“The Pressure Of Golmaal Is Always There”- Ajay Devgn

Ajay Devgn has time and again managed to strike a balance between films that are driven by content and potboilers. This time he is confident that even closet watchers will watch Golmaal again as he has met with the intellectual kind and they all have seen the previous ones. I sit with him to discuss the hoopla that comes with every Golmaal installment.

This is the first time in 7 years of Golmaal that Rohit Shetty has written the film. Did he try his hand at it before this installment as well?

Rohit came to me with this idea around 4 years back. I really liked the idea and I told him that he should work on this. The team took around 3 years to work on it and that is how today we have Golmaal Again.  The pressure of a Golmaal is always there and it’s good. That’s why it took so long to write. We finished the shoot in 6- 8 months.

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A certain section of the audience dismisses Rohit Shetty films. Do you see as to why they refrain from it?

When I talk to most of these intelligent people, they tell me that they have watched Golmaal 3. They are closet watchers. They like watching it but just for their reputation, they don’t like accepting it. They say that it is senseless but they all watch it. My point is why won’t they also want to enjoy. When a Hollywood comedy like Hangover comes, they love it because that is in English. They like a Hollywood film of the same genre but here they have issues.  People want to get entertained and entertainment does not mean only laughing. An entertaining film is which grips you and for those 2 hours you are deported and become a part of the film. That could be action, emotion, comedy….any genre. When that happens with the audience, they are fine.

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Today, most actors are deeply involved with the entire process of filmmaking. Do you also pay attention to every detail of making a film?

It has changed over the years. The films that I am doing in future also are all different. I am really concentrating on how are they making it, what is the detailing of the script? I think all of this has become important now. Most of the audience feels that we as actors have made these films. They look at you and say, ” Tumne vo picture bohot achi banayi ya kharab banayi... So many of them do not know that who is making the film and who is acting in it. Somewhere we have started feeling that it is your responsibility that what you are doing should be good enough.

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Speaking of your last film, Baadshaho did very well at single screens but didn’t have a stronghold at the multiplex. Do you think the disparity between single screens and multiplexes are widening? 

I think it is getting shorter now. I have noticed this that if the film has opened very well at a single screen, it will open well at a multiplex as well and vice-versa. The exposure is happening for everyone. Even the masses have an exposure to the internet and everything that others are watching. They are also evolving so there will be a time when it will be equal.

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Speaking of the same film, the climax of the film did not match the tone of the film we were watching. What happened?

I spoke to the director about the same thing too. We had shot the portion but last minute he removed it.

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Crime dramas in 2017 have been less gangster, more criminal

It won’t be wrong to say that stories from the underworld have always fuelled our hunger and many times we have tried to bring the ‘unknown’ and ‘unsaid’ to the screen. Dark tales are high intensity and you are always on your toes while watching them.

As Narcos is the current obsession we all are suffering from, the bad guys have surfaced again on Bollywood charts. We had forgotten them for a while but they have come back. Leaving the moral debate aside, we all want to know what makes gangsters and men/women of crime so powerful.

 

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A still from Raees

 

The year started with Raees baniya ka dimaag aur miyabhai ki daring…and all of us went to the theatre in packs to be allured by Raees bhai, because if ammi jaan kehti haan then why wouldn’t we.

The film was loosely based on Abdul Latif’s life; a big-time bootlegger who eventually monopolised the illegal liquor business in Gujarat. At some places, SRK was applaud-worthy, but on the other hand the film was too long, populated with love sequences we didn’t need. The minute an enjoyable cat and mouse chase got better, it was frizzled by an over bearing love ballad.

However, Raees was a cakewalk to watch, compared to other gangster films in 2017.

In the last two weeks I have watched two films that I was so excited about. Murky streets, cold blooded gangsters and power play on screen — I live for such drama. But 2017 has been — and there’s no polite way to say this — disappointing.

 

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A still from Daddy

 

It began with Daddy, which was so wonderfully shot but that’s about it. Arun Gawli, the gangster on whom the film is based, was feared and worshipped by the people of Dagdi chawl.  The claustrophobia that is thrown at us while we watch the film sucks you in deep and you can’t take your eyes off the screen. From cops to everyone who knew and fondly called him Daddy, everyone spoke about their version of the man who entrenched in the underbelly of Bombay.

