Tag Archives: Minissha Lamba

Movie Review: Joker (2012)

0.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Have you ever listened to a four-year-old girl tell a story? They usually sound something like this: “There once was a princess who flew to the moon, and then they ate cake, but she was really a donkey, and her dad was a mailman. The end.” That four-year-old girl’s story has better continuity than Joker.

Scientist Agastya (Akshay Kumar) is in danger of losing his research funding after his experimental device fails to make contact with extraterrestrials. He’s given one month to complete the project when his girlfriend, Diva (Sonakshi Sinha), informs Agastya that his brother called. His father is sick, and Agastya must return to India at once.

In India, Diva learns why Agastya kept his family a secret: he comes from a village whose population descended from patients who escaped from an insane asylum. Everyone in Paglapur is wacky, including Agastya’s brother, Babban (Shreyas Talpade), who speaks only in gibberish. (The film doesn’t bother to explain how gibberish-speaking Babban was able to communicate the message about Agastya’s sick father over the phone to Diva.)

Eventually the truth comes out: Agastya’s dad isn’t really sick. The local river has been dammed, and the villagers need Agastya’s help to get the dam removed so they can water their crops.

Unfortunately, the village was left off the survey maps created in the 1940s, and none of the regional bureaucrats want to claim jurisdiction over Paglapur. One of the bureaucrats compares the village to the joker in a deck of cards: it exists, but it doesn’t belong to any of the suits (or, in Paglapur’s case, states).

I think the bureaucrat’s explanation is where the movie lost me for good. What a dumb justification for a movie title. It’s not a great analogy in the first place, and the title is meant to prey on moviegoers’ mental shortcuts. “I think Akshay Kumar is funny, and a joker is someone who is funny, so Joker must be another funny Akshay Kumar movie. Take my money, please!”

The surprise for those unfortunate moviegoers is that Kumar plays the straight man in Joker. He spends an uncharacteristically small amount of time running around and screaming, compared to many of his recent roles. Not only is Kumar himself not funny, neither is the rest of the cast.

Babban’s ceaseless gibberish is particularly grating. It’s the most annoying vocal tic I’ve heard since that character in Golmaal Returns who speaks only in vowels.

All the wacky character tics — the guy who thinks he’s a king, the guy dressed like a centurion, the kid who thinks he’s a lamp — are cover for an inane plot that seems like it’s being made up as it goes along. Events happen with no consideration for how to get from Point A to Point B. Director Shirish Kunder just has everyone act nuts to distract the audience from the radical shifts in the plot.

There’s a mystery that runs throughout Joker: where are all the women? There’s not a single female villager in Paglapur — apart from Diva, who has little to do in the film besides look bemused — yet ladies materialize from nowhere whenever a song-and-dance number starts. The absence of estrogen in town may explain why Babban falls for the first woman he sees, a news reporter played by Minissha Lamba, in one of the most underused cameos I’ve ever seen.

So, what are the positives about Joker? Chitrangda Singh looks gorgeous in the item number “Kaafirana.” Agastya’s American nemesis, Simon (Alexx O’Nell), has a magnificent head of curly red hair. Joker‘s runtime is mercifully short, at just about 100 minutes. Those probably aren’t good enough reasons to spend $10 on a movie ticket.


Movie Review: Well Done Abba (2010)

2 Stars (out of 4)

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It’s hard to imagine a comedy film premise less sexy than: “A middle-aged chauffeur returns to his village to build a well.” But Boman Irani’s comedic skills make Well Done Abba an enjoyable, if overly long, movie.

Irani stars as the titular abba (“dad”), Armaan Ali. Armaan returns to work two months late from his month-long vacation to the village and attempts to explain the circumstances to his boss. The story of Armaan’s extended holiday is told in flashbacks with occasional returns to the modern-day. This framing device is one of many unnecessary elements in Well Done Abba.

Armaan’s vacation takes him from Mumbai back to his village near Hyderabad. He intends to find a husband for his daughter, Muskaan (Minissha Lamba), who’s being raised by Armaan’s twin brother and the twin’s wife, a pair of small time grifters. Muskaan is only interested in continuing her studies and flying kites.

Shortly after settling in, Armaan gets talked into applying for a government grant to build a well on his property. However, the grant application process turns out to be a bribery scam run by village bureaucrats. After all of the inspectors, contractors and permit officers are paid off, there’s no money left to dig the well.

Muskaan concocts a scheme to get their well built once and for all. Using the Right to Information law, she discovers how many other village families were conned out of their well money. Armed with the fake photos and contracts the corrupt officials submitted to the government, she demands that the police start an investigation: someone must have stolen all of the village wells.

Muskaan gets help from the cute mechanic in town, Arif (Sammir Dattani). He’d be an ideal marriage candidate for Muskaan, but Armaan’s too distracted by the well debacle to notice.

Well Done Abba is a great showcase for Irani. His performance is perfectly subdued as Armaan wavers between confused and irritated. The movie’s highlight is a scene in which Armaan poses for a photo. The photographer struggles to get a good headshot as the slightest muscle twitches change Armaan’s expression from goofy to dour to homicidal.

Lamba and Dattani are an adorable onscreen couple. Their relationship blooms from annoyance to friendship to love, all under the oblivious gaze of Armaan, who can’t understand why Arif goes out of his way to be nice to him.

But the strong performances by the leads can’t disguise the fact that the movie is in serious need of an editor. There are so many ideas, subplots and side characters that Well Done Abba would have been better off as a TV miniseries.

There’s the honest police inspector whose wife wishes he was corrupt, the permit officer who wants his new bride to get breast implants, and Muskaan’s friend who gets married to a sheik. At the last minute, Arif’s father reveals that the boy isn’t his son by birth. Soap operas are less convoluted than this.

Armaan’s identical twin brother, Rehman (also played by Irani), is also superfluous. Apart from one brief and predictable gag in which Armaan is mistakenly jailed instead of Rehman, the fact that the brothers are identical is never brought up again.

For all the aspects of the movie I liked, this excess plot isn’t acceptable. Trim about 44 minutes off of the 144 minute runtime and it might be a great movie.


Movie Review: Bachna Ae Haseeno (2008)

4 Stars (out of 4)

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Serial heartbreaker Raj (Ranbir Kapoor) gets a taste of his own medicine when he falls for Gayatri (Deepika Padukone), a beautiful, independent woman who’s not ready to settle down. The cast members, including Minissha Lamba and Bipasha Basu as Raj’s jilted ex-girlfriends, give authentic emotional performances in a romantic comedy that draws from classic Bollywood love stories and more recent Hollywood films. Stunning locations, lavish dance numbers, and a charming story help make Bachna Ae Haseeno the most polished movie to come out of India this year.

No Rating; 152 minutes

This review originally appeared in The Naperville Sun on August 21, 2008