Judaai is is all respects a perfect Hindi commercial film. The film has a message-based story, great music, dancing, comedy and drama to make it an amazing entertainer. The viewer (this one at least) is left glued to the seat for every minute of both the meaningful and the mindlessness in this film, and not once does one check their watch for the time or run out for a stroll to the washroom.
Of course, this praise does not mean that every single person on the face of this planet will enjoy Judaai. However, based on this reviewer's criteria for a perfect Hindi film, this film is it. (Mind you, my choices of perfect Indian cinema does not always coincide with box office successes.) For the reader's benefit let me list the things that I thoroughly enjoyed about Judaai, and let you decide whether you want to see the film and/or agree with my viewpoints:
1) The central them of Judaai is GREED, and the story is 'Indianized' perfectly by the script writer from the Hollywood blockbuster 'Indecent Proposal'. In this Hindi version, our central character is a naive mother and wife (Sridevi) who loves her family but far more than these human relationships she values money. The story progresses to reveal to Kajal (Sridevi) that money can never be a substitute for love and companionship in this world.
2) Performances by each and every actor in the film are very good, especially Sridevi, who once again adds a memorable role to her long list of classic portrayals. The reason for the good acting is not simply the actors' hard work but great script writing and great character development for each and every major player in the film. The main characters are all grey, and more true to life than the black and white cutouts one is accustomed to seeing in most Hindi films. Kajal is motivated by her father's inadequate rearing skills to value money as the be-all-and-end-all in life. Despite repeated refusal from her husband and mother, she forces him (very realistically) to marry again so she can earn Rs. 2 crore from his second wife.
Anil Kapoor's character, Kajal's husband, loves his wife too much and though this type of man rarely exists in the real world, it is a great character. The audience is shown the dangers of loving too much and letting others rule your life (more representative of a woman's role in Indian society). Jhanvi Sahni (Urmila) is a rich but parentless child who learns the difference between buying people and earning love in the world. She is not evil (in fact far from it) but she definitely does not recognize the limits of socieatal dos and donts.
You cannot despise any of these characters in the film. Sure, in the interval I heard eveyone call Sridevi 'stupid' a million times, but it is more anger at the individual's lack of 'intelligence' and common sense. We know why Kajal loves money so much (her father), so we cannot bame here directly for the her greed.
3) The audience is permitted to slowly intake the high level of drama in the film through perfectly timed breaks of comedy and music. The music though not as great as say Khamoshi: The Musical, but is still very good, and the song picturisations are mind-blowing. 'Judaai, Judaai' is filched again from Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, but the video is remniscent of a Yash Chopra film and we forgive the music directors' plagiarism. 'Oee Baba Oee Baba' and ' Mujeh Pyar Hua' are also brilliantly shot outdoor dances (the former on Las Vegas streets). Great comedy sequences are also provided by Johnny Lever, Paresh Rawal and Kader Khan to give some respite from the drama and to prevent the proceedings from getting too heavy on the audience. (The Indian masses do not appreciate being too depressed by a film.)
4) Technically, the film is also brilliant. Cinematography by Harmeet Singh is beautiful and locations are pircturesque. Dance movements by Saroj Khan are fresh for a change (witness 'Mujeh Pyar Hua' and 'Ooee Baba').
And of course, the director Raj Kanwar after superhits such as Deewana, Laadla and Jeet, once again demonstrates his brilliant grasp over the commercial Hindi film medium. One might feel I am overemphasizing the brilliance of Judaai (I feel that way about Shakespeare also). Oh well, to each his own. Here is hoping that Judaai is a super-success, and more great masala movies along the lines of Judaai in the near future.
