Tag Archives: Jackie Shroff

Movie Review: Housefull 3 (2016)

Housefull32 Stars (out of 4)

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Lies. Manipulation. Betrayal. When considered from the perspective of the three female leads, Housefull 3 is a tragedy, not a comedy.

Wealthy sisters Gracy (Jacqueline Fernandez), Jenny (Lisa Haydon), and Sarah (Nargis Fakhri) live in London with their doting father, Batuk Patel (Boman Irani, playing a different character from the first two Housefull films, but with the same name). The beautiful, accomplished women — Gracy is a doctor, Jenny an artist, and Sarah a philanthropist — have grown up under the shadow of a curse: catastrophe befalls anyone in their family who marries, thus their father has forbidden them from ever falling in love.

However, Batuk’s family curse is a ruse to hide a more treacherous reason for keeping the women single. The sisters’ entire lives are built upon lies told by their own father.

Despite Batuk’s warnings, the women find romance. Gracy loves Sandy (Akshay Kumar), a wannabe footballer who dreams of owning a soccer club just so he can give himself a place on the roster. Jenny loves Teddy (Riteish Deshmukh), an aspiring race car driver who can’t find a sponsor. Sarah loves Bunty (Abhishek Bachchan), an untalented rapper who wants to start his own record label.

The three men realize that the only way to finance their delusional dreams is by marrying wealthy women. They set their sights on the three sisters, vowing to do whatever it takes to get their hands on a share of the Patel fortune.

Throughout the film, the women have no idea that they are being used by their boyfriends. Their father’s lies eventually put their very lives at risk. In a perfect world, the sisters would take their money and run, ditching all of the men who’ve deceived them.

But this Housefull 3, the third installment of a franchise built on the disposability and interchangeability of it female characters. Gracy, Jenny, and Sarah are hollow shells in sparkly outfits. For them to appreciate the degree to which they’ve been manipulated, they’d have to be fully realized humans, which they are not.

Instead, the story focuses on the three loser boyfriends who feign various disabilities to deceive first Batuk and later Urja Nagre (Jackie Shroff) a recently paroled mafia don. There are mistaken identities, wacky fight scenes, and people running around flailing their hands in the air. It feels so very tired.

Housefull 3 also feels cheap, as if directing duo Sajid-Farhad were instructed to spend as little as possible in order to maximize profits. Teddy’s big car race pits him against just one other driver on a giant track. When Teddy has to fake blindness, he uses a regular walking cane, not the white cane used by blind people. The climactic fight scene takes place in a wax statue factory full of rejects from Madame Tussaud’s, including a statue of The Rock with oversized ears.

The plot is stretched to maximum thinness to lengthen the amount of time between the few important plot revelations that exist, padded out with Bollywood in-jokes and movie references. Chunky Pandey’s character Aakhri Pasta is brought back for a third time because, well, why not?

One point in Housefull 3‘s favor concerns Kumar’s character, who suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder. Sandy has an angry alternate personality named Sundi whose sole goal is to cause Sandy suffering, but Sundi does so in ways that are more annoying than harmful. One funny sequence finds Sundi in a bathroom, rubbing liquid hand soap in Sandy/Sundi’s eyes and kicking his shin against a towel rack.

Beyond Sandy’s cartoonish internal nemesis, there isn’t much clever or new in Housefull 3, and it’s hard to see a way to freshen up the formula for a fourth time. Maybe it’s time to close the doors on this franchise for good.

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Movie Review: Brothers (2015)

Brothers1 Star (out of 4)

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Among screenwriting jobs, Brothers: Blood Against Blood should be as easy as it gets. The movie is an official remake of Warrior, a great Hollywood film by Gavin O’Connor. Translate the dialogue, relocate the action, cast some Bollywood stars, and boom, you’re done. So why is Brothers so bad?

Warrior is superbly written. Every character has clear motivation and a goal in every scene. Background information is doled out efficiently. The plot is brisk.

