Tag Archives: Imran Khan

Movie Review: Katti Batti (2015)

KattiBatti1 Star (out of 4)

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Katti Batti is a romance that’s uncomfortable to watch. You leave the theater feeling worse than when you entered.

The story begins three weeks after the dramatic breakup of Maddy (Imran Khan) and Payal (Kangana Ranaut). Maddy winds up in the hospital after drinking disinfectant, a drunken mistake that his family assumes is a suicide attempt.

His pushy younger sister, Koyal, and his best friend, Vinay, try to force Maddy to forget about Payal. When Maddy discovers that she’s getting married to his college nemesis — loathsome rich guy Ricky (Vivan Bhatena) — he sets out to stop the wedding, convinced that Payal still loves him.

The story of Maddy & Payal’s turbulent relationship is told via flashbacks, as Maddy routinely drifts off into his imagination even in the middle of dinner. There were plenty of times that they were happy, but there were more times when they weren’t. Goofy musical cues and some funny bits aren’t enough to classify a film this depressing as a comedy.

Writer-director Nikhil Advani’s fatal mistake is his assumption that Maddy’s protagonist status automatically makes him a good guy, when he objectively is not. A character who sincerely proposes marriage to a woman he’s only met the day before isn’t exactly emotionally stable.

It’s when things get difficult that Maddy shows his true colors. He responds to challenges with angry outbursts, and physically attacks both Ricky and Vinay. He’s suspicious and jealous of Payal, worried that she “will do something wrong” if left to her own devices.

After they break up, Maddy leaves 103 voicemail messages for Payal. When she doesn’t respond, he tries to find her by contacting not just their mutual friends but her co-workers as well. While Maddy never strikes Payal, he is possessive and controlling.

There’s a twist near the end of the film that Advani hopes will explain everything, but it doesn’t come close. By Advani’s rationale, Maddy isn’t a bad guy, he was just provoked into acting badly. But why isn’t Maddy responsible for his own actions? Acting like a madman is either a choice, or it’s cause for him to be locked in a mental institution.

But anything goes for Maddy, the center of the Katti Batti universe. His family and friends exist only to help Maddy sustain his romance, and they do so regardless of how poorly he treats them. As the movie progresses, the same question springs to mind with greater frequency: “Why are they helping this jerk?”

It’s not Khan’s fault that Katti Batti is such a bummer. He does what he can with a nasty character. Same for Ranaut, whose character exists only to be a love interest for Maddy. The rest of the supporting cast is good, too, but the material lets them down.

The twist near the end is pure movie contrivance that bears no resemblance to how real people would behave in a similar situation. Same goes for a tedious argument in which Payal interrupts a cricket match to scold Maddy for his unhealthy diet, poor aim in the bathroom, and for not noticing the new curtains she bought. The sequence is lazy, immature, and no fun at all, just like the rest of Katti Batti.


Opening September 18: Katti Batti

The romantic-comedy-drama Katti Batti — starring Kangana Ranaut and Imran Khan — opens in Chicago area theaters on September 18, 2015.

Katti Batti opens on Friday at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, 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.

Hero gets a second week at MovieMax, South Barrington 30, and Cantera 17. Welcome Back sticks around for a third week at all three of the theaters carrying Hero, plus the Woodridge 18.

Meet the Patels carries over for a second week at the South Barrington 30 and Music Box Theatre in Chicago.

Other Indian movies playing in the Chicago area this weekend include:

Movie Review: Gori Tere Pyaar Mein (2013)

GoriTerePyaarMein2 Stars (out of 4)

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Gori Tere Pyaar Mein (“My Fair Lady, In Your Love”) should be a lighthearted rom-com, but it winds up being a depressing slog, thanks to a loathsome lead character.

Imran Khan plays Sriram, the pampered son of a real estate developer. Sriram’s lazy, selfish ways once cost him the love of his life, and now he’s prepared to marry another woman just to stop his family’s nagging. He ignores the new woman’s pleas to call off the wedding so that she can marry the man she really loves. Sriram figures that’s her problem to solve, not his.

