Tag Archives: Ileana D’Cruz

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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Movie Review: Rustom (2016)

Rustom3 Stars (out of 4)

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An open-and-shut murder case turns out to be anything but in Rustom, a movie based on a real-life case from 1959. Period costumes and decor give this drama a stylish flair.

The title character Rustom Pavri (Akshay Kumar) is a decorated Navy officer. His ship returns to Mumbai — then Bombay — ahead of schedule, causing him to catch his wife Cynthia (Ileana D’Cruz) in an extramarital affair with their mutual friend, Vikram (Arjan Bajwa).

Rustom returns to his ship to check a gun and ammunition out of the munitions cabinet, logging the withdrawal with the duty officer. He heads to Vikram’s mansion where he shoots the wealthy playboy to death, then turns himself into the police.

Chief Police Inspector Vincent Lobo (Pawan Malhotra) is immediately suspicious of Rustom’s calm demeanor, his refusal to be housed in a Navy jail, and his insistence on representing himself at trial. To Vikram’s bereaved sister, Priti (Esha Gupta), Rustom’s actions feed her hopes of an easy victory in court.

But Rustom has a few things working in his favor. Erach (Kumud Mishra) — a publisher from the same Parsi community as Rustom — uses his newspaper to run stories painting the officer in a favorable light, driving sales and tainting the jury pool at the same time. Erach’s contentious relationship with the trial judge (Anang Desai) provides the film’s comic relief.

Also on Rustom’s side is public sentimentality toward soldiers, a bias that Rustom himself exploits. When representing himself at trial, Rustom casually responds to the prosecutor’s (Sachin Khedekar) complaint about the symbolic impact of the officer’s uniform by saying that wearing his uniform is one of his unchangeable habits, just like breathing or defending his country.

Director Tinu Suresh Desai shows the power of the uniform in an early scene whose significance is easy to miss. Fresh off his ship, Rustom stops to buy some flowers for Cynthia from a street vendor. Just in the background, a pair of young women stare dreamily at Rustom, likely envisioning themselves the lucky recipients of a bouquet from a handsome man in uniform someday.

Writer Vipul K. Rawal draws from the way the jury was influenced in the real case of Officer K. M. Nanavati to make observations about the way blind veneration of the military can lead society to overlook the shortcomings of both individual officers and larger institutions. His story is critical, but not cynical.

Probably the biggest selling point for Rustom is its visual appeal. Costume designer Ameira Punvani showcases a stunning array of attire, adding ostentatious touches to the wardrobes of the wealthy siblings, Vikram and Priti. There are also loads of classic cars and furniture pieces to drool over among the set dressings.

Completing the period aesthetic is the cast, smartly assembled by Shruti Mahajan. Malhotra looks like he was plucked straight from a mid-century detectives catalog. Bajwa was born to play a rich, 1950s Lothario. The way he leers at Cynthia is positively nauseating, and I mean that as a compliment.

Gupta suits the film perfectly as well, poured into her glamorous cocktail attire, haughty expression permanently in place. I wish there were more to her character, but one can’t fault Priti’s single-minded drive to bring her brother’s killer to justice.

By necessity, Rustom has to play his cards close to the vest, so this isn’t one of Kumar’s flashier roles. Still, he fills Rustom with enough charm and intelligence to keep both the audience and the other characters guessing about his endgame.

D’Cruz gets to show the most emotional range as Cynthia, a woman overwhelmed by guilt and loneliness. There’s more to the story than she realizes, leaving her to suffer from a mistake that may or may not be entirely her fault. D’Cruz does a fine job containing Cynthia’s inner torment behind a brave public face.

Rustom is an entertaining movie, its vibrant style counting for a lot, given the relative dearth of period films in Bollywood. It’s also patriotic without being blindly so. Overall, it’s worth a watch.

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Movie Review: Happy Ending (2014)

Happy_Ending2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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How sad that the weakest element in a movie about a screenwriter is the screenplay. Despite sporadic funny bits and good performances, Happy Ending takes too long to reach its own happy ending.

