Tag Archives: Priyanka Chopra

Movie Review: Jai Gangaajal (2016)

JaiGangaajal2 Stars (out of 4)

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Who exactly is the protagonist in Jai Gangaajal (“Hail Holy Waters“)? International superstar Priyanka Chopra features on the poster, but her position as the clear hero is usurped by Prakash Jha, the film’s writer and director.

Jha himself plays Deputy BN Singh, a crooked cop in the crime-ridden hamlet of Bankipur. The town’s corruption is laid out in the movie’s protracted opening sequence. Power-mad politician Babloo Pandey (Manav Kaul) and his cartoonishly villainous brother, Dabloo (Ninad Kamat), operate with impunity under the protection of cops like Singh, who lives in a mansion more lavish than any public servant could afford on his salary alone.

When the police chief tries to clean up the force, Singh arranges his superior’s transfer. Little does Singh know that the new sheriff is no one to trifle with. Enter Police Chief Abha Mathur (Chopra), more than twenty minutes into the story, long after we’ve been bored by the usual scenes of goons strong-arming poor villagers into giving up their land to make way for some corporate building project.

Mathur’s devotion to law and order inspires a magical transformation within the police force. After watching Mathur — a woman! — beat the hell out of the Pandeys’ thugs with a stick, one awed officer tells her in all seriousness, “Sir, today I’ve found my self-respect.” Even Singh chaffs at Dabloo’s threat to damage his police uniform.

Yet there’s little else to Mathur’s character besides her belief in the rule of law, which never wavers no matter the circumstances. Her backstory is boiled down to a couple of lines of dialogue. We only see her out of her police uniform three times, and twice in the same all-black outfit. She’s like a justice robot who switches off when not on duty.

Singh, on the other hand, is a well-developed character who grows morally and emotionally throughout the film. Singh gets the better story arc and about the same amount of screentime as Mathur, so why isn’t Jha on the poster with — or instead of — Chopra?

The bait-and-switch of selling Jai Gangaajal as a Priyanka Chopra picture isn’t as bothersome as the fact that Jha the filmmaker had a chance to make a more interesting movie than the one he did. Imagine Chopra as the female version of the Bollywood supercop regularly played by men like Salman Khan, Ajay Devgn, and Akshay Kumar. Not a gritty, realistic cop like Rani Mukerji in Mardaani, but a full-on desi action hero divinely imbued with superhuman strength.

Chopra is tremendous in the action scenes in Jai Gangaajal, and she looks badass in her police uniform. She has a broad enough acting range to pull off bombastic dialogue without sounding silly. A female twist on the supercop would allow for exploration of the relationship between women and the justice system. One brief shot in Jai Gangaajal of Mathur hugging a girl she’s saved from kidnappers seemed positioned to lead the story in that direction, but Jha’s movie doesn’t follow that path.

Instead, Jha views all his female characters through the prism of sexual violence. When Dabloo gets in a physical altercation with a young woman he’s threatened to kill, he pauses to rape her first. Though Mathur is never directly threatened with rape, Dabloo make vulgar gestures and comments in regard to her appearance.

There have already been so many Bollywood made about corruption in small town India, and Jha’s boring, disorganized story doesn’t break any new ground.

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Movie Review: Bajirao Mastani (2015)

BajiraoMastani3 Stars (out of 4)

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The historical epic Bajirao Mastani scores high marks for scale and style, but its message of religious tolerance is perhaps its real selling point.

The movie’s title bears the names of the renowned battle commander Bajirao (Ranveer Singh) and his second wife, Mastani (Deepika Padukone). Bajirao served as prime minister of the Maratha Empire in the early 1700s.

Though already married to Kashibai (Priyanka Chopra), Bajirao falls in love with Mastani while helping her to free her father’s besieged castle. Mastani herself is an accomplished warrior, a fact that impresses Bajirao as much as her beautiful looks and graceful dancing.

Before returning home, Bajirao gifts Mastani his dagger, unaware that this constitutes a marriage pact among her people. This presents a huge problem not just because Bajirao already has a wife, but because Mastani was raised in her mother’s Muslim faith, not in the Hindu faith of Mastani’s father and Bajirao himself.

