Bollywood – What next in 2011?

The year 2010 is gone, well almost. The films have come and films have gone , some have succeeded and many have flopped. The latest release ‘Tees Maar Khan’ did get a big opening weekend but then audiences saw through it and the movie failed from the 4th day and it would barely manage to cover its huge investments of 65 Crores knocking the poor distributors and  taking with it the reputations of its director Farah Khan and actors Akshay Kumar and Katrina Kaif. Many of the small films released this year have done lot better than many big budget disasters.

2011 has quite a few big films releasing in first few weeks itself mainly to avoid the World Cup Cricket to be held from February 2011. First of its release would be Rajkumar Gupta directed thriller ‘No One Killed Jessica’ based on the infamous Jessica Lall murder case starring Rani Mukherji as the firebrand journalist following the case and subtle Vidya Balan as Jessica’s sister. The film does have quite different music loved by many and the promos of the films are quite a Hit with people. The  film does have lot of potential and is eagerly awaited.

Next up is the mad-cap Deol trio comedy ‘Yamla Pagla Deewana‘ starring the 3 Deols. The film’s promos are loved by all and the film promises to be a laugh riot. The music is quite popular and the dialogue promos make the film an exciting prospect. This film releases on 14th Janury.

21st January sees perhaps the biggest film if this half of the year, although not a conventional movie but a movie starring Aamir Khan is always a big proposition. ‘Dhobi Ghat‘ directed by Kiran Rao starring Aamir and Prateik Babbar promises to be a great film and based on early reviews from Toronto Film Festival where this film was shown, this one could perhaps be the best film to come out in a while.

‘Dil toh Baccha hai Jee’ starring Ajay Devgn, Emraan Hashmi and Omi Vaidya is another comedy releasing this month in the last week. Directed by Madhur Bhandarkar this film does look different from regular slapstick comedies we have been watching.

Early February also looks busy with Vishal Bhardwaj’s ‘Saat Khoon Maaf’ staring Priyanka Chopra and ‘Patiala House’ starring Akshay Kumar and Anushka Sharma releases. There are many other smaller budget and medium budget films releasing as well.

Let us see if any of the above big budget films succeed in first couple of months of the year 2011 or the trend of small films doing better continues in 2010.

My Bet for the first 2 months – Dhobi Ghat would be the best of the lot,  Yamla Pagla Deewana to collect good box office money and No One Killed Jessica to be the ‘dark horse’.

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The Waiting Room – Thriller that no one saw

In January 2010, a film called ‘The Waiting Room’ was released perhaps in few screens across few metros.  It was really a very small film directed by Maneej Premnath who had once assisted Ramgopal Verma. The movie starred mostly unknow artists including the lead Raj Singh Chaudhary who had done lead role in  ‘Gulaal’ earlier. The movie was badly managed by its producers and didnt even get a proper release. I think even IMDB does not mention it.

The movie is a suspense thriller set in a small town Railway Station in Southern India called Tenamalai. There are about 4-5 characters who are waiting in the Railway waiting room for a train which is heavily delayed. There is a serial killer on the prowl and of course there is general fear in each characters about the other characters. The film works on the principle that fear is what drives most people to behave irrationally. Being a low budget movie it does have its limitations and is not technically brilliant but the plot is very interesting and the actors have acted superbly, especially Raj Singh Chaudhary. Sandeep Kulkarni and Pratiksha Lonkar plays the Gujarati couple and Radhika Apte plays the lonely girl.

The atmosphere of the waiting room and the station is superbly captured. Although the suspense is not very smart though as there are not too many characters it is quite easy to guess things. The director also seems to be in a terrible hurry in the last 10 minutes or so to finish the film, maybe he ran out of the limited budget.

The film was hardly noticed by anybody when it released and hardly anyone watched it or reviewed it. I watched the 90  minute movie on Youtube and I must say I was impressed by most of it, barring the hurried end. I wish such movies did get marketed and released properly.

I would surely recommend this movie to people who love offbeat suspense thrillers although not very arty kind of films.

My Ratings: 7/10 –  Watch it if you like Suspense thrillers and Good acting.

Tees Maar Khan – Horrifying Misadventure

Farah Khan’s previous 2 films ‘Main Hoon Na’ and ‘Om Shanti Om’ were inspired from 1970s Bollywood Cinema. In her third outing as director of Tees Maar Khan she mercilessly copies from little known Hollywood film ‘After the Fox’ starring Peter Sellers. TMK is almost an unofficial remake of that movie with of course the Bollywood twists, turns, item numbers and utter nonsense thrown in.