The first half of the movie is essentially Sriram recounting his failed romance to his wife-to-be, Vasudha (Shraddha Kapoor), via flashbacks. This gimmick is unnecessary, and it actually serves to make Sriram look like an even bigger jerk than he already is. It demonstrates that he learned nothing from his earlier relationship with compulsive do-gooder Dia (Kareena Kapoor).

Dia and Sriram initially fall in love because he’s impressed with her moxie. She’s willing to challenge power, an intriguing quality to someone like Sriram, whose only life goal is to convince his father to buy him an expensive car. Sriram — who has nothing better to do — follows Dia around on her charitable jaunts. Dia mistakenly assumes that this is evidence of either Sriram’s interest in her or her causes.

The relationship ends when Sriram sabotages one of Dia’s pet causes for his own gain. He then unloads upon Dia one of the meanest speeches I’ve ever heard in a movie, elaborating the many ways in which he finds her to be a hypocrite. It’s hard to watch, and even harder to imagine that she would take him back after such a berating. But this is a movie, so we know that she will.

As much as I like Imran Khan, it’s impossible to make a character like Sriram likable. There aren’t enough dance numbers in the world to achieve this feat, though goodness knows writer-director Punit Malhotra tries. Gori Tere Pyaar Mein is at least thirty minutes too long, due in equal parts to the pointless marriage subplot and too many dance numbers.

Sriram is unapologetically selfish for over two hours of the movie’s 150-minute runtime, so his obligatory moral growth comes too late to be truly redemptive.

Further undermining the effort to make Sriram seem like a good guy is how he goes about proving that he finally cares about someone other than himself. He does so by holding a knife to the throat of his adversary’s 18-year-old son, forcing the adversary to concede defeat. Yep, Sriram gets his redemption via extortion and the attempted murder of an innocent kid. What a guy.

Dia’s only flaw is that she has anything to do with Sriram in the first place. Kapoor does a nice job portraying a confident, compassionate heroine we can root for. I wish this movie had been about her triumph, and that none of it depended on Sriram.


Opening November 22: Gori Tere Pyaar Mein and Singh Saab the Great

What a busy time of year for Bollywood movies! Two new Hindi films open in Chicago area theaters on November 22, 2013, fresh on the heels of two blockbuster releases. Gori Tere Pyaar Mein — a romantic comedy starring Kareena Kapoor Khan and Imran Khan — gets the wider release of the two new flicks.

Gori Tere Pyaar Mein opens on Friday at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, Regal Gardens Stadium 1-6 in Skokie, Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 30 min.

This weekend’s other new release is the action flick Singh Saab the Great, starring Sunny Deol.

Singh Saab the Great opens on Friday at the Golf Glen 5, South Barrington 30, and Cantera 17. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 30 min.

After earning $1,449,174 in its first weekend in U.S. theaters, Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela carries over at the Gardens 1-6, Golf Glen 5, South Barrington 30, and Cantera 17, as well as the AMC Loews Crestwood 18 in Crestwood and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge.

All this Bollywood competition — plus competition from Hollywood fare like the sequel to The Hunger Games releasing this Friday — has dramatically shortened Krrish 3‘s lifespan in U.S. theaters. The only local theater giving it a fourth week is the South Barrington 30. The movie’s three-week U.S. box office total is $2,123,333.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend include Irandam Ulagam (Tamil) and Thira (Malayalam) at the Golf Glen 5.

Movie Review: Once Upon Ay Time in Mumbai Dobaara! (2013)

Once_Upon_ay_Time_in_Mumbai_Dobaara!2 Stars (out of 4)

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2010’s Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai raised interesting questions about the necessity of violence in organized crime and the role police have in protecting civilians. Its sequel, Once Upon Ay Time in Mumbai Dobaara!, revisits the same characters and locations, but ignores moral quandaries in favor of glitzy romance. The sequel doesn’t live up to the quality of the original.

Once Upon Ay Time in Mumbai Dobaara! (OUATIMD, henceforth) picks up twelve years into the reign of the sadistic Mumbai don, Shoaib (Akshay Kumar). He falls in love with a naive, aspiring actress named Jasmine (Sonakshi Sinha), whose innocence softens the don’s heart. At the same time, Jasmine strikes up a romance with Shoaib’s loyal underling, Aslam (Imran Khan), who tells her he works as a tailor. Neither man knows that they love the same woman, but when possessive Shoaib discovers the truth, boy, is he angry.

