Tag Archives: Kirron Kher

Movie Review: Action Replayy (2010)

1.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Look at the Action Replayy poster to the left. Bright colors and cheesy grins on the stars’ faces promise an all-out 1970s spectacle. The movie itself, however, is a half-baked, sloppy attempt at a romantic comedy that squanders its resources.

None of Action Replayy‘s shortcomings have anything to do with its stars, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Akshay Kumar. They make the most out of the material they were given. Bachchan is beautiful and effortless, and Kumar is equally charming.

The problems stem primarily from the movie’s underwhelming lead character, Bunty (Aditya Roy Kapoor): a young man of indeterminate age who is simultaneously bland and obnoxious. His girlfriend, Tanya (Sudeepa Singh), is desperate to marry him. Bunty refuses because he doesn’t believe in marriage, thanks to the poor example set by his unhappy parents, Mala (Bachchan) and Kishen (Kumar).

Conveniently, Tanya’s scientist grandpa has a time machine. Bunty hops in, sets the dial for 1975, and presses the giant red button Tanya’s grandpa explicitly tells him not to press. He travels back in time and sets off in search of his still unmarried parents, hoping to make them fall in love before they are arranged to be married.

First, Bunty finds the younger version of Tanya’s grandpa and shows him the time machine. He says, in essence, “You built this in the future, and I broke it. Now fix it” — as if gramps can learn in a matter of days what took him 35 years to learn.

Bunty finds his parents’ younger selves and sets about trying to make them fall in love. Kishen is a timid dweeb, as indicated by the appallingly fake-looking set of buck teeth Kumar is forced to wear. Mala is both a local beauty and a thug. The first half of the movie is spent showing why they hate each other. Not until the second half does Bunty begin to turn Kishen into a confident stud and Mala into a demure lady. He accomplishes this by shouting at them.

The most confusing aspect of the movie is why no one in the seventies has any questions for Bunty: Who are you? How do you know so much about us? Why are you wearing such unusual clothing, like that t-shirt with a picture of Yoda on it, even though Star Wars doesn’t exist yet? Why do you keep calling us “Dad” and “Mom”?!

This particular time-travel premise worked fine in Back to the Future, but Action Replayy doesn’t seem to understand why it worked. There’s never any threat to Bunty, the way there was to Marty McFly, who needed to get his parents together before he faded from existence. Bunty has unlimited time to get make his parents fall in love. If he fails, they’ll still be together — if unhappy — and he’ll still be born.

Action Replayy also sidesteps one of the most interesting aspects of Back to the Future, in which the teenage version of Marty’s mother develops a crush on him. Instead, Mala’s lifelong friend, Mona (Neha Dhupia), smiles at Bunty a few times before asking him late in the movie, “Do you love me?” Given that the Bunty doesn’t interact with Mona at all before this, his answer is obviously “No.”

If the movie was interested in having any real emotional impact, Bunty would’ve gotten to know his grandparents, who died either before he was born or when he was very young. Instead, he makes jokes about which of them will die first. That he has no interest in them is indicative of Bunty’s shallow character and the movie’s lack of emotional understanding.

The fact that accomplished actors like Om Puri and Kirron Kher (who play Grandpa and Grandma, respectively) weren’t given more to do is just another example of how Action Replayy fails to fully utilize the considerable resources at its disposal. It’s instead content to be a tepid romantic comedy with flashy period costumes.


Movie Review: Kurbaan (2009)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Kurbaan, India’s most suspenseful and compelling drama of 2009, stars real-life lovebirds Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan as Avantika and Ehsaan, a pair of professors who fall in love in India. After Avantika gets a teaching job in America, where she has citizenship, the couple marry and buy a house in a New York suburb on a cul-de-sac with other Indian families.

Their new life isn’t as ideal as it first seems. Hindu Avantika (husband Ehsaan is a Muslim) doesn’t fit in with the conservative Muslims in the neighborhood. None of the women have jobs, and some are even forbidden from using the phone.

When one of the women tells Avantika that she’s afraid of her abusive husband, only to go missing the next day, Avantika searches for answers. In the missing woman’s basement, Avantika discovers a horrible secret: her neighbors are terrorists. Worse, Ehsaan is involved.

After her discovery, Avantika’s life becomes a daily fight for survival. She’s forced to question whether she can trust Ehsaan and whether he ever really loved her.

During its most intense moments, such as when Avantika realizes she is surrounded by terrorists (and may be married to one), Kurbaan is heart-poundingly suspenseful. Om Puri is menacing as Bhaijaan, the elder statesman among the terrorists. Because Kirron Kher usually plays doting mothers on screen, she’s especially chilling in her role as Bhaijaan’s wife, Aapa, whose duty it is to keep the women in line.

Kurbaan is also brutal. Deaths are graphic, and there’s a surprising amount of gore for an Indian film. But the violence only serves to make the terrorists, well, terrifying.

It’s important that Kurbaan illustrates that the bad guys are really bad, because the movie explores the issue of why one becomes a terrorist. Instead of religious fanaticism or the vague desire to destroy freedom, Kurbaan‘s characters chose their deadly path in response to personal loss. From this perspective, terrorism looks a lot like vigilantism, only on a massive scale.

But the core of Kurbaan is the relationship between Avantika and Ehsaan. Kapoor is spectacular as a woman whose life has been shattered by lies, but who still feels a need for the man who once made her so happy. And Khan is just as good, playing Ehsaan as a man torn between his love for his wife and his commitment to a cause.

If there’s a weak point in Kurbaan, it’s the subplot involving a reporter named Riyaaz (Vivek Oberoi). Seeking revenge upon the terrorists, he does that which only happens in the movies: he decides not to call the authorities so that he can bring the group down himself, from the inside.

It’s a common plot device, but it’s completely unrealistic. Plus, it works against Kurbaan‘s beliefs about terrorism. Riyaaz opts for vigilante justice, so what makes him more heroic than the men he’s trying to stop? Further, he’s indirectly responsible for more bloodshed than if he’d done what any actual person would have done in his position: called the cops.