Movies to look out for this week

Tees Maar Khan [IMDB]

A conman sets up a fake cinema shoot as a smokescreen for a daring train robbery

Cast: Akshay Kumar, Katrina Kaif, Akshaye Khanna

Direction: Farah Khan

Megamind [IMDB]

The supervillain Megamind finally conquers his nemesis, the hero Metro Man... but finds his life pointless without a hero to fight.

Cast: Will Ferell (voice), Tina Fey (voice), Brad Pitt (voice), Jonah Hill (voice)

Direction: Tom McGrath

The Tourist [IMDB]

Revolves around Frank, an American tourist visiting Italy to mend a broken heart. Elise is an extraordinary woman who deliberately crosses his path

Cast: Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, Paul Bettany

Direction: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

Toonpur Ka Superhero [IMDB]

The good cartoons of Toonpur enlist an unsuspecting action-hero Aditya into their war against the bad toons

Cast: Ajay Devgan, Kajol, Sanjay Mishra (voice)

Direction: Kireet Khurana

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Phas Gaye Re Obama

The setting is 2008, when the entire world is reeling under the financial tsunami of the Wall street collapse. And the tremors of those events are being felt as far as rural India, where a group of bumbling “khandaani” kidnappers are ruing the “recession” that has made their plight pitiful – victims are offering ridiculously low ransom payments, no one is paying protection money and things are so bad that they cant afford even outgoing calls on mobiles.

Amidst this gloominess, the semi-literate member of the group Anee announces the arrival of NRI Mr Shastri to their town and the kidnappers immediately see a pot of gold with him. Unfortunately for them, other “senior” kidnappers in the area are also seeing stacks of dollars in front of them. In the midst of all this, imagine if Mr NRI is himself bankrupt and is in India only to sell off his ancestral property.

Phas Gaye Re Obama’s story flows well, and a few sequences are especially memorable. Especially the organised kidnapping business, with its bank-like ransom handling facilities and a “kidnapping receipt” - which is to be shown in case of any other kidnapping attempt and is valid for 12 months :) !! There is no sag anywhere in its runtime and the laughs are generated by its quirky characters and their rustic nature (it carries the tradition from the previous gangster capers Sankat City and 99 - both of which I adore).

The “khandaani” kidnapper, Bhaisaab, played by Sanjay Mishra, is a delight to watch. And giving him company is Oye Lucky Lucky Oye’s Manu Rishi – the America-worshipping, small-towner Anee – who gets his dreamer yet gullible act pitch perfect. Rajat Kapoor plays the hassled NRI effortlessly – he seems made for these kind of roles only. Neha Dhupia was the only misfit – her character too unrealistic and her performance nothing to write home about. Amol Gupte carries from where he left off in Kaminey, a natural gang leader.

The movie holds your attention well for its entire runtime and the ending is not quite what you expected – so full marks to the director for that as well. There are no songs etc to distract. A solid effort by debutante director Subhash Kapoor, but left an aftertaste very similar to Sankat City etc. If it was not preceded by the above mentioned movies, I would have rated it a little higher. And others, who haven’t watched those movies will definitely have a lot of fun watching Phas Gaye Re Obama

3 star

PS - Even after watching the movie, I did not quite understand the title, although there are definitely a lot of Obama references in the movie
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Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey

For me, Kheley Hum Jee Jaan Se will probably be the last time I am going to invest time and money in a Ashutosh Gowariker movie. It marks a very sad decline for someone regarded as one of India’s finest directors not too many years back. While length had always been his weakness, his story telling has now become a joke. What started off in the laborious Jodhaa Akbar has reached the nadir in this movie – the story and screenplay lack any drama, any sense of cinema or emotional highs and lows.

The story of the Chittagong uprising of 1930, a forgotten chapter of our freedom struggle – when revolutionaries under Surya Sen tried to make an example out of Chittagong. They decided to rid Chittagong of all Britishers by taking out five key targets in one audacious night – the telegraph office, the police lines armory, the railway tracks, the European Club and the British Army Cantonment. And if you watch the movie, you will realize how agonizingly close they came to rewriting history of British India.

