Tag Archives: Manoj Joshi

Movie Review: Sanam Re (2016)

sanamre1 Star (out of 4)

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Screenwriter Sanjeev Dutta is stuck in a time warp. His previous film, Heropanti, was an out of touch throwback when it released in 2014. His latest movie, Sanam Re, is similarly dated in its notions of characterization and storytelling.

Director Divya Khosla Kumar compounds the problems by relying on goofball sound effects to set the tone. Such effects may have been the norm in Hindi films ten years ago, but they’ve fallen out of favor in all but the broadest comedies. It’s as though Khosla Kumar and Dutta are determined not to evolve.

Pulkit Samrat of Fukrey fame plays Akash, an office lackey desperate for a promotion that will send him to America. He has a blowhard boss (played by Manoj Joshi), a wacky landlord, and a sassy maid — required characters if you want to make a movie that the audience has seen a thousand times before.

A family emergency requires Akash to return home to his quaint mountain town, a snow-covered place frozen in time following the exodus of all the young people to the city for better opportunities. There’s a brief moment where it appears that the story will explore the aging of small towns in India, but that spark is quickly snuffed.

Instead, we get flashbacks to Akash’s childhood, which he spent dressed as Oliver Twist even though it was the 1990s. Akash’s grandpa (played by Rishi Kapoor) hoped his bratty grandson would one day take over his photo studio. Little Akash only dreamed of marrying his true love, Shruti (played as an adult by Yami Gautam).

Teenage Akash abruptly leaves town to attend college in the city, without so much as a goodbye to Shruti. The plot offers no explanation for his decision. It only happens as a pretext to separate the sweethearts.

Sanam Re routinely takes such things for granted, failing to assign the characters motivations for their actions. The “why” behind an action doesn’t matter, so long as the plot is advanced.

The film also takes for granted that the audience will sympathize with Akash simply because he is the protagonist, overlooking the fact that Akash is a selfish jerk. He abandons his family and friends more than once, always putting his own feelings first. As he says: “Destiny wants it. Because I want it.”

Dutta’s story is built with Akash at the center of the universe, and Shruti only exists to further Akash’s development. The reason she rebuffs his romantic overtures when they reunite as adults is cliched and predictable.

Yet there’s a reason for Shruti to exist, which is more than can be said for the character Akanksha (Urvashi Rautela). Her backstory ham-fistedly positions her as the third member of a  grade school love triangle, which doesn’t ultimately matter to the plot. Akanksha only reappears in the adult portion of the storyline so that Akash can seduce her, thus allowing director Khosla Kumar to objectify Rautela in the grossest way possible.

In keeping with her outdated styling, Khosla Kumar insists that female performers wear skimpy outfits no matter how obviously cold the climate is. In one scene, you can see Gautam’s breath, even though she’s wearing only shorts and a belly shirt.

Many of the film’s jokes are homophobic, racist, or made at the expense of overweight people. Khosla Kumar and Dutta refuse to acknowledge that they are making movies in the 21st century.

Samrat’s delivery during romantic scenes is too slimy to qualify him as a swoon-worthy leading man, no matter how chiseled his abs may be. When Gautam isn’t absurdly chipper, she’s forgettable. Just like Sanam Re.

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Movie Review: Ghayal Once Again (2016)

GhayalOnceAgain1 Star (out of 4)

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I watched Ghayal Once Again, and I have no idea who anyone was or why anything happened. Though I didn’t watch the original Ghayal when it came out twenty-six years ago, I don’t think that’s the problem. The problem is that director Sunny Deol and his writers focused all their attention on lengthy action sequences and ignored the plot.

Here’s my best guess as to what the hell Ghayal Once Again is about (with spoilers, I guess, though I’m not spoiling anything by helping you avoid this movie):

Ajay (Sunny Deol) runs a high-tech vigilante firm in Mumbai. He kidnaps and tortures people, and is famous for doing so. The police don’t seem to care.

But Ajay harbors demons, presumably from stuff that happened in Ghayal. He has PTSD after being framed for murdering his wife and child. He’s functional, but by no means cured, although his neurologist, Riya (Soha Ali Khan) — who may also be his new wife — thinks he’s fine.

Ajay gives an award to four college kids for something, and then the kids sing and go on a camping trip. When they get home, they realize that they accidentally captured video footage of rich brat Kabir Bhansal (Abhilash Kumar) murdering Ajay’s friend Joe (Om Puri). Except, at that exact moment, the news reports that Joe died when he crashed into an oil tanker while driving his van with its distinctive “I Heart Butter Chicken” (or something) bumper sticker.

