BOL BACHCHAN (Dir: Rohit Shetty, 2012)
Basic Plot- Hot-headed Abbas Ali has to move to the village of Ranakpur with his sister Sania when he runs into a bit of a trouble back home. However, after rescuing a child from drowning in an ancestral Hindu temple, he finds himself in a pickle again, having to lie about his religion and name to save his skin. That too to the simple yet very strong and powerful Prithviraj Raghivanshi, who has no tolerance for liars and who then employs Ali due to his heroics. Soon the "newly baptised" Abhishek Bachchan realises that despite his best intentions, he needs to continue spinning his web of lies if he wants his protect himself from the wrath of his employer.
Phew! Writing a Bollywood movie synopsis is no easy task, but I have done my best. Bol Bachchan is, simply put, the kind of movie that makes me worry about Bollywood. It is beyond ridiculous. It is a "masala" movie, a term used to denote films that have a lot a comedic and action scenes, typical romances and an endless crusade of songs, but it is also completely brainless. It employs many of the cliched Bollywood motifs like a village setting, a benevolent but strict overseer, a stranger who comes into the village and then everything starts revolving around him, the oh so hilarious homophobia etc. and really has nothing new to offer. Yes it is based on the Bollywood comedy classic Golmaal (which is brilliant and a total riot and ought to be watched by everyone), where Abbas has to pretend to be his own twin brother to ward off Prithviraj's suspicions, the illusion made possible with a fake mustache that he wears when he is masquerading as Abhishek. However this just clearly goes to show that like many Hollywood movies, even Bollywood remakes are often terrible.
Abhishek Bachchan plays Abbas Ali and, you guessed it, Abhishek Bachchan (so funny I forgot to laugh!) and Ajay Devgn plays Prithviraj. Now I've never been a fan of Bachchan and continue to be thus. I actually think that Devgn is a pretty fantastic actor when he wants to be. Unfortunately, most of the time he comes in crap like this. The bulk of the film's so-called humour is dependent on his character's insistence on saying famous idioms in his broken English. Though admittedly I laughed in some of them, I don't know how it will translate to non-Hindi speaking audiences. It should just be nonsense, yes? Even more than usual. My other big problem with the film was Shetty's supremely annoying way of filming action scenes- everyone bloody falls in slow motion. Like flying in the air and falling with full impact, or flying in the air and kicking with full impact- basically a lot of flying, in bloody slo mo. Stop flying already!! The actresses, Asin and Prachi Desai are good-for-nothing. I especially found the Sania and Prithviraj love-story disturbing because it was so Vertigo-esque, but no one seemed to mind. Also supporting actors like Archana Puran Singh and Krishna Abhishek made the film even more idiotic. The one good thing I will say though was that the colours in the film were very bright and vibrant. I really liked them.
FERRARI KI SAWAARI (Dir: Rajesh Mapuskar, 2012)
Basic Plot- Rusy is a loving middle-class father and son. His son Kayo is a budding cricketer and Rusy wants to fulfill all of Kayo's dreams. When Kayo gets a chance to go for training in Lords, London, Rusy tries desperately to get the necessary finance, but fails. His ultimate option comes in the form of a Ferrari, that too Sachin Tendulkar's Ferrari, that is needed for the wedding of a politician's son. Due to various circumstances Rusy ends up with the Ferrari, which he has to return, keeping it and his conscience intact. Also, he has to help his bitter and shut-in father Deboo, to open his heart to two things that mattered to him the most- his family and cricket.
My brother and I saw Ferrari Ki Sawaari with our grandfather, which was his first film in a movie theatre in about twenty-five years. And what a lovely little movie to (hopefully) end this hiatus with! For me, the heart and soul of this film is Sharman Joshi, who plays Rusy. In spite of being in the business for thirteen years, this is Joshi's first lead role. His innocent smile, one that he has throughout most of the film, has this strange power to make one happy and sad simultaneously. It is so representative of his character- a content middle-class man with dreams, someone who is so common in a place like India, but still so rare because very few have the determination to pursue their dreams, or even more extraordinarily, someone else's dreams. I connected with his struggles because it reminded me of my own life so much, as it would with the majority of the people who do watch it. Another thing that the general Indian audiences will relate to is the love for cricket. As much as I personally hate the sport, I cannot deny the significant impact it has on the people of this country- it has the ability to bring them together better than any other singular thing in the world.
