Review: Dum Laga Ke Haisha will win your heart!

Dum-Laga-Ke-HaishaWe like to think of ourselves as special. We like to believe we deserve someone special. We mistake special for perfection. When we realise what it truly means, we come of age.

Writer and director Sharat Katariya’s Dum Laga Ke Haisha tells the story of two such people – Prem Prakash Tiwari (Ayushmann Khurrana) and Sandhya Verma (Bhumi Pednekar). But the beauty of his narration is how intimately it soaks in the milieu, the mood and the melody of its time – 1995, Haridwar.

Katariya doesn’t allow himself to be burdened by his choice of venue and its sanctified reputation. Tourists or temples aren’t forcibly filling the frames. Instead what we witness is the everyday aspirations of lower middle-class Haridwarians, their congested homes, unseen bankside views of Ganga, tiny shops lined across potholed streets, a gorgeous, grand library and old-school workout clubs.

Two decades behind in time, it’s a different world, this Haridwar. Don’t let the cow enter the shop, warns Prem’s father (Sanjay Mishra) quite matter-of-factly to his petulant son preoccupied in recording mixed tapes for customers. Humare yahan mann pasand gaano ki recording uchit mulyon pe ho jaati hai, reads a note on the glass door of their dingy store.

A Kumar Sanu fanboy, Prem ceases to be Lappu, as his family address him, once he puts on his headphones and compiles music with utmost dedication. He’d probably make a great music jockey but the half-sweater and ochre pants-clad high school dropout is much too Lappu, er, weak-willed to make something of his half-baked ambitions.

All his hopes for a Princess Charming are dashed when financial crunch in the family pressures him into marrying a plus-size belle during a mass wedding ritual. Sandhya’s educated, job-ready credentials make her a perfect fit for his circumstances if not heart.

While our perky bride seems to make the most of it, Prem gets nauseous by the second. Their 111-minutes long journey (deft editing by Namrata Rao) from awkward to awe-inspiring is why this adorable romance is a must watch.

Hindi films aren’t exactly known for their sensitivity where overweight characters are concerned but Katariya builds his leading man’s embarrassment over his big bride with thoughtful nuances. And Khurrana gets the tone of this smothered, vexed but essentially vulnerable chap just right. In trying not to play hero, he becomes one.

His co-star and Yash Raj Films’ latest discovery Bhumi Pednekar is quite a find. Nicely done for a brand that kick started the size zero trend, YRF. Dum Laga Ke Haisha banks on Bhumi to make her character accessible enough to relate yet spirited enough to inspire.

The newcomer doesn’t let you down and renders Sandhya worth rooting for, racing for. If her feisty side tackles her new home singlehandedly, the incorrigible romantic cannot resist catching fond glimpses of her grumpy husband from the corner of the eye.

Dum-Laga-Ke-Haisha-Having said that, there’s a scene where Prem behaves like a complete jerk around Sandhya. She doesn’t take it lying down either. It’s a stunning instance of how poorly demonstrated displeasure can quickly snowball into irreconcilable differences. Dum Laga Ka Haisha is a series of such riveting moments that make you moist in the eye and chuckle with joy.

Speaking of the latter, there’s a funny sequence where Sandhya tries to seduce her stiff significant other into submission by setting up the mood armed with Disclosure VHS and silky nightie.

This isn’t the only droll part. How Prem’s mom (Alka Amin) reacts to it is.

Amin’s comic timing is priceless at all times. As is Sheeba Chhaddha’s sharp-tongue aunt and her believable, melodrama-devoid household squabbles with Sandhya.

Here it must be added that Katariya receives solid support from his cast and crew.

Quite a few from Team Ankhon Dekhi collaborate. Sanjay Mishra is reliably crusty; Seema Pahwa is perfect as the hassled, small-town mom, Chandrachoor Rai, Mahesh Sharma do well as Khurrana’s sneaky and supportive cronies respectively whereas Shrikant Verma steals quite a few scenes with his chaste Hindi punch-lines (Hum toh thehre pracheen Bharat ke avshesh) as the wisdom-spewing Shakha Babu.