For some reason, director Karan Malhotra and his screenplay adapter/wife, Ekta Pathak Malhotra, abandoned the original film’s efficiency in favor of overly long melodrama. The characters in Brothers are left adrift. We know too much about their history, but nothing about what they want right now.

Former alcoholic Gary Fernandez (Jackie Shroff) emerges from prison sober but unhinged. His son, Monty (Sidharth Malhotra, no relation to the director), brings his father home, watching as the broken old man sees the ghost of his dead wife Maria (Shefali Shah) in every corner. Gary wants to know why his other son, David (Akshay Kumar), hasn’t come to meet him.

David is a high school physics teacher, burdened by the cost of his daughter’s dialysis. He earns some cash in an illegal street fight, but his bruises cost him his job. David’s wife, Jenny (Jacqueline Fernandez), worries about the danger of his return to the ring, but he can’t resist the allure of fighting in India’s first televised mixed martial arts tournament, Right 2 Fight (R2F). Neither can Monty.

Most of the copious flashbacks in Brothers are time-wasters (really, we need to see David and Jenny falling in love?). The only useful one explains why the brothers are estranged. Monty is Gary’s son from an affair, and David blames his younger half-brother for destroying his family. Maria makes is clear that she loves Monty as much as her biological son, but David doesn’t care.

The single biggest problem in Brothers is that the Malhotras think that David is a hero. Having a sick kid may make him sympathetic, but it doesn’t automatically mean he’s a good person. During a match at R2F, David is so enraged that he continues to pummel an unconscious opponent, even as his physics students watch on television. (Gary is proud of him for this. What a guy.) David is the one who turned his back on his little brother, and he apparently never tried to reach out to Monty in the years since.

It’s not clear how Monty spent the decades that his father was incarcerated. When he starts his fighting career, he’s terrible, and he doesn’t decide to pursue it seriously until halfway through the movie. There’s a hint that, because Gary is a former fighter, Monty fights to gain his father’s approval, but that storyline goes nowhere.

Sidharth provides no help in elucidating his character’s motivation because he has only two emotions: sad and bewildered. When Monty isn’t moping, he’s flinching from the bright lights of the arena, as though he’s a defrosted caveman fearfully trying to comprehend the modern world.

spideyPictured Above: Sidharth’s acting coach for Brothers?

Akshay is a trained martial artist, but his salt-and-pepper beard makes him look too old to play a competitive fighter. It looks like Sidharth is fighting his dad while his grandpa, Jackie Shroff, watches. David’s a bad enough guy as is, and Akshay doesn’t do anything to make him more likable.

The two women in the cast — Jacqueline and Shefali — give the strongest performances, but they cry in every one of their scenes. The excess of melodrama peaks when David looks at his battered brother in the ring and hallucinates Monty as a smiling little boy. It’s laugh-out-loud funny.

Another bit of unintentional — but totally predictable — comedy in Brothers: David’s daughter is called “Poopoo.” The ladies in the theater with me hooted every time someone said her name.

Nothing happens quickly in Brothers. Something as simple as a character walking into the arena takes several minutes. An inordinate amount of time is devoted to the R2F promoter, who has nothing to do with the main story. There’s a lengthy item number featuring Kareena Kapoor Khan dancing in a Benihana, intercut with scenes of David training, for who knows what reason.

Brothers isn’t bad in comparison to Warrior, it’s just bad. Why would anyone watch this when they could just rent Warrior?

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Movie Review: Dirty Politics (2015)

DirtyPoliticsZero Stars (out of 4)

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About three-quarters of the way through the movie, my hands grip my head as if trying to contain an imminent explosion. I scream, “What is happening?!” and tear at my hair. That sums up the entire experience of watching Dirty Politics.