Mushir-Riaz's 'Virasat' is superlative, intelligent entertainment. I cannot find any other words to describe the newest film of Anil Kapoor. If some of his fans were disgruntled at the tiny role he had in this year's earlier hit 'Judaai', look no further, this film is for you. If 'Judaai' was pure fun and boggle meant for the masses, 'Virasat' makes you actually think in your seat and be entertained simultaneously. Priyadarshan, who was responsible for the superlative 'Gardish' and overpraised 'Kaala Paani', directs this Hindi remake of Kamal Hassan's Tamil 'Thevar Magan'. (Don't ask for any comparisons because I have not seen the original.) It is important that Indian film-makers are beginning to remake films of other languages rather than dubbing the originals. (I don't know why some people complain that even authorized remakes of films are a form of plagiarism. Watching some of the dubbed scenes in 'Sapnay' is about as painful as shooting a bullet into your foot.)
Having said that 'Virasat' is a remake, let me first of all commend Mr. Kamal Hassan for writing the story. This genius of a man is not only a superlative actor, but a great writer also. Similarly, the dialogue is crisp and filled with wonderful, yet simple similes. And of course the scenes are pure brilliance. Individuals who argue that Indian films are not intelligent ought to try and pick up on the very wittily underscored symbolism in the scenes of this film.
The story of the film is set in a village broken up by the brothers of the head Thakur Khandaan. The elder, Raja Thakur (Amrish Puri) is an uneducated but benevolent man who has sent one of his two sons (Anil Kapoor) to study in London so that he may come back and educate the constantly feuding villagers. The film starts with Shakti (Anil) returning home, but not with the intention of staying long. He does not want to fulfill his father's dream, but instead dreams of opening a chain of fast food restaurants throughout India's metropolises. Along to keep our foreign-returned hero company is his NRI girlfriend Anita (Pooja Batra). Oh well, Raja Saab does not force his desires upon his son and even agrees to let him live life as he wishes; quite a liberal attitude for the highly stereotyped father figure we're accustomed to in Hindi films. Anita returns to London after her short village tour and visit with her soon to be father-in-law. Shakti promises to join her in a few days.
Unfortunately, Raja saab's younger brother keeps the village so engrossed in feuding that Shakti inevitably becomes concerned with the plight of the villagers and stays behind. Shakti's intial repulsion with the "animal-like" behaviour of the villagers is replaced with the desire to help the down-trodden and uneducated. However, what happens next? Is Shakti sucked into the war himself and does he become a cannibal also? Or is he able to rise above the complications in his life and teach the village to stop their fighting? I don't want to give out the rest of the numerous plot developments, but believe me when I say that they are very enjoyable. Not once will the intelligent viewer look at his/her watch waiting for a scene to end.
All the performances in the film are majestic. Anil Kapoor adds another notch on his belt of unforgettable performances. Here is an actor who intelligently underplays his characters so that they are hardly ever unnecessarily loud or exhibitionistic; Shakti is very life-like. Tabu (don't ask where she fits into the film because it is a very interesting role), recovering from 1996's National Award for 'Maachis', proves why she is considered such an amazing actress. Give this girl even a small role, and you'll still remember her after the film. Amrish Puri is amazing in his role as usual. No offence to fans of Anil, Shahrukh, Aamir, etc., but frankly Amrish steals the thunder away from any other actor when he is in the same scenes with them. Pooja Batra does a very commendable job in her first film, but you may be interested to note that she seems to be a better actress post-interval because it is Padmini Kolhapure doing the dubbing for her. (Did I mention that the scenes between Anil-Tabu-Pooja are amazing. Very interesting interplay between the characters and the complete opposite of 'Judaai' folks.)
Priyadarshan, as mentioned earlier, handles the film very ably. If there was one small complaint I had about the film, it was the unnecessary portrayal of the evil half of the Thakur Khandaan with caricatures that are either fat, dark, mentally retarded twins or a partially paralyzed man. Hinting that obesity, physical ailment or mental retardation lead to evilness is both mean and a fallacy. The remaining technical aspects of the film are just as great. The cinematography is simply perfect. Actually, the film made me want to get up and go visit an Indian "gaon", but we all know that what we see in films is not always the same in real life. And the songs and dances are also great, though not integral to the film. (Yes, yes, I know they are inspired from other sources.)
