Tag Archives: remake

Movie Review: Gumraah (2023)

1 Star (out of 4)

Gumraah is what happens when filmmakers decide that continuity is too much work.

Aditya Roy Kapur plays both Arjun and Sooraj, a pair of lookalikes who are accused of murder. Only one of them is the killer, and it’s up to the police to figure out which one of them it is.

The story starts promisingly. We see the murder of a 30-something tech guy named Aakash (Aditya Lal) and even get a glimpse of the killer. Special investigator Shivani Mathur (Mrunal Thakur) is assigned to the case, to the annoyance of the local police department. When Shivani finds a photo that clearly shows the killer’s face as he leaves Aakash’s bungalow, Assistant Commissioner of Police Dhiru Yadav is overjoyed. The killer is Arjun Sehgal (Kapur), an architect Dhiru has had a personal grudge against for years. It seems like an open-and-shut case until Sooraj Rana (also Kapur) is brought in for drunk driving, and the cops realize there’s no way to tell Sooraj and Arjun apart.

This is a good setup, with the lookalikes and their unknown connection to the dead man and to each other. Plus there’s the tension in the police station between Shivani and Dhiru, not to mention Dhiru’s vendetta against one of the suspects. Can’t wait to see what the cops uncover during their investigation, right?

Wrong. The words “3 Months Earlier” appear on screen, and we get flashbacks to Arjun romancing a woman named Jahnvi (Vedika Pinto) and Sooraj gambling, drinking, and partying with white women (the surest sign that he’s a degenerate).

This cut to the past feels so jarring because it’s not clear who is flashing back. It doesn’t occur because one of the characters is reminiscing or explaining information to the police. It happens because it’s the simplest way for director Vardhan Ketkar (from a screenplay by Aseem Arora and Magizh Thirumeni) to do character establishment without keeping track of details that might conflict with the present-day storyline.

It’s extra lazy because the police are going to interrogate both of the suspects about alibis and motives, and they’re going to interview witnesses and acquaintances of those involved in the crime. All of this background information could have been revealed organically through the course of the police investigation.

Relying on clunky flashbacks does two things. It centers the story on Arjun and Sooraj — and more specifically on the actor playing them. The characters themselves are not that interesting, and Kapur doesn’t do anything in his performance to differentiate them. Second, it neuters the impact the police officers — specifically Shivani — have on the story. This is especially weird because the film is edited to give Shivani a lot of stone-faced reaction shots, visually indicating that she’s supposed to play a more important role in the story than she actually does. She can hardly be considered a co-lead, despite appearing on the film’s poster.

Even when the police investigation takes center stage, the story isn’t allowed to develop organically. Supporting characters are conjured solely to advance the plot, disappearing into the ether once they’ve outlived their convenience. Mystery fans will be disappointed because all the truly important information is saved for a last-minute revelation, meaning there’s no point in trying to guess who the killer is beforehand. With such awful pacing, Gumraah‘s resolution feels manufactured, not inevitable.


Movie Review: Chef (2017)

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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The first half of Chef is delightful. The second half is repetitive, with remarkably low stakes for the main character.

Writer-director Raja Krishna Menon’s official adaptation of Jon Favreau’s 2014 film Chef relocates the story first to New York, and then to India. Roshan (Saif Ali Khan) is a lauded but temperamental chef working in a fancy restaurant in New York City who loses his job when he punches a dissatisfied customer. His coworker Vinnie (Sobhita Dhulipala) suggests that Roshan’s uninspired cooking of late might be reinvigorated by a trip to Kerala to visit his pre-teen son Ary (Svar Kamble) and his ex-wife Radha (Padmapriya) in the city of Kochi.

After many years away from his son, Roshan is delighted to find that Ary is as much of a foodie as Roshan was at the same age. He takes the boy up to Delhi for a tour of his childhood haunts in his neighborhood of Chandni Chowk, including an uncomfortable reunion with his own estranged father (Ram Gopal Bajaj), who disapproves of Roshan’s career choice.

