Tag Archives: Rimi Sen

Movie Review: Johnny Gaddaar (2007)

JohnnyGaddaar3 Stars (out of 4)

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Bollywood loves its own history. Too many Hindi films cater to fans with a depth of Bollywood knowledge at the expense of newcomers to the genre, who feel left out of the inside jokes. The neo-noir thriller Johnny Gaddaar (“Johnny the Traitor“) avoids that trap, enthusiastically paying homage to the past while providing enough context to welcome Bollywood newcomers.

It helps that writer-director Sriram Raghavan really understands how and why stories work onscreen. That understanding manifests subtly in the two films he made after Johnny Gaddaar: Agent Vinod and Badlapur. In Johnny Gaddaar, his references are explicit, using clips from other movies to advance his own heist story.

“Johnny” is an alias used by Vikram (Neil Nitin Mukesh), junior member of a quintet that runs a gambling ring. Veteran crook Seshadri (Dharmendra) holds together the uneasy group, which consists of Vikram, casino owner Prakash (Vinay Pathak), financier Shardul (Zakir Hussain), and the crew’s muscle, Shivay (Dayanand Shetty).

Vikram breaks a cardinal rule by falling in love with Shardul’s wife, Mini (Rimi Sen). In order to get enough cash for the two of them to flee to Canada, Vikram decides to steal the money the group pooled for a deal with the corrupt policeman, Kalyan (Govind Namdeo).

Even though he’s the most educated member of the crew, Vikram is also the newest to a life of crime. He concocts a solid plan to steal the cash, going so far as to chloroform himself in order to time how long his victim will remain unconscious. Yet he lacks the wiliness of an experienced crook, and his plan goes wrong in ways he never anticipated.

The primary theme of the film is the danger of unintended consequences, not just the direct effects on one’s own life but the psychological damage incurred when one inflicts pain on others, intentionally or not.

Vikram and his gang aren’t violent. He doesn’t own a gun, and the others aren’t in the habit of carrying theirs with them. Shiva is a gentle giant. When Vikram experiences his first taste of violence, it disturbs him. Sadly, that first experience makes violence a possible response to future conflicts, in a way it never was before.

It helps that Mukesh — in his first film role — looks as young and slight as he does. He doesn’t appear the least bit tough. It’s easy to accept him as the naive character he plays.

There’s another theme in the film about the nature of love, namely that Vikram doesn’t know what real love is. How can he be sure of his feelings for Mini or her feelings for him when they developed under duress? Vikram protests to Seshadri that their love is real, and Seshadri just shrugs.

Seshadri is one of multiple examples of what true love is that Vikram ignores in pursuit of his affair. Widowed Seshadri reminisces while listening to a recording of his wife singing. Prakash dotes on his wife, Varsha (Ashwini Kalsekar), a proud working mom. Shiva has a sweet, budding romance with the nurse who cares for his ailing mother.

Shardul doesn’t seem like such a bad husband to Mini, at least by mafia-film standards. He comes home and wants to catch up on the day with his wife, but she can’t get away from him fast enough. Her disgust for him is so obvious that you almost feel bad for the guy.

Even Kalyan — who is the scariest character in the film — tries to warn Vikram about the danger he’s in. When Vikram confesses that his favorite actor is Amitabh Bachchan, Kalyan asks if Vikram has seen Parwana, a movie in which Bachchan plays an obsessed lover who resorts to murder when his beloved falls for another man. Of course, Vikram hasn’t seen the movie.

Clips from Parwana are interspersed throughout Johnny Gaddaar, along with snippets of other Bollywood and Hollywood films. For movie buffs, it’s fun to try to spot all of the references Raghavan includes in his movie. The references never derail the story, and Raghavan makes some explicit enough that even non-movie buffs can feel included (as when Seshadri says he feels like he’s in a scene from Scarface as the gang counts their loot).

Johnny Gaddaar is a balanced, solid thriller that feels like a love letter to films of the past. It’s worth watching just to see an early piece of work by a promising director.

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Movie Review: Thank You (2011)

1.5 Stars (out of 4)

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The more I think about Thank You, the more confused I become. The first two-thirds of the comedy are enjoyable enough, but a serious and preachy third act unravels the entire story that precedes it.

Thank You centers on the womanizing exploits of Raj (Bobby Deol), Vikram (Irrfan Khan) and Yogi (Suniel Shetty). Yogi’s already been caught cheating by his wife, Maya (Celina Jaitley). Suspicious of the other louts’ extramarital activities, Maya introduces Vikram’s wife, Shivani (Rimi Sen), and Raj’s wife, Sanjana (Sonam Kapoor), to her “best friend”: a private eye named Kishan (Akshay Kumar).

Kishan develops a crush on cute, trusting Sanjana and aims to expose her husband for the cheater he is. Raj and his buddies aren’t able to continue their deception for long, and all their secrets are revealed. Maya and Shivani are prepared to move on with their lives, but Sanjana isn’t. She wants Raj back.

Here’s where things get confusing, in retrospect. Kishan agrees to help Sanjana reunite with Raj. His plan is to make Raj jealous by pretending to be Sanjana’s new boyfriend. Presumably, Kishan’s real intention is to show Sanjana how much better he is than Raj and win her for himself.

Without giving anything away, the third act seems to indicate that a potential romance between Kishan and Sanjana was never really an option (or something that either of them even desired). The tension in the second act, at the time, appears to be whether Sanjana will pick Raj or Kishan. Without that tension, the whole second act is, in retrospect, just a big waste of time.

Perhaps sensing the shoddy construction of his parable, writer-director Anees Bazmee has Kishan explain the moral of the story with a condescending speech in the final scene. But the message as delivered by Kishan runs counter to the one that the movie had conveyed to that point. I liked the story that Bazmee actually told better than the one he apparently thought he was telling.

The real shame of Thank You‘s narrative collapse is that most of the movie is pretty funny. The set pieces are good, and the jokes translate well cross-culturally.

Particularly deserving of praise are Shetty and Sen for their performances as Yogi and Shivani, respectively. Yogi, having been previously outed as a cheater, revels in watching his two buddies get caught for the same crime. Shivani is the most put-upon wife and therefore the most eager to take revenge on her husband. Shetty and Sen take full advantage of their opportunities to ham it up.

The weakest member of the cast is Kapoor. Still a relatively new actress, everything about her performance — from her physical presence to her voice — lacks gravity. She’s pretty and stylish, but that’s not enough to make her a lead that an audience cares about.

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