Tag Archives: Kambakkht Ishq

Movie Review: Khiladi 786 (2012)

Khiladi_786_poster2 Stars (out of 4)

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There’s a lot to like in Khiladi 786. The well-organized plot allows for plenty of humorous turns, and Akshay Kumar gives a charming performance. Yet needless racism keeps me from recommending Khiladi 786.

During a throwaway number about forty minutes into the film, Kumar’s character dances, surrounded by a troupe of male Indian dancers wearing blackface makeup and Afro wigs, while female Anglo dancers writhe around wearing bikinis.

Kumar apparently doesn’t find blackface offensive, since he donned it himself in Kambakkht Ishq. If he did, he surely could’ve had the number changed since his wife, Twinkle Khanna, is one of the film’s producers. Since Kumar and Khanna already consider blackface acceptable, arguing with them over the obvious sexual objectification of Anglo women seems pointless.

The offensive dance number negatively affected my perception of an otherwise enjoyable movie. Kumar plays Bahattar Singh, a crook with superhuman speed and strength. Bahattar, his father, and his uncle work with the local police to stop smugglers on Punjabi highways. The work is dangerous and illegal, and the family splits the proceeds from their warrantless searches with the police.

Because seemingly everyone in the state of Punjab knows that Bahattar is thief, he can’t find a single local woman willing to marry him. This follows the family tradition of marrying foreigners. Bahattar’s mother is Canadian, his grandmother is African, and his aunt is Chinese.

(I also had a problem with the musical cues that accompany the introduction of each of the foreign women. The Chinese aunt appears to an East-Asian string-instrument theme, the African grandmother gets drums and chanting, and the white Canadian mother gets jazz saxophone. We get it. They aren’t ethnic Indians. That’s obvious from looking at them, though I’m not quite sure how jazz represents Canada. I would’ve gone with prog rock.)

Bahattar’s nuptial troubles present the perfect opportunity for marriage arranger Mansukh (Himesh Reshammiya), who’s recently been fired from the family wedding firm. He tries to fix up Bahattar with Indu (Asin Thottumkal), the reckless younger sister of a famous Mumbai don, TT (Mithun Chakraborty).

Indu knows that a woman from a family of criminals will only be accepted as a bride by another criminal, like her boyfriend, Azad (Rahul Singh). TT insists on marrying his sister into a good family, and the Singhs want the same for Bahattar, so Mansukh convinces the men of both families to masquerade as police officers.

Despite the fact that Khiladi 786 is an Akshay Kumar vehicle, the most important character is Mansukh. He’s desperate for Bahattar and Indu to get married in order to prove to his own father that he’s not a screw-up. To make that happen, he has to juggle the lies he’s told and encouraged others to tell. Mansukh’s uncle, Jeevan (Sanjai Mishra), hinders the process as much as he helps and provides comic relief.

Reshammiya plays Mansukh as animated, but not over the top. He needs to be the regular guy among a crowd of nutty criminals. Also, Reshammiya knows who the real star of the movie is.

Kumar plays much the same character as he always does: a sweet guy who’s tough when he needs to be. Bahattar notes: “Punjabis don’t come or go quietly,” which gives Kumar the freedom to act with extra exuberance. Bahattar’s superhuman speed is played to good comic effect, as he flattens bad guys in the blink of an eye.

The rest of the supporting cast is generally fine. Asin doesn’t have much to do, but Mithun Chakraborty gets to bash some heads in the final fight scene. There are a couple of side plots that come to nothing, involving characters like TT’s maid and an inspector played by Johnny Lever.

Of all the supporting characters, Azad is the funniest. Even though his name means “freedom,” he spends most of the film on the brink of being released from jail, only to screw it up and get himself thrown back into the pokey.

If it weren’t for one dumb dance number, Khiladi 786 would be a fun, harmless movie. There are just certain offenses that can’t be overlooked.

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Movie Review: Housefull (2010)

3 Stars (out of 4)

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These days, it’s safe to assume that any movie starring Akshay Kumar is a slapstick comedy. Such is the case with Housefull. Yet the strength of the cast and some well-executed bits make Housefull better than the average Bollywood screwball comedy.

Kumar plays Aarush, a guy whose luck is so bad that a casino pays him to walk around the gaming floor when the house is losing too much money, jinxing the players just by being near them. When his girlfriend turns down his marriage proposal, he flies to London to commiserate with his childhood buddy, Bob (Ritesh Deshmukh).

Bob, a card dealer, is married to Hetal (Lara Dutta), who works as a cocktail waitress. Within hours of his arrival, Aarush accidentally destroys Bob & Hetal’s home, along with their pet parrot. Hetal takes pity on Aarush, who has no other family or friends. She herself is estranged from her father, Batuk (Boman Irani), who wanted her to marry a wealthier man than Bob.

The couple arranges a marriage between Aarush and Devika (Jiah Khan), the daughter of a wealthy casino owner. But on their honeymoon in Italy, Devika reveals that she agreed to the marriage only to pacify her father, who disapproved of her Anglo boyfriend. Distraught, Aarush tries to kill himself, only to be rescued by the lovely Sandy (Deepika Padukone).

