Tag Archives: Manjari Fadnis

Movie Review: Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai (2017)

Zero Stars (out of 4)

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Trying to explain what Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai is about is a futile task. Not even the writer of the movie, Amreetaa Roy, was up to the task of succinctly describing her own film. Here’s the summary she submitted to IMDb:

The film presents the naïve vulnerability of human life, the sincere saga of love and pain, and the glimpse of human emotions in raw form. So much of human nature is captured within the frames of the film, yet it takes you to the various land giving a realistic view of existence – the story traversing from a small town of Rajasthan, moving to the city of dreams – Mumbai and then goes on to the city that never sleeps – New York, ride us through interesting characters, each one with a diverse and unique character adding slice of life. Written by Amreetaa Roy

That rambling mess of a plot summary captures all the problems with Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai (JIKNH, henceforth). It has no identity or focus because it tries to be about every issue and every emotion all at once.

Our onscreen guide through JIKNH is Alia (Manjari Fadnis), who experiences — directly or indirectly — virtually every kind of gender discrimination a woman can face. That extends to the closing credits of JIKNH, in which her name appears third in the cast list despite her playing the film’s main character.

In spite of a deprived childhood in Rajasthan in which Alia’s material and emotional needs ranked a distant fifth behind those of her two younger brothers and her parents, she excels as a student, developing an affinity for writing. As a college student, her no-nonsense attitude attracts the attention of an older, villainous rich guy, Vikram (Ashutosh Rana).

To this point, Alia’s story is one of resilience and self-sufficiency in spite of her family’s utter indifference toward her. Every indication points toward her graduating and building a successful life for herself, possibly with younger, not-so-villainous rich guy, Alex (Himansh Kohli). So it makes no sense when she quickly cedes to her drunken father’s request and accepts Vikram’s marriage proposal, especially since she knows Vikram to be a violent lech with multiple mistresses.

Predictably, marriage to Vikram is a nightmare. Alia escapes with the help of her tough-as-nails maid, Laxmi (Supriya Pathak), after Vikram demands that pregnant Alia abort the female fetus she’s carrying (checking off another item on the list of Gender Issues the movie feels compelled to address).

As Alia starts a new life in Mumbai, JIKNH‘s Social Issues checklist branches out from gender-based problems like spousal abuse and the diminished earning power of rural women to topics like elder care, the education of orphans, and vaccination. Eventually, Alia winds up in a Middle Eastern war zone, directing the medical care of wounded civilians in her capacity as a journalist. Alia is out to save everyone from everything.

While in Mumbai, Alia gives birth to Vikram’s unwanted daughter, Natasha, whose existence is only worth mentioning in passing since the girl disappears for long stretches of the film. Her presence might interrupt the budding romance between Alia and a third rich guy: American philanthropist Aditya (Arbaaz Khan). They share a lunch date presided over by an offensively stereotypical horny gay waiter whose sexuality is treated as a joke.

That joke isn’t nearly as funny as the fact that Alia’s and Aditya’s love theme is an instrumental version of “The First Noel.”

International audiences will want to give JIKNH a pass not only because it’s an unwatchable disaster with no continuity or sense of direction, but because the English subtitles frequently disappear, including during the closing lines of the film.

The last quarter of the movie takes place in America, and JIKNH does a particularly awful job of depicting the States, even by Bollywood’s low standards. The white actors are unbearable, and there are some serious geography problems. According to director Keshav Panneriy — who also edited the film and is married to the movie’s writer — the island of Manhattan is nestled within a mountain range, and its nearest airport is in Maryland.

The American portion of JIKNH does yield some of the movie’s most sophisticated dialogue. Confronting a man who harasses her and her friend on the street, Alia retorts in English: “Yes, we have a nice ass, and we are proud of it. You are just an ugly ass who makes the whole neighborhood stink!”

Links

  • Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai at Wikipedia
  • Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai at IMDb

Movie Review: Warning (2013)

warning2 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the movie at Amazon or iTunes

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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Movie Review: Grand Masti (2013)

Grand_MastiZero Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

If there is any country in which one would expect filmmakers to steer clear of rape jokes, it would be India. Nevertheless, on the same day that four of the perpetrators of last year’s horrific gang rape and murder were sentenced to death, director-producer Indra Kumar released Grand Masti: a movie that features a joke about gang rape.

The rape joke is the perfect example of Grand Masti‘s tone-deafness and sexism. In attempting to push the boundaries of what Indian audiences are willing to accept in an adult comedy, the tone of Kumar’s film feels like what passed for funny in Hollywood films in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In exchange for squeezing a record number of masturbation jokes into his film, Kumar reduces his female characters to nothing more than sperm receptacles.

(Correction: all of the sperm remains safely contained within ManForce condoms, a brand whose corporate sponsorship purchased a bizarre instance of product placement in the film.)

Grand Masti focuses on three asshole best friends: Amar (Ritesh Deshmukh), Meet (Vivek Oberoi), and Prem (Aftab Shidasani). Six years after graduating from college, the three assholes aren’t having enough sex with their smoking hot wives as they would like, so they travel to their college reunion — who the hell holds a college reunion after just six years? — hoping to have a lot of sex with a lot of co-eds.

Why are the guys so love starved that they’re driven to cheat on their wives? Amar’s wife, Mamta (Sonalee Kulkarni), is busy taking care of their infant son; Meet’s wife, Unatti (Karishma Tanna), is working overtime so that they can afford to buy a house; and Prem’s wife, Tulsi (Manjari Fadnis), is at the beck-and-call of Prem’s demanding parents, who live with the couple. All of the women would like to have sex with their husbands, but their other responsibilities keep getting in the way.

So, again, these three assholes don’t magically swap bodies with some single guys, nor do they find themselves facing temptation against their will. They actively seek out extramarital affairs because their gorgeous, willing wives are overwhelmed with the burdens of earning money and caring for their children and parents. It’s impossible to feel empathy for lead characters as loathsome as these three jerks.

Just as a bonus, the trio attempts to murder the dean of the college to keep their wives from discovering their cheating ways. What sweethearts!

These three tools become even less appealing whenever they are in the presence of any women other than their wives. They ogle and drool like animals, heads bobbing in time with the bounce of a woman’s breasts as she walks by.

This cartoonish horniness is particularly pronounced when the guys are in the presence of white women, of whom there are a lot in Grand Masti. All of the white women in the movie wear skimpier outfits than their ethnic Indian counterparts. They are ogled more freely by the male characters and are more likely to be groped or humped during dance numbers. It reinforces the Indian stereotype that Western women are immoral and willing targets for sexual predators. It’s offensive.

Not willing to limit the stereotyping to white women, Meet warns Prem about an angry East Asian woman: “She might know Kung Fu!”

In addition to being offensive and lacking sympathetic main characters, the immature, tired gags in Grand Masti go on way too long. Bits that are mildly amusing the first time are repeated for minutes at a stretch, blunting their impact. The acting is uniformly lousy.

It’s hard to believe that a movie this out-of-touch could be made in 2013. It just goes to show how far society still has to go before women are seen by all men as humans of equal status, and not just sex objects.

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