Tag Archives: Katrina Kaif

Movie Review: Tiger Zinda Hai (2017)

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Tiger Zinda Hai (“Tiger Lives“) has its share of highlights, but the relentless plot requires a degree of stamina that would challenge any action movie enthusiast. Quick transitions from one set piece to the next allow little space for story or character development.

Set eight years after the events of Ek Tha Tiger, Salman Khan’s titular hero and his then-girlfriend-now-wife Zoya (Katrina Kaif) live in Austria with their son, Junior. The novelty of seeing Khan play a father onscreen is noteworthy, owing to its rarity.

Though Tiger and Zoya are retired from active duty, they haven’t left the spy life behind entirely. Zoya keeps her combat skills sharp by subduing armed robbers in the local grocery store, and Tiger confidently fights a pack of wolves while snowboarding. He has a room dedicated to tracking the activities of Indian intelligence agency RAW across the globe.

Thus, he’s not surprised when his former boss Shenoy (Girish Karnad) comes to him with an urgent mission: Islamic militants captured twenty-five Indian nursing students working in Iraq, and America has given India seven days to rescue their people before they bomb the hospital where the students are being held.

Zoya knows that Tiger’s love of country surpasses even his love for her and Junior, so she sends him on his mission without complaint. What they don’t know is that the Indian authorities neglected to tell them that fifteen Pakistani nurses are also being held in the same hospital. Tiger’s not the only one to get called out of retirement.

Tiger Zinda Hai‘s cynicism about politics is its most interesting attribute. As in the original film, the main couple personify the idea that Indians and Pakistanis have more in common than not, and that it’s the fault of the governments of both countries for pursuing agendas that make peace impossible. The members of Zoya’s and Tiger’s support teams also come to see the wisdom of working together toward shared goals, a tactic they wish could be applied across borders to improve things like education and healthcare on the subcontinent.

The sequel’s story expands that cynicism globally to indict America for what is deemed to be imperialism in the Middle East, chiefly the greedy pursuits of oil and lucrative weapons contracts cloaked under the guise of the eradication of terrorism. Abu Usman (Sajjad Delafrooz) — the leader of the terrorist group in Tiger Zinda Hai — cites his years in detention at Guantanamo Bay as the very reason for his radicalization.

Unfortunately, these political ideas aren’t woven into the plot, instead existing as meta-commentary directing the audience on how they can find their own kind of woke nationalism. Zoya’s and Tiger’s teams shed their instinctive mistrust of one another within minutes. Most of the criticism of America arises from conversations between Abu Usman and Poorna (Anupriya Goenka), the head nurse, but as supporting characters, the plot doesn’t devote much time to their character growth.

Then again, none of the characters in the movie really grow. Tiger is what he is: a patriotic humanitarian killing machine. Not that there’s anything wrong with such a character; it’s just a question of how much time can an audience be asked to spend with a character that reacts but doesn’t evolve.

The answer to that question is: something less than Tiger Zinda Hai‘s lengthy 161-minute runtime. Apart from one romantic song early in the movie — before Tiger leaves his family and we bid adieu to Junior for most of the film — the plot races through each action sequence, followed by a brief break to set up the next action sequence. After a while, all the explosions and fisticuffs become too much of a good thing.

Yet, when it is good, Tiger Zinda Hai is pretty fun. All of the movie’s best moments belong to Katrina Kaif, and she proves herself to be a compelling action hero in her own right. From her stunt-driving through narrow alleyways to her own one-woman-wrecking-crew takedown of a bunch of bad guys, Kaif commands the screen.

Khan is no slouch when it comes to fight sequences, of course, and his obligatory shirtless scene is a hoot. His sidekicks have little to do, raising questions as to how that can be the case given how long the movie is. Delafrooz’s relaxed demeanor makes him an effective villain.

One personal complaint is that Tiger Zinda Hai cuts corners by casting non-Americans in American roles, leading to some head-scratching accents. Also unintentionally hilarious is the fact that one of the American military officers in Iraq has his first name — Gary — written on his name tag on his uniform. Gary zinda hai!