When Mastani follows Bajirao to his home in Pune, she is shunned by Bajirao’s mother, Radhabai (Tanvi Azmi), who lodges Mastani in a whorehouse and appoints her the humiliating position of court dancer. Undeterred, Mastani publicly professes her love to Bajirao, who builds her a palace of her own. This does not go over well.

(Before continuing, I want to point out that, when Bajirao returns home with Mastani, he and Kashibai already have a preteen son, Nana. Given the lack of familial affection between Bajirao and Nana, I wasn’t sure if he was actually their biological son, or just some kid from the household that Kashibai calls “son.” Nana is, in fact, their child.)

The anger directed at Mastani and Bajirao by Bajirao’s mother, brother, and son is primarily based on her religion and its perceived pollution of the family line. Bajirao’s tragic flaw is his underestimation of the depth of his family’s hatred.

Kashibai has the biggest grievance against Bajirao for breaking their matrimonial vows, but she’s a pragmatist. She has a house to run while Bajirao is off sacking cities, so she is less outwardly hostile toward Mastani than her in-laws. Yet there is fury in Chopra’s eyes while Kashibai goes through the motions of keeping the peace. By virtue of her position — and Chopra’s performance — Kashibai is the film’s most interesting character.

Bajirao himself is devoted but oblivious. He’s supposedly as skilled a diplomat as he is a fighter, but he reads the vibe in his household all wrong. He acts as though he’s entitled to do what he likes without realizing that his threats are no match to his family’s hatred of Muslims. The limitations of the character don’t leave much room for Singh to shine, although his buff physique certainly fits the part.

Mastani’s character also feels underwritten. After her introduction as a fierce warrior, that aspect of her persona is diminished, replaced by an emphasis on a more passive kind of femininity. According to Wikipedia (for whatever it’s worth), the real Mastani accompanied Bajirao on his battles. It would have been fun to see more of that, although Padukone’s dancing is quite a treat.

The film’s early battle sequence is impressive, emphasizing the key players while still feeling expansive. Dim pre-dawn lighting gives a sinister tone to the fight. There’s also an effective scene later in the film as Bajirao imagines his destiny manifesting as a shadow army on black horses.

Designer Anju Modi’s costumes and jewelry pieces are so stunning as to merit a museum exhibit. The film’s sets are lavish, the dance numbers beautifully choreographed.

Tales of star-crossed lovers are always popular, but writer-director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s choice of this particular pair is timely. Bajirao and Mastani love beyond the borders of religion, condemned by a society with hearts too small to tolerate such a union.

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Movie Review: Dil Dhadakne Do (2015)

DilDhadakneDo4 Stars (out of 4)

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One can never completely know what to expect when one walks into a theater, but when you get what you subconsciously wanted, you know the feeling. Dil Dhadakne Do (“Let the Heart Beat“) inspired that feeling for me. Writer-director Zoya Akhtar deftly wrangles a mammoth cast and innumerable subplots into a thoroughly enjoyable comedy about a dysfunctional family.

Many things are going wrong for the wealthy Mehra family. Neelam (Shefali Shah) endures her husband Kamal’s (Anil Kapoor) serial cheating. Their son, Kabir (Ranveer Singh), doesn’t want to inherit the family business, which is going bankrupt. Their daughter, Ayesha (Priyanka Chopra), is being pressured to give up her own successful company to have a child with Manav (Rahul Bose), the husband she doesn’t love.

With all of their close friends and business associates accompanying them on a ten-day Mediterranean cruise in honor of Neelam & Kamal’s 30th wedding anniversary, the Mehras try to pretend that everything is okay. Confined on a ship with dozens of associates with their own grudges and motivations, it’s impossible to keep up the front for long.

Part of the Mehra’s pretending requires them to not talk about uncomfortable things, even with one another. That becomes untenable when Kabir falls in love with Farah (Anushka Sharma), a dancer who works on the ship. She doesn’t fit with his role as the dutiful heir apparent — a role that he doesn’t even want — but he doesn’t know how to live any other way. In just a few days, he can’t envision a future without her.

As serious as the consequences of their relationship are, Kabir’s romance with Farah builds in a sweet, flirtatious way. Kabir’s seduction of Farah in the song “Pehli Baar” is equal parts playful and sexy. It’s an incredibly effective use of a choreographed number to advance the narrative (so much more so than the typical Bollywood romantic fantasy number involving a woman in a ball gown atop a windy sand dune).