I am very happy to say that the large mass of filmgoers in India were intelligent enough to make Kamal Hassan's Tamil original 'Thevar Magan' a superhit. 'Virasat' is a movie for those of you who crave intelligent, mature, Indian cinema, with a tiny bit of spice (i.e. cinematic liberties) thrown in. However, if you don't go to see this film, and it flops, please don't complain next time you are subjected to more inanities like 'Koyla' and 'Mrityudaata' in the future. I am not lying when I say that 'Virasat' is to-date, the best film of 1997.
BORE YAAR BORE...BORE YAAR BORE!!! This is what the title song of the film should warn potential viewers. Aar Ya Paar is 1997's first really bad Bollywood flick, and it will probably remain one of the ten worst for this year.
Director Ketan Mehta, a highly-acclaimed parallel cinema director seems to always falter in making a decent film when he attempts to tackle commercial movies. His previous Hero Hiralal, Maya Memsaab and Oh Darling! Yeh Hai Boredom (sorry, I meant India) have all been insipid flicks that provided very little entertainment for the audience. It is unusual that an individual who is acclaimed for making such highly acclaimed, serious films as Mirch Masala and Sardar Patel cannot make a decent commercial film, but this is precisely the case with Ketan Mehta. The characters in Aar Ya Paar are very serious and dead-pan with one another as if they are from an art film. Unfortunately, the film's story and the dictates of commercial cinema require them to be more carefree and energetic.
Jackie is a con-man who marries Kamal Sidhu, a rich parentless, woman for her money. His marrriage is a failure as both characters have very dominant personalities, so our hero has an affair with his wife's secretary Deepa Sahi. The husband and the secretary scheme to kill off the rich brat and inherit her money, but little does Jackie no that he is being betrayed by Deepa. It is a very novel and potentially entertaining movie, but as I said earlier Ketan does not know how to handle the characters. Mr. Mehta's characters need to be much more energetic and fun to watch. As is, it is like watching a bunch of zombies enact the roles.
Only one character in the film is not quiet; unfortunately she is too loud. Newcomer Kamal Sidhu is one of the worst actresses I have ever seen on the big screen. She screams her head off at her unfaithful husband in each and every scene. Since the rest of the characters are very subdued and quiet, these 'yelling sequences' are a form of migraine headaches for the audience every five minutes until the character is finally killed off. And when Sidhu is finally murdered one feels like giving a standing ovation to Jackie for his good deed. Back to other aspects of the film, the cinematography is adequate. Venice looks nice but upon seeing Sidhu run through its streets like a stupid school girl, one wishes the mob would get a sharp-shooter and take her out.
Even the amazing songs from the soundtrack are given very shabby treatment in the film. Of the eight songs in the audio, only five are included in the film, and those too have very bad choreography and weird costumes. With a director like Raj Kanwar or Kuku Kohli, both of whom understand commercial cinema like the back of their hand, this film could have been great. Unfortunately it really sucks. Even most Jackie Shroff fans I know hated the film. For your health and sanity's sake do not watch this flick.
To-date 1997 has had two major, over-hyped films (i.e. Koyla and Mrityudaata) that were duds at the box office. They were thankfully so, since both were pretty painful for the viewers also. Rajiv Rai's Gupt was also hyped till the cows came home, but luckily it is a far more polished product.