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Movie Review: Jagga Jasoos (2017)

2 Stars (out of 4)

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Jagga Jasoos is an ambitious movie that I’d love to rate more highly. There were portions of the film that I liked very much, and I appreciate the world director Anurag Basu built and the way he told his story. Yet Jagga Jasoos is bloated with material and far too long.

Jagga Jasoos opens with a framing device featuring Katrina Kaif’s character Shruti as a children’s entertainer and author of a comic book series about her friend Jagga, a teenage detective. A troop of kids under her direction reenact scenes from the comics, before the action transitions to the world of the books, starting with Jagga’s childhood and his adoption by a man he calls TutiFuti (Saswata Chatterjee, best known to Bollywood fans for playing the unassuming assassin Bob Biswas in Kahaani).

TutiFuti coaches young Jagga to sing as a way to overcome the boy’s stutter, a device that enables Jagga Jasoos to be a traditional musical, with much of the plot and dialogue sung rather than spoken. The movie is punctuated by standalone tunes to accompany dance numbers and montages, with the best of those songs being the forlorn “Phir Wahi.”

TutiFuti is called away on a secret mission by a man known as Blackmail Sinha (Shaurab Shukla), leaving Jagga to grow up alone in a boarding school. By the time he reaches his teenage years, Jagga (now played by Ranbir Kapoor) has developed a knack for solving mysteries.

He stumbles onto an arms-smuggling caper with international implications, involving a journalist — Shruti — and possibly even TutiFuti. Shruti and Jagga travel to Africa to find TutiFuti and uncover the secret mission he’s been on for so many years.

The whimsy factor is high in Jagga Jasoos, not only because of all the singing but because of a visual style reminiscent of director Wes Anderson (whom Jagga Jasoos cinematographer Ravi Varman praises in the Scroll.in interview linked to below). Basu incorporates a number of comparatively low-tech special effects — such as deliberately using obvious stock footage of African animals or showing a plane flying over a map instead of actual land — for a fresh take on retro movie-making. The modern CGI effects that aim for realism and fall short draw more attention to themselves than effects that are intentionally outmoded.

Jagga Jasoos is at its best when Jagga and Shruti are together in his hometown along the border with Myanmar. The town and school have their own charms that help to create an immersive environment. When the duo leave town, they leave that quaintness behind for a plot that is grander in scale but less engrossing.

Removing geographical boundaries frees Basu to inject untold (and unnecessary) amounts of quirkiness into the film, particularly regarding the unseen criminal mastermind Bashir Alexander. By the time Jagga and Shruti board Bashir Alexander’s personal circus train, I had reached my limit.

Disney India would’ve been better off splitting its swan song into two films, a la Baahubali, rather than making one film to serve as both a setup for a hopeful sequel and a catch-all in case box office numbers deem a sequel unwarranted. Forcing Basu to cram as many ideas as possible into one film not only inflates the runtime beyond a reasonable limit, but it cuts short plot development in favor of visual spectacle. I’m still not sure what Blackmail Sinha’s goal was or who he was working for, and the framing device isn’t well explained either. Shruti’s students sing a song about not caring about the world’s troubles because they are protected by a “sign on the door,” but it’s unclear to what they refer.

For all its ambition and innovative ideas, Jagga Jasoos isn’t the movie — or movies — it could have been.

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Bollywood Box Office: September 9-11, 2016

The two latest Hindi films to open in North America did quite well in their first weekend in theaters. Let’s start with the wider release of the two: Baar Baar Dekho, starring Katrina Kaif and Sidharth Malhotra. During the weekend of September 9-11, 2016, Baar Baar Dekho earned $609,640 from 143 theaters, an average of $4,263 per theater. Those numbers are significantly better than figures for Kaif’s other 2016 romance, Fitoor, which co-starred Aditya Roy Kapur. Baar Baar Dekho has already earned more than Fitoor did in its entire run ($513,879) despite the fact that it opened in twenty fewer theaters.

By a very different metric, the weekend’s other new release — the golf comedy Freaky Ali — also posted good numbers. Freaky Ali earned $42,637 from 42 theaters ($1,015 average). That may not sound like much, but Bollywood movies that open in fewer than 50 theaters in North America are lucky to earn $20,000 in their opening weekend. The second highest opening weekend gross among the Under-50 club this year was Mastizaade, which earned $28,529 from 46 theaters. A final tally for Freaky Ali in the $60,000 range would be commendable.

