Ali Ikram's Movie Reviews Page 2

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Deewana Mastana..Daud..Mere Sapno ki Rani..Aur Pyar Ho Gya..Pardes..Prithvi..Ukindia


Deewana Mastana

Producers: Ketan Desai and Bharat Shah
Director: David Dhawan
*ing: Anil Kapoor, Govinda, Juhi Chawla, Anupam Kher, Reema Lagoo, Shakti Kapoor, Upasna Singh, Saeed Jaffrey, Satish Kaushik and Guest appearances by Salman Khan, Kadar Khan, Raveena Tandon and Pratibha Sinha
Music : Laxmikant Pyarelal

Reviewed by: Mohammad Ali Ikram

What do you get when two losers are besotted by a gorgeous woman? The answer is... a David Dhawan comedy called Deewana Mastana. Suspend your sense of logic for a couple of hours and enter the fun-and-frolic of Dhawan World: nothing is impossible and laughter permeates the air.

Raja (Anil Kapoor) and his sidekick (Johnny Lever) are a couple of small-time thieves who have robbed Rs. 25 lakhs from their home town's railway station before jetting off to Mumbai. Bunnu (Govinda) is a spoilt rich kid aka chicken incarnate. (Bunnu has a phobia of everything.) Through different circumstances both Bunnu and Raja fall in love with Dr. Neha (Juhi Chawla). And since neither 'hero' is the sacrificial type (thank God), we begin a game of one-upmanship, where the winner gets the hand of the fair psychiatrist. Or so you would like to believe...

The film's major advantages include Dhawan's directorial skills, the performances and some wickedly funny dialogues. Bunnu's introductory scene alone is so amusing, that at first, you want to hand over this year's Best Actor Award to Govinda. After a bit of thinking, you will decide that it is the dialogues in the scene which really make it outstanding. But wait, the care put into the direction is equally applause-worthy. One cannot decide.

Govinda's comedic talents are indisputable. In this movie he shows us a partially Forrest Gump-inspired performance. The trump card lies in the fact that Govinda is, and always will be, a far better comedian than Tom Hanks. Anil Kapoor works hard on his comedic drive, matching Govinda's impeccable timing perfectly and consistently. Everyone knows however that there is no beating Bollywood's Comedy King, so Johnny Lever is Anil's comrade in the battle. (It must be said that from all the films in his career, this performance is Mr. Lever's best. He is quite subdued in Deewana Mastana, yet so effective at eliciting laughter, that you wonder why he would need to be LOUD in some of his earlier movies like Daraar.)

Juhi needs to look gorgeous in the movie, while showing indifference towards the monkeys who are after her. She succeeds in the acting requirements, but looking beautiful is not always easy since working in a David Dhawan movie requires the hero and heroine to wear garishly coloured/designed outfits. However, in the end Juhi probably won over David and for the climax scenes her attire and looks could both kill.

Dialogues, as mentioned earlier, are a major highlight of the movie. Bunnu's "Baby Steps" and, "It's okay... I'm all right... I'm feeling better now..." refrains stay in the mind of the viewer even after the movie is over. If it were possible to remember Satish Kaushik's Mr. Pager scenes and the thickly-accented goonda dialogues he uses, I would probably have my friends, who have yet to see the movie, also rolling around in laughter.

Technically the movie is a bit above average. Periodically, continuity suffers due to the two-year time period it took to complete the movie. Rajan Kinagi's cinematography is competent, but it is nothing compared to his work in Mrityu Dand. Choreography and the songs are passable, but considering the long wait for the movie, they could have been better. Only the climax version of "Tere Bina Dil Lagta Nahin" is innovative and a pleasure to watch (besides being the best song in the film for listening purposes).

