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Sunday, 28 June 2015

The Over/Under of Hindi Films in 2015 so far...

The Over/Under of Hindi Films 

in 2015 so far...

Half the year to half the decade has already gone by and quite a few good films have left their mark.

Some a bit too much; Jurassic World, comes to mind as an example of a good movie...maybe, just maybe having made a bit too much money. More than it probably deserved in terms of quality.

Still the Dinosaurs are ruling, what can one do?

Speaking off too much box office for a worthless film, one cannot help but think of mainstream Hindi Cinema.

Except this year has seen a number of small films once again leave an impact at the BO and critic's minds, allowing Hindi and Indian cinema to once again grow exponentially.

Most of the mindless gems are yet to arrive or seen by me (Hamari Adhuri Kahaani, anyone?).

Some of these films have turned out to live up to potential (Dil Dhadakne Do) and more (Dum Laga Ke Haisha) or less (Kuch Kuch Locha Hai).

But potential that is expected or well loved and equally hated depending on how one sees the pre-hype.

Or how hype surrounding the film post-release is generated.

Of course designating a film as overrated or underrated, doesn’t make it plainly bad or good; but just not as good or better than the hype and praise/hatred it's given.

So here's to a few films from this year so far that have either achieved the over or under tag...

Overrated: Tanu Weds Manu Returns

Technically a sound picture and possibly the first time ever in Hindi cinema, where one will feel that an actor in a double role barely feels like the same person (in spite of superficial differences).

Kangana Ranaut along with a cavalcade of underrated actors steals the show in a film that at times is genuine and hilarious and especially makes valid points as its secondary plots, but fails when it comes to the central narrative and conflict.

Despite playing both Datto and Tanu with such brilliance that one can't discern the difference. The film thrusts itself on the plot of dejected husband Manu falling for Datto because she vaguely resembles his annoying and possibly ex-wife Tanu.

Anand L Rai starts of well, overturning the biggest plot hole from his previous film; how two fundamentally different people got together so easily in Tanu weds Manu without issues, by throwing us headfirst into their already rocky marriage.

From there everything spills out, like any comedy sequel he takes the most entertaining points of his characters and dials them up (remember Alan in Hangover 2?) to infinitely annoying.

The central conflict feels so faulty it doesn't help. Manu's infatuation and then overall blossoming romance with Datto rings false, simply because we just know that Tanu and Manu will reunite without actually having changed much or solving their inherent issues with one another except for presenting false romantic gestures and Rai recreating the second half of his first film once again just with switched gender roles.

As Datto clearly puts it at the end (and I'm paraphrasing); Manu and Tanu are such love struck idiots.

Still Ranaut remains staunch and maybe the reason why so many loved this one and one of the only reasons to not just watch this one, but watch it again. 

Underrated: Piku

Okay so Piku evidently got a lot of love from critics and even at the BO, but I think just not enough.

Much, much more fascinating and enlightening than his previous films (especially the overrated but fantastic Vicky Donor), Shoojit Sircar's Piku is here for one simple reason...

Because of the film above it.

As soon as TWMR hit the cinemas, Piku was obliterated by the aforementioned box office clout. Piku was left in the dust.

Despite making a healthy profit it's unfair because Piku actually thrives as a much better film, that also doesn't shove its feminist message down ones throat while being contradictory to the other.

Not only that but it does so without being conventional or (what may seem regressive but isn't) what actually highlights the idea of equality; choice (not that other controversial Padukone film)

Piku's father doesn't think Piku should marry because as an intellectual independent woman she should focus on herself and her career however Piku feels that if she wants to marry or find a suitor she can and she has every right to; her choice to do what she wants to, in turn liberating her.

Basically what this touching film about a father-daughter and washroom trouble is about. Finding a sense of relief and liberation.

At the center is its most underrated aspect; the luminous Deepika Padukone giving what in my opinion is her finest performance, simply because the actress for the first time in her career is so natural on screen that it barely feels like she is acting rather just being.

PS: This isn't a Kangana-Deepika debate, I'm a fan of both actors...I feel against Kangana's more showier performance as Tanu, Deepika is better in Piku...nothing against Dattoo either, she's lovely :)

Overrated: Baby

I don't get the love that Baby gets on the net or during its release.