Naam Hai Akira didn’t fare nearly as well as the new releases. Its business fell by 88% from last weekend, with returns of just $15,364 from 66 theaters ($233 average). Ouch. Its total earnings after two weekends are $210,865.

Rustom continues its impressive run into its fifth week, earning $17,335 from sixteen theaters ($1,083). Total earnings of $1,900,485 rank Akshay Kumar’s Rustom in fourth place for the year, just ahead of Kumar’s Airlift.

Other Hindi movies still in North American theaters:

Source: Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Movie Review: Baar Baar Dekho (2016)

baarbaardekho2 Stars (out of 4)

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Baar Baar Dekho (“Look Again and Again“) is a romance that feels more like a horror movie.

It’s impossible to write about Baar Baar Dekho without talking about the plot device that moves the story from its first act into its second. Describing that plot device kinda, sorta constitutes a spoiler, so read on with caution.

Diya Kapoor (Katrina Kaif) and Jai Verma (Sidharth Malhotra) have been inseparable since childhood and dating since they were old enough to do so. As young adults, they are ready to take the next step and get married. At least Diya is. Jai agrees to her marriage proposal out of inevitability.

For some reason, Jai is surprised by the lavishness of the festivities thrown by Diya’s dad (Ram Kapoor), as if he hasn’t known the Kapoors his whole life. In the middle of the hoopla, Jai is offered a professorship in Mathematics at a university in England. This is a big deal because Jai freaking loves math.

Jai does the stupid thing only a movie character would do and doesn’t tell Diya about the job offer. He waits to do so until they are in the middle of a fight. Kaif’s delivery is terrific as Diya tearfully says, “Jai, if I leave now, I’m not coming back.”

Earlier in the day, Jai argued with the priest (Rajit Kapur) during wedding preparations. When Jai downs a whole bottle of Champagne and passes out, it triggers the priest’s Ghost of Christmas Future-like curse. Jai wakes up in Thailand on his honeymoon, with no memory of the previous ten days.

This is terrifying. Jai runs about the hotel, frantic to find anyone who can explain how he got there. It’s a stomach-churning sequence amplified by the fact that there are tons of people around, yet no one speaks Hindi.

When he eventually finds Diya, she dismisses his panic because, dang it, they’ve got a tour scheduled. Spineless Jai gives in and goes on the tour.

This happens over and over again in the same manner: Jai wakes up in a different time period; he freaks out; Diya dismisses his concerns and calls him an idiot; Jai just goes along with whatever until he falls asleep and shifts through time again.

It’s frustrating enough that Jai won’t just sit Diya down and say, “Damnit, I’m caught in a temporal anomaly. Help me!” It’s worse that — in every time period — she belittles him. The story is about why they are supposed to be together, but why should they be? Who’d want to be with a partner who responds to your fear with insults?

Also, one of the recurring problems in their relationship is that Jai often prioritizes math over Diya. Isn’t it her fault for not anticipating this? Everyone knows Jai freaking loves math.

Of course, Jai’s not great, either. Whenever Jai tells Diya that he loves her, she asks him why. He never mentions anything about her personality or characteristics, responding instead with job descriptions: “Because you’re my wife.” Even when he finally figures out the “right” answer to the question, it still amounts to, “Because I always have.” So, momentum.

The film’s problems lie in the weak relationship between the main characters, but credit to writer-director Nitya Mehra for cleverly introducing a very science-fiction premise into a mainstream Hindi film. The technological advancements of the future depicted are low-key enough not to scare off sci-fi-haters (though I have my doubts that Twitter will still be around in 2034).

Mehra uses some neat framing tricks to emphasize Jai’s emotions. As the gravity of his impending marriage sinks in during the wedding prep with the priest, the camera cuts between Jai, the priest, Diya, and other people at the gathering. Every time the camera cuts back to the priest — who is explaining the symbolism of the ceremony — the priest’s face appears larger within the frame until he’s nothing but a talking mouth, overwhelming everything else in Jai’s world.

