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Worst Bollywood Movies of 2011

In 2011, Bollywood produced a number of movies that advanced the role of women in film and pushed the boundaries of traditional storytelling style. This post is not about those movies. This post is about the worst films of the year. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)

Video services like YouTube and Netflix have allowed smaller studios to bypass the theater distribution system and reach an international audience via the Internet. While the development is a welcome one, it doesn’t mean that every film available online merits viewing. Inept, low-budget stinkers like Cycle Kick, Love Express and Impatient Vivek aren’t worth it, even for free.

Neither is a showing on the big screen a guarantee of quality. Indie film I Am Singh made it into Chicago area theaters but left after just one week. Aarakshan, Thank You, Dum Maaro Dum and Mausam all had large budgets and star casts but failed to impress.

While a number of this year’s movies featured empowered female characters, Turning 30 did its best to undermine feminism. The movie — written and directed by a woman — features a lead character who spends most of the movie wallowing in self-pity after she’s dumped. Turning 30 ends with the appalling suggestion that self-respect and a happy marriage shouldn’t be as important to women as having babies.

This year’s worst Bollywood movie manages to combine all of the above offenses into one unwatchable mess. It’s sloppily made, despite having a budget large enough to pay an A-list cast. It’s sexist. As a bonus, it’s also full of racist stereotypes.

The Worst Bollywood Movie of 2011 is Rascals.

Director David Dhawan is a repeat offender, being the man responsible for my worst movie of 2009, Do Knot Disturb. Rascals — a farce about two crooks fighting for one woman’s affections — seems tailor-made for comic action set pieces. Dhawan even cast action stars Sanjay Dutt and Ajay Devgn as the leads, but gave them little to do besides talk.

The movie’s female lead, played by Kangana Ranaut, spends the bulk of her screentime strutting around in a bikini while whining in a shrill voice: not exactly the postergirl for women’s lib.

Dhawan set Rascals in Thailand, then cast scores of blonde women to serve as gyrating backup dancers and dark-skinned African actors to play armed criminals. Were there no local Thai actors to fill those roles? Why make those casting decisions except to appeal to racist stereotypes?

All those problems aside, Dhawan’s biggest sin in Rascals is laziness. There are numerous continuity errors and bloopers that would’ve been easy to rectify, but Dhawan didn’t bother. Perhaps he thinks his target audience members — misogynists who find two men slapping each other hilarious — don’t care about stuff like a plot that makes sense. Maybe he thinks they’ll pay their money to see heroes like Dutt and Devgn on screen no matter how stupid the story.

I’d like to believe that we moviegoers are smarter than that.

Previous Worst Movies Lists

Movie Review: Impatient Vivek (2011)

Zero Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

I’ve wracked my brain for something nice to say about Impatient Vivek. The best I’ve got is that writer-director Rahat Kazmi must be a talented pitchman, since he convinced someone to produce such a stupid movie. Impatient Vivek is so laughably bad that it nearly achieves so-bad-it’s-good status, thanks in large part to the most poorly translated English subtitles I’ve ever seen.

Impatient Vivek‘s problem stems from the fact that it has no plot, or at least not a plot in the traditional cinematic sense. It jumps right into the action without introducing the characters. Thus, it’s just confusing as the film begins with the titular Vivek (Vivek Sudershan) stealing money from his parents to take his nerd buddies on vacation to Goa, where they break into song.

What exactly is the audience supposed to feel at this point? All we know about the main character is that he’s a thief. Are we supposed to be happy for him?

Vivek falls for a girl named Shruti (Sayali Bhagat), who has no interest in him, likely because he attempts to woo her by communicating via a hand puppet. Two years pass, they meet again and she’s still not interested (probably because of his persistent interest in amateur puppetry).

In fact, Shruti’s engaged to some American guy. Her estranged older half-brother, Anu (Rannaoq Ahuja), returns to India from Canada to celebrate.

Suddenly, Anu becomes the focal point of the story. He tries to romance one of Shruti’s friends, and there’s a subplot involving Anu’s jealous half-brother. Shruti doesn’t reappear until Vivek kidnaps her on her wedding day, in yet another anti-heroic blunder.

When Shruti falls for Vivek — despite his being an immature criminal jackass — it just makes sense. It’s the natural conclusion to a movie in which a bunch of unlikeable characters behave in ways contrary to the ways real people behave.

The story isn’t the only problem in Impatient Vivek. The acting is uniformly terrible; the feeble attempts by the lead actors to muster tears are hilarious. Dance numbers are lame, sets look cheap and the editing is awkward.

But the highlights of Impatient Vivek are its nonsensical subtitles. The dialogue transcriber is clearly not fluent in English — and maybe not Hindi, either — as is evidenced by innumerable grammatical errors, misspellings and a general failure to convey meaning. For example:

“Anu become hero here to came from foreign.”

Huh? Given the amount of translation needed from broken English into actual English, I might’ve had an easier time figuring out what was being said if I’d ignored the subtitles and just used my own Hindi-English dictionary, instead.