Singh is something to behold in Dil Dhadakne Do. He contains his normally boundless energy, unleashing it in the dance numbers but otherwise playing it cool. His chemistry with Sharma is super. Her character is smitten but wary, given her far-less-stable financial footing.

Even better is the relationship between Singh and Chopra, playing adult children who still make faces behind their parents’ backs. So many of their scenes feel authentic: like the way Kabir calls his sister “Dude,” and his claim that the ice cream he steals from her bowl tastes better because it’s flavored with her annoyance. Their immaturity together belies an unbreakable allegiance.

It surely helps that Akhtar’s own brother, Farhan — who has a great supporting role as Ayesha’s former flame — wrote the film’s dialogue. Credit also to Akhtar’s co-writer, Reema Kagti, for a script with so many moving parts but no loose ends. It’s always clear which of the dozen or so aunties are aligned with whom, and which fellow businessmen are looking to gain an advantage.

Akhtar let scenes breathe, taking advantage of the sprawling cruise ship to allow characters to cover lots of physical ground while lost in thought. She has a top-notch cast at her disposal, and she gets the best out of her performers. Some of the best moments consist of knowing glances and wordless exchanges. She even gives the film’s villain, Manav, some funny reaction shots as he fends off his wife’s high-speed, anger-fueled tennis volleys.

The theme of women’s equality (or the lack thereof) runs throughout the film, through Manav’s possessive attitude toward Ayesha to Neelam’s willingness to tolerate Kamal’s infidelity because of her financial dependence on him. The subject is explored in a thoughtful way without seeming preachy, often presented as the younger generation trying to explain their beliefs to an older generation more comfortable with traditional gender roles.

Akhtar sets the right tones throughout Dil Dhadakne Do, interspersing serious ideas and insightful commentary without ever veering too far from the film’s comedic core. It’s funny, thought-provoking, and tear-jerking in all the right places. There’s so much to like in Dil Dhadakne Do.

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Movie Review: Mary Kom (2014)

Mary_Kom_Poster3 Stars (out of 4)

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With multiple world championships and an Olympic bronze medal to her name, Mary Kom can now add a Bollywood biopic to her impressive resume. Priyanka Chopra plays the title character in Mary Kom, an enjoyable chronicle of the Indian boxing superstar’s rise to the top.

Kom’s depiction in the film is flattering. Eager to find a better outlet for her hair-trigger temper, teenage Mary dedicates herself to boxing. With a natural aptitude for fighting, she faces little opposition in the ring. Her greatest obstacle is her father, who worries that no man will want to marry a woman who perpetually sports a black eye.

Dad needn’t have worried, as a local soccer player — Onler (Darshan Kumaar) — takes a shine to Mary and her shiners. After dating for several years, Onler proposes the night before a critical bout. Giddy and distracted, Mary nearly falters in the ring, leading her coach (Sunil Thapa) to question her commitment to the sport that defines her.

The second half of the film focuses on Mary’s return to boxing after giving birth to twin sons.  The movie shows the challenges of leading a normal family life while training as an elite athlete, and the sheer impossibility of the task without the aid of a partner as devoted as Onler.

While the movie portrays Mary as a worthy national hero, it doesn’t shy away from her massive ego. Such extreme self-confidence is a necessary characteristic for any athlete who competes at an elite level. It’s not a characteristic most regular folks can relate to, but it’s a vital part of who she is.

The movie’s climactic fight scene is worth the price of admission, paralleling a personal crisis with a critical moment in Mary’s professional career. All of the film’s fight scenes and training montages are well done.

Director Omung Kumar shortchanges other aspects of the story that should’ve been shown, rather than just talked about. Mary complains about the substandard training conditions she and her fellow athletes are subjected to, but we don’t see her experiencing them.

Other scenes of great visual impact aren’t fully explained. Mary loses or has her passport stolen the night before her first international fight, and in response, she shaves her head. This is an act of great significance for a woman, yet it’s not made clear why she does it. It’s also unclear how she gets her passport back. All we see is a photo of her triumphant after the match.

The film’s biggest problem for international audiences is its failure to explain why Mary feels discriminated against because she hails from Manipur, a state in northeast India that shares a border with Myanmar.

