Tag Archives: Vidyut Jamwal

Movie Review: Bullett Raja (2013)

Bullett_raja0.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Bullett Raja is an identity-less hodgepodge of scenes assembled with no master plan. Things happen because, well, this is what happens in movies. Rooftop chase? Check. Love at first sight? Check. Exploding car? Check.

There’s so little connecting the scenes in Bullett Raja that it almost seems like a deliberate choice on writer-director-producer Tigmanshu Dhulia’s part: a middle finger to an audience he assumes will uncritically devour anything, so long as punches are thrown and female torsos bared.

All of Bullett Raja‘s problems stem from an utter lack of character development. Saif Ali Khan’s Raja is a chameleon. He’s whoever he needs to be in any given scene, shifting at will.

The movie begins with Raja crashing a wedding to avoid some goons. (The cause of his beef with the faceless goons is never addressed.) One of the guests, Rudra (Jimmy Shergill), figures out that Raja doesn’t belong there, but befriends him anyway. (Why? Doesn’t matter.) When Raja assists Rudra in a gun battle that disrupts the wedding, the two become best friends forever.

Rudra’s uncle offers to make the two into gangsters, but they refuse because they don’t like violence (the previous day’s shootout already forgotten, apparently). But when Uncle is murdered, the two decide to become the most notorious assassins in Uttar Pradesh. Naturally, right?

Who the heck are these guys who can turn from pacifists into cold-blooded killers in a single day? Rudra and Raja have no independent identities; they only serve the plot. Because of that, it’s impossible to discern what their motives are. Do they want to be rich? Famous? Powerful? It’s never made clear why they do what they do.

Other elements are introduced into the film at random to add color and extend the overly long runtime. There’s the former assassin now living as a woman to avoid prosecution. The guys kidnap a woman, Mitali (Sonakshi Sinha), who immediately falls in love with Raja. Innumerable politicians and businessmen operate in some system that’s never explained. Also, Raja and Rudra become teen idols, because what kid doesn’t want to grow up to be a contract killer?

The introduction of Vidyut Jamwal’s character, Munna, is the clunkiest of all the story’s many clunky elements. A police inspector assures a politician that he knows the perfect man to take out Raja, once and for all. Cut to Officer Munna out in the desert, beating up a gang of bandits who have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the rest of the story.

Why?

Why? Why? Why? What do any of the characters hope to gain? Why does anything happen in this whole frigging movie? WHY?!

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New Trailers: September 30, 2013

The trailer for Bullett Raja — which opens on November 29 — released today. Hopefully Fox Star will release a second version of the trailer with English subtitles, because I can’t discern what the plot is about based on the visuals alone, other than Saif Ali Khan shooting a bunch of people.  Nevertheless, I’m excited about Bullett Raja since it’s Vidyut Jamwal’s movie since Commando.

A subtitled version of the trailer for Ram-Leela was also recently released. This is a case where the trailer itself tells such a concise rendition of the story that subtitles are hardly needed (though they are appreciated). As with any movie directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, the gorgeous visuals are as much a draw as the narrative, and sexy stars like Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh just add to the visual appeal. Ram-Leela opens on November 15.

 

Movie Review: Commando — A One Man Army (2013)

Commando_(2013_film)3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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With Commando — A One Man Army, Producer Vipul Shah and director Dilip Ghosh set out to make a realistic action film in the vein of Jackie Chan films, heavily reliant on martial arts and without lots of special effects, cable harnesses, or technological assistance. They achieved their goal in spades. Commando is an exciting action film with a strong Indian identity.

Commando‘s lead character, Karan (Vidyut Jamwal), is an elite Indian soldier captured when his helicopter crashes in China. Federal politicians force Karan’s superior officer, Colonel Sinha (Darshan Jariwala), to disavow all knowledge of Karan to avoid a war with the Chinese, who assume Karan is a spy. Karan escapes after a year of torture.

Following this introduction, the action shifts abruptly to a small north Indian town not far from the Chinese border. The town is besieged by a drug lord named AK (Jaideep Ahlawat) whose scariness is enhanced by eyeballs that appear to be entirely white, devoid of irises or pupils. AK wants to marry Simrit (Pooja Chopra) — the daughter of a local leader — to ease his foray into politics, but Simrit runs away, rather than marry such a monster.

Her escape attempt is nearly foiled, until she literally runs into Karan at the bus station. Karan beats up a dozen bad guys in spectacular fashion, and the two flee AK together.

Despite the sudden shift from a Chinese torture chamber to an Indian small town, the narrative is really straightforward: two young, good-looking people fall in love while running for their lives. The action is the main attraction, but in the “Making of” extra on the DVD, Shah and Ghosh specify that this is first and foremost a love story.

That’s part of the reason why Commando is so successful: it’s very, very Indian. This is not The Raid: Redemption, another realistic action movie (which I loved) whose main character is a somber, seemingly invincible he-man. Commando is a fairly traditional, Bollywood-style romance, complete with an item number and a love song set on a beach. Only this romance results in lots and lots of dead people.

Commando is brutal but not overly gory, involving lots of blood but no guts. The South African action team that choreographed the fight sequences did a wonderful job showcasing Jamwal’s athleticism, honed from years of training in the south Indian martial art kalaripayattu.

Jamwal is spectacular in Commando. He plays his character as gruff, but not humorless. His grace and ferocity in fight sequences is thrilling to watch. I’m hopeful that Jamwal’s brand of full-throttle fighting will shift the standards for future Bollywood action fare away from the ubiquitous slap-fests reliant upon heroes in harnesses dodging bullets in Matrix-style slow motion.

Chopra does a nice job making Simrit more than just a damsel in distress. Simrit is brave and ready to fight, even if she does scream when she sees a snake, early on. She’s able to keep up with Karan as they run through the forest, having wisely packed a pair of sensible shoes in her getaway bag.

Ahlawat’s AK is one of my favorite Hindi-film villains in a long time. AK is truly scary, and not just because of his eyes. Not content to play the aloof don and let his underlings do his dirty work for him, he directly kills a lot of people himself, even those who’ve helped in his pursuit of Karan and Simrit. The fact that he follows up a bunch of murders with a dance number featuring Natalia Kaur just makes AK all the more sinister.

In addition to the great stunts and performances, Commando is a beautiful movie to look at. Sejal Shah’s cinematography captures the wonder of the forests around Manali, where the bulk of the chase footage was shot. The film’s score is varied, with everything from surf rock to metal to mariachi music.

I hope Commando inspires Indian filmmakers to take more risks with the type of action films they make. Jamwal’s impressive performance should make him a hot commodity in Bollywood. This is one of my favorite Hindi films of the year.

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