Mehra’s almost too good at this, in fact. The moments after Jai wakes up in each time period are scary. Things are noisy and hectic and full of people he doesn’t know. It’s hard for the audience to shut off the anxiety generated by such scenes as quickly as the story demands. Everything is chaos and fear one second, then we’re suddenly supposed to laugh as Jai ruins breakfast and Diya calls him “useless” for the umpteenth time.

On the upside, Malhotra and Kaif are exceptionally good-looking, and there are worse ways to spend two hours than by starring at them. Kaif’s a wonderful dancer, and her outfit in “Nachde Ne Saare” is stunning.

Still, I’m not sure that’s enough to recommend Baar Baar Dekho. This feels like another case where the audience is supposed to root for the main characters to wind up together just because they’re the main characters, and not because they’re a good match.

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Movie Review: Fitoor (2016)

Fitoor3 Stars (out of 4)

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Director Abhishek Kapoor presents a compelling look at the way money and power influence romance in Fitoor (“Obsession“), his adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations.

The scenery and set design of Fitoor are its defining features. From the very opening, one is blown away by the beauty of the setting: a small village in Kashmir with wooden walkways crisscrossing a lake. Everything — from the sky to the snowy ground to the characters’ clothes — is in overcast shades of grey, blue, and white.

Noor first appears in a flashback as an 8-year-old boy (played by Mohammed Abrar), a poor kid with a gift for drawing and sculpting. He helps his brother-in-law Junaid (Rayees Mohiuddin) with some repairs at the mansion of Begum Hazrat (Tabu). The brightly colored tapestries and decorations inside the mansion contrast the drab colors outside, but there’s a run-down quality to the interior. The mansion is a haunted house, with Begum the witch shrouded in a haze of hookah smoke.

Noor falls in love with Begum’s daughter, Firdaus (Tunisha Sharma), immediately upon seeing her. Her clothes are every bit as expensive as Noor’s are disheveled. Begum arranges for Noor to work at the mansion and serve as Firdaus’ playmate. It’s clear that Begum is manipulating Noor, but not to what end. When Begum unexpectedly ships Firdaus off to boarding school in London, the matron tells Noor that he must grow to be a man worthy of her daughter.

Flash-forward fifteen years to the present, and Noor (Aditya Roy Kapur) is an accomplished artist. An anonymous benefactor sets Noor up with a residency at an art gallery in Delhi, where Firdaus (Katrina Kaif) just happens to live. Though she remembers him fondly and enjoys his company, Firdaus’ plans for her future don’t include Noor. He, on the other hand, has a room full of paintings of her face.

There’s a great scene in which Firdaus tears apart the notion that, just because Noor loves her, she must love him in return. When she realizes her insistence that she doesn’t love him is falling on deaf ears, she says, “You won’t understand anything but your love.” Noor’s friend Aarif (Kunal Khyaan) backs Firdaus up: “It’s not like she lied to you.”

Besides love, the other force directing Noor’s life is money. Namely, someone else’s money, which compromises his ability to control his own destiny. A confusing sequence that reveals the truth about Noor’s benefactor feels shoehorned into the narrative. Though it needed more setup, the point is made that Noor will be a puppet until he can afford to pull his own strings.

Kapur gives a solid performance as the flawed lead character, tweaking his smile ever so slightly to communicate a range of emotions. Kaif is fitting match, playing Firdaus as warm but aloof, conveying the sense that she’s also been manipulated by Begum.

Tabu is creepy and hypnotic as the lonely heiress, who no longer sees people as people but as tools. She even refers to her daughter as “my doll.”

Two other supporting roles are worth noting for their quiet excellence: Khyaan as Aarif and Lara Dutta as Leena, the art gallery owner. Their characters attempt to stop Noor from causing a scene at an auction, and they convey their instructions to one another through glances. One brief shot consists of Dutta’s face in profile, the muscle in her jaw clenching. It’s great.

Fitoor is thought-provoking and lovely to look at. If nothing else, the beautiful Kashmir scenery makes for a rewarding trip to the theater.

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Movie Review: Phantom (2015)

Phantom2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Phantom is a revenge fantasy inspired by the 26/11 terrorist attacks on Mumbai. As political wish-fulfillment, the movie is entertaining enough, but it isn’t truly satisfying.

