MOH MAYA MONEY

Delhi Talkies’ Moh Maya Money (UA) is the story of a middle-class couple living in Delhi, and their greed.

Aman (Ranvir Shorey) and Divya (Neha Dhupia) are a married couple leading a middle-class life in Delhi. Aman works for a real estate company while Divya works in a media company. Aman is fed up of being middle-class and wants to become rich and live in luxury. He, therefore, often cheats his company to make quick money. In one such deal, he borrows money from Raghuveer (Devendra Chowhan) and invests that money to book a plot of land to build a home for himself and wife Divya. But his boss (Sandeep Narula) gets to know of Aman cheating the company and he sacks him from the job.

While Aman shows Divya the plot of land he has booked, he does not reveal anything about the loss of job to her. When Raghuveer asks Aman to return his money, Aman is in a fix. Raghuveer threatens Aman and even has him beaten up by his goons when he doesn’t return the money on the promised date.

Aman tries to borrow money against his life insurance policy but the insurance company refuses. It is then that Aman decides to fake his death so that his wife could claim money from the life insurance company. Divya is against the plan but finally gets sucked into it when he carries it out. While himself escaping in a stage-managed car accident, Aman ensures that the police find a charred body in his car. Divya identifies the burnt body as Aman’s.

Even as Divya is awaiting the cheque from the insurance company, she is shocked to learn of something horrifying from the police station. Meanwhile, Divya herself has done things which shock Aman. What are the horrifying facts which Divya gets to know due to her visit to the police station to collect the proofs of Aman’s ‘death’ in the accident? What are the actions of Divya, which shock Aman?

Munish Bhardwaj has written a story which has plenty of turns and twists and which is pretty intriguing. The story is so engrossing that the audience remains engaged in it right from the start till the end. The screenplay, written by Munish Bhardwaj and Mansi Nirmal Jain, is entertaining and engaging. It moves at a fast pace and doesn’t give time to the viewers to think. Yes, there are a couple of weak links like Aman objecting to Divya’s abortion, calling it the murder of his unborn child, which looks silly as he himself is guilty of another murder. Likewise, Divya is ready to walk out on Aman because he had not told her about being sacked from his job. But it later turns out that Divya herself has hidden a lot from Aman. Why later, even around the same time as Aman losing his job, Divya is shown to be preparing to go to Hong Kong for official work, without taking Aman into confidence. However, despite these lapses, the screenplay is well-written and very fast-moving. Dialogues, penned by Munish Bhardwaj and Mansi Nirmal Jain, with additional dialogues by Ranvir Shorey, are realistic and effective.

Ranvir Shorey lives the role of the unscrupulous Aman who can go to any lengths to make fast money. He makes the character very believable by his natural acting. Neha Dhupia is also excellent as Divya. She plays the scheming wife with such finesse that you marvel at her ease in front of the camera. Vidushi Mehra lends very good support as Bhavana whom Divya meets and befriends at the police station. Ashwath Bhat makes his presence felt as Divya’s colleague, Kabir. Devendra Chowhan leaves a mark as Raghuveer. Anant Raina is good as upcoming film director Rohan. Sandeep Nirula (as Aman’s boss), Priya Tandon (as Jiya), Sagar Jha and Pramod Kumar (both as Raghuveer’s goons) and Bittoo Ishwar Chhabra (as the cop at Kasauli) provide excellent support. Prateek Asnani (as Roy), Haneef Menon (as the accountant), Vaani Pahwa (as the doctor) and Srikant Verma (as the Delhi cop) are adequate. Others do as desired.

Munish Bhardwaj’s direction is very nice. His narration affords no time or gives no reason to the audiences to think or even let their thoughts wan­der. Harpreet Singh’s music and Varun Grover’s lyrics are appropriate. Tuomas Kantelinen’s background music is nice. Arun Varma’s camerawork is good. Shoumini Ghosh Roy and Dhruv Satija’s art direction is effective. Editing (Hitesh Kumar) is crisp.

On the whole, Moh Maya Money is a well-made and an interesting film which boasts of lovely performances. It would still not fetch returns because of lack of promotion and, therefore, a very dull start.

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DEAR ZINDAGI

Red Chillies Entertainment, Dharma Productions and Hope Productions’ Dear Zindagi (UA) is the story of a girl suffering from depression and how she gets cured of it.

Kaira (Alia Bhatt) is an upcoming cinematographer, very good at her work. She has shot many ad films and is keen to now shoot a full-length feature film, having so far only filled in for a cameraman who may have taken ill. Kaira has been into relationships but they’ve always ended in break-ups. While Kaira lives in Bombay, her parents live in Goa. The very thought of going to Goa to spend time with her father and mother puts her off. In fact, she can barely make telephone conversations with them.

Kaira tries to put on a brave front but it is clear that she is not a very happy person. Just recently, she has had a break-up with Sid (Angad Bedi) because she confesses to him that she has slept with her colleague, film director Raghuvendra (Kunal Kapoor).

Shortly thereafter, Raghuvendra gives her the good news that he would be directing a film to be shot in the USA and that he had selected her as its cinematographer. Raghuvendra flies to the USA for initial discussions and Kaira is due to join him later. Once he reaches the USA, Raghuvendra’s silence is quite unnerving for Kaira but soon, her friend, Fatima (Ira Dubey), informs her that Raghuvendra has gotten engaged to be married to another girl.

