Bollywood Review: Ram-Leela

336747,xcitefun-ram-leela-posterStarring: Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Supriya Pathak, Richa Chaddha, Gulshan Devaiah, Abhimanyu Singh, Sharad Kelkar, Sveta Salve, Raza Murad

Directed by: Sanjay Leela Bhansali

The basic premise of William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, two lovers from enemy families, has been used numerous times in Bollywood, whether filmmakers acknowledge the play or not. Even in the past couple of years we’ve had Issaq and Ishaqzaade, both essentially versions of Romeo & Juliet set in modern India, which is what Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s latest is as well, but while those two went for more gritty realist approach, SLB sticks to what he does best: grand, colourful, full-on musicals.

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Review: Guzaarish

No one in Bollywood makes musicals anymore. I don’t mean films with songs added. I mean the big theatrical type, where the music and lyrics are so woven into the narrative that the film couldn’t work without it. The last I saw that in an Indian film was Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Saawariya, and now he does it again with Guzaarish.

I won’t go into Saawariya much, as this review isn’t about that, but it’s probably useful to know I’m one of the few people who really likes it. It’s quite a misunderstood gem of a film. Following Black, and opening against Om Shanti Om, people expected more of a Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam than a toned down, blue looking Devdas. People need to give it a chance.

Guzaarish is grand but SLB still isn’t back to his Indian epic scale of HDDCS and Devdas. He may never go back there. Instead he’s made a tragic story of a quadriplegic man who wants the right to die. It’s quite a heavy topic, euthanasia, but it’s not all about the case. It’s also not all about his illness. Neither is it all about Sofiya’s love for Ethan. It only touches on all these points, giving glimpses of the end of Ethan’s life. The lack of a solid storyline will probably be a massive negative in the eyes of most of the audience who go to see this, but it actually gives more time to character growth, and just to watch SLB do what he does.

Hrithik Roshan is exceptional as Ethan Mascarenhas. He’s a flawed character, but its taken fourteen years of suffering for him to get to that point, and you really feel for him, whether or not you agree with what he’s fighting for. Hrithik chemistry with Aishwarya is brilliant. What the two of them together do on screen would never have been as good with any other two actors. It was nice to see her looking simple and elegant, especially after the costume nightmare that was Action Replayy. The little bit of weight she put on takes nothing away from how good she looks.

No one’s hair has ever irritated me more than Aditya Roy Kapoor’s afro. He has potential as an actor, but I don’t know if we will see him as a lead, especially not with that hair. He did well given that the role had no real point to it. SLB added the little twist towards the end, but didn’t really take it anywhere, and so it just became a bit pointless. I was more than happy for him to just be the enthusiastic fanatic who had come to learn magic. Not giving the character more would have avoided the disappointment I felt when nothing came out of the revelation.

The music is good, and works well in the film, the two high points being Tere Zikr, and Udi. My biggest issue with Sanjay Leela Bhansali is putting songs in the album, making me love them and then leaving them out of the film, and he did this with Saawariya as well. One of my favourite songs from the Guzaarish album is Chand Ki Katori, but it was nowhere to be seen, or heard, in the film. There wasn’t really a point where it could have gone (where as in Saawariya I know exactly where and how I’d place the songs he’d missed), but nevertheless, I felt I had been cheated.

Being the massive fan of SLB that I am, my view of Guzaarish is probably a little biased, but I do think if people gave it a chance they’d see it really is a wonderfully sweet film. Its sad, but not depressing, and it leaves you with a warm feeling, which is unexpected from a Euthanasia film. I hope there are enough SLB fans out there like me, or lovers of the Hrithik-Ash jodi that will make this film work because I truly believe it deserves to. 


Bollywood Review: Action Replayy

I suppose it was just a matter of time before Bollywood would remake Back To The Future. Action Replayy isn’t a complete rip off, but the main idea is the same, it’s just been desi-fied, which a lot more focus put on the love story of Kishen (Akshay Kumar) and Mala (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), Bunty’s (Aditya Roy Kapoor) parents.

The film overall is quite sweet, but a little too dumb. Its not all out slapstick comedy, but its not clever humour either, its just in the middle somewhere, like it didn’t know which way to go, and that can work sometimes, but really not here. They’re portraying it as a comedy, but it’s just not funny enough. Or maybe they were going for 70s humour, which I just didn’t get. Also plot-wise, everything seemed too convenient. One big thing left unexplained was how Bunty and Mala became friends. They didn’t that to happen for the rest of the movie to play out, so they just made it happen, but didn’t explain how that was possible.

For a new guy, Aditya Roy Kapoor seems promising, and am looking forward to seeing how he does in SLB’s Guzaarish in a couple of weeks. He was a little too enthusiastic at times I felt, like I get they were his parents, and it was the 70s, but still – a lot of shouting and cheering. But that’s possibly more a fault of the director, Vipul Shah, giving a lot more attention to his big stars, rather than the new kid.

Lets talk about the stars then. About 100 films ago, Akshay Kumar playing the innocent geeky simpleton was funny and good. Now, it’s incredibly irritating and dull. I’m not really a fan anyway, but doing the same role over and over isn’t helping his case. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan on the other hand was pretty good, and looked amazing, despite some weird costume choices. Her clothes in the 70s didn’t always seem right for the decade, especially some short dresses, like the one she wore in the song ‘Nakhre’. Manish Malhotra should know better than that by now. She was always so dressed up, that it just got a bit weird after a while.

There were some major technical issues in this film. There’s a whole list, but one major issue was bad cinematography and camera work, most notably in the song ‘O Bekhabar’. I don’t know who this Sejal Shah is, but she needs to go back to cinematography school or something. In this day and age, things should not look that bad. The camera was so zoomed in on some shots it was actually painful to look at. How could anyone let them put the film out like that? Did they not check what it would look like on a big screen?

Even though it sounds like I have major issues with this film, it wasn’t all that bad. The sweet bits were sweet enough, and there were some good jokes, and a couple of the songs were enjoyable. I think they could have had a simpler plot, there’s a fair bit pointless bits happening on the side. It’s worth watching once, but I wouldn’t see it again unless forced or paid to. And it’s definitely not for anyone who isn’t used to level of stupidity some Bollywood movies have. Not that it’s even trying to, but this is not the kind of movies to make us proud on an international level.