Phullu review: Well meaning, but not well made

Well-meaning films do not always translate into well-made films.

Director Abhishek Saxena wishes to address the issue of the menstrual taboo and spread awareness regarding hygiene among the rural women of India.

But his feeble incentives and simplistic endeavours don’t quite add up or allow Phullu to become the heartfelt wake-up call it so desperately wants to be.

Set in a village that receives low voltage electricity for only one hour in a day, Phullu paints an authentic milieu yet spends too much time focusing on the carefree ardour of its titular protagonist.

In this over eagerness to both entertain and educate, Saxena somewhere bungles up on the ratio. The upshot is sloppy and unconvincing.

A clueless, curious bum (Sharib Hashmi) with a grand vision doubles up as a courier of sanitary napkins aka saaman for women who cannot make a trip to the city themselves. It’s not his real job. He doesn’t have any. He doesn’t want any. All he wants to do is reduce every woman’s pain, something that’s reduced to crude innuendo in this film.

But it baffling how for all the compassion Phullu displays towards the opposite sex, he has zero concern for his toiling, understandably furious old mother.

Even marriage makes no difference to his loafing. That the women in his life are played with remarkable gusto by Nutan Surya and Jyoti Sethi deflect some of the attention away from this.

Even so, a good chunk of this 96-minute rambling drama is whiled away in the romance of newly weds against frequently popping songs. By the time Phullu feels a compulsive need to fix the way periods are treated in his part of the world, he’s coming across as too much of a dunce and drifter to be taken seriously.

Saxena never persuasively explains what prompts Phullu’s sympathy for a cause he doesn’t even understand. Nor is the narrative bothered with the practicality of his bizarre experiments to produce cost effective sanitary pads, as it races towards its ambiguous conclusion.

Hashmi is earnest, but the writing is all over the place. His naiveté is overstressed to the point that his actions look farcical. No wonder a brief cameo by Inaamulhaq, once again reiterating his appeal in showy, idiosyncratic characters, makes more sense that most of this movie.

What would at most be acceptable as a short film issued in the public interest is stretched to bizarre lengths. Phullu unwisely presumes that promoting a humanitarian angle absolves it of mediocrity.

For all its do-gooder fixation, Phullu neither has the passion to succeed as a film nor the seriousness of a valuable message.

This review was first published on rediff.com.

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Super filmi week: Imagining Ranbir Kapoor as Balraj Sahni!

A 1990s Bollywood album.
Ranbir Kapoor as Balraj Sahni.
Dimple Kapadia’s Crowning Glory days.
Agha-Mukri-Kesto’s fun, fabulous, forgotten friendship.  super-filmi week was a complete blast from the past.

Monday

When I was in Class 6, my needlecraft teacher assigned us to embroider a cushion cover. Saying I was inept at sewing doesn’t even begin to describe how hopeless I was.

Around the time of submission, I panicked because my handiwork resembled a jumble of coloured threads. I begged my mom to intervene. She relented and created the perfect motif. It was tidy and tactical in a manner that made my mess look unique than it actually was.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui reminds me of that flaw-minimising design as I watch him make a deal with Tiger Shroff in the new Munna Michael trailer. Even at his most rambunctious, his cheeky vigour is more eye-catching than all the cuts on Tiger Shroff’s brawny physique.

Despite the over-the-top tone of the masala, there’s something curious about their banter. And it’s because of the Nawaz factor.

The Gangs of Wasseypur actor may not be the conventional, popular image of a star, one that is prone to grab headlines, magazine covers or brand endorsements, but he has elevated the calibre of the best of them by masking their monotonous creativity with artistic guile.

Be it opposite Salman Khan in Kick and Bajrangi Bhaijaan or Shah Rukh Khan in Raees, Nawaz’s fervour is what regales viewers the most and revitalises worn-out superstars to the extent we start seeing them in a new light.

Tuesday

Every decade has something to whoop about.

But it’s the nineties I feel closest to; when I was gullible enough to not let my wisdom come in the way of my wonderment.

Recently, I read a delightful column by writer, lyricist and stand-up comic Varun Grover on how the 1990s changed the way we watch movies.