Akshay Kumar plays  Tabrez Mirza Khan or ‘Tees Maar Khan’ who is the most dreaded conman in the world !! He escapes from right under the nose of Police  every time he is caught. As the film progresses he and his faithful hencemen called dollar, soda and burger are given a task of looting Antiques worth crores from a moving train. For this he portrays himself a Hollywood director and decides to hire services on hundreds of innocent villagers on the pretext of making a Film in their village Dhuliya. Katrina Kaif plays the dumb girlfriend who aspires to be an actress in the film. Akshaye Khanna plays a superstar aspiring to win an ‘Oscar’ by doing such a film. The film is shot, villagers are fooled, banks is robbed, ghosts are caught, the loot happens and TMK is caught but once again he escapes in the end. This above paragraph somehow summarizes the story but then there are supposedly comic scenes and spoofs and item numbers and jokes and cliches all in this 2 hour long movie. All kinds of weird acting funny characters are assembled in this film including chief villains being conjoined twins, a bumbling police commissioner, village buffoons of all kind and so on !!

I always trusted Farah Khan to come up with something nice and witty especially as she loves to play tributes and homages to past films and makers and she is as ‘Bollywood’ as one can be without feeling guilty about it. But this time she has gone overboard with spoofing everybody that came to her mind and making spoof after spoof  and over spoofing. It seems either she has run out of fresh ideas and repeating her own cliched ideas of filmy maa, dumb heroine, everybody in village being so glamor struck and dumb etc. She has gone the ‘Priyadarshan’ and ‘Anees Bazmi’  way of making stupid films and then overdoing it or maybe she is just influenced by her not-so-smart husband who is not only the editor, but story writer, music director ( for title song), lyricist, producer and what not for this film. The film tries to mock everybody and everything but unlike her previous film ‘Om Shanti Om’ most of her jokes fall flat and people almost know what is coming even before the joke starts.

There are jokes and there are jokes within jokes and then there is Tees Maar Khan where the joke starts at the beginning and never ends, it goes on and on. Katrina Kaif plays the dumbest heroine you would ever see on film screen and you do not even laugh at her dumbness after a while. You can laugh at Avatar Gill spoofing A.K. Hangal’s blind man act once  but not every time he comes on screen, it gets irritating after a while to see Akshaye Khanna obsessed with the Oscars.  The dialogues like ‘Tawaiif ki lootati ijjat aur TMK ko jail mein rakhna na-mumkin hai’ and ‘ khanon mein khan- tees maar khan’ gets to you after a while. The conjoined villainous twins are ridiculous. There are racial jokes, jokes on poor villagers and crass humor. What on earth was that plot about headless ghost and missing children growing ‘Ganja’ in some jungle and that villager sitting on top of the tree?? The end credits gives ‘ oscars’ to all those who were involved with this film and Farah in the end gets a Filmfare as all Oscar trophies are with her husband !!

Farah Khan who was my choice for Manmohan Desai’s ‘heir apparent’ in Bollywood has clearly disappointed this time. From situational comedies and genuine spoofs she has come down to the level of Golmaals and Housefulls with slapstick comedy. I always thought Farah Khan as a filmmaker was much superior then her weirdo brother Sajid Khan or for that matter most commecial Hindi filmmakers, but after TMK, I need to re-think that.

The film did have an interesting plot to begin with and lot could have been done with it but it seems the makers decided the plot, the funny characters, the dialogues and Akshay Kumar’s charisma would make the film sail. But the dialogues are cliches, jokes are hardly comic, comedy is of slapstick genre and Akshay Kumar’s charisma is fading. Item numbers can only do so much and after watching ‘Sheila ki Jawani’ about 1000 times on various television promos, it hardly registers when you watch it in movie hall, although it indeed is very well choreographed  like most songs by Farah khan are. Katrina Kaif was never a good actress and here she shows how dumb she can be. She is just a glamor doll fit to do roles where she doesnt have to speak. She hams throughout the film. Akshaye Khanna and his horrendous wig,  what is he doing in the film, only he and his fat bank-cheque knows, he is paid to overact at every scene and he succeeds there, overdoing his bit at times  but then his role is meant to be like that.

