Munna Michael: A wasted opportunity of Nawaz-Tiger jugalbandi

There’s an obvious chalk and cheese element to Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Tiger Shroff’s pairing.

One started out as an extra and moved his way up to become one of the finest actors in the country, another is a star son whose three films-long showreel mirrors the monotony of the quintessential Bollywood hero.

The two men could not be more different aside from the fact that they have both been judged for their unconventional looks at some point.

You’d imagine director Sabbir Khan would play on their dissimilarity to create moments of genuine frolic and oddball bonhomie. But its staggeringly passé, pedestrian humour and unoriginal script ruin any chance of that happening.

A wasted opportunity at best, Munna Michael sponges off plot points from countless movies about romantic triangles, khiladi-anari chemistry, small-town ambitions, obsessive lover-boys, BFF betrayals and dance competitions till it resembles a recycled mess that’s neither dazzling nor droll.

By the end of its close to two-and-a-half hours running time, I was completely sapped by the dull jokes, lacklustre choreography and phony melodrama.

To be fair, there’s promise in its premise. The idea of playing on strengths and weakness by casting a newbie as a mentor and the master as a fledgling is a curious one. If done with smarts, the subversion can be a trailblazer, but when it’s as muddle headed as Munna Michael, the experience is as absurd as the likelihood of Miyagi taking karate lessons from LaRusso.

Quite early on, Munna Michael announces the kind of sensibility it’s aiming for after a freshly fired Bollywood background dancer (Ronit Roy) picks up an abandoned baby from the dump in the middle of a rainy night and raises him like his own.

The kid grows up (Tiger Shroff) to inherit his father’s love for Michael Jackson’s iconic moves and grabs every chance to remind us why imitation is the best form of flattery.

After all the nightclubs in Mumbai show him and his boogie-woogie cronies the door, the ever smirking Shroff shifts to Delhi and takes a Haryanvi hoodlum hotelier (Nawaz) under his wings. The latter is seeking a crash course in dancing to win over a bar dancer (Niddhi Agerwal) although he’s married and she’s half his age.

It’s the most trivially treated snag in a storyline that goes wild weaving a complexity that its makers are none too adept to handle.

Munna Michael‘s hollowness is as striking as Tiger’s chiselled torso, one that he freely bares in everything from an unzipped hoodie to a doily masquerading as a shirt. Can’t say I am surprised. What’s shocking is the lack of wit.

The only bit of unintended hilarity occurs in the form of filmmaker Farah Khan’s hammy ‘Oh my God’ cries while judging a reality dance show alongside Chitrangda Singh (clearly a fan of Michael Jackson-inspired make-up if not dance) and Shaan.

Given its penchant for dance, there’s zero rhythm in the film’s humour. It may be positioned as a comedy — Nawaz and Pankaj Tripathi, as his overweening younger brother, do try their best to keep things madcap — but Sabbir Khan’s teetering timing, glaring ineptitude for farce and two stiff leads make it a slog to sit through.

As the humourless contrast to an exuberant Nawaz, Tiger struggles to find a balance between straight and amused.  Nawaz embraces the spirit of a character for what it is and has fun with it when necessary. There’s a difference between playing serious and acting serious, something Tiger is yet to grasp. 

Every single time he’s worked under Sabbir (Heropanti, Baaghi), his performance is a replica of the previous collaboration. When in his comfort zone though — dance and dishoom — Tiger’s a livewire. And that’s why I wish the makers had put some more imagination in the steps, which are nothing but rehashed bits of MJ and Hrithik Roshan’s best known moves.

At some point, Tiger points at a mannequin to describe his co-star Nidhhi Agerwal. I am sticking to that description.

Back in the day, the Mithun Chakraborty and Bappi Lahiri combo pulled off a great deal of bunkum on the strength of their unapologetic love for kitsch and camp.

The Millennial Mithun may be a better dancer, but he is tone deaf and has little individuality.

This review was first published on rediff.com.

Share on TumblrSubmit to reddit+1Digg ThisPin it on PinterestShare on LinkedIn
Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Dunkirk Review: Redefining heroes and humanity

War is the ultimate state of chaos.

And its damning, damaging consequences torment the screen from start to finish in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, which jumps slam-bang into the heart of hostility with chilling urgency.