A piece after my own heart, it’s triggered my nostalgia so furiously; I’ve started compiling an album of its most enduring imagery.

Here’s a glimpse:

Wednesday

One of the most drool-worthy moments in Jon Favreau’s Chef is the one where he delicately prepares a grilled cheese sandwich for his son.

I don’t know if the kid appreciates the effort and details his father puts in making that buttery slab of gruyere, cheddar and parmesan heaven, but even writing about it makes me wish I had a cheese toast by my side.

The new still from its Hindi remake starring Saif Ali Khan shows the star, surrounded by steel and spice, working up a wok.

It’s hard to tell what he’s cooking, but could this be his take on the afore-mentioned scene?

Despite the disappointing absence of mouth-watering elements in the visual, I am eager to see the foodie quotient of this desi Chef.

Thursday

Bobby Braganza is a senior citizen today!

I wasn’t born when her debut released, but enthusiastically tagged along with my mum and brother to witness Dimple Kapadia’s silver screen comeback in Saagarand embarrassing transformation from lustful seductress to accursed goddess in Paatal Bhairavi.

Through her topsy-turvy career, the gorgeous actress has delivered many powerful performances, but two of her equally significant attributes are her glorious mane and free-spirited fashion sense.

As a kid I adored her hair so much I nagged mom endlessly to dump the traditional Shikakai for Crowning Glory shampoo soap — an erstwhile Godrej product from the 1980s endorsed by the star in a glamorous commercial — convinced I’d turn Rapunzel in no time.

While everyone has a gushing word for those golden tresses, Dimple is quite the unsung fashionista.

Easily switching between edgy and ethnic, there’s an ahead-of-its-time quality to her style that is cutting-edge even today.

Friday
There is an uncanny likeness to the Friday releases this week.

Both Bollywood’s Raabta and Hollywood’s The Mummy contain:

  • Characters running helter-skelter to save their lives.
  • Women with sharp cheekbones and flat midriffs.
  • People from ancient, exotic times not quite dead as presumed.
  • Underwater scenes that lead to much horror and heartbreak.
  • An unabashed love for grisly make-up.

The grimmest of these similarities is that they are both terrible movies that take more than a weekend to recover from.

Saturday

Looking at the creativity of ‘Fake Posters We Wish Were Real’ posted by the entertainment Web site GamesRadar+ inspires me to come up with one as well.

Now the idea is to design a poster of a hypothetical project that sounds promising, but isn’t officially in the works.

Balraj has been on my wish-list for a while.

Some years back, I read Balraj Sahni’s autobiography and was fascinated by his brutal candour and insights that reveal a man far more complex than his sorted-out, on-screen composure.

In good hands, the events of the late legend’s life would make for a gripping, genuine biopic.

I know Ranbir Kapoor is already playing Sanjay Dutt in Rajkumar Hirani’s upcoming drama, but I would love to see him as Raj, Balraj.

Sunday

I’ve mentioned this before, but I like to catch on an old Hindi movie on Sundays to revel in ‘Doordarshan’s Sunday Movie’ nostalgia.

This time, it’s Basu Chaterjee’s breezy Piya Ka Ghar, starring Jaya Bhaduri and Anil Dhawan.

It’s about a newly married couple’s growing frustration at the lack of privacy inside Mumbai’s matchbox abodes unfit to accommodate a growing joint family scenario.

Forty-five years after its release, its thoughts on the city’s real estate grievances continue to strike a chord.

As does this commonly held belief voiced by Paintal’s character, ‘Hum Hindi picture dekhtein hain. Humein sab maloom hai.

Piya Ka Ghar may centre around the newlyweds, but it’s Agha, Mukri and Keshto’s rib-tickling chemistry as the chai and cards hooked troika that ensures the film doesn’t slump into typical melodrama.

My favourite bit of their camaraderie is when the three, representing the groom, mollify the grouchy uncle (Raja Paranjpe) of the bride:

Mukri: Aap humara saath aake do haath taash ke nahi khel sakte?

Uncle: Main taash nahi khelta.

