Tag Archives: Ranbir Kapoor

Movie Review: Jagga Jasoos (2017)

2 Stars (out of 4)

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Jagga Jasoos is an ambitious movie that I’d love to rate more highly. There were portions of the film that I liked very much, and I appreciate the world director Anurag Basu built and the way he told his story. Yet Jagga Jasoos is bloated with material and far too long.

Jagga Jasoos opens with a framing device featuring Katrina Kaif’s character Shruti as a children’s entertainer and author of a comic book series about her friend Jagga, a teenage detective. A troop of kids under her direction reenact scenes from the comics, before the action transitions to the world of the books, starting with Jagga’s childhood and his adoption by a man he calls TutiFuti (Saswata Chatterjee, best known to Bollywood fans for playing the unassuming assassin Bob Biswas in Kahaani).

TutiFuti coaches young Jagga to sing as a way to overcome the boy’s stutter, a device that enables Jagga Jasoos to be a traditional musical, with much of the plot and dialogue sung rather than spoken. The movie is punctuated by standalone tunes to accompany dance numbers and montages, with the best of those songs being the forlorn “Phir Wahi.”

TutiFuti is called away on a secret mission by a man known as Blackmail Sinha (Shaurab Shukla), leaving Jagga to grow up alone in a boarding school. By the time he reaches his teenage years, Jagga (now played by Ranbir Kapoor) has developed a knack for solving mysteries.

He stumbles onto an arms-smuggling caper with international implications, involving a journalist — Shruti — and possibly even TutiFuti. Shruti and Jagga travel to Africa to find TutiFuti and uncover the secret mission he’s been on for so many years.

The whimsy factor is high in Jagga Jasoos, not only because of all the singing but because of a visual style reminiscent of director Wes Anderson (whom Jagga Jasoos cinematographer Ravi Varman praises in the Scroll.in interview linked to below). Basu incorporates a number of comparatively low-tech special effects — such as deliberately using obvious stock footage of African animals or showing a plane flying over a map instead of actual land — for a fresh take on retro movie-making. The modern CGI effects that aim for realism and fall short draw more attention to themselves than effects that are intentionally outmoded.

Jagga Jasoos is at its best when Jagga and Shruti are together in his hometown along the border with Myanmar. The town and school have their own charms that help to create an immersive environment. When the duo leave town, they leave that quaintness behind for a plot that is grander in scale but less engrossing.

Removing geographical boundaries frees Basu to inject untold (and unnecessary) amounts of quirkiness into the film, particularly regarding the unseen criminal mastermind Bashir Alexander. By the time Jagga and Shruti board Bashir Alexander’s personal circus train, I had reached my limit.

Disney India would’ve been better off splitting its swan song into two films, a la Baahubali, rather than making one film to serve as both a setup for a hopeful sequel and a catch-all in case box office numbers deem a sequel unwarranted. Forcing Basu to cram as many ideas as possible into one film not only inflates the runtime beyond a reasonable limit, but it cuts short plot development in favor of visual spectacle. I’m still not sure what Blackmail Sinha’s goal was or who he was working for, and the framing device isn’t well explained either. Shruti’s students sing a song about not caring about the world’s troubles because they are protected by a “sign on the door,” but it’s unclear to what they refer.

For all its ambition and innovative ideas, Jagga Jasoos isn’t the movie — or movies — it could have been.

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Movie Review: Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016)

aedilhaimushkil2 Stars (out of 4)

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WARNING: THIS REVIEW HAS MAJOR THIRD-ACT SPOILERS. It’s tough to talk in-depth about my feelings for this film without also revealing how the plot resolves itself. If you’re spoiler-averse, bail out after the first few paragraphs. (There’s another warning below, just before the big spoilers begin.)

Approximately two hours into Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (“This Heart is Complicated“), during the performance of the emotionally charged title track, one feels the first pangs of concern. How is writer-director Karan Johar going to craft a satisfying ending to his tale of unrequited love, which to this point has been compelling and unexpected? As the song ends, Johar’s film uses narrative crutches to limp along to an ending made all the more disappointing because of the story’s squandered potential.

What Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (“ADHM,” henceforth) has going for it, at least early on, is a cast of interesting characters. Ayan (Ranbir Kapoor) lives in London, dutifully pursuing an MBA at his dad’s request at the expense of a singing career. Ayan is absurdly wealthy, as is every other character in the film, allowing for impromptu jaunts to scenic European locales.

Ayan meets Alizeh (Anushka Sharma) at a party, and they find in each other kindred spirits fond of quoting film dialogue. A knowledge of older Bollywood movies will enhance the experience of watching ADHM, but it is not necessary. Terrific subtitle translation substitutes Western equivalents for specifically Indian references. For example, Bollywood bombshell “Sunny Leone” becomes “JLo” for the sake of international audience members. (Unfortunately, song lyrics are not subtitled in English.)

Although both are already in relationships — Alizeh with boring Faisal (Imran Abbas) and Ayan with tacky Lisa (Lisa Haydon, who is utterly hilarious in the film) — Ayan and Alizeh prefer each other’s company. Ayan begins to fall for beautiful Alizeh, but she makes it clear that she’s not interested. She’s still heartbroken over another man, Ali (Fawad Khan), and only wants Ayan’s friendship.

Ayan spends the rest of the film struggling with his unrequited feelings, distracting himself by having an affair with Saba (an incredibly sexy Aishwarya Rai Bachchan). Adding Saba’s lovelorn poetry to his heartbroken music jump-starts Ayan’s singing career, propelling him out of his extended adolescence and into self-possessed adulthood.

This is where those nagging feelings begin. Ayan somehow needs to resolve his feelings for Alizeh. It would be too convenient to have Alizeh change her mind and fall for Ayan, especially since she maintains throughout that she’s not attracted to him. Finding a way to put Ayan’s feelings in narrative context presents a considerable challenge.

LAST WARNING! MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THE MOVIE’S FINAL ACT ARE BELOW.

Unfortunately, Johar chooses the second easiest possible option: he gives Alizeh cancer. Removing Alizeh from the mortal world absolves Ayan from having to learn how to live in a world where they’re both alive yet apart. It also provides yet another frustrating example of a male writer using the death of a female character to advance the development of his male protagonist.

There are further sexist overtones to the way Ayan treats Alizeh while she is sick. He repeatedly exerts physical control over her body at the exact moment when she’s lost control of her body to cancer. Without Alizeh’s consent, Ayan removes her hat in public to reveal her hairless head. He makes her dance when she doesn’t want to. Ayan tries to kiss Alizeh, and he screams at her for rejecting his advances. He’s enraged that she won’t have sex with him, even though she doesn’t have long to live and he’s taking care of her.

That raises another point about the stupidity of the cancer subplot. Alizeh refuses to tell Ali or her family about her diagnosis, choosing to endure it alone. That’s not how cancer works. It’s an exhausting, all-hands-on-deck endurance test. Certain doctors require you to bring a guardian to help you get home from your appointment safely; they won’t let you take a cab. No one faces cancer alone willingly.

So much of ADHM is about Ayan growing out of his immaturity into the complicated realities of adult relationships, but there’s no wisdom to be found here. In the end, Johar chose the path of least resistance. He has more insight to offer than this. I’m sure of it.

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Movie Review: Tamasha (2015)

Tamasha2 Stars (out of 4)

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Tamasha (“Spectacle“) doesn’t give as much as it asks of its audience in return. Writer-director Imtiaz Ali asks the audience to buy into his characters’ romantic struggles without giving enough reasons why we should care.

The romance is founded on a questionable gimmick: two strangers meet while vacationing in Corsica, and they vow to spend a week together pretending to be people they are not. They take on identities from old films, with the man (Ranbir Kapoor) posing as Don, and the woman (Deepika Padukone) assuming the moniker Mona Darling.

Their courtship hinges on the two of them not knowing a thing about one another, which means that the audience doesn’t know anything about them either. All we know about Don is that he liked stories as a kid and presently — the Corsica sequence is a flashback — performs as a tin man in a stage play. We know nothing about Mona.

The false identity gimmick makes it hard to care about these mysterious characters as they cavort about France. Ali trots out his signature trope — the spontaneous parade — in the song “Matargashti,” an event that is supposed to be charming but comes off as forced and unrealistic.