Dialogues are sheer joy of this experience where “moti saandni” and “stree sukh ya shararik vivashtha?” happily co-exist.

As with Ankhon Dekhi, Meenal Agarwal’s production design is authentic in its depiction of life in the heaving interiors. It’s a vision cinematographer Manu Anand beholds and beautifies in compositions of bright marigold strings adorning pale green walls that linger on like the aftertaste of this film.

I wasn’t too thrilled by the background score, which wears strong heard-before air to it and often overlaps the actual sounds of a scene. No complaints from Anu Malik’s soundtrack though. Moh moh ke dhaage’s dulcet tune and Dard karara’s retro vibes, penned by the versatile Varun Grover, cover quite a spectrum.

Maybe it’s a tendency to look romantically at the decade that’s closest to you but the 1990s were a fanciful decade. DD’s iconic Mile Sur Mera Tumhara trills in the background, Shah Rukh Khan stutters for Kiran on cable television, Kumar Sanu is the closest we get to divine intervention –yet Dum Laga Ke Haisha is subtle in the nostalgia it invokes, it has to be; the characters are living in the moment not basking in its influence.

Watch this utterly warm film and relive it with them.

Stars: 4

This review was first published on rediff.com. 

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Score bore: Ab Tak Chhappan 2 review

Ab Tak ChhappanWill he? Won’t he? There’s an attractive unpredictability to Nana Patekar’s contemplations on celluloid. It adds to his edge, calm and madness, or should I simply say – range.

A decade ago, when he played encounter specialist Sadhu Agashe in Shimit Amin’s slick Ab Tak Chhappan for the first time, he realised this virtue to its fullest potential revealing a refined facet of his real, rough persona.

At 64, he steps into the maverick cop’s shoes for a sequel, helmed by stunt director Aejaz Gulab, relying on his instincts to ginger up an unexceptional script. I don’t doubt Gulab’s regard for the original (and its drumstick references) but he’s completely out of his league as far as the generic follow up is concerned.

Gone is the crisp pace, the gritty gyaan, the deadpan violence, the crucial parallels of a cop’s personal and professional extremes that distinguished Ab Tak Chhappan from other films of its genre, an approach seen as recent as Rani Mukerji’s Mardaani. This one’s full of muted expletives, a crummy reproduction of the cat-and-mouse phone calls between cop and crook, cheap production values and crotch-obsessed low camera angles.

Gulab labours to establish the need for Agashe’s comeback — the first fifteen minutes of the sequel are dedicated to convincing the Goa-retired vigilante how his return is the only way Mumbai’s police force can save face and curb down increasing crime rates.

Agashe, I don’t blame him, is comfortable around his blissfully bucolic setting – frying fish in an open air kitchen, playing marbles with local kids, paddling a boat in unpolluted waters and slicing off fibrous coconuts for tender malai. He’s a lot more sociable around his son Aman (same kid all grown up, Tanmay Jahagirdar) now; they bond over piano and omelettes in indifferently written scenes.

It takes just a lame ‘my dad is a cop not fisherman’ prodding from Aman to propel Agashe back in business. This time a surly Ashutosh Rana fills in for Yashpal Sharma’s jealous junior while wheelchair-bound Raj Zutshi is at the receiving end of Patekar’s telephonic barbs. They’re the comic relief in this drivel.

Ab Tak ChhappanGul Panag plays a bespectacled crime reporter in blue shirts, jeans and smoky eyes – it’s the most uniform aspect of her performance. Dilip Prabhavalkar and Vikram Gokhale round up as khaki-clad politicians.

You know where this is going already, don’t you? Sadly, Ab Tak Chhappan 2 is so terribly obvious in its deviousness, there’s not even a smidgen of surprise to expect.

Nana Patekar tries to hold it all together with an alacrity and prudence that deserves a Denzel Washington framework but keeping his head high is the best he can do in the face of predictable easy targets and turncoats. It’s time to stop keeping score.

Stars: 2

This review was first published on rediff.com.

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Jawani Diwani: Frothy, fashionable ode to the ’70s!

A still from Jawani Diwani.I am a sucker for nostalgia, be it mine or someone else’s.

So it was quite a treat to watch a film about a bunch of college-goers, played by actors from my parents’ generation, with my mother in tow.

