Friday, December 24, 2010

The Tees Maar Khan Review

There are students finalizing masters degrees in Artificial Intelligence who were newborns when Akshay Kumar last appeared in a watchable comedy. And if they’re still debating their thesis, they might consider Akshay’s synthetic fixations, given nauseating display in ‘Tees Maar Khan’. There is something to be said about Bollywood production houses when a film as desperately inane as TMK comes along - only a human vegetable could have seen the final cut of this movie and not have had any concerns about the putrid level of quality on display.

Hideously directed by Farah Khan, ‘Tees Maar Khan’ just staggers on as if it is paralysed, completely oblivious about what to do and how to do it. The film is nothing but a gimmick in masquerading as a movie – how to get Akki into as many silly costumes and deliver as many stupid expressions as possible, plot mechanics be damned. This poor excuse of a comedy is so misconceived on every level, it's almost mesmerizing to watch, if you don't mind pain, that is. And Sirish Kunder  knows how to make you hurt. On a scale of cinematic pride, Farah Khan qualifies a rung above the makers of snuff films. There is not a shred of originality or invention in 'Tees Maar Khan', as Messrs. Kunder and Khan borrow listlessly from a certain 1966 Peter Sellers film which poked fun at movie stars and film critics. I'd recommend this Bollywood remake for a good nap, except the grating, infuriatingly out-of-place sound effects and cheaply conceived music by Vishal-Shekhar would jar you awake.

‘Tees Maar Khan’ has all the nuance of a film made to entertain a donkey – the cast and crew members receive Oscars at the climax, no less. At the very thought of Akki dressing up in different costumes and conning the heck out of everyone, with Katrina gyrating to ‘Sheila ki Jawani’, one may expect some timepass entertainment value. Sadly, we’re treated with Tabrez Mirza (Akki), who while in his mother’s womb is inspired to rob. The lad grows up to be Tees Maar Con and dates a dumb-as-a-doorknob wannabe actress (Katrina). The conniving Johri twins (the annoying Raghu Ram and Rajiv) brief Tabrez to rob a locomotive full of antiques, and what follows is a train wreck barrage of recycled spoofs and excruciating jokes that render you stonefaced. It’s all just a poorly disguised cesspool constructed as a motion picture, complete with blaring inappropriate music within badly bungled gags. ‘Tees Maar Khan’ also appears to be chopped up and put back together again by Mr Kunder, as the narrative profusely leaps around from one scene to another, relying on irritating plot conveniences to fill in the blanks. It’s this kind of negligence to the art of comedy construction that plagues the film. You get the feeling that Akki gave his all, and that he and Farah Khan relied on the belief that gold could eventually be culled from Akki’s hamming.  It only makes for the cinematic equivalent of a kid who annoys you by repeating everything you say.

It becomes impossible to pity Akshay Kumar as he stars in another loop in his shame spiral, a path that began right where ‘Tashan’ ended. A glance at his filmography makes one wonder if Akshay is deliberately trying his best to sabotage his own career. And his career will not recover from this mess, though on the bright side I doubt that anyone will ever care. Katrina needed a paycheck so that's understandable, but after a such a surreally horrid turn in a movie like this I hope she isn't expecting to pick up another. Third-rate cameos by Akshaye Khanna, Salman Khan, Arya Babbar etc are inexplicable. There is just one person who scarcely manages to muscle his way out of the wreckage - Chunky Pandey - the man is so far above the insulting material he has to work with that he might as well have filmed his scenes in outer space.

‘Tees Maar Khan’ is brutally unfunny, horrendously contrived and wholly annoying. There is nothing more nightmarish than a comedy film that doesn't have even a single tolerable moment of hilarity, unless it is a film that doesn't have even a single tolerable moment. ‘Tees Maar Khan’ has achieved such a feat. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Nagavalli Review

There was a time when P. Vasu was a great director. In 1998, he made his splash in 'Suyamvaram'; in 1999, he burst onto the horror scene with the spine tingling 'Hogi pyaar ki jeet'. Of course, his best film was 1996's masterpiece 'Love birds', but he also made 2004's 'Apthamitra', and its 2005 remake 'Chandramukhi'. Somehow, Vasu lost his touch, with junk like his failed 2008 remake of 'Kadha Parayumbol', to his uninspired but successful sequel 'Aptharakshaka' and 'Gajibiji'. Those movies, however, look like cinematic works of art compared to his latest film remake. Neither the spooky antagonist's novelty nor Vasu's horror skill have aged very well, as evidenced by the schlocky 'Nagavalli'.


It is a sad state of affairs when the trio of Anushka, Richa and Venkatesh can star in something as misguided and flatly written and filmed as 'Nagavalli'. This film leaves you with a groan: a groan that this tired series may not yet be over; a groan that you blew hard-earned cash to see it; but most of all, a groan that you've just lost 150 minutes of your life that can never be recovered. Nagavalli's got loud music, it's got cringe-inducing humour, it's got jarring camera angles and sinful psychosis. It's only a matter of time before it's declared a sacrilege. As in most desi horror films, there isn't much character development, just a lot of screaming, dancing, pouting, gasping, eyebrow arching, costume flaunting and makeup. There are a few surprises and some attempt at a plot, but generally, despite a promising start and generous footage of Richa Gangapodhyay quivering, this movie fails to rise above the muck of the horror genre.


There is, in fact, an awful lot of hokey lore to absorb in the story - the characters spend far too much time telling each other (and the audience) a lot of mumbo jumbo that presumably they already should know. They also regularly remind each other of the rules of ghost hunting (Rule No. 10: You can't ever buy a big mansion as it will most certainly be haunted). Keep track of all this because there's a quiz before they'll let you out of the theater. Here we have a wealthy bloke (Sarath) whose eldest daughter Gayatri (Kamlinee Mukherjee) dies after being gifted a painting of a certain medieval dancer in Revlon and Maybelline (Anushka).  Naturally odd things begin to happen, and Mr Cash calls Head Shrinker (Venkatesh) for help. Like in 'Apthamitra', 'Chandramukhi', ' Aptharakshaka' and 'Bhool Bhulaiyya', the psychiatrist moves into Mr Cash's home to solve the case. Forget prayers and jadui tabeez: it takes a lot of aggressive hamming and singing to subdue a ghost enough to get her out of a dark shelter. 


All of the added humor does not make 'Nagavalli' a good film - just a campy one. In fact, the film's big problem is just that, being too over-the-top too much of the time, from the acting (the dreadful Shraddha Das in particular) to story developments (yes, six leading ladies and Venky wearing jewelry are a treat to watch, but still...). Even a film called Nagavalli could use some restraint and be all the better for it. The most disheartening thing about Nagavalli, however, is not its campiness, but its lack of scares; it's hard to believe the same man who made the elegantly scary Captain Vijaykanth classic 'Sethupathi IPS' directed this piece of schlock.


What Nagavalli does get right is atmosphere. A great deal of credit goes to the cinematography by Shyam Naidu, and Rama Rajamouli's costumes which are convincing and, yes, less than repulsive. Venkatesh's insufferably smug performance makes the character even more unsavory. He is into his I'm-just-holding-on-to-sanity-by-a-thread persona here. Anushka in her minuscule role harnesses a certain look in her eyes and various gradations of trembling to convey a striking range of conflicted emotions. Richa's telepathic frissons help deepen the film's basically irreverent stance.


There is not an ounce of intelligence, or excitement in 'Nagavalli'. If anybody out there doesn't have enough corn in his life already, consider giving Vasu's newest remake a whirl. I do admit his prowess behind the camera and his ability to make you unintentionally laugh, although not his creative ability.