Bhoomi: Dutt’s comeback is a ghastly movie

Blatantly exploitative and excessive, Bhoomi treats rape as less of a trauma and more of a tool to create a nauseous atmosphere of torture and stigma.  

Director Omung Kumar’s latest stab at significance (Mary Kom, Sarabjit) takes perverse pleasure in a woman’s humiliation under the pretext of standing up for her in extended scenes of victimisation. Often its self-patting depravity jumps out of screen in a manner so abominable, it’s as problematic as its view of mixing honour with violation.   

Bhoomi is no different from those gratuitous and formulaic rape and revenge vehicles that mistake grisly for grit.

Slapping a grim subject with music video sensibilities (a pair of embellished jootis fall off struggling feet forced into a van), dialogues (save our water, save our daughter), humouring vile behaviour, and item songs (a mud slathered Sunny Leone appearing right after a rape scene) only betray the reliability of Kumar’s filmmaking.  

Though its theme of reckless resolves echoes with this year’s Kaabil, Maatr and Mom, Sanjay Dutt’s transition from puffy-eyed apologetic to blood-thirsty slugger has the seriousness of a cabbage.  

Dutt plays a shoemaker in Agra, who combs lice out of his mildly stuttering daughter’s (a flimsy Aditi Rao Hydari, radiant complexion and chic styling can only do so much) hair. In return, she dyes his fast greying mane. Except neither looks like they’ve known Agra beyond Taj Mahal or its five-star walls.

Truth be told, Bhoomi’s realism is as fanciful as her designer bedroom that, with its chikan drapes and kantha-embroidered cushions, looks straight out of the pages of Architectural Digest.  

When the focus isn’t on the baap-beti’s manufactured bond, Dutt and his BFF (Shekhar Suman) get into these unfunny drinking sessions that achieve little except getting on the nerves. The only thing (unintentionally) comic about this association is the suddenness with which Suman is knocked off the plot.  

Once Bhoomi establishes ‘all is hunky dory’ through Hydari’s bride-to-be excitement, it introduces us to a rebuffed mithaiwala, a Didi-chanting lout, a local goon and his pathan-suit clad henchman, wasting no time in demonstrating their villainy.  

What follows is unbelievably bonkers.

Forget the spineless, wedding-cancelling groom but the callousness exhibited by the cops and the court is unnaturally laboured and loud — it’s the anti-PINK, really. 

Instead of concerning itself with crime, the makers turn it into a cry for character certificate that actually suggests ideas for how to get away with rape and descends into irredeemable trash after Dutt delivers his version of ‘Brutus is an honourable man’ speech and bows out with folded hands.

Bhoomi’s penchant for tasteless, tired tropes is evident in its readiness to prolong its brutality or savouring a defeatist approach. 

By the time it gets on to display Dutt’s aggression and Hydari’s token participation against a red and yellow-themed climax featuring a miraculously accumulated crowd of village women in colour-coordinated costumes, Bhoomi’s blood-splattering, bone-crunching vigour is as unwelcome as the rest of this ghastly movie. 

This review was first published on rediff.com.

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Super Filmi Week: How about Alia and Bhumi together in a movie?

Savouring Spielberg’s fierce, fine, movie; salivating over MAMI 2017’s line-up; gobbling a Shrek cake; visualising a desi Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants with Alia, Bhumi and more in my Super Filmi Week.

Monday

Most people have late-night cravings for food. I have one for films. Of course,Saving Private Ryan is anything but a light snack.

I watched Steven Spielberg’s World War II drama in the late 1990s and don’t remember much except flashes of the viscerally staggering Omaha beach battle featuring a shell-shocked Tom Hanks and his momentary hearing loss.

On revisiting the 22-minute long sequence and its blood-splattered recreation of chaos and brutal atmosphere of mortality, I realise how much of it has got compressed in my memory.

Depiction of violence has intensified rabidly in the last two decades, but the intensity of Saving Private Ryan‘s prolonged assault hasn’t lost an ounce of its fury.

My friends have told me about people throwing up in theatre and storming out of the screening at the time of its release.

As I nervously absorb images of guts spurting out, dismembered arms and horrifying urgency, it’s easy to see why.

But there’s more to Saving Private Ryan (which fetched Spielberg his second Best Director Oscar and marked the beginning of a beautiful working relationship with Tom Hanks) than ingenious spectacle.

It’s both kinetic and moving, deafening yet quiet and endeavours to isolate the person from his predicament as transparently as possible to ‘earn’ its place in cinematic history.

Tuesday
On my flight from Delhi to Mumbai, I catch an episode of Black Mirror on the iPad — Netflix has this cool feature where you can download episodes on a device.

