Tag Archives: Parineeti Chopra

Movie Review: Meri Pyaari Bindu (2017)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Meri Pyaari Bindu (“My Sweet Bindu“) puts a clever spin on a familiar story in a way that allows its talented lead couple to shine. Debutant screenwriter Suprotim Sengupta is one to watch.

Bollywood is awash in stories about a man who falls for a woman — often based on the woman’s appearance alone — who then makes it his mission to win the woman’s affections in return. These one-sided romances are often portrayed as a matter of destiny: the woman simply doesn’t realize that she’s meant to be with the man, so he must convince her. Meri Pyaari Bindu also tells a love story from a man’s perspective, but he is not some hero of destiny. He’s just a guy.

Abhi (Ayushmann Khurrana) is a successful — if slightly embarrassed — writer of pulp horror-romance novels living in Mumbai. He’s spent three years struggling to write a love story of literary merit. His concerned parents dupe him into returning to Kolkata in order to shake his writer’s block and force him to interact with the outside world once again.

The problem is Abhi’s obsession with “the one that got away”: Bindu (Parineeti Chopra), his childhood sweetheart. The mementos he finds in his parents’ home — most significantly a mix tape of old movie songs — prompt Abhi to write about his past with Bindu.

This version of the past is deliberately told from Abhi’s point of view, and it can’t be taken as a completely objective, even in his characterization of Bindu. In his recollection, the first thing she did upon meeting him was to hand him a pair of headphones, instructing him: “Listen to this. It will change your life.” The scene is a direct reference to Natalie Portman’s character in Garden State, one of the most commonly cited examples of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope — a free-spirited female character written as a romantic interest for a stuffy or depressed male character. The fact that Bindu and Abhi are six-years-old when this happens highlights the absurdity of Abhi’s perception of Bindu as his own personal wake-up-call.

As Abhi’s recollections progress forward in time, it becomes apparent to both him and the audience that there’s more to Bindu than her carefree persona suggests. She has plans of her own that may not include Abhi. Both of them learn as they get older that holding on too tightly to dreams that cannot be will only hurt the dreamer.

It’s a risky move to establish Bindu as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, since it requires the audience to invest enough in her to enjoy the payoff as she is revealed to be a nuanced character in her own right. Sengupta successfully pulls it off, and in doing so tells an unconventional but totally relateable love story. Debutant director Akshay Roy shows a knack for commercial cinema in the way he interprets Sengupta’s tale.

Few actors do “exasperated” better than Khurrana, and he gets to deploy his best hangdog expression liberally in Meri Pyaari Bindu. He’s a fine match for Chopra, who gets a wider range of emotions to work with in the film, from spunky to defeated to resolute. Her performance during a scene in which Bindu faces harsh reality is particularly moving.

It’s refreshing to see a Hindi romantic-comedy that knows how to bend the rules of the genre to make something that feels new. Meri Pyaari Bindu trusts in the intelligence of its audience, and the audience is rewarded for watching it.

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Movie Review: Kill Dil (2014)

Kill_Dil3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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With a vibe that combines the wild west with rock ‘n’ roll and Indian gangsters, Kill Dil (“Kill Heart“) has a unique, appealing aesthetic style. That style — plus a briskly paced story and a hypnotic performance by Ranveer Singh — make Kill Dil worth watching.

Singh plays Dev, one of two orphans raised by Bhaiyaji (Govinda), a gangster. The other orphan, Tutu (Ali Zafar), is Dev’s best friend and partner in crime. Together, they serve as Bhaiyaji’s chief assassins.

While Tutu looks every bit the part — black leather jacket, sunglasses, mustache — Dev’s goofy energy and bowl haircut seem at odds with his profession. Yet Dev’s spirited demeanor is what makes him Bhaiyaji’s favorite.

Predictably, everything falls apart when Dev falls in love with Disha (Parineeti Chopra). She works finding jobs for reformed criminals, but Tutu points out that she probably doesn’t want to date one. Dev has to decide whether a normal life with Disha is worth leaving Bhaiyaji and incurring his wrath.

Though the plot is a bit familiar, the presentation is not. The vibrant colors — especially during Bhaiyaji’s Diwali party — and framing make every shot captivating. The terrific rock soundtrack makes every song feel necessary in an otherwise very fast movie. Before you know it, an hour has passed and the word “Intermission” appears on screen.

Zafar, who normally plays nice guys, is very cool as an assassin, taking his cues from the Marlboro Man on the billboard above the apartment Tutu and Dev share. Govinda likewise sheds his usual comic image and makes an imposing tough guy.

