Tag Archives: Vikas Bahl

Movie Review: Shaandaar (2015)

Shaandaar3 Stars (out of 4)

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Shaandaar (“Fabulous“) is not as polished as director Vikas Bahl’s runaway hit from 2014, Queen, yet there’s plenty to like in this romantic comedy. Bahl’s unique vision warrants a viewing.

Driving to his eldest daughter’s wedding at an English palace, Bipin (Pankaj Kapur) literally runs into a haughty motorcyclist (played by Shahid Kapoor). They engage in a war of words, inflamed by the googly eyes the biker makes at Bipin’s younger daughter, Alia (Alia Bhatt).

Bipin is dismayed when the biker turns out to be the family’s wedding coordinator, Jagjinder Joginder. Jagjinder immediately charms the bride-to-be, Isha (Sanah Kapoor), and her tough-as-nails grandmother (Sushma Seth).

As if the troublesome wedding coordinator weren’t bad enough, Bipin’s future in-laws — the Fundwanis — are a bunch of tacky boors. The groom-to-be, Robin (Vikas Verma), is a musclebound narcissist who shows up to his own wedding shirtless.

Shaandaar has a number of selling points. The relationship Bipin shares with his daughters is warm, though he’s particularly fond of Alia, whom he adopted as a little girl. Alia and Isha are protective of one another, especially since Isha’s mother and grandmother are quick to remind Alia that she is not Bipin’s biological child.

Alia and Shahid make a fun and attractive couple. Though both of their characters are precocious, Alia’s eyes twinkle with a particular mischievousness. Their frequent daydreams manifest in the form of flashbacks and hallucinations. When Jagjinder first sees Alia, he’s so smitten that he sees the dragonflies embroidered on her sweater take flight and swarm colorfully about her.

Some of the film’s flashbacks are animated, with Naseeruddin Shah on voiceover duty. The very opening to Shaandaar is a cartoon retelling of Alia’s adoption that explains the tension within the family. Though clever, the sequence is overly long.

That’s perhaps Shaandaar‘s single biggest problem: it’s too long. There are a number of scenes that should have been cut, since they fail to advance the plot or tell us anything about the characters that we don’t already know.

On a couple of occasions, the film’s negative characters — like Grandma, Robin, and Harry Fundwani (Sanjay Kapoor) — use offensive insults. For example, Harry asks a squinting Jagjinder if he is Chinese. The use of these insults is supposed to reflect poorly upon the speaker, but there’s ample evidence that the villains are the villains. The movie doesn’t need to trade in harmful stereotypes in order to establish that.

Robin’s character is the most offensive. His whole storyline is that he doesn’t want to marry Isha because she is overweight, and he makes sure that everyone knows that he finds her unappealing. While Isha has a moment of triumph later in the film, it feels as though it comes at too high a cost.

In fact, it’s time to retire the trope that marrying an overweight woman is a form of punishment. Movies like Dum Laga Ke Haisha and even Shaandaar empower their female characters, but too often the trope is used as a punchline. Akshay Kumar’s character in Singh Is Bliing flees the state rather than marry a heavy woman. It’s a tired plot device. Bollywood storytellers need to find a new reason for male characters not to want to marry female characters, preferably one that doesn’t have to do with the female characters’ looks.

As narrowly defined by her appearance as her character is, Sanah Kapoor is really terrific as Isha. Sanah comes across naturally, despite this being her first film. Perhaps acting alongside her brother (Shahid) and father (Pankaj) helped evoke such a comfortable, charming performance.

Another highlight of Shaandaar is the choreography by Bosco-Caesar that accompanies Amit Trivedi’s catchy tunes. It’s hard to resist dancing along to “Shaam Shaandaar” and “Gulaabo.”

Shaandaar warrants a special warning for international viewers like myself. The movie is less accessible than other mainstream Hindi films. From a practical standpoint, the English subtitles appear on screen in a white font with no drop-shadow, rendering them invisible against light backgrounds. When the characters speak in English, the words spoken are often different from those written in the subtitles.

There are additional problems from a contextual standpoint. Harry — the head of the Fundwani family — talks incessantly about his status as a “Sindhi” ambassador and his feeling that every person of repute is a “Sindhi.” The significance of being a Sindhi isn’t explained at all, which is frustrating, because this is all Harry ever talks about.

Because of Shaandaar‘s flaws, it can’t be called a complete success. It fulfills genre obligations by being both funny and romantic, but it’s definitely not a movie for everyone. Still, it doesn’t look like any other romantic comedies out there, and it deserves accolades for that. If only more filmmakers were as ambitious as Vikas Bahl.

