Tag Archives: Turning 30

Worst Bollywood Movies of 2011

In 2011, Bollywood produced a number of movies that advanced the role of women in film and pushed the boundaries of traditional storytelling style. This post is not about those movies. This post is about the worst films of the year. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)

Video services like YouTube and Netflix have allowed smaller studios to bypass the theater distribution system and reach an international audience via the Internet. While the development is a welcome one, it doesn’t mean that every film available online merits viewing. Inept, low-budget stinkers like Cycle Kick, Love Express and Impatient Vivek aren’t worth it, even for free.

Neither is a showing on the big screen a guarantee of quality. Indie film I Am Singh made it into Chicago area theaters but left after just one week. Aarakshan, Thank You, Dum Maaro Dum and Mausam all had large budgets and star casts but failed to impress.

While a number of this year’s movies featured empowered female characters, Turning 30 did its best to undermine feminism. The movie — written and directed by a woman — features a lead character who spends most of the movie wallowing in self-pity after she’s dumped. Turning 30 ends with the appalling suggestion that self-respect and a happy marriage shouldn’t be as important to women as having babies.

This year’s worst Bollywood movie manages to combine all of the above offenses into one unwatchable mess. It’s sloppily made, despite having a budget large enough to pay an A-list cast. It’s sexist. As a bonus, it’s also full of racist stereotypes.

The Worst Bollywood Movie of 2011 is Rascals.

Director David Dhawan is a repeat offender, being the man responsible for my worst movie of 2009, Do Knot Disturb. Rascals — a farce about two crooks fighting for one woman’s affections — seems tailor-made for comic action set pieces. Dhawan even cast action stars Sanjay Dutt and Ajay Devgn as the leads, but gave them little to do besides talk.

The movie’s female lead, played by Kangana Ranaut, spends the bulk of her screentime strutting around in a bikini while whining in a shrill voice: not exactly the postergirl for women’s lib.

Dhawan set Rascals in Thailand, then cast scores of blonde women to serve as gyrating backup dancers and dark-skinned African actors to play armed criminals. Were there no local Thai actors to fill those roles? Why make those casting decisions except to appeal to racist stereotypes?

All those problems aside, Dhawan’s biggest sin in Rascals is laziness. There are numerous continuity errors and bloopers that would’ve been easy to rectify, but Dhawan didn’t bother. Perhaps he thinks his target audience members — misogynists who find two men slapping each other hilarious — don’t care about stuff like a plot that makes sense. Maybe he thinks they’ll pay their money to see heroes like Dutt and Devgn on screen no matter how stupid the story.

I’d like to believe that we moviegoers are smarter than that.

Previous Worst Movies Lists

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Movie Review: Turning 30 (2011)

Zero Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon

Writer-director Alankrita Shrivastava wanted her debut film Turning 30 to portray young, urban Indian women in a fun yet realistic way. I hope Shrivastava’s portrayal is inaccurate, because the female characters in Turning 30 are pitiable.

Days before her 30th birthday, Naina (Gul Panag) seems to have an ideal life: a house, a good job at an ad agency and a boyfriend, Rishabh (Sid Makkar), who’s ready to propose. When Naina’s ideas are stolen at work and Rishabh abruptly breaks up with her, Naina falls apart.

This is a fine set up for a story, but a set up is all it should be. Instead, Naina’s despair over her unsettled life is the story of Turning 30. Any time she sees or thinks about Rishabh, Naina gets a forlorn look in her eye and cries in the rain. She begs him to take her back, accosts his parents and belabors anyone who will listen about how lost she is without Rishabh and how she doesn’t know what to do with her life. It’s pathetic.

That’s not to say Naina’s reaction is unrealistic. It’s just that being sad isn’t the interesting part of getting dumped: it’s how a person gets over it. Naina doesn’t make any attempt to get over Rishabh or take charge of her career until the last fifteen minutes of this two-hour movie. Her plight devolves from dull to excruciating.

After Naina is dumped, she quickly rebounds into a sexual relationship with her ex-boyfriend, Jai (Purab Kohli), a successful artist who’s ready to settle down. Despite knowing that Jai’s in love with her, Naina sleeps with him repeatedly, but always with the caveat that she’s not over Rishabh yet — as though her honesty absolves her from leading him on.

This level of self-absorption would almost be forgivable if Naina were a nice person, but she’s not. In addition to her cruel treatment of Jai, she’s short-tempered with her mother, her maid, and her coworkers. When her friend, Malini (Tillotama Shome), breaks down in tears and discloses that she’s a lesbian, Naina looks at her as though she’s a freak and makes no attempt to comfort her.

As uninspiring a heroine as Naina is, Shrivastava is almost misogynistic in the way she writes Naina’s other best pal, Ruksana (Jeneva Talwar). Ruksana discovers her husband is cheating on her at the same time she learns that she’s pregnant. The pregnancy temporarily puts a halt to hubby’s wandering, but he strays again as soon as the baby is born. Ruksana tells Naina and Malini that her husband’s cheating no longer bothers her, now that she has a baby to love her.

Excuse me?

What’s worse is that Naina and Malini don’t even challenge Ruksana. No “you deserve better than that” pep talk. Just a shrug and an “as long as you’re happy” that seems to indicate that this is to be expected.

So, in a nutshell, Shrivastava’s realistic portrayal of the life of a modern Indian woman amounts to this: Get educated. Get a job. Land a husband before you get too old/before the unrelenting parental pressure to marry becomes unbearable/before he finds somebody with more money. Get knocked up and quit your job. Hubby will (and, judging by the women in this movie, maybe should) ditch you for a younger, hotter woman. But, hey, at least you’ve got a baby.

Why bother?

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