The casting in OUATIMD presents a problem from the outset. In the original film, Shoaib is played by Emraan Hashmi, an expert at depicting volatile, unsavory characters. Kumar makes his money these days playing comic goofballs and fails to make Shoaib as menacing as he needs to be. I agree with critic Mihir Fadnavis, who states in his review of OUATIMD that Kumar “sounds like a drunk Yogi Bear.”

Kumar’s not solely at fault for failing to make Shoaib appropriately villainous. Director Milan Luthria and writer Rajat Arora assume that audience members vividly recall the first movie and will apply that foreknowledge to Shoaib 2.0. But the character presented in OUATIMD is a smug, lovesick dope for the majority of the movie. His table-flipping freak-out when Jasmine informs him that she finds him strictly Friend Zone material seems out of character, unless one recalls the ruthless Shoaib from the first movie.

Requisite familiarity with the first film comes up in another odd way in OUATIMD. Shoaib’s girlfriend in the first movie is a woman named Mumtaz. Her character returns in the second as Shoaib’s kept woman, living in a luxurious apartment, but never allowed outside by the jealous don. Her presence is awkward and unnecessary, although she does give a touching speech near the end of the film about personal freedom and the fact that true love can’t be bought.

Jasmine echoes the same sentiments as Mumtaz, and Sinha does a nice job portraying a woman’s fear in the face of a man’s relentless romantic pursuit. In fact, the final half-hour of the film is really entertaining. Unfortunately, it comes about an hour later than it should have, given the amount of romantic fluff that could’ve been excised without damaging the story.

Imran Khan’s performance grew on me through the course of the film, but I’m still not sure that he was the right actor to play Aslam. He just seems too nice to play a street-hardened thief. Khan may have seemed more natural in the role had the makeup and wardrobe departments not turned him into a cartoon character. It’s hard to look beyond Aslam’s mesh tank tops, fake sideburns, feathered hair, and guyliner to appreciate the character beneath.

With a little editing and more appropriate casting, OUATIMD could’ve been pretty good. As it stands, the sequel’s shortcomings serve to reinforce what a superior movie Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai is.


Movie Review: Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola (2013)

Matru_Ki_Bijlee_Ka_Mandola_poster.jpeg4 Stars (out of 4)

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In my attempt to find the best way to explain why I like an unconventional movie like Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola as much as I do, I found my answer in my review of director Vishal Bhardwaj’s previous effort, the magnificent 7 Khoon Maaf:
7 Khoon Maaf is an all-or-nothing film. It either works for you or it doesn’t. Its strangeness will be a turn-off for some viewers, while others will lament a lack of explosive action scenes. But, if you’re in the mood for something a little different, beware: Susanna might just steal your heart.”

I feel the same way about Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola (MKBKM, henceforth). I love it, but I understand why some people won’t. It’s a slow burn, with characters that are hard to pin down and a few odd elements that have to be accepted on faith rather than understood with reason. I think it’s fabulous.

The plot of MKBKM is the opposite of high-concept. In short, the story is about a wealthy man’s attempt to convert his land and the small village that sits on it into a massive factory, shopping mall, and apartment complex. Naturally, the villagers object to the plan, as do the man’s servants, his daughter, and strangely enough, the man himself.

See, the rich man, Mandola (Pankaj Kapur) has a dual personality: he’s a ruthless, ambitious tycoon in the sober light of day, and a populist by night, once he starts drinking. His handler, Matru (Imran Khan), is supposed to keep Mandola away from liquor. But Matru has little incentive to do so, as Mandola is a nicer guy when he’s drunk. Early in the film, an inebriated Mandola leads the villagers in a protest outside the gates of his own mansion, until he sobers up and realizes what he’s doing.

Mandola wants the factory in part to woo a fetching government minister, Chaudhari Devi (Shabana Azmi), and also to secure a prosperous future for his only daughter, Bijlee (Anushka Sharma). He’s gone so far as to get Bijlee engaged to the minister’s son, Baadal (Arya Babbar), who, Matru repeatedly reminds Bijlee, is an idiot. Matru and Bijlee are, of course, a far more appropriate couple, despite their differences in economic class.

