Tag Archives: Kangna Ranaut

Movie Review: Shootout at Wadala (2013)

ShootoutAtWadala3 Stars (out of 4)

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Two men reminisce about the circumstances that led them to abandon their idealistic principles for a more practical, cynical approach to morality. One man is a gangster, the other the police officer who has mortally wounded the former. Such is the opening of Shootout at Wadala, a thrilling action film that raises moral questions with no easy answers.

The film is based the real-life extrajudicial killing of mobster Manya Surve in 1982. It was the first officially documented “encounter killing” by the Mumbai police, setting the stage for decades of unofficially sanctioned police murders of known gangsters. As at-odds as the practice is with the rule of law, the film makes the case that both the police and Surve felt that circumstances left them with no good choices.

As Manya (John Abraham) slowly bleeds to death in the back of a police van, he tells Officer Baaghran (Anil Kapoor) how his promising college career gave way to a life of crime. In 1970, Manya was unfairly jailed for life as an accessory to a murder committed by his step-brother. Manya quickly learns that an ability to instill fear is his best defense in jail.

Eight years later, Manya and his crony, Munir (Tusshar Kapoor), escape prison. Rather than settling for being underlings in someone else’s gang, they recruit members and form their own.

The action periodically returns to the present day so that Baaghran can recall events from his own perspective. Just before Manya’s prison break, Mumbai was run by a ruthless gang of murderers and rapists lead by a man named Mastan. The police watch in frustration as the gang members they arrest bribe their way back onto the streets.

An enterprising newspaperman suggests that the police employ sibling thugs the Haskar brothers — Zubair (Manoj Bajpai) and Dilawar (Sonu Sood) — to clean up Mastan’s gang. It puts the police in the uncomfortable position of choosing which underground syndicate will control the city. When Manya’s gang runs afoul of the Haskar brothers, leading to even more violence, Officer Baaghran and the rest of the police force decide to deal with the problem without waiting for the judicial system’s approval.

Writer-director Sanjay Gupta makes the case that, regardless of the morality of their decisions, both Manya and Baaghran felt forced into their choices by a broken system. The cops are outgunned by the criminals and have no support from judges or politicians. As a result, the public doesn’t trust the police to keep them safe. Locking up innocent bystanders and low-level crooks like Manya and his step-brother temporarily soothes the cops’ sense of futility, even if it creates bigger problems later.

Even while acknowledging the moral conundrum, Gupta manages to make his movie very cool. The background score is atmospheric, and everyone looks awesome in their early-’80s get-ups, especially Bajpai and Sood (as seen on the poster above). Mustaches and aviator sunglasses abound.

Manya’s plotline also includes a complicated love story. His college sweetheart, Vidya (Kangna Ranaut), encourages Manya to rescue his step-brother, who then stabs his attacker while Manya restrains him, to Manya’s shock and horror. Manya resents Vidya’s role in his imprisonment and her seeking his permission to move on with her life; she blames him for robbing them of their future together. When they reunite after Manya’s escape, both the love and resentment remain. Abraham and Ranaut portray this tension expertly.

After an information-packed first hour, the film starts to drag. A couple of song montages are clumped together in the middle of the film, and there are three ridiculous item numbers. (Sunny Leone’s abundant cleavage in the song “Laila” will prompt easily scandalized audience members to run screaming from the theater.)

There’s also a funny training montage early in the film. In an effort to disguise Abraham’s Hulk-ish physique, Manya’s college student avatar is forced to don absurdly oversized shirts. In prison, Manya enlists a mentor to transform him into a fighting machine in the span of a month. Cue the training montage in which Manya is suddenly transformed into a Mr. Universe competitor!

A couple of silly problems aside, Shootout at Wadala distills a complicated true story into a stylish and entertaining action flick that also engages the brain.

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Movie Review: Tezz (2012)

1.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Watch Tezz without paying full attention, and it probably seems like an entertaining film. But the moment one starts trying to make sense of the plot, Tezz reveals itself as a total mess.

This is unfortunate, because Tezz has many elements of a good movie. Most of the action scenes are really well done. There are some solid performances by veteran actors, especially Boman Irani. But those elements need to be woven together by a solid plot and told in a cinematic way, and in Tezz they just aren’t.

In fact, the more of the plot that is revealed, the less necessary the film seems, especially when the events all stem from the inappropriate and dangerous response of a single man to an easily surmountable problem.

Tezz starts with a flashback to Aakash (Ajay Devgn) — an illegal immigrant — being deported from England to India and separated from his British-Indian wife, Nikita (Kangna Ranaut). In a scuffle with the police, Nikita is hit on the head. She lies on the ground as Aakash is dragged away.

Fast forward four years, and Aakash is back in the U.K. He and two accomplices — Aadil (Zayed Khan) and Megha (Sameera Reddy) — purchase explosives and plant a detonator on a passenger train bound from London to Glasgow. Aakash calls the rail company and demands 10 million Euros from rail director Sanjay (Boman Irani). Aakash explains that  a bomb on the train will detonate if the train’s speed drops below 60 mph.

Yep. Tezz is Speed on a train. (My suggestion for a snappier title: Speed 3: Off the Rails.)

Surely Aakash has a good reason to concoct this deadly plan, right? To avenge the death of his wife at the hands of the British immigration police perhaps? [Warning: spoilers ahead.]

Nope. Nikita is very much alive, and Aakash knows it. As he’s being dragged through the airport, she even tells him she’s pregnant.

For four years, Aakash lives apart from his wife and child, scheming to extort money and “get his life back.” Why didn’t he just ask her to move to India with him? He’s an engineer, so it’s not like he can’t get a good job in India or elsewhere. Even if his extortion scheme works, they won’t be able to live in the U.K.

So, without Aakash’s ill-conceived (if not completely nonsensical) overreaction, there is no movie. That’s probably reason enough to skip Tezz. But if you need more, there are other compelling reasons.

The film lacks transitions between scenes. Once scene ends abruptly and another starts immediately without any notion of how we got from point A to point B.

Anil Kapoor’s character — recently retired Inspector Khanna — suffers the most from this lack of transitions. He’s in the train control center; then he’s at a crime scene; then he’s in a government hearing, all without any regard for how he could possibly cover that much ground in such a short time.

Another problem is the bad CGI effects that animate the train. Devgn said recently that it’s not fair to compare Indian special effects to those made on a Hollywood budget, but most of the action scenes in Tezz are quite good. Money was budgeted for lavish car chases and an actual helicopter, but the filmmakers cheaped out on the speeding train: the one element that needed to look believable.

Need another reason to skip Tezz? How about a racist dance number?

Early in the movie, Aakash’s and Aadil’s escape from the police is interrupted by a dance number (without a transition between scenes, of course). The song “Laila” starts with Mallika Sherawat surrounded by dozens of dancers dressed as Dracula. The Indian dancers eventually change into blackface makeup and afro wigs.

The filmmakers* should be ashamed for including something so pointlessly racist in Tezz. Then again, director Priyadarshan made Khatta Meetha — the most deplorable and sexist film I’ve ever seen — so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.

* – According to reports at The Times of India, Priyadarshan didn’t want the item number “Laila” included in the movie on the grounds that it didn’t fit the story (which is true). He was apparently overruled by producer Ratan Jain, though the song may have been removed from some prints lest audiences find it too sexy. I found no mention of concerns about racism in any of the reports.

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