Nolan’s ingenuity in Dunkirk is a departure from high-browed concepts of science and space engaged in reverie-induced heists and time-bending breakthroughs or the distinctive showmanship that revolutionised comic book mythology and fashioned a new language of deception in the history of big reveals.

Not to say it’s short on spectacle. If anything, Dunkirk‘s immersive IMAX detailing and volatile intensity turns up the volume frequently to recreate a relentless climate of bombs and bullets.

Yet, Nolan’s latest tour de force is rooted in the reality of World War II and draws its impressionistic vision by submitting itself to the ideals of survival and nature of defeat minus the bloodshed. It’s not combat, but deliverance that dictates the action in Dunkirk, split as it is into three different timelines (a week, an hour, a day) and mediums (land, water, air), conveying the grim mood and magnitude of its crisis.

Strewn all across the beach at the coastal town of Dunkirk in northern France, countless sombre-faced British and French troops scramble atop a pier waiting to be ferried across the English Channel under the leadership of a constrained naval commander (a wonderfully wry Kenneth Branagh). It’s a long shot since the water is shallow, but also their only way out as Germans inch closer from every quarter.

In the vicinity, sly schemes and growing suspicions plague a young group of privates (Fionn Whitehead, Harry Styles and Aneurin Barnard are a commendable mix of naive and restless) compelling them to confront their individual cynicism and conscience.

On sea, a mariner (Mark Rylance displaying a farsighted wisdom that becomes him) and two teenagers (Tom Glynn-Carney and Barry Keoghan do well), part of a large-scale civilian rescue flotilla, cruise towards the scene of action, bailing out a shell-shocked soldier (a terrific Cillian Murphy) enroute.

On the aerial front, an RAF pilot (a scene-stealing Tom Hardy) gambles with diminishing fuel to thwart the Luftwaffe after his colleague (an able Jack Lowden) has to force land. He’s the single most embodiment of breathtaking daredevilry in a film where almost every single character lays bare his deepest vulnerability.

Nolan doesn’t get into the behind-the-scenes politics of the occasion or personify the enemy beyond weapons, choosing to single-mindedly focus on the challenges of a massive evacuation.

Where the shrewdly shuffled chronology converges to declare a collaborative triumph, it’s the sense of Hitchcockian suspense and omnipresent danger Nolan imparts to a well-known feat that gives us an intimate understanding of what would come to be known as the ‘Dunkirk Spirit.’

Events in history, big or small, condense into authentic or falsified information in due course, but can be documented in only raw, uncertain terms in real time. And that’s the sort of tactile obscurity Nolan colours his virtually anonymous characters with as they grapple with heroism and humanity.

Unlike classic war epics suffused in uniform-clad bravado and glory, Dunkirk‘s patriotism has less to do with military and everything to do with mankind.

War is as burdensome as it is brutal.

Sometimes surviving the enemy is as momentous as fighting him. Dunkirk‘s claustrophobic imagery (shot by Hoyte van Hoytema) of trapped, collapsing, drowning, distraught men underscores this Titanic-reminiscent ordeal.

Ironically, the only time its cheerless, muted palette comes alive is when the blazing flames of deadly orange disturb the serenity of its sapphire nights and aquamarine days.

Nolan’s partner in sound, Hans Zimmer is inspiring as usual but a tad over utilised, especially around the Rylance arc, rendering the scenes expository and mawkish in ways that contradicts the director’s reticent sensibilities.

Sophisticated he may be, but certainly not cold.

Nolan’s cinema is akin to meditating on screen and hitting transcendental peaks. And so it’s the quieter moments and evocative vignettes of fear, fatigue, guilt, desperation and homesickness that hit harder than its sensory profusion.

Like the rare dollop of jam, a nondescript man walking into the wild waves and a smiling lady from Dartmouth stood out and moved me with their profundity in ways I was expecting and still came out surprised.

This review was first published on rediff.com.

Share on TumblrSubmit to reddit+1Digg ThisPin it on PinterestShare on LinkedIn
Posted in Columns & Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Super Filmi Week: John Wick’s Amar Akbar Anthony moment

John Wick‘s Amar Akbar Anthony connection, filmi fundas from Gabbar Singh and the best Bollywood songs of 2017 so far…
Everything you need to know about my Super Filmi Week.

