Tag Archives: Shiney Ahuja

Movie Review: Welcome Back (2015)

WelcomeBack1 Star (out of 4)

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Even at their best, writer-director Anees Bazmee’s movies are mediocre. At their worst, they are unbearable. Welcome Back is one of the worst.

In the eight years since the events of Welcome, gangsters Uday (Nana Patekar) and Majnu (Anil Kapoor) have left their criminal pasts behind, striking it rich as hoteliers in Dubai. Deciding that it’s time to get married and start their own families, they fall for the same woman: an heiress named Chandni (Ankita Shrivastava), who’s always accompanied by her mother, Maharani (Dimple Kapadia).

The guys’ marriage plans are put on hold when Uday’s father (also played by Patekar) reveals that Uday has another sister — Ranjhana (Shruti Haasan) — he needs marry off first. The “decent” guy they find for her, Ajju (John Abraham), turns out to be a don pretending to be something he’s not — just like Uday and Majnu.

The plot unfolds at furious pace but burns out quickly. After the first thirty minutes or so, very little that happens feels necessary. Everything else appears to be the indulgence of Bazmee’s whims. Helicopters? Camels? Vampire dance party? Check.

Welcome Back‘s story spins so far out of control that Bazmee doesn’t even try to give the film a real ending. He leaves his characters hanging in mid-air, literally and figuratively.

Watching the film becomes an endurance test in the second half, when Naseeruddin Shah shows up as yet another don, Wanted Bhai. At this point, Welcome Back descends to Gunda-level geographic incoherence. Wanted lives in a mansion on an island only accessible by plane. Yet — while on the island — Uday and Majnu are able to drive to a desert and to a mountain range. They also find a graveyard on the island, evoking more memories of Gunda:

It’s hard for any performances to stand out in a movie that requires its characters to behave so stupidly, but Shrivastava is pretty good as a gold digger. Her covert expressions of disgust while wooing the much older bachelors are funny. Kapadia is also exceedingly glamorous.

Another member of the cast stands out for the wrong reasons. Shiney Ahuja plays Wanted’s drug-addicted son, Honey, who is obsessed with Ranjhana. (Azmee doesn’t even bother explaining how Honey knows Ranjhana.)

In 2011, Ahuja was convicted of raping a member of his household staff and sentenced to seven years in prison. He is out on bail while appealing his conviction (a major difference from the American justice system, where sentences are effective immediately, and appeals are adjudicated while the defendant is behind bars).

Azmee says that he didn’t take Ahuja’s conviction into account when casting him in Welcome Back, simply believing that Ahuja fit the part. “I am a filmmaker,” Bazmee told IANS, “and I do not think about anything more than that.”

Are we supposed to believe that there were no other actors who could have played this particular supporting role? While Azmee may not be bothered by Ahuja’s criminal past, many people will be. When we see Ahuja grinding on Shrivastava in a “sexy” dance number, it’s impossible not to reminded of the fact that he was convicted of sexually assaulting a woman.

Acting in films is a privilege, not a right. There was no reason for Azmee to cast Ahuja in this role at the expense of another actor without a violent criminal past. If Azmee can’t appreciate why this is a problem, is he the right person to helm a multi-million dollar film?

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Movie Review: Ghost (2012)

Zero Stars (out of 4)

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Rare is the movie that manages to get everything wrong, lacking a single attribute of a successful film. Ghost is that movie: a film so pathetically executed as to be an object lesson in how not to make a movie.

Ghost is a horror movie (not a remake of the American film), though what kind of horror movie is unclear. Supernatural thriller? Monster movie? Spiritual lesson? Torture porn?

Of course a single film can use elements of all the above horror sub-genres, but debutant writer-director Puja Jatinder Bedi is so unfocused in her storytelling style that I’m not even sure she knows what kind of movie she’s making. There’s no consistency of theme or message, no continuity, and it’s not even clear who the main character is.

Ghost opens with the grisly murders of a doctor and a nurse initially seen having sex in a hospital lavatory. When they are discovered by pious Dr. Suhani (Sayali Bhagat), it seems likely that the film is meant to be a spiritual parable about the dangers of sin.

In case that message isn’t clear enough, the opening credits are subtitled with the following text: “Christ represents the divine life power that illuminates and liberates the soul from the evil powers of Satan. O SONS OF ADAM AWAKEN AND EMBODY CHRIST WITHIN YOU.”

The divine punishment angle quickly falls apart, as it becomes clear that the two deaths (and the ones to follow) are the work of a vengeful spirit, not acts of divine judgment.

Freelance detective Vijay (Shiney Ahuja) investigates the murders and discovers that the spirit is likely that of a murdered hospital intern, the subtly-named Mary Magdallen (Julia Bliss).

Mary is Vijay’s wife, of whom he has no memory thanks to a mild head injury, of which he also has no memory. In fact, he seems unaware of having a memory gap of however long it took him to fall in love, get married, and have his wife die. Apparently, he has no friends either, because I’d wager that one of them might have let slip at some point that Vijay has (or had) a wife.

Since everything about Ghost stinks, I’m going to focus on a few of its worst offenses. First is a pet peeve of mine: casting actors with inappropriate accents. Mary is supposed to be Australian, but Bliss is Russian and sounds it. Either make the character Russian, or cast a different actress.

Next is the way the movie fetishizes violence against women. The whole movie is gory, but flashbacks of Mary’s murder-by-torture and her body’s subsequent dismembering are shown in almost loving detail. As a woman, director Bedi should have exercised better judgement and not pandered to the base desires of misogynists.

The most egregious offense in Ghost is its silly perversion of religion for tawdry thrills. Christian imagery pervades the film: Mary’s name and the details of her murder (hint: a cross is involved), “plagues” of frogs and locusts at various crime scenes, a computerized artist’s rendering of Hell, etc. The imagery symbolizes nothing and makes little sense in the context of the film. I think it’s just there to show that the filmmakers have read the Bible — or, more likely, stopped by a Sunday School class once or twice.

At the scenes of two murders, Monster Mary is accompanied by a cryptic figure, whose left half resembles Jesus and right half resembles a devil. The figure’s significance is unclear and is never discussed. The film ends with a shot of Mary in her appealing mortal form, hugging Jesus (regular Jesus, that is; not the half-Jesus-half-devil guy).

Are we supposed to believe that Jesus — Mr. Forgiveness — is cool with one of his acolytes exacting bloody revenge from beyond the grave? Wasn’t one of the whole points of Jesus’ existence to convey that revenge is God’s domain and that forgiveness is a path to salvation?

If I were a Christian, I might be offended. But Ghost is so stupid and inept that taking its offenses seriously gives it more credit than it deserves.

Links

  • Ghost is available for free on Mela‘s iPad app until February 10
  • Ghost at Wikipedia
  • Ghost at IMDb

Movie Review: Bhool Bhulaiyaa (2007)

3 Stars (out of 4)

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When the mansion Siddharth (Shiney Ahuja) inherits appears to be haunted, he turns to his psychotherapist friend Aditya (Akshay Kumar) to explain the mysterious happenings and ease the fears of his superstitious relatives. The resolution is clichéd and drawn-out, but Bhool Bhulaiyaa is saved by its climactic dance number and Kumar’s terrific comedic acting. The awkward English subtitles are sometimes hard to follow, but the humor and chills translate well.

No Rating (violence); 155 minutes

This review originially appeared in The Naperville Sun on October 19, 2007