It is an out an out Akshay Kumar movie, almost a portfolio for things he can do but this time it fails miserably. Akshay Kumar plays the role effortlessly but is so repetitive that people were yawning at some of his cliched lines which he keeps repeating. Akshay Kumar tries to do everything from hamming to overacting and playing it out loud and romantic at the same time. We have been watching this Akshay Kumar show reel in so many of his films that one more attempt looks boring.  Other actors like Arya Babbar, Sachin Khedekar, Ali Asgar are caricaturish. Salman Khan in a small cameo in the ‘wallah’ song almost promises to give some relief and there is no doubt about who is the biggest crowd pull in a theater these days.

Since this is the big holidays season and most people here and everywhere else have nothing better to do, they go out and watch films. Most times films are tailor-made for this season and most times they succeed. This film too might get the large numbers in at the box office and huge amount of money, in fact it has already begun on 100% openings at most places, but as far as cinema goes this film pushes Bollywood 5 years behind. What have you done Farah ?

My Ratings – 4.5/10 –  I am generous because of Christmas

P.S. I heard they have already decided to make a sequel !!.. * faints*

Saat Khoon Maaf – Trailer – Devilishly Interesting !!

Here is the first look of ‘Saat Khoon Maaf’, the film by Vishal Bhardwaj starring Priyanka Chopra in perhaps a career defining role of Sussanna who weds and murders 7 of her husbands !!

The plot is interesting and intriguing. The starcast features the likes of Naseeruddinn Shah, Annu Kapoor, John Abraham, Irrfan Khan, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Vivaan Shah and Aleksander Dyachenko as the husbands , of course the film seems to be belonging to Priyanka Chopra. The music seems to be haunting too.

Watch the trailer and decide. The film releases on Valentine Day 2011.

IPL4 – Format & Auctions

Finally, After all the long litigations and hours of meetings it almost seems final that IPL 4 would have 10 teams and 74 matches. There would 2 groups of 5 each which would play matches on Home and Away basis thus producing 40 matches. The next round will have top 6 teams playing against each other in home- away basis and thus producing another 30 matches. 2 semi finals, 1 3rd place match and the mega final would make it 74 matches over a period of 6 weeks.

The players auction has been finalized for 8th and 9th January 2011. There are 416 players available for the first round of auction. This list includes heavyweights like Rahul Dravid, YuvRaj Singh, Zaheer Khan from India and International stars like Brian Lara, Micheal Hussey and Kevin Peterson.  Out of these the list will be pruned down to a more reasonable number by December 24,2010 based on the interests shown by the 10 franchises. The base prices for the players are fixed but that is of course not indicative of the actual prices. Notable absentees in the list are Ricky Ponting, Mitchell Johnson and Micheal Clarke who have resisted IPL’s money in favor of longer International career. Pakistani players are also not part of the list.

12 players have been retained by various franchises. Mumbai Indians have retained Sachin, Harbhajan Singh, Malinga and Pollard while Chennai have put faith in Dhoni, Raina, Vijay and Albie Morkel. Delhi have retained Sehwag while Bangalore are happy with Virat Kohli. Rajasthan have retained Shane Warne and Shane Watson. The other 3 teams namely Deccan, Knightriders and Kings XI Punjab and the 2 new teams of Pune and Kochi go with empty roster in the auction and the full 9 Million $ to spend.

Apart from the auctions the team will be entitled to sign the Indian domestic players which will make the backbone of any team. BCCI is yet to decide upon the final date from which this signing can happen.

The auctions would surely be as keenly followed as the actual IPL Matches.

Band Baaja Baraat – Refreshingly Good

Yash Raj films have been known to produce romantic movies and musicals and NRI romances and wedding videos in the name of films since last few years. Since the advent of DDLJ some 15 years ago it has been doing so and it has been searching for its next DDLJ ever since. Exceptions to this theme have been far and few. Somehow in these last 15 years they have been making the same film over and over with different variations, stars and music. It was relying too much on big shot stars, big directors, big music to make their movies sail through which did work few times but bombed most times. The unreal world of YRF films was crashing and they were not realizing that. The premier bollywood studio, which once never failed at box office, was giving duds after duds and was considered no longer the same powerful studio it once was.

