Tag Archives: Prachi Desai

Movie Review: Rock On 2 (2016)

rockon22 Stars (out of 4)

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The realism that made the relationships in 2008’s Rock On!! so compelling is missing from Rock On 2, replaced by bizarre behavior masquerading as drama.

Following the events of the original film, the surviving members of the rock band Magik (RIP, keyboardist Rob) had a good run for about three years, playing shows and running their own recording label. Then the suicide of an aspiring musician broke them up once again.

Fast-forward five years to the present day, and formerly destitute guitarist Joe (Arjun Rampal) is a wealthy club owner and reality show judge. Drummer KD (Purab Kohli) still dabbles in music, leaving him with enough free time to narrate the film. Singer Adi (Farhan Akhtar) is living near Shillong on a farmers’ collective, despite having no background in farming whatsoever.

There’s a real logical leap required for Adi’s choices to make the slightest bit of narrative sense, let alone make him a hero. His overblown reaction to the aspiring musician’s suicide is to flee to the hinterlands of India (Shillong is on the other side of Bangladesh), not only breaking up his band and depriving Joe and KD of their source of income, but also abandoning his wife, Sakshi (Prachi Desai), and their then three-year-old son.

Somehow, Adi’s version of penance for playing a minor role in a troubled young man’s death means punishing everyone who loves and depends on him. As Adi puts it: “Every time I’ve tried to make music, I’ve hurt someone.” Substitute any other activity for “make music” to hear how dumb and selfish that rationale sounds: “Every time I’ve tried to clean the bathroom, I’ve hurt someone.”

Adi’s commitment to his new farming community isn’t as solid as he thinks it is. Days after rejecting an in-person plea from KD, Sakshi, Joe, and Joe’s wife, Debbie (Shahana Goswami), to return to Delhi, a suspicious fire destroys the farmers’ crops and homes. Adi gives the farmers some cash and heads back to his old life, telling the farmers to call him if they have any problems.

More than a month goes by without Adi giving so much as a thought to his buds in Shillong, let alone check on them to make sure they’re okay. When his former right-hand man finally rings to say that everyone is starving, Adi yells, “Why didn’t you call me sooner?!” Probably because he was trying not to die, you entitled dope!

Adi’s solution to raise awareness of the farmers’ plight is, not surprisingly, to hold a Magik reunion benefit concert, including new band members Jiah (Shraddha Kapoor) and Uday (Shahshank Arora, whose role is too small for an actor of his caliber). Yet dumbass Adi has the bright idea to hold the concert in a field in Shillong, Woodstock-style.

Consider all the reasons why this is stupid. All of the infrastructure for the concert — stage, restroom facilities, equipment storage — has to be built from scratch, at great expense. All the people with the money to afford concert tickets — the farmers are all broke, remember — live far away, meaning they have to travel (at great expense) just to get to the show.

Joe owns a freaking music club! Just have the concert at his place and charge a couple hundred bucks a ticket! All that money that went into setting up the stupid concert and travel expenses could’ve gone directly to the farmers instead of enabling Adi to waste it on another vanity project to ease his troubled conscience.

Joe is the only rational character in the story, dutifully fulfilling his responsibilities, while refusing to be blamed for things that aren’t his fault. Yet he’s written as a kind of villain, just because he considers events in context and isn’t guided entirely by his emotions. Joe, you’re the real hero of Rock On 2.

P.S. Since this is a movie about a rock band, I should mention the music. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy did a great job writing songs in distinct styles for Jiah and for Magik. Shraddha Kapoor has a good voice, and her character gets the film’s best songs, including “Tere Mere Dil” and “Udja Re” (both embedded below). Magik’s numbers are okay, but I don’t think I can keep trying to convince myself that I like Farhan Akhtar’s singing voice.

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Movie Review: Azhar (2016)

Azhar_Hindi_poster1.5 Stars (out of 4)

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A film about the scandal-plagued life of a former Indian cricket captain deserves a grand scale, but Azhar feels like a made-for-TV movie.

I can’t testify to the accuracy of Azhar‘s story, as I know nothing about Mohammad Azharuddin. I never saw him play a minute of cricket, which puts me in the same boat as almost every Indian under the age of twenty.

That said, Azhar requires no foreknowledge, since all the dialogue is on the nose. Here’s how the cricket chairman drops the bombshell on Azhar (Emraan Hashmi) the night before the captain’s hundredth appearance for the national team: “Azhar, I have some bad news for you. You have been accused of match fixing.”

In case the dialogue isn’t direct enough, the actors go out of their way to make things extra clear. When Azhar decides to fight the cricket association’s lifetime ban in court, the prosecutor, Meera (Lara Dutta), tries to question M.K. Sharma (Rajesh Sharma), the bookie accused of bribery. She tells Sharma that she wants dirt on Azhar, causing Sharma to make an exaggerated gulping noise, leap out of his chair, and whip his head over each shoulder to see if anyone is behind him.

