Baaghi 2 Review: What A Circus!

Having survived the first Baaghi, I sort of knew what’s coming.

The Baaghi franchise — there’s already a third one in the works — is all about ex-boyfriends coming to their girl’s rescue until it culminates in a tooth-and-nail final battle.

Baaghi 2, choreographer turned director Ahmed Khan’s junky remake of the Telugu hit Kshanam is no different.

Instead of writing a conventional review, I decided to share some thoughts I penned down while watching this supremely senseless movie.

1. Tiger Shroff is a revelation waiting to happen. Only four years and still waiting.

Still, if a guy can deliver this much dexterity on autopilot, imagine what he can accomplish under an actual director and competent script?

There’s an old-school solidity in his hyper-muscular, shirt-tearing, teeth-gnashing, jumping-to-pound fervour.

It’s unmistakable in his fabulous, fleeting, tribute to Sunny Deol in Ghayal. Tiger’s charisma burns the screen and tramples scepticism in favour of a good time. Frustrating how it never goes beyond the promise of potential.

2. By the way, just how many Rambos is Tiger Shroff working on? There is already an official remake in the pipeline.

But the star seems so eager to recreate Sylverster Stallone’s machine gun-blasting imagery, a good deal of it features in Baaghi 2‘s bang and boom climax already.

Throw in a eyes-above-muddy river moment from Apocalypse Now and King Kong-style music cue and destruction, what have you got?

Tiger ShowOff!

3. Disha Patani is so remarkably insipid, I can’t decide what I am feeling is awe or exasperation.

A bowl of gruel could have given a better sense of suffering than what Disha does in this movie.

Considering the trauma her character is undergoing, her don’t-like-my-photo-on-Aadhaar-card degree of intensity hardly cuts it.

4. The sheer frequency of flashbacks in Baaghi is mind-boggling.

The hero gets his standard we-first-met-in-college romantic flashback. (Although why he is fooling around like a student from KJo school of thought and not already enlisted in NDA beats me.)

Again the hero, by the virtue of being hero, gets multiple flashbacks.

Later, the villain gets a flashback; the villain’s consort gets a flashback. All I want are my 144 minutes back.

5. Forget how vain Tiger’s commando is, I can’t stop marvelling at how much of a person’s wardrobe a rucksack can take.

Army guy Tiger flies straight from Kashmir to Goa carrying this lightweight luggage, but the number of clothes he changes into in a matter of days is truly stupefying.

Note to self: Buy one of those rucksack thingies whenever there’s a sale next.

6. Whether it’s Jackie Shroff using his sister’s dupatta to accessorise his look in Tridev, Kajol throwing hers at Rani Mukerji like a blessing in Kuch Kuch Hota Haior Tiger tying Disha’s around his bicep as a keepsake of her memory, the symbolic dupatta in Bollywood movies is always a bandhini pattern.

How about some ikat or phulkari next time?

7. Continuity continues to be a sore spot for fictional injuries and bruises.

There’s a different shade of red on Disha’s face and forehead, its location too varies as per make-up man’s mood.

One cop is punched in the face, a couple of teeth fly off, but return just in time for the next scene.

Above all, there’s the invincible leading man and and his ‘Jo tera torture hai, woh mera warm-up hai‘ gusto.

His bare body is pummelled like some bug-infested mattress. Yet not one scratch appears on that ridiculously sculpted torso.

8. Manoj Bajpayee and Randeep Hooda are smart actors. Not because they’ve done some great work in Baaghi 2. But because they realise how little this baloney requires.

Hooda’s hippy, high cop bears an uncanny resemblance to director and actor Amole Gupte. He doesn’t look like he cares if you notice.

And Manoj Bajpayee can barely conceal his smugness over being remunerated for polishing off biscuits and saying lines like ‘Get the machines.’

9. An unremarkable Jacqueline Fernandez dancing to the revolting Ek Do Teenremix is the very definition of poor taste and shabby tribute. Too bad there’s no option for fast-forward.

10. One could show up only for the final 20 minutes of the Baaghi movies and still not miss anything.

Unless the perfunctory nonsense that precedes it under the pretext of incentive holds any interest to you.

There’s zero emotion and logic in anything about Baaghi 2.

Right from ‘Why on earth is Disha’s father so opposed to her match with Tiger’s to ‘this has got to be the stupidest reason for kidnapping ever,’ Baaghi 2‘s laughable twists and slyness are sloppy and forced. Just like that completely needless early sequence inspired by the true incident of an army officer tying a Kashmiri local on jeep.

The best thing I can say about Baaghi 2 is it does have its moments of ‘so bad it’s good’ gratification in Prateik Babbar’s hammy dope head, the babyish wailing of a constable assisting Hooda and Tiger’s bizarre boss, the guy could put caricatures to shame with his ‘The war is over’ solemnity.

What a circus!

Rating: 2 

This review was first published on rediff.com.

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Ready Player One review: Spielberg’s thumping joyride into the 80s!

