Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Chandni Chowk To China

Under normal circumstances, I would have waited for Chandni Chowk to China to be chipped off on DVD or torrent but RS insisted and I could not resist. So we went off on a rather busy Sunday for this over-hyped, widest-US-opener-Bollywood-film, first-Indian-movie-shot-in-China, first-Warner-Bros.-Hindi-movie, that managed to make 33 crores on the opening weekend owing to expensive multiplex tickets in India and some more crores out of tickets sold in USDs.

The new mantra of Bollywood is: have star, will sell. It doesn't matter how much amount of crap you fit in. Yuvraaj, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Ghajini, and now Chandni Chowk To China. Akshay Kumar has carved his way into stardom no less than the Khans, in fact deeper than a few of them.

CC2C goes a step ahead in trying out something new. Blends of kungfu and bhangra, a rustic Delhi vegetable cutter and rural Chinese vegetable sellers, chequered shirts and flowered mandarin gowns add a lot of colour and vigour to the streets of Chandni Chowk and The Great Wall of China. Amid all this you'll find a bumpkin of Akshay Kumar duped into travelling to Chinkiland and falling into a kumbh-ka-mela-separation-revenge sequence that is intelligently weaved into funny antics and a few serious action scenes after a prolonged practice session.

The opening scene of the war on the Great Wall of China had actually thrilled me. Brilliantly shot in shades of gray and a lot of mist, it reminded me of scenes in movies like Gladiator. However, that excitement slacked as soon as the scene shifts to the present Chandni Chowk. Zooming in and out of Delhi as Akshay flies up with smoke-propelling rockets up his you-know-where and falls down on earth, sets that do not quite look like Chandni Chowk, and very stupid TV ads, the movie moves on to a very jittery pace that makes you look lustfully at the Exit doors. However, the pace is checked as the plot shifts back to China and you are glad you didn't satisfy yourself.

If you liked one or more of Singh is King, Welcome, or Golmaal Returns, you will like CC2C's comedy too. You'll find Akshay Kumar blabbering and jumping with his gaon-waali-moustache and punditji-plait, using physical jokes a la Jim Carrey, though much more gimcrack and much less witty. Akki is the only one acting funny though, most of the other characters are serious and genuine, though humour has been attempted by mocking Chinese stunts you'd seen in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and the like. A few of these and other comic stunts would look good only in Tom and Jerry. In short, a lot of nonsensical comedy in a make-believe setting.

Deepika Padukone simply looks stunning in both her Indian and Chinese avatars. The long-legged lass kicks butt the martial arts way where she looks as sexy as Charlize Theron in Aeonflux, though her newly-developed skills could have been used for a longer screen time. Ranveer Shourey wastes himself being a loser sidekick the way pal Vinay Pathak did in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. Actors like them should not try to enter mainstream cinema; they know they cannot look better here, these roles do not demand good acting, and they lose the already niche audience their kind of cinema has.

The music is mediocre, and I had dismissed it initially. But when you keep listening to it, you start liking it. The extra rap song by Akshay was fresh, and the mixing of Chinese rhythms added a new form. The melodious Tere Naina is pleasant to hear to, a few others by Kailash Kher.

Overall, CC2C can be a one-time watch that will sure fetch you some giggles and laughs. Talk of cinema that will be remembered, and you'll have to be content that films like Chupke Chupke and Andaz Apna Apna were made only in yore. Watch it out in a light mood with friends and you might agree for a 6 on 10.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Emotional Attyachaar

No, this is not a post where I rant out about my own emotions or crib about emotional attyachaar to me by any of my girlfriends, this is the belated music review I had been planning for quite some time on the encouragement given by AM, but could not bring it to screen for want of a different blog for movies since this blog gets an emotioanl attyachar at the hands of crazy directors and weird actors and mindless producers. That I still do not have a separate blog can be excused by a lack of time and a hunt for a service provider to my own domain name, which you shall anyway see shortly. How short is shortly can be contested, but lets move on to the review presently.

Dev D had two A's that I had admired, Anurag Kashyap and Abhay Deol. The music adds a third A for Amit Trivedi, the music director who gave different but okayish music in 2008's Aamir, who comes up with an album with an assortment of 18 tracks, quite varied in music, lyrics and treatment, and in lyricists and singers as well. The album running just 93 seconds over an hour consists songs in quite some genres, from rock to classical, techno to folk, and dance numbers to soft melodies. The 18 tracks do not seem too long and boring, and none of them is unfit or unsound. The movie might have most of them in the background, adding to a rich background score, rather than interrupting the flow.

The best track that takes you off track is Emosanal Attyachar, that comes with a brass band, prominently the trumpet, the one you'd have heard in any Indian baaraat. The lyrics are quite funny and the video stars Patna ke Presleys, adding a 70's look. The brass resonator is a very fresh and likeable concept. Bony Chakravarthy sings it with an intonation that keeps getting on the head. The only other track he sung is a rock version of the same song, where he pronounces it correctly.

