Tag Archives: Madhurima Tuli

Movie Review: Baby (2015)

BABY_poster_20152.5 Stars (out of 4)

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A lot happens in Baby, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. A choppy story structure and underdeveloped characters make Baby feel like a TV mini-series shoehorned into movie format.

Writer-director Neeraj Pandey’s broad vision pays dividends in certain ways. Globetrotting Indian counter-terrorist operative Ajay (Akshay Kumar) follows his targets to visually interesting places like Turkey, Nepal, and Saudi Arabia. Ajay’s luckier than his poor boss, Feroz (Danny Denzongpa), who only appears in scenes set in office buildings.

Ajay’s first mission — in which he tracks a rogue special agent to Istanbul — starts the movie on a promising note. Ajay extracts enough information to thwart a bomb blast, and the rogue operative foreshadows future attacks before killing himself.

The attacks are the work of a radical Muslim cleric in Pakistan, Maulana Mohammed Rahman (Rasheed Naz). Ajay must disrupt Maulana’s network — which includes a local recruiter, a jailed militant (Kay Kay Menon), and a corrupt businessman (Sushant Singh) — to get to Maulana.

What makes the plot so jarring is that Ajay’s participation is the only connecting thread between operations. (Feroz coordinates the missions, but he never gets to leave his office.) Ajay is alone on his first mission in Turkey, while his subordinate, Jai (Rana Daggubati), foils the bomb plot in India. New flunkies join Ajay for his next mission, and he gets a female sidekick, Shabana (Taapsee Pannu), for the mission after that. It’s only after the militant escapes from jail that Jai reenters the story, after an absence in real-time of over an hour.

Segmenting the story this way keeps Ajay from forging strong connections with his people, thereby lowering the stakes. Would Ajay care if Jai died? It’s not like Jai is his partner or a trusted friend. He’s just a guy who shows up when called on and disappears when he’s not needed.

Worse still is Ajay’s forced family narrative. He shares two scenes early on with his wife (Madhurima Tuli) and two kids, but the kids are never seen again after that. The wife — whatever her name is — reappears for a spy-movie cliché scene, in which she calls to reminds him about their daughter’s birthday while he’s in the middle of frisking a suspect.

It’s another example of the low stakes for Ajay. His family is never endangered by his job, and he hardly thinks about them. In fact, he’s rarely in any real danger at all. The terrorists don’t realize he’s onto them, so they go about their business until he shows up. If they were tracking him in return, it would’ve raised the tension.

The movie’s lengthy 150-minute runtime also keeps Baby from being a truly thrilling thriller. Though effective early on, Pandey employees the same tension-building camerawork patterns repeatedly, making scenes that should be intense predictable.

Kumar is well-suited to anchor this kind of film. He plays the role straight, allowing Anupam Kher to lighten the mood as a reluctant hacker. Kumar also cedes the movie’s most exciting fight scene to Pannu, who is terrific in her minor role.

Despite the film’s bloated runtime, its villains are woefully underdeveloped. Menon’s character doesn’t have any dialogue after his opening scene, which is a shame given some great non-verbal acting he does during his character’s escape from prison. The cleric Maulana spouts some ideology early on but is likewise mute for most of the rest of the movie.

The silent villains may be a deliberate choice on Pandey’s part. De-emphasizing the terrorist’s ideology brings to the forefront a political opinion expressed by both Feroz and Ajay. Feroz explains to the Prime Minister that, when young Indian Muslims choose to fight for Pakistan, it’s India’s fault for making them feel unwelcome in their own country. That inclusive sentiment is one that any government that values diversity should take to heart.

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Movie Review: Warning (2013)

warning2 Stars (out of 4)

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Movies about killer animals are rare in Bollywood, and that lack of familiarity with this particular sub-genre of horror movies is evident in Warning. The movie contains many of the elements required for a successful horror film, but they are organized so inexpertly that Warning is devoid of dramatic tension and scares.

A motley crew of school friends reunite as young adults for what is supposed to be a fun weekend at sea on a luxurious yacht. The group consists of the nerd, Fatty; the long-haired rebel, Aman (Varun Sharma); beautiful and ambitious Gunjan (Madhurima Tuli); sweet Sabina (Manjari Fadnis); her husband, Deepak; their infant daughter, Sarah; Bakshi, the owner of the yacht; and his French girlfriend, Jeanine.

There’s lingering romantic tension within the group. Gunjan and Aman broke up when she left town to start her career. Sabina and Bakshi had wild times together before she settled down and met Deepak. With Bakshi’s attention focused on his former flame — much to Deepak’s frustration — Fatty tries to create some romantic tension of his own with Jeanine.

Through a series of blunders, the group finds themselves stranded in the water next to the boat while baby Sarah snoozes peacefully on board. With no way to get back on the boat — apparently no one bothered to drop the anchor, yet the boat stays conveniently in place by magic — the pals just have to wait there. And wait some more.

While stranding is a perfect scenario for testing the bonds of friendship and setting up some grisly deaths, it happens way too early in the movie. The friends are stuck in the water next to the yacht by the thirty-minute mark, and they quickly run out of ideas for how to get back on the yacht. That leaves another seventy-five minutes of runtime with nothing for the cast to do but bob around in the water.

Plus, it’s hard to create any real tension for the audience when we know that the friends have no option but to wait out whatever trouble comes their way, hoping that someone will come to save them. When Jeanine needs medical attention, pleas for help are futile since all of the useful resources are out of reach on the boat.

Revealing that Jeanine runs into problems won’t be a spoiler to anyone who’s seen a horror film before. Her character is introduced while showering topless aboard the yacht. (Her back is to the camera, so you don’t see anything.) Then she sips champagne while cooking breakfast the next morning. According to the rules of horror movies, Jeanine the Slutty Drunk will be the first character imperiled.

Her suffering provides the perfect opportunity to include some of the T&A one expects from a movie about sexy people in danger. Jeanine’s condition apparently requires her to arch her back so that her fake, bikini-clad breasts protrude from the water. It’s hilarious.

There’s other dubious medical advice in Warning that provokes chuckles. When little Sarah’s screams bellow through the baby monitor Sabina left on deck, Deepak freaks out, fearing that Sarah will choke to death while crying. Uh, that’s not the way things work, Deepak.

Sarah’s crying punctuates the soundtrack for the entire second half of the movie. It is really, really annoying.

What’s most disappointing about Warning is the failure to utilize its two selling points: 3D and sharks. The 3D effects are virtually non-existent, except during a conversation between Bakshi and Sabina in which some books feature extra prominently in the foreground.

Sharks are also largely absent from the movie. They don’t become much of a factor in the story until after the hour mark, and even then, the characters aren’t that concerned about them. The characters are all more worried about baby Sarah, who’s likely suffering from nothing more than a dirty diaper.

Also, the sharks in Warning are easily avoided by swimming to the other side of the boat.

Warning has all the necessary pieces to make a good horror movie, they’re just assembled incorrectly. The novelty factor alone makes Warning worth checking out, but not for the inflated 3D prices charged by theaters.

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