Tag Archives: Nana Patekar

Movie Review: Welcome Back (2015)

WelcomeBack1 Star (out of 4)

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Even at their best, writer-director Anees Bazmee’s movies are mediocre. At their worst, they are unbearable. Welcome Back is one of the worst.

In the eight years since the events of Welcome, gangsters Uday (Nana Patekar) and Majnu (Anil Kapoor) have left their criminal pasts behind, striking it rich as hoteliers in Dubai. Deciding that it’s time to get married and start their own families, they fall for the same woman: an heiress named Chandni (Ankita Shrivastava), who’s always accompanied by her mother, Maharani (Dimple Kapadia).

The guys’ marriage plans are put on hold when Uday’s father (also played by Patekar) reveals that Uday has another sister — Ranjhana (Shruti Haasan) — he needs marry off first. The “decent” guy they find for her, Ajju (John Abraham), turns out to be a don pretending to be something he’s not — just like Uday and Majnu.

The plot unfolds at furious pace but burns out quickly. After the first thirty minutes or so, very little that happens feels necessary. Everything else appears to be the indulgence of Bazmee’s whims. Helicopters? Camels? Vampire dance party? Check.

Welcome Back‘s story spins so far out of control that Bazmee doesn’t even try to give the film a real ending. He leaves his characters hanging in mid-air, literally and figuratively.

Watching the film becomes an endurance test in the second half, when Naseeruddin Shah shows up as yet another don, Wanted Bhai. At this point, Welcome Back descends to Gunda-level geographic incoherence. Wanted lives in a mansion on an island only accessible by plane. Yet — while on the island — Uday and Majnu are able to drive to a desert and to a mountain range. They also find a graveyard on the island, evoking more memories of Gunda:

It’s hard for any performances to stand out in a movie that requires its characters to behave so stupidly, but Shrivastava is pretty good as a gold digger. Her covert expressions of disgust while wooing the much older bachelors are funny. Kapadia is also exceedingly glamorous.

Another member of the cast stands out for the wrong reasons. Shiney Ahuja plays Wanted’s drug-addicted son, Honey, who is obsessed with Ranjhana. (Azmee doesn’t even bother explaining how Honey knows Ranjhana.)

In 2011, Ahuja was convicted of raping a member of his household staff and sentenced to seven years in prison. He is out on bail while appealing his conviction (a major difference from the American justice system, where sentences are effective immediately, and appeals are adjudicated while the defendant is behind bars).

Azmee says that he didn’t take Ahuja’s conviction into account when casting him in Welcome Back, simply believing that Ahuja fit the part. “I am a filmmaker,” Bazmee told IANS, “and I do not think about anything more than that.”

Are we supposed to believe that there were no other actors who could have played this particular supporting role? While Azmee may not be bothered by Ahuja’s criminal past, many people will be. When we see Ahuja grinding on Shrivastava in a “sexy” dance number, it’s impossible not to reminded of the fact that he was convicted of sexually assaulting a woman.

Acting in films is a privilege, not a right. There was no reason for Azmee to cast Ahuja in this role at the expense of another actor without a violent criminal past. If Azmee can’t appreciate why this is a problem, is he the right person to helm a multi-million dollar film?

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Movie Review: The Attacks of 26/11 (2013)

TheAttacksof_26111.5 Stars (out of 4)

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A case can be made that it’s too soon to make a feature film about the Mumbai terrorist attacks of November 26, 2008. The problem with The Attacks of 26/11 isn’t one of timing, but of tone. Director Ram Gopal Varma’s thriller-meets-dramatic-reenactment is exploitative and lacks a compelling narrative.

Obviously, the circumstances of the brazen nighttime attack on landmarks throughout Mumbai are compelling in themselves, but we already know the details from news reports. Ten terrorists from Pakistan came ashore in Mumbai and proceeded to detonate explosives and shoot people at sites around the city, including the train station, a popular cafe, and a luxury hotel. Over a hundred people were killed and hundreds more injured. The only terrorist to survive was himself executed on November 21, 2012.

The first half of The Attacks of 26/11 focuses on the early hours of the days-long massacre. Terrorists are shown navigating the city to their target locations before murdering civilians en masse. Deaths are shown in gory, revolting detail. A girl with a bullet wound to the arm waits for rescue in the train station. A hotel manager’s brain explodes out the side of his head when shot.

As if the gory scenes weren’t off-putting enough, Varma employs typical thriller and horror techniques to add dramatic tension. Violins trill as a receptionist creeps toward a crying infant in a hotel lobby. The visuals shift into slow motion as the receptionist is shot repeatedly in the chest. Offscreen, a gun fires and the baby stops crying.

