Tag Archives: Rajpal Yadav

Movie Review: Dirty Politics (2015)

DirtyPoliticsZero Stars (out of 4)

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About three-quarters of the way through the movie, my hands grip my head as if trying to contain an imminent explosion. I scream, “What is happening?!” and tear at my hair. That sums up the entire experience of watching Dirty Politics.

The movie’s problems are immediately apparent, most obviously so in the way the film looks. The camera never stops moving. It doesn’t matter if the movement obscures the faces of the characters who are speaking: camera movement is paramount! The action can be dramatic, such as a crane shot from directly overhead that swoops down to ground level then back up again. It can be more subtle, such as persistent zoom-ins on actors’ faces.

In one shot, the camera rapidly zooms in to closeup and pulls back twice in the span of about three seconds. A judge says, “Court is adjourned,” and the camera pans from the judge up to a clock above his chair, even though there’s no significance to the clock or the time of day. Then the same shot is repeated a few minutes later, again for no reason.

I don’t blame cinematographer Panveer Selvam for this travesty of technique as much as I do director K.C. Bokadia, who also wrote this farce. Bokadia’s vision for Dirty Politics is obviously shaped by a fundamental misunderstanding of how to make movies.

The story opens in the middle of a search for missing dancer-turned-politician Anokhi Devi (Mallika Sherawat). We know this because the characters say the name “Anokhi Devi” about a hundred times in the first ten minutes. Characters are introduced in quick succession without a sense of where they fit into the larger story, and an absence of backstory is keenly felt.

Anokhi Devi’s appearance via flashback more than twenty minutes into the runtime doesn’t really clear things up. Her dancing grabs the attention of political party leader Dinanath (Om Puri). In exchange for sex, Dinanath promises to make her the party’s candidate in the next election. Naturally.

There’s a hullabaloo because a gangster named Mukhtiar (Jackie Shroff) wants the same candidacy. He gets a great introduction from Anokhi Devi’s secretary, Banaram (Rajpal Yadav), who announces his arrival at her house: “He’s Mukhtiar. A well-known goon of our area.”

Dirty Politics is full of hilariously ponderous lines. When Anupam Kher’s character Mishra — who is a CBI officer and a lawyer who’s sixty days away from retirement(!) — presents his case in court, the defense attorney responds: “He is very cleverly trying to make his points strong.” Eloquently said, man who doesn’t realize that he’s describing the very nature of his own job.

One can only imagine how Bokadia managed to rope so many talented actors into this doomed project. In addition to vets like Kher, Shroff, and Puri, Naseeruddin Shah his a role as an activist who steals the movie’s absurd closing scene. Govind Namdeo’s overacting is the height of comedy. Atul Kulkarni and Sushant Singh remind us why they are rarely called upon to play action heroes.

Shah’s character has a daughter whose sole narrative purpose is to be raped in order to blackmail him. There are only three women in the whole movie, and all of them are brutalized: two in order to intimidate their relatives, and Anokhi Devi for aspiring to a more meaningful purpose than that of Dinanath’s mistress.

Puri and Sherawat deserve some modest praise for fumbling through the most awkward sex scenes in cinema history. If Bokadia was counting on sex to sell Dirty Politics, he obviously didn’t watch any footage of his movie as it was being shot.

One can only fathom the sheer terror racing through the mind of editor Prakash Jha as he received each batch of footage. “How am I supposed to make a movie from this?” he asks himself. “There’s nothing to work with!” Hence how we end up with the exact same reaction shot of Jackie Shroff staring at a desk — his jaw muscles twitching — four times in succession.

Bonus: Everything you need to know about the lack of craft that went into making Dirty Politics, in just twelve seconds!

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Movie Review: Bhopal — A Prayer for Rain (2014)

Bhopal_a_prayer_for_rain_poster3 Stars (out of 4)

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The 1984 industrial disaster at a Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, isn’t a common reference in the United States the way that the Chernobyl nuclear disaster is, but it’s an event Americans should be aware of. Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain depicts a catastrophe of almost unbelievable proportions.