Bhardwaj includes a number of quirky elements in the film to elevate it beyond a simple parable about the dangers of progress at any cost. A scene in which Mandola confirms his plans with Chaudhari explicitly evokes images of the witches in Macbeth and takes place amid ruins on a hilltop reminiscent of Weathertop in The Fellowship of the Ring.

Promos for MKBKM featured one of the recurring visual themes: a life-sized hot pink buffalo that Mandola sees whenever his longing for his beloved liquor becomes too strong.

My favorite oddball touch is the way Bhardwaj deals with something that would’ve been a throw-away gag in any other movie. When Baadal first sees Bijlee in the movie, he’s accompanied by an African folk dance group that he purchased in an attempt to impress her. Rather than just disappear after the joke is over, the folk group remains through the rest of the film. They take over a room in Mandola’s mansion, join in dance numbers, and protest alongside the villagers.

That detail alone makes the movie for me. What else would one expect to happen to a foreign dance group transported to rural India? Bhardwaj — who co-wrote the screenplay with Abhishek Chaubey — takes a practical problem and turns it to his advantage.

The performances are great throughout: Pankaj Kapur growls his way through his dialog as cantankerous Mandola; Anushka Sharma is as spunky and lovable as ever; Azmi and Babbar are appropriately diabolical; and Imran Khan is clever and sexy as a budding revolutionary, whose sidekicks include an old man, a blind preteen, and a transvestite.

Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola is a must see. Even if you don’t love it, you won’t see anything else quite like it.


Opening January 11: Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola

I don’t want to set my hopes for Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola too high, but combining the skill of director Vishal Bharadwaj with the talents of actors Anushka Sharma and Imran Khan sounds like a recipe for success.

MKBKM opens in six Chicago area theaters on Friday, January 11, 2013: AMC River East 21 in Chicago, Regal Gardens Stadium 1-6 in Skokie, Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 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. 30 min.

Last weekend’s new release, Table No. 21, opened to a paltry $31,658 in U.S. theaters, less than half of what Dabangg 2 earned in the same weekend (Dabangg 2‘s third weekend in theaters). Nevertheless, Table No. 21 carries over at the South Barrington 30.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend include Seethamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu (Telugu) at the River East 21 and Golf Glen 5, which is also showing Alex Pandian (Tamil) and Naayak (Telugu).

Movie Review: Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu (2012)

3 Stars (out of 4)

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It’s a bad sign when the words “The Beginning” appear on screen at the end of a movie, just before the closing credits roll. If this is only “the beginning,” what was I watching for the last two hours? It’s a cop-out.

Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu (“One of Me and One of You”) ends with “The Beginning.” It’s disappointing because the first 95% of the movie is really, really good. I enjoyed myself so much while watching it that the lame way the story concludes made it feel like I had the rug pulled out from under me.

Let me focus on the good first, which is nearly every part of the movie. The protagonist in Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu (EMAET, henceforth) is Rahul (Imran Khan), the average son of snobby parents who routinely make it clear that he is a disappointment. When he loses his job at a Las Vegas architecture firm, he elects not to tell them.

Rahul meets fun-loving Riana (Kareena Kapoor), a similarly unemployed hairstylist. Since they are both alone on Christmas Eve, Rahul reluctantly agrees to let Riana take him out on the town. They get drunk and get married.

The next morning, they amicably agree to get their marriage annulled. Again reluctantly, Rahul lets broke, disorganized Riana stay in his meticulously clean apartment. Friendship blossoms as Rahul finally finds in Riana someone who does not think he’s a failure.

There’s little conflict in Rahul and Riana’s relationship, but that’s a good thing. They are both nice people, their only faults being that Rahul is overly fearful of making mistakes and Riana a bit oblivious to her more annoying habits. From Raina, Rahul gets the validation he’s never gotten from his parents, and Raina is happy to make him happy.

Khan and Kapoor are completely charming and succeed in making Rahul and Riana realistic characters. Their restraint adds to the movie’s humor: Khan gets more laughs out of a single raised eyebrow than any of the frantic, screaming characters in the Housefull 2 promo that preceded EMAET. Debutant director Shakun Batra gets the tone exactly right for a romantic comedy.