Steven Spielberg is the father of spectacle.

The film-maker’s singular vision in weaving ambitious drama around cinematic sorcery launched the age of blockbuster entertainment.

In Ready Player One, he returns to an arena he predominantly parented with the optimism of a kid who hasn’t forgotten what it’s like to be an audience.

Another Jaws or Jurassic Park this isn’t, but one cannot imagine a better or bigger movie geek to helm this feverishly paced big screen adaption of Ernest Cline’s 2011 bestseller.

Usually the subject of tributes, this time it is Spielberg who is doffing his hat at as many pop culture references possible from the world of movies, music, fantasy novels and video games to embody the book’s retro-loving spirit.

Nerdy nostalgia is killing it as a genre and still a few projects away from burn out before it resurfaces again in a brand new form to celebrate another bygone generation.

Superfluity is the very point of popular culture which thrives on mention and the giddy level of greatness trivialities acquire in memory over time.

Ready Player One flatters this notion by paying homage to the icons of the 1980s with all it has got.

Spielberg hits a massive fanboy and girl nerve to turn the conflict between geeky idealism and corporate capitalism into a sport of spot-the-allusion.

Famously fictional props and characters watermark its kinetic scenery.

King Kong, Gundam The Iron Giant, Harley Quinn, Chucky, Street Fighter, Moral Kombat, Mario, MechGodzilla, Jurassic Park, The Fly, Alien, Star Wars, George Michael, Steve Jobs, Stanley Kubrick, John Hughes, Robert Zemeckis, the Bee Gees, Joan Jett, Michael Jackson, Atari 2600, Nancy Drew, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, Akira, Christine — it’s an exhaustive list of expertly laid out references powering the sci-fi potboiler’s God-is-in-details agenda.

Backed by the wonders of immersive IMAX 3D technology and awe-inspiring CGI, the propulsive action takes a life of its own.

Ready Player One is set in a congested dystopian future, where slipping on glossy haptic gear and assuming simulated avatars within the virtual world of OASIS can take your mind off the horridness and cynicism of real life.

It certainly allows Wade Watts (a pleasant Tye Sheridan), a shy orphan from Ohio to escape his shabby existence and rock the virtual scene as Parzival, his gaming alter ego and top contender to win Anorak’s Quest, a game within OASIS, the revered VR community built by the late James Halliday (played by Mark Rylance with a conscious jitteriness).

Halliday is a less whimsical Willy Wonka to Parzival’s Charlie Bucket, but his humour for competition is much alike.

Curiously recorded scenes of his life play out posthumously like a library of clues in real-time, one that Parzival frequently visits to find all the hidden eggs and win the game before Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelhson’s scowling face does its bit as the business-minded villain) does.

What it really conveys though is the loneliness of a life not quite as exciting as the alternative he made.

Spielberg is quite capable of making a separate feature on Halliday alone, one that would be super poignant and award ready. But Ready Player One doesn’t dwell on existentialism.

Gaming is a matter of life and death here.

He empowers Watts and his VR world companions — a spunky, red-haired Art3mis (Olivia Cooke is so good, the movie should have revolved around her), the mechanic best pal Aech (Lena Waithe) and sprightly sidekicks Daito (Win Morisaki) and Sho (Philip Zhao) — through a series of daredevil quests that strives for adrenalin over wisdom.

Too bad these characters don’t rise above standard support and cultural representation. Still, the journey is fun for as long as it lasts.

I’ve not read the book. My husband has and loved it to bits.

While mesmerised by Spielberg’s exhilarating depiction of OASIS, he was bummed out about the dumbing down of the non-gaming portions to create a more conventional, concentrated, view of a sprawling narrative, the usual ‘best chapters left out to accommodate a overblown third act’ gripe.

And while the third act is indeed a blazing explosion of ridiculously excessive combat and pop culture clutter, to someone who isn’t familiar with the book but knows her Spielberg well, the spectacle feels more go for broke than gratuitous.

This review was first published on rediff.com.

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Super Filmi Week: Ek Do Teen remix is outright perversion

From disdain for the Ek Do Teen remix to adoration for Chashme Buddoor’s creator and leading man, my Super Filmi Week covered quite an emotional spectrum.

Monday
The great Sai Paranjype is 80 today.

The film-maker’s lookout on life, the humanity and wit of her everyday characters and their instinctive response to any given situation — never too evil nor too saintly — just plain real lend her creations an everlasting charm and sensitivity.

I can’t think of a time when I wasn’t aware of her presence or the significance of her contribution.

I remember watching Sparsh as a child on the big screen, I am still amazed at how much I understood, how much it moved and influenced me.

The scenes where Shabana Azmi turns storyteller for the blind school kids are eternal favourites.

There’s one about a princess fleeing from the clutches of a giant, another highlighting the misfortune of a kid named Harpapadlal Khatmalsen Pudiyaram Heengamal Thengaprasad. I still haven’t forgotten the tension and thrill I felt on watching the princess (played by Shabana) escape and the puny giant’s crying frustration.

