Tag Archives: Vinod Khanna

Movie Review: Koyelaanchal (2014)

Koyelaanchal0.5 Stars (out of 4)

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The only info one needs when deciding whether to watch Koyelaanchal is that director Ashu Trikha includes multiple flashbacks from the perspective of an infant. Let me repeat: A baby has flashbacks in a violent drama about the coal mafia.

The fact that Koyelaanchal is about the coal mafia is the only fact anyone can be sure of regarding the movie. It’s so disorganized that it’s never established which character is the film’s protagonist. It could be the coal don, Saryu Bhan Singh (Vinod Khanna). It could be the don’s hired killer, Karua (Vipinno). It could be Nisheeth (Suniel Shetty), the government bureaucrat sent to clean up the town. It could be the baby.

Koyelaanchal begins with a glimpse into life in the title town. A bunch of people die in a bunch of separate incidents, though it’s not clear why. All that’s clear is that the police don’t care and that Saryu Bhan is the town bigwig.

Nisheeth arrives from Delhi, ready to lay down the law. He’s disabused of that notion when Karua slits a guy’s throat in front of him, and the police chief (Deepraj Rana) says the victim probably had it coming.

On Saryu Bhan’s orders, Karua attempts to scare Nisheeth by shooting at him and stealing his car. Uh oh: Nisheeth’s baby is in the back seat! Queue the interval break.

After spending the first half establishing that Karua is Saryu Bhan’s cold-blooded, mindless lapdog — he washes Saryu Bhan’s feet and drinks the wash water, for Pete’s sake — the bulk of the second half of the movie is spent on an unbelievable comedy/character redemption arc as Karua takes care of the baby.

Asking the audience to suddenly find it charming as Karua — a guy who killed a labor protestor on stage at a rally using a dancer’s scarf — gets grossed out by a baby peeing is absurd. But it’s not as absurd as the baby’s flashbacks.

The baby watches as the admittedly fit Karua does push ups on the floor of their hideout shack. The camera fades to black-and-white as the baby fondly remembers being carried by Nisheeth on his shoulders. Cut back to the present, where the wistful baby crawls over to Karua and climbs on his back. Karua resumes his push ups, giving the baby the ride he so longed for.

If that’s not enough to make you puke, Koyelaanchal is full of enough blood, gore, vomit, and urine to make you do so.

Nisheeth yells a lot, but he does next to nothing to save his kidnapped child. Saryu Bhan might be a compelling character if Trikha had allotted time for character development, instead of wasting time by having random Maoists blow stuff up periodically.

There’s nothing in it to make me recommend Koyelaanchal. The few laughs it generates are completely unintentional. (Drinking game idea: take a shot every time Karua points a gun at the baby.) Even the dramatic elements aren’t interesting enough to overcome the movie’s sluggish pace and underdeveloped characters.



Movie Review: Dabangg 2 (2012)

DABANGG_2_Poster2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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2010’s Dabangg was such a good time that it set a high bar for its sequel. Dabangg 2 is almost as much fun, but it inadvertently raises some ethical questions about heroism and modern systems of justice.

Salman Khan returns as Chulbul Pandey, a charming, unstoppable supercop. Having cleared his small hometown of criminals in the first movie, Pandey requests a transfer to the larger city of Kanpur. Almost immediately, he becomes a hero to the citizens of Kanpur and the nemesis of a local gangster and aspiring politician named Baccha (Prakash Raj).

The opening twenty minutes of the movie are amazing. Scenes from the original Dabangg play during the opening credits to bring the audience up to speed. Then Pandey beats up a warehouse full of goons before abruptly breaking into song. It’s an obvious rehash of the best sequence from the original film, but it’s just as enjoyable the second time.

Chulbul Pandey is far an away Salman Khan’s best character of recent years. Unlike many of his other action roles that take themselves deathly seriously, Khan gets to have fun with Pandey. He plays pranks on his father (played by Vinod Khanna), flirts with his wife, Rajjo (Sonakshi Sinha), and is adored by his fellow police officers, with whom he’s willing to share credit for his good deeds. In this role, Khan is — dare I say — kind of cute.

Sinha, reprising her role from the first film, is a drag. Though Pandey dotes on Rajjo like the newlywed he is, she spends the whole film either annoyed or depressed. She perks up for a few dance numbers, but that’s it.

Similarly useless is Pandey’s younger brother, Makhi, played by Khan’s younger brother (and the film’s director), Arbaaz. The younger Khan delivers his lines flatly, and a long-running gag about Makhi trying to solve a riddle doesn’t survive the translation from Hindi to English. I appreciate Arbaaz Khan’s contributions behind the camera more than his contributions in front of it.

The story is slow to get going. It’s obvious that there will eventually be a showdown between Pandey and Baccha, but Baccha doesn’t make any real threats against Pandey or his family until the mid-point of the movie. The climactic showdown is worth the wait.