Singh is a boundless source of energy, practically vibrating in every scene, even when his character isn’t the focus. He’s at his most “on” during dance numbers. It’s impossible not to watch him. He’s charisma personified.

Yet Singh’s best moment comes during a tearful discussion with Tutu, the moment when Dev must commit to his future. Singh’s earnestness is moving as he channels all that energy into a plea for understanding.

Chopra plays her character well, but she and Singh are somewhat lacking in chemistry (despite Chopra playing her most overtly sexy character to date). Disha seems a mismatch for Dev. It’s not just that he flunked out of fifth grade, it’s that their cultural tastes don’t seem to match. It’s not enough that Dev’s a nice guy.

There’s a moment that hints at a subplot about Dev finding in Disha’s family the parents he never had, but it doesn’t go anywhere. Plus, it’s a little hard to believe that neither Disha nor her family wouldn’t be suspicious of Dev’s evasiveness about his past.

What flaws Kill Dil has are masked by an undeniable cool factor. This is a doggone stylish movie that combines a bunch of elements to make something unique and interesting. In an industry awash in gangster movies, Kill Dil really stands out.

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Movie Review: Daawat-e-Ishq (2014)

Daawat-e-Ishq_official_release_poster1 Star (out of 4)

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Daawat-e-Ishq (“Feast of Love“) wants to be a strong social statement against dowries. In reality, it’s a fantasy film for men’s rights supporters.

The movie opens with a card explaining that, though the practice of dowry payments has been illegal since 1961, one woman is killed every hour in India because her family cannot afford to pay the fee demanded by her prospective husband’s family. Despite being an ace student, star athlete, and total knockout, no man will marry Gullu (Parineeti Chopra) because of the measly dowry her widowed father (played by Anupam Kher) can afford on his law clerk’s salary.

After having her heart broken by a rich guy named Amjad, whose family demands an outrageous sum to approve the marriage, Gullu decides to use the law to her advantage. She and her father leave Hyderabad for Lucknow, where they assume false identities in order to land Gullu a rich husband.

After the wedding, the plan is for Gullu to file a suit against the groom’s family accusing them of dowry extortion (section 498a in the Indian penal code). Presumably, the family will settle out of court, and Gullu and her dad will have enough money to move to America so that she can become a shoe designer.

Gullu and her dad pick Taru Haidar (Aditya Roy Kapur) — a restaurateur from a rich family — as their mark. Unfortunately for Gullu, Taru is nice, virtuous guy who doesn’t like that his parents have asked for a dowry. Gullu must decide whether to confess her scheme or take Taru’s money and break his heart.

Thus does a movie about the evils of a system which unfairly punishes women turn into a tale with a wealthy man as the system’s true victim.

For a movie as mind numbingly slow as Daawat-e-Ishq, the twist that positions Taru as the victim still comes as a shock. His character doesn’t even show up until forty minutes into the film, and he’s introduced as a loud, tacky boor. His victimization is supposed to sting not because of who he is or the audience’s affection for him but for what he represents: an innocent man exploited by a law designed to protect women.

There are so many reasons why the movie doesn’t work, and all can be laid at the feet of writer-director Habib Faisal. Faisal asks his talented cast to overact. The film looks dingy and flat. For a movie about a chef with “Feast” in the title, precious little time is devoted to Taru’s culinary creations. The camera pans quickly past the dishes with nary a description or lingering shot.

The screenplay is the film’s biggest problem. As mentioned above, Taru isn’t introduced until forty minutes have elapsed, time that is instead spent on Gullu’s futile romance with Amjad and a couple of lifeless songs. The romance between the leading couple is compressed into a single song, which isn’t enough time for Chopra and Kapur to develop any kind of chemistry.

Faisal lets down his heroine in the way he transforms her from an unappreciated modern woman into a ruthless criminal mastermind. The circumstances that prompt her to concoct her extortion scheme aren’t dire enough to warrant it, and the whole plan seems out of character for a woman who takes pride in succeeding on her own merits.

Gullu’s heel-turn opens the door for a song in which the “black magic woman” wreaks havoc “while the mustache studs looked on in dismay.” Taru’s lawyer friend shouts, “All the girls of India will learn a lesson that they shouldn’t trick innocent boys into 498a.” I’m sure the twenty-four women murdered today over dowry would feel properly chastened, were they still alive to do so.

