Monday, December 30, 2013


Dear Readers,

In the male-dominated Hindi film industry, it’s tough enough for a woman to get substantial roles in commercial films. For her to be an equal partner to her hero in three films in a row in a single year is almost unimaginable. In 2013 though, Deepika Padukone made the unimaginable possible. Not counting her turn as an insubstantial glamour doll in Race 2, this has been a fantastic year for her as an actress. She stood shoulder to shoulder with the leading men in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, Chennai Express and Goliyon ki Raasleela Ram-leela, walking away with acting laurels in each of the three while all three ended up being massive box-office successes.

The question I asked you in the poll though was this:

Here’s how you voted:

49% of you chose her performance in Ram-leela

29.5% picked Deepika in Chennai Express

21.5% voted for her in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani


Before I pick my favourite of Deepika’s performances in these three films, let me remind you of what I had said in my review of each of these films back when they were released:

Deepika in Ram-leela: “…Ranveer and Deepika are perfect for their roles, both comfortable in their characters’ unabashed lustfulness, both capable of pulling off the dialogues occasionally written in verse (this perhaps being another of Bhansali’s bows to the Bard). Their chemistry is not quite in the league of Hrithik-Aishwarya or Kareena-Hrithik, but it’s pretty darned close. She looks impeccable in her gorgeousness. He looks a tad over-muscled in his opening scene, but is otherwise an eyecatcher as well. Their performances are so spot-on that it’s impossible not to laugh and cry with them…”

(For the full review of Ram-leela, click here)

Deepika in Chennai Express: “…If the preceding paragraph suggests in any way that Meenamma is a pushover or Deepika’s role is subordinate to Shah Rukh’s in this film, you’ve read that wrong. Meenamma is a woman who strains at her chains every step of the way. And Deepika sustains her comic timing from start to finish in Chennai Express even when SRK’s Rahul gets repetitive in the second half. After the emotional roller-coaster she pulled off in Yeh JawaaniHai Deewani, here’s another thumbs up for Ms Padukone, this time in a vastly different role. SRK lives up to his promise – made in a beverage ad – that from this film forward his heroine’s name would appear before his in the credits, which as we all know is a break from MCP Bollywood’s norm. Now that’s a condescending piece of tosh if your heroine is playing fifth fiddle to you as is the case with most Hindi films (and certainly Rohit Shetty’s own last two, Bol Bachchan and Singham), but in Chennai Express Deepika is an equal partner to her hero, as she has been in most of her films so far. Hopefully a day is not far when a leading lady does not have to depend on a leading man’s largesse to have her name placed in the credits where it should rightfully be. Until then, here’s another small milestone to celebrate…”

(For the full review of Chennai Express, click here)

Deepika in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani: “…YJHD’s young leads bring a natural ease to their performances though Deepika is the scene stealer of the lot. She also happens to have a fantabulicious figure – slim yet not skinny, so tiny waisted yet so curvaceous – that’s driven me insane with jealousy…”

(For the full review of Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, click here)

As you can see, I thoroughly enjoyed her performances in all three films. Which would I pick to give her a Best Actress Award though? I have to admit that I struggled to choose between Chennai Express and Ram-leela, but finally picked Chennai Express. Reason: because I believe comedy is one of the toughest yet most underrated genres for an actor and we rarely give acting trophies for it, plus Deepika in this film managed to be hilarious without giving us the cliched, nauseating, over-the-top, stereotypical portrayal of the “Madrasi” that was so prevalent in Bollywood up to the 1980s. In Chennai Express she re-invented the Bollywood south Indian in an inoffensive fashion and had us rolling in the aisles laughing in the bargain. Coming a close second for me is her performance in Ram-leela, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s operatic, deliberately stage-like film in which she could very well have gone over-the-top but did not. As for Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, no doubt she was excellent in it, but I place the film at No. 3 on my list because we’ve seen her deliver performances of a similar calibre in the youth romance genre before.

Here’s a prediction though: I suspect that if Deepika does win Best Actress at all the major film awards functions of 2014, juries and audience voters (just like a majority of this blog’s readers) will give it to her for Ram-leela and not Chennai Express, for the reason I cited above.

So there you go, another poll in which I disagree with the majority choice here. We can debate this till kingdom come. Up next is my take on Poll Question No. 6: Why do you think a Bollywood film starring Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Salman Khan together as the leads has not yet been made? 

A new poll is already up (check right-hand-side panel). Do vote.

