Review: Akshay Kumar does complete justice to Jolly LLB 2

Saddled by bureaucracy, corruption and apathy, no fight for justice is prompt or pleasant. But when formulated for mainstream Hindi films, it acquires the personality of a ham revelling in its inflated sentimentality or silliness till it hits the point of parody or propaganda. If clever, the upshot is sure-fire applause. 

Bollywood’s allegiance to this method may not be above predictability but when armed with dollops of sarcasm, eloquence and last minute bombshells, courtroom trials provide a great source of gratification if not a guarantee of reform. 

Director Subhash Kapoor’s Jolly LLB did well with its droll depiction of a small-time lawyer (played by Arshad Warsi) and how his guilty conscience encourages him in emancipating the downtrodden.

But his quick-witted sequel starring a standout Akshay Kumar does it even better.   

New faces, bigger scale, greater stakes notwithstanding, the story, which travels from Kanpur to Kashmir, is more or less the same.

If Warsi’s willful Jagdish Tyagi aka Jolly hailed from Meerut and proved his worth in Delhi’s District and Sessions Court, Akshay’s Jagdishwar Mishra aka Jolly is a sharp-tongued, short-fused Kanpuriya making a dishonest living in Lucknow’s dusty courthouse. Also, he’s much too cunning to be running measly errands for a haughty senior and knows it too. 

Ambition gets the better of Jolly. Filled with a strong sense of remorse, he insists on setting things straight by putting the cops (Kumud Mishra, sneering away to perfection) behind a fake terrorist encounter behind bars. 

If the original Jolly builds its quarrels around a raw, rude newcomer from small town tackling the condescension of a crooked albeit elite, veteran legal eagle, the new one pits Akshay against a lawyer (Annu Kapoor) who may be older, richer and popular but is, ultimately, a kindred spirit, a product of the same sly, stagy sensibility and regional flavour. 

Flavour, after all, is the soul of Jolly LLB 2’s banter. Somewhere Arshad Warsi’s tendency to become Circuit would often surface and drown out his Meerut origins in a splash but Akshay holds on to his lippy Kanpur roots as dedicatedly as the janaeu he wears and reveres.   

That he’s locking horns with a Lucknow lawyer only adds to the relish of watching them bicker. Subtlety no longer a requirement, Annu Kapoor brings out the entitlement, ego and drive of an established advocate with wicked vigour, a hilarious rate card and an utterly catchy motto — Pepsi or Pramod kabhi apna formula nahi batate.

Jolly and Pramod may be at the centre of this war of words but the man extracting the humour in it most effectively is, once again, Saurabh Shukla as the scene stealing Judge Tripathi.

The hysterical dharna scene simply reiterates his invaluable presence both as a character and actor. Shukla conveys dignity even in moments of complete mockery and points out at the larger troubles of his profession in the pithiest ways. I’d watch a third Jolly movie simply for him. 

Another member from the first one shows up fleetingly, a reliably bizarre Sanjay Mishra hosting a strange game of cricket between team Ghoongat and Burkha.  Sadly, the joke never quite hits home. 

What’s nice though that even when Jolly LLB 2 relaxes its fun side to venture into serious terrain, it retains its spunk and irony. Once again, Akshay Kumar leaps into the dramatic space of verbal volleys and paan-stained pearlies with ease never allowing the robust Khiladi to override the rustic Jolly.  Though it is relegated to side-lines, the evolved equation he shares with his tough, supportive wife (a zippy Huma Qureshi) is duly noticed.     

All these superlative actors and their chuckle-worthy zingers penned by writer and director Subhash Kapoor makes it easy to ignore the problems in Jolly LLB 2. The needless song and dances, the somewhat preachy lessons in secularism and a lumbering episode featuring a stiff Sayani Gupta are first to come to mind.   

Except it’s a criticism that’s gladly forgotten by the pungency at which Jolly LLB 2 scorns at the intense rot eating up a noble profession without compromising on the inherent rascality of its titular character.  

Stars: 3.5

This review was first published on rediff.com

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Super filmi week: Rishi Kapoor’s page-turning debut!

Read about Rishi Kapoor’s page-turning debut, SRK’s shrewd turn in Raees, Sridevi as a potential Dhoom vamp, Sanjay Dutt’s contribution to Andaz Apna Apna and more in my super-filmi week.

Monday

Week after week, in a process that is terribly mechanical and monotonous, movie stars dash from one city to another in trendy attire and publicise their big Friday release. 

And then, there are some promotional strategies that make no sense at all. Like, why would someone watch a movie just because someone in it travelled by train? Perhaps I am not star-struck enough to see the appeal in Shah Rukh Khan journeying from Mumbai to Delhi by train to advertise Raees.

As things turned out, it’s not just a lacklustre idea but a foolish one as well when the news of a man dying in the disorderly crowd gathered to catch a glimpse of the Khan at Vadodara station spread like wildfire.  

Obviously, the actor did not mean for this unfortunate incident to happen but he has ample experience of overzealous fans and ill-equipped infrastructure to take such risks.