These were the high points of the film but the point of matter? I didn’t learn anything I didn’t know about Gawli and I walked out feeling exhausted. Why would you subject your audience through the entire narrative and not give them something they don’t know? A little unfair, isn’t it?

 

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A still from Haseena Parkar 

 

But the crimes don’t simply stop here. This weekend’s release, Apoorva Lakhia’s Haseena Parkar, is a depiction of Dawood Ibrahim’s sister and how her life turned out the minute her brother became the man everyone feared. As inadequate Shraddha Kapoor was to play Haseena, even Siddhant’s portrayal of Dawood was devoid of any personality.

Even today, when you think about the man who swung the system with one hand, shivers run down your spine. And here Dawood is just reduced to having bubble baths and candle light dinners in Dubai.

Did no-one go back to the storyboard when there was time? Here’s a film with haphazard dialogues and a bland screenplay. This is the third gangster film of the year and even now, no one was able to diagnose the problems to fix them.

 

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Poster, Haseena Parkar 

 

If only it was the job of background score and lipstick colours to invoke fear in us — why would we even need a theatre-watching experience then?

A timid Shraddha Kapoor suddenly turns eccentric and talks really, really slowly and says, “ Aapa yaad reh gaya na, naam yaad rakhne ki koi zarurat nahi.” Honestly, that is the only thing I remember from the film.

 

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A still from Satya

 

The problem of the matter lies in the first step of making a film. As alluring power-hungry, menacing men can be, their stories are not so simple. You just cannot begin without tying loose ends, lest you fall flat on your face. It has been almost two decades since Ram Gopal Verma’s Satya and even today that is the best depiction of cold blooded gangsters. Satya was not only a great film but also gave us so many gems — from Anurag Kashyap, Ram Gopal Varma, Vishal Bharadwaj to Manoj Bajpayee.

 

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A still from Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai

 

The only time someone after RGV came close to making mean men work was Milan Luthria’s Once Upon A Time In Mumbai (and the sequel was rather abysmal, so the curse remains). It has been so many years and sadly, I could just remember 2 films in a million. Pity.

This article was first published on Firstpost

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Can A Brilliant Performance Disguise Bad Film Making?

As an ardent cinegoer, what rocks my boat is (sometimes brilliant) films I get to watch week after week. But this year, nine months have passed and I haven’t seen a film that either comforts me, or disturbs me. As a person who watches films for a living, it is highly disappointing to not remember one great film from 2017 that came and left an impact on my heart and soul.

Films with megastars have not been able to please their fans this year. I have either seen mediocre films or ones where the actor shines and the narrative doesn’t.

Recently, Kangna Ranaut’s Simran was stuck in a dichotomy of sorts: the narrative is so bland and the actor is just terrific. But here’s a pressing question. Do we worship the act or the actor?

As I watched Simran, the backlash of the writing credits was running in my mind and I thought to myself: who actually wrote the film? Can the brilliance of an actor’s performance disguise mediocre filmmaking?

Kangana Ranaut in Simran. Youtube screengrab

The multi-faceted actor, director, singer, producer Farhan Akhtar absolutely doesn’t believe in this statement. He doesn’t buy into the idea that a brilliant performance can save a sinking boat.

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Photo Courtesy: Spice PR Team

Another film which looks delicious is the upcoming Chef, starring Saif Ali Khan directed by Raja Krishna Menon. As I keep my fingers crossed about the fate of the film, I probe him about performances and filmmaking, and he says

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Saif Ali Khan with director Raja Krishna Menon

“That depends on how you define filmmaking, doesn’t it? A brilliant performance often is related not only to that particular performer but to the entire environment created.  I define a brilliant performance as one that is consistent to the character and the story in which that character exists.”

A point well made, isn’t it? Many actors who refer to themselves as ‘director’s actors’ are called lazy. So if we turn around the situation, is depending only on the actor for a film’s brilliance a little unfair?

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Director: R Balki

R Balki — who has made the wonderful Paa with the ever so inspiring Amitabh Bachchan and is amidst making Padman with Akshay Kumar — feels,

“Brilliant performance is also a part of filmmaking.”