Gupt, if you didn't already know, is a murder mystery. Now Bollywood is not a large manufacturer of this film genre, because its past attempts have either been laugh-worthy (Yash Chopra's awful Ittefaq), or box office poison (Khoj starring Rishi Kapoor and Kimi Katkar: good movie). Only once in a blue moon we get an Abbas-Mustaan directed Khiladi, which is both entertaining and a hit. You never know if Gupt will be as successful - judging from the huge matinee crowd I witnessed, it is a likely winner - but it is almost as watchable as Khiladi. In the movie, the hero Saahil (Bobby Deol) is framed for the murder of his stepfather, the Governor (Raj Babbar). Saahil hated his stepfather and had even tried to kill him a few days earlier when Papaji tried to force Beta to get engaged to Sheetal (Manisha) at Saahil's birthday party. Saahil loves only Eesha (Kajol), his childhood buddy from whom he had been separated for eons. Nevertheless, the party's guests have no problem assuring the court that Saahil did indeed kill his father because of the earlier incident they witnessed. Even Saahil's mom (Priya Tendulkar) testifies against him. She had stopped him from attacking the Governor at the party, and she also saw him with his hand on the dagger after Saahil discovered the body. (When will the heroes learn not to touch a knife in the body of a dead person? You're being framed, stupid!!)
So Saahil goes off to jail, is involved in some fisticuffs and escapes through the toilet drain, which is steps from the sea. (You gotta see it to believe it.) Then he begins his search to find the real killer and clear his name. On his trail is an oft-suspended 'karak' Inspector (Om Puri) and his sidekicks (Sadashiv Amprapurkar and Ashok Saraf). You're wondering... how is Saahil going to find the real killer? Who are the possible suspects? Literally everyone folks! The film is sandwiched by a long list of famous screen villains, and they were all involved in trying to coax the deceased Governor to accept/reject a foreign contract deal before his death. Plus, there are also the Governor's other contacts and Saahil's other relatives who could have done the gruesome deed.
Rajiv Rai leaves no character in the film for the audience to cast suspicion upon. Everyone appears to have a motive to kill off the Governor (including Saahil). This aspect of Gupt is what makes the film so watchable. Every five minutes, I cast suspicion on another person; not because it is always explicitly stated, but because of the character's behaviour. For instance, witness Priya Tendulkar's behaviours in her testimony scenes and meetings with Saahil after his escape. She is either badly acting on purpose (I hope at the instruction of the director) or guilty of the crime herself. I liked Rajiv Rai's direction in this film. Rai is not extremely gifted, but he makes the best of the talent he has. Rai himself admits that he is not a very emotional person so he makes slick action films instead. (From Rai's past films, I loved the mindless romps of Tridev and Vishwatma, but was thoroughly bored throughout most of Mohra except the songs.)
Performancewise and generally, Bobby Deol is the biggest liability of the film. I didn't except Bobby to be this bad, because he was competent in Barsaat. But the village bumpkin act from his debut may become Bobby's eternal on-screen persona. This Deol, unlike his father and elder brother, is not confident enough on screen. Sure he can dance, unlike the others, but he can't fight to save his life. In most of the action sequences he either moves slowly, hesitates or moves back after a punch, so that you can tell the other guy is letting Bobby win. So unlike the Deol Khandaan!!! Plus he also carries a dumb-founded and shy look in many of the film's scenes, especially when he is with the two talented heroines. Hey buddy, hurry up and develop a strong screen presence, unless you only want female fans.
Manisha isn't given much opportunity to act, but she tries her best in the songs, where she dances like there is no tomorrow. (Please lose some weight though, beautiful.) The couple of scenes where we do see her talent include her verbal combat dialogues with Om Puri and the comedy-cum-flirt sequence with Prem Chopra. (This lady can excel at comedy too.) Kajol, on the other hand, is given her opportunity to stun us in more scenes than Manisha and she delivers brilliantly. Wowza! The remaining cast members are all competent, with no one really standing out among the crowd, except the real murderer.
The music by Viju Shah is of course brilliant. Who doesn't have the audio yet for this film? The videos are aptly shot on scenic locations, but the choreography by Rekha-Chinni Prakash borders at times on vulgar, particularly in "Duniya Hasseeno Ka Mela". (Too many pelvic thrusts and writing bodies all the time.) The stupid costumes given to the actresses in the film (which accentuate their heaviness), only make things worse. Cinematography by Ashok Mehta is also expectedly above average, though at times he seems to be showing off his innovative camera angles.