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Opening October 22: Shaandaar

One of fall’s biggest Bollywood releases hits Chicago area theaters on Thursday, October 22, 2015. Director Vikas Bahl’s romantic comedy Shaandaar stars Shahid Kapoor and Alia Bhatt.

Shaandaar opens on Thursday at the Regal Gardens Stadium 1-6 in Skokie, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, Regal Round Lake Beach 18 in Round Lake Beach, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, Marcus Addison Cinema in Addison, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 24 min.

Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2 carries over at the Cantera 17 and South Barrington 30, which also holds over Jazbaa and Talvar.

Meet the Patels opens on Friday, October 23, at the Cantera 17 and carries over for another week at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago , Wilmette Theatre in Wilmette, and Regal Lincolnshire Stadium 21 in Lincolnshire.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend include Kanche (Telugu) at Muvico Rosemont 18 in Rosemont and Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge, which also carries 10 Endrathukulla (Tamil), Bruce Lee – The Fighter (Telugu), and Rudhrama Devi (Telugu). All movies have English subtitles.

Movie Review: Queen (2014)

QueenMoviePoster4 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon
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Queen is the epitome of a feelgood movie, yet it’s substantive and truthful, thanks to the remarkably well-crafted character at its core. Writer-director Vikas Bahl and actress Kangana Ranaut give life to Rani Mehra, a woman whose journey affirms the virtues of courage and an open mind.

On the day before her wedding, Rani’s fiance, Vijay (Rajkummar Rao), calls off the marriage. Rani (whose name means “queen”) locks herself in her room, reliving memories of Vijay’s initial courtship.

Flashbacks to early romance are commonplace in Hindi films, though they generally don’t advance the story so much as provide a convenient place for a dance number. In the case of Queen, the flashbacks inform the audience as to why Vijay’s abrupt change of heart comes as such a shock to Rani and her family.

This period of mourning also establishes what a loving family Rani has. Her mother, father, and younger brother are worried and protective, but they don’t blame her for the breakup or pressure her to reconcile.

Rani is finally motivated to act by the words of her very cool grandmother, who encourages her granddaughter to go experience the world, since one never knows what the future holds. Rani decides to go on her dream honeymoon to Paris and Amsterdam, even if she has to go by herself.

Rani’s arrival in Paris begins her fish-out-of-water adventure. She experiences all the typical frustrations of traveling in a country where one doesn’t speak the language, including a funny and disastrous attempt at ordering a meal off a French menu. A clever riff on a chase scene involves Rani running in desperation to find someplace in the city without a view of the gargantuan Eiffel Tower, a symbol of her failed relationship.

The heroine’s fortunes change when she’s taken under the wing of Vijayalakshmi (Lisa Haydon), an endearingly slutty, half-Indian hotel employee. Vijayalakshmi gives Rani the tools and courage to navigate her new world and introduces her to experiences she would’ve avoided in the past. Ranuat’s performance when Rani finally lets loose at a disco is fierce, funny, and bewitching.

Vijayalakshmi embodies one of the movie’s main themes: that there are good people all over the world, from various cultures and living a variety of lifestyles. From Vijayalakshmi, Rani learns that being exposed to new ideas and experimenting with new activities doesn’t compromise one’s identity or morality.

One of the delights of Queen is the goodness of all the characters in the film, besides the villainous Vijay. Rani leaves Vijayalakshmi and meets a trio of new friends in Amsterdam — Taka from Japan (played by Jeffrey Chee Eng Ho), Tim from France (Guithob Joseph), and Oleksander from Russia (Mish Boyko) — as well as an emotional Italian chef (Marco Canadea), who pushes Rani to prove something to herself and to the world.

The kindness of the supporting characters is important because the primary conflict in Queen is internal. Brief flashbacks throughout the film establish that Rani has been too passive in the past, lacking the determination to do what she wants. Only Vijay takes advantage of this tendency, but the point of Rani’s journey is for her to realize that she’s an individual who deserves to find and follow her own dreams.

The international supporting cast is uniformly likable and talented. Haydon stands out, playing the id to Rani’s superego. The costume department deserves kudos for supplying Vijayalakshmi with a flashy, slightly scandalous wardrobe that delights Rani’s father and brother when they catch a glimpse of the new friend via Skype.

Kangana Ranuat is at the core of Queen‘s success. She makes Rani into a character that the audience feels like we really know, and someone we would want to know in real life. Her journey ends on such an optimistic note that part of me hopes that Bahl writes a sequel. I want to know what happens to Rani next.

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