My understanding of the issue — which admittedly mostly comes from Chak De India — is that Indians from the northeast who may have more Burmese or East Asian facial features are frequently accused being “less Indian” than those from central India. Given that Priyanka doesn’t especially resemble Mary, the film needs to make it clearer why Mary feels discriminated against.

Ultimately, Mary Kom does its job, entertaining and raising awareness of an important athlete in Indian sports history. There’s a good chance Mary’s story isn’t finished just yet. As noted at the end of the film, Magnificent Mary hopes to compete in the Rio Olympics in 2016.

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Movie Review: Gunday (2014)

Gunday2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Editor’s note: So, a lot of people have been coming to this review via IMDb, because Gunday is — after just one week in theaters — already the lowest-rated movie of all time. Lower than The Hottie and the Nottie, Birdemic, and even Manos: The Hands of Fate. As of February 22, it’s at 1.2/10, a full .8 ahead of its nearest competitor.

Is Gunday really that bad? As a movie, no. You can read below how I thought it was problematic, but passable.

Then why is it ranked as IMDb’s worst movie ever? It looks like the movie’s portrayal of the Bangladesh Liberation War has angered a lot of people, who have coordinated to give it as many 1/10 reviews as possible. Look at the IMDb user reviews, and several of them have the exact same title: “Manipulating Bangladesh’s Liberation War history.”

Unfortunately, I’m not familiar with the true events that Gunday references. So while I still think it’s okay as a film, I certainly wouldn’t vouch for it being historically accurate!

Abrupt changes in tone and an abundance of slow-mo keep Gunday (“The Outlaws“) from establishing its own voice or finding a rhythm.

The story begins in 1971 at the end of the war that established Bangladesh as an independent nation. 14-year-old orphans Bikram (Darshan Gurjar) and Bala (Jayesh V. Kardak) survive the deprivation of a refuge camp by working as gun runners. When Bala shoots an army officer to save Bikram’s life, the boys flee to Calcutta.

Fast-forward ten years, and Bikram (Ranveer Singh) and Bala (Arjun Kapoor) are the unofficial kings of Calcutta, controlling all of the city’s black market commodities. The buddies do everything together, while savvy Bikram keeps Bala’s temper in check.

As soon as the guys’ present-day circumstances are established, an anchor drops onto the plot in the form of a love interest: a cabaret dancer named Nandita (Priyanka Chopra).

The premise that two guys are such good buddies that they decide to share the same girl could be cute in a more lighthearted movie than this one. But Gunday starts out grim, and it returns to being so once Nandita chooses one guy over the other. The thirty-minute wacky romantic-comedy interval doesn’t fit.

That’s not the only aspect of Gunday that doesn’t make sense tonally. Action sequences vary from dramatic and realistic to outright loony. Bala causes an earthquake before shooting up through the ground, as though propelled by a geyser. A fish is wielded as a deadly weapon.

The goofy action sequences are pretty entertaining, but again, they don’t feel right in the context of the movie. Gunday would’ve been better had writer-director Ali Abbas Zafar established surreal action as the dominant tone of the movie.

Such a tone would’ve also explained the volume of slow-motion used in the film. Walking, running, dancing: seemingly every form of motility is presented in slow-motion. The impact of the two scenes in the movie that actually benefit from the treatment is dulled by its application to so many mundane activities.

There is a ridiculous amount of skin on display in Gunday, and not just by Chopra’s cabaret dancer. In the movie’s funniest fight scene, Bikram and Bala exchange blows, ripping off each other’s shirts in the process. The shirts come off in slow-mo (of course), exposing Singh’s and Kapoor’s hairless, tanned, greased-up, muscular torsos. It’s not supposed to be as hilarious as it is.

As much attention as is given to the guys’ muscles — with special attention paid to Singh’s perky buns — Irrfan Khan wins for Best Body, and he gets to keep his clothes on.

Khan’s star power is on full display as the police inspector tasked with bringing down Bikram and Bala and returning order to Calcutta. Saurab Shukla’s understated role as the lawyer who watches over Bikram and Bala is also notable.

Chopra is fine as Nandita, though she’s not given much to do besides look sexy, early on. Her performance improves as Nandita realizes the consequences of having strained the friendship between the two gangsters.