Kaira, who had been due to visit her parents in Goa, does so now because she has cancelled her plans to shoot Raghuvendra’s film in the US. In Goa, the strained relations between Kaira and her parents are very obvious even though her mother and father try their level best to make her feel comfortable and wanted in Goa. Kaira often spends time with her close friend, Jackie (Yashaswini R. Dayama), who is from Bombay but also happens to be in Goa while she (Kaira) has come visiting her parents.

One day, quite by chance, Kaira meets psychiatrist Dr. Jehangir Khan (Shah Rukh Khan) in Goa. Embarrassed to talk openly to him about her depression, which doesn’t let her be a happy person, she approaches Dr. Khan with her problems as if they were the problems of a friend. Dr. Khan is so understanding and endearing that he soon wins Kaira’s confidence. Before she knows it, Kaira has become Dr. Khan’s patient, coming regularly for sittings with him. Dr. Khan is able not only to identify Kaira’s problems but also to help her get over them.

What are Kaira’s problems? And how does she battle them? Do her strained relations with her parents improve?

Gauri Shinde, Krishna Hariharan and Kausar Munir have penned an unusual story about a girl suffering from depression and who musters the courage to seek a cure for the same in a society which tries to push such illnesses under the carpet. The story starts on a good note and engages the audiences for two reasons – it is different, and most of Kaira’s friends are as interesting as Kaira herself. Even when the drama shifts from Bombay to Goa, the interest level of the viewers doesn’t dip because the tension between Kaira and her family members becomes the focal point.

It is only after Kaira meets Dr. Jehangir Khan and starts to have regular consultations with him that the story dips at several places because the conversations between Kaira and Dr. Khan are too technical, philosophical and, therefore, even boring and repetitive.

The writing trio’s screenplay is fast-paced and entertaining as long as the focus is on Kaira’s pro­fession and friends. Once the scene shifts to Goa, the audience is at first unable to understand what Kaira’s problem with her family is, and therefore, doesn’t feel as engaged as it has so far felt. While the screenplay once again consumes the viewers when Dr. Jehangir Khan is introduced in the drama, it dips when Kaira keeps visiting him and pouring her heart out. The dysfunctionalities of Kaira’s family depress the audiences and although they sympathise with her, they don’t feel very nice about her condition. While this is how it should be, the drama becomes too dry and even boring sometimes for the audience’s liking. The film then becomes a highly class-appealing film because all the philosophical talk between Kaira and Dr. Khan would interest only the gentry and city audiences. Further, since many people in India, who suffer from depression, don’t even address the issue and are probably not even aware that they are suffering, the drama would not make much sense to them. This is not to say that Dr. Jehangir Khan’s portion is completely boring. No, the interactions between Kaira and Dr. Khan have their cute and fun moments but they also have their depressing, repetitive and philosophical moments, which tend to bore even the target audience, the classes.

Kaira’s brief affair in Goa with Rumi (Ali Zafar) is, again, a boring episode in the screenplay. The climax is interesting, engaging and subtle. Dialogues, penned by Gauri Shinde, Krishna Hariharan and Kausar Munir, are very entertaining albeit class-appealing.

Alia Bhatt is exceptionally good as Kaira. She lives the difficult role and delivers an award-winning performance in a character that has so many shades. If she is outstanding in light scenes, she is also remarkable in the emotional ones. Shah Rukh Khan does a fantastic job as Dr. Jehangir Khan. He is so restrained in the role that it is a delight to watch him play Dr. Khan. Kunal Kapoor leaves a fine mark as Raghuvendra. Ira Dubey is brilliant as Fatima. Yashaswini R. Dayama is outstanding in the role of Jackie. Gautmik has his moments as Ganju. Ali Zafar is quite good as Rumi. Angad Bedi does a fair job in the brief role of Sid. Atul Kale (as Kaira’s father), Aban Deohans (as Kaira’s mother), Yashwant Singh (as Kaira’s uncle) and Salone Mehta (as aunt of Kaira) lend excellent support. Aditya Roy Kapur makes his presence felt in a tiny guest appearance. Rohit Saraf leaves a mark as Kaira’s brother, Kiddo. Baby Dishita Sehgal (as little Kaira) and master Amit Nagraj (as little Kiddo) are effective. Aashish Bhatia (as NRI Suresh), Nitika Anand (as family friend), Martha Xavier Fernandes (as Kaira’s maternal grandmother), Madhav Vaze (as Kaira’s maternal grandfather) and Aakanksha Chandrakant Gade (as maid Alka) are adequate.

Gauri Shinde’s direction is sensitive but she seems to have gone by the assumption that everyone would understand the meaning and implications of mental depression, which is not true. By its very nature, the drama holds appeal for a limited audience only. Music (Amit Trivedi) ought to have been nothing less than hit in a film like this, with a heavy second half. The ‘Love you zindagi’ song is appealing but the other songs, though fairly well-tuned, are not too popular. Kausar Munir’s lyrics are appropriate. Feroz Khan’s choreography is suited to the film. Amit Trivedi’s background music is quite nice. Laxman Utekar’s cinematography is outstanding. Rupin Su­chak’s production designing is of a fine standard. Hemanti Sarkar’s editing is sharp. But how one wishes, the script itself had been far more concise; a two-hour film instead of the two-and-a-half-hour film it is, would have been a big plus for it.

