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Any doubts over Ranbir Kapoor's stardom must be erased after watching 'Besharam'. If any other actor had done this film, it would have sparked a national outrage; propaganda YouTube channels would have spewed gormless parodies; the entire nation would have been seized with moral panic. But since it is helmed by Ranbir Kapoor, everything is swept under a bulging carpet. Indian audience likes playing chamchas (sycophants) to a given actor at a time. It's Ranbir's time now; it's Ranbir's rule — until they set their sights on firmer flesh.

Critics panned 'Besharam', audience rejected it and box-office figures were acutely deficient. So, by all yardsticks it was a failure, yet everything was hushed off. There was not a single protest from the country obsessed with panning films; there was no misgiving from the audience that lusts for blood.

Ranbir is a fine actor but comparisons with the legends like Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan are downright snobbish and far-fetched. This flatulence manifests in 'Besharam', for it's not just a shoddy film but frozenly shoddy. Ranbir Kapoor is an epic miscast and he overacts like never before. He just doesn't cut out as a crude, creepy larcenist. Ranveer Singh or Nawazuddin Siddiqui would have been apt for this character. It's hypothetical, of course, for it would have been a regretful move for their careers.

Abhinav Kashyap comes from the generation of new-age auteurs. He wants to be objective. He loves flawed characters. The trouble here is that he strives for objectivity without backing it up with any substance, just because objectivity considered a respectable trait in the dogma of modern cinema. In the process, he glorifies ostentation and feet-worships peer-pressure. Tara (Pallavi Sharda) takes a hefty loan to buy a luxury car, just because she has to attend a friend's wedding. We are told that it's a lowbrow practice to attend a wedding in a 'normal' car. It's hard to sympathise with such an insecure, snobbish character when her car gets stolen. Moreover, because of his misguided fixation on flawed relationships, he butchers the chemistry between the two leads, which is one of the biggest flaws of this film. (He handled flawed relationships and dysfunctional families so well in 'Dabangg'.)

Pallavi Sharda does not impress. It does not help that her character is a pompous bore. Javed Jaffery does not impress as the antagonist. His character is poorly written like rest of the film. It is unclear whether is his character is a sinister villain or a buffoon. Amitosh Nagpal does not impress. Rishi Kapoor is wasted. His 'mujra' to adopt the kid reeks of ageism. The toilet humour is totally out of context.

Kashyap is hopelessly tentative about the fight scenes. Perhaps Ranbir Kapoor intends to do a proper action film before showing his pugilistic side to the audience. As a result, the fight scenes are ineptly undeveloped, with a knotted Ranbir Kapoor springing up and down like an ungainly dancer. It's appropriate that he hasn't done an action film: he would be as misfit in an action film, as Salman Khan would be in an Alfred Hitchcock's film.

Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania

Anurag Kashyap Ki Dulhania
The poster of 'Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania' is a 'selfie', aptly depicting the brutally modern times we live in. On face value it is a 'popcorn' tribute to 'Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge', but at a deeper level it is an ode with a sociological twist and a candid introspection of our modern times. It as much a reflection of Aditya Chopra's opus as it is of new age auteurs like Anurag Kashyap. It is juxtaposition of the old-world simplicity and modern-day savagery. We live in tough times. We live in brutal times. Modern society is full of contradictions and paradoxes. We live in a society that champions libertarian socialism, yet is consumerist to the core. Kavya won't settle for anything less than a 500,000-rupee wedding dress. But she has the cheek and the enterprise to raise the required money. Perfection is new-age imperfection: in other words, being perfect is a sin and being flawed is a virtue in the modern society. Kavya rejects Angad, who is better than Humpty in every way. He is a doctor; he rakes more money; he has more brawn and brains; he can dance; he is rational; he has better social and clubbing skills. In simple terms, he is an ideal man who withstands her father's meticulous quest for her prospective husband. But despite that, it is Humpty who charms Kavya with his glaring flaws.

Like any self-conscious modern film, it pays obeisance to Facebook. It, however, saves Humpty from proffering the silly colloquial 'I want to do friendship with you' to her. Instead, Facebook provides him a subtle approach to take things forward. Their transition from friends to lovers is seamless without any melodrama or jingoistic lines, which would have been must in the nineties.

