Tag Archives: Pulkit Samrat

Movie Review: Sanam Re (2016)

sanamre1 Star (out of 4)

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Screenwriter Sanjeev Dutta is stuck in a time warp. His previous film, Heropanti, was an out of touch throwback when it released in 2014. His latest movie, Sanam Re, is similarly dated in its notions of characterization and storytelling.

Director Divya Khosla Kumar compounds the problems by relying on goofball sound effects to set the tone. Such effects may have been the norm in Hindi films ten years ago, but they’ve fallen out of favor in all but the broadest comedies. It’s as though Khosla Kumar and Dutta are determined not to evolve.

Pulkit Samrat of Fukrey fame plays Akash, an office lackey desperate for a promotion that will send him to America. He has a blowhard boss (played by Manoj Joshi), a wacky landlord, and a sassy maid — required characters if you want to make a movie that the audience has seen a thousand times before.

A family emergency requires Akash to return home to his quaint mountain town, a snow-covered place frozen in time following the exodus of all the young people to the city for better opportunities. There’s a brief moment where it appears that the story will explore the aging of small towns in India, but that spark is quickly snuffed.

Instead, we get flashbacks to Akash’s childhood, which he spent dressed as Oliver Twist even though it was the 1990s. Akash’s grandpa (played by Rishi Kapoor) hoped his bratty grandson would one day take over his photo studio. Little Akash only dreamed of marrying his true love, Shruti (played as an adult by Yami Gautam).

Teenage Akash abruptly leaves town to attend college in the city, without so much as a goodbye to Shruti. The plot offers no explanation for his decision. It only happens as a pretext to separate the sweethearts.

Sanam Re routinely takes such things for granted, failing to assign the characters motivations for their actions. The “why” behind an action doesn’t matter, so long as the plot is advanced.

The film also takes for granted that the audience will sympathize with Akash simply because he is the protagonist, overlooking the fact that Akash is a selfish jerk. He abandons his family and friends more than once, always putting his own feelings first. As he says: “Destiny wants it. Because I want it.”

Dutta’s story is built with Akash at the center of the universe, and Shruti only exists to further Akash’s development. The reason she rebuffs his romantic overtures when they reunite as adults is cliched and predictable.

Yet there’s a reason for Shruti to exist, which is more than can be said for the character Akanksha (Urvashi Rautela). Her backstory ham-fistedly positions her as the third member of a  grade school love triangle, which doesn’t ultimately matter to the plot. Akanksha only reappears in the adult portion of the storyline so that Akash can seduce her, thus allowing director Khosla Kumar to objectify Rautela in the grossest way possible.

In keeping with her outdated styling, Khosla Kumar insists that female performers wear skimpy outfits no matter how obviously cold the climate is. In one scene, you can see Gautam’s breath, even though she’s wearing only shorts and a belly shirt.

Many of the film’s jokes are homophobic, racist, or made at the expense of overweight people. Khosla Kumar and Dutta refuse to acknowledge that they are making movies in the 21st century.

Samrat’s delivery during romantic scenes is too slimy to qualify him as a swoon-worthy leading man, no matter how chiseled his abs may be. When Gautam isn’t absurdly chipper, she’s forgettable. Just like Sanam Re.

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Movie Review: Bangistan (2015)

Bangistan1.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Bangistan’s simplistic take on religious tolerance and racial profiling is shallow and boring, and the movie is unwilling to commit to an identity. Is it a comedy? A satire? A serious commentary on social issues? Even the lead actors seem to be performing in two different films.

Satire would seem to be the obvious choice given Bangistan‘s plot, but it’s not presented with enough cleverness to count as such. With an international forum on religious tolerance on the horizon, radical Hindu and Muslim sects who profit from the enmity between the religions are in panic mode. Separately, each sect chooses a devotee to pose as the member of the rival religion and set off a suicide bomb at the conference, derailing peace plans.

The Muslim man chosen to pose as a Hindu is Hafeez (Riteish Deshmukh), a disgruntled call center employee who’s sick of the people he calls assuming he’s a terrorist as soon as they hear his name. His unknowing Hindu counterpart is Praveen (Pulkit Samrat), a struggling actor and true believer in his guru’s cause.