During the course of the eight-year-long court case, we get flashbacks to Azhar’s earlier life, including his relationship with his grandfather, his marriage to Naureen (Prachi Desai), and his affair with Sangeeta (Nargis Fakhri). The romantic plotlines make Azhar seem like a jerk, in which case he’d better be a helluva cricket player.

This brings me to the movie’s single biggest failing: it makes cricket look totally boring. According to Azhar, cricket is just a sequence of slow-rolling ground balls, with a few balls occasionally bopped into the stands. There’s no tension or excitement whatsoever.

Director Tony D’Souza uses so many tight shots during the cricket scenes that it’s impossible to tell what a match actually looks like. The entire frame is filled by a ball skittering past an outstretched hand or a ball plucked out of mid-air by another hand. Did the fielder have to run to catch it? How high did he jump? Where were the other fielders in relation to the play? D’Souza’s direction offers no clues.

The director applies this same framing to Azhar, so we never get a sense of how good a player he is. Hashmi spends most of his time on the field standing with his hands on his hips. Never has an actor playing a star athlete seemed so non-athletic.

Another problem with the main character is that he looks exactly the same throughout, whether Azhar is supposed to be twenty or almost fifty. It’s impossible to tell by looking at Hashmi when any given scene is taking place.

This is not one of Hashmi’s best performances, but it seems as though he’s doing what’s asked of him. D’Souza’s style doesn’t allow for subtlety. Periodic reverb on the dialogue recording further distracts from the film’s performances.

Neither Desai nor Fakhri have much to do, though Desai proves herself the better of the two at crying. Kunaal Roy Kapur is proficient in the thankless role of Azhar’s lawyer. Dutta’s no-nonsense performance is the best in the film.

There are a lot of people in the world who never witnessed Mohammad Azharuddin at his peak. We don’t know him. Azhar doesn’t give us a compelling reason to care.

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Movie Review: I, Me aur Main (2013)

IMeAurMain1 Star (out of 4)

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I, Me aur Main (“I, Me and Myself”) is the uplifting tale about a selfish bastard who gets everything he wants without any real conflict or consequences. Congratulations to director Kapil Sharma and writer Devika Bhagat for creating a singularly unrelatable movie.

The selfish bastard in question is Ishaan (John Abraham). An introductory scene features young Ishaan taking credit for a paper airplane made by his older sister, Shivani. When Shivani grabs the plane from Ishaan, their mother punishes Shivani for picking on precious Ishaan. Mom repeatedly calls Ishaan “the best,” thus creating the unbearable egomaniac at the center of the film.

Emblematic of the film’s poor construction, the flashback starts with the subtitle, “Pune: many years ago.” The next scene, set in the present day, has the subtitle, “Mumbai: 25 years later.” Why not just say, “Pune: 25 years ago” in the first place? Is it some kind of short-term mystery?

Ishaan grows up to be a completely self-centered prick. His girlfriend, Anushka (Chitrangada Singh), is a successful lawyer who cooks for Ishaan and cleans up after him. Even though he’s a wealthy record producer, he expects Anushka to pay for all of the groceries she uses to feed him. He also cheats on her with other women.

Having endured three years of Ishaan’s fecklessness with no hope of a commitment in sight, Anushka finally kicks Ishaan out. Ishaan’s sister — the only member of his family to have met Anushka — takes Anushka’s side in the breakup. Shivani (Mini Mathur) knows her brother better than anyone, after all.

Ishaan lives on his own for all of a day before his mother abandons her husband in Pune to move in with her helpless adult son. He responds by nagging his mother.

Ishaan’s new neighbor is Gauri (Prachi Desai), a Manic Pixie Dream Girl sent from screenplay heaven to turn Ishaan into a likable person. It doesn’t work. Ishaan continues to be a dick until even his mother has had enough. When it comes time to make the morally correct choice in a climactic scene with Anushka, even she lets him off the hook. Writer Bhagat is determined that everything go right for Ishaan.

Why? What is so great about him? He’s utterly meritless. One of the great things about movies is the chance to experience a kind of justice that doesn’t usually exist in the real world. I, Me aur Main is about a rich, handsome guy getting everything he wants without any comeuppance. There’s no escapism in that. It’s just an unfortunate fact of life.

Case in point is John Abraham. Here’s an actor who seems to get all of his roles based on his muscular physique and not on his acting abilities. He’s never been forced to work on his craft or play any characters that aren’t charming louts. Casting him in this role was a mistake. A toned torso doesn’t make Ishaan worthy of a happy ending.

The women in the film perform well under the strain of Ishaan’s sexism, another of his fine qualities. Singh is strong and resolute as Anushka, the real hero of the film for being the first person in Ishaan’s life to ever reject him. Desai is cute as Gauri, but her character is undermined when she, too, turns selfish in the end.

Consider I, Me aur Main a cautionary tale for parents: Make your children self-confident. Don’t make them self-absorbed.