Sparsh is a mellow relationship drama, but Paranjype shoots the above sequences with the perception of a child.

Considering Paranjype’s first book of fairy tales was published when she was only eight years old, that’s hardly a surprise.

Happy Birthday, Sai Paranjype, you are cinema’s happily-ever after.

Tuesday
Tuesday thoughts: Raveena Tandon is to bubble gum what Rajinikanth is to sunglasses.

Rajesh Khanna’s head bobble, Dev Anand’s furious swinging of hands, Amitabh Bachchan’s Hain in that booming baritone, Shah Rukh Khan’s trademark spreading of arms, Salman Khan’s shirtless fervour, swagger is such a male attribute in Hindi cinema.

So thank God for Raveena and the badass spirit of her gum chewing vigour.

Wednesday
‘I can’t believe they’ve done this to Ek Do Reen. It’s crass beyond imagination.’

Director N Chandra is boiling mad. Understandably too.

Bollywood’s paucity of ideas may be on an all-time high, but it doesn’t give them the right to pulverise one beloved classic after another into crude, crummy, versions.

The Tezaab chartbuster is a pop culture jewel that turned Madhuri Dixit into an overnight star inspiring permanent awe among fans and dance lovers. To see its glorious imagery reduced to the unflattering sight of Jacqueline Fernandez’s ribcage is simply unacceptable.

If this was Hollywood, fans would have signed petitions to get it off air.

I am averse to remixes, but can live with ones that at least have their intentions in place. Like Vidya Balan gyrating to Sridevi’s Hawa Hawai in Tumhari Sulu never discredits the original.

But the Ek Do Teen remix is outright perversion. There’s no love for the song or Madhuri, no consideration for what it meant to an entire generation and zero respect for its iconic choreography.

Thursday
Annihilation, the new Netflix original movie, gains a great deal from its excellent production design.

The sci-fi drama’s many metaphors and investigations preoccupied by self-destruction and disease would feel hollow and meandering if it wasn’t for the telling visuals.

I found it emotionally lacking, but the ethereal imagination it acquires in the third act blew my mind.

Starring Natalia Portman and Oscar Isaac, Annihilation is about a biologist who volunteers to set foot inside ‘Shimmer’, an iridescent-hued electromagnetic field to seek answers about its only survivor — her critically ill husband.

A review I read likens it to the ancient Greek legend of Orpheus and his dear wife Eurydice. Unable to deal with the latter’s tragic, unexpected, death, Orpheus goes all the way to meet Hades, God of Underworld in a bid to restore her back to life.

On the other hand, I was reminded of Savitri’s efforts to revive Satyavan by appealing to Yama, God of Death.

Translating mythology for modern world prompts fascinating results. It’s almost as if Annihilation and its journey into damaged souls is using it like a map to subvert into darkness and enigma.

Friday
Rani Mukerji’s Hichki doesn’t do anything for Tourette’s syndrome, but it reiterates the worth of a good actor. If only it was for a more realised script.

Like I wrote in my review, it’s an out-and-out Rani show, which only collapses when its spontaneity is suppressed to force down a done-to-death cycle of tantrums, melodrama and collective redemption.

But Rani’s work is a triumph.

She is so good at picking the sur of her character, always an attractive blend of mainstream charisma and know-my-art savvy.

Every day is a struggle, a point to prove for her school teacher juggling between a snide colleague and unruly class of teenaged students.

Her idealism is obvious because she puts an effort to seem unruffled. Try jabbing your jaw with a fist and you’ll realise how tough that is.

Saturday
Never underestimate the power of shabby subtitles. They can turn a dull day into an entertaining one.

So Baghban‘s Meri Makhna becomes:

Kasam Paida Karne Wale Ki translates as:

And Big B’s baap-level dialogues dumbs down to:

Sunday
It’s Farooque Shaikh’s 70th birthday.

The Google Doodle in his honour may not be an accurate illustration of his genial charm; it’s still nice to see the actor get celebrated.

As an avid fan, I’ve always been vocal in my admiration of the late celebrity.

Can you think of any other actor who can look this adorable with shave foam on his face or holding all his grocery or a jhadoo under his arm?

Here’s a fun bit I learned about one of his best movies today.

In Sai Paranjype’s original teleplay, Dhuan Dhuan that formed the basis for Chashme Buddoor, all three friends are equally frivolous and pursue the same girl and weave false accounts of their conquests with her.

In the end, nobody wants or gets the girl.

Thankfully, the movie is not so bleak.

While Ravi Baswani and Rakesh Bedi’s slackers stay true to Sai’s original vision, the third character — played by Farooque Saab — is the classic nice guy whose tutti-frutti romance with Miss Chamko (Deepti Naval) becomes the crux of this 1981 classic.

I wouldn’t want it any other way.

This column was first published on rediff.com.

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