On the whole, Dear Zindagi is a film for the gentry and will do well mainly in the premium multiplexes of the big cities. Its business in lesser multiplexes, single-screen cinemas and other cities and towns will, generally speaking, be below the mark. Considering the cost of the film’s making, promotion and release (excluding Shah Rukh Khan’s fee which he has not charged), its entire investment has already been recovered from non-theatrical revenues. Therefore, it is a foregone conclusion that the producers will reap a fantastic harvest as every rupee of share from India (all-India distribution rights pre-sold to one company) and Overseas will go towards profit. For the all-India distributor, the film would prove to be just a safe bet. The film will do very well Overseas.

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FORCE 2

Viacom18 Motion Pictures, JA Entertainment, Sunshine Pictures Pvt. Ltd. and Cinema Capital’s Force 2 (UA) is a sequel to Force.

Three RAW agents in China are murdered. While disowning the agents for obvious reasons, the government of India, nevertheless, sends a RAW agent, KK (Sonakshi Sinha), and a trusted police officer, Yashvardhan (John Abraham), to investigate.

Just before they are to embark on the investigation, Yashvardhan receives a book as a gift from his friend, Harish (Farhad), who is one of the slain RAW agents. Decoding the message written by Harish on the book, Yash­vardhan realises that he and KK would have to go to Budapest to catch the murderer.

In Budapest, the prime suspect is Shiv (Tahir Raj Bhasin). Yashvardhan and KK are hot on Shiv’s trail but they miss the chance to nab him and bring him to India. However, it is amply clear that Shiv is the guy who has murdered the three RAW agents. Two more agents are killed even as investigations are underway.

Along the way, Yashvardhan and KK get to know some details about Shiv, which help them in their probe. They realise, Shiv has a more sinister plan in place.

What is the ultimate plan of Shiv? Why is he against RAW agents? What are the details which Yashvardhan and KK learn about Shiv while they are in the thick of the investigations? Are Yashvardhan and KK able to nab Shiv? Do they foil his final plan?

Parveez Shaikh and Jasmeet K. Reen have written a story which has some novelty. But the impact of the novelty pales into insignificance once Shiv’s motives are revealed. It is then that the audience gets the feeling that Shiv’s anger is misdirected. The audience is also not convinced that Shiv should have gone about killing innocent RAW agents, because his ultimate aim was something else. Since the RAW agents are, in a sense, grey characters, there is nothing as cent per cent right and cent per cent wrong in this area. That is to say, the viewer could sympathise with the government’s stand of disowning agents when confronted with the question of whether they are agents, or he could disapprove of the same. Likewise, the viewer could feel sympathy for the family of the murdered RAW agents so much that he may feel that any step by the family members is justified, or the viewer could feel that the family members of the RAW agents should not react because the consequences come with the job. The way the story has been written, it is doubtful whether the audience would go with the drama – and this is the biggest problem with the story.

The duo’s screenplay is good in parts. The first half, especially, is fast-paced and exciting, what with several of the action and chase sequences being breathtaking. Of course, repetition does take its toll before interval but yet, the first half manages to sustain the audience’s interest. The problem starts after interval when the truth about Shiv and the rationale behind his actions and his ultimate aim are revealed one by one. Each revelation takes the interest level of the audience down rather than up because the audience starts questioning Shiv’s actions in the given circumstances. Besides, the screenplay suddenly appears to be about just one man’s eccentricities more than anything else. Worse still, the viewers can’t fathom why Shiv chose RAW agents to murder, given the background of his own family!

The second half’s screenplay is not upto the mark. What engages the audience after interval is, therefore, only action. The screenplay is also lopsided because the film has absolutely no comedy, no relief, no romance and no emotions. Songs fail to have the desired impact. Dialogues, written by the duo, are good but not outstanding.

John Abraham plays ACP Yashvardhan effectively. He looks the character and convinces the audience that he can do just about anything. Sonakshi Sinha gets into the skin of KK’s character and performs ably. Tahir Raj Bhasin excels. He is fantastic in the role of Shiv. His acting is praiseworthy. Narendra Jha impresses as Anjan. Adil Hussain leaves a mark as the HRD minister. Raj Babbar has a brief role as home secretary and he is good. Shubhangi Latkar (as Rudra’s mother) and Muskaan Tomar (as Rudra’s sister) lend able support. Genelia (D’souza) Deshmukh leaves a mark in a minuscule special appearance. Farhad is impactful as RAW agent Harish. Pramod Pathak (as Samant) and Patricia Mittler (as Martinez) are adequate. Others provide average support.