It almost seems as if the role of Bikram was written with Singh in mind, and his charisma is undeniable. Kapoor is very good at playing edgy anti-heroes, and it’s a shame when Bala gets turned into a mindless beefcake goofball during the romance portion of the movie. His hair-trigger is shelved for the sake of song-and-dance numbers and out-of-place comedy bits.

As a surreal dark comedy or action flick, Gunday could’ve been really interesting, but there’s no place for light romantic tomfoolery in such a film. A clear vision rather than a please-all approach would’ve done wonders.

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Movie Review: Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela (2013)

Goliyon_Ki_Rasleela_Ram-Leela_poster3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Writer-director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela (henceforth referred to by the shorter, original title used by most American theaters: Ram-Leela) is a fresh update on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The story may be familiar, but Bhansali’s film offers plenty of surprises.

In this rendition, Romeo and Juliet are rechristened Ram Rajadi (Ranveer Singh) and Leela Sanera (Deepika Padukone). The youngest children in their respective warring clans, they want nothing to do with the centuries-long family feud. Ram serves as village peacemaker, defusing situations by distributing pornographic DVDs.

It’s love at first sight when Ram and Leela meet at a party. They are reckless in their courtship, until deaths in both families force them to realize that they will find no peace in town. Even their elopement is foiled by friends intent on perpetuating the feud.

In Bhansali’s version of Romeo and Juliet, the two leads are much older than the original characters, meaning they have more prominent positions in their family. Both Ram and Leela eventually assume leadership roles in their clans, proving the naiveté of their assumption that they could run off and leave their families behind. It makes for an interesting examination of the public aspect of romantic relationships.

Singh and Padukone are an extremely sexy pair. Had Ram-Leela been rated by the MPAA, it would’ve been rated PG-13 or R. Keep that in mind if you’re considering bringing your kids to the theater. Adults in the audience will appreciate the chemistry between the lead couple.

Singh’s Ram is initially more fun than a traditional Romeo, but he loses his spirit as the obstacles to his romance with Leela mount. By the end of the film, he’s mostly glum and passive.

Padukone is sensational as Leela, and the character is especially well-written. Leela evolves from a bratty princess into a force within her family. She’s sexually aggressive, initiating the couple’s first kiss and telling Ram, “I want you.”

In another refreshing update, the female characters are the power players in Ram-Leela. Both Leela’s and Ram’s sisters-in-law (played by Richa Chadda and Barkha Bisht, respectively) influence the destiny of the central romance and the town as a whole. The Sanera clan is led by Leela’s mother, Dhankor (Supriya Patak Kapur), who is ruthless and terrifying.

Like all of Bhansali’s films, Ram-Leela is great looking. Major plot points occur against the backdrops of colorful festivals. The garden at the Sanera palace — the setting for the famous balcony scene — is stunning.

Bhansali also composed the music for the film, and as a result, Ram-Leela features a lot of well-integrated dance numbers. The music and dancing (especially Padukone’s) is very good, and only the movie’s lone item number — starring Priyanka Chopra — feels out-of-place.

I appreciate Bhansali’s decision to re-imagine Romeo and Juliet as an all-out Bollywood spectacle, with sequences ranging from frequent dance breaks to a slow-mo fight scene in which body-slammed victims send up volcanic plumes of dust.

Ram-Leela is great for newcomers to Hindi films. It offers the full Bollywood experience, while presenting a familiar story. The crew responsible for the English subtitles made a smart decision to subtitle the first verse and chorus of each song, but not subsequent verses. It allows those who don’t understand Hindi to get the gist of the song’s subject matter, but then be able to focus on the dancing. This should become an industry standard.

Links

  • Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela at Wikipedia
  • Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela at IMDb

Movie Review: Krrish 3 (2013)

Krrish32.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Krrish 3‘s great flaw is not that it’s a derivative mishmash of X-Men, The Island of Doctor Moreau, and Superman. It’s that Krrish 3 is boring. Why does a standard superhero plot — bad guy wants to takeover the world, good guy needs to stop him — need so much exposition?

Krrish 3 starts with a helpful recap of the previous films in the series — Koi… Mil Gaya and Krrish — narrated by Amitabh Bachchan. Rohit (Hrithik Roshan) inherited superpowers from an alien and passed them on to his son, Krishna (also Hrithik Roshan), who moonlights as the superhero, Krrish.