Several years after their French dalliance, Mona and Don meet again in Delhi, revealing to each other their true names: Tara and Ved. However, Ved is a boring, goateed tech guy — nothing like the ebullient Don. Tara tries a relationship with Ved, but finds that she longs for the side of him that she met in Corsica.

Despite the tagline on the movie poster — “Why always the same story?” — Tamasha is a too familiar tale of a bubbly woman teaching a bland guy how to live. As per the template, Tara has no identity of her own apart from her role in Ved’s personal growth.

Tara also has a buttoned-up corporate job, but how does she feel about it? Why aren’t scenes of her at work shot with the same grey tone that colors scenes of Ved at work, as though he’s walking under a cloud even indoors? What does she want from life, other than to be with Ved? Padukone does her best within her characters’ limitations, as does Kapoor.

As a lead character, Ved is a disappointment. He blames his mundane existence on his father, who pushed him into engineering. When Tara points out that there’s more to Ved than his job, he lashes out at her, as though angered at her nerve for suggesting that he is the source of his own unhappiness.

A lot of people hate their jobs, but it doesn’t make them dull automatons in their off hours. There’s a reason why plenty of authors are former lawyers who wrote their debut novels in spare hours over the weekend. If you have a story to tell, you find a way to tell it. Ved chose to be a dull jerk, and it’s unpleasant to watch him punish Tara for his own choices.

There’s a trivial-sounding question that actually gets at the heart of why Ved fails as a lead character: why is he in Corsica? Are we supposed to believe that an over-scheduled working stiff like Ved planned a solo vacation in an exotic resort spot like an island off the coast of France? Since everything we know about Ved points to the answer “no,” then what is he doing there? I’m curious as to whether Imtiaz Ali knows.

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Opening November 25: Tamasha

Director Imtiaz Ali’s Tamasha gets an early release in the United States to capitalize on Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday. The romance — starring Deepika Padukone and Ranbir Kapoor — opens on Wednesday, November 25, 2015, two days before it opens in India.

Tamasha opens on Wednesday night at 6 p.m. in seven Chicago area theaters: : AMC River East 21 in Chicago, Regal Gardens Stadium 1-6 in Skokie, Regal Round Lake Beach Stadium 18 in Round Lake Beach, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville, and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 35 min.

Prem Ratan Dhan Payo carries over for a third week at MovieMax, South Barrington 30, Cantera 17, and Woodridge 18.

On Thursday, Size Zero (Telugu w/English subtitles) opens at the Cantera 17, Muvico Rosemont 18 in Rosemont, and Century Stratford Square in Bloomingdale, which also carries its Tamil version: Inji Iduppazhagi.

Kumari 21F (Telugu w/English subtitles) carries over at the Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge.

Movie Review: Bombay Velvet (2015)

BombayVelvet2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Bombay Velvet is a great-looking film held together by an unstable linchpin: its charismatic but problematic lead character, Johnny Balraj. Ranbir Kapoor is mesmerizing in the role, but Johnny can’t shoulder the story’s weight.

Johnny and his best friend, Chimman (Satyadeep Misra), grew up picking pockets on the streets of Bombay (now Mumbai) during the years after partition. As young men, Johnny puts his penchant for fighting to use, earning extra cash as a brawler. Imported Hollywood gangster movies show him a more glamorous, exciting life than the one he has. Johnny tells his friend, “I’m going to be a big shot, Chimman.”

The guys start out working as the muscle for a mobster named Khambatta (Karan Johar), who puts Johnny in charge of Bombay Velvet, a nightclub that provides cover for Khambatta’s illicit deals. Johnny falls for the club’s star jazz singer, Rosie (Anushka Sharma), a woman who’s been used by men all her life.

Khambatta’s illegal operations are set within Bombay’s evolution into a powerful global business center, but there isn’t enough historical context provided for international audiences to really get a handle on what’s going on. There are subplots about communists versus capitalists and union protests that aren’t fully explored.

I didn’t realize for about an hour that Khambatta ran a newspaper in addition to being a gangster, and that his chief rival, Jimmy Mistry (Manish Chaudhary) — who plants Rosie in the club as his mole — is another newspaper man. Did newspaper owners really have such powerful connections back in the day in Bombay? Is the story even realistic? It’s hard to tell from the context provided.