Abhinay Deo’s direction is good but his choice of subject is not so. Also, he has resorted to making the drama engaging by offering stylised action more than by giving arresting content. Music (Amaal Malik and Gourov Roshin) is functional; the songs are fair. Lyrics (Kumaar and Rashmi Virag) are alright. Ahmed Khan and Firoz Khan’s choreography is okay. Prasad Sashte’s background music is very loud but effective. Camerawork (by Imre Juhasz and Mohana Krishna) is very good. Franz Spilhaus’ action, stunts and chase sequences are exciting and will be loved by youngsters and masses. But the excessive violence will, to an extent, put off the family and ladies audiences. Production designing (by Attila ‘Digi’ Kovari and Aparna Raina) is appropriate. Editing (by Amitabh Shukla and Sanjay Sharma) is quite sharp.

On the whole, Force 2 has more style and less substance of the convincing type. It will, therefore, not be a force to reckon with at the box-office. Rather, it will entail losses.

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TUM BIN II

T-Series Films and Benares Mediaworks’ Tum Bin II (UA) is a sequel to Tum Bin.

Taran (Neha Sharma) and Amar (Aashim Gulati) are in love with one another and are due to get married shortly. Taran lives with her two sisters, Manpreet (Meher Vij) and Gurpreet (Sonia Balani), in Edinburgh. Amar lives with his father (Kanwaljit Singh) in the same city. Manpreet has a Sikh boyfriend, Navjyot (Jaipreet Singh), who has decided to marry her. Gurpreet has a Pakistani boyfriend.

Taran and Amar go on a holiday to the snow-capped mountains as Amar is into skiing. Calamity strikes when Amar meets with a terrible accident and loses his balance while skiing all alone. It is not clear whom he had dashed against. After searching for many days, the search party concludes that Amar may be dead. Obviously, Amar’s father, Taran and her family are devastated.

Amar’s father tries hard to convince Taran to move on in life but even after six months, she is still too shocked to forget Amar. Amar’s father then introduces Shekhar (Aditya Seal) to Taran and her family as a late friend’s son. Shekhar is a fun-loving and lively person and soon brings back a smile on Taran’s face. By the by, Taran and Shekhar fall in love with one another.

Even as Shekhar and Taran’s romance is blossoming comes the good news that Amar is alive and has recovered under the care of doctors. He returns home. Taran is now in a dilemma – should she marry Amar or Shekhar? Shekhar realises that Amar is Taran’s first love and voluntarily retreats. On her part, Taran has so fallen in love with Shekhar that she confides in Amar, telling him of her love for Shekhar. The understanding Amar asks her to leave him and marry Shekhar. But soon, Shekhar realises that Taran is meant for Amar. Amar and Taran then learn something about Shekhar, which shocks them both.

What is it that they learn? Who is Shekhar? Whom does Taran finally marry – Amar or Shekhar?

Anubhav Sinha’s story is as old as the hills. It is basically a love triangle and has a lot of resemblance with Deewana. Although Sinha has tried to make the drama very youthful, his sermonising bits about life and philosophy bore the audience. Anubhav Sinha’s screenplay is clichéd, to say the least. There is not even a hint of novelty in the screenplay as one predictable scene after another unfolds in front of the audience. Probably because there is no freshness in the subject, Anubhav Sinha resorts to a song every few minutes to further the drama. But the songs hardly take the drama forward. The audience finds the songs intruding sometimes, simply because there are too many of them. Another drawback of the screenplay is that the audiences do not connect with any of the characters so much that they would root for either Amar or Shekhar. The frequent flip-flops of Taran, Amar and Shekhar get irritating after a point of time. All in all, the screenplay is too routine to be true and it fails to engage the viewers. Anubhav Sinha’s climax is equally ordinary. His dialogues are okay; sometimes, they even sound jaded.

Neha Sharma has done a fine job as Taran, the girl in love with Amar first and Shekhar later and finally torn between two lovers. Aditya Seal is alright as Shekhar. Aashim Gulati is okay in the role of Amar. Frankly, both, Aditya Seal and Aashim Gulati, don’t look like enviable heroes. Kanwaljit Singh acts ably. Meher Vij lends reasonably good support in the role of Manpreet. Sonia Balani is natural as Gurpreet. Jaipreet Singh (as Manpreet’s boyfriend, Navjyot), Ishwak Singh (as Gurpreet’s Pakistani boyfriend) and Davinder Madan (as the mother of Gurpreet’s boyfriend) lend adequate support. Romanos Kassimis (as François), Chris Donald (as Daniel) and the others pass muster.

Anubhav Sinha’s direction is alright. Of course, his narration is unable to camouflage the many shortcomings of the script. Ankit Tiwari’s music is the best part of the film. All the songs are melodious with three or four of them being very hummable too. But while some songs are youthful, others are of the kind which would appeal only to the older generation. Lyrics (Manoj Muntashir; ‘Teri fariyaad’ song written by Shakeel Azmi, and based on the original ghazal by Faaiz Anwar) are weighty. Shampa Gopikrishna’s choreography is average. Ankit Tiwari’s background music is okay. Ewan Mulligan’s cinematography is lovely. The foreign locations are eye-filling. Peter Pedrero’s stunts are nice. George Morris’ production designing is appropriate. Editing (by Farooq Hundekar) is not upto the mark.

On the whole, Tum Bin II will flop at the box-office in spite of hit music because it has nothing more to offer except very good songs.