The most telling indicator of where Daawat-e-Ishq falls on the moral spectrum is its epilogue, featuring the rich guy, Amjad. He finally stands up to his parents, telling them that he won’t accept a dowry from his future bride. Not because their regressive ideas cost him the one woman he really loved, but because, dammit, he’s tired of being treated like a piece of meat, an object that can be sold to the highest bidder. And the women of the world collectively rolled their eyes…

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New Trailers: July 10, 2014

Fall is going to be a lot of fun if three newly released trailers are any indication of the quality of Bollywood fare that awaits us in a couple of months. The first of the three films to hit theaters is Daawat-e-Ishq (“Feast of Love“), releasing September 5. More Parineeti Chopra is always a good thing.

The following weekend sees the release of Finding Fanny, an offbeat road trip film starring Deepika Padukone and Naseeruddin Shah. The movie’s dialogue is a mix of Hindi and English. I cannot wait for September 12 to come around, because I am dying to see this.

On October 2, director Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider hits theaters. A Hindi interpretation of Hamlet set in Kashmir? Sign me up!

Stay up to date with Bollywood Hungama’s list of Bollywood release dates.

IIFA Tampa

The International Indian Film Academy awards are over, and Mike Davis was in Tampa, Florida, to cover the event. Head to his blog — Just Me Mike — to read his reports and view photos from the festival.

My favorite IIFA related photo came courtesy of Parineeti Chopra’s friend, Nitasha, the day after the festival ended. The actress and her buddies appear to have ordered one of everything on the menu at a Tampa area IHOP:

ParineetiIHOP

Box Office: February 7-9

North American Bollywood fans were in the mood for love, turning out in impressive numbers for the romantic comedy Hasee Toh Phasee. In its opening weekend in 88 U.S. and Canadian theaters, the film earned $336,985 (according to Box Office Mojo).

Hasee Toh Phasee‘s per screen earnings of $3,829 bested every other film in the top twenty-five apart from The LEGO Movie and The Monuments Men, which finished the weekend in first and second place, respectively.

The success of Hasee Toh Phasee points to an upward trend in the young careers of the two lead actors: Sidharth Malhotra and Parineeti Chopra. This is only Malhotra’s second film after 2012’s Student of the Year, which earned $326,508 from 106 theaters ($3,080 per screen) in its opening weekend in North America, going on to earn a total of $670,086.

Chopra debuted in a supporting role in 2011’s Ladies vs Ricky Bahl, which earned $222,019 from 80 theaters ($2775 per screen) in its opening weekend (according to Bollywood Hungama). Ishaqzaade — Chopra’s second film and first lead role — didn’t release theatrically in the U.S.

Chopra had greater success with 2013’s Shuddh Desi Romance. It earned $345,624 from 116 theaters ($2976 per screen) in its first weekend, finishing its North American run with $641,000 in total earnings.

Distributor Reliance Big Pictures should be pleased if Hasee Toh Phasee ends up earning around $650,000 in the U.S. and Canada.

Movie Review: Hasee Toh Phasee (2014)

HTP3 Stars (out of 4)

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

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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Opening February 7: Hasee Toh Phasee

The romantic comedy Hasee Toh Phasee — starring Parineeti Chopra and Sidharth Malhotra — opens in Chicago area theaters on February 7, 2014. I love the English translation of the title (according to Wikipedia): “She Smiles, She’s Snared!”.

Hasee Toh Phasee opens on Friday at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, Regal Gardens Stadium 1-6 in Skokie, Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 20 min.

Jai Ho carries over for a third weekend at the Golf Glen 5 and South Barrington 30.

Other Indian movies playing in the Chicago area this weekend include Heart Attack (Telugu, no subtitles) at the Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge and Golf Glen 5, which is also showing Drishyam (Malayalam), Paisa (Telugu), and Pannaiyarum Padminiyum (Tamil).

New Trailers: December 16, 2013

With the new year just around the corner, there are a ton of new trailers out promoting movies scheduled for release in 2014. Let’s start with the biggest flick first: Salman Khan’s Jai Ho, opening January 24.

The trailer — like most of the trailers below — doesn’t have English subtitles, so I’m obviously missing out on the dialogue. Based on the visuals, I can’t see what differentiates this from any other recent Salman Khan film. I find Salman charming, but I’m tired of watching him play the same part: a morally perfect, invincible hero whose only character flaw is that he doesn’t have a girlfriend at the start of the movie. I want to see Salman play a character with room for growth: a washed up boxer who takes to the ring for one last fight, even though it might kill him; an upright family man who risks his reputation to save his wife and kids; an undercover cop whose constant lion-roaring threatens to blow his cover.

Next up is the romantic comedy Hasee Toh Phasee, releasing on February 7. Parineeti Chopra is terrific, so I’m looking forward to this.

The excellent costumes look like reason enough to see Gunday when it comes out on February 14.

Check out the gorgeous scenery in director Imtiaz Ali’s Highway, opening February 21.