But as audiences, we want to watch a wholesome film which doesn’t see-saw between technicality and instead warms the heart. The last time that happened was the end of last year, with Aamir Khan’s Dangal.

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On this, Raj Nidimoru says,

“When you put a brilliant actor on stage, there’s usually no director or set design or music or any film elements around. And she/he will still win your heart. When you look at all the great films made, they always have brilliant performances first. Then comes film-making. So yeah, you could make a mediocre film or leave the camera unattended if you’d like and a great actor will carry the film.”

Is it the actor’s objective to successfully accomplish all acting tasks and deliver a successful scene or could the actor’s goal be to allow the character to exist so profoundly and fully that acting techniques disappear?

 

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Director Homi Adhijania with Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone on the sets of Cocktail

 

 

Homi Adhijania, someone who takes the approach of a Gabriel García Márquez novel in his films, answers this tough question:

“A brilliant performance can definitely help disguise a mediocre screenplay as it serves as a distraction. Case in point being how Deepika’s (Padukone) adept portrayal of Veronica lifted Cocktail’s predictable narrative. But when it comes to technically mediocre filmmaking, it’s tough to disguise that if the basics of visual storytelling are missing to begin with. When the audience experiences the overall picture, any performance can’t be isolated from the rest of the film, so a brilliant performance won’t matter in terms of the audience’s overall takeaway.”

When you are a director on a film set, juggling egos and creative energies of so many people, the stakes are very high.

Meghna Gulzar is one such director who brings out the toughest of nuances with ease in her actors and she disagrees with what is written above. She strongly sticks to her guns and adds,

 

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Director: Meghna Gulzar

 

“Nothing can disguise mediocre filmmaking. But mediocre filmmaking can certainly compromise a brilliant performance.”

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The year that has gone by has certainly been a forgetful one for the film business and the only film that might be able to change the game could be Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati starring Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor. But then again, will it just be good performances taking the film forward, or will it shake the system that seems like it has been sleeping all year long? Only time will tell.

The article was first published on Firstpost.

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Where Is The Thrill?

When you step in to watch a biopic, you expect to watch everything that you ever wanted to know about the person involved. Something that you would not find on the wikipedia page. Something that shakes you and you’re engrossed- elbow deep. Haseena Parkar, a biopic on Dawood’s sister offers absolutely none of the things mentioned above. First and foremost, when will people understand that the writing of any narrative needs to be stronger than your promotions? When all you’ve got is what you can find on the first search as you type Haseena on google, something is really wrong.

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Shraddha Kapoor as Haseena aapa is not a great fit as she is unable to evoke thrill, fear or sympathy for the part. She is a sweet, fragile girl till she gets married and suddenly starts slamming people. Trust me, till now you saw no signs of eccentricities and suddenly over a water fight in the chawl, she is ready to smack people. The most bizarre part of the film is that no one explains any how’s and why’s. Beyond a point, it gets really boring because no one went back to the storyboard when they needed to. The only thing that tells me that I have to be scared in various scenes was conveyed to me by the background score and the Shraddha Kapoor’s lipstick color. Baffling, Isn’t it?

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Bumbai ka bhai is played by Siddhant Kapoor and this is the first time I have seen Dawood Ibrahim devoid of any personality. Bouncing away in those caricature outfits and enjoying a scotch in a jacuzzi or even candlelight dinners in Dubai is where the thrill is lost. The voice is dubbed and the dialogues are atrocious. There are times when I thought the lines were incomplete because a lot of times, they don’t make sense and are just said for effect. *I just can’t*

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Apoorva Lakhia’s Parkar is oversimplified and is unable to hold your attention for a long time. It gets sadder by the second and you don’t learn anything new from the narrative. There are many many loopholes and where simplification is required, the ends are left loose. Just like that! This is the second gangster film in two weeks and yet again, no one has been able to fix the same old problems. It’s high time we pull up our socks or else no one is up for a dull theatre watching experience.

This article was first published on Filtercopy

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You Want To Root For Simran, But You Can’t

Hansal Mehta’s Simran is inspired by the real-life story of Sandeep Kaur who was referred to as Bombshell Bandit in the United States because of the way she robbed banks. The difference between Sandeep Kaur and Simran is that Kaur was a lot more eccentric and Praful Patel in Simran stops half way because of the crutches in the film.