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SHIVAAY

Ajay Devgn Ffilms, PEN Movies and NH Studioz’s Shivaay (UA) is the story of a father and his little daughter. It depicts the extent to which a parent can go, to protect his child.

Shivaay (Ajay Devgan) lives in the Himalayas and is a mountaineer. He loves mountain-climbing and has no­body to call his own in this world. While guiding a group of foreign trekkers, he befriends a foreigner, Olga (Erika Kaar), in the group. She hails from Bul- garia and has a family to look after in Bulgaria. Shivaay and Olga are thrown together by circumstances one day. Their togetherness leads to intimacy and the two develop a physical rela­ tionship. Olga gets pregnant with Shivaay’s love-child and al­ though she wants to abort the child and is in a hurry to return to Bulgaria, Shivaay pleads with her to deliver the child in India and give it to him before returning to her country.

Olga obliges Shivaay. She returns to Bulgaria soon after delivering their love-child, a baby girl, whom Shivaay then names Gaura (baby Abigail Eames). Gaura is unable to speak right from birth. Shivaay raises the daughter as a single parent. He tells Gaura that her mother is dead. All hell breaks loose when Gaura gets to know that her mother is alive and in Bulgaria. She forces Shivaay to take her to Bul­ garia to meet her mother.

Shivaay reaches Bulgaria with Gaura. But before the duo can trace Olga, Gaura is kidnapped. Shivaay only has 72 hours in the foreign land to save his little daughter as otherwise, she would either be pushed into the flesh trade or killed so that her organs could be sold. Abducting children and initiating them into prostitution or trading in their organs is common in Bulgaria.

The drama then shows the extent to which Shivaay goes to ensure that Gaura is rescued from the clutches of her abductors. With nobody he knows in Bulgaria, he seeks the help of Anu­ shka (Sayyeshaa) who works in the Indian embassy in Bulgaria. Anushka, in turn, seeks the assistance of her close friend, Wahab (Vir Das), who is a computer hacker. Meanwhile, Olga learns from the television news that the father of her child is in Bulgaria alongwith their child. The mother in her takes her to Shivaay and she, too, joins in the search operation. All along, Shivaay has to do whatever he does, very discreetly because the police of Bulgaria is baying for his blood. Anushka empathises with Shivaay and also finds herself being attracted to him and his devotion as a father.

Does Shivaay secure his daughter’s release before 72 hours? Or does he lose her to the abductors? Does Gaura end up in prostitution? Or is she killed and her organs sold? Does Shivaay return to India? If yes, with whom? If not, what does he do ultima- tely?

Sandeep Shrivastava has penned a story which had the germs of an emotional family drama. But his screenplay (script consultant: Robin Bhatt) is not half as good as it ought to have been. For one, the characteri­ sations are weak. In the Indian con­ text, Olga is a vamp because she re­ turns to Bulgaria soon after delivering the love-child and doesn’t even bother thereafter to find out how the child is faring. The audience’s sympathy, therefore, never goes to Olga, not even when she pines for her after she has been abducted. Shivaay’s character is also of the kind everyone may not give cent per cent marks to. He forces Olga to deliver their love-child but never marries her. Little Gaura makes a place for herself in the viewer’s heart, more so because she has been des­ erted by her mother and she is unable to speak. Yet, the sympathy for Gaura is never total because she is shown to be headstrong rather than sad or helpless due to her disability. Besides, her disability has not been used at all to evoke sentiments. Showing a key character with such a major disability and then, not using that disability to arouse emotions is definitely not a wise thing to do. In other words, Gaura’s condition would’ve been no different whatsoever even if she were able to speak.

Sandeep Shrivastava’s scenes are so lengthy that they test the audien­ ce’s patience. The chase and action sequences, in particular, are too long and, therefore, too boring. The worst part of the screenplay is that it is un­ able to evoke sympathy for any char­ acter in the drama. Save for the last scene, which could evoke tears from the eyes of the weak-hearted, the drama doesn’t tug at the heart-strings. In other words, although Shivaay de­ fies death to save his daughter, the viewers hardly experience edge-of-the-seat thrill.

The entire drama has a depressing feel about it. Also, Shivaay does so many stunts that the audience, after a point of time, feel that he is nothing short of a Superman which he is act­ ually not.

Sandeep Shrivastava’s dialogues are weak. In a human drama like this, the dialogues ought to have drawn tears from the viewers’ hearts.

Ajay Devgan acts ably but the weak screenplay does take away from his performance which the audiences are, therefore, unable to appreciate as much as they should have. Baby Abigail Eames plays Gaura with understanding but she is unable to win the audi­ ence’s unconditional love and sympathy, probably because she is so loud and headstrong. Erika Kaar (as Olga) acts fairly well but her anglicised Hindi is jarring to the ears and serves to take away the emotions from her dia­ logues. Sayyeshaa looks pretty as Anushka. Although her performance in her debut role is alright, hers is, at best, a supporting role which gives her limited scope only. Vir Das does well as computer hacker Wahab but again, he doesn’t have a single scene to stand out. Girish Karnad hardly gets any scope as Anushka’s disabled father. Saurabh Shukla is routine as Sharma. Markus Ertelt (as Changez and Sgt. Nikolai) doesn’t impress much. Vladimir Kolev also fails to have the desired impact as Colonel Borris. Casting foreigners as the main villains is an error as the audience is unable to identify with them. Sandeep Shri­ vastava (as the Indian interpreter), Amit Behl (as the army Colonel), Vikas Shrey (as the army Major), Pratik Khattar (as the army Captain), Aakash Dabade (as the Indian trek­ ker), Raynu Verma (as the lady doc­ tor), Aadil Sharma (as the doctor), Miroslav Pashov (as Ustinov), Swen Raschka (as Ivanovich), Goran Mit­ rowski and Robert Masser (both as pimps), and the others lend ordinary support.

