Tag Archives: Subhash Ghai

Movie Review: Hero (2015)

Hero1.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Hero is a tired action romance that becomes increasingly immature as the story progresses. It’s not the sparkling debut that newbie actors Sooraj Pancholi and Athiya Shetty were hoping for.

The film has the stamp of its producer, Salman Khan, all over it. Pancholi plays a miniature version of a character Khan has played many times before: a morally, sexually pure hooligan who fights his way out of trouble.

Sooraj (Pancholi) is the son of a mobster, Pasha (Aditya Pancholi, his real-life father), and is himself a goon of sorts. Sooraj only steals from other gangsters, and he distributes his stolen gains to people in need, occasionally springing for a night of dancing with his crew.

It’s at a club that he meets Radha (Shetty), a truly awful person. She’s mean, vain, stuck-up, pouty, and stupid. She is also very pretty, which explains why Sooraj makes time to scold her for being a snob instead of blowing her off, altogether.

Facing jail time, Pasha has Sooraj kidnap the daughter of the police Inspector General (Tigmanshu Dulia). Of course, the daughter is Radha. Sooraj and his boys pose as police, and she unquestioningly accompanies them to a safe house in the mountains. Only after she and Sooraj have fallen in love does she discover his true identity.

The kidnapping plot ends in the first half of the film. It’s during the second half, when Sooraj and Radha try to make their love work in the real world, that things get really stupid. There’s a ridiculous subplot about Radha’s brother inventing a fake boyfriend for her, who turns out to be very real and connected to the underworld.

Radha’s disapproving father is the real obstacle, and that gets at the heart of what’s wrong with Hero. Sooraj and Radha seem much younger than the characters they are meant to portray, who are ostensibly of legal drinking age (which is 25 in Mumbai). They act more like a pair of foolish 16-year-olds, convinced that they are Romeo & Juliet born anew.

Instead of talking with her father about her feelings privately, Radha declares them in front of a packed courtroom. When that doesn’t work, she and Sooraj stage a musical production that culminates in her threatening to kill herself unless her dad approves the relationship.

At a time when “women-centric” films are all the rage, Radha is a disappointing throwback. She’s not only restrained by her father’s wishes, but she lacks initiative of her own. When a man standing right next to her points a gun at Sooraj, she doesn’t even reach out to stop him. Her contribution is simply to shriek, “Sooraj!” while her beloved dodges bullets.

Compounding the problem of the movie’s feeling of immaturity is Pancholi’s youthful appearance. At 25, he’s baby-faced enough that he’d be playing high school roles in the US. He’s also short, which makes him appear even younger alongside the giants he fights. Instead of jumping into a leading role, it would fun to see him play the hot-headed younger brother or sidekick to an established actor.

Hero‘s redeeming factors are director Nikhil Advani and cinematographer Tushar Kanti Ray. The movie is really beautiful, especially during the first half. An opening shot of boats anchored on Mumbai’s waterfront is stunning. Advani’s affinity for contrast makes shots of the colorfully dressed characters cavorting on a snowy mountainside a treat to watch.

If only Advani weren’t saddled with an outdated template (Hero is a remake of Subhash Ghai’s 1983 film of the same name) and an aging actor-producer set on crowning his successor. Here’s hoping Advani’s next film, Katti Batti, comes with less baggage.

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Movie Review: Kaanchi (2014)

Kaanchi_poster1 Star (out of 4)

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Kaanchi: The Unbreakable fancies itself an inspiring story of a simple country gal taking on the powers of corruption. In reality, Kaanchi is a tale of personal revenge, and a really boring one at that.

The story begins with an uninformative framing device that has no narrative payoff until over an hour into the film. A Mumbai police officer, Bagula (Chandan Roy Sanyal), sits handcuffed in an interrogation room, trying to explain his role in the tumultuous events sparked by a woman who’s gone missing. Bagula says that the woman is his childhood friend, Kaanchi (Mishti).

Kaanchi (Mishti) is the female version of the big-man-on-campus Bollywood hero whom everyone seems to love even though he’s an immature, annoying asshole. Kaanchi is every bit the asshole — temperamental, jealous, and vain — yet she’s the favorite daughter of her mountain village, Kochampa.

While Kaanchi trades verbal barbs with her boyfriend, Binda (Kartik Tiwari), members of the wealthy Kakda family arrive in town, intending to force out the villagers in order to build a luxury resort. This troubles Binda, but Kaanchi could give two shits. She’s too busy worrying about other girls flirting with Binda.

Kaanchi befriends Sushant — heir to the Kakda fortune — and he falls in love with her. This sets off a chain of events that results in Kaanchi fleeing the village in a rage, vowing revenge. Thus ends the first hour of a two-and-a-half-hour-long movie.

Kaanchi’s reunion with Bagula in a Mumbai dance bar is unintentionally hilarious. Scantily clad ladies sing, “You’re sexy. You’re like a taxi,” to which Bagula responds, “I’m a carefree big boy.”

Only Rishi Kapoor — who plays one of the villainous Kakda brothers — gets a better character introduction: strumming a guitar on a round bed while a pair of busty women in lingerie chomp on Ritter Sport chocolate bars.

There are nine or ten pointless musical numbers that serve only to waste at least forty minutes of runtime in an already overly-long film.

Among the dance numbers, the highlight is “Thumka,” but for the wrong reasons. It features the least flattering outfits I’ve ever seen on white backup dancers. Each dancer wears a monokini, black elbow gloves, gladiator sandals, a bobbed wig, and black, control-top pantyhose. A few of the dancers look like they’re wearing athletic cups inside their hose. Check out these sartorial abominations:

The acting throughout is pretty abysmal. Kapoor’s performance is hammy and out-of-place. Mithun Chakraborthy — who plays the other Kakda brother — has cotton balls stuffed in his cheeks for no apparent reason.