Gupt is generally worth your time and money. Despite all the excessive hype, the only real disappointment is Bobby Deol. You'll enjoy the suspense though and remember to keep Gupt about the ending.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce Bollywood's newest star and actor to you: Akshaye Khanna. Putra of Mr. Vinod Khanna, this kid has a lot going for him. He is a good looker, has impressive acting skills, and is an agile dancer and fighter. Mark my words, he is certainly going to be famous in the near future. Well enough about the actor, let us talk about the film.
Himalay Putra is a film made by Pappa Khanna to introduce his Putra, and boy is there a lot of the Bachcha in the film: Too much if you ask me. Akshaye dominates almost every frame, and though you are impressed by his talent, it gets boring seeing him on the screen all the time.
The story is sort of novel, but pretty lame. Hema and Vinod love each other but she is rich and her father, Amrish Puri, does not approve. Vinod goes to make Rs.20 lakhs on a bet with Amrish to let Hema maintain a comfortable lifestyle. Amrish makes plans for his daughter's wedding. Vinod returns with the money(Where this police officer gets it, who knows?), but leaves disheartened upon reading the marriage card of his beloved. Then, Hema discovers she is pregnant with Vinod's child and Amrish dies of a heart attack. So Hema goes to her family's apple orchards and raises son Akshaye there. Are you still following? This all happens within the first fifteen minutes. Akshaye grows up to be an energetic and lively young man, but if there is one thing he yearns for, it is to meet his real father and confront him about leaving his mom. (Don't ask about it... too complicated.) Our hero falls in love with the Juhi-like Anjala Zaveri, helps his drug-addicted 'friend cum obsessed lover' Shazia Malik, finds his father and rids the farm of Danny's drug smuggling.
As I said earlier, the film is watchable for factors other than the story. It is the newcomer's launch vehicle and it his charisma which is entertaining. (Akshaye has the potential to become abetter actor and star than his father, but only time will tell.) The comedy sequences are also extremely entertaining (and a little reminiscent of director Parashar's mind blowing earlier film 'Chaalbaaz'.) Acting by the other principals is adequate, except Danny who seems to be reprising his Bakhtawar role from 1991's Amitabh starrer 'Hum'. European-bread, Anjala Zaveri looks pretty and is also a potential future star, only at times she tends to imitate Juhi Chawla's mannerisms. (She even looks a bit like Juhi, though definitely not as beautiful.)
Pankaj Parashar has redeemed himself somewhat for the fiasco that was 'Rajkumar' but he must get better scripts in the future. Comedy seems to be his forte and that is probably what he should stick to. The songs by Anu Malik, and dances by Ahmed Khan and Saroj Khan, are also really good. Of all of them, I love the danceless "Kaga Sab Tan Khaiyo" most, and was surprised to see it pictured on Hema, Akshaye and Vinod in a very Yash Chopra-ish dinner sequence. A note to the film's cinematographer, who repetitively used some stylized yet obtrusive camera angles. Buddy, it started off as cute and interesting, but by the end of the film I could hardly look at the screen because you almost gave me a headache. Stop trying to show off!!! Overall, Himalay Putra is a recommendable product; pretty good but by no means a classic, as were the first films of Aamir and Salman Khan. It would benefit from some trimming of Akshaye's footage, and a better script.
I should start off by being frank. I am neither a Madhuri Khan or Shahrukh Khan fanatic: there is precisely one film of each of these stars in which I have really enjoyed their performances. Madhuri was pure magic in 'Khel' (a massive flop but really entertaining film which by coincidence was also directed by Rakesh Roshan) and Shahrukh was graciously restrained and quite likeable in Aditya Chopra's 'Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge'. I can't say I liked these two artistes performances in any of their other films, hit or not, because that would be a humongous lie. However, I have started to appreciate Madhuri's acting capabilities recently and am eagerly awaiting her upcoming 'Mrityu Dand', 'Pukaar' and 'Dil To Paagal Hai'. Shahrukh Khan; it is best that I not comment too much on him. There's always a glimmer of hope for the future. (For instance, I never used to acknowledge Salman as a good actor either until I saw his amazing performances in Khamoshi and Judwaa.)