Saif Ali Khan plays Yudi, a bestselling author who’s been coasting on his fame in Los Angeles for the last six years. When his money runs out, Yudi’s last option is to write a screenplay for Armaan (Govinda), an aging superstar who wants to appeal to a younger audience with a romantic comedy — or “romedy,” as Armaan calls it — that rips off various Hollywood films.

At the same time, Yudi is plagued by woman troubles. He can’t seem to break up with his cheerfully possessive girlfriend, Vishakha (Kalki Koechlin), and he’s jealous of the hot new author at his publishing house, Aanchal (Ileana D’Cruz).

Throughout the film, Yudi is visited by his chubby, hairy alter ego, Yogi (also Khan). Yogi gives Yudi advice, usually by making references to movie formulas. The characters repeatedly look into the camera and acknowledge the audience. At the film’s mid-point — when things are going well for Yudi — Yogi mentions that this is typically when things go wrong. The payoff for this pronouncement is delayed until after the intermission break.

Directors Raj Nidimoru and Krishna D.K. — who also wrote the screenplay — try to add a visual element to the screenwriting references by introducing some scenes with accompanying on-screen text listing the scene number and plot point. This only happens four or five times in the movie, so it’s not enough to qualify as a recurring theme. It just feels like a half-baked idea.

For all of the attention paid to screenwriting references, little attention was paid to story structure. There is no conflict in Happy Ending — besides the general question of whether or not Yudi will set aside his partying ways in favor of a mature romantic relationship — and there are no stakes. Yudi’s money problems are permanently resolved with an advance from Armaan, who doesn’t seem to care that Yudi isn’t making progress on the screenplay.

Vishakha gets a lot of screentime in the first half of the film. The upside is that Koechlin is quite funny in the role. The downside is that her relationship with Yudi is dead in the water, and she’s not crazy enough to endanger him. It wastes time that should’ve been spent on the budding relationship between Yudi and Aanchal.

Yudi and Aanchal don’t spend any meaningful time together until nearly an hour into the film. That is a shame, because D’Cruz is the best part of Happy Ending. She’s as funny as Koechlin, but with a relaxed charm. I wish someone in Hollywood would cast her on a TV show so I could watch her every week.

Yet even Aanchal’s scenes with Yudi are as slow and overwritten as the rest of the film. There are some genuine laughs — many generated by Khan, who’s a fine leading man — but they are separated by vast stretches where nothing much happens. Despite all its references to screenwriting, Happy Ending feels like a first draft.

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Opening November 21: Happy Ending

The Hindi comedy Happy Ending opens in the Chicago area on November 21, 2014. Saif Ali Khan and Govinda are the main draws, but I’m most interested to watch the very funny Ileana D’Cruz.

Happy Ending opens on Friday at the Regal Gardens Stadium 1-6 in Skokie, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville, and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 15 min.

After an average opening weekend, Kill Dil carries over for a second week at MovieMax, South Barrington 30, and Cantera 17. Both MovieMax and South Barrington 30 keep Happy New Year around for a fifth week, while MovieMax gives a third week to The Shaukeens.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend include Rowdy Fellow (Telugu) at the Muvico Rosemont 18 in Rosemont; Chaar Sahibzaade (3D; Punjabi w/English subtitles) at Century Stratford Square in Bloomingdale; and Naaigal Jaakirathai (Tamil), Vanmam (Tamil), Pilla Nuvvu Leni Jeevitam (Telugu), Varsham (Malayalam), and Kasturi Nivasa (Kannada) at MovieMax.

Movie Review: Main Tera Hero (2014)

MTH_Poster3 Stars (out of 4)

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Ever since the traumatizing experiences of watching Do Knot Disturb and Rascals, director David Dhawan’s name has struck fear in my heart. But after last year’s cute comedy Chashme Baddoor and now Main Tera Hero (“I’m Your Hero“), I have less reason to fear.

Main Tera Hero infuses the romantic comedy genre with action to accompany some impressive dance numbers. The hero at the center is played by Varun Dhawan (David’s son), whose substantial charisma hints at a long career ahead for a young actor in only his second film.

