Tag Archives: Ram Kapoor

Movie Review: Baar Baar Dekho (2016)

baarbaardekho2 Stars (out of 4)

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Baar Baar Dekho (“Look Again and Again“) is a romance that feels more like a horror movie.

It’s impossible to write about Baar Baar Dekho without talking about the plot device that moves the story from its first act into its second. Describing that plot device kinda, sorta constitutes a spoiler, so read on with caution.

Diya Kapoor (Katrina Kaif) and Jai Verma (Sidharth Malhotra) have been inseparable since childhood and dating since they were old enough to do so. As young adults, they are ready to take the next step and get married. At least Diya is. Jai agrees to her marriage proposal out of inevitability.

For some reason, Jai is surprised by the lavishness of the festivities thrown by Diya’s dad (Ram Kapoor), as if he hasn’t known the Kapoors his whole life. In the middle of the hoopla, Jai is offered a professorship in Mathematics at a university in England. This is a big deal because Jai freaking loves math.

Jai does the stupid thing only a movie character would do and doesn’t tell Diya about the job offer. He waits to do so until they are in the middle of a fight. Kaif’s delivery is terrific as Diya tearfully says, “Jai, if I leave now, I’m not coming back.”

Earlier in the day, Jai argued with the priest (Rajit Kapur) during wedding preparations. When Jai downs a whole bottle of Champagne and passes out, it triggers the priest’s Ghost of Christmas Future-like curse. Jai wakes up in Thailand on his honeymoon, with no memory of the previous ten days.

This is terrifying. Jai runs about the hotel, frantic to find anyone who can explain how he got there. It’s a stomach-churning sequence amplified by the fact that there are tons of people around, yet no one speaks Hindi.

When he eventually finds Diya, she dismisses his panic because, dang it, they’ve got a tour scheduled. Spineless Jai gives in and goes on the tour.

This happens over and over again in the same manner: Jai wakes up in a different time period; he freaks out; Diya dismisses his concerns and calls him an idiot; Jai just goes along with whatever until he falls asleep and shifts through time again.

It’s frustrating enough that Jai won’t just sit Diya down and say, “Damnit, I’m caught in a temporal anomaly. Help me!” It’s worse that — in every time period — she belittles him. The story is about why they are supposed to be together, but why should they be? Who’d want to be with a partner who responds to your fear with insults?

Also, one of the recurring problems in their relationship is that Jai often prioritizes math over Diya. Isn’t it her fault for not anticipating this? Everyone knows Jai freaking loves math.

Of course, Jai’s not great, either. Whenever Jai tells Diya that he loves her, she asks him why. He never mentions anything about her personality or characteristics, responding instead with job descriptions: “Because you’re my wife.” Even when he finally figures out the “right” answer to the question, it still amounts to, “Because I always have.” So, momentum.

The film’s problems lie in the weak relationship between the main characters, but credit to writer-director Nitya Mehra for cleverly introducing a very science-fiction premise into a mainstream Hindi film. The technological advancements of the future depicted are low-key enough not to scare off sci-fi-haters (though I have my doubts that Twitter will still be around in 2034).

Mehra uses some neat framing tricks to emphasize Jai’s emotions. As the gravity of his impending marriage sinks in during the wedding prep with the priest, the camera cuts between Jai, the priest, Diya, and other people at the gathering. Every time the camera cuts back to the priest — who is explaining the symbolism of the ceremony — the priest’s face appears larger within the frame until he’s nothing but a talking mouth, overwhelming everything else in Jai’s world.

Mehra’s almost too good at this, in fact. The moments after Jai wakes up in each time period are scary. Things are noisy and hectic and full of people he doesn’t know. It’s hard for the audience to shut off the anxiety generated by such scenes as quickly as the story demands. Everything is chaos and fear one second, then we’re suddenly supposed to laugh as Jai ruins breakfast and Diya calls him “useless” for the umpteenth time.

On the upside, Malhotra and Kaif are exceptionally good-looking, and there are worse ways to spend two hours than by starring at them. Kaif’s a wonderful dancer, and her outfit in “Nachde Ne Saare” is stunning.

Still, I’m not sure that’s enough to recommend Baar Baar Dekho. This feels like another case where the audience is supposed to root for the main characters to wind up together just because they’re the main characters, and not because they’re a good match.

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Movie Review: Humshakals (2014)

Humshakals_poster0 Stars (out of 4)

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How does a filmmaker who goes out of his way to set a low bar for himself still fail to make a movie that’s even slightly funny or appropriate? Director Sajid Khan achieves that feat with Humshakals (“Lookalikes“), his worst film yet in a career full of horrible films.

Khan opens Humshakals with an allegedly humorous director’s note about having forgotten something important a wise man once told him. Then he introduces his main character, Ashok (Saif Ali Khan), a millionaire moonlighting as a terrible standup comedian. Later, Ashok and his best friend, Kumar (Riteish Deshmukh), are tortured by being forced to watch Khan’s awful 2013 film Himmatwala.

Ashok’s bad jokes are pertinent because they set up a theme that runs through all of Khan’s movies: a lack of respect for women. Even if Khan doesn’t personally feel that way, he panders to the segment of the audience that does.

Ashok’s jokes are straight out of my 8-year-old nephew’s joke book, yet TV presenter Shanaya (Tamannaah Bhatia) finds them unironically hilarious. Beautiful and stupid: Khan’s ideal woman.

Shanaya’s not the only mental lightweight in the movie. Ashok and Kumar are imprisoned in a mental asylum by Ashok’s evil uncle, Mamaji (Ram Kapoor), alongside a pair of identical lookalikes, also named Ashok (Saif) and Kumar (Riteish), only the lookalikes have the mental capacity of children.