The nightclub itself is gorgeous, the kind of fancy supper club that now only exists in movies. The music is catchy and evocative. The gowns that Rosie performs in are works of art. Overall, this is a really beautiful film, never more so than during violent shootouts.

Sharma is great as a woman who is damaged but not broken. Kapoor is a coiled spring, his lithe frame suiting a character who has survived thanks to his scrappiness.

As exciting a character as Johnny is, he doesn’t quite work as a believable lead in this kind of film. He’s too impulsive to entrust with the power he’s given as the face of Bombay Velvet, a face sporting perpetual bruises at odds with the fancy clothes Johnny wears.

Much is made of the fact that Johnny isn’t book smart — the subtitled translation of Johnny’s slang into appropriate English colloquialisms is outstanding — but he’s not street smart either. He doesn’t understand the game the big shots are playing, so it’s impossible for him to work the situation to his advantage. When the elites don’t capitulate to his bullying, one wants to ask him, “Did you really think that would work?”

In other gangster movies, Johnny would be the dimwitted sidekick whose short temper gets him killed. It’s as if Joe Pesci’s Tommy in Goodfellas switched roles with Ray Liotta’s Henry.

The audience’s avatar in Bombay Velvet is Chimman, who looks at his friend with a combination of devotion, concern, and pity. (Misra’s restrained performance steals the show.) He knows how good they have it compared to their old life, and he knows where they are in the pecking order.

One suspects that, if Chimman were the alpha in the friendship, maybe he and Johnny could eventually become big shots. But he’s not, and they are both doomed by Johnny’s groundless ambition.

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Opening May 15: Bombay Velvet

May 15 sees the biggest Bollywood release of 2015 so far, when Bombay Velvet opens on 218 screens in North America. It’s also Ranbir Kapoor’s biggest career release in the US and Canada, besting the opening of 2013’s Besharam by one theater.

Bombay Velvet opens on Friday in twelve Chicago area theaters: AMC River East 21 in Chicago, Regal Gardens Stadium 1-6 in Skokie, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC Showplace 12 Niles in Niles, Marcus Gurnee Mills Cinema in Gurnee, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, Marcus Addison in Addison, Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville, AMC Showplace Naperville 16 in Naperville, AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge, and Muvico Rosemont 18 in Rosemont, and AMC Showplace Schererville 16 in Schererville, IN. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 29 min.

Piku carries over for a second week at the River East 21, Regal Gardens 1-6, MovieMax, South Barrington 30, Cantera 17, and Woodridge 18.

Gabbar is Back gets a third week at MovieMax and the South Barrington 30.

Other Indian movies showing at MovieMax this weekend include Mythri (Kannada), 36 Vayadhinile (Tamil), Purampokku Engira Podhuvudamai (Tamil), Chirakodinja Kinavukal (Malayalam), Dongata (Telugu), Lion (Telugu), Uttama Villain (Tamil).

Bollywood Box Office: February 13-15

Ranbir Kapoor’s return to the big screen (not counting his cameo in PK) wasn’t the resounding success one would’ve hoped for. During its debut weekend of February 13-15, 2015, Kapoor’s Roy earned $165,203 from 83 theaters ($1,990 average) in the United States and Canada.

Kapoor’s last major role was in 2013’s Besharam. That film was branded a total flop after earning just $504,000 from 217 theaters in North America. While Besharam‘s extravagant theater count magnified its degree of failure, it still averaged more per screen — $2,323 — than Roy.

Other Hindi movies still in North American theaters:

  • Shamitabh: Week 2; $23,936 from 36 theaters; $665 average; $289,133 total
  • Baby: Week 4; $5,491 from three theaters; $1,830 average; $730,288 total
  • PK: Week 9; $264 from one theater; $10,550,310 total
  • Dolly Ki Doli: Week 4; $90 from one theater; $173,887 total

Source: Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Movie Review: Roy (2015)

Roy_film_poster1 Star (out of 4)

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Roy is full of so much talking and so little action that it should have been an audiobook instead of a movie. Then again, with such dull dialogue, who would listen to it?

Arjun Rampal plays Kabir, a celebrity film director. Kabir is the kind of narcissistic jerk who stomps out his cigarette butts on the floor of a hotel hallway and who uses a manual typewriter while flying on a plane.