In 1969, American company Union Carbide builds a plant in the central Indian city of Bhopal to produce agricultural chemicals. By 1984, the decrepit plant situated in the middle of a slum struggles to make ends meet, as a drought decreases the market for the company’s products. One night in December of that year, a gas leak from the plant exposes a half-million Bhopal residents to toxic fumes.

The story of the tragedy is told from several perspectives, including those of Motwani (Kal Penn), a journalist desperate to warn the city of impending danger, and Roy (Joy Sengupta), a plant safety officer trying to prevent a disaster in the face of unsympathetic management, failing equipment, and unqualified staff.

At the film’s heart is Dilip (Rajpal Yadav), a rickshaw driver who quickly ascends from plant janitor to equipment safety monitor. He’s as unqualified for the job as everyone else at the plant, but he’s a devoted employee.

Dilip personifies the conundrum of the plant’s existence. There aren’t enough trained engineers available to operate the equipment, especially for the wages Carbide can pay in an unprofitable market. But Dilip’s meager paycheck is enough to lift his family out of dire poverty. Closing the plant permanently would economically devastate the city.

In the film, the events of the disaster coincide with the wedding of Dilip’s younger sister, an event made possible by the same company ultimately responsible for killing thousands and injuring scores of thousands more.

Though the filmmakers take sides regarding the cause of the disaster — citing corporate negligence as opposed to Carbide’s official attribution to sabotage by a disgruntled worker — the portrayal of the key figures is nuanced. Carbide’s CEO, Warren Anderson (Martin Sheen), expresses his desire to continue the social progress made possible by the Green Revolution of the 1960s. He’s proud of the economic opportunity the plant provides for the citizens of Bhopal.

Yet it takes a special kind of callousness to enable the circumstances that lead to the disaster. Anderson and Carbide refuse to admit that the chemical being manufactured in Bhopal — MIC — is dangerous to humans. Who would work there if it was? This denial leaves the ramshackle local hospital unequipped to handle an industrial disaster and gives most of the employees an unwarranted sense of security. If they were in danger, surely someone would tell them, right?

Perhaps the most chilling aspects of the story are the mechanisms are already in place to shield Carbide from corporate responsibility. The plant is technically run by an Indian subsidiary, so it’s the subsidiary’s fault for hiring untrained workers and letting the machines fall apart. It’s the subsidiary’s fault for failing to prepare for an accident that Carbide said couldn’t happen.

Scenes showing the night of the disaster are haunting not just because of the human suffering but because of the context in which it takes place. A deadly cloud blows through a shanty town of nearly half a million people going about their daily lives. As wedding guests start to fall ill, the expression in Dilip’s sister’s eyes is not fear of imminent doom but frustration: “Why is this happening on my special day?”

Performances in the film are generally good, especially Sheen’s role as Anderson. Mischa Barton’s turn as an American journalist is awkward and poorly integrated into the story. Though only the Hindi dialogue is subtitled, there are enough strong accents — including Kal Penn’s Indian accent and that of a European Carbide executive — that perhaps the English dialogue should’ve been subtitled as well.

Thirty years after the Bhopal disaster, industrial accidents caused by corporate irresponsibility are still too common all over the world. Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain implores us to (paraphrasing George Santayana) remember the past, so that we may stop repeating it.

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Movie Review: Main Tera Hero (2014)

MTH_Poster3 Stars (out of 4)

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Ever since the traumatizing experiences of watching Do Knot Disturb and Rascals, director David Dhawan’s name has struck fear in my heart. But after last year’s cute comedy Chashme Baddoor and now Main Tera Hero (“I’m Your Hero“), I have less reason to fear.

Main Tera Hero infuses the romantic comedy genre with action to accompany some impressive dance numbers. The hero at the center is played by Varun Dhawan (David’s son), whose substantial charisma hints at a long career ahead for a young actor in only his second film.

Varun plays Seenu, a worthless trickster so loathed in his hometown of Ooty that all the residents wave a gleeful farewell to him when he boards the train to Bangalore. He arrives at university and begs a statue of Krishna — who talks back — to help him focus on his studies. Seenu turns to see beautiful Sunaina (Ileana D’Cruz), hair streaming in the breeze, and he interprets her appearance as a sign from God. Seenu doesn’t linger to hear Krishna bemoan having a devotee dim enough to mistake a gust of wind for divine intervention.

