Tag Archives: Siddharth Anand

Movie Review: War (2019)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the soundtrack at iTunes

Pitting two of Bollywood’s biggest action stars against one another lives up to the hype in War, a tremendously fun, globetrotting thrill ride.

Indian super-spy Kabir (Hrithik Roshan) has gone rogue. A task force including his former pupil, Khalid (Tiger Shroff), must track Kabir down and figure out what happened. Their boss, Colonel Luthra (Ashutosh Rana), assigns another agent to lead the task force because Khalid is “too close” to Kabir. Khalid’s colleague Aditi (Anupriya Goenka) covertly funnels him information, because she wants to find Kabir as badly as he does.

Kabir’s team was the best of the best, hot on the trail of international criminal Rizwan Ilyasi (Sanjeev Vasta) when Khalid joined them as a promising new recruit. The onboarding process was rocky, since Kabir worried that Khalid might harbor some resentment for Kabir having killed his agent-turned-terrorist father (in self defense!). But Khalid proved both loyal and capable, winning Kabir’s trust — only for Kabir to turn on the government he swore to protect.

Khalid’s desire to join Kabir’s team stems both from a need to show the world that he is not his father’s son and from his infatuation with Kabir. Roshan as Kabir gets one of cinema’s most loving introductions, stepping out of a helicopter with the wind blowing his hair, striding muscularly, like a being made of pure testosterone. Khalid gawks at him on behalf of all of us.

Not to be overlooked is Khalid’s own introduction, via one of Bollywood’s best-ever fight scenes. The fight choreography and Ben Jasper’s camera work as Khalid tosses drug dealers around an apartment are spectacular. Shroff’s athletic prowess is just as impressive.

War is among the most expensive Indian films ever made, and it looks it. Chase scenes — whether on foot or via car or motorcycle — in foreign locales are as exciting to watch as they are stunning to look at. The scale is big, the stakes are high, and writer-director Siddharth Anand pushes the envelope even further than his previous action spectacular, Bang Bang, which also looked great but was disappointing. The lessons learned from that film translated into a thriller that can stand up alongside anything Hollywood has to offer, with well-integrated CGI, practical effects, and complicated stunt work.

Another improvement is in the quality of acting Anand gets from his performers. Roshan was miscast in the action-comedy Bang Bang, but he plays Kabir perfectly as steely but not unfeeling. Shroff has always been his best when playing underdogs, and he uses that here to show how Khalid’s over-eagerness makes him reckless. Goenka’s role is utilitarian — she’s always there with the right information at the right time — but she gives Aditi a spark.

Vaani Kapoor has a small but impactful role as Naina, a dancer Kabir befriends while tracking Ilyasi on a solo mission in Italy. Naina pegs Kabir’s martyr streak as dangerous. Kabir says his team is his family, but Aditi has a fiance and Khalid has his mother — Kabir’s the only one with no one else to come home to. It helps to remind Kabir that real people are involved, something the movie notes when Colonel Luthra acknowledges some Portuguese soldiers killed in a mission gone wrong. The characters don’t just rampage through cities without consequence.

Sure, some loose ends are left hanging at film’s end, and the ridiculous climax includes what is essentially a really-effective Audi commercial. But no one can ever accuse War‘s cast or crew of phoning it in. Anand wanted world-class stunts and powerful action sequences, and he got them. Roshan and Shroff look jacked, and their fights and dance scenes are impressive. Kapoor stands out in her acrobatic showcase dance number as well. War is just tremendous fun and a great example of a movie that warrants viewing on the biggest screen possible.

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Movie Review: Anjaana Anjaani (2010)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

Thanks to its complex characters, Anjaana Anjaani showcases how a romantic comedy can be something more than the typical pair of shallow caricatures cavorting toward an inevitable happy ending.

Anjaana Anjaani starts on a grim note that makes the movie best-suited for adults. After single-handedly destroying his small Wall Street firm, Akash (Ranbir Kapoor) climbs a bridge in New York City, planning to kill himself. He is interrupted by Kiara (Priyanka Chopra), a drunk who also wants to die, though she’s too nervous to do it alone.

Their discussion on the bridge railing is broken up by the Coast Guard. Minutes later, they both injure themselves while attempting suicide and wind up in the hospital. The pair sneak out of the hospital to Kiara’s messy apartment, where they again fail to successfully end their lives. They decide to give themselves a 20-day cooling off period before jumping off the same bridge together on New Year’s Eve.

Kiara and Akash, who have no one else to turn to, make a bucket list of things they’d like to do before they die. Top on Akash’s list is losing his virginity. He says he hasn’t found the right woman yet. She says he sounds like a 15-year-old girl, before correcting herself: 15-year-old girls aren’t so corny.

As they cross items off their list (swimming in the Atlantic and taking a cross-country road trip), it becomes clear that Kiara isn’t the flaky party girl she appears to be. A break-up left her with scars — emotional and physical — that make her even more fragile than Akash. Their friendship strengthens as he recognizes in her a chance to finally consider someone’s feelings before his own.

Writer-director Siddharth Anand is fond of telling stories showcasing character growth, as he did in 2008’s terrific Bachna Ae Haseeno (which also starred Ranbir Kapoor). In both movies, Anand uses Kapoor to depict the critical point in a young man’s life when he finally sees a world outside of himself and wishes to connect with it. It’s a time fraught with emotional turmoil, and Kapoor shows that, without being maudlin.

Chopra, an ambitious actress with a diverse body of work, makes Kiara more than just the agent for Akash’s change. Kiara experiences dramatic highs and lows herself, and Chopra portrays them in a way that makes them consistent within the complex character of a woman whose free-spirited facade masks inner insecurity.

What saves Anjaana Anjaani from being too melancholy is the acknowledgement that there is joy even in hard times. Akash and Kiara find happiness in each other, or at least insulation from loneliness. Their “to-do” list is a fun distraction for both them and the audience, accompanied by a peppy rock soundtrack.

The movie is also a wonderful American travelogue, as the pair road trip west. New York and Las Vegas are vibrant, and the Nevada desert looks ripe for exploration. Anjaana Anjaani is the rare movie about living each day as though it were your last that might actually inspire people to do so.

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