Both films deal with facets of patriarchy. In 'Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge', Amrish Puri was a strict patriarch, marching in austerity; assertive, yet without any violent tendency. The patriarch here, Ashutosh Rana, from his humble beginnings as a mechanic, is now a rich and powerful transport honcho. The father-daughter relationship is relaxed. She's daddy's princess, pampered and over-protected by the typical modern-day big poppa daddy. But he can impose his preferences on her when it comes to her marriage, because he believes that his choice would be better for her in the long run. The patriarch knows that he is not a perfect husband to his wife, but he aspires to be a perfect daddy, even if it means overriding his daughter's volition. A snooty Philistine like him does not read books, but one can expect him to have posters of Bajrang Dal or Noam Chomsky in his closet. Unlike the patriarch in 'Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge', he can be violent, not towards his daughter, but towards any 'unsanctioned' suitor. He sends Humpty and friends packing in a truck, battered savagely by his sycophants.

Humpty is a run-of-the-mill exponent of yuppie breed, who any average six-pack Joe can relate to. Like modern-day heroes he digs it out in the gym and proudly possesses six-pack abs. Many social commentators look askance at the shaved torsos and muscular physiques of modern heroes, questioning their masculinity. In the past, heroes didn't need gymnasiums to exhibit machismo: hirsuteness was an emblem of masculinity. But things have changed. So have the ethos of machismo. Moreover, the parameters of modern masculinity are tougher, as drudging machinery in the gym calls for hard work and dedication, compared to having follicular growth on chest that requires no talent or effort. He swears by Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge's philosophies. And he strips himself of dignity at the patriarch's behest, ready to undergo an excoriating examination. In spirit he is a younger version of the patriarch. His deportment and methods different but his ideologies are the same as his. When Kavya decides to elope with him, his paternal instinct kicks in and he persuades her to stay under the patriarch's aegis. In spite of his tender exterior, Humpty is a savage at heart. When his desperate attempts at nitpicking Angad fail, he almost gives up, but Kavya's wit saves him. She artfully incites Angad to pick a fight with a lecherous hooligan at the dhaba. But Angad, instead of getting in a mad-cap brawl, calmly calls the police; whereas, the frantic Humpty, desperate to outdo Angad, throws himself on the hooligans.

Although the patriarch sees himself in the savage Humpty, he is too brutal a pragmatist to let his emotions take over logic. Although the patriarch himself was a mechanic when he got married, he still cannot let his princess marry a stranger with rickety finances. Humpty is too big a risk for him. Like every big poppa daddy, he seeks a better life for his daughter than he did for his wife.

The climax has an oneiric feel — a salute to Martin Scorsese's 'Taxi Driver'. The drunken Humpty is howling on the eve of Kavya's wedding. Then suddenly the patriarch emerges to bless his approval for Humpty. It's likely to be Humpty's histrionic imagination. The schmaltzy Humpty, deeply inspired by 'Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge', always hankered for the patriarch's blessings. It is a very dream-like scene. Then Kavya's standing on a truck, calling Humpty, is another surreal moment. Angad's abrupt dismissal seems amiss; it is again Humpty's imagination, which has no room for Angad. Humpty's dream is an idealistic climax, his solace to his quest for Kavya, but alas, idealism has no room in Humpty's brutal modern society.


Rhetoric On Ropes
Iqbal Khan (Jackie Shroff) is a misunderstood artist of his generation. He is a visionary. He is not interested in rendering a generic circus machinery: that of hackneyed antics, animals (ill-treated behind the stage) and forced glamour. The callous bank executive — metaphorical of Philistine corporations and close-minded audience — is predisposed to reject his plea, with hidebound contention that viewers only expect puerility from circus. The director sets the scene of Iqbal Khan's plights within seconds of his introduction. The young Sahir (played by brilliant Siddharth Nigam) evades bullies in an act of mini-parkour. It's a swift and effective introduction — a tap on his potential, for things to come.

The trial circus show of 1990 is filmed very well. There's soft 'malang' tune in the background. The circus props would evolve in the future acts. The hat-throwing trick of the father and the son would later be replicated in the final robbery with motorbikes replacing hats.