I now believe that David Dhawan is Bollywood's best ever director of simple, frothy comedies. Considering the number of projects the man has on his platter at any given time, his work is often of remarkably high standards. Manmohan Desai was good, but he used his cinematic license too liberally, and the continuity problems in his films (especially Amar Akbar Anthony) were funnier than the movies themselves. The ending for Deewana Mastana is novel, refreshing (as was Dhawan's Saajan Chale Sasural) and even some-what realistic. Individuals claim that the end was modified due to star ego clashes -- it is likely considering the character interplay in some scenes -- but the climax is handled with so much care and conviction by Dhawan that one cannot help applaud him for it. 1997 is the year for David Dhawan to be recognized amongst the forefront of Indian directors. His tremendous talents have been neglected by the rest of the industry far too long.

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Producer: Nitin Manmohan, Late Mukul S. Anand, Sunil Manchanda
Director: Nitin Manmohan
*ing: Sunil Shetty, Shilpa Shetty, Faraz Khan, Shakti Kapoor, Suresh Oberoi and introducing Shweta Menon
Music : Viju Shah

Reviewed by: Mohammad Ali Ikram

Rating: 4 / 10

Prithvi had the potential to be a memorable film. Nitin Manmohan's first directorial venture picks up steam half an hour into the proceedings... but after a few intriguing moments, we are thrown into a world that grows more filmi, cliched and implausible each passing second.

Prithvi's main plot (by Anees Bazmee) is of an Indian couple separated when the wife (Shilpa Shetty) is kidnapped on their voyage to the United States. Evidence of her existence is intentionally wiped off the face of the planet by the kidnappers, making the husband's (Sunil Shetty) task of finding his love impossible. The sub-plot of identical appearances may be a bit more contrived, but in the context of a commercial film, the story had great potential.

In numerous scenes, pretty Shilpa Shetty proves that she may develop the talent to tackle a meaty role. Faraz Khan does an unforgettable villain act, and that laugh whenever Prithvi is threatening him over the phone is ingenious. (Faraz makes a better villain than hero.) Even Sunil Shetty has improved his accent since his debut in Balwaan. (Too bad his voice and that irritating dialogue delivery still jar.) Shakti Kapoor has a unfunny multi-role and he is an irritating distration. And newcomer Shweta Menon thinks a stripping dance in her debut will prove her talent. (By that logic, her career will not go anywhere.)

So what is the real problem with Prithvi? For one, Nitin Manmohan has abused his cinematic license. For those individuals unfamiliar with the term, cinematic license lets a film-maker dispell logic or common sense in a few parts of his movie. In any commercial movie, I will accept a character having a car accident, flying through the front window and running away. (Okay okay, I am lenient.) But cars racing down Houston's roads (and docks?), blasting bullets at each other endlessly, and not a police car in sight? An American Police Commisioner who has a cubby hole for an office and accompanies his squadron on duty? An Indian character (Suresh Oberoi) who is apparently in charge of the Texas Police Force... doubles as a lawyer... and yet asks the Indian Embassy to contribute to the extra protection of a murder witness? These are just some of the gems I am supposed to digest in Prithvi. If the characters were in India, maybe I would accept it, but in the most powerful nation of the world? I think not.

Speaking of the U.S., the second major problem is Sunil Shetty repeatedly insulting Americans and the U.S.A. in this movie. He calls Americans na-mards, says they have no respect for the institution of marriage and threatens to burn down the city of Houston if he doesn't find his wife. Valid, invalid or idiotic comments aside, I suspect Shetty may lose some of his NRI fans with Prithvi. Then again, I have yet to meet a bona fide Sunil Shetty fan.

Of the four Viju Shah songs, only 'Jis Ghadi Tujhko Rab Ne Banaya Hoga' is downright magnificent. Harmeet Singh's cinematography is as always above average, and he makes Shilpa look better than ever before with his camera. (No it is not only because of her new nose job.)

Nitin Manmohan must work on his sense of logic before he makes any more attempts at direction. A film with Prithvi's lack of logic may become a hit at the Indian box office (e.g. the hideous Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi), but no one remembers a dunce venture twenty years down the line. If only a more realistic director had tackled this story.