See, Joe met with Kabir, Mr. Bhansal (Narendra Jha), and some cringing government guy (Manoj Joshi) to complain to one of them about the other one. Mr. Bhansal is super rich, though no one knows why. Kabir calls Joe a slave, Joe gets mad, and Kabir shoots him. Then Bhansal has Troy — head of his security force of “highly trained foreigners” — put Joe in the Butter Chicken Mobile and drive it into the tanker.

The kids’ first instinct is to call Ajay, but they call one of their dads instead. Dad does the dumbest thing possible and goes to Bhansal with the evidence, rather than just destroying it. Dad is surprised when Bhansal threatens the kids and insists on bugging their phones.

It’s worth noting that Bhansal has access to such advanced surveillance equipment that it makes Mission: Impossible look like they’re using Apple ][s. He also lives in a twenty story house with a practice tee on the roof, and he regularly golfs balls onto the street below AND NO ONE GIVES A SHIT.

One of the kids was smart enough to make a copy of the video, so Troy and his goons chase the kids in a cool sequence most notable for Sunny Deol’s absence from it. Bhansal watches the action from afar, yelling at his army of code monkeys, “Why is it taking you so long to hack into his server? It’s been more than half an hour!”

When Ajay finally joins the chase, it goes on for-freaking-ever because he refuses to put the hard drive with the duplicate video in his pocket and keeps dropping it. Then he steals a helicopter and flies it into Bhansal’s house. Justice is served, though we don’t know how, why, or on whose behalf.

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Movie Review: Hasee Toh Phasee (2014)

HTP3 Stars (out of 4)

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Finally, a movie in which the nerdy girl wins the hero’s heart without having to undergo a glamorous makeover. The tomboy reigns supreme in Hasee Toh Phasee (“She Smiles, She’s Snared“).

The tomboy at the heart of the film is Meeta (Parineeti Chopra), a clever, socially awkward young woman who stands out from her sisters because of her Harry Potter hairdo. In 2006, she flees from her sister’s wedding with the aid of stranger with a Rick Springfield coiffure, Nikhil (Sidharth Malhotra).

Nikhil is also clever, but more socially adept and far more cautious than Meeta. She invites him to join her on a trip, but he declines and returns to the wedding. Inside, he immediately falls in love with the first pretty woman he sees, a model named Karishma (Adah Sharma).

Fast-forward seven years, and Nikhil is hoping to finally do something right in Karishma’s eyes by marrying her. Things get complicated for the groom when Karishma asks Nikhil to look after her loony sister and keep her away from the wedding. The sister is Meeta, of course.

Meeta is one of the most well-developed characters in recent memory. All of her social tics — e.g. her extreme literalness and tendency not to blink during conversations — make her feel real, and they seem appropriate for a woman who’d rather be working in her chemistry lab than making small talk at a wedding.

Meeta comes alive in Chopra’s hands. She makes a character that could’ve been annoying into a vibrant and lovable person, and she’s at her best in a scene in which Meeta’s emotions get the best of her. Meeta’s relationship with her father, Devesh (Manoj Joshi), is touching. Unlike most people, he sees past Meeta’s quirks to who she really is.

In a movie with a character as memorable as Meeta and the theme of being true to oneself, Nikhil is a little too nebulous, especially since his character’s emotional development drives the story. It’s not clear why Nikhil is as reticent and fearful of disappointing people as he is, so his constant self-sabotage seems to come from nowhere. Even his final decision is forced on him more than it is self-generated.

Malhotra performs well as Nikhil, but he’s hampered by the way his character is written. He’s also too conventionally handsome for the part. When Devesh rhetorically asks what Karishma sees in him, it’s obvious: he makes nice arm candy at industry parties, in addition to being irrationally devoted to her.

There are several entertaining supporting characters in the film, none more so than Nikhil’s cousin, Abhinandan, who once almost became a contestant on “Indian Idol.” He sings and shimmies, hoping to impress Meeta, who barely notices him. One could make the case that he’d be as devoted a partner to Meeta as Nikhil, even if he’s not her intellectual equal.

The other component keeping Hasee Toh Phasee from perfection is the story structure. It starts too slowly, and the flow is interrupted along the way. Many scenes are too long relative to the degree that they show character development or move the story forward.

That said, Hasee Toh Phasee is worth checking out for its progressive female lead character, who’s both smart and pretty, even in jeans and a hoodie. That she’s played by a superstar in the making is an added bonus.

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