With Band Baaja Baraat, they have managed to break few shackles. The film is a surprise for everybody including I think the bosses of YRF. To begin with the film is set in middle class Delhi and not London or New York. The characters and settings of the film are real, believable and that is a welcome change from Raj and Rahuls we are used to see. The film has a definite story and a decent plot line moving the story. Above all the film has two really good actors who fit the roles perfectly. The movie is a model on a how a romantic comedy needs to be made.

The story is simple and is about a middle class Delhi girl and a roadside Delhi romeo coming togather as business partners as wedding planners. Their meeting is accidental however they join forces together to launch ‘Shaadi Mubarak’ a wedding planning agency set in middle class Janakpuri of Delhi. The initial part of film is breezy and takes you from one wedding to another and slow and steady rise of the duo’s company and making even the simplest of wedding as grand and memorable. The company grows and so does the dreams and the leads graduate from middle class low budget weddings to high society ‘farmhouse’ weddings as they call it in Delhi where budgets run in crores. They succeed with their zeal for hard work, honesty and dedication. Till about the midpoint of the film when the conflict arises the film is real fast moving. The conflict point is not a villain or money or fights but strangely it is love.  The romantic scenes and the love scenes are done in a very non-conventional way, which makes it look and feel real.When the leads fall in love they break the first rule of their ‘binness’ that to ‘never fall in love with your business partner’.  The 2nd half is bit slow as compared to the first and some of the things are quire predictable but still fun to watch. The fights, tantrums and problems which arises from the conflict continue right till the end where of course like true YRF style the leads make up and everything is hunky dory. The finale seems bit stretched but you never feel bored. Do not miss the end credits.

In spite of certain predictive nature of the story it makes you watch it and enjoy mainly because of real life situations, some original hilarious scenes, smartest dialogues you’ll see, wonderful and breezy direction, superb production values with an eye to detailing you are not used to see in mainstream Hindi movies and on top of all the 2 leading actors.  Anushka Sharma as ‘Shrutti Kakkad’ lives the character like she was born to do this. Its her third film, incidentally all 3 with YRF, and she is a revelation as an actress. She is uninhibited, can act well, dance like a breeze in most natural way and makes you feel for her in emotional scenes. Of  course the real surprise packet is new boy Ranveer Singh as ‘Bittoo Sharma’. The guy is unconventional in looks but is a sheer delight to watch on screen. His dialogue delivery, sense of comic timing, dancing and acting skills make you root for his slightly roguish but innocent character. He is the true blue Delhi boy we have been looking for. This certainly is a dream debut for him in a role tailor made for him and I wont be surprised if he wins the best debut actor prizes in most award ceremonies next year.

Before the film released when I saw the promos I didn’t think much of the new actor with his unconventional look but I have to say that I was wrong and I shouldn’t have been prejudiced. Incidentally last time I was prejudiced and then later changed my mind after a film released was during ‘Kaho na Pyaar Hai’ almost a decade ago !!

The film is a true representation of what North Indian weddings and the debut-ant director Maneesh Sharma has captured the true essence of both middle class and high society Delhi. Special mention to dialogues by Habib Faisal for capturing the Hindi tone and words that only Delhites would use. This is the kind of original earthy writing and detailing which has been missing from many of our recent films. The supporting actors are cast so well that they do not look like actors but straight out of a Delhi colony. The music by Salim-Suleimaan is apt and the numbers are foot tapping and makes you want to dance in the aisle. ”Ainvayi Ainvayi’ is for the song of the year and will be a surefire hit in every wedding from now on.

The film is made in very moderate budget and most of the money has already been recovered from Satellite an Music rights so whatever the film earns from box office is a bonus for the producers. The movie surely worked for me and we enjoyed the late night show in middle of a working week and were surprised to find the hall almost full. Nothing works like word of mouth publicity and positive critic reviews.

My Ratings – 9/10 for the sheer North Indian energy and the lead actors. Best rom-com of the year.

P.S. My only worry is that after the success of this film YRF has got enough money now to make few more Uday Chopra films !!!

The Books I Read – The Confession – John Grisham

The Confession is yet another ‘legal thriller’ from John Grisham. John Grisham has written legal thrillers of various kinds but recently in last few years his books have taken a certain theme of promoting certain causes which he himself is keen follower in real life. One of the causes he advocates is abolishing death penalty and in this book presents a fictional case which justifies the cause.

