Tag Archives: Neha Sharma

Movie Review: Youngistaan (2014)

Youngistaan2 Stars (out of 4)

Buy or rent the movie at Amazon
Buy or rent the movie at iTunes

Youngistaan shares much in common with the 1993 Hollywood film Dave. Both are about regular guys shoved into the political spotlight, only to realize that they are now in a position to positively impact the lives of ordinary citizens. Dave is a better movie, so watch that instead.

Jackky Bhagnani stars in Youngistaan as Abhi, a game developer living in Japan with his longtime girlfriend, Avni (Neha Sharma). They are living life to the fullest, as we learn from nearly fifteen minutes of songs and scenes of them having fun.

The party stops when Abhi’s father, the Indian Prime Minister (played by Boman Irani), succumbs to cancer in an Orlando, Florida, hospital. They aren’t really in Orlando but somewhere in Australia, so why not just say they’re in Australia? It’s not like Orlando is famous for its cutting-edge cancer centers — unless there’s some new Epcot pavilion that went in since I last visited.

On his deathbed, Abhi’s father explains the state of Indian politics to his son and makes a request. A new prime minister will be installed, but the position is temporary. With election season just three months away — and with the ruling party polling so unfavorably — the interim prime minister is unlikely to be reelected. Accepting the nomination would be political suicide. That’s why Dad wants Abhi to accept the nomination and use his short window of opportunity to make a difference.

This does not sit well with Avni, who knows that a 28-year-old prime minister will be seen as a joke. She also worries about the strain the job will put on their relationship, although she underestimates how drastic the changes will be. That’s one of the hallmarks of Youngistaan: characters are repeatedly unprepared for events, solely as a matter of plot convenience.

Abhi quickly discovers how conservatism and infighting hamper political progress, and his suggestions are dismissed. He tries to win over young voters by playing hockey, which seems desperately uncool.

Abhi’s real problem is that he and Avni insist on living together and delude themselves into thinking that no one will find out. Even though they plan on getting married someday — and they’ve already been together for three years — Avni wants to do it on their terms and not just to make Abhi’s career easier. This is dumb, especially since hiding their relationship forces Avni to live essentially under house arrest. She’s so bored, she paints a picture of a fetus (I’m not kidding).

I’ve bagged on Jackky Bhagnani in the past, but he’s okay in Youngistaan. So is Sharma, although her character is frequently reduced to a stereotypical jealous girlfriend. Farooq Shaikh plays the role of Abhi’s wise, old advisor with such scholarly aloofness that you could have substituted him with a cartoon owl and no one would have noticed.

The politics in Youngistaan may make sense to people familiar with Indian democracy, but they are too convoluted for outsiders. At least the characters state the time frame — Abhi has three months to get things done — so the stakes are clear.

Things should have been more understandable given how slowly all of the characters talk. The plot unfolds at a snail’s pace, interrupted by man-on-the-street interviews of nobodies telling the audience how they are supposed to feel. The climax is ten minutes of characters watching election returns on TV.

Given how young the electorate of India is, Youngistaan had a real opportunity to address their aspirations and motivate them to action. Instead, writer-director Syed Ahmed Afzal gives us politics as usual.

Links

Movie Review: Teri Meri Kahaani (2012)

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

The danger of telling three different love stories in three different time periods in the span of two hours is that it doesn’t allow much time for plot or character development. Spending about thirty minutes on credits and song-and-dance numbers further raises the level of difficulty. Ultimately, Teri Meri Kahaani (“Our Story”) is cute but shallow.

Connecting the three stories are the actors playing the lovers: Shahid Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra. In each time period, their characters meet by accidentally bumping into each other. He overcomes her initial distaste for him, they fall in love and sing and dance, then he does something stupid to put her off again.

The narrative begins in Mumbai circa 1960. Chopra plays a superstar actress named Ruksan and Kapoor a struggling musician named Govind. He courts her while toying with the emotions of Maahi (Prachi Desai).

