Speaking of the Amazon channel, I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Heera with one new addition to its Hindi catalog. The 2016 anthology movie Shor Se Shuruaat features short films by rookie directors mentored by veterans like Zoya Akhtar and Imtiaz Ali.
Two new Hindi movies and another older release debut in the Chicago area on Friday, November 5, 2010. The flashy romantic comedy Action Replayy (the extra “y” distinguishes it from “Action Replay,” the Gujarati play on which it’s based) stars Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Akshay Kumar as a couple living in an unhappy arranged marriage until their adult son travels back to the 1970s to make them fall in love.
This Diwali weekend’s other major release reunites most of the cast of Golmaal Returns for Golmaal 3, a sequel about a bickering family. I named Golmaal Returns my Worst Bollywood Film of 2008, and it remains one of the most annoying movies I’ve ever seen. Needless to say, I have low expectations for Golmaal 3.
Golmaal 3 opens in the Chicago area at the same theaters carrying Action Replayy: Pipers Alley 4, Golf Glen 5, South Barrington 30 and Cantera 30. Its runtime is listed as 2 hr. 35 min.
On Friday, the Golf Glen 5 also debuts Bombay Summer, an independent Hindi movie that’s been on the festival circuit for a while.
My enjoyment of most movies doesn’t hinge completely on the quality of the acting. I suppose that, when done well, you’re not even supposed to notice the acting. But the three leads in Ishqiya elevate an otherwise small and straightforward story to a work of art.
The film opens on a loving young couple engaged in a disagreement. The wife, Krishna (Vidya Balan) asks her husband, Vidyadhar (Adil Hussain) to abandon his criminal ways. He’s non-committal, though he professes to love her. As she walks through a dark hallway carrying a sacred flame on a tray, the camera cuts to the exterior of the house as an explosion destroys one of the rooms.
We next see Krishna as she opens the gate surrounding what’s left of the house to admit two of her husband’s former associates. Khalujaan (Naseeruddin Shah) and Babban (Arshad Warsi) are an uncle-nephew pair of thieves on the run from their latest victim, Khalujaan’s brother-in-law. They arrive at the house hoping that Vidyadhar will be able to help them cross the border into Nepal. Krishna informs them that her husband is dead.
She allows them to hide out at her house until they can figure out an escape plan. Krishna’s beautiful voice, which she uses to sing old movie tunes, enchants Khalujaan, even though he’s old enough to be her father.
Khalujaan considers Krishna’s reserved nature evidence of her modesty; Babban thinks she’s hiding something. His suspicions are confirmed when Krishna reveals a dangerous plan to earn them enough money to pay off the brother-in-law and make them all rich.
Ishqiya has some of the best acting I’ve ever seen in a Hindi movie. Okay, any movie. Balan plays Krishna perfectly. She’s not your typical seductress. She’s cautious, as a woman who’s been living on her own should be, but she knows how to entice both men to fall for her. Whether that was part of her plan all along or just an impulse of a lonely woman, it’s impossible to tell.
Lately, Shah seems to only get cast in smaller, cameo roles that don’t give him much to do. Khalujaan is the meatiest role I’ve seen him play, and he’s tremendous. Shah is nearly 60, but plays Khulajaan like a teenager with a crush. The performance is both charming and heart-breaking because the odds are against Krishna reciprocating Khalujaan’s feelings.
Before Ishqiya, I disliked Arshad Warsi. In movies like Krazzy 4, Golmaal Returns, and Short Kut, I felt his performances were more loud than funny. I was happy to be proven wrong. Babban is a lech, but Warsi gives him a vulnerability that makes him a viable romantic match for Krishna. His falling for her is inevitable, and a lesser movie would make that love reason enough for her to fall in love with him. Thanks to Warsi, Babban is just charming enough that we believe Krishna could have feelings for him.
Writer-director Abhishek Chaubey does a superb job with his first movie. The story is small, and Chaubey, appropriately, doesn’t overreach. No big special effects, lavish dance numbers or distracting cameos. The attention stays focused on the three leads with straightforward camera work and a direct storytelling style.
Chaubey previously worked with director Vishal Bhardwaj on movies like Makdee, Omkara and Kaminey. The two worked together again on Ishqiya, which Bhardwaj produced and co-wrote. He also wrote the movie’s wonderful music.
In one scene, Krishna sings to herself while chopping vegetables. There’s no accompanying music, just a solo woman’s voice. The visuals and sound editing were so seamless that I was sure it really was Balan singing. Turns out it was the voice of Rekha Bhardwaj, Vishal’s wife.
The scene exemplifies all that’s great about Ishqiya. Chaubey pays close attention to small details, making the film immersive. And he’s willing to give time to such a simple scene that reveals so much about the characters. After such a terrific debut, I’m eager to see what Chaubey does next.
Note: I watched Ishqiya on a DVD produced by Shemaroo. A watermark of the company’s logo appeared in the bottom right corner of the screen throughout the whole movie. Eventually I was able to ignore it, but I found the practice annoying.
I decided to select the absolute worst movie of the year from films that I awarded zero stars when I reviewed them. Abhishek Bachchan starred in two of those movies: Sarkar Raj and Drona. I was tempted to give the dubious honor to Love Story 2050, if only because it suggested that we’ll all still be playing the Xbox 360 forty years from now.
But the worst movie of the year had to be the one that was most painful to watch, the one that wasn’t bad in a funny way (like Sarkar Raj, Drona and Love Story 2050), but was just bad. Based on those criteria, the Worst Bollywood Film of 2008 is Golmaal Returns. No other movie approached its level of immaturity and ineptitude. Everything about it was annoying, and if I hadn’t been reviewing it, I would’ve walked out of the theater after thirty minutes.
Congratulations, Golmaal Returns. May you never return again.
I can’t think of a single reason to recommend this slapstick comedy. Every moment is annoying, from the persistent sound effects (such as flatulence followed by a slide whistle) to the character with a speech impediment who can speak only in vowels, and at a pitch that would make dogs howl. Even veteran actors like Ajay Devgan and Kareena Kapoor overact so outrageously that it’s impossible not to despise every character in Golmaal Returns.
This review originally appeared in The Naperville Sun on November 6, 2008