The Ferrari, that actually does belong to star cricketer Tendulkar, is a symbol for both these things- it is the unattainable dream and something to worship due to the cricket connections. It is as much a character in this film as any other. The other two notable actors are Boman Irani, who plays Deboo and Ritwik Sahore, who plays Kayo. Irani is a masterful actor with an incredible range, and films especially under the Vidhoo Vinod Chopra banner, like Ferrari Ki Sawaari, tap into that. Deboo goes from being this irritable and unlikable person to someone who has a lot of love, but has suffered so much in his life that he very seldom shows it. His backstory and then the changes in his character are excellent. Sahore is an adorable young actor and makes one root for him.
There are a few other players in the story- the politician and his unhappy son, Tendulkar's neglectful servant and gatekeeper, the wedding planner and Deboo's old rival, that play crucial roles in the life of Rusy and his family. The film is funny, light and touching. I loved the simplicity that ran through nearly the entire film. The final act does drag quite a bit though, and the climax and ending are a tad too weepy for their own good. But the overall warmth felt throughout most of the film, with the effortless and funny dialogue, and just the acting of the protagonists make it a rewarding experience. It looks pretty good too, capturing a common man's Mumbai and the spirit thereof. The Marathi-style item number with hotter than the friggin' Ferrari, Vidya Balan, is a treat as well.
KAHAANI (Dir: Sujoy Ghosh, 2012)
Basic Plot- Expecting mother, Vidya Bagchi comes to Kolkata from London searching for her missing husband, Arnab Bagchi. A sincere police officer, Satyaki, helps her on her search, but it seems to them that no one even knows of his existence. However the fact that he resembled the chief suspect in a terrorist attack starts to shed some light onto his disappearance, but only Vidya's insistence and sacrifice can brings her the answers that she needs.
Vidya Balan has officially, and thankfully, become the face of good acting in Bollywood. After her incredibly sultry and applauded performance as a sex-symbol in The Dirty Picture, she brings a different kind of energy into this story of this wife and mother-to-be on a quest. Bagchi's struggles to keep her crumbling world together, while also striving for the truth, especially in a state like hers, is so novel and inspiring. Balan's performance in the climax is specifically exceptional. The other characters in the film are strictly supporting in their role since it is her story, and her story alone. My favourites were the earnest Satyaki, played by Parambrata Chatterjee and the very creepy, yet funny, Bob Biswas, played by Saswata Chatterjee. Of course the city of Kolkata, aka MY CITY, is quite the character too. The director, Sujoy Ghosh, used Satyajit Ray's Calcutta trilogy as an inspiration. There are very few Bollywood movies made in Kolkata anymore, and one set during the rich festival of Durga Puja is particularly rare. I loved seeing streets and places I knew so well, along with the culture, depicted on the screen. This is Balan's second movie set in the City of Joy, the first being her Bollywood debut Parineeta, which is another film whose depiction of the city, this time set in the 60s, I love dearly.
The film is a stellar thriller. Okay the final reveal might be a bit unoriginal for many of us more "experienced" cinephiles, but the build-up to it keeps one at the edge of their seats. Ghosh used guerrilla film making to avoid attention, which gives it an interesting look and feel. Bagchi, with her pregnancy, is a great feminist character, which is very progressive of the Ghosh. The religious symbolism, her relationship with Satyaki and many other things make this movie very unique, especially for a Bollywood movie, where sadly films like Bol Bachchan are the norm. Still, I am thankful for a movie like Kahaani and how much it has been accepted by the Indian public. Watch it for Balan's performance that continues to reach new heights, and the essence of Kolkata that the film captures so well.