Tag Archives: Harman Baweja

Movie Review: Dishkiyaoon (2014)

Dishkiyaoon2 Stars (out of 4)

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Dishkiyaoon (an Indian onomatopoeia for the sound of a gunshot) aspires to be more than your average underworld action drama. It doesn’t meet its lofty goals, but it deserves credit for trying.

Debutant writer-director Sanamjit Singh Talwar’s ambitions cause problems from the start. The movie opens with Lakwa (Sunny Deol) and Viki (Harman Baweja) — though Lakwa insist on calling Viki “Chaudhray” for some reason — discussing Viki’s past. Flashbacks show everything from Viki being bullied in grade school to his joining a gang led by Mota Tony (Prashant Narayanan).

Every time the flashback returns to Lakwa and Viki in the present, the audience is reminded that we don’t know who these guys are, where they are, how they know each other, or why they are together at that moment. Those issues raise — and fail to answer — the fundamental question every director needs to answer within the first fifteen minutes of any movie: Why should we care?

When the questions of where they are and why are answered at the story’s midpoint, the revelation is underwhelming. The gimmick is not worth the frustration.

Dishkiyaoon‘s hook is that Viki isn’t a typical Bollywood action hero. Despite his buff physique — Baweja spends much of the movie shirtless — adult Viki is emotionally the same bullied little kid. He lacks swagger, despite the impunity that comes with being a gangster. When a pretty girl named Meera (Ayesha Khanna) asks what he does for a living, Viki bows his head sheepishly before showing her the pistol he always carries but never uses.

In many ways, Viki’s journey is less about his attempted rise to underworld supremacy than his search for an ideal father figure. Viki rejects his own inattentive, pacifist dad, first in favor of Tony, and then Lakwa. Most of the men around him are more alpha than Viki, including disreputable thugs like Rocky (Anand Tiwari) and Khaleefa (Sumit Nijhawan). Every event of consequence in the movie is a reaction to wounded male pride.

Only his childhood pal, Ketan (Hasan Zaidi), is as submissive as Viki, though Ketan’s low rank in the pecking order suits his position as a mafia accountant better than a buff flunky like Viki.

The underworld is so densely populated with gangsters, thugs, toadies, and corrupt cops — and they’re introduced in such rapid succession — that it’s impossible to keep track of them all.

Meera’s presence is superfluous. She’s supposed to represent the life Viki could have outside of organized crime, but leaving the mob isn’t that easy, and Viki never expresses a desire to do so.

The music in Dishkiyaoon is distracting, as it bounces from genre to genre without a governing theme. Meera’s introduction is accompanied by a heavy metal tune as she shreds on an electric guitar that isn’t plugged into an amplifier.

Baweja is okay as a leading man. In his defense, Viki is a hard character to pin down. Baweja does a nice job in the film’s climax, a scene in which Viki seems to lose his marbles.

Throughout most of Dishkiyaoon, I wondered if Viki was hallucinating Lakwa. His only connection to the plot is through Viki, and he fills the role of Viki’s ideal father figure. The story eventually confirms that Lakwa does exist, but wouldn’t it have been interesting if he didn’t?


Movie Review: What’s Your Raashee? (2009)

whatsurrashee1.5 Stars (out of 4)

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What if Stanley Kubrick had directed Mannequin? That’s what Ashutosh Gowariker’s venture into the realm of the romantic comedy feels like: an auteur squandering his talents in a genre he’s ill-suited for.

What’s Your Raashee? is a typical masala movie, in spite of being written, produced and directed by Gowariker, who was nominated for an Oscar for Lagaan.

Harman Baweja, stars as Yogesh, a recent MBA grad living in Chicago. He’s summoned home to India under the pretense that his father has had a heart attack.

His dad is actually fine. The family just needs Yogesh to get married and collect his inheritance from his grandpa in order to pay off elder brother Jitu’s debts. An astrologer predicts that Yogesh will get married in ten days time, so he’d better pick a girl quick.

Despite being smart enough to have earned an MBA from the University of Chicago, Yogesh doesn’t try to find another solution to the family’s money problems. He just goes along with their absurd scheme, following their command not to tell Grandpa about it, lest he view Jitu unfavorably.

Yogesh and his Uncle Devu cull the list of prospective marriage candidates to twelve women, one from each zodiac sign. All of the girls are played by Priyanka Chopra. Thankfully, Yogesh acknowledges their similarities in appearance, lest he come across as dimmer than he already seems for having agreed to his family’s moronic plan in the first place.

Priyanka Chopra deserves a lot of credit for even attempting to play twelve characters in the same movie. That she’s able to give them all distinct personalities and physical presences — showcased in a dance scene featuring all twelve characters on screen at the same time — is impressive.

But overall the movie disappoints, falling into the same traps as the worst Bollywood romantic comedies. There are two unnecessary, annoying side plots — one involving Uncle Devu, the other involving some gangsters — that drag the movie out and aren’t resolved in a satisfying way despite the movie’s nearly 210 minute runtime.

The movie is further dragged out by too many songs. Most of the women get their own song and dance numbers, even some of the girls Yogesh is obviously not going to marry. The routine associated with the Libra character, in which Yogesh plays a robot/puppet, is the worst number I’ve ever seen in a movie musical, Hindi or English.

There’s no reason why a romantic comedy, Bollywood or otherwise, should be more than two-and-a-half hours long. What’s Your Raashee? didn’t need to be either. Without the annoying side plots and cumbersome dance numbers, the movie would’ve been an hour shorter, making it an enjoyable if unexceptional movie.

Instead, it’s a movie best suited for watching on DVD, with your finger hovering over the fast forward button.

Opening September 25: What’s Your Raashee?

Ashutosh Gowarikar’s latest film, What’s Your Raashee? (“What’s Your Sign?”) opens in theaters this weekend. It may hold special interest for Chicagoans, since parts of the film were shot in the Windy City, earlier this year.

In What’s Your Raashee?, Harman Baweja plays a guy looking for love among twelve different girls, all played by Priyanka Chopra. (In your face, Eddie Murphy!) Baweja and Chopra previously starred together in the embarrassing Love Story 2050. The runtime for their latest film is listed as 3 hrs. 12 min.

What’s Your Raashee? opens on Friday, September 25 in the Chicago area at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington and AMC Cantera 30 in Warrenville.

Of last weekend’s two new Hindi films, Dil Bole Hadippa! bested Wanted in U.S. earnings: $351,457 to $217,432. Both films return for a second week at the Golf Glen 5 and South Barrington 30. The Cantera 30 is only bringing back Dil Bole Hadippa!.