And I do have to concede - even with his failings as a moviemaker, Ashutosh Gowarker has to be applauded for bringing this forgotten story to light. Because of it, I have a new sense of respect for all those who gave up so much for the fight to free this country. But ironically, I got it not from the movie but only from the end credits - where the photos of all the people who were involved in the Chittagong uprising makes the events of the movie spine-chillingly real. The biggest emotional surge for me came towards the end of the credits when I read the name of some Bengali gentleman who is still living in Bangladesh ! Alive, 80 years after the event !

Kheley Hum Jee Jaan Sey is in two distinct parts. The first part shows all the planning that went into the raids and how the group of rebels got together. The second half shows the actual raid and the aftermath of the raids as the British ruthlessly hunted down every one of the conspirators. The planners of the raid were Surya Sen and couple of his friends. Together they trained and inducted into his plans some 50 odd teenagers, mostly students, for the attack.

Did Surya Sen misuse his position as a teacher to whitewash impressionable minds into the rebellion? The movie doesn’t even consider the question relevant – everything is clearly black and white and Masterda Surya Sen never did anything wrong.

In the first half, we are introduced to innumerable number of characters, without any depth or detail on any of them. Even Abhishek Bachhan as Surya Sen seems unreal. He is always straight-faced and speaks only in a measured tone. He has always the right things to say, his shirt is always crisp white and he composure remains unruffled in most situations. Though his actions seem to suggest there is a fire in his belly, one sees no other visible signs of it anywhere. Deepika, with her size-zero, looks completely out of place in the movie – and quite frankly I didn’t think this movie needed a leading lady or any romatic angle.

The bad characterization is compounded by the absolute lack of any drama in the screenplay. I have seen documentaries with more emotional highs and lows than this movie. Emotional scenes are wretchedly handled, everything happens with an unreal sense of detachment – as if each actor was gnawing away with doubt about the lines he/she was spouting on the screen. Some actions of a lot of characters are completely unexplained – and things fall into place for the revolutionaries in remarkably convenient ways till the night of the actual assault.

Such a white-washed version of history is a little hard to digest for any intelligent audience – ironically the very same audience this movie is trying to entice. The characters fail to make any connection with the audience because they do not show much more depth than cardboard cutouts. The movie also drags on for the mandatory 3 hours of an Ashutosh Gowariker production. And frankly, the entire second half dedicated to the pursuit and capture of the revolutionaries was quite depressing – it could have been given much less screentime. All it did was to serve as a vehicle to showcase melodramatic deaths of some of the characters. Instead of focusing on their lives

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Movies to look out for this week

Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey [IMDB]

Ashutosh Gowariker's retelling of the Chittagong uprising in 1930 - a largely forgotten event in our independence movement that we should learn something about

Cast: Abhishek Bachhan, Deepika Padukone, Sikandar Kher

Direction: Ashutosh Gowariker

Phas Gaye Re Obama [IMDB]

A comedy set against the backdrop of global recession/meltdown that originated in USA. A suddenly-poor NRI returns to India to sell his property and his kidnapped by a recession-hit underworld gang

Cast: Devender Chaudhary, Neha Dhupia, Amol Gupte

Direction: Subhash Kapoor

Rakht Charitra 2

The second part of Ram Gopal Verma's biopic on Paritala Ravi. This part is expected to be based on the conspiracy theories surrounding his death

Cast: Vivek Oberoi, Surya, Shatrughan Sinha

Direction: Ram Gopal Varma

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader [IMDB]

Lucy and Edmund Pevensie return to Narnia with their cousin Eustace where they meet up with Prince Caspian for a trip across the sea aboard the royal ship The Dawn Treader.