Although 'Dhoom' films are set in real world, they are quasi-fantasy films. The director makes sure that the implausible stunts are shot aesthetically. This is what separates a good director from an ordinary director. Every scene in 'Dhoom 3' has a function. There is a circus motif in each robbery. Tightrope walking is a common feature in circus and riding bicycle on a tightrope is a possible feat. Accordingly, the motorbike on high-rope is fully thematic in the quasi-fantasy realm of 'Dhoom'. Since motorbikes are essential in 'Dhoom' series, it makes for a thematic correlation between the 'Dhoom' trope and circus.

Victor Acharya uses slow-motion and ultra-slow-motion to a great effect in the motorbike scenes, without relying on gaudy tableaux. Then he immediately gets back to the normal speed: it enhances the effect of motorbike's acceleration.

The second escape adventure is a riveting spectacle. The taut background music underlines Sahir's predicament when the motorbike reaches the bridge. Sahir underplays well through his countenance of predicament. The scene also harks back to James Bond films where Bond uses gadgets to get out of trouble. Herein, the motorcycle unbelievably transforms into a Jet-Ski. After all, magic is meant to be unbelievable: a mix of sleight, contrivance and deception. Sahir, again, relies on circus acrobatics and magic tricks to escape. The VFX transformation is top-notch. The entire scene is wonderfully executed without any toffee-nosed rush or jumpy chopping. The editor does a fine job in knowing when to chop and when to spare.

In both robberies, Sahir uses the disappearing trick (taught by his father) to circumvent the police.

None of the songs are forced in the narrative. The 'malang' song is well-timed at a crucial juncture before the interval. The prelude has a sense of grandeur, silhouettes representing the young Sahir and his father. Malang has so much potential that it could have become a meta-movie in the song itself. But it is still impressive, grandly expressionist with colours, shadows, outlandish creatures and magic.

Like the previous 'Dhoom' movies, the background music is superlative. Julius Packiam blends it finely in the narrative: at times subtle, at times prominent as per the situation. It lingers on even after the movie ends. One gets to appreciate the background music more during repeat viewings. A big revelation comes at the point of interval. This scene, again, is very well directed. The good thing about Victor Acharya is that he knows when to accelerate and when to slow down. Following the confrontation with Jai, Sahir ensconces towards his room. It's a long take with no dialogue. The length engenders a feeling of suspense. As Sahir sits on the chair, probably facing a mirror (a common mode of cinematography), one can hear his breathing. The camera circles slowly, the silence adds to the anticipation.

Abhishek Bachchan shares more screen-time with Aamir Khan than he did with his adversaries in 'Dhoom' and 'Dhoom 2'. He shows a menacing streak in the scene where he interrogates Sahir. Since everything has to be done in the 'Dhoom' framework, the film misses out on opportunities of what they could have done with Jai's character, as well as a few other things, because in many ways, it's Jai Dixit who comes across as a stubborn antagonist.

A propos the act in India, the idea was to play it to the gallery with a rustic fight scene. The auto-rickshaw feature, however, is unbefitting to the 'Dhoom' template. Ideally they could have harked back to the brilliant chor bazaar (black market) scene from 'Dhoom 1'; that scene had a riveting escape (with Jai and Ali being the absconders instead of chasers) and a little story behind it. But here, there is no back story, no motif and no 'Dhoom' twinge on the rustic tableau.

'Dhoom 3' also succeeds in bringing old-school rhetoric to the fore. The poem 'bandey hain hum uske' is orated throughout the film in different tones, each at a key moment. Sahir and Iqbal Khan disperse a few memorable dialogues.

Aamir Khan takes care of aesthetics and nuances in a remarkable performance. As always he stays true to his character. There is no reliance on past glory, self-reference or braggadocio. His poised countenance and that remarkable stance make the motorcycle scenes more effective. He gives Sahir an aura of mystique when he goes to meet Jai Dixit at the police headquarters. His fine hat, tilted a tad upwards, gives him an air of a sly jester. In a scene where the audience cheered the loudest, Sahir says, 'When sleight, contrivance and deception converge, people think it's magic.' During the dialogue, he scratches his face with the gun with an old-fashioned panache. Whether it's a nod to the old-school acting or personal mannerism, it goes well with the rhetoric. This is the closest he can come to self-reference.