Warm regards,


Photographs courtesy: (a) Ram-Leela: Everymedia PR (b) Chennai Express: Disney UTV (c) Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani: Wikipedia

Friday, December 20, 2013


Release date:
December 20, 2013
Vijay Krishna Acharya


Aamir Khan, Abhishek Bachchan, Uday Chopra, Guest appearance (no kidding!): Katrina Kaif, Additional guest appearance: Jackie Shroff

Hormonally charged chases, a good-looking and/or well-styled cast, eye-catching locations and suspense woven into a reasonably believable storyline – that’s all I wanted from Dhoom 3. What does it offer? All the above packed into the pre-interval portion, a neat twist right before the break, and then, pffffffft, it’s like the air has been let out of a balloon.

Let me not get ahead of myself though… In an audacious daytime heist at the Western Union Bank of Chicago, the robber outwits the police by escaping from one exit when they thought he was at another. The daring fellow is Sahir Khan (Aamir Khan) and though he’s inexplicably called Sahir The Clown Thief, he is in fact a magician and proprietor of The Great Indian Circus in the city. Since he leaves a clown’s mask alongside a handwritten message on the bank wall in Hindi, Indian supercop Jai Dixit (Abhishek Bachchan) is called in to help. Because there are no Indian cops in America? Jai lands in Chicago looking all suave and sexy in dark glasses, with his buffoon-like sidekick Ali Akbar in tow. A “love interest” is essential to the Bollywood formula, so to join his act Sahir auditions all the city’s “hot Asian ladkiyaan” (his hapless assistant’s words) before he finds dancer-acrobat-singer Aaliya (Katrina Kaif) who is like “liquid electricity” (his choice of words, not mine). The film’s first bank robbery and chase are well choreographed and exciting. The second too is good enough. But once Sahir’s great secret is revealed, Dhoom 3 is pretty much finished.

The big twist in the tale could also have given the film the sort of depth that one does not associate with the Dhoom franchise, but director Vijay Krishna Acharya (the gentleman who made Tashan) is so busy stressing style over substance that he forgets to cash in on this, the element with most potential in his story. Aamir is one of the industry’s most dependable actors, but here the effort to perform shows in too many places. In scenes that were clearly designed to be deeply emotional, I found myself too aware of how hard he was trying. The camera and costume heads too have a lot to answer for. There are shots where poor Aamir’s ears are distractingly prominent, sticking out goblin-like from the sides of his head. And what was the wardrobe team thinking putting a sweet-faced middle-aged man of slight stature into that black top, red pants (or were they tights?) and black boots for a song? Besides, after the break his mobike stunts get predictable; that initially intriguing motorcycle – Bond-like in its multi-purposeness – looses its sheen; there’s a needless use of slow motion; and there are only two more plot points that are sit-up-and-take-notice-worthy: two more twists I can’t reveal.

The irritating thing about Sahir is that he divulges his identity to the police when they have no reason whatsoever to connect him to the first theft, although it should have been obvious to him that figuring out his magical abilities thereafter wouldn’t really be that tough for a determined cop. As it happens, cracking his mystery proves to be almost child’s play for Jai. And no one else in the world had found out so far?! Baah!

Visually, the film remains attractive throughout. Chicago makes for a pretty location and DoP Sudeep Chatterjee does justice to its skyline and its many charming streets and bridges. The first presentation of Sahir’s circus act is spectacular, well shot, with stunning production design, supplemented by Dhoom 3’s most beautiful prop: Aaliya. Which brings me to an exasperating aspect of the Dhoom series: the dispensability of its women. The ladies from the first two films have been brushed aside like dandruff dusted off a shoulder with disdain; and Katrina here gets even less visibility than those white flakes might get on a black shirt. Her Aaliya is nothing more than a gorgeous decorative item in human form. As for her much-publicised dances in this film, well over the years Katrina has worked hard to master techniques, but she still lacks fluidity and grace. “Aur ek tum ho jo mujhe dekhta hai jaise main har sawaal ka jawaab hoon (You look at me as though I’m the answer to your every question),” she says to her boyfriend in what is one of the few memorable lines from the film. He seems to have no questions though, and so we get to know next to nothing about her.

Aaliya has company in the form of a female cop from the Chicago force whose job as the gori showpiece of the film is taken so seriously that she’s given more tight outfits than she has dialogues. She always does Jai’s bidding. At one point Jai issues this curt order to her on the phone, “Victoria, I need a chopper and a SWAT team at sunrise,” not a word more, possibly to give us some post-colonial satisfaction that a brown dude could order a white chick around, but more likely because it’s just so cool to get a man to treat a good-looking blonde policewoman as though she’s his hired assistant. Huzoor, you may as well have prefaced that command with “hey babe”. As it stands, the underlying sexism is laughable.