Narendra Bedi’s 1972 campus romance Jawani Diwani, starring Randhir Kapoor and Jaya Bhaduri, captures the exuberant air of the flower power generation against a classic Bollywood narrative and Rahul Dev Burman’s rollicking soundtrack with such unapologetic abandon, there’s little to complain.

Here rebellion is attractive and responsibility is not. Lecture-ready parents don’t understand or try to bridge the disturbing lack of communication. They’re either a victim of their own conditioning or preoccupied with office to do the needful, feel teachers.

Except Jawani Diwani, produced by Ramesh Behl, is much too flamboyant, fashionable and frivolous to stray from its cheery pace and dwell excessively on the afore-mentioned problems of youth.

It’s a costume drama, really — an ode to the psychedelic seventies that gets all its heart and beats from RD’s sound — one so eclectic, pulsating, melodic, sexy and ageless.

Lyricist Anand Bakshi adds to the sensuality (Kaliyon ko khilne se pehle nahi todte) and sweetness (Dekh ke bas ek hi jhalak ho gaye hum paagal) blissfully oblivious of its remix potential.

A still from Jawani Diwani.There isn’t much in terms of plot.

Randhir Kapoor falls in love with well-heeled Iftekhar’s daughter (Jaya B) over orchestrated bike breakdowns and group antakshris. That’s a problem because decades ago, his elder brother (Balraj Sahni) married Iftekhar’s sister (Nirupa Roy) against his wishes and strained ties for good.

Director Bedi realises where the real masti lies and focuses on the college banter involving Randhir’s boisterous gang of friends (includes a kurta-clad Paintal, a girl nicknamed Bhaijaan), on-going rivalry with Narendra Nath’s show-off Reggie and the numerous pranks and bets they engage in, to win over the pretty new admission (Jaya). This would go on to become a beaten-to-death pattern of how college kids behave in films to follow.

As an aside, this ‘all play no work’ college you see in Jawani Diwani is the prestigious engineering establishment, IIT Bombay.
Jawani Diwani prides itself on casting against type.

A K Hangal’s straightforward principal is a far cry from his pleading, poor guy roles.

Nirupa Roy refrains from her tear-jerking tactics to deliver the toupee-sporting Sahni’s no-nonsense better half. She’s whistle-worthy cool in the scene she ticks off her husband for going in martyr mode, “Is ghar ke liye tumne jo kuch kiya hai tumhara farz tha. Maine jo kuch kiya hai mera farz tha, kisine kissi pe ehsaan nahi kiya. Phir kabhi apni kurbaani ka bhaashan mat dena.”

Satyen Kappu as Randhir Kapoor’s goofy uncle proves there’s more to him than a glum face.

A still from Jawani Diwani.Bollywood’s beloved cop Jagdish Raj shows his comic chops in the hilarious “Tumhare kitne baap hain?” episode wherein Kappu, Viju Khote and he land at Iftekhar’s home simultaneously insisting they’re RK Jr’s dad.

Even if Kapoor is tailor-made as the imprudent brat who gets away with a lot of mischief flashing those puppy dog eyes, Jaya Bhaduri gets a hip makeover in bell sleeves, bell bottoms and bouffant, mouthing lines like, ‘Dil toh is tarah bheja hai jaise bijli ka bill ho.’

That same year the actress also appeared in Gulzar’s Parichay in an aesthetic she’s most identified with — sensitive, sensible and substantial.

Her kitschy clothes and elaborate hairstyles lack the effortless chic of Zeenat Aman and tagging along a rag doll (a prop to signify her motherless, affection-deficit upbringing) to college is creepy even for the seventies. Amazingly though, the lady pulls off the charade and never runs out of good humour lending Jawani Diwani its madcap edge.

Both in their mid 20s then, she shares a fizzy chemistry with the frolicking, flippant Kapoor. The man’s a bouncy ball of impulses whether he’s reading love letters perched on a toilet seat, stomaching jokes about his flab or bringing out the claws at his favourite foe with comic contempt, “Woh Benny ka bacha aaj kutte ka bacha ban gaya hai!”