The book has a very good premise of an innocent black man Donte Drumm all of 19, caught for a crime he did not commit, tried in courts, fake evidences presented, erroneous testimonies and he is sent on the death row to be executed by the state of Texas. Just a few days before his execution the real killer Travis Boyette confesses his crime to a pastor in the church in Kansas. The book describes the 4 days in which the pastor, the real killer and the defense attorney Robbie Flak try their last minute effort to save the innocent man caught for the murder he didn’t commit. There is a race to file petitions and appeals and gather evidence including the dead body,  the story clearly asks its readers to think about the morality of the capital punishment.

The book describes the events in quite details and sometimes provides information more than that is needed as well. The author establishes a solid back story for most of the characters and goes in details of the American  judiciary system and the racial divide in the American southern states. As like most Grisham novels the lead characters are almost super heroic and does all kinds of things expected from him but then its a minor fault.

The book at times becomes too much informative and doesn’t move at a rapid pace. The book’ plot is quite linear and with a very few twists and turns you already know what is about to happen at most times. The author highlights the racial divide in the society a bit too much as well. But no one knows the southern states more than Grisham and the detailing of judiciary and police system provided by the author is unmatched. Morality of Death Penalty is the question in reader’s mind and is answered quite well by the end of the book.

I would recommend this only to die-hard John Grisham fans. Quite slow at times and you can easily skip some pages and do not miss much. It is certainly not as good as some of his best.

My Ratings : 7/10 – for Die hard Grisham Fans only

Game – Theatrical Trailer – Could this be a gamechanger?

Abhishek Bachchan hasnt been having a good Box office run and he desperately needs a big film to work for him. Here is the trailer of his next release ‘Game’ starring alongside him are Boman Irani, Anupam Kher, Kangana Ranaut, Shahaha Goswami, Jimmy Shergill and Sarah Jane Dias. It directed by Abhinay Deo and produced by Farhan Akhtar’s Excel Films. The film is supposed to be a mystery suspense thriller.

Check out the theatrical trailer. This one does loook interesting and maybe this could be a gamechanger for its leading star.

IPL 4 – Status Update

IPL 4 is set to be played 6 days after the conclusion of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011. The tournament is now about 4 months away, however due to the various controversies neither the no. of teams, the players, no. of matches, format anything is known to the public and not even to the players and team owners. It was supposed to be a 10 Team event when 2 new teams Pune and Kochi were added last year in much publicized team auction.

Later due to the ownership issues and various non-cricketing reasons Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab were suspended from the IPL and the Kochi team was always on the brink of suspension due to its various ownership issues. At one stage it looked there would be just 7 teams and an eighth team would be added after a fresh round of auction. However as things stand today Kochi is back in the fold and so is Rajasthan Royals based on the court order. Punjab team is likely to be there as well as their case is similar to the Royals. Thus it would be a 10 team affair.

Player auction which was supposed to be held in November had been postponed to January and now it seems may further gets postponed to March, i.e. during the ICC World Cup. As the BCCI is yet to clear off the court cases.

No one is sure about the format, the no. of matches either and would a round robin home-away format will be followed or a changed format of 2 groups would be followed is yet to be decided. The teams are not sure about the exact playing dates as well. The Player retention rules are even more controversial with teams having a choice of up to 4 players to retain from their existing team, but then they lose half their auction limit of 9 Million $. It seems not all teams are in favor of retention however Mumbai Indians and Chennai Superkings are quite keen on it.

As of now it seems Mumbai have decided to retain Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh, Lasith Malinga  and either of Keiron Pollard and J P Duminy. Chennai have decided to retain Dhoni, Raina, Murali Vijay and Albie Morkel while Bangalore are keen only on Virat Kohli and Kolkata are keen only on Chris Gayle and not even their very own Ganguly. Delhi are sure to keep Sehwag with them and possibly Ashish Nehra, Dirk Nannes and maybe Gautam Gambhir too. Rajasthan have opted for Shane Warne, Watson and possibly Yusuf Pathan. Deccan Chargers have decided not to retain anybody while Kings XI Punjab are still awaiting for court ruling to decide anything. There are clearly no takers for veteran players such as Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman, Kumble and so on. The teams also do not have a fixed strategy and things are quite muddled at the moment.

Unless and until clarity comes from the court regarding status of various teams and BCCI decided upon the format of the game and auction dates and rules nothing can be sure.

Although one thing is sure, BCCI is hell bent on hosting the IPL 4 by hook or crook.