The second place would be shared by the classical melodies Paayaliya and Dil Mein Jaagi. Shruti Pathak, whose first song was the superhit Mar Jaawan (Fashion) with her husky voice, goes very soft and high pitched for the Indian classical Paayaliya who she wrote herself. Amazing song! Anusha Mani also wrote and sung for herself her second track, which, though sounds a tad similar to Piyu Bole (Parineeta), has a western classical touch and superb lyrics.

There is a list of folk songs in Rajasthani and Punjabi, all six written by debutante Shellee. Khuda Jaane (Bachna Ae Haseeno) singer Shilpa Rao, in her second song, renders her beautiful voice to Dhol Yaara Dhol and` Ranjhana along with Kshitij, for the only two duets in the album that are a pleasure to listen to. Toshi sings the third Rajasthani track Pardesiin a brilliant fusion music. The only experienced singer Labh Jajua sings the three Punjabi songs Maahi Mennu Nee Karna Pyaar and its sad version, which is much better, and the foot-tapping Hikknaal that will surely rock dance floors.

Amit Trivedi gave voice to four tracks in addition to music, which have been written by another first-timer Amitabh Bhattacharya. Saali Khushi is the best with a sad undertone, and almost gets you pensive. A very different Nayan Tarse is again a fusion between classical and rock and has amazing lyrics. The techno Aankh Micholi and Duniya are serious and light respectively and Amit Trivedi sounds different in each of them. The toughest words in the album can be heard in Yahi Meri Zindagi, sung in a sweet voice by Aditi Singh Sharma.

There are two tracks with Dev-Chanda themes that has good vocals. The only song I did not quite like was Ek Hulchul Si, quite run-of-the-mill, not bad though.

Dev D is going to be a movie with new talent who thinks differently; it is said Abhay Deol struck up the idea and proposed Anurag Kashyap for the movie. Amit Trivedi experimented with young and new singers and lyricists, and has delivered an amazing album. The movie is already a favourite of mine, the music album has been on a repeat-album setting in my car and on my laptop at office and home since the past week and I seem to have grown upon it. Highly recommended. 9 on 10. Grab a copy and experience yourself.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Ghajini the Fighter

Having seen the first 20 minutes, I had adamantly argued with KS that Ghajini was exactly Memento. Polaroid pictures with names on them, tattooed mirrored text on a well-built body, the same underlying revenge plot, all remind you of Memento. I was quite wrong though. Memento was a much intelligently made movie with an unknown actor (Guy Pearce) as the protagonist, still reaching #27 on IMDB's all time top 250. Ghajini, on the other hand, terribly depicts an Indian masala replete with action, romance, drama, dream song sequences, and stars the best Indian actor. There can be no comparison between Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece and A R Murugadoss’s Ghajini. Even Aamir Khan did not understand Memento [You might have to sign up on AK's blog to read the post], and you might want to keep your brains at home while watching Ghajini.

A business tycoon (who rolls up already shorter-than-half sleeves of his shirts in his business meetings) cannot register fresh memories after an incident that killed his romantic partner. He manages his memory through tattoos, notes, pictures and reminders. Finding Ghajini out and killing him is the ultimate goal of his life. The story now follows two parallel plots, the present, and the flashback through an over-stretched diary-reading session, where AK introduces the reader to his associates and romantic adventures a la Tom Riddle from Harry Potter, and there ensues a normal romance-revenge drama. Once you survive through, the although predictable end is sort of likeable.

Aamir Khan, no doubt, worked (out) a lot for the film. The concept of anterograde amnesia is very fresh and novel for Indian cinema. But alas, there it ends. Murugadoss forgot to pay attention to the other pieces. So while the movie is a blockbuster, looking at things other than AK's abs would reveal tons of plot loopholes, a dragging narrative, repetitive jokes, and pathetic acting by almost everybody else. Despite his new-found muscles, the short and stocky Aamir incredulously thrashes equally well-built men a foot taller than him.

Jiah Khan couldn't even act properly to drink water. Kalpana was satiatingly cheeky and moronically funny and a huge fan of Mother Teresa, but Asin did some justice to the role. Pradeep Rawat definitely did much better as Sultan in Sarfarosh and as Ashwatthama in B R Chopra's Mahabharata than as Ghajini where he looks a South Indian unsucessfully faking a thick Haryanwi accent. The other nobodies looked acting schools aspirants. ARR's music too was a let down. I liked only Kaise Mujhe Tum Mil Gayin, the others have silly lyrics and catchy beats.

The clone has heavy undertones of the Tamil version. The extras, the accents, the ambiance. Anyone would have better watched the original instead. Another big blunder was the nomenclature. The Tamil movie is about a concept 'Ghajini' from Mahmud of Ghazni, who invaded India 17 times till he succeeded; but the history link has been screwed up by naming the villain so.

The length of the film is a full three hours. Had I edited it, I'd have retained the first half an hour, the last half hour, and extracted another half from the middle two hours. Ghajini, which could have been an seat-gripping psychological thriller, ended up being a predictable romantic revenge drama, which had to have a stupid epilogue. Aamir Khan is the only good thing; the movie failed to live up to my expectations, and would fetch only 6 out of my scale of 10.

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