Ajay Devgan’s direction is ordinary. For one, he has reserved every heroic action and deed for Shivaay to do so that the film looks like a one-man story. Secondly, his scenes are too long and boring. Thirdly, he fails to make the human drama one which can pierce the hearts of the viewers. Mithoon’s music (with one song by Jasleen Royal) is okay. The title track is definitely impactful but the other numbers are not very hummable. Lyrics (Saeed Quadri, Sandeep Shri­ vastava and Aditya Sharma) are not too easy on the lips. Howard Rose­ meyer’s choreography leaves some­ thing to be desired. Mithoon’s back­ ground music is too loud and intrusive, reducing rather than heightening the impact of the scenes. Aseem Bajaj’s camerawork is splendid. Visual effects and computer graphics are good at many places but below the mark sometimes. Stunts and action scenes (by Jai Singh Nijjar and Stefan Richter) are breathtaking but also un­ palatable sometimes. Too much vio­ lence will restrict the film’s appeal as the womenfolk will find it excessive. Sabu Cyril’s production designing and Apurwa Sondhi’s art direction are good. Dharmendra Sharma’s editing is loose.

On the whole, Shivaay is a slow and often boring human drama with very limited emotional appeal and little entertainment value. It may find favour with the masses and single-screen cinema audiences but its run in the multiplexes will not be smooth at all. Given the high price at which it has been acquired by the distributors, it will entail heavy losses to them.

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AE DIL HAI MUSHKIL

Fox Star Studios and Dharma Productions’ Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (UA) is a story of love and friendship.

Ayan Sengar (Ranbir Kapoor) is studying Business Management and is also a singer. He lives in London and is the son of a wealthy father. Alizeh (Anushka Sharma), a very rich girl, also lives in London and is a happy-go-lucky girl, very modern in her thinking. Both, Ayan and Alizeh, are in relationships. Ayan has a girlfriend, Lisa (Lisa Haydon), while Alizeh has a boyfriend, Dr. Faisal (Imran Abbas).

Ayan and Alizeh meet at a bar one day, quite accidentally, and hit it off. Even as Ayan finds himself being attracted towards Alizeh, he and Lisa have a breakup when he catches Lisa in a compromising position with Dr. Faisal. Obviously, Alizeh, who is also there, walks out on Dr. Faisal.

Soon, Ayan is smitten by Alizeh and realises that he loves her. But Alizeh’s ex-boyfriend, Ali (Fawad Khan), enters her life once again. Alizeh meets Ali, who is a disc jockey, at a discotheque. Much to Ayan’s surprise and shock, Alizeh is willing to give Ali a second chance despite the fact that he had ditched her. Ayan tries to dissuade Alizeh for his own selfish reasons but Alizeh finally decides to marry Ali against her own family’s wishes. Why, she even invites Ayan to her marriage because she loves him dearly as a friend.

Unable to handle the fact that his beloved would henceforth be somebody else’s wife, an emotional Ayan leaves the wedding midway. At the airport while waiting for his flight, Ayan strikes up a friendship with Saba (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) who is a shaiyara by profession. Saba is a divorcee but shares cordial relations with her artist-husband, Tahir (Shah Rukh Khan in a guest appearance). Ayan and Saba meet after some days in Vienna. By the by, Saba starts falling in love with Ayan when they live in together for a short while in Vienna.

Here, Ayan and Alizeh connect once again with each other. While Ayan has still not been able to get over his love for Alizeh, she still misses his friendship a great deal. Alizeh pays Ayan a visit at Saba’s house in Vienna. That is where Saba realises that Ayan would never love her the way he loved Alizeh. Obviously, Saba then has a breakup with Ayan.

What happens thereafter? Does Ayan re-enter Alizeh’s life? Do Alizeh and Ali live happily ever after? Or does Alizeh marry Ayan? What prevails over what – Ayan’s love over Alizeh’s friendship, or Alizeh’s friendship over Ayan’s unrequited love?

Karan Johar’s story is very today, very city and very novel. For one, it talks so easily and so matter-of-factly about love affairs, live-in relationships, breakups, patch-ups, divorces, cordiality after separation/divorce/breakup and the like that it will immediately find a connect with the youth of today. This, also because the attitude of and the language used by the characters are very young. That every character has had a breakup/divorce is too much of a coincidence but the youngsters may not find that as an irritant because that’s the way of life they all believe in. Yes, the older generation and the traditional audience (people who reside in smaller towns) may have a problem in that but the youth audience, the city audience and the multiplex-frequenting audience will love the novelty of the story. Karan Johar’s screenplay deserves distinction marks because it is beautifully written, with a lot of thought having gone into it. For one, the characterisations are splendid. Secondly, the pace of the screenplay is fast. The first half has plenty of light moments which, of course, cater mainly to the youth and city audience. The post-interval portion becomes serious but it does have its share of light moments too. The last couple of reels are emotional and may draw tears from the eyes of the audiences. The track of Bollywood songs and typical Bollywood scenes has been intelligently woven into the screenplay and used so effectively that you can’t help but marvel at Karan’s brilliance.