Back in Kochi, Radha enlists her rich, handsome boyfriend Biju (Milind Soman) to make Roshan an offer designed to keep him in India: a ramshackle double-decker bus to refurbish into a food truck. Roshan gets over his initial insult, seeing instead an opportunity to work on the project with Ary and strenghten their relationship. Still, Roshan longs to restore his reputation and reap the financial rewards of a triumphant return to New York.

As one would hope from a movie so titled, there is a lot of tantalizing food on display in Chef. A mouth-watering sequence in which Roshan cooks tomato chutney is alone worth the price of admission. It’s part of a strong first half which takes its time introducing the characters and their relationships, leaving enough room for the camera to linger on some gorgeous grub.

There’s a moment where it seems as though Chef is going to delve into anti-capitalism, with friends of Radha’s mentioning Che Guevara and Vinnie referring to Roshan’s New York loft as a “middle-class trap.” But after that, the importance of money in Roshan’s life seems more a matter of convenience. It’s very important when he needs to give Ary an excuse for why he must return to New York, less so when Roshan explains to Ary the work ethic he learned as a poor apprentice cook in Delhi. Money is readily available for the duo’s impromptu Delhi trip or to dress up the food truck to the nines.

In Chef’s second half, the action slows down and scenes repeat themselves. It becomes increasingly clear that Roshan isn’t going to face any real consequences for his previously neglectful behavior (or for his desire to once again physically distance himself from his son). Radha and Ary are only ever annoyed with Roshan for a few minutes, forgiving him as soon as he whips up something tasty by way of apology.

Roshan himself is in constant need of validation, whether he’s seeking praise for his cooking or showing off one of the many other skills he’s mastered, from dancing to guitar playing. It’s presumably borne out of his own truncated childhood, having run away from home at fifteen to escape his father’s enmity. Still, it’s odd that no one is willing to even challenge Roshan’s attention-seeking behavior, let alone demand that he behave like a grownup and get over himself.

Roshan’s childish streak makes it hard to sympathize with the way he parents Ary, who’s hardly allowed to have an emotional reaction at all before Roshan corrects him. Invariably, Ary responds with a glum, “I’m sorry, Papa,” prompting Roshan to tickle him as they both laugh. Despite a likeable performance by young Svar Kamble, Ary never feels like a real person.

The same can be said for Roshan and Radha. Khan and Padmapriya are good in their respective roles, but the characters are written with such limited emotional ranges that the story feels incomplete. Likewise, supporting characters like Vinnie, Biju, and Roshan’s dad don’t seem to exist outside of the main plot, only materializing when Roshan needs something.

Chef falls short of what could have been, especially considering how well it starts. Nevertheless, those in the mood for food porn will find plenty to savor.


Split Screen Podcast, Episode 16: Rahasya vs. Talvar


Another episode of the Split Screen Podcast featuring yours truly is live! In Episode 16, show host Shah Shahid and I compare two 2015 movies based on the 2008 Noida double murder case. Rahasya‘s release — nine months before Talvar hit screens — followed a lengthy court battle, and Shah and I discuss the legal drama surrounding the films as well as the two movies themselves.

You can subscribe to the Split Screen Podcast at iTunes, or you can listen to Episode 16 in your browser on this page at Shah’s website, Blank Page Beatdown. Every episode of the Split Screen Podcast can be found here, including Shah’s preview of Bollywood movies coming out in the second half of 2016. I’m featured in the following episodes:

Split Screen Podcast, Episode 12: Rocky Handsome vs. The Man From Nowhere

SplitScreenPodcastThe Split Screen Podcast is back! In Episode 12, show host Shah Shahid and I initially try to view Rocky Handsome through the eyes of someone who’s never seen the South Korean movie on which it’s based, but the gloves come off once we start comparing Rocky to The Man From Nowhere, one of my favorite action films. As our pal Parth Gandhi tweeted:  “Won Bin >>>> John Abraham.”