Misthi doesn’t do herself many favors in her debut performance. She moves as though she’s wearing a back brace, and her high-pitched shrieking sounds insane, rather than powerful.

Throughout the incredibly dull second half of the film, side characters refer to Kaanchi as a representative of young India, fed up with politics as usual and tired of a corrupt system. However, Kaanchi doesn’t see herself that way. She never mentions the threat the Kakda family poses to her village, nor does she mention the rigged system that benefits such wealthy families.

Had Kaanchi decided to fight for Kochampa or on behalf of the underclass, that would’ve constituted character development. But Kaanchi doesn’t develop at all throughout the film. She begins and remains a temperamental young woman who’s used to getting her way. After the interval, she just redirects her temper.

This isn’t a political or inspirational movie, no matter how badly writer-director-producer Subhash Ghai would like to frame it as such. Kaanchi is a messy, dull revenge flick, and that’s all.

Links

  • Kaanchi: The Unbreakable at Wikipedia
  • Kaanchi: The Unbreakable at IMDb

Opening April 25: Kaanchi

Director Subhash Ghai’s Kaanchi: The Unbreakable debuts in two Chicago area theaters on April 25, 2014. The drama follows a courageous young woman who takes on the powers that be.

Kaanchi opens on Friday at the AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 20 min.

I’m surprised that Kangana Ranaut’s Revolver Rani isn’t opening here. Given the phenomenal recent success of Queen — which also starred Ranaut — I was sure the makers of Revolver Rani would try to capitalize on her current “It Girl” status.

Following a stellar opening weekend, 2 States expands into two more local theaters on Friday — Regal Gardens Stadium 1-6 in Skokie and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge — joining the four theaters it debuted in last Friday: AMC River East 21 in Chicago, AMC Showplace Niles 12 in Niles, the South Barrington 30, and the Cantera 17.

The only other Indian movie playing in the Chicago area this weekend is Race Gurram (Telugu with English subtitles) at the Muvico Rosemont 18 in Rosemont and Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge.

Movie Review: Love Express (2011)

1 Star (our of 4)

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I’m tempted to cut Love Express some slack since it begins with the disclaimer: “A film by debutant artists and technicians.” But lack of experience can’t excuse an inferior product, and Love Express stinks.

While it didn’t cost me any money to watch (the full movie is legally available for free on YouTube), I can’t understand why the studio, Mukta Arts, thought it was ready for commercial distribution.

The saddest thing about Love Express is that its premise is great:

A pair of young strangers — traveling by train with their families, en route to their arranged marriage — confess to each other that they don’t want to get married. They conspire to derail the wedding plans but aren’t prepared for the consequences when their scheme works.

The premise practically pitches itself. There’s a built-in deadline — matters have to be resolved before the train gets to its destination — and the characters are forced to deal with the problem because they’re trapped on a moving train. Couple the deadline and the confined spaces with familial pressure, and you should have box office gold.

But, in the hands of an inexperienced crew, the film doesn’t come together. Some of the train interiors look cheaply constructed. The sounds and sway of the camera that are supposed to mimic a moving train are inconsistently applied. The song that accompanies the lone choreographed dance number is annoying.

Apart from the great premise, the writing is pretty bad. Dialogue is clunky and characters woefully underdeveloped. The main couple — Kanav (Sahil Mehta) and Asneet (Mannat Ravi) — have such an abrupt change of heart that even they can’t come up with good reasons why they’re suddenly in love. Kanav gets misty eyed remembering when Asneet called him “dog brain,” and Asneet proudly bears a stain on her saree from that time Kanav spilled hot tea on her.

Not only are the characters poorly written, but they are poorly acted as well. Ravi is fine as Asneet, but Mehta’s Kanav is an irritating boor. There’s little help from the supporting cast, with the exception of Roobie as Asneet’s mother.

Om Puri, the only recognizable actor in the movie, is limited in what he can bring to the table. His character, Asneet’s grandfather, is confined to his berth on the train. His actions are supposed to change the course of the film, but they feel less impactful since he never interacts directly with the main characters.

I respect the fact that Mukta Arts and producer Subhash Ghai want to open doors for artists and technicians new to the industry, but the gesture is meaningless without guidance. Having their names attached to such a dud of a film may actually do the debutants’ careers more harm than good.

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Movie Review: Yuvvraaj (2008)

1 Star (out of 4)

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In this bastardization of Rain Man, chorus singer Deven Yuvvraaj (Salman Khan) tries to trick his autistic older brother Gyanesh (Anil Kapoor) out of his inheritance. The inevitable reconciliation between the brothers would be more believable if Khan’s character wasn’t so unrepentantly rotten during the first two-thirds of the movie, especially the revelation that Deven was disowned by his father after twice beating Gyanesh. And yet Deven is the brother we’re supposed to feel sorry for. After Black & White, Subhash Ghai’s compelling exploration of terrorism from early 2008, Yuvvraaj is a disappointment.

Movie Review: Black & White (2008)

3 Stars (out of 4)

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Suicide bomber Numair (Anurag Sinha) questions his destructive plans after finding corruption among his fellow jihadists and compassion among his would-be victims, particularly a caring professor (Anil Kapoor) and his family. Numair is cruel and unsympathetic, but he’s not a mindless killer. Terrorism is more complex than good vs. evil, and with Black & White writer-director Subhash Ghai challenges audiences to look at its root causes for ways to steer potential murderers away from violence and toward peace.

No Rating (violence); 134 minutes