Dialogues, written by Niranjan Iyengar and Karan Johar, are extraordinary. They are so weighty and not just when they are philosophical but also when they are casual. The dialogue writers deserve kudos for their inspired writing.

Ranbir Kapoor proves with this difficult role that there is no actor among the youngsters who is as natural, real and effortless as him. He shines in the role of Ayan Sengar and makes him­self so endearing to the audiences that they root for him all through. He is equally outstanding in romantic, comic, emotional and dramatic scenes. Indeed, an award-winning performance by Ranbir. Anushka Sharma is splendid. Her remarkable performance stuns one and all, making her a strong contender for the best actress awards this year. She, too, is so natural that one doesn’t even feel as if she is acting. She expresses herself wonderfully when she explains to Ayan that her love is the one between friends, not lovers. The chemistry between Ranbir and Anushka is outstanding. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is superb in a supporting role. She looks bewitching and her acting has a lot of style and sophistication. Fawad Khan stands out in a special appearance as DJ Ali. To say that he looks like a million bucks would be stating the obvious. Lisa Haydon stands her own opposite actors like Ranbir Kapoor and Anushka Sharma and that’s saying a lot. Her performance definitely deserves praise. Imran Abbas is good as Dr. Faisal. Shah Rukh Khan is at his charming best in a guest appearance and he says his dialogues with so much feeling that one is forced to salute him. Alia Bhatt lends star value in a tiny special appearance.

Karan Johar deserves a huge pat on his back for his direction. He has handled the subject with complete sensitivity and sincerity and even though the film’s characters have a very modern value system (live-in relationships, pre- and extra-marital sex etc.), that does not repulse even the orthodox audience because of his efficient handling. Karan has extracted great performances from out of his actors. Music (Pritam) is a major asset of the film. ‘Bulleya’ and the title song are already huge hits. The ‘Breakup’, song is very entertaining and tuneful. ‘Channa mereya’ is melodious while ‘Cutie pie’ is light and interesting. Amitabh Bhattacharya’s lyrics are just too lovely. Tushar Kalia’s choreography is very appropriate and goes well with the drama. Pritam’s background music deserves distinction marks. It greatly heightens the dramatic impact of the scenes. Anil Mehta’s cinematography is splendid. The foreign locations and the actors have all been captured beautifully by Mehta in his camera. Amrita Mahal Nakai’s production designing is superb. Manik Dawar’s editing is razor-sharp. Production values are grand.

On the whole, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is a box-office winner. It is entertaining and will be loved by the youth, city audience and multiplex audience. It may not find favour with the single-screen cinema audience and the audience in smaller centres, but the target audience of the film is sizeable enough to ensure that decent profits accrue to all those associated with the film. Business Overseas will be excellent. It must also be mentioned here that around 80% of the investment of Rs. 92 crore (including cost of production, promotion and release) has already been recovered from non-theatrical sources. Recovery of the balance 20% of the investment and earning of hand­some profits from India and Overseas theatrical business is, therefore, a left-hand task for the film.

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MIRZYA

Cinestaan and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra Pictures’ Mirzya (UA) is based on the legendary love story of Mirza and Sahiban. Monish (master Iteshyam) and Suchi (baby Anuja) are childhood friends. They study in the same school and same class and are inseparable. They live in Jodhpur (Rajasthan).

One day, little Suchi prompts little Monish to pass off the homework done by her as his own because he himself has not done his homework. The teacher understands this and promptly asks Suchi to show him her homework. Continuing her lies, Suchi tells him that she hasn’t done her homework. The teacher then punishes Suchi. This infuriates Monish so much that he kills the teacher, using the gun of Suchi’s father who is a police officer. Monish is sent to a juvenile remand home.

After some days, Monish escapes from the remand home. Years later, Monish (Harshvardhan Kapoor) comes back to Jodhpur but under the name of Adil. Suchi (Saiyami Kher), who had gone abroad for studies, also returns to Jodhpur. She is shown to be in love with a prince, Karan (Anuj Choudhry). Her marriage is also fixed with Karan. But old sparks are soon reignited when Adil alias Monish and Suchi meet. Clearly, Suchi is more comfortable and happier in the company of Monish than when she is with Karan.

All hell breaks loose when Suchi’s father (Art Malik) and Karan’s father (K.K. Raina) learn about the love affair of Adil and Suchi. The two love birds have no option but to elope. Do they live happily ever after?