Phantom opens with a short primer on the attacks that includes harrowing actual news footage. Then the film’s hero, “Jude” (Saif Ali Khan), makes his entrance in unheroic fashion. He engages in a road rage car chase through Chicago that ends in him punching a man who falls to his death in the Chicago River.

“Jude” is an alias of Daniyal Khan, a dishonorably discharged Indian Army officer on a secret mission to assassinate the four masterminds of the 26/11 attacks. His mission first takes him to London, where he meets his contact, Nawaz (Katrina Kaif).

Nawaz has a complicated job description. She works for the not-so-subtly-named US military contractor Dark Water, coordinating security for refugee camps run by Medicine International, who she may also work for.

Daniyal kills the man Nawaz is hired to identify — a high-ranking terrorist trainer — and she is furious for being dragged into his deadly scheme. Still, when she gets a coded phone call from Daniyal, she agrees to help him in his next mission: exterminate David Coleman Headley in jail in Chicago.

While Daniyal receives off-the-record assistance from India’s intelligence agency, their counterparts in Pakistan conclude that the deaths of such prominent terrorists are connected. The Pakistani agents try to identify the man responsible, but Daniyal is always one step ahead of them.

Phantom has an apt tagline: “A story you wish were true.” The notion of one man, freed from political constraints, taking out not one, but four of the most wanted terrorists in the world is immensely appealing. Getting to join him for the ride — with all its accompanying car chases, fist fights, and espionage — makes it even better.

Still, there’s a nagging feeling throughout the film: it couldn’t happen like this. It took ten years and a whole team of US special forces soldiers to kill Osama Bin Laden. One guy with no advanced military training taking out four terrorists in the span of a few months?

It all comes too easy for Daniyal. His most perilous moments consist of him bobbling something in his hand and being delayed by a stalled auto-rickshaw. There’s no one on the ground tracking him; the Pakistani agents gather their information on him remotely. As a result, the movie lacks tension.

Director Kabir Khan wisely resists forcing a love story into the narrative. Daniyal has bigger fish to fry, and Nawaz is rightfully wary of him. Focusing on the two leads as professionals, not lovers, also frees Khan and Kaif to give grounded performances.

One other performance needs special acknowledgement. Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, who plays the Indian intelligence officer who masterminds the mission, deserves some kind of lifetime achievement award for persevering in the face of nonsense. This time, he’s forced to give a corny speech, urging Indian naval officers to pluck up their courage and buck orders for the sake of this one man — this one man! — who was willing to risk his life for India.

Ayyub’s speech is part of a third act that is cheesier than the rest of the film. Fortunately, Director Khan ends Phantom on a contemplative note that befits the seriousness of the events that inspired it. We can wish for an easy path to justice, but we can never take it lightly.

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Opening August 28: Phantom

The Bollywood terrorism thriller Phantom — starring Saif Ali Khan and Katrina Kaif — opens in Chicago area theaters on August 28, 2015.

Phantom opens on Friday at MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 28 min.

All Is Well carries over for a second week at all of the above theaters.

The rest of the South Barrington 30’s weekend Hindi lineup includes Brothers, Drishyam, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, and the dubbed version of Baahubali.

Also opening in limited release on Friday is Learning to Drive, starring Ben Kingsley as a Sikh driving instructor who helps Patricia Clarkson find her independence following the breakup of her marriage. Learning to Drive opens at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, Century Centre Cinema in Chicago, and the Century 12 Evanston/Cinearts 6 in Evanston on Friday, before expanding into suburban theaters in the coming weeks.

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

Movie Review: Bang Bang (2014)

Bang_Bang_(2014_Film)2 Stars (out of 4)

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When Jimmy Shergill offers the villain of Bang Bang some “extra cheese,” he’s not just talking about a pizza topping. He’s describing the tone of the film. Either that or he’s priming the audience for the ridiculous product placement to come.

Shergill’s role in Bang Bang as Indian Army Colonel Viren Nanda is minor. He’s dead before the opening credits roll, murdered by Interpol’s most-wanted terrorist, Omar Zafar (Danny Denzongpa) — but not before giving a needlessly patriotic speech.