Another point to note is that 'Koyla' is by no means a family film. It has been wisely rated 'A' by the Indian Censor Board, which restricts admission to people over the age of eighteen in India. I wish our local theaters in Toronto and theaters all over the world would also bar at least the pre-teens from seeing this film. Considering the hordes of people in line for 'Koyla', they won't lose too much money. The reason behind my logic is the gratuitous and graphic violence in the film, coupled with two very distasteful and titillating rape scenes.
Having made my initial point on the film you can tell that 'Koyla' disturbed me as a viewer. And I don't mean that in the positive sense. Rakesh Roshan is a very capable director, but to appeal to the 'chavanni' crowd, he has packed this film with so much violence and vulgarity, that one churns in anguish in their seats. The film isn't really bad (far from it), but it is by no means, really good. 'Koyla', like last year's 'Khilona', is an adaptation of the English film 'Revenge'. This version is the story of a young woman (Madhuri) who is tricked into marriage with an old geezer (Amrish Puri), but falls in love with his mute slave (Shahrukh). The couple must escape the clutches of the bad man and his evil brother, but is caught in a 'Trimurti' reminiscent run through the jungle. She is put in a 'tawaif's kotha', but remains a sati savitri for the hero. (I think because of 'Prem Granth' flopped Rakesh feels that ONLY our heroine can't be raped by any of the villains, lest the audience rejects her as a decent woman.) In the meanwhile, the hero is brought back to life after plunging off a cliff and landing in a tree, by the good old magic-weavers who reside in the woods. Shahrukh also miraculously regains his voice and discovers that must also take revenge against his master for killing his parents when he was small. So he rescues his lady love and kills off the baddies.
The story is not great, but the film does have a great look. The cinematography and dances sequences are a visual treat, and they, along with certain scenes and the performances, lift the film above the banal. Performances also are pretty good. Having read the introduction to this review, you might have thought I'd trash the principal actors but I did like some of the performances. Shahrukh has come up with an okay performance, far better than his monkey-like antics in 'Ram Jaane' and 'Chaahat'. Unfortunately, he is nowhere near as good a mute as Nana Patekar was in 'Khamoshi'. Like I said, let us give it some time and he'll probably stun me again with a great performance in the future. (Most likely in Yash Chopra's 'Dil To Paagal Hai' or Subhash Ghai's 'Pardes'.)
Madhuri was pretty good, but her character needed more development, and I actually wanted to see more of her in the film. This lady is very talented, but she has never done a decent film where she is the center of attention (and that included 'Beta' and 'Raja'). Once again looking forward to her future performances. Amrish Puri starts off as a riot as the buddha villain Raja, but his repeated "Bloody Phool" and other screwy English lines really taxed my nerves by the end of the film. At least the kid beside me thought it was funny all the time.
Deepshikha, a new actress, who plays Amrish Puri's secretary in the film (and is raped repeatedly) stunned me with a really good performance. This lady is a natural, and barring her penchant to reveal her assets at the drop of a hat, she could have been heroine-worthy material. Actually, this is the role that should have been given to Madhuri, and it should have been the central character in the film. (The heroine doesn't always need to get the hero.) Madhuri could have really done wonders with Deepshikha's role, as long as in developing the film around this character, Rakesh did not add more rape scenes to attract the front-benchers. (Why must you show me the villain ripping the clothes off a woman? Sounds of screaming, while showing disgust on an-lookers face would be far more effective and proper to convey this repulsive act.)
Anyways enough about the film's negative virtues, it is still a time-pass film. Please, just don't take little kids to 'Koyla'. The gruesome violence and sexual overtones will distort the impressionable mind of a youngster.