Gulzar’s story is inspired by the legendary tale of Mirza-Sahiban but it doesn’t do justice to that story as even the parallels are depicted quite sketchily. Gulzar has written a screenplay which is pathetic and makes no sense in today’s time and age and for the modern generation. The drama is so lacklustre, so boring and so dull that it tests the audience’s patience. Although it is a love story, the romance is anything but heartwarming or even enjoyable. The viewers don’t feel for the lovers and, therefore, fail to root for them when things get difficult for them. The audience neither feels sad for them when they are separated or when they face obstacles nor feels elated when they are together. The flashes of legendary lover Mirza fighting his adversaries keep appearing on the screen at strategic points in the drama but they hardly serve to heighten the impact, which was the intention. This is the writer’s way of alluding to Mirza-Sahiban’s story but that is simply not explained to the audience which wonders why Monish and Suchi are shown in get-ups which are so different from their actual get-ups. Worse still, the flashes are repeated so often that the audience wonders if the writer was so bereft of ideas or the director was so short on imagination. The film has three layers – the present-day love story of Monish and Suchi, the love story of Mirza and Sahiban, and the story narrated by the sutradhar (Om Puri). But these three layers only serve to confuse the viewers. Shockingly, there are no dialogues between Mirza and Sahiban in the legendary love tale.

Although the film is a launch pad for two young actors, it is so dry, drab and morose that it will simply not cut ice with the youngsters who look for entertainment in a film and who should have formed a large chunk of audience for this film. Light moments are almost conspicuous by their absence. In fact, the viewer can’t believe it when he sees Monish and Suchi laughing in one scene – this, because they are always shown to be so sad. With romance being half-baked and comedy missing, the film falls short in two departments which should be key in any love story. The dramatic portions are so subdued and half-hearted that the viewers actually doubt whether any thought has gone into the scripting or it has been written without caring for the audience to which it caters. Since the romance totally fails to touch the heart, the emotions fall flat on their face. There is action, of course, but even that does not generate the excitement and thrill it should, if only because the characters fail to make a place for themselves in the hearts of the audiences.

Frankly, the audience is almost completely not with Monish’s character from the moment he takes the extreme step of killing the teacher – that too, for merely doing his job as a conscientious teacher. The scene of killing is meant to evoke empathy for Monish in the viewer’s heart but the weak script does not let that happen. The reverse definitely does happen – the audience hates the child’s audacity and that never really changes because the writer just does not address it or simply doesn’t make Monish regret his extreme action. That’s exactly the reason why the scene in which Monish (Adil) indirectly asks Suchi’s father for her hand in marriage, does not have the viewer’s heart pounding. Another flaw in the screenplay is that the writer would like the audience to go with Monish and Suchi on the basis of the days they spent together in their childhood, but the audience is just not ready to interpret the childhood bonding as love. To show two little kids in love would be found to be distasteful by many. This childhood love is the foundation for the entire love story and hence the film rests on a weak foundation. All in all, the screenplay is so poor that it will be mocked at by the youth. Gulzar’s dialogues lack fire and are barely passable.

Harshvardhan Kapoor makes an ordinary debut. He tries to bring intensity to his character but is let down by the terribly poor script. He is presented so unclean that it only takes away from the excitement of watching a newcomer who is a star-son (Anil Kapoor’s son). His hair is always dishevelled, his face and clothes are always unwashed and his general demeanour is unpleasant. Surely, this is not how one would want to see a new hero. Saiyami Kher also makes an average impact in her debut role. In several scenes, she appears to be rattling off her dialogues without much feeling. The only scene in which she has looked pretty is the one in which she is dressed up as a bride. Anuj Choudhry (as Karan) hardly looks like a prince. His acting is alright. Art Malik fails badly as Suchi’s father. His dia­logues are inaudible at several places. Om Puri doesn’t get any scope and one wonders what he is doing in the film. Anjali Patil leaves a definite mark in the role of Zeenat even though she has a brief role. K.K. Raina lends dull support. Masood Akhtar has his moments as the servant in Suchi’s house. Master Iteshyam and baby Anuja are confident as young Monish and young Suchi respectively. Vikram Singh (as teacher), Geeta Agrawal (as Monish’s mother) and the others provide ordinary support.

Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s direction is terribly dull. He is let down by an inane script and, therefore, all that stands out in his direction are his stylised shot takings and his over-indulgence. His narration fails to involve the audience. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s music comprises a good title song and others which are fairly well-tuned but none which has the hummable quality about it. For an epic love story to not have super-hit music is a minus point in the film’s report card. Besides, for a love story to not have a single lip-synch song picturised on the lovers is a poor joke – and this film does not have any such lip-synch song! The title track stands out for its excellent rendition by Daler Mehndi but its impact in the film is greatly diluted because it comes at different places and, therefore, only in parts at irregular intervals. Gulzar’s lyrics are not easy on the lips. Song picturisations (by Raju Sundaram and Mayuri Upadhya) are eye-filling but the choreography in a couple of song-dances looks repetitive. Tubby Parik’s background music leaves something to be desired. Pawel Dyllus’ cinematography is of a fine standard. Action scenes, choreographed by Danny Baldwin (horses), Manohar Verma (horses) and Allan Amin, are effective but to not much avail. Acropolis’ production designing is fair. P.S. Bharathi’s editing is quite sharp.

On the whole, Mirzya is a flop show and will meet with a disastrous fate at the box-office. It is like a lifeless as well as soulless film – dull, dry, drab and devoid of drama. It is all that a film with newcomers shouldn’t be!

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