You can subscribe to the Split Screen Podcast at iTunes, or you can listen to Episode 12 in your browser on this page at Shah’s website, Blank Page Beatdown. Every episode of the Split Screen Podcast can be found here. I’m featured in the following episodes:

Opening August 14: Brothers

One new Hindi movie opens in the Chicago area on August 14, 2015. Brothers: Blood Against Blood — starring Akshay Kumar and Sidharth Malhotra — is the official remake of the 2011 Hollywood film Warrior, which stars Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy. I really, really liked Warrior, and this remake fills me with trepidation.

Brothers opens on Friday at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, Regal Gardens Stadium 1-6 in Skokie, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, Muvico Rosemont 18 in Rosemont, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, Marcus Addison Cinema in Addison, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 36 min.

Bangistan gets a second week at the South Barrington 30, which also holds over the Pakistani film Bin Roye.

Drishyam carries over for a third week at the South Barrington 30 and Cantera 17.

Bajrangi Bhaijaan gets a fifth week at the Gardens 1-6, South Barrington 30, Cantera 17, and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge.

Other Indian films showing in the Chicago area this weekend include:

Movie Review: Desi Boyz (2011)

2 Stars (out of 4)

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Desi Boyz borrows liberally from the plots of movies like The Full Monty and Loverboy while failing to really understand either. Both of the Hollywood comedies are about ordinary men pressured into selling their bodies (in one way or another). In the process, they learn that romance is about more than looks, and that men and women both have insecurities about sex.

Debutant writer-director Rohit Dhawan misses the point of the movies he’s aping, and instead casts two of the hunkiest actors in India — John Abraham and Akshay Kumar — to play a pair of down-on-their-luck Londoners forced to dance at bachelorette parties for dozens of sexy, scantily clad women.

Abraham plays Nick, a financier, and Kumar plays Jerry, a mall security guard and (gasp!) college dropout. Jerry is  responsible for his young nephew, Veer, following the deaths of the boy’s parents. Nick is planning a dream wedding for his girlfriend, Radhika (Deepika Padukone).

Their plans fall apart when they are both laid off. In order to keep child services at bay, Jerry signs on with an escort service called Desi Boyz. Nick reluctantly agrees to help Jerry for Veer’s sake. While their new careers forestall financial ruin, child services take Veer when they learn the source of Jerry’s income. Radhika spots the guys performing at a bachelorette party and dumps Nick.

While film’s promos focus on Abraham and Kumar as strippers, that plotline is dropped after the first half of the movie, never to be resurrected. The second half falls into the doldrums as Jerry goes back to college and Nick tries to win Radhika back by living in a trailer on her front lawn and smoking pot with her dad, played by the always delightful Anupam Kher.

All of this is supposed to enforce the tidy moral messages that dignity shouldn’t be sacrificed for short-term gains and that one can only succeed with a college degree. So why does Jerry, immediately upon getting his degree, blackmail someone into giving him a job with false accusations of sexual assault? What kind of moral message does that send?

There’s similarly inconsistent character growth in the Nick and Radhika storyline. Nick, the supposed champion of hard work, ultimately wins Radhika back by being a slacker. Radhika is no peach herself, leading on a nerdy suitor played by Omi Vaidya solely to make Nick jealous.

Desi Boyz would’ve been more interesting had Vaidya and Kher played the guys forced to become strippers. Or Nick’s character could’ve been marginalized, shifting the focus onto Jerry as he supports Veer and pays his way through college working as a male escort. (How did broke, jobless Jerry find the money for college anyway? The movie doesn’t explain).

Rohit Dhawan has some potential as a filmmaker if he can keep his stories focused and his characters consistent. I like his debut better than most of the movies I’ve seen by his father, filmmaker David Dhawan.


Movie Review: We Are Family (2010)

3 Stars (out of 4)

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I tried to write my review of We Are Family right after seeing it yesterday, but I was too drained. The movie — a remake of the 1998 Hollywood film Stepmom — has a depressing enough premise, but it goes all out to maximize the waterworks.