Bachchan’s narration disappears for half-an-hour so that we can see Krrish rescue some folks, only to return unexpectedly to introduce the villains. After that, we don’t hear from Bachchan again.

The primary villain is Professor X, er, Kaal (Vivek Oberoi), a telekinetic quadriplegic who somehow retains the use of both index fingers. Bachchan assures us: “Unbelievable as it is, but it’s true.” As a byproduct of his experiments to cure his paralysis, Kaal creates an army of animal-human hybrids: his “manimals.”

One of the manimals is a chameleon-hybrid shape-shifter named Kaya (Kangana Ranaut). In addition to looking sexy in a strapless latex catsuit, Kaya can pass through walls and possesses super-strength.

Kaya’s storyline is the highlight of the film. Her role in Kaal’s evil scheme requires her to impersonate Krishna’s wife, Priya (Priyanka Chopra). While gathering intel for her boss, Kaya gets to live a life she’s never experienced, one in which she’s a beloved member of a family. This causes her to question her loyalties to her creator, Kaal, who’s always treated her like a tool.

Kaya is a better developed villain than Kaal, whose plans seem scattershot. He spends the first hour of the film infecting countries with a virus, and then charging high prices for the cure in order to fund his paralysis-cure research. The movie is half-over before Krrish and Kaal have anything to do with one another.

After exhausting his animal research, Kaal becomes obsessed with bone marrow. When he says, “I need your bone marrow,” he dramatically emphasizes the tissue as if he were saying “heart” or “brain” or some other vital organ. It’s as if no one told him that a bone marrow transplant is a relatively common, non-lethal procedure. Boy, is he going to be bummed when he finds out.

Kaal’s not intimidating enough to be a super-villain, and he’s not as complex a character as Kaya. He’s about as scary as his henchman, Frogman (Gowhar Khan), who gets way too much screentime for a guy whose only weapon is his tongue.

Krrish/Krishna is kind of a dud, too. There’s a germ of a running gag in which Krishna keeps getting fired from service jobs because of his superhero duties, but it doesn’t go anywhere. Krrish rescues a boy, only to lecture him not to try superhero stunts at home.

That lecture, plus a bunch of speeches about how we’re all like Krrish whenever we do something nice for someone else, make Krrish 3 too self-aware to be truly engrossing. Whenever scenes show a glimmer of emotional truth, the camera zooms soap-opera style into a close-up of a character’s face, just to make sure the audience knows that this is an emotionally significant moment.

The performances by Roshan and Chopra are corny, and Oberoi isn’t villainous enough. Ranaut’s compelling turn as Kaya makes the film bearable.

The musical numbers are also a letdown. About half the audience at my showing headed for a bathroom break as soon as “God Allah Aur Bhagwan” began. “Dil Tu Hi Bataa” is so wacky that it’s almost charming. Why is Ranaut dressed like she’s in the Ice Capades?

But, wait! Isn’t that my boy Sushant Pujari from ABCD bustin’ moves in red sneakers in “Raghupati Raghav”? Maybe Krrish 3 is worth watching after all.

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Movie Review: Zanjeer (2013)

Zanjeer_poster2 Stars (out of 4)

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Movies about police officers who take the law into their own hands and beat the bad guys to a pulp are ubiquitous in Bollywood, thanks largely to the 1973 film Zanjeer (“Shackles”). While I haven’t seen the original Amitabh Bachchan film, I’ve seen plenty of variations on the same story in recent years, starring the likes of Salman Khan, Ajay Devgn, and Akshay Kumar. Given the ongoing popularity of the “supercop” sub-genre of action films, why would anyone risk remaking Zanjeer?

Director Apoorva Lakhia’s gamble doesn’t pay off. Perhaps fearing too much deviation from the original material, the remake of Zanjeer feels dated in its execution. The performances are corny, and the story structure doesn’t feel current. Lakhia would’ve been better off creating an entirely new movie, rather than being hamstrung by the old one.

Ram Charan makes his Hindi-film debut reprising Bachchan’s role as Vijay Khanna. Vijay is basically Batman: a boy whose parents are murdered in front of his eyes, who then grows up to be a vigilante. At one point in the film, Vijay’s girlfriend even wears a Batman t-shirt. The only difference is that Vijay is a maverick cop and not a masked superhero.