The movie’s problems are immediately apparent, most obviously so in the way the film looks. The camera never stops moving. It doesn’t matter if the movement obscures the faces of the characters who are speaking: camera movement is paramount! The action can be dramatic, such as a crane shot from directly overhead that swoops down to ground level then back up again. It can be more subtle, such as persistent zoom-ins on actors’ faces.

In one shot, the camera rapidly zooms in to closeup and pulls back twice in the span of about three seconds. A judge says, “Court is adjourned,” and the camera pans from the judge up to a clock above his chair, even though there’s no significance to the clock or the time of day. Then the same shot is repeated a few minutes later, again for no reason.

I don’t blame cinematographer Panveer Selvam for this travesty of technique as much as I do director K.C. Bokadia, who also wrote this farce. Bokadia’s vision for Dirty Politics is obviously shaped by a fundamental misunderstanding of how to make movies.

The story opens in the middle of a search for missing dancer-turned-politician Anokhi Devi (Mallika Sherawat). We know this because the characters say the name “Anokhi Devi” about a hundred times in the first ten minutes. Characters are introduced in quick succession without a sense of where they fit into the larger story, and an absence of backstory is keenly felt.

Anokhi Devi’s appearance via flashback more than twenty minutes into the runtime doesn’t really clear things up. Her dancing grabs the attention of political party leader Dinanath (Om Puri). In exchange for sex, Dinanath promises to make her the party’s candidate in the next election. Naturally.

There’s a hullabaloo because a gangster named Mukhtiar (Jackie Shroff) wants the same candidacy. He gets a great introduction from Anokhi Devi’s secretary, Banaram (Rajpal Yadav), who announces his arrival at her house: “He’s Mukhtiar. A well-known goon of our area.”

Dirty Politics is full of hilariously ponderous lines. When Anupam Kher’s character Mishra — who is a CBI officer and a lawyer who’s sixty days away from retirement(!) — presents his case in court, the defense attorney responds: “He is very cleverly trying to make his points strong.” Eloquently said, man who doesn’t realize that he’s describing the very nature of his own job.

One can only imagine how Bokadia managed to rope so many talented actors into this doomed project. In addition to vets like Kher, Shroff, and Puri, Naseeruddin Shah his a role as an activist who steals the movie’s absurd closing scene. Govind Namdeo’s overacting is the height of comedy. Atul Kulkarni and Sushant Singh remind us why they are rarely called upon to play action heroes.

Shah’s character has a daughter whose sole narrative purpose is to be raped in order to blackmail him. There are only three women in the whole movie, and all of them are brutalized: two in order to intimidate their relatives, and Anokhi Devi for aspiring to a more meaningful purpose than that of Dinanath’s mistress.

Puri and Sherawat deserve some modest praise for fumbling through the most awkward sex scenes in cinema history. If Bokadia was counting on sex to sell Dirty Politics, he obviously didn’t watch any footage of his movie as it was being shot.

One can only fathom the sheer terror racing through the mind of editor Prakash Jha as he received each batch of footage. “How am I supposed to make a movie from this?” he asks himself. “There’s nothing to work with!” Hence how we end up with the exact same reaction shot of Jackie Shroff staring at a desk — his jaw muscles twitching — four times in succession.

Bonus: Everything you need to know about the lack of craft that went into making Dirty Politics, in just twelve seconds!

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Movie Review: Happy New Year (2014)

Happy_New_Year_Poster_(2014_film)3 Stars (out of 4)

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Director Farah Khan knows how to give the people what they want. Happy New Year is exactly what it’s supposed to be: loud, flashy, sexy, and tons of fun.

Everything you need to know about the film’s tone is conveyed in the first five minutes, during which a muddy, shirtless Shahrukh Khan is sprayed clean with a hose. It’s so overt that one can’t help but laugh, while simultaneously being wowed by Khan’s ripped abs.

Khan plays Charlie, a guy who’s been down on his luck ever since his father (played by Anupam Kher) was framed for robbery by Charan Grover (Jackie Shroff), a diamond merchant. Charlie’s chance for revenge comes when Grover publicly announces his plans to transfer some diamonds through Dubai, holding them in a safe at the Atlantis, The Palm hotel.