If this brand of scorn feels familiar, you’re probably a Kader Khan fan like yours truly. Jawani Diwani is his first film as a writer. In an interview to rediff.com, he reveals he made Rs 1,500 on this assignment, which led to an offer of another campus caper, Khel Khel Mein.

A still from Jawani Diwani.Regardless, extra brownie points to the Ponga Pandit hero for doing complete onscreen justice to Kishore Kumar’s animated fervour in Yeh Jawani Hai Diwani, Saamne Yeh Kaun Aaya, Agar Saaz, Jaane Jaan and Nahi Nahi in a way that can only be topped by the legend himself.

His co-singer Asha Bhosle impresses no less showcasing her vocal range in one of my all-time favourite ditties from the RD-Asha oeuvre. The part where she inquires Tum Kahaaaan? (Jaane Jaan Dhoondta) is in equal parts hot and haunting. As is the underrated Hai Tauba Mujhe Tune. Not to forget the trademark Asha touch Nahi Nahi (a solo composition she previously rendered in Bengali as Chokhe Chokhe Kotha Bolo, Sonar Juti) receives in the form of her coy ‘Na-na-na’s.

It’s these magical details, like RD’s ‘rrrreeeraaataraaaturrrraaa-isms’ bubbling in the background when the actors make their way into a brightly lit nightclub that Jawani Diwani finds its essential repeat value.

Like I emphasised earlier, the romp’s prime objective is to entertain. The characters aren’t particularly bright or brave except Balraj Sahni who acts as the voice of reason after his jobless kid brother elopes to settle in domestic bliss with his minor girlfriend.

A still from Jawani Diwani.When the script runs out of romantic schemes, it doles out familial conflict and student activism as an afterthought but, thankfully, wraps up speedily to overstay its welcome.

Director-producer-composer troika of Bedi, Behl and Burman tried to recreate the breezy romance of its Jawani Diwani jodi, once again playing characters called Vijay and Nita, withDil Deewana but it didn’t meet with success.

It doesn’t matter now. What matters is that you’re young just once. And to look back and smile at that time, its colourful reminder in film and how it made you feel is the next best thing.

This column was first published on rediff.com.

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Review: Roy is slow torture!

Roy‘I don’t know yeh film kaise ban gayi,’ wonders Arjun Rampal in one of the most honest moments of the baffling, boring Roy.

That pretty much sums up how I feel after watching this pretentious, problematic, cryptic snooze fest from writer and director Vikramjit Singh.

In the beginning, Roy wears the deception of a psychological drama through its forcibly mysterious characters and their unclear motives.

So there’s Kabir (Arjun Rampal), a stylish Bollywood filmmaker exuding the air of swish upbringing but sensibilities of a gratuitous crowd pleaser. Considering he’s at the helm of a mindless, money-spinning franchise called Guns, it’s absurd how profound he feigns to be with his swanky typewriter and posh paraphernalia.

What’s funnier is that he’s experiencing a writer’s block. Seriously, how bad is this guy if he needs a muse to cook up something as basic as the plot he eventually does in Roy’s movie-within-movie scenario? And so Kabir, a well-known womanizer, finds his inspiration in Ayesha Aamir (Jacqueline Fernandez) while filming his latest project in picturesque Langkawi.

How their bland interactions trigger his creative juices, to write a heist flick no less, is laughable to say the least.

Coming back to Ayesha, she is Bollywood’s idea of beauty with brains. Which means she wears glasses (on and off) and has a real job. She’s a ‘serious’ director, which as you know in movies, translates to specs for women and beard for guys.

I’d buy her sober, superior status if she were a little less vapid in her actions than the women she dismisses. One minute she’s too smart to be the philandering Kabir’s type, next she’s hopping all over Malaysia’s streets in a teenybopper’s wardrobe to the beats of Punjabi pop like some starry-eyed Betty Cooper.

What sparks a connection between the two is the real mystery. Every single rubbish exchange between them is crammed with words like sawaal, jawaab, kahani and khamoshi.

In Roy’s incoherent, vacuous universe of real and make believe, characters just pop in and out randomly and out of context. It’s not even bizarre or experimental; it’s flat out stupid.