Varun plays Seenu, a worthless trickster so loathed in his hometown of Ooty that all the residents wave a gleeful farewell to him when he boards the train to Bangalore. He arrives at university and begs a statue of Krishna — who talks back — to help him focus on his studies. Seenu turns to see beautiful Sunaina (Ileana D’Cruz), hair streaming in the breeze, and he interprets her appearance as a sign from God. Seenu doesn’t linger to hear Krishna bemoan having a devotee dim enough to mistake a gust of wind for divine intervention.

Seenu’s pursuit of Sunaina is complicated by the fact that Angad (Arunoday Singh) — a burly police officer with anger issues — already has his eyes on her. Seenu turns the mischievous nature that made him so loathed in Ooty into an asset, and he tricks Angad into letting him court Sunaina.

D’Cruz rocks some great facial expressions throughout the movie, but she’s at her best during this courtship phase. Seenu tries to win Sunaina with the song “Palat Tera Hero Idhar Hai,” but Sunaina spends most of the song being startled by him. It’s hilarious to watch her jump as a horn plays behind her or Seenu surprises her at a movie theater.

Seenu’s pursuit is derailed at the movie’s halfway point when a secret admirer of his — Ayesha (Nargis Fakhri), a gangster’s daughter — tricks Seenu into coming to Bangkok to rescue Sunaina. This twist isn’t set up well, but it provides an excuse to get Varun, D’Cruz, and Fakhri into swimsuits and chilling poolside at a Bangkok mansion. That’s the whole point of the movie, right?

There’s plenty of skin on display, as well as an overabundance of pelvic thrusts. David Dhawan repeatedly positions the camera on the ground and points it up at Varun’s crotch. Thanks for pointing out exactly where Varun’s penis is, David, since we couldn’t see it through his pants.

More than just a thrusting pelvis, Varun does some good work in Main Tera Hero. He’s always engaged, throwing in subtle gestures and glances that maintain interest while Seenu does utilitarian things like walk from Point A to Point B. He’s also a tremendous dancer, and the movie’s several dance numbers allow him to show off.

Main Tera Hero has a really strong supporting cast, from Rajpal Yadav as Angad’s much abused sidekick, Peter, to Saurab Shukla as Ayesha’s father’s much abused sidekick, Balli. Ayesha’s father (played by Anupam Kher in an awesome wig) speaks with an echo, a tic that resulted from him being born in a valley. The “echo” is just Kher saying the same word three or four times at the end of a sentence, making the joke that much funnier.

The echo bit fits nicely with other surreal elements — like talking statues and balloons that wink — that help make sense of the random sound effects of which director Dhawan is fond.

The weak link in the cast is Fakhri. Though she speaks more Hindi dialogue in Main Tera Hero than she has in her previous films, she still sounds like she’s reading a cue card for the first time when she delivers lines in her native English.

There are also gender-bias flaws inherent in this kind of male-hero-centered film. Seenu falls in love with Sunaina on first sight, and uses his love to justify his pursuit of her despite her repeated objections. Later, Seenu fails to see the hypocrisy in his condescending dismissal of Ayesha’s love-at-first-sight for him. That kind of love, he claims, is mutual, even though it took several days for Sunaina to fall for him.

Accepting those flaws, Main Tera Hero is nevertheless pretty harmless. It has some laughs, energetic dance numbers, and an attractive cast. It’s exactly what it’s supposed to be.

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Opening April 4: Main Tera Hero

The action-comedy Main Tera Hero opens in Chicago area theaters on April 4, 2014. David Dhawan directs his son, Varun, and co-stars Nargis Fakhri and Ileana D’Cruz.

Main Tera Hero opens on Friday at the AMC 600 North Michigan 9 in Chicago, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 8 min.

The South Barrington 30 is also carrying over Queen, which continues to post big returns at the North American box office.