Monday

You know you’ve grown up on a healthy diet of Hindi films when a scene in John Wick: Chapter 2 makes you think of the iconic blood transfusion moment in Amar Akbar Anthony.

In the Keanu Reeves sequel, our badly injured action hero is lying on a cot between two dead guys with a drip and everything. Not exactly the same thing but you get the drift– Bollywood and bizarreness go hand in hand.

I am pleasantly surprised when the first person to comment on my Facebook post sharing the imagery’s likeness in a private group is someone closely connected to Manmohan Desai’s 1977 classic.

The legendary actor Pran’s son, filmmaker Sunil Sikand worked as an assistant director on Amar Akbar Anthony.

Amar Akbar Anthony‘s merriment wasn’t limited to screen. Its on-the-sets atmosphere, he tells me, was even more fun.

Amitabh Bachchan’s hilarious antics as Anthony Gonsalves, especially the talking to a mirror in drunken state scene, had everyone in splits.

And the coolest bit of trivia I learned during our brief chitchat is that MD and his team hosted a lunch for the distinguished Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni — I am guessing he was in India to shoot his short film on the Kumbh Mela (talk about lost and found)– on the sets of its climax sequence — the groovy title song that says cheers to secularism like few have or ever will.

Tuesday
Started watching Amazon Prime’s original series, Inside Edge — a saucy, sensationalistic take on the high stakes action of a T20 cricket team.

Four episodes down, six more to go and I find it to be watchable for the same cheese value that’s become a Madhur Bhandarkar patent.

The show, no matter how much it screams fiction, gets its cheap thrills and plot points by modelling itself around familiar faces and hearsay.

Except its intensity is directly proportional to the extent of their depravity.

I am completely put off by the way women are written into this show — every single one is a shoddy stereotype.

Inside Edge, directed by film critic turned filmmaker Karan Anshuman, looks glossy and moves at a swift pace, never allowing the viewer to dwell too long at its campy insights or laugh too hard at its sloppiness.

Will report with finality after I finish the rest.

Wednesday
The digital streaming space is an ideal platform to both create and access unique content.

Director Bikas Mishra, whose Chauranga was adjudged Best Film at the 16th Mumbai Film Festival in the India Gold category, uses it to highlight the opinionated extremes spurred by social media in Guy in the Sky.

Available on Hotstar, the film takes its inspiration from Kannada playwright C S Kambar’s 1983 play Harakeya Kuri and relies on the combined heft of Tannishtha Chatterjee, Maanvi Gagroo and Sunny Hinduja to keep the viewer hooked through its little more than an hour running time.

Just as an urban married couple cope with the realisation that they are not quite on the same page as far as their political ideologies are concerned, a rude intrusion will test their allegiance for better or worse.

Mishra’s pertinent humour and nifty direction satirises the dangerous consequences of bigoted views impartially, effectively.

Thursday
While searching for a spare notepad to make notes at the Shab screening later today, I stumble on an old diary from 2008.

It contains a daily summary of everything I saw and did during my extensive trip to the UK that year. One of the pages mentions an amusing instance while dining at a restaurant in Edinburgh.

With haggis jumping out of every today’s special and tired of binging on cheese, potato and pasta, my family and I decided to give into our roti craving and headed to an Indian restaurant close to our hotel.

Not sure what it was called though — Taj Mahal, maybe Raj Mahal?

It was an elegantly done eatery with a really sad taste in music — super lame dhinchaak Bollywood ditties.

The enthusiastic chap waiting on us happened to be a Bangladeshi and expressed his deep regard for all things Indian (and Hindi films) on identifying us as one.

Not once did I imagine he’d ask me to translate the song playing in the background.

Of all the songs in the world, it had to be pop star Anaida provocatively crooning to Chori Chori Chupke Chupke‘s Diwani Diwani.

For the uninformed, it’s a trashy bar number with lyrics like Jis mehfil mein jaon jadoo aisa chalaon/Sab mujhe bole, hai re aaja re aaja.

Except this guy was so genuine in his request and oblivious of its insinuation that I had to oblige.

And so I gave him the most sanitised version of the same — Pahlaj Nihalani would approve — and steered clear of Indian restaurants for the rest of my stay.