First Charlie recruits his dad’s old buddies: explosives expert Jag (Sonu Sood) and safe cracker Tammy (Boman Irani). He rounds out the team with Jag’s hacker nephew, Rohan (Vivaan Shah), and Nandu (Abhishek Bachchan), a drunk who’s a dead ringer for Grover’s son, Vicky (also Bachchan). The crew agrees to the job before Charlie tells them the kicker: they have to enter the World Dance Championship in order to get into the hotel.

Even though the plan is for Rohan to get the team to Dubai by rigging the vote, they have to at least appear like a real — if somewhat inept — dance troupe. Nandu recruits Mohini (Deepika Padukone), an exotic dancer, to help them, though she’s kept out of the loop regarding the team’s true mission.

Mohini is the film’s best comic relief. She’s enamored of men who can speak English, so she falls instantly in love with Charlie. Her eyes glaze over when he says something as simple as, “Excuse me,” and a breeze magically appears to blow her hair. During one song-and-dance number, things catch on fire or explode every time she touches him.

Padukone deserves as much credit for her fit body as Khan does for his. She’s in amazing shape, as evidenced by her athletic dance moves in the song “Lovely.”

Director Khan — who also co-wrote the film — goes out of her way to treat Mohini’s bar dancer character with respect, reminding the audience that women choose such professions for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with a lack of morals. Padukone does a wonderful job depicting Mohini’s resolve and self-respect.

The director’s progressive gender politics come through in the amount of skin she chooses to show as well. In a reversal of Bollywood norms, there are far more shots of Sood’s and Khan’s naked torsos than Padukone’s bare abdomen.

There’s also a nice example in Happy New Year of the difference between a racist character and a racist movie. The WDC’s defending champs hail from North Korea. When uneducated Nandu refers to the champs as Chinese, claiming that “they all look alike,” Charlie immediately rebukes him for it and greets the team in Korean.

On the other hand, the movie uses gay jokes as punchlines far too casually. Explicitly gay characters are costumed outrageously, and romantic overtures from one man to another are always shown as laughable or scary.

There’s also a brief shot in the film that will at the very least be jarring to Western audiences. The hotel vault holding the diamonds is lined by dozens of bodyguards of different ethnicities. The guard next to the door appears to be a white man, and he has a tattoo of a swastika on his right arm. I know that the swastika is a positive symbol in Hinduism, and perhaps the man is Indian. But in the West, the only white men with swastika tattoos are Neo-Nazis. Either way, in deference to international sensitivities, the filmmakers likely should’ve covered the tattoo.

Those issues aside, Happy New Year is exactly the lighthearted fare audiences want from a Bollywood spectacle. The characters are motivated by love for their family and country. Dance numbers feature colorful costumes and pyrotechnics. The talented cast supplies plenty of laughs. Kudos to Director Khan for giving her audience their money’s worth.

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Movie Review: Boom (2003)

Boom_movie_poster1.5 Stars (out of 4)

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2003’s Boom was brought to my attention by Shah Shahid of Blank Page Beatdown as an example of a movie that is so bad that it is actually good. Shah Shahid is absolutely correct. This is a terrible movie that is a lot of fun to watch.

Let me clarify what, in my opinion, makes a movie “so bad, it’s good.” The movie must be entertaining or funny in an unintentional way. “So bad, it’s good” movies can never be made ironically or with any kind of self-awareness. They result from the earnest efforts of a filmmaker that fall woefully short of competence and quality.

There also has to be a sort of inevitability to the failure, as though anyone reading the script would think, “This will never work.” And yet the filmmaker manages to secure the money to make it and convinces people to participate in the filming, in spite of what should be glaring flaws. My best Bollywood example — before having seen Boom — is Jism 2. Birdemic and The Room are my favorite American examples.