Both men train to impersonate someone of the other religion. Hafeez learns yoga, and vegetarian Praveen eats chicken. They both note passages urging non-violence in the religious texts they study, but it doesn’t make them question their assignments.

Hafeez and Praveen end up renting rooms in the same boarding house in Poland, where the conference is to be held. They become friends, there are misunderstandings, blah, blah, blah. The story is stale, and it unfolds at a tedious pace.

It’s hard to develop affection for the bumbling duo because it Deshmukh and Samrat seem like they are acting in different films. Deshmukh — by far the superior actor — plays Hafeez as cerebral and conflicted. Samrat’s Praveen is alternatively glib and fervent. He’s either completely unaware of his impending death, or martyrdom is the only the he wants in the whole world. Regardless, Samrat does everything at full volume.

International audiences may not get a whole lot out of the mistakes Hafeez and Praveen make in their impersonations. A bit in which Hafeez nearly ruins a funeral by suggesting a widow immolate herself along with her deceased husband only works if you’re aware of the ancient tradition (and the bit isn’t as funny as it could have been anyway).

The reductive approach the film takes to racial profiling is disappointing. In his disguise as the Muslim, Allahrakha Khan, Praveen is regularly asked if he’s a terrorist or if he has a bomb. Most bigotry is rarely so overt.

Writer-director Karan Anshuman botches instances of more subtle profiling, too. When the customs official at the airport in Poland flags every Muslim in line for extra inspection, she recognizes Hafeez’s fake name — Ishwarchand Sharma — as Hindu and lets him through. I can’t speak for Poland, but I doubt that most Americans would be able to make such a distinction. To most Americans, “Khan” is a bad guy from Star Trek, not a terrorist moniker.

At times, Bangistan is downright stupid. At one point, Hafeez and Praveen are caught in an explosion, and the movie cuts to various international news broadcasts reporting that two men died. This is supposed to prime the audience for an emotional reaction when Hafeez and Praveen stand up amidst the rubble, very much alive.

How did the news channels get their information before people at the scene? Did no one bother to check if the men were actually dead? Why would they report a story they didn’t verify? It’s stupid, cheap, and lazy, just like the rest of Bangistan.

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Opening August 7: Bangistan

One new Bollywood movie opens in the Chicago area on August 7, 2015. Bangistan stars Riteish Deshmukh and Pulkit Samrat as a pair of inept wannabe terrorists.

Bangistan opens Friday at MovieMax Cinemas in Niles and AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 15 min.

Drishyam gets a second week at MovieMax and South Barrington, plus the Marcus Addison in Addison and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville.

Bajrangi Bhaijaan gets a fourth week at MovieMax, South Barrington 30, and Cantera 17, plus the Regal Gardens Stadium 1-6 in Skokie and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge.

The Pakistani film Bin Roye carries over at the South Barrington 30.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend:

Movie Review: Dolly Ki Doli (2015)

DollyKiDoli1 Star (out of 4)

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Was footage accidentally left out of Dolly Ki Doli? That’s the only way to account for a climax and resolution that come completely out of left field.

Sonam Kapoor plays Dolly, “The Plundering Bride” as she’s known by the police. She flits around the outskirts of Delhi, marrying eligible bachelors and drugging and robbing them on their wedding night. She arranges marriages with men of various religions and traditions, requiring her to change her appearance and mannerisms to appeal to each family she’s marrying into.

Dolly is a seductress only in a fantasy sense. She never so much as allows her grooms to kiss her, delaying their affection with excuses* until the drugs she’s administered have taken effect.

While Dolly’s swindled grooms — including nouveau riche braggart Sonu (Rajkummar Rao) and horny loser Manjot (Varun Sharma) — are jerks, so is she. Dolly works with a group of fellow cons who pose as her family, and her fake brother, Raju (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub), is in love with her. Dolly knows this, and she ridicules Raju for it.

Dolly’s pride derails their criminal enterprise. After being rejected as a prospective bride by Manjot’s mother for being too tall, Dolly insists on pursuing Manjot in order to take revenge on his family. This mistake lands her in the clutches of police officer Robin Singh (Pulkit Samrat), who has his own reasons for pursuing Dolly. The history between Robin and Dolly isn’t developed enough for the film’s final act to feel remotely believable.