Friday
This week’s releases — Shab and Jagga Jasoos — could not be more different.

While it’s always nice to see Raveena Tandon back in the spotlight, it’s also disappointing when the movie turns out to be a big bore.

And that’s pretty much what the usually reliable Onir’s latest offering is.

Although I should probably check out those quaint looking restaurants he filmed across Hauz Khas and Mehrauli while I am still in the capital.

As for Jagga Jasoos, it’s a shame that Ranbir Kapoor-Katrina Kaif’s zany adventure is not finding its audience. At least that’s what the empty PVR I watched it in seems to suggest.

Even as I rave about its creativity in my review, a lot of friends share their distaste for the film’s whimsical energy and increasing instances of people walking out mid-way.

Saturday
Grey skies galore, yet no sign of rain.

All show, no shower, what a dull start to the weekend.

And so I am beating the blues by playing Hindi songs I liked most in 2017 so far and testing the efficiency of my new Bluetooth speaker.

Here’s my playlist in no particular order of favourites:

  • Zaalima, Raees
  • Yeh Ishq Hai, Rangoon
  • Sahiba, Phillauri
  • Baarish, Half Girlfriend
  • Jee Lein, OK Jaanu
  • Maana Ke Hum Yaar, Meri Pyaari Bindu
  • Dil Ullu Ka Patha, Jagga Jasoos
  • Humsafar, Badrinath Ki Dulhania
  • Safar, When Harry Met Sejal

What’s yours?

Sunday
Surfing movie channels has thrown me in a reflective mood.

Films are full of wild fundas. Some of them are so deeply entrenched in our system that we don’t even realise until we subconsciously start following them.

Like Shah Rukh Khan’s ‘Palat‘ philosophy? I totally bought it.

Not from SRK, but his co-star Nana Patekar in Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman who shared the exact same beliefs three years before Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.

As a kid, I truly thought Gabbar Singh’s ‘Jo dar gaya, samjho mar gaya‘ was the last word.

Every time I passed a dangerous looking mutt on the street, I was convinced he will sense my unwarranted fear and pounce on me right then and there.

My apologies to all the lovely pooches for judging them so unfairly.

In recent times, the view that Toote hue dil se hi sangeet nikalta hai in Rockstar has fascinated me the most.

I try to hear the profound, concealed pain in every good singer’s riveting rendition.

Most times it’s a mystery, occasionally there’s a breakthrough.

This column was first published on rediff.com.

Previously:
When the bride cried Sallu
Imagining Ranbir Kapoor as Balraj Sahni
Long live Aamir’s Model School Pajamachaaps
King’s Speech by SRK
Getting ready for the Baahubali juggernaut 
Super filmi week with Hit Girl Asha Parekh
Feasting on Achari Alia, Mastani Papdi!
Grace under fire
More power to Anushka Sharma
Rishi Kapoor’s page-turning debut!
Picking Jedi skills from Amitabh Bachchan
Mera wala Shah Rukh
Ranbir-Ranveer, sigh sigh!
When Tabu struggled with a 500 rupee note
Of post-festival blues and toilet titles!
Finding links of life in Dhoni’s Ranchi and Madhuri’s Mujrim!
Inside Dharmendra-Hema’s intensely private world
Power of Pink
The irrepressible cuteness of Pooja Bhatt
Indradhanush was our Stranger Things
When Saif Ali Khan wore Rishi Kapoor’s sweater
Getting nostalgic about the 1980s, Winona Ryder & Kishore Kumar
Rediscovering Gulzar’s Ghalib & finding Free Love
Applauding NTR’s Superman on screen!
Tripping on A R Rahman
A millipede and Kimi Katkar’s monsoon romance
Udta Punjab, worst casting decisions, and naheeee…!
Of warring Khan bhakts and meeting Mogambo!
Ranbir’s forgotten romance in Bachna Ae Haseeno
Funnier than Aishwarya’s lips
Clashing superheroes and crying Khans
OCDing on Neetu Singh’s LPs!
Garam Dharam, Mantrik Origins, Rockstar Cruise
 

Share on TumblrSubmit to reddit+1Digg ThisPin it on PinterestShare on LinkedIn
Posted in Columns & Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment