Tag Archives: Shernaz Patel

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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Movie Review: Guzaarish (2010)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Despite knowing in advance that Guzaarish (“Request”) is a story about a paralyzed man trying to end his life, I wasn’t prepared for the emotional walloping the movie administered.

Guzaarish is heartbreaking without being manipulative. The characters occupy various positions on the ethical spectrum. In a movie about empathizing with someone else’s decision even if you disagree with it, it’s easy to identify with all of the characters and find their motives believable.

Guzaarish opens with a montage set to the song “Smile” (popularized by Nat King Cole), showcasing the details of Ethan Mascarenas’ (Hrithik Roshan) daily life. Ethan is paralyzed below the neck as a result of an accident fourteen years ago, and his days now consist of being washed, dressed and fed by his nurse, Sofia (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan). Unable to use his hands to shoo away a fly that lands on his face, Ethan does as the song suggests and smiles.

In addition to being permanently immobilized, Ethan’s organs are shutting down. His diminishing lung function causes him to gasp for breath between sentences. Ethan asks his best friend and lawyer, Devyani (Shernaz Patel), to file a petition asking the court to allow him to commit suicide.

Everyone opposes the idea: the doctor who saved his life after the accident; Sofia, who’s cared for him every day since; his friend, Devyani; listeners to the radio show Ethan broadcasts from his bedroom; his new apprentice, Omar (Aditya Roy Kapoor), to whom Ethan passes on secrets from his days as one of the world’s top magicians. The court rejects his initial appeal, but Ethan is determined to take control of his own destiny.

The movie is not just about Ethan’s struggle, but how his decision affects those around him. One of the most powerful scenes takes place between Sofia and Devyani. After Sofia blames Devyani for enabling Ethan’s suicide pursual, Devyani reminds Sofia that she didn’t know him before the accident and can’t understand the life he lost. Devyani repeatedly walks toward the door, only to return with one last point in defense of her friend.

Guzaarish isn’t all tearjerking melodrama. Ethan copes with his disability through a mix of gallows humor and randy flirtation, begging straight-laced Sofia to show him the “sexy legs” he knows are under her floor-length skirts. When Sofia finally cuts loose and dances one night, it takes Ethan completely by surprise.

Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali adds details like Sofia’s long skirts to play up the Portuguese influence in Goa, where Guzaarish is set. Ethan’s beautiful but dilapidated mansion is also built and decorated in Goan-Portuguese style.

Guzaarish‘s arresting visual style keeps with Bhansali’s once-opulent, now-lonely aesthetic. The mansion’s blue color-scheme is similar to the super-saturated colors the director used in Saawariya, and the expansiveness of Ethan’s home is reminiscent of interiors in Devdas and Black. Regardless of subject matter, Bhansali’s movies are gorgeous to look at.

The director also has a flair for highlighting Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s otherworldly beauty. With her pale skin and dark hair accented by bright red lipstick, there are moments in close-up where she looks more like a painting than a real person.

The few scenes in Guzaarish that don’t work are unnecessary side stories that are mercifully short. Characters — such as Ethan’s former assistant and his one-time rival — are introduced late in the movie without any previous mention and don’t have a role in the story apart from a brief flashback. Their interludes do nothing to advance the plot or reveal more about Ethan’s character.

Those distractions aside, Guzaarish‘s compelling story and breathtaking visuals make it a definite must-see.

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Retro Review: Black (2005)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Most Americans are familiar with the story of Helen Keller, a blind and deaf girl who learned to communicate through the guidance of her teacher, Anne Sullivan. The play written about Keller & Sullivan, The Miracle Worker, is required reading in many middle schools. The play inspired filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali to create the movie Black.

Black‘s heroine is Michelle McNally (played as a child by Ayesha Kapoor, and as an adult by Rani Mukerji), a girl robbed of her sight and hearing by an illness at a young age. The first half of the movie tacks closely to Keller’s life story. By age eight, Michelle has developed into a wild, almost feral child due to her inability to communicate. Her parents, equally frustrated by being unable to reach their daughter, are on the verge of sending Michelle to an asylum to prevent her from accidentally harming her baby sister, Sarah.

As a last resort, the McNally’s hire eccentric teacher Debraj Sahai (Amitabh Bachchan) to tutor Michelle. Early in the movie, Bachchan’s performance is almost too eccentric to be believable, as Debraj uses unconventional methods to reach out to Michelle.

Debraj is eventually able to teach Michelle the connection between words and objects, and she’s able to finally communicate with her family through sign language. She’s accepted into a university, and Debraj helps her to continue her studies and live on her own. This is where the story diverts from Keller’s biography and develops its own identity.

Michelle must deal with typical adult challenges in addition to her handicaps. She has a strained relationship with Sarah (Nandana Sen), who’s tired of living in her older sister’s shadow. When Sarah is finally able to command her parents’ undivided attention at her engagement dinner, she gives an uncomfortably honest toast, confessing to cruel acts she committed against Michelle.

Sarah’s engagement provokes confusing feelings in Michelle. She’s curious about romance, but the only man she knows is Debraj, who’s as much a father figure to her as he is a friend.

Of course, Michelle’s special needs make university a challenge. She’s too slow when typing answers to exam questions on a Braille typewriter, and she needs Debraj to translate lectures into sign language. Even though a cane increases her mobility and independence, she’s still unable to navigate the campus by herself. This puts her in grave danger as Debraj begins to manifest the signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

As inspirational as the first half of Black is, it’s most compelling to watch Michelle develop into a fully formed person. Keller herself went had an extraordinary life as an activist, in addition to introducing the Akita breed of dog to the United States. Mukerji’s performance is so captivating that it’s easy to forget that she doesn’t deliver any lines of dialog.

Bachchan is similarly spellbinding as Debraj confronts the emotional and ethical issues of tutoring a young woman, as opposed to a little girl. He struggles with a sudden decline in mental function that changes his relationship with Michelle. As he once reached out to her, she is forced to find a way to connect with him.

Besides the two leads, Black features a terrific supporting cast. Sen walks a fine line, showing the despair behind Sarah’s bratty behavior. And Shernaz Patel is wonderful as Michelle’s troubled mother, Catherine. She’s in an impossible situation, trying to protect Michelle even though it exacerbates the girl’s problems while trying not to overlook her other daughter. Catherine is heroic in her own right for not sending Michelle away and, in effect, covering her own eyes and ears to her child’s plight.

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