Aarush’s bad luck inspires most of the jokes in the early part of the movie but becomes less important the more characters are introduced. Housefull transitions into a comedy about mistaken identities, usually involving characters pretending to be married to someone to whom they are not.

The slapstick humor in Housefull is, at times, surprisingly funny. One example is a fistfight between Aarush and a monkey. On paper, it sounds stupid. But slow-motion closeups of a human fist hitting a monkey in the jaw, followed by a closeup of Aarush taking a small monkey fist to the cheek, accompanied by a Rocky-inspired soundtrack, manage to be hilarious onscreen.

Chunky Pandey also deserves praise for his turn as Akhri Pasta, the half-Indian, half-Italian hotel owner (his father was named Spaghetti Pasta). He wears a leisure suit and speaks in a jumble of Italian, Spanish and celebrity names: “Mama mia! Gracias. Al Pacino.” Pandey takes the role far enough to sell it, but not so far as to be annoying. It shouldn’t be so funny, but it is.

Besides being a bit predictable, the movie has two big flaws. The ending scene is too long and unfunny. If a movie is going to last more than two-and-a-half hours, it had better be for a good reason.

The second problem is a moment of racial insensitivity. It’s minor compared to some other Hindi films (Kambakkht Ishq and All the Best, for instance), but it points to a lack of understanding of when a joke crosses the line.

In order to validate a lie, Hetal borrows a baby to pass off as her own. The only kid to be found on short notice is the son of her black co-worker. When Hetal’s father remarks on the unexpected race of his grandson, Aarush (who’s pretending to be Hetal’s husband) blurts out that his mother was from Africa.

That’s where the joke should have ended. But Aarush begins to jump up and down holding an imaginary spear, mimicking a Maasai tribesman.

It’s not a joke born out of malice, but it trades on a stereotype in a way that lacks self-awareness. It’s awkward enough to draw attention to itself, ruining the sense of being immersed in the movie.

* Housefull has a posted runtime of 2 hrs. 15 min., but it’s actually closer to 2 hrs. 35 min.

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Worst Bollywood Movies of 2009

There are a number of factors I considered when selecting candidates for Worst Bollywood Movie of 2009. Movies featuring racist jokes, such as Kambakkht Ishq and All the Best, obviously made the list. Incoherent plots brought Wanted and De Dana Dan to my attention, whereas Main Aurr Mrs. Khanna ignored traditional story structure and skipped the climax all together.

Ek — The Power of One deserves mention for its ridiculous title, which translates in English to “One — The Power of One”.

What’s Your Raashee? was easily the biggest disappointment of the year, coming from Ashutosh Gowariker, the filmmaker responsible for great flicks like Lagaan, Swades and Jodhaa Akbar.

2009 was a particularly bad year for Akshay Kumar. In addition to Kambakkht Ishq and De Dana Dan, he also starred in the bland supernatural thriller 8×10 Tasveer. His two other releases during the calendar year, Blue and Chandni Chowk to China, were fine but forgettable.

Because of their spectacular misunderstanding of human emotions and dubious moral messages, I thought about giving the award to either Kal Kissne Dekha or London Dreams. Kal Kissne Dekha suggested that one’s value is dependent upon one’s ability to save lives via superhuman powers, while London Dreams excused abhorrent behavior so long as it was committed in pursuit of a selfish goal.

But the ultimate winner had to be the most annoying, most cliché-riddled movie of the year, the worst of the worst. And the winner of Worst Bollywood Movie of 2009 is: Do Knot Disturb.

Do Knot Disturb, which deserves the honor based on its stupid title alone, contains all of the bad clichés that dominate Hindi comedies at the moment. The plot is based on a series of misunderstandings which could be clarified if the characters actually had conversations with one another. The jokes are written based on volume instead of quality, under the mistaken belief that what was funny the first time is even funnier the sixth, seventh and eighth time.

Case in point, the high-pitched screaming match between characters played by Govinda and Ritesh Deshmukh. The characters get spooked by something and start shrieking in girlish voices. The gag isn’t original, but it’s not inherently annoying. But in Do Knot Disturb, the characters scream dialogue at each other in those high-pitched voices for the next ten minutes of the movie.

After one minute, the gag had already stopped being funny. After ten minutes, it was unbearable. I actually walked out of the theater and only convinced myself to return out of a sense of journalistic duty. By virtue of having watched all but one minute of the movie, I can say that Do Knot Disturb is the worst Hindi film of 2009.

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In Theaters: August 7, 2009

After a monster opening weekend, Love Aaj Kal is sticking around for a second week in Chicago area theaters. The movie finished 15th overall in the U.S., raking in $1,241,762. By comparison, it’s taken Luck two weeks to earn a mere $149,333 in U.S. theaters.

Love Aaj Kal will continue to run in all of the theaters it opened in last weekend: AMC Loews Pipers Alley 4 in Chicago, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, AMC Cantera 30 in Warrenville and Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles.