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Opening March 1: I, Me Aur Main and The Attacks of 26/11

Two more new Hindi movies are set to open in the Chicago area on March 1, 2013. The romantic drama I, Me Aur Main stars John Abraham as a pampered man-child opposite Chitrangada Singh and Prachi Desai.

I, Me Aur Main opens on Friday at the 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 1 hr. 46 min.

Director Ram Gopal Varma’s thriller The Attacks of 26/11 also opens in area theaters on Friday. Given the relative freshness of the wounds inflicted by the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, I’m curious to see if RGV will rein in some of his more eccentric directorial quirks and tell a more somber, straightforward story.

The Attacks of 26/11 opens on Friday at all of the above theaters and has a listed runtime of 1 hr. 59 min.

Kai Po Che! posted strong first-weekend U.S. earnings of $522,765, meriting a second week in all of the above theaters plus the AMC River East 21 in Chicago. The disappointing gangster drama Zila Ghaziabad, predictably, does not get a second week.

On Friday, Special 26 begins its fourth week at the South Barrington 30, while ABCD departs local theaters with total U.S. earnings of $218,257.

Other Indian movies showing at the Golf Glen 5 on Friday include Kammath & Kammath (Malayalam) and Mr. Pellikoduku (Telugu).

Movie Review: Bol Bachchan (2012)

3 Stars (out of 4)

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I try not to prejudge a movie before I see it, but I was sure I wasn’t going to like Bol Bachchan. Based on the trailer and promotional poster, I expected nothing but tacky gay jokes and dumb, goofball comedy. I was pleased to discover that my fears were unfounded. Bol Bachchan is genuinely funny.

Mistaken identity comedies seem to be a dime a dozen in Bollywood, but few are executed as well as Bol Bachchan (which translates to “A Bundle of Lies,” according to the title track’s lyrics). It helps that the film has a good template to work from. It’s a remake of 1979’s Gol Maal, which is unrelated to the three Golmaal movies from the last decade, all directed by Bol Bachchan‘s director, Rohit Shetty.

Bol Bachchan‘s story concerns the unlucky fate of Abbas Ali (Abhishek Bachchan). When Abbas and his sister, Sania (Asin), lose their house in Delhi, a family friend named Shastri (Asrani) offers to get Abbas a job with his employer. The employer is Prithviraj (Ajay Devgn), the richest guy in a small town.

While on a sightseeing tour of town with Shastri’s actor son, Ravi (Krushna Abhishek), Abbas sees a boy fall into a walled-in reservoir. To save the boy, Abbas — a Muslim — breaks open the locked gate to a Hindu temple.

When Prithviraj arrives and demands details of the boy’s rescue, Ravi panics and introduces Abbas with a made-up Hindu name: Abhishek Bachchan. Since there’s nothing tough-guy Prithviraj hates more than a liar, the lies about Abbas’ identity snowball until he winds up with multiple fake mothers and a pretend identical twin named Abbas Ali.

Some background knowledge of Hindi cinema is helpful for understanding some of the jokes — such as the fact that the Abhishek Bachchan is the name of both Abbas’ fake identity and the real actor playing him — but it’s not essential. References to the original Gol Maal are woven in nicely to the new film as a way to move the action forward, not just for nostalgia’s sake. For example, Prithviraj’s sidekick, Maakhan (Neeraj Vora), becomes suspicious of Abhishek after he sees a pertinent scene from Gol Maal on television.

The film’s PG rating is well-deserved. The kids in the audience at my showing laughed in all the right places, particularly at Prithviraj’s repeated mangling of English sayings, such as: “A brother in need is a sister indeed.”

I read an interview with director Shetty in which he said that he includes car-stunts in his films because he knows kids like them. The reactions of the kids at my showing prove that quality writing is just as important. There are plenty of movies with better stunts than the ones in Bol Bachchan — a van full of people is suddenly (and obviously) empty when it launches over a ramp — so they only serve to pad the film’s runtime unnecessarily.

The song-and-dance numbers are similarly forgettable filler material. The songs themselves lack pep, and the choreography suffers as a result.

Only one dance number stands out: Bachchan’s performance as Abhishek’s pretend gay identical twin, “Abbas.” In his audition to be the classical dance instructor for Prithviraj’s sister, Radhika (Prachi Desai), Abbas writhes mock-seductively, repulsing — and in one case, enticing — Prithviraj’s henchmen. It’s really funny, and not as tacky or offensive as I feared it could be.

Bachchan’s performance on the whole is very strong, as is Devgn’s. I think both actors are at their best in comic roles, and their performances in Bol Bachchan confirm my feelings. Neeraj Vora and Krushna Abhishek are also entertaining in their supporting roles. Sadly, there’s little for either of the female leads to do apart from act virtuous and mildly annoyed at Abbas’/Abhishek’s antics.

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Movie Review: Teri Meri Kahaani (2012)

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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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”