Producer: Ramgopal Varma
Director: Ramgopal Varma
*ing: Sanjay Dutt, Urmila Matondkar, Paresh Rawal, Ashish Vidyarthi
Music : A.R. Rahman

1997 continues to be a great year for quality cinema. The posters for Ramgopal Varma's Daud claimed the film was "Fun On The Run". Those posters were not exaggerating. I have not seen this superlative a Hindi action-adventure in ages. Most people are sick of watching those boring Akshay Kumar/Sunny Deol revenge flicks. Daud is more than just welcome relief: it is youthful, award-worthy, and one of the best films this year.

Sanjay Dutt is indirectly hired by a group of terrorists to recover their 'black box' from the harbour, after it is confiscated by police. (He is told there are gold biscuits in it, but the contents are really far more important to the government.) Sanjay tries to deliver the contents to his employer, but the police identify him, and so begins the Daud. He is chased by both the police and the real terrorists (who have killed his boss). Luckily street-smart Urmila, who wants half the loot, accompanies him and helps him out. The story may not be completely original, but like Varma's Rangeela, the treatment of the film is enjoyable. In my opinion, the "Meri Maa Bahaut Badi Shikari Thi" (in Chaku's village) sequence is alone worth eight dollars. And the Dolby-system background score, also by A.R. Rahman, knows how to punctuate the different sequences.

Sanjay Dutt and Urmila make an usual pair, but they are perfect foils for each other. Here are two greedy, self-centred characters that you know God made for each other. When Urmila slanders the hero or invites him to a fist fight, you can hear the ladies shout their approval: the heroine is a woman of the nineties. And whenever strong and tall Sanjay throws petite Urmila over his shoulder, you can sense all the guys secretly rooting him on: the hero is a man among men.

Honestly, the lead pair give the best performances of their careers. Not only do they act well, but Varma ensures they physically suit their roles. Sanjay is such a large fellow, that you would expect him to give a loud performance, as Sunny Deol is doing these days. Not so. In the action sequences, Sanjay's muscles do all the yelling for him. For a change, you don't feel the villain is letting the hero win. And, of course Sanjay has always had impeccable comedic timing. Welcome back Nayak.

Urmila Matondkar has honed her acting skills since Narsimha. Daud requires Urmila to flaunt more than just skin. She is perfect at comedy, romance and dancing. And the action sequences look convincing because she is physically fit. Though you would swear the dialogues were written for Sridevi, admit it, the former Queen Bee could never do these physically demanding action and dances convincingly. If Urmila ever attains numero uno status, it will be because she deserves it.

Ramgopal Varma has even given the supporting cast well-etched characters. Each member of the terrorist gang lead by Pinky (Paresh Rawal) is fun to watch. And the main police force in hot pursuit, headed by Ashish Vidyarthi (from last year's quality Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin) is just as amusing. Ashish's comedy sequences with his two sidekicks are even better than the Om Puri team's antics in Gupt. Not to forget, Chaku is the surprise packet.

The songs are beautifully shot and choreographed on virgin locales in Australia. You might even consider honeymooning there, but remember that Urmila will not be with you. Inspite of all of the heroine's provocative costumes and dances, the cinematography is not really distasteful or vulgar. (Just compare Daud's camera-work to the repetitive belly and bust highlights in Mere Sapno Ki Rani.)

Ramgopal Varma is an extremely talented director. The cameo characters in his movies are even three-dimensional. (Watch the flirting truck driver sequence with Urmila.) Rangeela, Shiva and Raat were no flukes. Ironically, Daud is fun, frivolous and unforgettable entertainment; the nineties answer to Mr. India.

