This is the sixth “worst movies of the year” post I’ve written, and every year the worst movies share the same problems: bad plot construction, unintentionally unlikable protagonists, and the reprehensible treatment of female characters. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)
Most of this year’s crop of bad movies have the standard problems, but I give credit to Zila Ghaziabad for making it onto the list for a whole new reason: failure to appreciate the strength of the Censor Board’s opposition to smoking.
While all Indian filmmakers know that scenes in which a character smokes are likely to be tagged with an onscreen warning that reads, “Cigarette smoking is injurious to health,” director Anand Kumar refused to capitulate in Zila Ghaziabad. As a result, the warning appears onscreen for nearly half of the movie. It’s so distracting that I’m almost convinced it was deliberate and that the whole movie is Kumar’s dig at the Censor Board.
Among movies that stunk in more conventional fashion, Bajatey Raho, Bullett Raja, and Fukrey were full of plot holes that never should’ve made it out of a first draft, let alone into a finished project. Fukrey wins bonus points for a racist scene in which a character refers to a group of black bodyguards as the “Chicago Bulls.”
I, Me aur Main and Ramaiya Vastavaiya were hampered by really, really unlikeable lead characters. Not to be outdone, Grand Masti featured not one, but three total jerks in leading roles. I’m awarding bonus points to Grand Masti for racism, sexism, and making a joke about gang rape.
Grand Masti wasn’t the only movie to try to make light of rape or treat it as a plot device. The threat of rape was used to provoke the male leads in R… Rajkumar and Himmatwala. Both movies try to make that case that a woman’s only defense against rape is a strong male family member or boyfriend.
As patronizing as that idea is, it’s still not as abhorrent as the violently sexist message of my worst film of 2013: 3G. This poorly written horror movie cites pornography as the primary reason romantic relationships fail, but never suggests that the problem lies with those who view porn. Instead, it explicitly blames the women who perform in porn (and implicitly blames any woman with a sex drive). Want to get rid of porn? Kill all the porn stars!
At the same time that the movie blames sexually active women for provoking the violence committed against them, directors Shantanu & Sheershak go out of their way to portray actress Sonal Chauhan as a sex object. The camera ogles her breasts and buttocks while she writhes around on the beach and on a kitchen island (something I’m guessing she doesn’t do for fun when she’s at home alone).
Shantanu & Sheershak fail to recognize their own hypocrisy. Who’s more responsible for Chauhan’s depiction as a sex object: Chauhan — a paid performer — or the men who told her what to do and how to pose, filmed her, paid her, and then counted on others to pay to watch what they filmed?
Two more new Hindi movies are set to open in the Chicago area on March 1, 2013. The romantic drama I, Me Aur Main stars John Abraham as a pampered man-child opposite Chitrangada Singh and Prachi Desai.
Director Ram Gopal Varma’s thriller The Attacks of 26/11 also opens in area theaters on Friday. Given the relative freshness of the wounds inflicted by the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, I’m curious to see if RGV will rein in some of his more eccentric directorial quirks and tell a more somber, straightforward story.
The Attacks of 26/11 opens on Friday at all of the above theaters and has a listed runtime of 1 hr. 59 min.
When a movie is as crude and inept as Zila Ghaziabad, it’s hard to know what to prioritize when describing why it’s so horrible. The bad acting or the nonexistent story structure are both good places to start, but they miss what the film is really about: cigarettes.
Zila Ghaziabad is preceded by a two-minute video that graphically showcases the ways cigarette smoke ravages the human body. A voice-over implores the audience not to smoke. Then, throughout the entire film, every single time a character is shown smoking a cigarette or puffing on a hookah, a subtitle appears in the bottom right corner of the screen that reads: “Cigarette smoking is injurious to health.”
Because the vast majority of the characters in the film smoke, the warning appears on screen through almost half the movie, becoming the dominant image of the entire film. With just a hint of foresight into the likely dictates of the Censor Board, director Anand Kumar could’ve trimmed out a few shots of his characters lighting up and kept the audience focused on the story.
However, perhaps the focus is exactly where Kumar wants it to be. I posit that Zila Ghaziabad is really an anti-smoking parable and not a gangster movie. Vivek Oberoi plays the presumptive hero, a teacher named Satbeer. He’s admonished for smoking early in the film by his elder brother, and he abstains ever after. By the end of the movie, Sanjay Dutt’s maverick cop character, Pritam Singh, takes pity on the teacher because, “There was something about Satbeer that touched my heart.” Avoiding tobacco equals moral righteousness.
The short version of Zila Ghaziabad‘s story is that a guy named Fakira (Sunil Grover) gets jealous of his boss’s increasing reliance on Satbeer and causes a whole bunch of problems because of it. Lots of people get killed and nothing is solved by the end.
Arshad Warsi’s character — a hoodlum named Fauji — reunites with his gang in Ghaziabad and is welcomed home in spectacularly homoerotic fashion. Dozens of dudes break into a song about what a bad-ass Fauji is while firing long-barreled shotguns into the air and thrusting their pelvises with abandon.
The air-humping doesn’t stop there. Two item numbers feature a lone female gyrating while surrounded by dozens of horny guys. Since the lovely lady is obviously heading home with whatever rich guy hired her to dance in the first place, and there aren’t any other women in sight, one can only guess as to how the lathered-up lackeys will expend their sexual energy.
Fakira tricks Fauji into fighting with Satbeer in order to get back into the good graces of his uncle/boss, The Chairman (Paresh Rawal). This sets off a string of retaliatory attacks that draw national media attention to Ghaziabad. The overwhelmed police force turns to the only man who can fix this mess: Pritam Singh.
To say that Singh is a maverick is putting things mildly. While Singh has the requisite super-human strength of other movie supercops (e.g., those played by the likes of Salman Khan and Ajay Devgn), Singh lacks the moral righteousness supercops always have. Singh is at best a trickster, and at worst amoral.
A flashback shows how Singh resolves a dispute between a trio of lawyers who beat a food vendor demanding that the lawyers pay their bill. Singh slaps the lawyers around before handing his gun to the vendor and forcing the man to shoot one of the lawyers in the face.
That’s just par for the course in Zila Ghaziabad, a movie that has no moral center whatsoever. If anything, it appears to advocate violence over non-violence. When Satbeer decides to stop being Mr. Nice Guy, a song proclaims, “Forsaking his studies, he’s out to wage war.” Satbeer, with tears in his eyes, roars and shoves one of Fauji’s guys onto a pile of spikes. He then uses the dead guy’s own cell phone to break the news to Fauji. Satbeer tosses the phone over his shoulder, and I was disappointed when it didn’t explode on impact.
The point is that it doesn’t matter how many people Satbeer kills. He’s the hero because he doesn’t smoke.
There are two new Hindi movies opening in the Chicago area on February 22, 2013, though, sadly, Rise of the Zombie is not one of them. Kai Po Che is a coming-of-age story about three friends trying to establish themselves in Ahmedabad in the early 2000’s.