Thursday, July 26, 2007

Partner: David Dhawan's 'Hitch'-hike!

Cast: Salman Khan, Govinda, Katrina Kaif, Lara Dutta
Director: David Dhawan
Genre: Comedy
Storyline: Hitch
Bottomline: Knot exactly Hitch, tied up David Dhawan style

The thing about David Dhawan movies is that you know that the knot is just an excuse to unleash some unpretentious insanity on screen, as the lead pair improvises with great flourish, backed with the cheesiest of lines.

Sample this: When Prem (Salman Khan of course) thinks the bumbling Bhaskar (Govinda) died in a bus accident, he sits beside the corpse, and in all sincerity says: “Pata hai pyaar karna sab ke BUS ki baat nahin nahin, Par kya pata tha ki tu BUS pakadkar, hum sabko beBUS karke chala jayega.” (It’s impossible to translate these dialogues Sanjay Chhel and make them sound funny in English)

Instantly, you know here’s a film that does not take itself too seriously. Earlier, there’s a scene where a kid launches a baby missile that responds to the verbal cue: 'Go baby go' and hunts down the person mentioned after those words. So when the kid helplessly cries for help saying ‘Maama,’ the missile chases Jet-Skiing Salman Khan giving him ample scope to showcase his stunts. Wait a minute, didn’t we say it was about Hitch?

Yes, that’s because stupid Bhaskar (chubby klutzy Govinda) wants to woo Marie Claire model Katrina Kaif and seeks Love Guru’s help.

With that storyline as an excuse, David Dhawan gives the common man plenty to laugh at with digs at everyone including Shah Rukh Khan (Rajpal Yadav plays Chotta Don in a cheeky sub-plot that never quite takes off), Aamir Khan (there’s this hilarious Aamir duplicate on screen when Salman takes the mischievious kid for a movie) and the lead players Govinda (as the man breaks into Sarkailo Khatiya to showcase his dance skills before Love Guru tells him that times have changed and he has to make his moves more stylish and ‘Just Chill’ – one of the finest moments in the film, almost autobiographical) and Salman himself (at a security check, Salman takes his shirt off and says: “Main Toh Mauke main rehta hoon yeh sab karne ke liye” (I just wait for opportunities to do things like this)
David Dhawan has been criticised for being inconsistent about delivering his films and sometimes scenes within the film – some work, others fail. That’s because he helms a genre called improvisational comedy that solely depends on the mood of the unit (mainly the actors and his writers) during that particular day.

If you think about it, there is simply no other way David Dhawan films can be made. Because most of the jokes surely wouldn’t sound funny the second time you read it in a bound script.

The scenes work purely because of the improvisation and comic timing by the actors. Here, Govinda returns to form and cracks you up as Salman sits back and lets the under-rated actor take centre-stage.

In fact, that scene in the theatre where Prem babysits the kid and cheers ‘Go Aamir, Go’ is testimony to Salman’s attitude of sitting back and having a good time watching his contemporaries try hard to entertain. In a recent interview, Salman said: “Shah Rukh puts in 100 per cent, Aamir puts in 200 per cent… and me, I put in two percent.”

And when you see Partner, you tend to believe the man. His performance is effortless indeed.

If Hitch was a date movie, this one’s for buddies.

Die Hard: John McLane kicks ass!

Cast: Bruce Willis, Justin Long, Maggie Q, Timothy Olyphant, Kevin Smith
Director: Len Wiseman
Genre: Action
Storyline: A bunch of hackers unleashing virtual terrorism need their backsides kicked and John McLane obliges.
Bottomline: Yippi Ka Yay! Mo-friggin’ good.

For most Die Hard fans, it’s paisa vasool just to watch John McLane say: ‘Yippi Ka Yay Mother…’ This breed could die of a happiness overdose watching Die Hard 4.0.

John McLane is back doing what he does best – kick as soon as he gets a chance to, the good old-fashioned way.

Like always, he is the man at the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s not Christmas but it’s the fourth of July this time.