Mere Sapno ki Rani

Producer: C. Ashwini Dutt
Director: K. Raghavendra Rao
*ing: Urmila Matondkar, Sanjay Kapoor, Madhoo, Satish Shah, Shakti Kapoor, Laximikant Berde, Himani Shivpuri, Dina Pathak, Anupam Kher, Satish Kaushik, Kulbhushan Kharbanda
Music : Anand-Milind

Reviewed by: Mohammad Ali Ikram

Rating : 1/2 star (out of 4 stars)

Everyone remember the Law of Gravity? Well, just in case the viewers of Mere Sapno Ki Rani (MSKR) had forgotten this scientific principle, director K. Raghavendra Rao illustrates it repetitively. We have falling pieces of paper, guavas, coconuts, mini-tomatoes, a violin, bangles and not to be out-done, our hero and heroine. Forget the movie, you'll probably have more fun guessing what object is going to fall next...

Corny jokes aside, the main problem with Mere Sapno Ki Rani is that it exists in a 1980s' Jeetendra-Sridevi starrer time warp. (And what was cute then, is idiotic now.) The flick is a love triangle, wherein two sisters who were separated during childhood, fall in love with the same guy (Sanjay Kapoor). One is his fiancee (Madhoo) and the other is his Dream Girl (Urmila). The idiotic hero wants to marry his Sapno Ki Rani cause he has been dreaming about her beauty mark near the navel and 'chabbi ka ghucha' around the waist for eons. (Apparently, he doesn't care about Urmila's face as much as her navel and keys.) And his Sapno Ki Rani, aptly called Sapna, wants to sacrifice her love for her elder sister by claiming she is dying of lung cancer. (Now do you see the resemblance to the good old eighties movies like Aulad, Mawaali and Majaal. Actually these movies are still likeable; MSKR isn't.)

MSKR has too many negative virtues. The big starcast assembled by the producer is impressive but unlike David Dhawan movies, the attempts at comedy fall flat nine times out of ten. Urmila and Madhoo look great. For a change, Madhoo is more interested in laughing during her short role, rather than displaying her histrionic capabilities. Urmila has been working on mastering the art of conveying feelings through non-dialogue facial expressions. She performs very well in certain scenes. Too bad the cinematographer is busy zooming in on the heroines' belly-buttons all the time.

Sanjay Kapoor is again himself. He is showing very slow progress as an actor. Maybe by the time he has Tabu's daughter as his heroine, he will have mastered the craft. The rest of the cast hasn't put in any effort, and it shows. The love songs are annoying, with all the zillion costume changes, falling paraphanelia, often idiotic lyrics and ocassional explosions. However, "Chupke Chupke" and "Yeh Pyar Yeh Pyar" are interesting compositions. Technically, the film is no great shakes either.

So you thought that almost all Hindi films that are love stories are at least tolerable. Guess again. If you learn anything from Mere Sapno Ki Rani, it is that Lamhe and Chandni are once in a blue moon classics. Oh, and also remember that tomatoes and 'amrood' are tastier if they first fall on a female's belly-button?! HUH?

Aur Pyar Ho Gaya

I had never expected much from Aur Pyar Ho Gaya (APHG) because the trailer made it look dead boring. Thankfully, my low expectations enabled me to enjoy the film for its several positive aspects. An adaptation of the English film Only You pre-interval, the story of APHG suddenly turned into the hackneyed, parent opposes marriage tale during the second half. Aashi's (Aishwarya Rai) marriage has been arranged to a rich, international, garment businessman. Since Aashi's friend just died, supposedly due to her arranged marriage, Aashi, with the help of her grandfather (Shammi Kapoor), convinces her over-bearing father (Anupam Kher) to let her spend some time in Switzerland. She will assume a fake identity and verify that her to-be husband has no bad habits which could potentially ruin her life. Ensues a tale of mistaken identity and deception, but as expected, Aashi eventually falls in love with Bobby Deol's character. After the interval, Anupam Kher's character causes problems in the couple's wedding plans.