In a horror movie, it’s fun when the violins trill as the co-ed cautiously walks to the door we know she shouldn’t open. Here, the effect is sickening because the deaths of real people are being treated for cheap thrills. These are people who died just five years ago, not in some war that took place long before the advent of social media and cable news.

The attacks shouldn’t be off-limits for filmmakers, but any film made about them needs to inform, enlighten, or otherwise add to the conversation about them. Varma had the opportunity to do so, had he properly utilized Nana Patekar’s character, the Joint Police Commissioner. This film should’ve been told from his perspective with him as the main character, providing the audience with a guide through such emotionally overwhelming material.

More often than not, Varma shows the Commissioner (his character only has a title, not a name) sitting before a government panel telling them what happened rather than showing the events from his perspective as they happened. When the character participates actively, he does so in redundant flashbacks. For example, the Commissioner tells the panel that he was in the shower when he got the first call from the police control room. Then the camera shows him in the shower, and his wife tells him that the control room just called.

This redundancy and the formality of the government panel setting keep the audience at arm’s length. The panel would’ve been fine as a framing device, but not as the source of the running narrative. Patekar’s best scenes are those when he’s active, fielding calls in the control room or interrogating the only terrorist captured alive, Kasab (Sanjeev Jaiswal).

We see some of the Commissioner’s panic as he tries to orchestrate a response to the attacks, but we are spared the emotional torment he surely experienced afterward. The Commissioner tells the panel that some of the police officers who died were his friends. Since a note at the beginning of the movie explains that some details were altered for the sake of the narrative, why not include a scene in which the Commissioner wishes his friends good luck on what would be their final mission?

Had the audience been encouraged to make a personal connection with the characters, The Attacks of 26/11 could have been emotionally effective beyond the natural human empathy one feels for the victims. Varma’s focus on the spectacle makes the film feel tawdry.

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Movie Review: Kamaal Dhamaal Malamaal (2012)

0.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Even after watching Kamaal Dhamaal Malamaal, I’m not sure what it’s about. Sure, I can tell you who the characters are and what happens to them, but what is the movie about? Kamaal Dhamaal Malamaal lacks a coherent narrative and, as such, is a boring, pointless waste of time.

Without a compelling story to drive the plot along, the burden of carrying the film falls on the shoulders of its lead character, Johnny (Shreyas Talpade). Few lead characters are so woefully unsuited for the task of carrying a film as Johnny is.

Johnny is a good-for-nothing 25-year-old. He has no job, hoping instead to get rich from playing the lottery (his girlfriend buys him his tickets). He refuses to help his ailing father with chores, instead berating his sisters into doing the work for him.

The girlfriend, Maria (Madhurima), must have incredibly low self-esteem to have settled for an irredeemable loser like Johnny. Maria’s father, Peter (Paresh Rawal), hates Johnny’s dad, David (Om Puri), for stealing his girlfriend when they were young and won’t allow Johnny to marry Maria. Her three beefy brothers regularly beat up Johnny to keep him away from Maria.

One day, a buff stranger (Nana Patekar) with a big appetite arrives in town. Johnny convinces his family that the stranger is his long-lost brother Sam. They feed the stranger, who acts as Johnny’s bodyguard, when he’s in the mood. Eventually, Johnny hears a rumor that “Sam” is a murderer and a rapist, and sets about trying to make Sam leave town.

That’s the story. As I said before, I know what happened in the movie, but I don’t know why. Why am I supposed to care about a doofus like Johnny? Where’s the conflict? Sam’s presence doesn’t help Johnny get any closer to marrying Maria, nor does Johnny learn any lessons about the value of hard work from his fake brother.

There’s really nothing to recommend this movie. It’s little more than long passages of overly explanatory dialog punctuated by fistfights. All of the characters are dullards, with actor-writer Neeraj Vora reserving the only mildly amusing character — an opportunistic coffin maker — for himself.

Leave it to Priyadarshan — the director responsible for the worst film I’ve ever seen, Khatta Meetha — not to let the opportunity for some casual sexual violence against women pass him by. Why does Sam have to be an alleged murderer and a rapist? Isn’t being a murderer bad enough?

The only worthwhile element of Kamaal Dhamaal Malamaal is the song “Dariya Ho” (which itself is derivative of “Chaiyya Chaiyya” from Dil Se). I’ve embedded the video of the song below to save you from wasting your money on an otherwise worthless film.