Boom meets all the criteria. Writer-director Kaizad Gustad clearly envisioned making a sexy, edgy crime flick to push the boundary of what passes for good taste in India. It fails miserably.

Setting the action within the fashion industry allows Gustad to cast his three main actresses for their willingness to don revealing outfits, and not for their acting ability. In the film’s opening scene, a bra-less Padma Lakshmi struts the catwalk in a see-through shirt, the opening salvo in a barrage of breasts that continues throughout the film.

Lakshmi plays Sheila, one of a trio of model friends that includes Katrina Kaif (in her film debut) as Rina. The group is led by Anu (Madhu Sapre), who’s presumably in charge because she’s the only native-born Indian. The foreign-born status of Sheila and Rina — who speak primarily in English in the film — is mentioned often, seemingly to justify their wearing skimpier outfits than Anu.

The friends find themselves in trouble when Anu fights with another model in the middle of a fashion show, and dozens of stolen diamonds spill onto the runway from their hiding place in the model’s hairdo. The other model flees, leaving the three ladies to account for the missing diamonds.

The diamonds were supposed to make their way to Dubai, home of crime boss Bade Mia (Amitabh Bachchan) and his brother, Medium (Gulshan Grover). Bade’s co-conspirator in Mumbai, Chhote Mia (Jackie Shroff), sends his muscle, Boom (Javed Jaffrey), to force the trio of models to cooperate. Things get complicated when Boom starts making his own plans, with the help of the models’ maid, Bharti (Seema Biswas).

The plot doesn’t make a lick of sense. Boom’s scheme to get out of debt to Bade involves stealing Bade’s own diamonds from him, then selling them back to Bade. This is the same Bade who snaps one of his employees necks because the toilet paper in his hotel was folded incorrectly. Sending a bunch of inexperienced models in to negotiate with Bade and Medium seems phenomenally stupid.

Also stupid: getting the models high before forcing them to rob a bank, although the mass-hallucination dance party that they experience mid-robbery is spectacular.

Predictably, the film’s ending makes no sense. Turns out Bharti and Bade’s oft-humiliated secretary, Alice (Zeenat Aman), are criminal masterminds in their own right. Apparently, they schemed for years in the hope that, one day, Anu would accidentally pick a fight with the one model who happened to be smuggling diamonds, thereby providing them with a means to ascend to the top of the underworld.

But plot irregularities are the least of Boom‘s problems. The performances are crazy, across the board. Kaif and Sapre are almost unbearable in their big screen debuts, making Lakshmi look like Meryl Streep by comparison. Aman and Biswas are fine, given the odd tasks that are required of them, including Aman doing a table dance in a conference room.

All of the male characters — apart from Medium — are completely wacky, and bless the actors for playing them as such. Bachchan sports a white wig and drives around a Toys R’ Us in a child-sized motorized car. Shroff growls through his dialog while sitting behind a desk that his female assistant lives under. He also licks a newspaper photo of Bo Derek.

Did I forget to mention that Boom features Bo Derek in the world’s most under-utilized cameo? Besides having her photo licked and having Bade bark to Alice, “Get me Bo!”, Bo — who’s in either Mumbai or Dubai (or both?) for a book signing — is only seen in Bade’s dream sequence, emerging from the ocean in a gold saree. She has no dialog and doesn’t interact with anyone else in the cast.

While the model characters dress rather butch when they’re not sporting bikini tops, Bade and Chhote wear outfits that even Liberace would consider garish. Bade dresses in all white (to match his wig), favoring lacy shirts with flouncy sleeves. Chhote wears black hot pants with a shirt that appears to actually be a lady’s sheer, fur-trimmed robe.

Jaffrey’s Boom is equally over-the-top. His giant handgun is an obvious metaphor for his penis, made that much more obvious when he lays it on his lap, barrel pointed toward his face, and strokes it for a good two minutes. When he’s not stroking his gun, he pokes the models in the breasts with it as a way of emphasizing his conversational points.