Desh Drohi

Caterwaulings of a Rickety Eyesore
In the opening scene we see a rickety eyesore running ham-fisted, in possibly wet pants. We find out in flashbacks that the effete bungler receives corporal punishments from his father. His villagers browbeat him; he kneels before their crotch in return. He gets kicked around by pampered fanatics; he leans over, offering his limp corpus for more punishment. Then, out of nowhere, he inflicts flying kicks and punches — straight out of South Indian cinema. And he shoots dead a few bad guys quite offhandedly. Thereafter, he goes through cycles of ham-fisted empowerment to relapses of a limp washout. At best there are unintentionally hilarious moments throughout this abject pseudo-intellect, though vapid like the uncouth prude at the helm. He is like those grossly ineffectual singers who turn up at auditions of reality shows for self-abasing publicity.

It's hard to understand all the attention showered upon this rickety eyesore: film snobs hail him as chic socialite, pious film critic and moral guru. It is contended, with rabid justifications, that, since he doesn't have nepotic association in the film industry, his work ought to be appreciated. Nepotism is more prevalent in Indian politics; then, as per that logic, he should be made the prime minister of India. He is positioned in the utmost echelon of film critics in India. He orates his reviews like a God-man, while his disciple-audience agree to him with unquestioning obedience. All the prolific film critics in India avoided reviewing Desh Drohi for reasons they have never explained clearly. Was it abject fear of contradicting their darling? Or did they choose to stay silent out of reverence, since they had nothing nice to say about it?

The director made some potboilers in the 1990s, so one could have expected at least that standard. But there is nothing to write home about in this toffee-nosed botchery.

So, again, what makes the Indian media and masses fawn over him? It cannot be his haughty deportment. It cannot be his caterwauling voice. It cannot be his grunt of emasculation whenever he gets bitch-slapped. Nor can it be his pantywaist tantrums. Surely it cannot be his limp physique, bandaged by gaudy clothes. It cannot be his fatuous sarcasm. It cannot be his Fascist bent of mind, though it could make him Bajrang Dal's pet. Any draconian regime would be proud of Indian media's subservience towards him.

A wise man once said that snobbery can sell anything in this country. The box-office plaudits and the television premiere in prime-time slot reaffirm the adage that snobbery sells quicker than hot cakes in India. In Hindu mythology, it is prophesied that in Kalyug (the current era, translated as 'the age of downfall'), swan will pick a grain and crow will eat a pearl. In other words, brilliance will be lampooned and idiocy will rule the roost.


A Lost Opportunity, Warped Morality
The unsightly abomination, which we are supposed to endure as the protagonist, has an awfully low self-esteem; he is embarrassed of his size; he is inept to comply with his gorgeous wife, Diana; and consequently equivocal to her desire for having children. As the narrative hurtles impressively, he is seen copulating with another woman, merely to quench his conjugally dysfunctional concupiscent desires.

The interview wherein he talks about the importance of reputation is brilliant. But the initially promising set-up soon dissipates. We are supposed to root for this insecure, despicable weed that, despite being adulterous himself, gets in a moral rage when he stumbles upon his wife's infidelity. We are to cheer for this parasite that obdurately refuses to take its dying pal to hospital. Of course, Morten Tyldum expects us to embrace the "shades of grey", yet he gets moralistic with an utterly cheesy, saccharine sweet climax, ridiculously accentuated by Diana's pot-belly.

In a miserable attempt to evince his "breed", this fecal sausage disguised as an actor, not only threatens to sack Clas Greve (played effortlessly by Nikolaj Coaster-Waldau) but also render him unemployable. His persona as an intimidating corporate magnate, who can make or break careers at whim, is a giggle. It gets downright laughable when the director tries to pass this rickety, emasculated eyesore as a John Rambo and a suave, charming James Bond-archetype, who wrestles out of every peril laid out for him.

It doesn't help the fact that Aksel Hennie has neither the charisma nor the talent to play this character. How could someone so ineffectual, with the appeal of human excrement, be entrusted with this role: perhaps as an amulet to ward-off the evil eye? It's as baffling as to see a sophisticated beauty, Diana, feed on this coughed-up phlegm.

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