Pretty much like Rocky Balboa in his last installment, John McLane too now spends a lonely life. No wife, a daughter who’s bitter with him. “Know what you get for being a hero? Nothin’. You get shot at… Your wife doesn’t remember your last name…”

He’s not exactly dying to be a hero and yet always near-dying when he becomes one, out of no choice. Like he says, “If someone else would do it, I would gladly let them.” Speaking for the rest of us, the hacker kid he’s protecting (Justin Long) tells him: “That’s what makes you the man.”

It’s that emotional core of Die Hard 4.0 that raises the film above the mindless-action-based sequels, even bettering the original.

Not that the sequels were all bad. The original Die Hard (1988) was a classic action flick that made profanity sound cool. Die Hard 2 (1990) was really pushing the scope of possibilities to plausibility-defying proportions and yet managing to land smoothly as McLane gives the bad guys a ‘Yippi Ka Yay’ send off with his cigarette lighter. Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995) started off on a promising note with the ‘Simon Says’ game but the key revelation happens too early in the film and we’re left with nearly an hour of an explosive steeple-chase which after a point becomes really redundant.

Thanks to Wiseman, with the emotional core intact, Die Hard 4 explodes into a recklessly racy video game – a cat-and-mice (come on, the bad guys are always mice compared to John McLane, our cool cat) game too like the previous films.

We always knew McLane hated technology, so here they pit him against something he has no clue about and that is what makes him vulnerable. The villain is technology, not the guys specifically. Like the bad guy Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant) says, “You are a Timex watch in a digital age.”

Even when it’s about combat, McLane is dealing with sophisticated fighters. Maggie Q plays a martial arts specialist. “Mai? Asian chick, likes to kick people? Yeah, last time I saw her she was at the bottom of an elevator shaft with an SUV rammed up her ass...” goes McLane after taking her on: “Enough of this kung fu shit.”

McLane sticks to basics. He knows someone is responsible for wrecking chaos and he knows he has to find them and kick their assembly. In the process, he sends cars flying, takes on an F-35 jet sitting in a truck and yeah, like the John McLane Guyz Nite tribute song tells us, “the greatest car-explosions by far.”

Justin Long (Accepted, Herbie Fully Loaded) plays the perfect foil to McLane, speaking for us most of the time, like when he observes: “You just killed a helicopter with a car.” “I was outta bullets,” reasons McLane with his trademark cool.

Bruce Willis just seems to get better at this with age and it would be a pity if he signs off the franchise with this one. The man carries the film with his profanity and timing, getting beaten, battered and bathes in blood before he finally gets to say: “Yippi Ka Yay Motherfucker!” (Jerkoffs wouldn't like that on print, would they?)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Beerfest: Drink before you think

Cast: Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Cloris Leachman, Paul Soter
Director: Jay Chandrasekhar
Genre: Comedy
Storyline: A bunch of friends challenge the Germans to a beer-drinking competition.
Bottomline: *Laugh out loud* What was it again? Hic! Never mind, pour me another one!

Half-naked women (Full, if you grab a DVD). Gross jokes about throwing up. Absolutely ribald. Juvenile to the core. Inane. Crude. Crass. But come on, it’s a night out with the boys.

After all, the irreverence is among the many other casual, fun things that the spirit of beer stands for.

Now, I don’t drink Beer. Mostly, because I don’t like the taste of it.

But strangely, I liked the bad taste in this one.

Beerfest made me love everything that Beer stands for. It’s the kind of movie that makes ‘Dude, Where’s My Car’ look sober.

Which means that you just should not, must not and cannot look for a story or a plot in here. Because, like good beer, it’s all about the froth and the foam, the strong flavour and a light kick. Beer is not the food for thought or a plot. It’s an excuse to lose your mind.

Hence, the film itself is constructed like one of those all-guys frat-house parties where you arrive knowing what to expect, meet the weirdest assortment of drunks and before you know it, the games begin and guys get-together bonding over beer and, well… More beer.

There’s non-stop nonsense, junk food, Baywatch on TV and a bunch of guys rolling on the floor laughing about something they don’t remember anymore.

Relate to that? Then, Jay Chandrasekhar’s movie is your pitcher of beer.

Jay himself can’t act for nuts but he’s fun to watch.

And Hey! If he was adequately drunk when he wrote and directed this ultimate Beer Movie ever, it’s only fair he got himself sloshed before the make-up man messed with his face.