Vijay has such a reputation as a violent hothead that his interdepartmental transfer from Hyderabad to Mumbai merits cable news coverage (something that would never happen in real life). His first case in Mumbai involves investigating the murder of a man caught video-recording gasoline theft. The only witness is a beautiful Indian-American woman named Mala (Priyanka Chopra), in town for a friend’s wedding.

Mala is unbearably ditzy and annoying. Her role in the film is to be a lighthearted counterpoint to the always-serious Vijay, but she comes off as oblivious in the face of mortal danger from the organized crime unit that wants to kill her before she can testify. Chopra is a much better actress than this — as evidenced by her performances in Barfi! and 7 Khoon Maaf — so the blame rests on Lakhia’s shoulders for demanding such a grating performance from a talented actress.

In the course of his investigation, Vijay enlists the help of Sher Khan (Sanjay Dutt), a car thief whom Vijay pummels into renouncing his criminal ways. Vijay is similarly successful in recruiting the help of a journalist, Jay Dev (Atul Kulkarni), via threats and an absurd amount of swagger. No one writes lead characters this way anymore, so these scenes feel like out-of-touch throwbacks.

Then again, Charan seems unable to tone down his swagger, so maybe the scenes make sense. He doesn’t play a character so much as pose as one, as if no one told him they were telling a story and not just shooting the cover of the DVD. The fact that Vijay’s shirts are always unbuttoned halfway further serve to make him look more like a catalog model than a police officer. When Charan does act, it appears to require a lot of effort.

Dutt’s and Kulkarni’s roles are poorly integrated into the script, which is a shame. Their parts are eclipsed by Prakash Raj as the villain Teja, who chews scenery while dressed as a pimp. Raj is the best part of the movie, though a scene in which he and Mahie Gill spend thirty seconds meowing at one another is hard to take.

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Opening September 6: Shuddh Desi Romance and Zanjeer

Two new Hindi flicks hit Chicago area screens on September 6, 2013. Shuddh Desi Romance (listed at some theaters as “Random Desi Romance“) features rising stars Parineeti Chopra and Sushant Singh Rajput alongside newcomer Vaani Kapoor in a romcom love triangle.

Shuddh Desi Romance 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, AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 5 min.

Also new in theaters this weekend is Zanjeer, a remake of the 1973 film of the same name starring Amitabh Bachchan. The remake stars Ram Charan, Priyanka Chopra, and Sanjay Dutt.

Zanjeer opens on Friday at the River East 21, Golf Glen 5, South Barrington 30, and Cantera 17. Its runtime is listed at IMDb as 2 hrs. 17 min. The Golf Glen 5 is also carrying the Telugu version of Zanjeer, Thoofan.

After posting solid earnings of $500,402 over the extended holiday weekend in the U.S., Satyagraha gets a second week at the River East 21, Golf Glen 5, South Barrington 30, and Cantera 17.

Madras Cafe gets a third weekend at the South Barrington 30 and Cantera 17.

Chennai Express is still going strong with earnings of $5,122,240 in the U.S. so far. It gets a fifth weekend at the South Barrington 30, Woodridge 18, and Cantera 17.

Other Indian movies showing at the Golf Glen 5 this weekend include the Tamil movies Madha Gaja Raja and Varuthapadatha Valibar Sangam.

The teaser trailer from Dhoom 3 just released today, and it features some great footage shot in downtown Chicago. The movie releases on December 20, 2013.

Opening August 9: Chennai Express

Chennai Express opens in theaters on August 9, 2013, to one of the largest international releases in Indian film history. That’s evident locally, as the Shahrukh Khan-Deepika Padukone action comedy plays in seven Chicago area theaters.

Following the trend of many recent Hollywood releases, four area theaters have scheduled Thursday evening showings of Chennai Express: Regal Gardens Stadium 1-6 in Skokie, AMC Loews Crestwood 18 in Crestwood, AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. Chennai Express opens on Friday in three additional theaters: AMC River East 21 in Chicago, Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, and AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington. The movie has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 20 min.

Bollywood fans will note that Priyanka Chopra adds her voice to the Disney movie Planes, which also opens Friday.

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag carries over for a fifth week at the South Barrington 30 and Cantera 17. Its total U.S. earnings stand at $1,572,690.

Starting Friday, the Golf Glen 5 carries the Tamil film Thalaivaa and its Telugu version, Anna — Born to Lead.