The remake’s star cast is anchored by Kajol. She plays Maya, a divorced mother of three kids who’s not quite over her globetrotting photographer ex-husband, Aman (Arjun Rampal). When Aman brings his new girlfriend, Shreya (Kareena Kapoor) to his youngest child’s birthday party, Maya and the kids immediately despise her.

When Shreya inadvertently endangers the youngest daughter, Anjali (Diya Sonecha), Maya forbids her from ever seeing the kids again. Maya then discloses to Aman — on the condition of secrecy — that she has cervical cancer. He agrees to move back home to help out and dumps Shreya with no explanation. Everyone is miserable.

Shreya drops by with a present for Anjali, and Maya decides that, if she succumbs to cancer, her kids are going to need a replacement mom. She tells Shreya about her medical condition and asks her to move into the house. This allows Maya to supervise Shreya’s training in the motherly arts.

Career-girl Shreya has little aptitude for childcare, and Maya is hard on her. The kids begin to warm up to their stepmom-in-training, irritating Maya, even though it was she who invited Shreya back into her kids’ lives.

Kajol and Kapoor both give incredible performances. They convey so much with just a look. The movie is primarily about two women trying to understand their roles in a complicated family, and the most touching moments are between Maya and Shreya.

Rampal manages to keep Aman from becoming a villain. He’s unreliable, but he’s not a bad guy. The kids’ parts are similarly well-acted, especially considering how irritating child actors can be. Little Anjali and her older brother, Ankush (Nominath Ginsburg), are curious, without being too wise for their years.

The break-out star of the movie is Aanchal Munjal, who plays teenage daughter Aleya. Her home life gets turned upside down right at the age when she’s transitioning into young adulthood, a challenging task under the best of circumstances. Munjal plays Aleya as resentful, but not wholly without reason, and not without empathy.

The movie falls apart in the final act, when Maya’s condition worsens. At that point, the film becomes an orgy of grief. There are multiple scenes involving crying children, clearly designed to provoke sympathetic tears in the audience. The ploy works the first several times, but eventually loses its effectiveness.

After the movie was over, I had a headache from all of the crying (my own and the characters’) and just wanted to take a nap. It was 3 p.m. My Friday night was already ruined.


Opening September 3: We Are Family

This weekend’s new Hindi release is a big one: We Are Family — a remake of the 1998 Hollywood film Stepmom — starring Kajol, Kareena Kapoor and Arjun Rampal. Because of the familiar plot and talented cast, this is probably a good movie for Bollywood newbies.

In the Chicago area, We Are Family opens on Friday, September 3, 2010 at the AMC Loews Pipers Alley 4 in Chicago, Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington and Regal Cantera Stadium 30 in Warrenville. Click here for nationwide theater information. The movie has a listed runtime of 1 hr. 55 min.

Peepli Live sticks around for a fourth week at the Golf Glen 5, South Barrington 30 and Cantera 30. The Golf Glen 5 is also carrying over Lafangey Parindey for a third week.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend include Penn Pattanam (Malayalam) and Thakita Thakita (Telugu) at the Golf Glen 5.

Movie Review: Milenge Milenge (2010)

1 Star (out of 4)

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Milenge Milenge (“We Will Meet, We Will Meet”) is a remake of the 2001 Hollywood romance Serendipity that is, at times, remarkably faithful to the original. Too bad the writers missed the point of the movie.

Kareena Kapoor stars as Priya, a college girl who abhors guys who drink, smoke, and lie. A tarot card reader — played by the great Kirron Kher, who acts like she’s embarrassed to be in the movie — informs Priya that she’s going to meet her soulmate on a foreign beach in seven days. The next day, Priya learns that she’s been selected to attend a youth conference in Bangkok.

At the same time, good-for-nothing fellow college student Immy (Shahid Kapoor) finagles his way onto the same trip. In Bangkok, he stumbles into Priya’s room while running from the cops and immediately falls in love with the sleeping beauty. He steals her diary and learns about the tarot card reader’s prediction. He makes sure he’s the one waiting for Priya on the beach on the seventh day.