Keshto: Toh phir chai pijiye. Khaali peeli thandi ho rahi hai.

Uncle: Main chai nahi peeta.

Keshto: Lijiye beedi pijiye, toph chaap.

Mukri: Yeh zamindar hain. Yeh teri tarah beedi nahi, yeh toh hookah peete hain hookah.

Uncle: Main hookah nahi peeta.

Agha: Aaj toh khushi ka din hai. Gusse ko thukte jaaiye.

Mukri: Main samjha budha yeh kahega ke thukta bhi nahi.

Never a dull moment around these three.

This column was first published on rediff.com.

Previously:
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

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Raabta Review: Rom-com, Rebirth and Mr Right crisis

Reincarnation works best when an individual demonstrates an irrepressible desire to redress a tragedy where innocent people are killed and deceived for no fault of their own.

But in Raabta, this so-called misfortune is prompted by a fickle-minded girl’s inability to pick between two guys.

Dinesh Vijan’s unintended allegory on ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’ syndrome, flitting between rom-com to rebirth, could not be more bizarre.

The producer turned director’s first attempt is so embarrassingly daft, it belies its potential for drama to validate a Dolly Bindra-lookalike soothsayer and empty vindication. Despite the shoddy early signs — there’s a comet named Love Joy hovering above the skies — Raabta begins on a watchable note.

A pair of young desis bump into each other at a local confectionary in Hindi-speaking Hungary. He’s a bawdy, boisterous banker from Amritsar (Sushant Singh Rajput), the kind Caucasian mothers warned their daughters about. She’s a chocolatier — means someone who can melt chocolate — prone to purse her lips so often, you wish there was a rehab for stuff like this (Kriti Sanon).

Have they met each other before? Before they can find out, it’s already wham, bam thank you ma’am. ‘I’ve never done anything like this before,’ she confesses. He’s too pleased with himself to care.

As the duo get all touchy-feely addressing each other in ‘tu‘s and wondering about the exact nature of their hastily progressing relationship against the picturesque backdrop of Budapest, Raabta is blatantly (if poorly) imitative of Imitiaz Ali’s sensibility. The flirty banter is obviously influenced by the writer of his previous outings as producer (like Love Aaj Kal and Cocktail.)

Things get a tad curious when a new guy enters the picture — a mysterious Mr Moneybags (Jim Sarbh) with whom the girl has a little moment in the rain to the beats of a trippy Ek Ladki Bheegi Bhaagi remix.

‘I always wanted a guy like you,’ she confesses (again) not quite sure what to do about her Mr Right crisis.

Neither is Raabta.

And so it turns its attention to her past life, which has the appearance of an exotic medieval fantasy highlighted in heaps of tattoos, kajal, leather and furiously braided hair where characters converse in a clunky, preposition-free mix of Urdu, Avadhi and filmi.

One tribe’s called Muraki, perhaps a not-so-distant cousin of Dothraki?

From its wannabe Imtiaz Ali aspirations to full-on Mohenjo Daro-meets-Game of Thrones-scale baloney, Raabta hits a new low in incoherence and idiocy.

Early portions of the drivel benefit from Sushant Singh Rajput and Kriti Sanon’s livewire chemistry but they too can do precious little to salvage the unbearable mess Vijan’s first film turns into post-interval.

Sanon has a statuesque, spirited presence, but Rajput’s roguish charm feels repetitive. It’s still more tolerable compared to his delivery as the wild warrior making all these lecherous, deranged faces that bring the likes of Prem Chopra, Ranjeet and Shakti Kapoor at their vilest to mind.

Rajkummar Rao’s only contribution is you can’t tell it’s him under all those needless layers of prosthetics. Anyone could have done a role that squanders his talent to mumble some inconsequential, inaudible phrases.

But it’s Neerja‘s breakout star — Jim Sarbh — you feel most sorry for. There’s something attractive about his crooked charisma and his entry encourages you to imagine Raabta has some wicked tricks under its sleeve. Alas, he talks. And like a badly dubbed regional film at that.

This possibly can’t be anyone’s idea of entertainment in this birth or last.

This review was first published on rediff.com.

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