Tag Archives: Taaha Shah

Movie Review: Barkhaa (2015)

Barkhaa1.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Naming a movie after the main female character doesn’t guarantee that the film is actually about her. The titular Barkhaa is merely the object of fixation for a law student who can’t tell the difference between lust and love.

Barkhaa opens with a patient wheeled dramatically into a Mumbai hospital, accompanied by the previously mentioned law student, Jatin (Taaha Shah). He abruptly leaves the hospital to attend a book launch event for a book he didn’t write.

The opening scene isn’t important because of the person in medical distress, but because it establishes the film’s narrative structure, which is built entirely around Jatin getting interrupted by phone calls. He gets a call to attend the book launch; then his dad calls begging him to return to the hospital. Every time Jatin is about to do something to progress the plot, his phone rings.

At the launch party, Jatin realizes that the anonymously-authored book he’s shilling is a faithful recounting of his romance with a woman named Barkhaa (Sarah Loren). This prompts a lengthy flashback to their initial meeting four years earlier, when she returns his lost camera to a police station.

Jatin’s fleeting glimpse of this beautiful good Samaritan blooms into an obsession that writer-director Shadaab Mirza expects us to believe is true love. Other than her looks, what could Jatin possibly love about this woman he doesn’t know? Her conscientiousness?

He spends months ogling her at the dance bar where she works, and the walls of his bedroom are covered with photographs of her that he’s taken without her knowledge. Jatin’s drunk friend even tells her: “Barkhaa, it really doesn’t matter to him who you are.” No kidding.

Barkhaa gets to explain her backstory in the second half of the film, though it primarily amounts to her wishing for a rich husband to rescue her from the dance bar. When she discloses her past to Jatin — whom she decides to love after seeing his creepy bedroom — the question is not whether she has a place for him in her life but whether he can accept her. He’s entirely in charge of their romantic future.

Loren brings some worldliness to her underwritten character. She’s good in a scene in which Barkhaa tries to humiliate Jatin into leaving her alone, and she gives him a fierce speech about how she’s a dancer, not a whore. (The closing credits feature Loren in a tone-deaf, sexy dance number that has nothing to do with the jaded, burgeoning feminist she plays in the film.)

Barkhaa’s speech is part of a weird streak of pro-dance-bar propaganda in Barkhaa. When politicians threaten to shut down Mumbai’s dance bars — which are like strip clubs without the stripping and with worse dancing — the bar owner, Anna (Ashiesh Roy), mourns for all of the families who depend on the dancers’ incomes. He touts clubs like his as a morally superior form of entertainment, as compared to brothels.

With about twenty minutes left in the film, a twist drops into the story so artlessly that one can’t help but laugh. It’s so bad that it’s almost worth watching Barkhaa to see it. But not really.

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Movie Review: Luv Ka The End (2011)

1 Star (out of 4)

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Luv Ka The End (“The End of Love”) is the first movie released by Y-Films, a subsidiary of the venerable Yash Raj Films aimed at producing youth-oriented movies. In its style and content, Luv Ka The End appeals to a generation of kids more interested in films from Hollywood than from Bollywood. But the movie has such a dismissive view of sexual violence toward women that it can’t be recommended.

The teen sex comedy opens on the final day of junior college for Rhea (Shraddha Kapoor) and her best friends, Jugs (Pushtiie Shakti) and Sonia (Sreejita De). Rhea intends to consummate her relationship with her boyfriend, Luv (Taaha Shah), that night, which happens to be the eve of her eighteenth birthday.

By chance, Rhea and her friends discover that Luv is the leading scorer in an online points-for-sex game. Taking Rhea’s virginity and posting video proof would cement Luv’s victory. The girls set about taking revenge on Luv before the night’s big end-of-the-school-year bash.

The predictable revenge story — where does one buy itching powder anyway? — takes up the bulk of the film and drags on longer than necessary. It’s not bad, just not as cool as the whimsically-named director Bumpy thinks it is.

Things quickly fall apart after the girls finish their mischief-making, and the tone of the film changes from light-hearted to sinister. Fair warning, spoilers ahead.

At the party, Rhea lures Luv into a bedroom rigged with video cameras, intent on humiliating him as the partygoers downstairs watch on monitors. Luv turns the tables on Rhea and ties her to the bed, threatening to broadcast her rape over the Internet.

The revolting scenario is interrupted so that a few of the side characters can make jokes. It’s appalling that the screenplay trivializes sexual violence against women by trying to lighten the mood with humor. Meanwhile, no one at the party besides Jugs and Sonia try to rescue Rhea, as everyone watches the horrifying scene on the monitors. Not even the local news crews that are on-hand to cover the party make an effort to prevent the potential rape that is occurring just upstairs from them.

Compounding the insult to women everywhere is that, within minutes of escaping Luv (to the tone-deaf cheers of the unhelpful partygoers and news crews), Rhea dances at a concert by her favorite singer. When that singer — played in a cameo by Ali Zafar — asks Rhea on a date, she says yes. That’s simply not the way someone who just survived an attempted sexual assault would react.

It’s a disappointing end to what is, for the most part, a pleasant enough film. It distracts attention from the talented cast of young actors, all of whom do a nice job with their narrow characters, and who outshine the adults in the cast.

*Luv Ka The End is currently available on Netflix streaming.

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