Of course, pretending to be Priya’s fated soulmate means Immy must give up drinking and smoking. After he finally decides that being with Priya is worth abstaining, she discovers his scheme and calls the relationship off.

At this point, Milenge Milenge becomes a full-fledged Serendipity clone. The couple meet up in India when they both reach for the same item in a department store. Priya has Immy write his name and phone number on a 50 rupee note, and she writes hers inside of a book. Then she gives both the book and bill away. If Priya and Immy are destined to be together, she reasons, he’ll find the book with her name and she’ll find the note with his.

The original Hollywood movie began with two strangers meeting in a department store. They spend some time together and enjoy each other’s company, but both are already in committed relationships. They also do the bit with the book and the dollar bill, a cosmic test to see if they should ditch their partners and be together.

The whole reason that the fate angle worked in the original was that the lead couple had no history. The test of fate was based on the idea of what could be.

When Priya and Immy test fate, they already have a history, and it’s a bad one. Immy is a thief and a fraud, and Priya has good reason to dump him. If he wants to prove that he can change, he needs to be with Priya to do that.

If their test works and they are reunited by fate, it doesn’t prove that Immy is a better man. What if Priya was simply destined to be with a jerk?

In addition to the logical problem of Priya & Immy’s fated reunion, there’s also a practical one. In Serendipity, the male lead didn’t know the woman’s last name. In Milenge Milenge, Immy knows Priya’s last name, as well as where she went to college. Why not call the alumni office? Why not Google her? There’s no reason why he can’t find her.

The fact that neither Immy nor Priya thinks to consult the Internet makes the movie feel dated, as does virtually everything else about Milenge Milenge. The quality of the cinematography makes it look like a contemporary of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) rather than a movie made in 2004. (The movie’s been stuck in post-production hell for the past six years.) A cheesy soundtrack, wacky overacting, and a prudish sense of morality make Milenge Milenge seem even older than that.

Milenge Milenge languished on the shelf for six years. It probably should’ve stayed there permanently.


Movie Review: Short Kut (2009)

shortkut2 Stars (out of 4)

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The message of Short Kut: The Con is On is that there’s no short cut to success. The message seems ironic, coming from a clone of the Malayalam film Udayananu Tharam, which itself was a remake of Bowfinger, an American movie that also featured Short Kut’s tagline: “The Con is On.” But Short Kut makes its point in amusing enough fashion, even if the villain does get more screentime than the hero.

The film begins with the hero, Shekhar (Akshaye Khanna), deciding to finally write and direct his own Bollywood film, after working twelve years as an assistant director. He’s adamant that he succeed on his own merit, so he keeps his relationship with superstar actress Mansi (Amrita Rao) a secret.

While Shekhar finishes his script, his former pal, Raju (Arshad Warsi), shows up to crash in Shekhar’s apartment. Raju is convinced he’s a superstar actor just waiting to be discovered, though everyone else knows he’s a talentless leech.

Raju steals Shekhar’s script and gives it to a producer who declares it so good that it would be a hit even if a total idiot played the lead. To prove his point, the producer gives the role to Raju. The film is a hit.

The rest of the story deals with the damage Raju’s theft does to Shekhar’s ego and his relationship with Mansi. However, the lovebirds don’t get as much screentime as Raju, whom fame has turned into an insufferable megalomaniac.

It’s easy to write scenes for Raju; the audience knows he’s a buffoon, and it’s fun to see him get his comeuppance. But there are a few scenes where Raju is cruel for cruelty’s sake, and it’s uncomfortable to watch. Worse, it distracts from the genuine struggle Shekhar is going through.

Short Kut drags in its second half, but it’s a watchable movie, overall. There are some nice scenes between Shekhar and his junior-artist friend, Anwar, as well as between Shekhar and Mansi. Unfortunately, the English subtitles disappear during a pivotal speech by Mansi, but the rest of the movie’s translation is pretty good.