As is always the case with “so bad, it’s good” movies, a written account of Boom‘s oddities does not do it justice. It must be seen to be believed. It’s awful, but it’s always entertaining.

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Movie Review: Aurangzeb (2013)

Aurangzeb3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Aurangzeb should not work. The premise is silly: a long-lost twin impersonates his brother to take down their father’s criminal empire. Yet writer-director Atul Sabharwal executes his vision with such sincerity that the movie succeeds. I unapologetically love this action soap opera.

Sabharwal worked in television before this, his feature film debut, and it shows. There are so many twists and turns in the plot that it feels like a full season of a TV series condensed into one 140-minute movie. Aurangzeb: The Series would fit right in alongside The Vampire Diaries on The CW.

Arya (Pritviraj Sukumaran) — the film’s narrator — has a troubled relationship with his father, a disgraced police officer played by Anupam Kher in a moving cameo. Because of his father’s emotional distance, Arya was primarily raised by his uncle, Ravi (Rishi Kapoor), a crooked cop.

On his deathbed, Arya’s father confesses that he has a secret wife and son that Arya is now obligated to take care of. Arya resentfully breaks the news to the woman, Veera (Tanvi Azmi), only to realize that her son looks exactly like the son of the criminal mastermind, Yashwardhan (Jackie Shroff).

Uncle Ravi realizes that Veera and her son, Vishal (Arjun Kapoor), are Yashwardhan’s wife and son, presumed dead for the last 25 years after a “botched” police shootout that cost Arya’s father his job. In order to clear his father’s name, Arya and Ravi conspire to kidnap Yashwardhan’s son Ajay (also played by Arjun Kapoor) so that Vishal can impersonate his identical twin brother while acting as a police informant. Ravi explains that Vishal must act like Aurangzeb, the Mughal emperor who gained his throne by defeating the brothers ahead of him in the line of succession.

The soapiness of the story is enhanced by an amazing soundtrack. Heartrending musical themes accompany Veera’s confessions to her sons. Bombastic rock blares when Ajay (or Vishal) strides into a room, ready to bust some heads. Thankfully, the soundtrack album includes several of the great instrumental songs by Amartya Rahut and Vipin Mishra.

As with any good soap opera, the film is really about family conflicts: brothers turned against one another, children resentful of their parents’ favoritism, and parents who feel they can’t express their feelings to their hot-headed sons. Arya hates Vishal because of the love his own father showed the gangster’s son. Vishal hates his mother for robbing him of a relationship with his biological father. Ajay hates everybody.

As in his debut, Ishaqzaade, Arjun Kapoor plays a scumbag, and he’s great at it. Ajay is loathsome almost beyond the point of sympathy, yet the hurt behind his lashing out is always obvious. Vishal undergoes some real character growth as he, too, as his timidity gives way to aggression.

Pritviraj puts Arya in a similarly precarious position to Ajay’s. One of Arya’s early scenes has him belittling his dying father, so it’s hard to love him. However, it does give him room to grow when he’s forced to choose between his father’s “family first” approach to morality or his uncle’s belief in success at any cost.

Rishi Kapoor is compelling as the head of a family of corrupt cops. Ravi’s son, Dev (Sikander Kher), is involved in the family business, too, and gets to do some sleazy stuff.

Jackie Shroff plays the most sympathetic of the movie’s flawed father figures. Yashwardhan is old enough that he’s not the fearsome thug he once was, making it hard for Vishal to reconcile the man before him with the villainous image he was sold.

The movie isn’t all emotional turmoil. There are plenty of cool fight scenes to keep things entertaining, and it’s impressive how well they integrate with the melodrama. This kind of action-soap opera can’t succeed if it’s done halfway, and Sabharwal goes all out. Aurangzeb is exciting, touching, and totally engrossing.

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