Want to really enjoy the Beerfest experience?

Get together with the boys, get plenty of booze and rent it out. If the movie doesn’t make you laugh, the beer surely will.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Apne: This Rocky Baldeva pulls no punches!

Cast: Dharmendra, Sunny Deol, Bobby Deol, Katrina Kaif, Shilpa Shetty
Director: Anil Sharma
Genre: Drama
Storyline: A champion boxer banned on doping charges swears to make his son a world champ only to find him unwilling.
Bottomline: Three for the price of one!

Anil Sharma’s recent films haven’t been about a plot, they’ve been tales spun around excuses to let Sunny Paaji swear endlessly in Punjabi and plant his ‘dhai’ (two and a half) kilo fist on the bad guy’s face every few minutes.

I’ve always been a fan of this kind of cinema simply because I get my kicks with a wholesome dose of laughs.

The funniest Hindi film I’ve seen till date (funniest Indian film ever would have to be T.R.’s ‘Veerasamy’) is Anil Sharma’s previous collaboration with Sunny Deol – The Hero, the love story of a spy – the most expensive film ever made, that had him sporting over a dozen clever disguises, most of them involving a mere change of sunglasses.

‘The Hero’ was a movie that made me go ahead and watch even Sunny’s serious attempts at comedy like ‘Jo Bole So Nihaal’ where he proclaims “No If, No But, Sirf Jat.”

Hence, with Apne’s three-for-the-price-of-one Jat unique selling proposition staring at my face from the posters, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Not to let me down, it was one of those good old Sunny Paaji films. And a super emotional one at that.

As a prize bonus, there’s Deol Junior.

Bobby is girly (to the extent that one is inclined to pun his name with an unprintable nick) and he’s better off not removing his shirt because when he does that, it’s not a scene. It’s obscene. Those slow motion shots only make it worse in otherwise brilliantly staged and shot boxing sequences. (Since this is a blog and not the version that made it to print, I think I can say I was unable to sleep traumatised by memories (mammaries rather) of Booby Deol's KNOCKs OUT after being repeatedly being punched there in slow mos, this chest wobbling like a milk packet...)

What I didn’t bargain for, however, was Dharmendra’s powerhouse performance and a half-decent script buried in all that sentimentality and name-calling. The film belongs to the veteran. In that scene where he pleads to his protégé to let him continue coaching him, your heart goes out to the under-rated actor.

If the script seems this half-decent (the support characters are all effectively fleshed out) even after being ravaged by Anil Sharma and Sunny Deol, it surely must’ve been a winner had it been treated by a better director. Not that this doesn’t work; It does for a different kind of audience. The one that made ‘Gadar’ an embarrassingly huge super-duper hit.

Sunny, as a friend noticed, clearly eats ham for breakfast, lunch and dinner and to expect refinement out of him is plain unfair. Here he has to worry about monumental, never-ending bad hair days that make him look like he’s wearing one of those hideous wigs – or maybe it’s one of those disguises from The Hero.

To his credit, in ‘Apne,’ he actually saves up/postpones the trademark hot-bloodedness to the last Act when he finally explodes – the moment we Sunny fans had been waiting for.

So much that Garam Dharam, who in the film plays a sincere tribute to Rocky Baldeva, a well-etched out character obsessed with boxing and coaching, gives in to the moment and says: “Uda do saale ko.”

Suddenly, the excitement in the halls is infectious. Near euphoric.

Now, this is the kind of a moment where a filmmaker with a sensibility different from Sharma’s would’ve used to let the Dad step in as the coach subtly giving him the killer boxing tip that would help the hero deliver the knock out punch. And there I was half-expecting a tip like what Rocky Balboa got: “To beat this guy, you need speed - you don't have it… So, what we'll be calling on is good ol’ fashion blunt force trauma. Horsepower. Heavy-duty, cast-iron, pile-driving punches that will have to hurt so much they'll rattle his ancestors. Every time you hit him with a shot, it's gotta feel like he tried kissing the express train. Yeah! Let's start building some hurtin' bombs!”

“Uda do saale ko,” indeed.

Forget the rural-urban sensibility disconnect, here’s good old Indian cinema for you in all its glory.