Tuesday

Could this be the inspiration behind Paresh Rawal’s iconic claim in Andaz Apna Apna — Teja main hoon, mark idhar hai?  

Four years before Rajkumar Santoshi’s cult comedy was released, Sanjay Dutt starred in and as Tejaa, an eminently forgettable, Western-rip off revenge flick. 

Besides bumping off his parents 20 years ago, evil Ranjeet is also responsible for a scar on Dutt’s neck caused by a noose. Right before the grown-up Tejaa is ready to punish Ranjeet for his sins, Dutt shows off the mark and reminds him of the same.  

Okay, okay, so it’s not really an Easter egg but if there’s one film that deserves to be dug deep into for the teeniest bit of trivia, it’s Andaz Apna Apna.

Wednesday

Sridevi can light up a room from inside a television set.

She may not be as active professionally these days, but I can’t think of anyone more electrifying — how skillfully she imbibes the character of a diva, a devil or a dimwit.

The idea of her as the antagonist in Dhoom 4 is simply irresistible to me. The franchise has only used male villains so far; now, how about focusing on a femme fatale? Even a mediocre action flick like Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi got its edge from Rekha’s sultry presence. Besides, Sri and Yashraj have such memorable history anyway.  

Dhoom baddies are all about disguises and deceit and we all know Sri’s mastery in the area. And she also knows how to have fun with it.

Thursday

This week at the movies felt a lot like time travel.

Both Kaabil and Raaes are old-school filmmaking overruled by a leading man who takes the law in his own hands and yet retains the entitlement of a hero. If one’s driven by revenge, the other is driven by ambition.

As I wrote in my review, ‘Kaabil is a done-to-death story — a shattered husband taking the law into his own hands to punish the men who hurt his wife’ and that ‘if we are still doing this, something as foreseeable needs skillful deception to engage.’

Hrithik Roshan’s earnestness is appreciable but Kaabil’s tendency to entertain preposterous notions of a woman’s honour and sacrifice for the sake of sentiment made me cringe.

And, while it had its share of problems, I enjoyed a good deal of Raees. Shah Rukh Khan puts a fresh spin on Bachchan’s Vijay and applies his intuitive charisma to demonstrate just how bad is bad enough.

But the film’s dimaag and daring lie in Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s winsome cunning. The cat and mouse between him and SRK felt like a spunky recall of Feroz Khan and Amjad Khan’s camaraderie in Qurbani.

Even though Pakistani actress Mahira Khan has a strictly supporting role, she’s terrific enough to create an impression that firmly states, ‘I know him better than anyone else.’ (Also, haven’t seen such gorgeous, bouncy tresses since Dimple Kapadia.)

Raees gets too busy in the latter chapters when sassy ambition makes way for a sudden burst of conscience. It feels heavy-handed. The climax disappointed me hugely. Still, it’s got enough wind in its moments to ensure the period masala leaves us high, not hanging.

Friday


It’s like the world has been taken over by control freaks.

A group of activists in Jaipur storm inside the sets of Padmavati and rough up its director Sanjay Leela Bhansali for allegedly distorting history.

I can’t wrap my head around such behaviour. In a country where there’s no dearth of real, serious problems, is this what activists strive to preserve? These are no archaeologists or historians but politically motivated protectors of filthy ideas that have no place in history.

Also, these guys need to watch television where pretty much everything from mythology to history to science is mangled to manufacture entertainment. The tragedy is that such activism is selective; the bigger name it attacks, the louder the noise it attracts. 

Saturday

Within minutes of watching journalist Rajeev Masand’s delightful interview with Rishi Kapoor, discussing his autobiography, I am signed into Amazon buying the Khullam Khulla ebook.

I devote the whole night to reading this extremely entertaining, unputdownable memoir of an actor who doesn’t hold back or mince words. There’s no style, structure or fancy words but there’s honesty and pluck, pages and pages full of it as he rattles off about his family, friends, films and fraternity.

I liked the frankness with which he spoke about the women in his father Raj Kapoor’s life or Amitabh Bachchan’s lack of acknowledgement for the part his co-heroes played in his phenomenal success. I was happy to know his grandfather Prithviraj Kapoor and director Yash Chopra, also two of my favourite people, a little more closely through his fond recollections.

I laughed loudly at the bits from his childhood, all those hilarious episodes starring Shammi Kapoor and what he thought Amar Akbar Anthony would originally be about.

I admired the detached attitude of his self-assessments. As proud he is of his performances, he’s quick to make light of his blunders or even those of his co-stars — be it Urmila Matondkar’s dancing, Kumar Sanu’s singing or Ranbir Kapoor’s choice of films.

It was bittersweet reading about his altered equation with best friends Rakesh Roshan and Jeetendra.

I enjoyed Neetu Singh’s equally candid afterword that makes up for Ranbir’s somewhat stiff, impersonal foreword. 

Rishi Kapoor reveals his fears, foibles, follies, flamboyance, passion, conservatism, regrets, candour and indulgence in Khullam Khulla without ever sounding defensive or delusional. Truly fascinating.

