Monday, October 15, 2012

For whom the belly tolls

(Published in The New Sunday Express, on 14 October, 2012)



Cast: Rani Mukherjee, Prithviraj Sukumaran, Anita Date, Subodh Bhave, Satish Alekar, Nirmiti Sawant, Ameya Wagh, Jyoti Subhash
Director: Sachin Kundalkar
Rating: 1 star
Maybe we should blame Vidya Balan for making paunches fashionable in Bollywood. Or item numbers for bringing belly-dancing to Bollywood. Anyway, the two don’t really go together, and so it remains that Rani Mukherjee, in her comeback film, makes one want to cringe through every one of the song sequences. Making a rather hilarious contrast to her flabby thrusting and lunging is a brooding Prithviraj, bursting with biceps and six-pack.
Well, we all had some idea of the actors’ appearances, and maybe personas, from the two hit songs released ahead of the film –Dreamum Wakeupum and Aga Bai. The film itself strives to tell us that Meenakshi Deshpande (Rani Mukherjee) is a day-dreaming drama queen whose favourite book is Alice in Wonderland (and we are rarely allowed to forget this), whose role models are Sridevi, Madhuri Dixit and Juhi Chawla, and whose route to escape from this “zaalim zindagi” leads through the garbage dump that is her street.
The Big New Idea in this film is a heroine who lusts after the hero, who is too busy with his passion for painting and rubbing his blood-shot eyes to notice the drool he may trip over. While it isn’t so much a fresh idea as an idea making a comeback, it could have been well-executed if Meenakshi’s character had been fleshed out somewhat. But all we see of her are her filmy dreams, her penchant for smells, and her disturbing stalking methods.
Her loud and raucous family (Satish Alekar, Nirmiti Sawant, Ameya Wagh, Jyoti Subhash) is obsessed with its own quirks, and one wonders how they have the time or inclination to put her through the chai-poha routine over and over again. But their idiosyncrasies are laid on so thick that what may have been endearing with a little less emphasis becomes tiring.
Prithviraj looks the part of Surya, an arts student who is thought to be a junkie. But I wish he had had more to do. We see him mainly through Meenakshi’s eyes, and this makes a turn of the plot quite unconvincing. An actor of his calibre should ideally have more scope than playing the object of someone’s affection.
The other big downside of the film is its unapologetic stereotyping of everything South Indian. I mean, haven’t we got past the “ennada rascalla” phase? The film has Meenakshi trying to learn Tamil to impress Surya, and her technique – as well as the songs supposedly modelled on Kamal Haasan’s hits from the Eighties – are simply annoying.
It’s hard to believe this film was written by a man who won the National Award for his script-writing skills. The second half drags on, and the plot suffers for several unnecessary twists plugged in towards the end.
The Verdict: If you’re particularly keen to watch this film, you might as well wait for it to be screened on TV.

3 comments:

Siddhartha Joshi said...

The review is great and funny, but incredibly enough I really really liked the movie :) I actually thought it was a very intelligent movie, but maybe the Indian viewers are not quite ready for such quirkiness...

Nandini Krishnan said...

Ha! North Indian! :-P

Siddhartha Joshi said...

:) Maybe yes the North Indian viewers...

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