Cast: Ben Barnes, Skandar Keynes, Georgie Henley

Direction: Michael Apted

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Retired, but Extremely Dangerous – put Bruce Willis in a movie named that and you are definitely looking at wolf-whistling time. And the movie RED tries not to disappoint you, especially in the opening minutes. (If you cant make out by now, I am a ‘die-hard’ Bruce Willis fan). The movie opens with Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) leading a dull retired life in the suburbs alone. And his only excitement is the politely flirting with an employee of the pension department call center. Till some masked commando-types try to take him out one night

Frank takes out the silent attackers in a flurry of punches that you couldn’t even see properly – and then even a hailstorm of bullets from the outside doesn’t ruffle his hair (not that he has any, but you get the idea) as he finishes off all the baddies. Suspecting they might target Sarah (the pensions dept employee), Frank convinces (kidnaps) her to join him as he rounds up his ex-colleagues to find out why someone is so pissed with him

Enter a mischievous Morgan Freeman, who is spending his last days at a retirement home, the technology-hating paranoid John Malkovich, the ex-KGB Brian Cox who doesn’t mind joining his erstwhile enemies as long as it promises some action and Helen Mirren the lethal but dainty looking bed-and-breakfast owner. These guys obviously have a history together – and there is a twinkle in their eye when they recount older adventures – or while fighting off CIA assassins.

Soon they track down the source of the orders, and as is the case with all such movies, the rogue tends to be someone pretty high up. So our REDs hatch an intricate plan to reach their target. And ofcourse things go kabooom – with spectacular explosions all around. Thankfully, the explosions are not the gory type and blood shown is minimal – keeping its entertainment focus intact.

So does the movie fulfil all its promises ? Well, not all. It is a through-and-through entertainer, with no dull moments. The mood of the movie is borderline funny and the oldies keep indulging in playful banter with each other. It is the action which disappoints a little in the second half. While the first half has a couple of awesome sequences with Bruce Willis stepping out of a spinning cat to shoot down an attacker, the second half is bereft of any such wolf-whistle moments.

A couple more of those would have made this an AWESOME movie.

3 star
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Break Ke Baad

Debutant director Danish Aslam serves us disappointing fare in Break Ke Baad this weekend - a crisp first half followed by a damp and soggy second half. The teekha first half has Deepika‘s sizzling act as Aaliya - bringing some life & vitality to her usually expressionless face. Imran plays the chocolate boy lover Abhay – a role he has done admirably in the past and is the likeable meethi chutney. Together, against my expectation, they both produce a very likeable dish and have a crackling onscreen chemistry. However, that spark between them is completely doused by the insipid writing in the second half.

The opening credits are a montage of two six year olds falling in love as they grow up, with a shared passion of hindi movies. The girl grows up to be the impetuous Aaliya who is full of life, but sometimes does not care about anyone but herself. Abhay is the ultra-sweet guy who tolerates all her tantrums and still adores her. Maybe because he realizes he needs her more than she does. However, when Aaliya decides to fly off to Australia to study, the relationship cant take the strain and the ‘break’ happens.

This is where the movie goes to dogs – as it starts focussing more on other characters and side-plots more than the lead pair. Sharmila Tagore as Aaliya’s mother heads a useless track about the ills of the world of showbiz. She also seals my belief that yesteryear’s charming heroines lose their expressive faces in the process of ageing (maybe to botox). And hence are better staying alive in old movie reruns rather than acting in newer movies. Jaya Bhaduri, Hema Malini and now Sharmila Tagore – their faces struggle to convey different emotions – and end up looking almost similar in all scenes.

The movie meanders along for quite a while before becoming a coming-of-age movie for both Aaliya and Abhay. And this is the movie’s biggest failure – since the scriptwriter clearly doesn’t have the maturity to handle this topic as much as he has a handle on romance. The climax is stupid even by the low standards of rom-coms – and which is where you write the movie off as a failure

PS - Something struck me a couple of days after I watched the movie – when you watch the movie, you can tell me if I was wrong or right. I thought Aaliya’s character and idiosyncrasies were heavily based on Jab We Met’s Geet . None of the Bhatinda Punjabi madness, but a calculated effort by the makers to use that quirkiness and happy-go-lucky nature. But then again, Geet was a million times better than Aaliya would ever be.

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