Tag Archives: Shaad Randhawa

Movie Review: Mastizaade (2016)

Mastizaade0 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

Writer-director Milap Zaveri doesn’t seem to understand the difference between being funny and making fun of someone. His latest film, Mastizaade, is hateful.

Take for example the film’s lone gay character, Das, played by Suresh Menon. (There’s also a trans character who is depicted as frightening and repulsive.) Das is portrayed as a lustful sexual predator who sneaks into people’s hotel rooms. He is shown being sexually aroused by what he mistakenly thinks is an act of bestiality. His own father calls him “disgusting.”

Does Zaveri not have the empathy to realize that writing such characters reinforces harmful stereotypes about gay men? Apparently not, otherwise he’d be more circumspect about writing East Asians, people with speech impediments and physical disabilities, and women as well. Unless you are a cool, thirtysomething Indian dude, Zaveri considers you a target.

The cool dudes at the heart of Mastizaade are Aditya (Vir Das) and Sunny (Tusshar Kapoor), a pair of ad men who make juvenile commercials laden with sex references. They frequent sex addiction support groups, hoping to get beautiful recovering addicts to fall of the wagon and into their beds. If they don’t succeed there, they bring booze to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

Hope for redemption for two such despicable characters arrives in the form of Lily and Laila Lele (both played by Sunny Leone), a pair of voluptuous twins who run a sex addiction clinic. The twins are the first women the guys have been able to see as something more than potential conquests.

Lily and Laila mistake Aditya and Sunny for sex addicts, a fact of no narrative consequence despite how many times it’s restated in the film. Somehow everyone winds up in Thailand, and the twins fall in love with the idiots for no good reason. Plot is not Zaveri’s foremost concern.

It’s also unclear why Lily speaks with a stutter. It’s not a challenge for her character to overcome during the course of the story, nor does it have any noticeable effect on the dialogue she delivers (as far as I can tell). Her stutter exists because Zaveri thinks people who stutter are funny.

He also gets a kick out of people with physical disabilities, having a crowd of bystanders point and laugh at a man left behind in his motorized wheelchair as everyone else takes off on a car chase.

If a child exhibited the kind of bullying behavior Zaveri writes into Mastizaade, he’d be sent to his room without supper and grounded for a month. Why Zaveri thinks he can get away with it as an adult boggles the mind.

Let’s not forget the way Zaveri looks down on women. Even though Sunny Leone is by far the biggest star in the picture, her characters lack agency, playing second fiddle to the two male leads. Laila is entirely defined by her sexual appetite, though she is only able to land Sunny when she dresses as a traditional Indian housewife and prays for her beloved’s well-being.

Naive Lily is engaged to wheelchair-bound Deshpremi (Shaad Randhawa), who seems like a decent guy. However, Zaveri’s narrative calls Deshpremi’s manliness into question based on his disability. This somehow gives license to Aditya to torpedo Lily’s relationship with Deshpremi through trickery. Why exactly are we supposed to be happy when Lily chooses Aditya over Deshpremi?

Time after time, Milap Zaveri is involved in projects that are mean-spirited and bigoted, whether it’s as the dialogue writer for Kyaa Kool Hain Hum 3, the screenwriter for Grand Masti, or the writer-director of Mastizaade. Maybe its time to stop patronizing a filmmaker who insists on churning out such poison.

Links

Movie Review: Aashiqui 2 (2013)

Aashiqui_23 Stars (out of 4)

Buy or rent the movie at iTunes
Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

Sibling producers Mukesh and Mahesh Bhaat are the main perpetrators of Bollywood’s tendency to call any new film a sequel in order to trade on the reputation of a previously successful film. I’m almost willing to forgive them in the case of Aashiqui 2: a focused, well-told story that deserves to be seen, even if it has nothing to do with the 1990 hit Aashiqui.

Aashiqui 2 jumps right into the downward spiral of rockstar Rahul (Aditya Roy Kapoor). Having squandered most of his fame by being an unreliable, quarrelsome drunk, Rahul is ready to quit the music biz. Unfortunately for stars like Rahul, they are industries themselves as much as they are artists. Rahul’s best friend and manager, Vivek (Shaad Randhawa), isn’t about to let Rahul walk out on the gigs he’s secured for his temperamental diva buddy, no matter how lowbrow they are compared to the stadiums Rahul once played.

After bailing on a gig after a fight with an audience member, drunk Rahul winds up in a hotel bar. He’s blown away when he hears one of his songs being sung by the young woman who fronts the hotel’s resident cover band. Convinced that he can turn the singer, Aarohi (Shraddha Kapoor), into a star, he gets her to return to Mumbai with him.

Rahul’s focus on Aarohi’s career at the expense of his own drives a wedge between him and Vivek, but Rahul’s hunch about Aarohi is right. She makes it big, and the couple falls in love. However, Rahul’s alcoholism prevents them from enjoying her success.

The straightforward plot allows a lot of time for character growth. A character as complicated and potentially loathsome as Rahul — a rich guy willing to throw away a life others would kill for — needs time to grow on the audience. He gets that time, and the audience is able to appreciate the overpowering hold that alcohol has on him.

After his grating performances in Action Replayy and Guzaarish, I was ready to write off Aditya Roy Kapoor as hopeless. I’m glad I didn’t, because he has turned into a fine actor. He humanizes Rahul, giving insight into the troubled artist’s ever-changing moods. Even as Aarohi’s success validates his instincts and pleases him emotionally, it reminds him that he used to be the one in the spotlight.

Shraddha Kapoor is at her best during the film’s many dramatic scenes, but she struggles during scenes of Aarohi’s success. Whenever she’s in front of an audience, Aarohi looks like she’d rather be anywhere else. Her reaction to autograph and interview requests is, “I’ll do it later.” I doubt that a performer as standoffish as Aarohi could achieve the kind of popularity she supposedly does.

The supporting cast is solid, especially Mahesh Thakur as the fatherly record producer Sehgal. As Aarohi contemplates abandoning her career to help Rahul dry out, Sehgal asks her, “If your love was his cure, then why hasn’t it worked yet?”

Since the movie is about a pair of singers, the soundtrack plays a prominent role in Aashiqui 2. While the songs are good, the soundtrack lacks variety. Virtually every song is a power ballad, including the one Rahul opens his concert with at the start of the film. (Who opens a show with a power ballad?)

During that same scene, it’s not clear why the guy in the audience who starts the fight has such a problem with Rahul, whom he claims ruined his life. The same guy shows up again later as a now-successful singer, still holding a grudge against Rahul. This subplot requires more explanation.

The few hiccups in Aashiqui 2 don’t derail the plot, and the focus stays on the characters, where it belongs. This is a smart film that knows just what it wants to be and delivers. I’m just sorry it didn’t get the wide U.S. theatrical opening it deserved.

Links