The Golf Glen 5 will also show the Hindi films Luck, Short Kut and Kambakkht Ishq, as well as the Malayalam movie Ivar Vivahitharayal.

The Telugu movie Magadheera continues for a second week at Sathyam Cinemas in Downers Grove.

Opening July 24: Luck

luckSanjay Dutt’s latest film, Luck, opens in theaters this Friday, July 24. Dutt plays a gangster in a movie about the role luck plays in several characters’ lives. Luck will run at the AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington and at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles.

Both theaters are carrying over New York for an impressive fifth week in U.S. theaters. As of last weekend, New York has earned $981, 866 in America.

The Golf Glen 5 will also feature Akshay Kumar’s Kambakkht Ishq, which has so far earned $1,408,522 in the U.S., as well as the Tamil movie Achchamundu! Achchamundu! and the Malayalam film Pattanathil Bhootham.

Opening July 10: Short Kut

This is the fourth consecutive week of new Bollywood releases in the Chicago area since the strike ended. Opening in theaters on Friday, July 10, 2009 is Short Kut: The Con is On, a movie about a small-time actor (Arshad Warsi) who steals a script and becomes a Bollywood star. Hilarity (allegedly) ensues when the script’s writer (Akshaye Khanna) gets his revenge.

Short Kut will run at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles and at the AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington. It’s runtime is listed as 2 hrs 19 min.

The AMC South Barrington 30 and the AMC Cantera 30 in Warrenville will both continue to run New York and Kambakkht Ishq. Both movies have already earned nearly $1 million in the U.S.

Kambakkht Ishq is also getting a second week at the AMC Loews Pipers Alley 4 in Chicago and at the Golf Glen 5.

Other Indian movies playing in the Chicago area this weekend include Bhramaram (Malayalam), Oy! (Telugu) and Made In China [which may be a rerelease of Chandni Chowk to China, I’m not sure] at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5. Sathyam Cinemas in Downers Grove is showing the Telugu film Gopi Gopika Godavari.

Here’s a trailer for this week’s new release, Short Kut:

Movie Review: Kambakkht Ishq (2009)

kambakktishq1 Star (out of 4)

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By this point, if you’ve seen one Akshay Kumar slapstick comedy, such as Chandni Chowk to China, Singh is Kinng, or Welcome, you’ve seen them all. Kambakkht Ishq is no different, except that producer Sajid Nadiadwala cast three American movie stars, in the hopes of making this film a crossover hit. But the publicity-stunt casting can’t save this cliched comedy.

Kumar stars as Viraj, a Hollywood stuntman who thinks women are only good for one thing. Kareena Kapoor plays Simrita, a supermodel-surgeon (seriously) who thinks men are dogs. While trying to convince their families and friends that romance is for suckers, they inadvertently fall in love with each other. It’s a plot that’s as old as the hills, and this movie does nothing to freshen it up.

There are a number of reasons why Kambakkht Ishq won’t appeal to American audiences the way Nadiadwala hoped, beyond the predictable problem of Hindi wordplay jokes that aren’t funny when translated into in English.

First, the casting of American actors didn’t work. It was cool to see Sylvester Stallone in a Bollywood movie, but Denise Richards and Brandon Routh barely qualify as “stars” in the U.S. I’m guessing Denise Richards is referred to only by her full (and real) name throughout the movie so that Indian moviegoers can look her up on IMDb after getting home from the theater.

More confusing is the inclusion of a bunch of Australian actors in the movie, even though it’s set in Hollywood. Aussie singer Holly Valance makes a cameo appearance, despite having little name recognition in the U.S., apart from a few small parts on some canceled TV shows. And nothing snaps you out of movie faster than an L.A. thug who sounds like Crocodile Dundee.

Along those lines, the dialogue in the movie is lame, and having American actors deliver awkward lines in English just emphasizes the poor quality of the writing.

Also problematic for American audiences is a scene in where Simrita watches Viraj film stunts for a movie. The set Viraj is working on is clearly that of the Waterworld stunt show at Universal Studios Hollywood theme park. There are even empty bleachers in the background of one of the shots!

Yet the biggest reason American movie fans won’t like Kambakkht Ishq is its style of comedy. Most egregiously, some of the jokes are racist, such as when Viraj dons an afro wig and blackface makeup to trick his sister-in-law.

The rest of the slapstick-style comedy is old-fashioned by American standards, and not well executed. There are pratfalls and pies in the face, all done with over-the-top, silent-movie-style acting.

There’s also a bit with a doctor who’s lost his hearing aid that inspires predictable jokes like this:

Viraj: “I need you to check!”
Doctor: “You want to have sex?”

All of the jokes in Kambakkht Ishq have been done before, and they’ve all been done better. Given the dismal reviews American critics gave to Chandni Chowk to China, which was distributed by Warner Bros., it’s time for Indian producers to rethink pinning their hopes of achieving crossover success in the U.S. on Akshay Kumar, at least until he starts making more sophisticated comedies.

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