Dhoom 1 & 2 delivered on the promise of unrelenting entertainment. In Dhoom 3, it’s clear that the franchise is wearing thin. Ali is no longer amusing; he’s irritating. The emphasis on style has become cloying. The trademark impertinence of the lead crook is not in the least bit clever here since it proves to be his undoing. Music director Pritam doesn’t throw up anything particularly noteworthy. And if you intend to give each person a grand entry scene, you must rise above old-style Bollywood clichés: here, Jai drives an autorickshaw through a high brick wall and Ali drives a motorcycle through a hoarding shortly after he is introduced to us. How imaginative! Once the film stops being interesting, it’s also hard to let go of what might otherwise have seemed like minor irritants, such as the fact that Jai and Ali don’t once wear helmets when they’re driving motorbikes in Chicago.

Having said that, it’s got to be conceded that the first half of this film is fun. Post-interval though it crumbles under the weight of its lightweight screenplay. Dhoom 3 is an underwhelming experience!

Rating (out of five): **

Footnote: The object of Sahir’s hate, the head honcho at the bank he robs, is called Warren Anderson, which was the name of Union Carbide’s chairman at the time of the Bhopal gas tragedy. Was it unintentional or meant as a cheeky aside? Either way, I got a chuckle out of it.

CBFC Rating (India):
Running time:
172 minutes

Poster courtesy: Yash Raj Films

Saturday, December 14, 2013


Release date:
December 13, 2013
Gurmmeet Singh


Dimple Kapadia, Anand Tiwari, Manu Rishi, Manjot Singh

What The Fish is insubstantial timepass. The concept is unusual, but the execution is wanting. It’s not that the film is bad (it’s not) but that it’s not particularly memorable. This is the story of a grouchy Vasant Kunj Aunty, Sudha Mishra, who leaves her home in the care of her niece’s fiancé Sumit only to return a month later to discover a chudail in the bathroom but everything else perfectly in place including things that weren’t there before. She had specific instructions for Sumit: don’t use my toilet, don’t sleep in my bedroom, feed the fish, water the money plant, don’t have any guests over. He, of course, instead throws a party for a friend right after her departure and then lends the house to another friend who is desperate to bed his runaway girlfriend. That friend opens the doors to another, who further passes on the keys to someone else and so the baton-changing saga continues. What exactly happened between the time Sudha Mishra entrusted her bungalow to Sumit and the day of her return? The events are recounted to us going back and forth between flashbacks to occurrences of the previous month and the present day, with Sudha Aunty playing Chinese whisper with herself, her encounter with the chudail becoming more exaggerated each time she narrates the experience to someone.

The storyline is pregnant with promise. Considering that the house was trashed by Sumit’s party guests, how come it was so neat when Sudha Aunty got back? Has the fish become fat? How come the knick-knacks taken away by her ex-husband are now neatly stacked in their old places in the drawing room? Has a spirit taken up residence there? This is a story that could have been fun if the potential of its concept had been fully tapped. What it needed was cleverer writing, snappier dialogues in particular, pacier editing and more inspired acting. No actor is better though than the written material at hand; sadly for the ensemble cast including some with an interesting track record, the screenplay of What The Fish fails to go beyond the minimum laughs that the basic plot was bound to deliver.

And so a National Award-winning actress like Dimple Kapadia looks pretty but is reduced here to a skeletal caricature of a rude elderly relative with no depth of characterisation or performance; Manu Rishi who was fantastic as Anni in Phas Gaye Re Obama is enjoyable as the slimy property dealer who wants to seduce his friend’s girlfriend, but still a far cry from his hilarious best; and Anand Tiwari flits in and out of the film, remaining more or less untapped, although his ability to extract laughs from an audience was evident most recently in Go Goa Gone.

Unremarkable but not entirely avoidable, that’s how I’d describe this film which needed an unrelenting pace, deliberately over-the-top acting, sturdier characters and less minutes of running time to rev it up. What’s refreshing about it is that it doesn’t stereotype any of the communities represented here, whether it’s the Haryanvis or the family from the North East. The first half is far better than the second, and there are patches of entertainment to be had while watching it. The best I can say about What The Fish is that a single viewing didn’t feel like a complete waste of time, but I’d certainly not make the effort to watch it again.

One question though: when the fish will this fishing film industry give a fishing good actress like Dimple a more solid role in a fishing solid film?!

Rating (out of five): **

CBFC Rating (India):
Running time:
1 hours 48 minutes
Photograph courtesy: Everymedia PR