It’s a curious episode called The Waldo Moment concerning a small-time comedian and his facial recognition-equipped, animated alter ego, how his irreverent political stance gains unprecedented momentum in the election season culminating in the triumph of marketing over meaning.

Later that night, I turn on Apple’s LIVE iPhone X launch and what do I see?

The brand new emoji feature is exactly what Waldo is all about.

A cheeky tweet from Black Mirror‘s official Twitter handle (external link) doesn’t waste any time in taking some credit for its inspiration.

Remarkable how Waldo, one of the least loved episodes of an otherwise acclaimed series, is easily the most far-sighted of the lot, be its bizarre likeness to Donald Trump’s startling win or expression-capturing animojis.

Wednesday
Browsing through Bollywood’s Instagram accounts for a fashion listicle I bump into similar looking photos of two different actresses.

Besides its back-to-the-camera pose in European cities, both Shraddha Kapoor and Kriti Sanon are sporting identical floral shorts.

Idea!

How fun if Zoya Akhtar remakes The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants — a coming-of-age drama about four best friends with different body types sharing the same pair of jeans for a week each throughout summer whilst adhering to a set of rules — with these two alongside Bhumi Pednekar and Alia Bhatt?

Sounds promising, no?

Thursday
I hate press conferences, but my eagerness to learn what movies will play at the Mumbai Film Festival this year, which kick-starts on October 12, compels me to take the trouble.

At J W Marriott, the festival’s key players Kiran Rao, Anupama Chopra, Smriti Kiran and filmmakers Rohan Sippy and Anurag Kashyap (whose Mukkebaaz is its opening film) add to the enthusiasm with exciting announcements on what to expect and what’s in store.

Kashyap reveals he picked MAMI over the Busan film festival to share his story about a Bareilly boxer.

In a nutshell, Italian actress Monica Bellucci will be dropping by, John Madden is heading the international competition jury that also features Konkona Sen Sharma, a whopping participation of 220 movies from 49 countries includes keenly anticipated fare like The Square, Call Me By Your Name, On Body and Soul, The Third Murder, Spoor, Loveless, 24 Frames, Sweet Country and The Florida Project while the ever gratifying India Gold line-up includes Shlok Sharma’s Zoo, Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s Sexy Durga and Ektara Collective’s Turup to name a few.

Besides a welcome break from Bollywood-prompted monotony, film festivals offer a glorious platform showcasing cinema’s reach and a world beyond ours most intimately, for better or worse.

I look forward to the MAMI experience. You should too.

Friday
No clue how the hyped-for-all-the-wrong-reasons Kangana Ranaut starrer Simranis, but the other Friday release Lucknow Central is watchable for biting off as much as it can chew.

As I mentioned in my review, ‘low-hanging ambitions and straightforward conflict’ in addition to some decent efforts by its cast of Farhan Akhtar, Rajesh Sharma, Ravi Kishen, Deepik Dobriyal, Diana Penty, Ronit Roy, Inaamulhaq and Gippy Grewal ensure it’s not a complete slog.

Lucknow Central comes alive in their combined chemistry and culminates fruitfully in Jee Karda, a spectacular recreation of the Monsoon Wedding original,’ easily the highpoint of this erratically paced movie.

Saturday
At my nephew’s birthday party today, I feel as celebrated as the two year old.

It’s the ultimate tribute to my cinephile sensibilities that every year his birthday cake is inspired by a character I introduced in his life.

Last year it was The Lion King.

This year it is Shrek, a film that I’ve watched so many times I’ve lost count and love beyond measure or reason. And I am glad to report, at this point, so does he.

And because everything about my life is bound to be super-filmi, the cake happens to be baked by filmmaker Ramesh Behl’s daughter Tania.

Tania worked on the production design of her brother Goldie’s Drona before dashing off to London’s Le Cordon Bleu for a diploma course in baking and now runs a successful bespoke dessert studio.

Sunday
There are all kinds of Web series floating on the Net, but I quite enjoyed the easy humour and cosy vibe around Dice Media’s What The Folks (external link) streaming on YouTube.

It has the believability of Doordarshan-day serials where everyday scenes and modest conversations depicting a family, its easily resolved tiffs and touching closeness mirrors our own.

Except it’s set in 2017 and speaks the language of a modern, middle-class urban household, one that is liberal enough to accommodate expletives but still getting a grasp on political correctness.

The theme of What The Folks is compatibility triggered by a young man’s stay at his in-law’s home during an extended work trip.

What ensues is a mild clash between old versus new values, temperaments and priorities over a series of droll misadventures.

Director Ruchir Arun deftly handles day-to-day problems as well as rampant stereotyping in the disguise of traditional expectations and social prejudices.