In yet another knock against women, the asylum’s psychologist, Dr. Shivani (Esha Gupta), falls instantly in love with Stupid Ashok when he tells her she’s pretty. Shivani — a doctor — is so insecure and desperate to have her physical appearance validated that she agrees to marry the first man who compliments her, even if he has the intellectual capacity of a grade schooler.

At least twice more Khan asserts the belief that a woman’s most important quality is her appearance. Shivani, Shanaya, and Mishti (Bipasha Basu) — a doctor, a TV presenter, and Rich Ashok’s estate manager — save the day by baring their midriffs and performing a racy dance number.

The worst is what happens when hefty Mamaji’s lookalike, Johnny (Ram), dresses in drag to help Rich Ashok and Rich Kumar. As soon as Johnny appears on screen in a dress and wig, the soundtrack is punctuated with elephant sound effects. Not when Johnny is dressed as a man of exactly the same proportions, only when he’s pretending to be a woman.

When a woman’s only value is how sexually appealing she is to straight men, there’s no greater character flaw than being overweight or unattractive. It’s such an egregious flaw that it deserves ridicule, even though an overweight man does not.

Khan really, really likes to poke fun at people he thinks are abnormal. Jokes are made at the expense of overweight women, little people, gays, Koreans, and especially the mentally ill. Everyone in the movie with a mental illness is also portrayed as being intellectually deficient.

Know who else Khan thinks are hilarious? Nazis. The asylum’s warden (played by Satish Shah) wears an SS uniform and prays to a photo of Adolf Hitler. He gives a “Heil Hitler” salute and threatens to send Ashok and Kumar to the “gas chamber.” Because there’s nothing funnier than genocide.

In addition to lacking empathy or an appropriate sense of humor, Khan is also a thief. Stupid Ashok mistakes a model of an orphanage for an “orphanage for ants,” a joke lifted from 2001’s Zoolander (I’ve included a video of the original below). Khan stole a joke from Planes, Trains, and Automobiles for Himmatwala, so this is a pattern.

On top of all these offenses, Humshakals just plain sucks. Shots are out of focus. The plot moves at a snail’s pace. The songs are soulless. The choreography is lazy. The acting is bad, even though Ram Kapoor tries to humanize his characters.

With this track record of misogyny, intellectual property theft, and general disrespect for large segments of the global community, it’s time for actors to question whether appearing in a Sajid Khan film is worth the paycheck. I hope that the actors in Humshakals didn’t realize how offensive the movie was as they were making it (although Saif and Riteish should’ve known better when asked to prance around as a pair of gay stereotypes). I’m trying not let this piece of garbage tarnish my respect for them as performers, but it’s difficult.

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Movie Review: Mere Dad Ki Maruti (2013)

mere-dad-ki-maruti2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Product placement plays an integral part in how movies are financed these days. Artful product placement in a film showcases the sponsored wares in a way that is obvious but unobtrusive. The product placement in Mere Dad Ki Maruti (“My Dad’s Maruti“) is gratuitous, as though the movie is really one long commercial for an automobile.

The overt commercialism is a shame, because Mere Dad Ki Maruti (MDKM, henceforth) is a pretty good movie. Created by Y-Films to appeal to a young adult audience, writer-director Ashima Chibber’s plot draws inspiration from a number of ’80s comedies, particularly Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The story is familiar but fresh, and it doesn’t overstay its welcome.

The story centers on Sameer (Saqib Saleem), an immature college student caught up in preparations for his older sister’s wedding. As the movie begins, a brand new Maruti — an Indian subsidiary of Suzuki — has arrived in the family’s driveway. Sameer assumes the car is meant for him, until his short-tempered father, Tej (Ram Kapoor), explains that it is a gift for Sameer’s soon-to-be brother-in-law, Raj (Karan Mehra). Tej says that if Sameer wants a car, he needs to earn it by being responsible, like Raj.

Quickly forgetting his father’s rebuke, Sameer “borrows” the car to impress a girl, Jazzleen (Rhea Chakraborty). Their first date is a success, until Sameer hands the car keys to a man he mistakes for a valet. The car goes missing, and Sameer resorts to increasingly ridiculous means to replace it, aided by his level-headed best friend, Gattu (Prabal Panjabi).

Both the structure and themes of MDKM are familiar. There’s an emphasis on personal responsibility, familial love, and the bonds of friendship. Sameer and Gattu make a great comic team, and Jazzleen is a welcome addition when she’s finally let in on the secret.

In fact, the movie has a lot of really funny moments. The highlight is a dance performance Sameer’s sister, Tanvi (Benazir Shaikh), dedicates to Raj, in order to convey her unspoken feelings for him. However, her feelings border on X-rated, making for an awkward performance in front of the whole family.

For all that MDKM has going for it, it’s impossible to overlook the its crass commercialism. I’m not sure how much Maruti paid Y-Films for titular product placement rights, but it had to be a lot. There are songs and speeches dedicated to Maruti, even a musical montage in which Sameer and his family fold down the sedan’s back seats to make room for all the luggage they need for an overnight trip.

The most reprehensible scene takes place in a Maruti showroom, where Sameer and Gattu inquire about buying a replacement for the car they lost. The model they want is over their meager student budgets, but the salesman explains what great value you get for the money: comfortable seating for seven, plenty of trunk space, and two engine options. If you come in for a test drive, you might even win a car. Wow!

This sales pitch would be tacky in any movie, but the fact that this film is aimed at young people makes it reprehensible. Y-Films should be embarrassed to stoop this low. What’s next, an animated movie for preschoolers, starring Kool-Aid Man?

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