Zafar puts out a notice to the world’s criminals — via Facebook? Twitter? — offering a bounty for the Kohinoor: a giant diamond stolen from India by the British during Queen Victoria’s reign. The diamond is filched from the Tower of London by Rajveer (Hrithik Roshan).

While on the run from some goons, Rajveer pauses to romance Harleen (Katrina Kaif), a lovely bank receptionist who’s been stood up by her internet date. Harleen is the absolute, most completely pathetic woman in the whole world because she doesn’t have a boyfriend. No boyfriend means no potential husband, and according to Bang Bang, an unmarried woman’s life is a meaningless waste.

Harleen gets caught up in Rajveer’s run from Zafar’s gang. The adventure takes her to all the exotic places she’s only dreamed of visiting. That Harleen spends much of the film drugged and being dragged from place to place suits Kaif’s abilities.

There are moments in Bang Bang that are a lot of fun. The dance song during the closing credits — aptly titled “Bang Bang” — is super catchy. The action scenes are entertaining, if only slightly more believable than those from an earlier Roshan action flick, Dhoom 2. Some of the dialogue is really clever and funny.

However, Kaif and Roshan aren’t up to the best of the material. There’s no chemistry between the two — although a kiss between them goes a long way to erasing memories of Kaif’s clumsy liplock with Shahrukh Khan in Jab Tak Hai Jaan — and neither is a good enough comic actor to deliver the humorous lines. Yes, Roshan is jacked and has about 1% body fat. It doesn’t make him right for this part.

For all of the stuff that blows up, Bang Bang is dull. Plot lines resolve slowly, and time is wasted on shots (from the neck up) of Kaif looking wistful in the shower. The background score is unbelievably corny.

As mentioned in the opening paragraph, there’s some really cynical product placement in Bang Bang. A pivotal scene is set in a Pizza Hut located on the top of a mountain, on the edge of a cliff, with no place for a parking lot. Nevertheless, the restaurant is crowded.

Not so crowded that Rajveer and Harleen can’t ponder the merits of thin versus stuffed crust, mind you. The kid behind the counter (Aditya Prakash) suggests a pan pizza as a compromise. The kid is the best actor in the film.

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Movie Review: Bombay Talkies (2013)

Bombay_Talkies3 Stars (out of 4)

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Bombay Talkies is a collection of short films by four young directors, created to honor one hundred years of cinema in India. The results are mixed, but the two best shorts make the whole film worth watching.

Ajeeb Dastaan Hai Yeh by Karan Johar

Johar’s short — a story of a gay tabloid intern (played by Saqib Saleem) who upends the life of his married boss (Rani Mukerji) — is the least successful of the four films. It doesn’t feel like a complete story, but rather a subplot of a full-length feature. The events depicted in the short would’ve made a nice catalyst for the further development of Mukerji’s character or an interesting interlude in a longer movie about Saleem’s character, struggling to find his way both as a young adult and as a gay man who’s been cast out from his family. The short film as it stands doesn’t work.

Star by Dibakar Banerjee

Banerjee’s effort is much more polished and showcases the incredible talent of Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Siddiqui plays Puradev, a failed actor who hops from job to job while waiting for his big break. Banerjee’s narrative includes some charming whimsical elements, such as Puradev’s pet emu and the disappointed ghost of his acting mentor. Siddiqui shines in a great scene in which Puradev pantomimes the events of his day for his daughter’s amusement.

Sheila Ki Jawaani by Zoya Akhtar

Akhtar’s short is the best of the bunch. Her story concerns a little boy named Vicky (Naman Jain) who wants to be a dancer, much to the chagrin of his macho father (played by Ranvir Shorey). Vicky’s idol, actress Katrina Kaif, appears to him in a vision, encouraging him to follow his dreams covertly. He gets further support from his understanding older sister, Kavya (Khushi Dubey).

Like Banerjee’s short, Akhtar’s movie includes some fantastical elements, celebrating the way in which movies allow us to envision a more magical version of reality. Hindi movies rarely feature child protagonists, so it’s refreshing to see a story that focuses on the concerns of children. Jain and Dubey are terrific.

Kaif’s advice to Vicky — be true to your dreams, but don’t broadcast them — seems like a bit of a bummer until her audience is taken into consideration. Vicky — like all children — has so little control over his present circumstances that there’s wisdom in trying to make his day-to-day life easier until he’s an adult and can do what he wants. It’s also a warning to parents to remember that children need respect as individuals as much as they need guidance and protection.