Seenu’s pursuit of Sunaina is complicated by the fact that Angad (Arunoday Singh) — a burly police officer with anger issues — already has his eyes on her. Seenu turns the mischievous nature that made him so loathed in Ooty into an asset, and he tricks Angad into letting him court Sunaina.

D’Cruz rocks some great facial expressions throughout the movie, but she’s at her best during this courtship phase. Seenu tries to win Sunaina with the song “Palat Tera Hero Idhar Hai,” but Sunaina spends most of the song being startled by him. It’s hilarious to watch her jump as a horn plays behind her or Seenu surprises her at a movie theater.

Seenu’s pursuit is derailed at the movie’s halfway point when a secret admirer of his — Ayesha (Nargis Fakhri), a gangster’s daughter — tricks Seenu into coming to Bangkok to rescue Sunaina. This twist isn’t set up well, but it provides an excuse to get Varun, D’Cruz, and Fakhri into swimsuits and chilling poolside at a Bangkok mansion. That’s the whole point of the movie, right?

There’s plenty of skin on display, as well as an overabundance of pelvic thrusts. David Dhawan repeatedly positions the camera on the ground and points it up at Varun’s crotch. Thanks for pointing out exactly where Varun’s penis is, David, since we couldn’t see it through his pants.

More than just a thrusting pelvis, Varun does some good work in Main Tera Hero. He’s always engaged, throwing in subtle gestures and glances that maintain interest while Seenu does utilitarian things like walk from Point A to Point B. He’s also a tremendous dancer, and the movie’s several dance numbers allow him to show off.

Main Tera Hero has a really strong supporting cast, from Rajpal Yadav as Angad’s much abused sidekick, Peter, to Saurab Shukla as Ayesha’s father’s much abused sidekick, Balli. Ayesha’s father (played by Anupam Kher in an awesome wig) speaks with an echo, a tic that resulted from him being born in a valley. The “echo” is just Kher saying the same word three or four times at the end of a sentence, making the joke that much funnier.

The echo bit fits nicely with other surreal elements — like talking statues and balloons that wink — that help make sense of the random sound effects of which director Dhawan is fond.

The weak link in the cast is Fakhri. Though she speaks more Hindi dialogue in Main Tera Hero than she has in her previous films, she still sounds like she’s reading a cue card for the first time when she delivers lines in her native English.

There are also gender-bias flaws inherent in this kind of male-hero-centered film. Seenu falls in love with Sunaina on first sight, and uses his love to justify his pursuit of her despite her repeated objections. Later, Seenu fails to see the hypocrisy in his condescending dismissal of Ayesha’s love-at-first-sight for him. That kind of love, he claims, is mutual, even though it took several days for Sunaina to fall for him.

Accepting those flaws, Main Tera Hero is nevertheless pretty harmless. It has some laughs, energetic dance numbers, and an attractive cast. It’s exactly what it’s supposed to be.

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Opening November 2: Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana and Ata Pata Laapata

Two new Hindi movies are ready to open in the Chicago area on November 2, 2012. The comedy Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana gets the wider release of the two films:

LSTCK debuts on Friday at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 20 min. All three theaters will also carry Student of the Year for a third week.

The other new comedy opening up this weekend is the directorial debut of character actor Rajpal Yadav: Ata Pata Laapata.

Ata Pata Laapata opens on Friday at the Golf Glen 5 and South Barrington 30. It has a runtime of 2 hrs. 30 min. Both theaters are also holding over Chakravyuh for a second week. Update: The Cantera added Ata Pata Laapata to its lineup this weekend.

The South Barrington 30 is giving a fifth and sixth week, respectively, to English Vinglish and OMG Oh My God.

Other Indian movies playing at the Golf Glen 5 this weekend include Banking Hours 10 to 4 (Malayalam) and Dhenikaina Ready (Telugu).