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Kangna Ranaut steps into the life of Praful Patel who is a hotel maid and is a lively girl. She is divorced and is 30 years of age and lives with her still stuck in Rajkot mentality parents in the states. This is a story about the middle class, working NRI’s who do not have the plush houses and have to live on every spec of money that can earn to make ends meet. She is jaunty, confident and has a very strong persona. She is neither ashamed of herself or her choices. She very well explains to her second hubby to be that dating men is not a character flaw as he is of the mindset who thinks that flaws are equivalent to the number of relationships one has had in the past. She stands up for herself in front of her parents who nudge her about her sexual escapades when she decides to move to an independent place and when in the middle of an escapade, she will make sure that protection is always on the table.

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Praf, as she is fondly called gets drawn to a life of crime because of her addiction for gambling at a Las Vegas Casino. Her bank robberies are comical and so is the police. Even American police in Indian films becomes like Indian police in Indian films. But the best thing about this film is how it ventures into a space where most Bollywood films wouldn’t. While the protagonist is a maid and has no qualms about not having the surreal close-up shots or play downright dirty. There is no redemption to why is she the way she is which is beautiful.

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While there was so much hue and cry about the writing of the film between Kangna Ranaut and Apurva Asrani, the saddest thing to see here is that the writing is the weakest part of this film which is followed by how it is eventually executed. It looks half-baked where one person is the only one who is trying to make things happen for her in the film. Since the effort is not well rounded, the interest that I could put from my side is also not sustained for a very long period.

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I occasionally love her and then I want out. There are times when you want to root for her but beyond a point, you just cannot. Kangna Ranaut is brilliant as Praful Patel but then this is not a monologue on stage where you have come to watch only one person shine. Isn’t it?

This article was first published on Filtercopy

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Lucknow Central Is Just Another Predictable Tale

Prison breaks are high intensity and you more often than not have your heart in your mouth while watching them. The thrill makes everything worth it. Ranjit Tiwari’s Lucknow Central is essentially a prison break drama, but it sways here and there too. Tiwari believes in Orson Welle’s saying, “Nobody gets justice, people only get good luck or bad luck” and makes this an underlying theme in his narrative. The film revolves around a young man, Kishen Mohan Girhotra essayed by Farhan Akhtar who aspires to be a professional singer but is wrongly implicated in a murder of an IAS officer. No-one asks him his side of the story and he is imprisoned for life. Despite of me buying this, what I don’t buy is the fact that we don’t know why he was framed. Who actually killed the IAS officer? What happened that all hell froze for poor Kishen who just wanted to sing?

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Lucknow Central has an interesting skeleton structure of a film but the cracks are not filled well. Many times you question yourself and don’t find answers. While Kishen is being shifted from Moradabad Jail to the scarier Lucknow Central, Kishen plans a strategy to get out in the name of making a band with inmates who have to perform at an inter-jail music competition. Diana Penty strongly believes in reforming prisoners but agrees to everything Kishen asks her. Why? Are they friends? We have no clue. Now that Kishen is ready to face a fiercer jailer while planning his escape from a deadly jail, I thought to myself, why couldn’t he run from Moradabad Jail. Why all the fuss?

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The answer is to introduce newer inmates- Deepak Dobriyal, Inaamulhaq, Gippy Grewal and Rajesh Sharma with their jailer who eventually turns out to be a man of straw and nothing else. He is all talk and no action. Once we get to Lucknow Central, we see prison politics, canteen fights and a lot of power play between a man who runs the system from inside the prison and Rajesh Sharma, who is in-charge of the fabric unit inside the prison. Speaking of canteen fights, we see Kishen having a bad time and doesn’t get to eat. He looks pretty ripped for a guy in jail, who’s delivering him anabolic steroids, I ask.

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The film swings between heart-warming and predictable and I was confused as I left the theatre. While most of it is predictable, the friendship between Kishen and his prison-mates is sweet to watch till everything they do is too convenient. You don’t want mediocrity when you see a bunch of wonderful actors in one frame. Do you?

This article was first published on Filtercopy

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