After the success of Guns and Guns 2, Kabir is stymied by writer’s block while working on Guns 3. The first fifteen minutes of Roy consist of shots of Kabir sitting idly in front of the typewriter, brushing his teeth, feeding his fish, and fending off the concerned inquiries of his excessively patient producer, Meera (Shernaz Patel).

In the world of Roy, news reports consist entirely of details of Kabir’s romantic life and reports of art theft. A TV report about a painting stolen in Malaysia prompts Kabir to take his crew there to film Guns 3. There, Kabir becomes smitten with an independent movie director, Ayesha (Jacqueline Fernandez).

[Correction: In addition to art theft and Kabir’s romantic life, news reports in Roy also feature extensive coverage of indie film festivals. Just like real life.]

Kabir casts an actress who looks exactly like Ayesha to play the romantic interest in Guns 3, opposite his protagonist, Roy (Ranbir Kapoor). There is absolutely no explanation offered for Ayesha’s doppelgänger.

Action — such as it is — switches between Kabir and Ayesha in the real world and Roy and the lookalike, Tia, in the movie world of Guns. Both worlds are dominated by boring, pseudo-intellectual conversations, punctuated by languid song montages in which people drive around in cars or Roy rides a motorcycle.

Given that Kabir is an emotionally stunted pre-teen trapped in a 40-year-old body, nothing he or Roy says on the nature of being contains any kind of insight. There’s so much undirected angst in the dialogue, it’s like it was written by the guys from the ’90s band Bush.

An excess of ennui in their characters yields clunky, detached performances by Rampal and Kapoor. Fernandez — whose beauty is the best thing Roy has going for it — is better in scenes as Tia, in which she plays an heiress trapped in a 1960s time warp, at least as far as her teased hair is concerned.

Debutant writer-director Vikramjit Singh has a good sense for framing shots, and the movie is quite pretty. Sadly, the visual interest ends there, since Singh focuses all his attention on writing bland dialogue instead of considering what it would look like when delivered onscreen.

Without additional assistance on the script, Singh’s story feels hollow. Even after Kabir undergoes his supposed metamorphosis from spoiled man-child to emotionally mature adult, he still does something incredibly selfish.

Ayesha is on her way to a film festival in another country. For independent filmmakers, festivals provide opportunities to network and drum up publicity and funds for their next projects. Wealthy, connected Kabir stops Ayesha at the airport, telling her, in essence, “If you love me, you won’t get on the plane.”

Kabir puts his own desires ahead of Ayesha’s career, which is all the more selfish since Kabir’s got more than enough cash to buy his own plane ticket and go with her. Considering that Singh’s debut film features A-listers like Kapoor, Rampal, and Fernandez, it’s not surprising that he has an easier time identifying with a celebrity like Kabir rather than a struggling filmmaker like Ayesha.

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Opening February 13: Roy and MSG

The romantic thriller Roy — starring Ranbir Kapoor, Jacqueline Fernandez, and Arjun Rampal — hits Chicago area theaters on February 13, 2015.

Roy opens on Friday at MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 26 min.

Also opening at MovieMax on Friday is MSG: The Messenger of God, which has a runtime of 3 hrs. 17 min.

Shamitabh carries over for a second week at MovieMax, Cantera 17 and South Barrington 30, which also holds over Baby for a fourth week.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend include Temper (Telugu w/no subtitles) at MovieMax, Muvico Rosemont 18 in Rosemont, Century Stratford Square in Bloomingdale, and Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge, and Yennai Arindhaal (Tamil w/English subtitles) at MovieMax and Seven Bridges. MovieMax also carries Anegan (Tamil) and Malli Malli Idi Rani Roju (Telugu), as well as English-language coverage of the India vs. Pakistan Cricket World Cup match on Saturday night.

Streaming Video News: August 13, 2014

Two lackluster comedies from 2013 were just added to Netflix. Akshay Kumar’s Boss unsuccessfully tries to marry gory violence with lighthearted comedy, and it doesn’t work. Ranbir Kapoor’s Besharam also fails by trying to make a hero out of a reckless criminal.

For everything else new to streaming on Netflix, check out Instant Watcher.