One of the remarkable aspects of APHG is the performances by all of the actors in the Kapoor (Aashi's) family. Aishwarya Rai is confident, yet she possesses an extremely fresh innocence. (Not to forget her obviously drop-dead good looks.) She excelled at both dancing and comedy. Of course, Miss. Rai is still young so Aashi's stubborn, childish character is perfect for her. Anupam Kher, Shammi Kapoor and the character actress who plays Aashi's grandmother (What is her name folks?) are all apt foils with which we view the heroine's personality. Aashi's grandfather (Shammi Kapoor) spoils and supports her endlessly, Kailashnath (Anupam) is over-protective and strict, and the diabetes-stricken Dadi helps Aashi express her childishness. All three actors are given wonderful roles, and in turn, they provide amazing performances to the audience. Watching the family interact is certainly a treat.

Of course the reason we like the Kapoor family scenes so much is the great dialogue written by Rumi Jaffrey. This gentleman usually writes the dialogue-baazi for David Dhawan's dhamakas, and his talent at meshing natural and intelligent speech with comedic punch lines is more than praiseworthy. One example is the scene where Aashi is asking a crowd of Swiss people for spare change. In true filmi style she desperately drops to their feet, and just as the audience is thinking that these foreigners are cheap, Aashi also spits out "Kanjoos Bhikari Log". This witty scene (along with several others) had people rolling in the aisles.

Now for the other side of the coin. Bobby Deol does perform well in the comic sequences, but he is still very annoying to watch in other parts of APHG. Just to sum up his awful dancing skills I have created a song that could be added to the film. Aishwarya would be singing while Bobby dances to "Pakaw, Pakaw, Zara Zulf Jhatak, Zara Kamar Matak, Pakaw, Pakaw..." Okay, so I have no lyric writing talent, but you get the point. The songs of the film are also just a bit above average. (I hope that Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's yet to be released Hindi film scores will enable him to leave a brief, but immortal impact on Indian cinema's history.) Aishwarya Rai dances well and succeeds at keeping our feet tapping in her solo song "Thodasa Pagla". But face it, the choreography is uninspired and Bobby Deol still has little dancing talent. And Manmohan Singh's cinematography is nice, but we've seen all of these locales before. So what happened during the songs? I ended up reading the subtitles. Did you know that "Jaagi Hui Fizaayen Hai Tere Liye, Mere Liye" translates to "The fog is for you, and for me too"? You'll agree the line sounds better in Urdu.

Rahul Rawail does a competent job with the direction, but like his last film Anjaam, everything goes awry at the end. Rawail might have thought that his final scenes were innovative, but the special effects are not even remotely realistic. The airplane sequence is a forced and fake, happy ending. Aur Pyar Ho Gaya is good to watch once, or at maximum twice... for its dialogues, Aishwarya Rai and her film family. Film to dekhi... par pyar na hua.


Don't I know these people... Over and over, I kept having this thought while watching the antics of Amrish Puri's American-Indian family in Subhash Ghai's latest movie, Pardes. And almost all the women in the theatre seemed to agree with me... At least that is what I gathered from all the weeping and sniffling going on around me.

Similar to the dual nation setting of 1995's Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Pardes takes a serious look at the lives of Westernized Non-Resident South Asians in North America. Of course, Subhash Ghai has wisely packaged this message in a very entertaining and thoroughly engrossing film.

A very simple story about a young, Indian born girl who is betrothed by her parents to the son of a very rich NRI. The NRI (Amrish Puri) hopes his soon-to-be bahu will instill some Indian values in his extremely westernized beta. Ganga (Mahima Chawdhry), our village-bred heroine, must contend with the culture shock that she faces upon arrival in the United States. And for a bit of spice, everyone must contend with Arjun (Shahrukh Khan), the NRI's adopted son, creating a love triangle in the proceedings.