Whether he’s addressing the age difference between the couple or exasperating over the forced propriety reserved for the daughter’s husband, it’s marked by a refreshingly restrained approach.

Above all, Vipin Sharma and Deepika Deshpande Amin’s crackling depiction as the over fussing, diplomatic and well meaning in-laws lends What The Folks an effervescence that makes its 20-minutes long five episodes a breeze to watch.

This column was first published on rediff.com.

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Poster Boys review: Low-IQ comedy

There’s an episode of Friends where Joey Tribbiani is barred from entering his family’s Thanksgiving celebration because he is the unwitting face of a sexually transmitted disease’s awareness programme. As a minor joke in a 20-minute episode of a sitcom, it is fairly funny.

But when debutant director Shreyas Talpade takes on a similar premise and stretches the skit into a 131-minutes long farce, the kind that resorts to comedic sound effects punctuating desi sitcoms and stand-up comics, the result is as memorable as a pair of orangutans gambolling to Sheila Ki Jawani in Yamla Pagla Deewana 2.

Poster Boys, which stars the Deol brothers minus dad Dharmendra, is not as obnoxious in its humour if not any less puerile.

Bhains ko ultiyan ho rahi hai. Bhains bhi aurat hai — anyone?

A remake of Poshter Boyz –Talpade’s 2014 home production in Marathi, it aspires to do for vasectomy what Shubh Mangal Savdhan did for erectile dysfunctionwithout any zing in its pen or the ingenuity of an ensemble cast.

Where the calibre of supporting actors can elevate scripts to a higher degree of excellence, a second-rate one is sure to bring it down a notch or two.

Nobody outside the Poster Boys troika adds up to anything beyond a shrill or overdone caricature straight out of a dummy’s guide in how to amuse.

Daler Mehndi’s energetic singing and Eli Avram’s acrobatic thighs flag off the proceedings even as its three unsuspecting protagonists hailing from Jangheti village pose at a photo booth unprepared for the embarrassment to follow.

Sunny Deol plays a retired armyman happy to shove a selfie stick in everyone’s face. The sight of him pouting is the very definition of awkward but seeing him do a Marilyn Monroe pose goes right up there with the orangutans.

Bobby Deol’s mousy, scatter-brained schoolteacher goes for a Suri Uncle vibe, which hits the drollest notes in an otherwise clunky comedy. You’ll almost forget he’s the same guy who made tinted glasses fashionable as he picks up and puts back dropped bits of his painfully-cooked lunch box off the ground.

Shreyas Talpade pitches in as a blustering recovery agent always bashing a guy who resembles a malnourished, scar-free version of Sandor Clegane.

The three men join forces after learning about their involuntary endorsement on a nasbandi poster as part of the government’s public health service announcement.

With the babus of bureaucracy shrugging responsibility, the trio use muscle and media to seek justice and prove their innocence in a conservative society.

It’s funny how much trouble they go through for the sake of a family that has no value for their word nor seems worthy.

Also, Poster Boys never really establishes its insular milieu to convince us of the overblown nature of everyone’s reaction to the poster — as though they are Most Wanted criminals in the country.

What it does is play for laughs by inserting innuendo, recycling gags, poking fun at physical handicaps, throwing in a neurotic Bharti Achrekar and hyper Ashwini Kalsekar for the sake of senseless clamour, asserting Sunny’s superhuman vigour as he lifts and dangles men, breaks locks, yanks fences or needless butchery of the English language.

‘Vasectomy — kaun Tommy,’ quizzes the government official. ‘I telled you,’ grumbles Bobby’s cantankerous wife. And even Sunny, suddenly, decides to pronounce photo with a phhh instead of fo.

It’s only when the silliness is self-referential and parodying their body of work, there’s something to chuckle about — J P Dutta ka khud ka border hai? Or Bobby Deol’s ringtone — Soldier Soldier — works both as a reminder and double entendre.

Some unintended hilarity is triggered by Poster Boy‘s misplaced bouts of sentimentality when they liken their struggle to that of freedom fighters like Shaheed Bhagat Singh and Chandrashekhar Azad or maybe it’s just a humourless nod to the Deols’ 2002 ill-fated biopic on the same.

Either way, the film’s hastily served social cause around a ridiculously overdone climax refuses to be taken seriously. Especially when the slogan declares — Na le panga. Andolan nanga.

Poster Boys‘s school play enthusiasm never aims above a low IQ comedy expecting us to guffaw at the sight of Bobby, his wife and kids wearing the same set of bright yellow, Hello Kitty-print pyjama suits.

I half-smiled to that, will you?

This review was first published on rediff.com.

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