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Movie Review: Paathshaala (2010)

0.5 Stars (out of 4)

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The first scene in Paathshaala contains a closeup of a boy’s crotch as he pees himself. Need I write more, or is that sufficient evidence that this is a terrible movie?

Paathshaala (“School”) strives to be the after school special version of Taare Zameen Par, a movie which itself is drearily on-the-nose in its critique of the Indian school system. Paathshaala lacks sophistication in its storytelling and bores as it attempts to make a statement.

Nana Patekar plays Aditya Sahay, principal of an elite private boarding school that’s low on funds. Shortly after the arrival of a new English teacher named Rahul (Shahid Kapoor), the well-respected principal announces bizarre changes at the school.

Sahay turns control of the school over to a management firm who want to increase the school’s profile and cash flow by entering all of the students in reality TV competition shows. Rather than studying, students spend the day auditioning for singing competitions and arranging themselves in human pyramids in the hot sun.

Why Sahay allows his school to be turned into a joke isn’t explained until the last ten minutes of the movie. The explanation is ludicrous: the school board demanded more revenue and, out of other options and not wishing to burden the staff and students with the problem, Sahay allowed the board to implement changes.

This is stupid for a number of reasons. First, there’s no reason for Sahay to keep the board’s demands secret. It would’ve been a more interesting movie had he explained the problem and the students themselves came up with the plan to compete on reality shows.

The second issue with Sahay quietly acceding to the board’s wishes is that it turns him into a villain. He assumes responsibility for the changes even as his students pay the price in injuries, exhaustion and missed educational opportunities. If Sahay loves his school as much as he claims to in a tedious speech at the end of the film, he never would’ve put his students at risk.

Sahay, however, isn’t even the focal point of the movie; Shahid Kapoor is front and center on the movie poster. Rahul is supposed to be the cute, cool new teacher. He wears jeans in class, high fives his students and plays guitar for them (though Kapoor doesn’t bother to strum the guitar as he “plays” it).

Rahul’s attempts to befriend his pupils would have the opposite effect in reality. The kids would think he was trying too hard to be one of them and dismiss him as a dork.

The rest of the teachers are mere caricatures. The nutritionist/lunch lady played by Ayesha Takia is there to look pretty. The kids are supposed to be cute but wind up as annoying screen fillers. In every respect, Paathshaala fails to make the grade.

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Movie Review: Tum Milo Toh Sahi (2010)

1 Star (out of 4)

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There’s a nice idea at the core of writer-director Kabir Sadanand’s Tum Milo Toh Sahi (“Let’s Meet First,” according to the subtitled translation of the title song’s lyrics). Sadanand wrote a story of six incomplete individuals who find happiness when they work together toward a goal. Unfortunately, he neglected to make any of the characters likable.

The action in Tum Milo Toh Sahi takes place primarily in the Lucky Cafe, a hangout for college students. The cafe is owned by Delshad (Dimple Kapadia), a grumpy grandmother who scolds her customers and ends every caustic command to her employees with, “Idiot.”

One of the few people Delshad is kind to is Anita (Vidya Malvade), the miserable wife of a workaholic. When her husband, Amit (Suniel Shetty), complains that Anita is as unhappy in their gorgeous new house as she was in their dumpy one-room apartment, we believe him.

Amit works for Blue Bell, a national chain of Starbucks-like coffee houses bent on eradicating the competition. When the company announces a plan to acquire the Lucky Cafe, Amit takes charge of the project in the hopes of paying off Delshad with a minimum of fuss.

Delshad refuses to sell, so Blue Bell wages a campaign of corporate terror to force her out of business. Amit participates willingly, at the expense of his marriage.

Delshad gets some unexpected assistance from Subramaniam (Nana Patekar), an equally grumpy retired law clerk; Shalini (Anjana Sukhani), a snobby college girl; and Bikramjeet (Rehan Khan), a naive hick. Shalini and Bikramjeet are superfluous characters, but Delshad’s relationship with Subramaniam makes some sense. Both of them missed out on love  in their youth because they were focused on their careers and family obligations.

Unfortunately, all of the characters exhibit extreme forms of the single traits they are supposed to exemplify. The defining characteristic of Delshad, Amit, Subramaniam and Shalini is that they are all mean. It’s not fun to watch, and it blurs the contrast between the evil corporation and the regular people being trampled on. The regular people need to be virtuous in the face of powerful opposition, not jerks who kind of have it coming.

Tum Milo Toh Sahi has a number of other problems. The music is cheesy adult contemporary pop, and there’s too much of it. Every mention of Blue Bell is accompanied an annoying vocal theme, and there are several bland musical montages.

The English subtitles are poorly translated. More accurately, they’re poorly transcribed from English to English. Amit, speaking in English, mentions that he’d like a croissant (said with a mild French inflection). Croissant is transcribed as the non-word “crosone” — another reminder that Tum Milo Toh Sahi needed a lot more work and attention to detail before it went to print.

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Movie Review: Raajneeti (2010)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Early in Raajneeti (“Politics”), a veteran politician worries that the hot-headed young members of his party will screw up everything that he and his allies have worked for their whole lives. And that’s exactly what happens in this political soap opera.

Prithvi (Arjun Rampal) and Veerendra (Manoj Bajpai) are rising stars in a political party headed by Veerendra’s father, Bhanu. Bhanu’s brother, Chandra (Chetan Pandit) — who’s also Prithvi’s father — is his right-hand man. Chandra’s youngest son, Samar (Ranbir Kapoor), returns from studying in New York for his uncle’s birthday party.

When Bhanu suffers a stroke on his birthday, it sets off a power struggle between Prithvi and Veerendra, who sees himself as rightful heir to lead the party, despite his villainous mustache and penchant for satin suits. Handsome Prithvi is more popular, but he’s not such a great guy either. Bhanu recovers enough to name Chandra acting president in the hopes of maintaining party unity. It doesn’t work.

Veerendru tries to consolidate his power by taking under his wing a popular local athlete interested in running for office. The jock, Sooraj (Ajay Devgan), is the adopted son of Chandra’s chauffeur — and also the secret love-child of Chandra’s wife, Bharti (Nikhila Trikha), making him Pritvi & Samar’s older half-brother.

When Veerendru and Sooraj resort to violence to achieve their ambitions, Samar steps in to help his brother (the one he knows about, not the secret half-brother). Aiding him is Bharti’s brother, Brij (Nana Patekar), who’s long been the family’s clean-up man. The violence spirals out of control, ruining the lives of everyone involved.

With so many characters, it’s hard to keep track of everyone in Raajneeti. Oops, I left out two of the women critical to the story. There’s Sarah (Sarah Thompson, who played Eve in the final season of Angel), Samar’s American girlfriend. And there’s Indu (Katrina Kaif), who loves Samar but is forced into a political married to Prithvi by her wealthy father.

The story sounds convoluted, and it is. But the filmmakers take nearly three hours to tell the story, allowing enough time to give each character depth. There are no heroes in Raajneeti, and no one’s really innocent apart from Sarah, and that’s only because she’s an outsider.

I found Sarah’s perspective invaluable in the film. Every Hindi movie I’ve seen on the topic portrays Indian politics as violent and corrupt. It makes me wonder why anyone would want to enter the field, given the high mortality rate of Bollywood politicians. It was nice to have an onscreen avatar acting as shocked by the carnage as I was.

Indu also plays an important role, giving women a voice in a male-dominated arena. While she could’ve acted a few scenes more forcefully, Kaif is competent in her portrayal of a manipulated woman. It’s an ambitious choice for Kaif, and the right one if she’s looking to branch out from comedies.

While no one character dominates the screentime, Raajneeti wouldn’t work without Patekar as Brij. His character is involved in almost every critical decision, even if peripherally. Brij is a clean-up man who never gets his own hands dirty, allowing him to remain in good standing with the constituents. Patekar plays him as cool and controlled, manipulating people with a smile.

Brij is the eye of a storm that spirals out of control in the last 30 minutes of the movie. Subtle intrigues are abandoned for an orgy of violence that strains credulity. An important rule that the old politicians adhered to is to always get someone else to pull the trigger for you. The young upstarts forget that, and an unnecessary bloodbath ensues. It might make for a good movie, but it seems like bad politics.

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Movie Review: Welcome (2007)

3 Stars (out of 4)

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When Rajiv (Akshay Kumar) meets Sanjana (Katrina Kaif), he thinks he’s found the girl of his dreams. Too bad her brothers are mobsters. Kumar is charming enough in Welcome, but Sanjana’s brothers, played by Nana Patekar and Anil Kapoor, steal the show as they try to curb their violent instincts to appease Rajiv’s family and see their sister married at last. The slapstick comedy moves along quickly, apart from a preposterous final action sequence that drags on a bit.

No Rating (violence, language); 160 minutes

This review originally appeared in The Naperville Sun on December 28, 2007