Inspite of the generally oft-heard storyline of Pardes, the abundance of thought-provoking messages contained therein make it a must-see for all families. Generally, is it worthwhile living outside our countries of origin? What is our connection with our homelands? What are our connections with North America (or Europe, etc.)? To what degree is it acceptable to try to fit in to Western Society? Should we encourage our children to be more Westernized or South East Asian? And at what point do we lose our identity as Indians/Pakistanis?

So many thoughts invade the mind when watching this movie. Directly and indirectly, there are many issues raised in the U.S. set scenes. For instance, in one scene, Ganga is completely alone at Amrish Puri's house and she makes a call to her parents in India. They repeatedly ask her if she is well, and she lies and says yes. Here is a girl brought up in a society where your extended family is always with you, and according to the film, very supportive of your needs. The principle in North America, as stated by Ganga's fiancee Rajiv (Apoorva Agnihotri), is to let people be alone, when they are depressed.

But at some point of time all Indians/Pakistanis are new to North America, and they must deal with these completely opposite ideologies. What does each individual do? Some may stick to the togetherness principal, as much as possible with the few friends and relatives they have nearby. Others, they will desensitize their need for human support, and will preach this idea to their future generations. Desensitization is the problem with Amrish Puri's family in Pardes, and Subhash Ghai is condemning this situation. Keep your mind open, and you will see many other topics touched upon by Ghai in this film.

The performances in Pardes are also superb. Shahrukh Khan has finally bawled me over with a flawless performance. His acting as Arjun, is subtle yet very powerful. The character is a slight deviation on his Yes Boss persona, but this time it is more subdued and appreciable. Arjun loves Ganga, but knows she is to be married to Rajiv. Contrary to normal filmi expectations, he never tries to steal her away, but is there to be a friend and protect her. I said some day I might become a fan of Shahrukh Khan: that day is today.

Mahima Chawdhry is gorgeous, confident and very impressive in her first film. When Subhash Ghai had first planned this film, it was to be titled Ganga, and star Madhuri Dixit in the lead. Luckily, the title and the lead actress changed over time. The film needed fresh-faced innocence and Mahima has it in spades. I really hope this beauty achieves tons more in a long and prosperous film career. The other newcomer, Apoorva Agnihotri is unfortunately not as impressive, and his boyish looks don't exactly fit in with the selfishness of the character. But then again, who said you can tell someone's personality by looking at them?

Amrish Puri is very dignified and plays another role to perfection. I see no reason why this amazing actor should not get his current fee of Rs. 1 Crore as a character actor per film. And Himani Shivpuri should start doing roles other than the eternal aunt stuff. (Last time we saw her do something different was the bad-mouthed and scene-steeling prostitute in the otherwise uninspired Prem Granth.)

Cinematography by Kabir Lal, choreography by Saroj and Ahmed Khan, editing by Renu Saluja, and all technical aspects of Pardes, like all Mukta Arts films, are perfect. The Vancouver-Las Vegas-India locales are all breath-taking. And the Popeye-Shahrukh dance sequence in "Dil Deewana Dil" was also innovative for an Indian film. Nadeem-Shravan's average music score, as I had always predicted, is redeemed by great song picturisations by Ghai.

Showman Subhash Ghai has always been a great Indian film-maker. But this is the first time he has dealt with an important topic that has not been touched before properly in Indian cinema. (Whereas Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge was about NRIs with Indian hearts, Pardes is about Westernized NRIs.) I salute Subhash Ghai for this good deed. And I also commend him for evoking patriotism in the hearts of the viewers by showing us the rich culture and beauty of India. I believe patriotic feelings are effectively instilled in a viewer by showing the beauty of one's homeland, not by harping on life-taking land battles of the past. Even though I am Pakistani by birth, I felt a strong connection with India because of the magnificent Pardes. Whereas J.P. Dutta's offensive Border reignited the Pakistani-Indian rift the world over. It is because of films like Pardes that Indian cinema is loved by movie-goers in both Pakistan and around the world.