Tag Archives: Raghu Ram

Movie Review: Tees Maar Khan (2010)

3 Stars (out of 4)

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Farah Khan knows how to stage a spectacle. She’s done it for years as Bollywood’s most sought after choreographer, and she did it with her second directorial effort, the vibrant Om Shanti Om (her directorial debut, Main Hoon Na, was comparatively low-key). With Tees Maar Khan, Farah Khan reasserts herself as Bollywood’s queen of bombast.

Tees Maar Khan is an outrageous comedy filled with larger than life characters. As such, there’s only one man to play the lead: Akshay Kumar. Kumar usually plays a charming ham these days, but few of his recent movies have been able to match his natural charisma. Khan is able to take all that is good about Akshay Kumar and let him shine.

“Tees Maar Khan” (TMK) is the alias of the thief Tabrez Mirza Khan (Kumar). He eludes the police with the aid of his three henchmen: Dollar, Soda and Burger. The Johri brothers — a pair of conjoined-twin smugglers (played by identical twins Raghu Ram and Rajiv Laxman) — hire TMK to steal a heavily guarded trainload of antiques.

TMK plans to stop the train by tricking a bunch of villagers into mobbing it, all under the guise of making a movie. To make the ruse believable, he hires a famous actor, Aatish Kapoor (Akshaye Khanna), assuring him that the role is Oscar gold. TMK enlists his girlfriend, Anya (Katrina Kaif), to play the fake movie’s heroine, if only to keep the aspiring actress from naively doffing her clothes for lecherous directors promising Bollywood stardom.

Khan understands exactly what it takes to make a goofy, campy movie. Everything about Tees Maar Khan is loud: the dialog, the music, and especially the costumes. The writing in Tees Maar Khan is consistently funny and is supported by strong performances all around, especially from TMK’s sidekicks and the villainous twins.

Khan likes to work on a big scale. The exciting dance numbers cover large areas and include several costume changes. There are hundreds of extras involved in the village scenes. The scale of the movie is impressive.

But at some point, there’s simply too much of everything. Comedies should err on the side of being too short, and Tees Maar Khan is too long. The opening scene in a police station is a waste of time that delays the introduction of the main character. A dance number involving Salman Khan is fun, but totally unnecessary.

What’s more, the Salman Khan number is such an obvious stunt that it breaks the spell of the movie. Salman’s real-life romance with Kaif is the only reason he’s in the film. Imagine how dated the movie will feel if they ever break up. Given the popularity of Kumar, Kaif and Khanna, it’s not as if Tees Maar Khan needed the additional star power to draw an audience.

My biggest complaint about Khan as a director is her penchant for including celebrity cameos and insider Bollywood references, just because she can. I know that Khan’s biggest audience is in India, but her movies are as visually polished as anything coming out of Hollywood. Why not reach out to a wider audience?

TMK tries to in several ways. The actor Kapoor bemoans turning down a role in “Dumbdog Millionaire.” He’s later tricked into believing that TMK is Manoj Day Ramalan, the younger brother of “Fifth Sense” director Manoj Night Ramalan. It’s funny stuff that avid moviegoers everywhere will get.

But for every universal joke, there are twice as many references to classic Hindi movies or Bollywood gossip that international audiences won’t understand. Even for domestic Indian audiences, I’m not sure if the material is supposed to be funny or if it’s just supposed to elicit a “Hey, I know who she’s talking about!” response. If the latter, the references won’t mean as much ten or twenty years from now. It’s not a good long-term strategy.

I hold Farah Khan to such high standards because I think she’s so talented. If you ask most Americans to name a Bollywood movie, they’ll mention Slumdog Millionaire or Bend It Like Beckham. Both films are actually British productions which borrow elements of Bollywood movies. It’s time for a director working in India to define Bollywood for the Western world, and I think Farah Khan’s the one to do it.


Movie Review: Jhootha Hi Sahi (2010)

3 Stars (out of 4)

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First-time screenwriter Pakhi succeeds with Jhootha Hi Sahi, thanks to its instantly likable lead character.

The movie opens with bookish Sid (John Abraham) sleeping peacefully on his couch, as the National Geographic Channel flickers in the background. A stranger calls in the middle of the night, asking Sid to talk him out of committing suicide. Two subsequent suicide calls (Bollywood fans may recognize the celebrity voice cameos) convince Sid that he’s the victim of a prank, but he still talks all three callers out of killing themselves.

In the morning, a counselor for a suicide hotline catering to Indians living in London informs Sid that they mistakenly printed his home phone number on their fliers. He agrees to serve as a temporary counselor, referring callers to the correct number for additional help.

His friends Omar (Raghu Ram) and Amit (Omar Khan), who co-own an Indian bookstore with Sid, are supportive of Sid’s good deed. Sid’s girlfriend, an intense flight attendant named Krutika (Manasi Scott), is not.

Sid becomes heavily invested in his humanitarian duties when a weeping woman calls but refuses to talk. He stays on the phone with her all night so she won’t be alone. She calls back the next day to apologize and opens up to Sid. The woman, Mishka (Pakhi, the film’s writer), begins calling every night to talk about her problems, nicknaming Sid “Fidato” since hotline rules prevent him from sharing his identity with her.

Mishka shows up in Sid’s bookstore one day, and he recognizes her when she asks for a book he’d mentioned on the phone. Mishka’s good looks reduce Sid to a stammering klutz, the opposite of the confident persona he adopts on the phone with her. He abuses his power as Fidato to steer Mishka into a relationship with Sid until she inevitably learns the truth.

Movies about dual-identities are tricky to pull off, as accidental meetings between characters often seem implausible and identities are revealed in absurd ways. Not so in Jhootha Hi Sahi. The circumstances of Sid & Mishka’s physical meeting are logical. Sid’s eventual reveal comes in a moment of self-sacrifice and not because Mishka finds out the truth on her own.

Further establishing Sid’s “good guy” credentials are his buddies, Omar and Amit. The three guys look out for each other’s best interests, even when it means revealing harsh truths (such as the fact that Sid doesn’t really love Kruthika). Ram is funny and authentic in his first film role as Omar.

Rounding out the group of pals is Omar’s pregnant, unwed sister, Aliya (Alishka Varde), and the father of her child, Nick (George Young). Aliya’s fine when acting as a mother figure to the guys, but she’s snippy to the unreasonably devoted Nick. The tension in their relationship is uncomfortable and adds nothing to the film.

But, aside from one awkward subplot, Jhootha Hi Sahi is a fun, comfortable movie. The secret identity plot convention is familiar but not tired. Sid and Mishka are nice people who deserve happiness. London looks beautiful, and there are books everywhere. I’m smiling just thinking about it.