Anupam Kher as Kabir’s father, Rajit Kapur as detective, Barun Chanda as art dealer and, above all, Ranbir Kapoor in a role that’s best described as misspent, are part of this casualty.

Ranbir, because of whom the theatre was bustling with teenage girls, gazes at everyone around him with his piercing, patronizing eyes that cannot mask he’s too good for this bunkum. After some time though, those soulful eyes appear as jaded and exhausted as mine. Poor guy struggles to appear interested but it’s hard to look sensible in a script where the gifted actor is made to ask a lady facing her artwork sporting a brush and colour stains, ‘did you paint that?’

RoyUneven at all times, Roy is frustratingly aloof and ambiguous for a script that is about getting into the mind of a creatively dry filmmaker. Some scenes imply an OCD personality but conveniently forget the trait or whatever point it was supposed to make, as the movie progresses.

As Roy’s official leading man, Arjun Rampal never goes beyond a sleepy body language; unwittingly contributing to the enormous lethargy Roy’s narrative ails with. His co-star Jacqueline is even more one-dimensional. For a so-called independent, artistic, unconventional woman, she’s awfully predictable. And all the impeccable styling and flawless ballet on the beach cannot conceal her inability to emote or deliver lines without sounding cosmetic.

Roy is so tangled in its inflated, erratic ideas of a pseudo mystery around parallel lives and loves that it ceases to make sense even before it takes off. But mostly it’s slow torture.

Rating: ½

 This review was first published on rediff.com.

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Khamoshiyan review: A ghost no one takes seriously!

Khamoshiyan PosterGhosts like to hang around dimwits with an uncontrollable libido. It’s convenient, you see.

Only a certified dolt would check into a spooky, vacant hotel and stay on because a mysterious head turner runs it or accept rides, shelter and a suspicious glass of wine from creepy, crooked strangers.

Khamoshiyan, written by Vikram Bhatt and directed by debutant Karan Darra is populated with such oversexed fools and, again, conveniently assumes the viewers will shove their brains in a corner as remote as the mansion on screen to revel in the cheap thrills that ensue.

It all begins when a one-book wonder (Ali Fazal) shaken by his bitter (read five minutes of flat out phoniness) breakup, ventures into the deep, desolate woods of Kashmir seeking inspiration for his next novel. It’s actually South Africa and that’s why such absolute nonexistence of army.

Author fella lands in a secluded redbrick manor filled with all the generic props – swooshing winds, looming paintings, self igniting fireplace, tumbling books, wide stairs, French windows, locked rooms, eerie wine cellars and a vintage radio’s ominous cry– Aayega Aanewala, a low-brow nod to the bizarre, enigmatic genius of Kamal Amrohi’s Mahal.

He’s instantly drawn to the manor’s lady, manager and housekeeper (Sapna Pabbi) as emphasized in the camera’s constant focus on her strategically bared cleavage. All that multitasking, plus nursing a bedridden husband (Gurmeet Chaudhary), would leave anyone sapped but her cold, robotic tone vies for a mystifying stature.

Hum sab apne raaz ke shikaar hain,” she muses as if explaining why Vikram Bhatt’s trapped in a horror rut.

Curious events ascertain that the site is haunted. Only Khamoshiyan is so consumed by its cheesy scares-sex-scares-sex pattern, the upshot is tacky and unintentionally hilarious. At one point, the exasperated ghoul actually has to explain the range of its supernatural mumbo jumbo to Khamoshiyan’s daft protagonists.

This demonic presence is one of the most juvenile representations of evil I’ve witnessed in a while.

As if it’s not humiliating enough that no one takes you seriously, the wretched thing has to resort to form shifting tactics that render it more mutant than monster. Also director Darra, please teach your bhoot some keyboard shortcuts, it’s embarrassing to see how much time it took to delete text from one measly document.

Scenic locales, half-decent actors and a lilting soundtrack keep the hocus pocus tolerable till interval point. Thereafter Khamoshiyan slips into a hopeless mess of time worn ghost busting, freakish sights and comical gems like “Hum yeh laash paidal nahi le jaa sakte.”

Stars: 1.5

 This review was first published in rediff.com.

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