Sunday

 

A photo posted by Star World (@starworldindia) on


Koffee With Karan is at its least gossipy when Karan Johar chats up the dashing father-son pair Jackie and Tiger Shroff.

The duo is a character study in contrasts. Where body language goes, Tiger’s composure brims with grace even as Jackie is fidgety and playful. But the latter’s lack of affectations, the trademark ‘Bhidu’ vibe lends this episode of KFK a unique humour and charm.

All through the episode, Jackie doesn’t shy from loving demonstrations, gently rubbing his son’s arm or defending him — ‘It’s not ego.’ It’s an endearing sight that prompts KJo to admit just how wonderfully affectionate his late Papa (Yash Johar) was as well.

My favourite moments from the show:

When Tiger compares working with Amrita Singh in Flying Jatt to having his dad around because of how freakily alike their temperaments are.

When Jackie discloses that his late-night conversations with neighbour Aamir Khan include topics like water harvesting, seeds and plants.

When filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra reveals how Jackie offered to pay for some of the sets on 1942: A Love Story because of his commitment to the authenticity of a scene.

When we caught a glimpse of his co-star Meenakshi Seshadri, looking ravishing as ever, lovingly speak of her Hero after decades.

This column was first published on rediff.com

Previously:
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

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Kaabil: Hrithik goes on a done-to-death vengeance spree

Hrithik Roshan in Kaabil

The expression of disbelief and loud shriek that goes off after a character sees his or her loved one’s cold corpse for the first time is engraved in every Hindi movie buff’s memory.

In the beginning, it felt dramatic and moving. When it began to show up routinely, randomly, the desired effect wore out. But the need to portray it in the same timeworn fashion did not. 

For freshness, some perceptive actors would stretch their scream or cut it short or, still better; the camera would linger on that single teardrop resting on the rim of their eye. 

Sanjay Gupta’s Kaabil, produced by Rakesh Roshan, is a lot like that. It latches on to predictability like comfort food and weaves a handicap around its leading man for novelty.

You know how in those Bollywood parodies, an enthusiastic writer will always narrate his box office smashing script to the picky director? ‘Aur sir, twist yeh hai ke hero dekh nahi sakta. Audience paagal ho jayegi.’  (Sir, let’s make the hero blind, audience will go crazy.) 

It’s a done to death story — a shattered husband taking law into his own hands to punish the men who hurt his wife. Amitabh Bachchan’s Aakhri Raasta spill over a couple of decades to depict a shaggy senior citizen’s serialised revenge even as his policeman son does his best to avert the events, Mohra condensed it in one grisly flashback detailing Suniel Shetty’s unstoppable rampage. 

If we are still doing this, something as foreseeable needs skillful deception to engage.

But Sanjay Gupta’s retribution drama, powered by Hrithik Roshan’s steady intensity and a solid supporting cast, doesn’t pull off anything extraordinary with its visually challenged contrivance except whip up as many puns possible. From blind date to blind justice, it’s all there. 

Roshan plays Rohan Bhatnagar, a dubbing artist who falls in ‘love at first sight’ with Su/Supriya (Yami Gautam sinks under the weight of a frustratingly feeble characterisation), a pianist after a mutual acquaintance fixes them up. They’re both blind, sport the same streak of blonde in their hair and flash their cloying smiles till their optimistic view of life is drilled firmly into the viewer’s head. 

Even as one dreary song establishes their romance, another their marital status, your eye wanders off to notice Hrithik plugging his brand HRX, the tacky production values and a staggeringly schlocky CGI. He may have gone easy on his beloved filters but Kaabil is also the least slick thing to come out of Gupta’s stable. 

Once the strategic props (shoes, watches, under-construction buildings) have grabbed their spot and happiness has overstayed its welcome, it is nasty’s turn to take over.

Gupta spares us graphic discomfort but the cringe-inducing demeanour and innuendoes of the influential (Rohit and Ronit Roy) and corrupt (Girish Kulkarni, Narendra Jha) do their share of damage. 

The latter one hour of its 140-minutes length is dedicated to Rohan’s organised vendetta against the bad guys using his Mystique-like mimicking powers and Daredevil senses. What follows though is often more clumsy than cunning.  

Kaabil is the sort of film where everyone goes out of his way to share a secret.

In a completely implausible move, Ronit Roy visits Hrithik’s house simply to tell him what his horrid brother did. The in-your-face approach impresses Hrithik so much he heads to the police station and give the cops a sneak peak of his destructive schemes.   

A still from Kaabil

Cinematic revenge gets its come-on from tension or ferocity. If it’s quick, it has to be savage. If it’s slow-cooked, it must create pressure. The action in Kaabil is vigorous but middling. The telephonic shtick driving it gets stale after a point and the pay off feels too little, too easy. 

The trigger point of his revenge may be an issue that plagues the country to disturbing levels but it serves nothing beyond an unabashed platform to vaunt a seething Hrithik, sentimental Hrithik, snarky Hrithik, sly Hrithik or spry Hrithik.  

Only haven’t we already seen these avatars in far more accomplished films and forms?

This review was first published on rediff.com.

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