Fast-forward to a present-day storyline set in England. A budding romance between college students Radha (Chopra) and Krish (Kapoor) is complicated by his ex-girlfriend, Meera (Neha Sharma)

Finally, the story flashes back to Lahore, 1910. Kapoor plays a lech named Javed and Chopra plays Aradhana, the daughter of an independence activist. Javed takes extreme measures to prove to Aradhana and her disapproving father that he’s not the useless layabout he appears to be.

All of the romances suffer because Kapoor’s characters are all clueless about women. It’s not fate that keeps the couples eternally apart. Kapoor just plays a trio of knuckleheads.

Without any star-crossed interference, the success of the romantic storylines depends upon the chemistry between Kapoor and Chopra. Unfortunately, there is none. It’s not completely their fault, as the structure of the stories — meet-cute, dancing, he does something dumb — doesn’t allow them enough time to develop passion.

There are some interesting stylistic choices that add flair to the film. The 2012 story is augmented with Facebook status updates and Tweets by the characters that appear onscreen as their relationship progresses.

The 1960 storyline pays homage to the movie industry in its presentation. The Mumbai street scenes were obviously filmed in front of a green screen, as confirmed by behind-the-scenes footage shown during the closing credits. I didn’t love the effect as it made scenes look flat. The action is interrupted occasionally by title cards, as seen in silent movies, and Govind engages in some Charlie Chaplin-style antics. Again, I didn’t love the effect, but it did help to distinguish this storyline from the others.

If anything stands out about Teri Meri Kahaani, it’s the song-and-dance numbers, which are uniformly entertaining. Since they make up almost a quarter of the movie’s runtime, their contribution is significant. “Humse Pyaar Kar Le Tu” was undoubtedly my favorite.

Overall, there’s nothing terribly wrong with Teri Meri Kahaani, but it’s nothing special. With its abbreviated storylines, frequent dance numbers, and short runtime, it’s perfect for people with short attention spans.

Links

  • Teri Meri Kahaani at Wikipedia
  • Teri Meri Kahaani at IMDb
  • Video of “Humse Pyaar Kar Le Tu”

Movie Review: Crook (2010)

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

There’s a lot going on in the subtext of Crook regarding the different facets of racism and the immigrant’s struggle to balance integration with tradition. With a different structure– one that allowed the subtext more time to develop — Crook could’ve been a truly memorable movie.

The hero of Crook is Jai (Emraan Hashmi), a small-time video pirate in India. His adoptive father sends him to Australia under a false identity in order to give Jai a fresh start. Jai starts his new life in Melbourne as Suraj, a taxi driver working his way to permanent residency (unless he can find a cute Australian woman to marry first).

Two Aussie women catch Jai’s eye: a blonde stripper named Nikki (Shella Alan) and a student of Indian descent named Suhani (Neha Sharma). Nikki quickly falls for Jai, but Suhani’s strict brother, Samarth (Arjan Bajwa), intends to marry her to someone else.

Further complicating matters is a series of racially motivated attacks on Indian-Australians by white Australians. Suhani tries to bring Australians of all colors together and is frustrated by Jai’s unwillingness to get involved. Jai fears attracting police attention by participating in protests. If the police discover his true identity, he could be sent back to India.

Crook portrays racism as a two-way street. The white Australians who attack Indians are villains, but so are traditionalists like Samarth, who rejects Australian culture in the hopes of recreating India on a new continent. The only innocents are people like Suhani, who respects the values of her family as much as the values that dominate her adopted homeland.

Such nuance presents a problem in that it makes Jai’s decision not to take a stand look decidedly unheroic. He spends most of the movie running away from trouble. While it makes sense given his false identity, the threat of deportation isn’t as imminent or thrilling as, say, the threat of death.

Further, since the audience knows that eventually Jai has to get involved, he needs to take a stand much earlier in the film than he does. It takes more than half of the movie before Jai finally tells Suhani the truth about his past. Even then, he still insists that the racial tension inflaming the city isn’t his problem. A film hero needs to take charge of his destiny in a more definitive way than Jai does.

While the set up of the love story is fine, it doesn’t leave enough time for the action in the second half of the movie to unfold. When violence breaks out, characters undergo abrupt personality changes and plot points feel rushed.

Overall, Crook is a fun ride with some interesting moral observations. It just falls a bit short of its potential.

Links