The Lunchbox carries over at the Century 12 Evanston in Evanston and Renaissance Place Cinema in Highland Park.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend include Legend (Telugu, with English subtitles) at the Muvico Rosemont 18 in Rosemont and Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge; Rowdy (Telugu) at the Rosemont 18 and South Barrington 30; and Balyakalasakhi (Malayalam), Cuckoo (Tamil), and Oru Kanniyum Moonu Kalavaanikalum (Tamil) at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles.

Movie Review: Phata Poster Nikla Hero (2013)

Phata_Poster_Nikhla_Hero3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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The trailer for Phata Poster Nikla Hero (“Through the Poster Emerges the Hero“) promises an overly wacky, seemingly disjointed screwball comedy. Fortunately, the movie succeeds by subverting the promises of the trailer. Instead, Phata Poster Nikla Hero exploits Bollywood conventions to produce a hilarious and thoroughly enjoyable movie.

As a child, young Vishwas is obsessed with movies, but his mother makes him swear before God that he’ll grow up to be an honest police officer. She further warns him that, should he ever do anything wrong, she and God will know about it. Nevertheless, the boy’s Bollywood dreams persist into adulthood. When his mother (Padmini Kolhapure) arranges an interview with the Mumbai police department, Vishwas (Shahid Kapoor) heads to the city, intent on pursuing his movie career behind his mother’s back.

When Vishwas accidentally thwarts a kidnapping while still wearing the police uniform he had donned for a photo shoot, it brings him fame and the unwanted attention of the local crime bosses. Worse, his mother finds out, and she comes to Mumbai to visit. Things get out of control as Vishwas tries to hide the truth from his mother, avoid the police and gangsters, and still make it big as an actor.

There are dozens of moving parts in Phata Poster Nikla Hero, but writer-director Rajkumar Santoshi keeps everything under control. As opposed to another recent comedy of errors, Chennai Express, Santoshi pays careful attention to continuity. He doesn’t introduce side characters for temporary plot convenience; all of the friends and enemies Vishwas makes along the way are with him ’til the end.

This is great, because there are some very funny supporting characters in Phata Poster Nikla Hero. Upon arriving in Mumbai, Vishwas rents a room in a guest house run by Yogi (Sanjay Mishra), a screenplay guru who “almost” wrote a number of hit films. Yogi and the other aspiring actors who rent rooms from him help Vishwas keep the truth from his mom. The only downside is that all of the other renters are terrible actors.

Kajal (Ileana D’Cruz) is another character who creates headaches for Vishwas in her attempts to help him. She mistakes Vishwas for a real police officer, setting up the accidental heroics that bring him unwanted notoriety. D’Cruz’s plucky earnestness makes dynamic Kajal a perfect foil and love interest for poor Vishwas, who’s just trying to keep his ruse from falling apart.

The cops and robbers generate some good laughs, too: Saurabh Shukla as a local don enamored of Vishwas’s fighting skills; Darshan Jariwala as flustered Police Commissioner Khare; and Zakir Hussain as Officer Ghorpade, a man whose loyalty is divided because he’s getting paid by both the police and the gangsters.

Of course none of this works if Vishwas is a dud, but Shahid Kapoor gives a funny and charming performance. All of his hammy bits in the trailer make sense in context, and Kapoor fashions Vishwas as a good guy torn between doing the right thing and following his heart. This is easily my favorite performance by Kapoor.

In addition to busting out some of the exciting dance moves for which Kapoor is renowned, he gets to show off his physicality in several funny fight scenes. Given that Vishwas is a boy raised on movies, all of the fights have a deliberately over-the-top, cinematic style. It’s so obvious when Kapoor is wearing a harness, it’s as though Santoshi is winking at the audience. The film’s title comes from an early scene in which Vishwas leaps through a movie poster to rescue a woman, as though he’s a celluloid hero made flesh.

Santoshi deserves the most credit for the success of Phata Poster Nikla Hero. He gives the audience exactly what they’ve come to expect over the years — Parental conflict! Gangsters! An abrupt tone change in the second half! A dance number featuring a woman in a ball gown on a beach! — but he does it on his own terms. There’s a great moment at the end where Vishwas lists all of the filmy plot points he’s hit during his journey. Such self-awareness is refreshing.

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