As much as I appreciate a movie that resists the urge to force conflict into a story, about three-fourths of the way into EMAET, I started to wonder, “What’s the catch?” Rahul and Raina can’t just stroll into their happily ever after, can they? Is she hiding something? Will he compromise his new self-confidence to placate his parents?

When the hiccup in Rahul & Riana’s otherwise perfect relationship finally arises, it does so without enough time left in the film to adequately deal with it. Hence “The Beginning.” It’s a profoundly unsatisfying conclusion, especially since all of the signs pointed to the adorable couple getting their tidy “happily ever after.”

I admire filmmakers who take risks with their storytelling — though audiences do have certain expectations of rom-coms released in time for Valentine’s Day — but the risks have to feel warranted. The ultimate resolution to Rahul & Riana’s story feels unrealistic and unfair. I wanted a better ending for characters I’d come to like so much.


Opening February 10: Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Bollywood sends a new romantic comedy to Chicago area theaters. Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu — a loose remake of What Happens in Vegas — stars Kareena Kapoor and Imran Khan as a mismatched pair who get married after a drunken night out.

Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu opens on Friday, February 10, 2012, at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. The movie has a runtime of 1 hr. 50 min.

All three of the above theaters are also carrying over the thriller Agneepath, which has earned $1,750,843 in its first two weeks in U.S. theaters.

Other Indian movies showing at the Golf Glen 5 this weekend include SMS (Telugu) and Spanish Masala (Malayalam).

Movie Review: Mere Brother Ki Dulhan (2011)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Katrina Kaif and Imran Khan have been established Bollywood stars for years, but this has been something of a breakout summer for both of them. Kaif scored big at the box office with Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, and Khan showed serious comedy chops in Delhi Belly.

Headlining Mere Brother Ki Dulhan (“My Brother’s Bride”), Kaif and Khan seem their most at ease in front of the camera. Not only do they share a charming chemistry, but they give two of their strongest individual performances to date.

Khan anchors Mere Brother Ki Dulhan (MBKD, henceforth) as Kush, an aspiring director in India who gets an odd request from his brother in London, Luv (Ali Zafar). Having broken up with his longtime girlfriend, Piali (Tara D’Souza), Luv decides to entrust his romantic future to Kush. Luv asks his younger brother to find a nice Indian girl for him to marry.

Kush enlists his parents and friends to scour Dehradun for a bride for Luv. The ideal candidate turns out to be a reformed party girl named Dimple (Kaif), whom Kush met years earlier during her wilder days. She describes her qualifications thusly: “I am correctly beautiful and appropriately sexy.” She gets the gig.

Predictably, Kush and Dimple fall for each other as they make wedding preparations. Only after Luv arrives do they acknowledge the problem: she’s about to marry the wrong brother.

The fact that MBKD feels a bit like something we’ve seen before is actually its strength. Debutant filmmaker Ali Abbas Zafar (who’s not the Ali Zafar who plays Luv) clearly set out to make a feel-good romantic comedy, and he achieved his goal.

To play up the familiarity, the opening dance number pays homage to some famous Bollywood routines of the recent past. There are plenty of dance numbers, and all of them are entertaining and well-integrated into the plot.

A few slightly unexpected tweaks to the formula are a nice surprise. While Kush is the film’s main character, Dimple does more to drive the story forward. She’s not a passive damsel in distress, but rather an impatient problem solver whose impulsiveness gets her into trouble.

In another unexpected twist, MBKD doesn’t have a villain. I kept waiting for Luv to reveal himself to be an oaf, or for Piala to turn into a “crazy ex-girlfriend,” but all of the characters are nice people. The situation — not the characters — provides the conflict. It’s tricky to pull off, but Abbas Zafar handles it well.

The advantage of this approach is that the story doesn’t get bogged down in maudlin montages of Kush and Dimple staring forlornly into the rain as a singer laments the cruelty of fate. Rather, the lovebirds recognize a problem and set about fixing it.

The lone complaint I have about the movie is that several jokes depend on cultural references that American audiences likely don’t share. There are repeated references to Complan, which I learned after the movie is a British nutritional supplement. (See Ricky’s comment below for a more complete explanation of the Complan references.) This isn’t a reason to avoid the film, but American moviegoers should know in advance that they won’t get all the jokes.