Sure the films good and all featuring another worthwhile dramatic performance from Akshay Kumar and some terrific tense direction by Neeraj Pandey, but I still don't get it.

A Wednesday is brilliant, it's a modern masterpiece. I adore Special 26, but I don't think I can watch Baby again.

Apart from Tapsee Pannu kicking ass in a tense meta sequence, nothing in Baby feels new or justifiably good enough to push the espionage genre in Hindi cinema to another level like it has been going for the past few years.

What Baby feels like with its too similar to Argo climax and gritty thrilling narrative is more like D-Day lite without the brilliance of either Rishi Kapoor or an Irrfan Khan to support it.

Once again Pandey proves that when it comes to romantic stories, he is no good and the lacklustre chemistry between Akshay and his leading lady is dead on arrival. The banter dynamic between him and Kher works to a point until it gets tiresome and the gritty action at the top actually doesn't feel so much as it does excite then drop way down.

Pannu is this so called 'great' films saving grace but only appears in an extended cameo.

It isn't bad per say, but with the talent involved it's a definite disappointment.

Underrated: Badlapur

Sure Badlapur got tons of love on both critical and commercial front, but once again one can't help but that if any film deserves to be hyped all year round like the likes of Queen and Ankhon Dekhi were last year, than it's this one.

Okay so it's not as upbeat as the rest to carry through the year as a loved feature, or that it fails to deliver in terms of what it advertised; a tense and fast and furious revenge thriller.

Instead what Badlapur turns out to be is a slow burn noir that clearly ends with much as a bang as people felt it was a whimper. It's psychological and spiritual in nature and does something unbelievable with its gut wrenching message and brutality despite not being as gory as expected.

The turn in fortune and status between the two protagonists (antagonists as well) is visceral as their game unfolds. The intensity of the two actors pulsating on screen.

Siddiqui is a livewire and turns out his most multi faceted and layered portrayal to date, getting to finally play the big Hindi film sacrificial hero in a grounded approach. He's the heart of the film.

While it's black soul is none other than the surprising Varun Dhawan. Like any brooding anti-hero in a revenge thriller there isn't a noticeable shift in expression and being considered a non-actor (of sorts), Dhawan falls prey to critics but if one notices him carefully then you can see subtle shifts and changes that present the dying, burdened and broken Raghu inside.

His performance masterfully reflected in two scenes, in the past as the lover boy Raghu that Varun play so perfectly with zest and the latter a sinking scene as he dances alone in his haunt; a room littered with his dead child and wife's decaying and dusty memories.

It's surprising then that nobody goes above and beyond the call to praise what a beautiful comeback Sriram Raghvan makes with his latest neo-noir art work.

I guess that's just the way the cookie crumbles; Raghvan's noir trio of films never catching any magnitude of praise, where as his so called 'big' blunder (which isn't that bad) Agent Vinod catching too much unwarranted flak. So much so that the world nearly ruined his career.

Overrated: Gabbar is Back

Okay so we had one big masala film this year, one that seemed unsurprisingly getting critical drubbings but was a commercial blitz.

Yet the funniest thing in general was the number of trustable internet fiends praising the latest Kumar film as a Masala feature with an actual soul and worthy message.


I had to check it out.

And once again I fail to see what makes people flock to see such films.

Gabbar is Back is another terrible, laborious and ridiculous action masala potboiler that does everything that is wrong with much of Hindi and South's commercial cinema.

The larger than life hero taking down the even much more larger than life and drab villain.

With its silly name, silly villain and silly use of an iconic villains name; Gabba is Back is another third class masala feature in a sub-genre revival that is now hopefully testing the audiences patience.

Then again this year has Dilwale, Bajraangi Bhaijaan and more to come.

Thank you to all those righteous people whose opinions I trusted for making me watch this piece of turd.

Underrated: Detective Byomkesh Bakshi

So I was one of the many (or few) to complain about Dibakar Banerjee's latest.

Part of it was because the film was too obvious, part because I couldn't believe the love it got in comparison to his previous much better and highly underrated effort; Shanghai.

(Yup I'm still talking about that film)

Still in parts Byomkesh Bakshi actually got to me and the eloquent words of my friend; 'Byomkesh is shit!' made me realize how actually wonderful the film is.

