Hindi Film Reviews 2011
Brief reviews of current Bollywood films as they appeared in the Independent Weekly.
Game. Agatha Christie—Bollywood style—as four strangers, Istanbul drug lord Neil Menon (Abhishek Bachchan) a hot headed politician (Boman Irani) a spoiled movie star (Jimmy Shergill) and an alcoholic crime reporter (Shahana) arrive at a private Greek Island at the behest of a reclusive billionaire (Anupam Kher). Murder is an uninvited guest and International Vigilance Squad investigator Sia (Kangana Ragnut) is on the case. The premise is laboriously outlined in the first half, punctuated with the occasional incoherent action scene. But, after the interval, the film finds its rhythm in the cat and mouse game between Sia and Neil, and by the time “Kaun Hai Ajnabi” plays over the end credits one wishes the whole film had been better. Not Golden Era Abhishek (roughly 2004-2007) but it will do until Dhoom 3 appears.
Dhobi Ghat (Washerman’s Row) Four people, Arun, a painter (Aamir Khan), Munna, a washerman (Prateik), Shai, on sabbatical from her US banking job (Monica Dogra) and Yasmin, an unhappy wife (Kriti Malhotra) cross paths over class lines in modern Mumbai. “Bombay, my muse, my whore, my beloved,” Arun toasts at his gallery opening (everyone calls the city Bombay). Shai begins a friendship with her dhobi (hotly disapproved from all sides of the social divide) even as she yearns for Arun, who’s obsessed (like Amélie) with a box he’s found locked in a wardrobe, containing Yasmin’s abandoned video diary. Dhobi Ghat is a strong debut written and directed by Kiran Rao, Aamir Khan’s wife. Styled like a Western art house film (almost a retort to Slumdog Millionaire with its handsome lower class hero dreaming of a better life) Kiran seems to delight in having her superstar husband, smoke, swear and pick up a girl, something he is not allowed to do in mainstream Bollywood.
Patiala House. Bauji (Rishi Kapoor) is fed up with British racism. Maintaining an extended Sikh family in a Southall, London, cul de sac, he demands younger family members kowtow to his wishes. Years ago, Gattu (Akshay Kumar) the eldest, had his teenaged cricketing hopes dashed by his father’s massive guilt trip. When the national team needs a great fast bowler, Gattu is encouraged by the cowed younger relatives to try out, finally following his dreams. Director Nikhil Advani made the fab Kal Ho Na Ho, one of my all time favorites, and PH’s flatness, holey plot and lack of originality is disappointing. Akshay mopes nearly the entire film to denote his downtrodden state. Bubbly Anouska Sharma and the excellent Dimple Kapadia are wasted, the one bright spot is the acting debut of UK rapper Hard Kaur. The greatest cinematic fantasy isn’t bursting into song, or that a 34 year old (sic) amateur cricketer might save the day, but that an oppressive patriarch would ever learn.