The impetus for Baccha to act comes when Pandey brutally murders one of the bad guys in front of a crowd of people that includes his fellow police officers, rather than take the bad guy into custody. The story proceeds as though this is acceptable, and the morality of Pandey’s act is never discussed.

This is a problem because, until this point, Pandey is unquestionably virtuous. (I’m choosing to ignore his habitual thievery since he rarely steals from working-class people.) One of the gun-toting bad guys declares himself judge, jury, and executioner right before Pandey kills him, even though Pandey’s life isn’t in immediate danger. By ignoring the rules of democracy and bypassing the judicial system, how is Pandey any different from the man he kills?

Perhaps these are deeper questions than are supposed to be posed to a film about a guy who makes his entrance by driving a Jeep through a brick wall. Though the film is light on gore and skin, it’s not completely family friendly. In addition to Pandey’s morally troubling act, some of the brutality inflicted on his family is especially grim. After watching Dabangg 2, kids may have more questions for their parents than, “Did you see Salman hit that guy in the nuts with a pole?”


Movie Review: Players (2012)

3 Stars (out of 4)

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With source material as rich as not one, but two, versions of The Italian Job to draw from, Players should be a slam dunk. Wisely, filmmaking duo Abbas-Mustan take the best aspects from their inspiration and add enough new touches to make it an enjoyable Indian action flick.

My biggest fear before seeing Players was that it wouldn’t be able to hold interest for 2 hours and 47 minutes. But Players is about as well-paced as a nearly three-hour-long movie can be, hitting plot points at the right times so as not to let the action drag.

Abhishek Bachchan anchors the film as Charlie Masceranas, a career thief. He learns from a dying friend about the Russian government’s plans to transfer a large amount of gold bars to Romania. With the help of his imprisoned mentor, Victor (Vinod Khanna), Charlie assembles a team of experts to execute a daring heist.

The team includes Charlie’s sometimes girlfriend, Riya (Bipasha Basu), master of disguise Sunny (Omi Vaidya), explosives expert Bilal (Sikander Kher), illusionist Ronnie (Bobby Deol) and a hacker named Spider (Neil Nitin Mukesh).

So as not to appear to condone thievery, the filmmakers give the crew corny motivations for stealing the gold. Charlie wants to fulfill Victor’s dream of opening India’s largest orphanage. Ronnie, a former magician, wants to build a fully automated house for his daughter, who was accidentally paralyzed during one of his tricks.

Ronnie gets some unintentionally hilarious lines when he explains the end of his stage career: “Magic doesn’t do anything. It only ruins lives.”

Thankfully, Sunny, Bilal, Spider and Riya are just in it for the money. When the plan goes awry, Victor’s daughter, Naina (Sonam Kapoor), comes to Charlie’s aid.

There are some nice interactions between the team members. Sunny and Bilal are funny sparring partners, and Naina’s crush on Charlie creates tension between her and Riya. Charlie is the anchor, but this really is an ensemble film.

Besides the star cast, the movie’s main attractions are its action sequences. The gold-theft scene is tense, and the car chases are pretty good. Strange editing and artificially sped-up shots keep the fight scenes from looking their best, but interesting locales like Russia and New Zealand elevate the whole experience.

A tendency toward corniness pervades Players, to its detriment. It keeps the film from achieving the snappy sophistication of the films that inspired it. In addition to Charlie’s and Ronnie’s Robin Hood motivations, the score heavy-handedly tries to provoke emotions.

The most pandering element in Players is the needless inclusion of comic actor Johnny Lever, a regular feature in Abbas-Mustan films. I don’t find Lever funny, or more accurately, I don’t find the outrageous characters he always plays funny. That directors feel the need to pair his appearances with wacky sound effects just makes things worse. Any spell the movie could hope to cast is broken when Lever appears onscreen.

Another element that can’t be overlooked is how pointedly the movie targets a male audience. Basu and Kapoor both have a couple of forgettable dance numbers requiring to them to gyrate in skimpy dresses. Another female character is viewed through frosted glass as she showers. Almost every Anglo woman in the movie is kitted out in hot pants.

Yet the male stars aren’t required to doff their clothes, apart from a brief scene featuring Mukesh in a bubble bath. Bachchan and Deol are regular romantic leads, and Kher is clearly fit. Why not work in a shirtless shot of one of them, in the name of gender equality?

The thread of sexism isn’t limited to who’s asked to expose the most skin. Naina and Riya are both asked to play the role of seductress to aid the team, which features five men (six, including Victor) and only two women. Language denigrating women goes largely unchallenged by the male heroes.

That said, Players works as an action film. It hits the right notes often enough to sustain excitement for almost three hours, which is the primary objective of any action movie.