Murabba by Anurag Kashyap

After Akhtar’s delightful short, Kashyap’s film is a downer. His story follows a rural guy named Vijay (Vineet Kumar Singh) on his quest to meet Amitabh Bachchan and get him to take a bite of a piece of preserved fruit. Vijay’s father believes he’ll be cured of his ailments if he eats the rest of the fruit blessed by Bachchan’s bite, and he sends his son on a fool’s errand. Given the security retinues of modern stars, Vijay’s task is practically impossible to complete, and much suffering is inflicted upon the dutiful son in the process. It’s not fun to watch, and the payoff isn’t worth it.

“Apna Bombay Talkies”

The quartet of films is followed by a cheesy song-and-dance number featuring clips of old films and lip-syncing by current Bollywood stars. It’s almost as painfully self-congratulatory as the celebrity role-call song “Deewangi Deewangi” from Om Shanti Om, but it’s not as well choreographed. Check it out:

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Movie Review: Dhoom 3 (2013)

Dhoom_3_Film_Poster3 Stars (out of 4)

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There’s something liberating about a movie that makes it clear that it’s not supposed to be taken seriously. When concepts like physics and geography are chucked out the window with abandon, the audience has no choice but to accept the world as presented and go with it. Dhoom 3 is just such a movie: ridiculous and thoroughly enjoyable.

Dhoom 3 finds Mumbai police officers Jai (Abhishek Bachchan) and Ali (Uday Chopra) in Chicago to assist the police investigation of a bank robber who leaves messages in Hindi at every crime scene. Apparently, there are no CCTV cameras in the city, because the local police are unable to identify the brazen perpetrator: Sahir (Aamir Khan), a magician with a grudge against the bank.

Jai spearheads the investigation because Ali is too infatuated with their lovely local police contact, Victoria (Tabrett Brethell), to concentrate. Victoria’s only real purpose in the movie is to appear in funny dream sequences in which Ali seduces her while surrounded by their four imaginary future children.

During the course of the investigation, Sahir revives his father’s Great Indian Circus, a stage show featuring dancers, acrobats, and magicians. His star performer is Aaliya (Katrina Kaif), whom we know is supposed to be a free spirit because of her penchant for wearing floppy hats and overalls. Like Victoria, Aaliya has little to do apart from looking sexy during performances.

The movie’s action-packed first half features a couple of great-looking chase scenes through downtown Chicago, including a race along the Chicago River that sees the return of the submersible jet ski from Dhoom 2 (physics, be damned)! The second half becomes a personal drama that reveals how Sahir has been able to pull off his heists, that — as tonally incongruous as it is — still works because Aamir Khan is so darned talented.

Because I live about thirty miles from Chicago, I’ve really been looking forward to Dhoom 3. Evidently, so had everyone else in the theater, because everyone let out a cheer when “Chicago 1990” appeared on screen at the start of the film. As a local, here’s what stood out to me:

  • Dhoom 3‘s sense of geography is hilarious. I pity the poor tourist who comes to flat Chicago expecting to see the mountains Jai stares at out of his lakefront penthouse window. Also, good luck trying to make the motorcycle ride from Chicago to the Verzasca Dam in Switzerland.
  • One place that likely will see an uptick in movie-related tourism is Six Flags Great America. Not only are a number of scenes shot there, but the characters discuss the merits of its various roller coasters by name.
  • The movie is full of product placement — Mountain Dew, BMW, etc. — but there’s one corporation that apparently wouldn’t sign off on appearing in the movie: Dunkin’ Donuts. Their stores are EVERYWHERE in downtown Chicago, but you never see any on screen, a feat that seems impossible to accomplish by accident.
  • The accents of all the Chicago characters are whack. This is a Chicago accent.

Minor quibbles aside, Dhoom 3 did right by Chicago. Near the end of the film is a shot of what I think is the single most beautiful sight in the world: the city of Chicago at night. I hope the movie entices a few extra people to come visit us here in the Windy City. If nothing else, Dhoom 3 is a goofy, fun way to spend three hours in the theater.

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