie release schedule forward to Wednesday. Two new Hindi films open in Chicago area theaters on December 22, 2010. The action comedy Tees Maar Khan stars Akshay Kumar as the world’s greatest thief, with Katrina Kaif playing his girlfriend. TMK is directed by choreographer Farah Khan, so expect some impressive dance numbers.

Tees Maar Khan opens on Wednesday at the AMC Loews Pipers Alley 4 in Chicago, Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington and Regal Cantera 30 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 15 min.

This week’s other new theatrical release is the family comedy Toonpur Ka Superhero, a mix of live action and 3D animation (though I suspect U.S. theaters will only show it in 2D). Ajay Devgan plays an actor who magically becomes a part of his kids’ favorite cartoon TV show. Devgan’s real-life wife, Kajol, plays his wife in the film.

Toonpur Ka Superhero opens on December 22 at the Golf Glen 5, South Barrington 30 and Cantera 30. It has a runtime of 2 hrs. 20 min.

Though it didn’t make it into Chicago area theaters, Isi Life Mein (“In This Life”) debuts on YouTube on Wednesday, two days before it opens internationally. The complete movie is available for rent here, though I’m not sure if it has English subtitles. Earlier this year, I rented Striker on YouTube and was pleased with the video quality. Besides, the $4.99 rental fee is cheaper than a movie ticket.

No Problem carries over at the South Barrington 30.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this week include Nagavalli (Telugu), Manmadhan Ambu (Tamil) and Ragada (Telugu) at the Golf Glen 5. Sathyam Cinemas in Downers Grove is also carrying Manmadhan Ambu.

Retro Review: Dil Se (1998)

4 Stars (out of 4)

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Over the years, several people have recommended Dil Se to me. Based on the DVD cover, I expected a good but fairly typical romantic drama. Boy, was I wrong. Dil Se takes the genre in unexpected directions, enhancing a well-told story with surreal dance numbers.

The couple on the DVD cover meet on a train platform on a cold night during a downpour. Amar (Shahrukh Khan) assumes that a figure huddled under a blanket is a man and asks him for a match to light his cigarette. A gust of wind blows the blanket away to reveal a lovely woman named Meghna (Manisha Koirala).

Amar flirts clumsily with the taciturn beauty, until she finally asks him to buy her a hot cup of tea. While he’s helping the sleepy tea vendor prepare the chai, a train pulls into the station. Amar arrives on the platform, cups of tea in hand, to see Meghna seated on the train with some rough-looking guys. She gives him one last look as the train pulls away.

They meet again a short time later in Northeast India, where Amar is covering the fiftieth anniversary of Indian independence from Britain, for the national radio station. What should be a happy time is marred by ongoing clashes between the army and groups of separatists. Amar interviews the revolutionaries to better understand their goals.

When, in the course of his work, Amar comes across Meghna, she pretends not to recognize him at first, which only intensifies his pursuit. Amar’s pursuit is aggressive, almost as though he feels entitled to her. Still, she doesn’t reject him as forcefully as she has grounds to. She eventually tells him that she’s married. Amar’s attempt to apologize results in him being beaten up and left in a ditch by the men who were on the train with Meghna the first night they met.

Amar is understandably confused, as is the audience. Who is this girl? Is she interested in Amar, or not? Is she telling the truth? It’s no wonder why he finds her so alluring, despite the danger to his personal safety.

There’s an aura of danger surrounding Amar as he files his reports. He’s in essentially foreign territory; he doesn’t speak the language or understand the people. His bravado masks the fact that he’s out of his element, whether talking with terrorists or walking through the desert after his bus breaks down. The only thing he understands is how he feels for Meghna.

Enhancing that feeling of disorientation are the movie’s musical numbers, arguably the best part of the movie. It’s easy to incorporate a song-and-dance number by having the characters join in a parade that just happens to be passing by. It takes guts to make the romantic leads run from soldiers as the city explodes around them during a love song.

The numbers are symbolic rather than literal. This is the ideal way to include musical performances in a movie, as it provides a visual representation of a character’s mindset. It elevates the performances beyond mere devices for selling soundtrack CDs, especially since A. R. Rahman’s amazing songwriting sells itself.

I’m not qualified to say if the choreography in Dil Se is the best ever, but I’m confident that it is some of the most challenging and well-executed. Choreographer Farah Khan demands that actors throw themselves into her dances whole-heartedly. There is no way to half-ass her moves.

The most impressive dance number in the movie, “Chaiyya Chaiyya,” takes place on top of a moving train, traveling through tunnels and over bridges. It’s nearly seven minutes long. The dance is so technically stunning and the setting so precarious, thinking about the practicalities of its filming temporarily brought me out of the movie. Still, it’s so cool that it’s impossible not to enjoy it.

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Movie Review: Om Shanti Om (2007)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Even death can’t stop B-movie actor Om (Shah Rukh Khan) from proving his love for superstar Shanti (Deepika Padukone). The beautiful sets, extravagant dance numbers and dozens of cameos make this film both a love letter to Bollywood and a great example of the genre. Thanks to writer/director Farah Khan’s commitment to her vision and Shah Rukh Khan’s comedic skills, Om Shanti Om is perfect for new Bollywood-goers, yet rewarding for longtime fans.

No Rating (violence); 160 minutes

This review originally appeared in The Naperville Sun on November 16, 2007