It's a genuine technical masterpiece with some fantastic production design to boot and Nikos Andristakis at the top of his game with gorgeous cinematography. The score and soundtrack are blistering and an odd but terrifying juxtapose to the somberness of the feature.

Sushant Singh Rajput once again proves why from the onset, that he is possibly the most versatile new actor having pulled off three distinct, well etched roles already.

DBB by miles is nowhere near Banerjee's best, in fact it's quite flawed and sadly predictable but its actually worth watching for its marvelous technical detail and some riveting yet non-cliché and slow burning mystery plot.

Give me a few months and I might discover the love for Banerjee's Shanghai in this one as well.

Overrated: NH 10

Oh god did I like NH 10 or what?

It's a fantastic non stop entertaining ride with some spicy moments of black humor and Anushka Sharma in top form.

Yet for me the kind of appreciation and glorification, pre and post release this film got gave me sore eyes.

Navdeep Singh's latest and second film since the under seen classic Manorama, is a great technical film and has a finely etched central role but loses steam because of its inconsistent portrayal of tone.

At time viciously realistic and at times to fantasy like morally upright. The films uneven tone and unjustified climatic confrontation and characterization of the female lead feels like a serious let down.

It's also frustratingly hard not to notice that the film has elements taken or 'inspired' from Michael Fassbender British thriller Eden Lake.

Still with a star enhancing turn by Sharma and a first in Hindi film producing (youngest producer for Anushka Sharma) this one works wonders.

Underrated: Bombay Velvet

So it's ironic then that where Anushka Sharma fails, the film itself feels maybe slightly unjustly lambasted.

Bombay Velvet catches undue flak on the onset for two reasons;

It’s the first big budget Anurag Kashyap it's bound to fail, right?

Maybe, it's been a hard time for both Kashyap and Banerjee (pioneers of the new wave on independent cinema) to handle the heavy duty budget yet Kashyap's film still looks lavish enough to know where the money went.


It has Karan Johar...oh so did Kashyap sell his soul to the mainstream devil?

Just cause Anurag Kashyap is making headways and smart friends amongst the commercials sect doesn't mean he's sold his soul. In fact not only is Karan Johar the best part of BV by miles, but Kashyap is the root to blame for BV's mass failures for other reasons.

Those beings Anurag Kashyap's usual need to self indulge for far too long, each of his films has that major issue and Bombay Velvet bears the brunt of it because...

The story is stretched and terrible by the too many cooks in a kitchen cliché with four writers and two editors. With the central love story ringing terribly false. 

Bombay Velvet just doesn’t match up to any side of Anurag Kashyap expectations. For the fans of his original works to the ones he won with his entertaining Gangs of Wasseypur and Dev D.

At the end of the day this is just a middle of the road Anurag Kashyap film and one that has a lot of artistic prowess to behold muddled by a terrible script. It's not as terrible as it seems nor is Kashyap washed up as many would have you believe.

The man's a creative force and genius and there are sparks of it in this flashy flawed piece.

Overrated: ABCD 2;-varun-dhawan_142968648370.jpg

The one thing critics are getting right this time is that despite lambasting this terrible and archaic story, they understand that ABCD 2 is all about the dance.

Thing is, everybody's going gaga over the dance sequences in 3D and to put it frankly; I've and probably we've seen much better.

The original ABCD was a terrible feature with a sloppy story but featured some mesmerizing dance sequences, the second feels like a retread. Varun Dhawan and Prabhu Deva have done better, Gotilieb and Dharmesh are saving graces but Shraddha Kapoor is underwhelming.

The story as usual is thin and pointless (although Director Remo D'Souza would have you believe otherwise) but when meant to be the saving grace; the dance sequences disappoint, compacted by the need to present the film in cheap and terrible post conversion 3D.

With the hilariously flimsy point of everyone wanting to fling something towards the screen just so you can say 'Oh wow! I thought that was really going to hit me!'

When the dance fails well then the film cannot be anything but boring.

D'Souza owes me money, not for making  a bad film but for also selling it wrong. No not everyone can dance Remo D'Souza, I know; I have two left feet.

It's one of the many reasons women tend to avoid me (but that's a topic for another day)

Underrated: Margarita With A Straw

I can't believe how easily MWAS walked in and walked out of the theaters, without an overture of glowing reviews for Kalki Koechlin.