While Kapoor imbues Dolly with a fun vibe, that’s the thief’s only positive attribute. She lacks chemistry with her potential beaus, and she lacks character depth. Dolly says that she’s a thief because she’s good at it. That’s a valid enough reason, but the movie gives no sense of what ambitions Dolly has for her future, when she can no longer keep up the con.

I’m still not sold on the acting abilities of Samrat and Sharma, who got their big breaks in 2013’s Fukrey. Ayyub is earnest as lovelorn Raju, but the script gives his character no room to grow.

What Dolly Ki Doli does show is what a terrific actor Rajkummar Rao is. Sonu tracks down Dolly not for revenge but because he genuinely loves her. He stares at her with such devotion and longing that one secretly hopes Dolly will return to him. It’s a quality performance that deserved a better film.

* – I’d like to thank Dolly Ki Doli‘s subtitles for me teaching me a nauseating euphemism for menstruation I’d never heard before. When Dolly puts off one of her grooms by saying she’s having “ladki problems” (“girl problems”), the subtitles read, “I’m chumming.”

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Movie Review: Fukrey (2013)

fukrey0.5 Stars (out of 4)

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There’s a fundamental problem at the root of Fukrey. The story is about a couple of guys: one who has prophetic dreams, and another who interprets those dreams to pick the day’s winning lottery numbers. The guys run into trouble when they borrow money from a mobster and can’t pay it back.

Here’s the problem: with this infallible gambling system, why do they need to borrow money? Why aren’t they already rich?!

That the writers missed such an obvious problem is indicative of just how shoddily organized Fukrey is. As a result, the movie is a boring waste of 2 hours and 10 minutes.

Nothing occurs in a succinct or timely fashion in Fukrey. The prophetic dreams aren’t even mentioned until thirty minutes into the movie, and they don’t become relevant to the plot until the fifty-minute mark. The guys don’t get into trouble with the gangster until 75 minutes have passed, so nothing of consequence happens until the movie is half over.

All the time up to that point is spent establishing the characters as total morons. The dreamer, Choocha (Varun Sharma), and the interpreter, Hunny (Pulkit Samrat), are horny high schoolers eager to get into college so that they can score with chicks, or so they say. They grab each other and make kissy faces while they talk of future romantic conquests. They ogle every woman they see, so much so that it seems like overcompensation, especially in Choocha’s case. He seems to be quite in love with Hunny.

Meanwhile, Hunny is completely obnoxious in his pursuit of Priya (Priya Anand). He pops his collar and lies about his experience with French kissing (unless he’s been practicing on Choocha). Hunny lingers outside Priya’s house, posing with his best Derek Zoolander “Blue Steel” expression. He does everything that would turn a real-life woman off, but Priya falls for him because Hunny is the hero, and movie heroes always get the girl.

For some reason, writer Vipul Vig and director Mrigdeep Singh Lamba decided to make this about a quartet of guys, rather than keeping the story focused on Choocha and Hunny, the only two characters germane to the plot. Lali (Manjot Singh) would like to get into college to spy on his cheating girlfriend, and Zafar (Ali Fazal) hangs around campus playing guitar. Lali’s only contribution to the plot is that he puts his family’s restaurant up as collateral in the gambling scheme. Zafar is a superfluous mope.

Richa Chadda plays the mobster, Bholi. Her gang consists of a bunch of musclebound black men who operate a diversified crime  portfolio of drug peddling, extortion, prostitution, and even a telemarketing scam. The race of Bholi’s bodyguards is only significant because, at one point, Choocha refers to her gang as “the Chicago Bulls.” Shortly thereafter, Hunny wears a polo shirt sporting a Confederate flag patch. Not content to just be boring, Fukrey has to be racist, too.

The movie might make a little sense if Bholi had heard about Choocha’s prophetic dreams and decided to exploit his abilities for her own gain. But why do Choocha and Hunny need to go to her at all? The first time they won the lottery, why didn’t they save a little of their winnings and do the same thing the next day? That’s how gambling works: you win a little bit, and you keep playing hoping to win even more.

Since Hunny and Choocha know their system works, why haven’t they been exploiting this system for years, amassing a huge fortune? Just how dumb do you have to be to screw this up?

It’s not possible to care about characters this stupid. I hoped that Bholi would get sick of these morons and kill them for kicks. She doesn’t, so there’s really no good reason to see Fukrey.

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