Maybe it's just the fan in me, but the always wonderful actor gets a bad rap as expressionless. In my honest opinion she is fantastic; she was hilarious in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, heart warming in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani and the definition of supporting actor in Shanghai.

Yet no love, of course not from the masses but even the film buff classes don't think much of her.

So here comes along a refreshing film and role that should have won her praise amongst accolades. But nothing, nada.

Severe injustice because not only is Koechlin great in this film about sexual awakening for a young woman struck by cerebral palsy but the film is delightful, heartwarming and teaches a very simple lesson in the most moving and non preachy way.

Shonali Bose, another in a small but quality line of female directors to make their debut in the past decade creates a touching portrait of the disease as well as how humanely common her needs are; to be loved, only to find that emotion and aspiration within herself.

It's a story that is close to her heart and Bose goes all in with it.

This is one of those light hearted and overall inspirational films that deserved more of a push from the critics and viewers than it got. So here's my recommendation. 

This was one hell of a fun post to do, it's great to be blogging again so...yay!

Anyways here's a bunch of upcoming films as I predict where they will fall in the over/under scale;

Gonna be Overrated:

Baahubali-There going to make this sound like a magnum opus to rival Hollywood's big flicks but despite having some of the best VFX in Indian cinema history, the story still feels like a been there done that thing. If only both story and pure cinema could be melded to make something worth praising around the world.

All is Well-With the powerhouse duo of Umesh Shukla (OMG! Oh My God) and Rishi Kapoor and the now popular road movie formula, this one will be another great family film. Yet look too much of the world especially the industry over praising this and Abhishek Bachchan in a bid to revive the poor lads fast sinking career.

Katti Batti-Another zinger from Kangana Ranaut, expect her performance to stun and in turn the film itself to find high praise (maybe even the usually hated Imran Khan) despite looking like a mediocre '500  Days of Summer meets Salaam Namaste' knock off.

Hero-Another Nikhil Advani film that'll get high praise veiled by the fact that the industry will be running nepotism rampant, praising the children of one of their own.

Kis, Kisko Pyaar Karu-This one's going to get the whole 'he's so funny' gaga tag for comedian Kapil Sharma...let's just put it to rest, he's not, not even on comedy nights!

Jazbaa-The Aishwarya Rai comeback vehicle that's going to be known as a superb feminist film filled with one hell of an engaging plot and a plethora of talented actors including the supremely "talented" Aishwarya Rai. Most likely a cheap knock off of some Korean or American film by hack Sanjay Gupta.

Bajirao Mastani-Another lavish wonder from SLB, where people will avoid calling out his supreme over indulgence and remind us that he is a master. I'm tired defending Ram-Leela, telling people it's not a terrible film when I know it's not that great either; let's hope I don't have to do the same for Bajirao and it falls into a space it deserves to be in; whether good or bad.

Bound to be Underrated:

Bangistan-With it's wild and wacky concept but not so good actors at the helm, Bangistan might not get the cult love that the likes of Delhi Belly and Fukrey got before it; still this will be a film severely looked down on and prove to be something satirical and smart...well hopefully.

Drishyam-I'm going to go bat for Ajay Devgn's latest. Despite my love for the original Mohanlal starrer and this remakes too on the dot same plot. Devgn's in an intense role befitting his age and an on form and highly visible Tabu at the central conflict is too enticing to ignore, like it will be by the saddened masses that Devgn isn't playing Singham and the classes that this is just another remake...I say give this one a chance.

Shaandaar-With the unfair expectations placed on Vikas Bahl after the magnificent Queen, this one's going to be hard to live up Shaandaar has two actors coming out of a bumper year. Still India's first destination wedding film and the trifecta of talent behind it and the crew around it including Phantom makes for a film that is hopefully not bound to fail, but also enlighten the audience.

Tamasha-With the hard luck phase going full on for Ranbir Kapoor, he needs this one to shine superbly but apart from Jab We Met, Imtiaz Ali has always had bad luck when it comes to his films gaining top honors any given year. His films are flawed but fascinating and with his last two being master classes let's hope he's third time lucky but also third times the charm in his film being a topper, in what has so far been an underwhelming year overall.

So that's it. Welcome back to comic caper!

'Nuff Said

Aneesh Raikundalia

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