Saturday, November 7, 2009

Truly an "Ajab" kahani!

I was raring to break my box-office dry spell and had really hoped that 'Ajab Prem ki Ghazab Kahani" would do the trick. So I went for the evening show of the flick today.

Well, I soon realised that the movie is a slightly updated but much less funny version of Andaz Apna Apna. Not exactly in terms of storyline but in terms of style. There is much slapstick humour, comic book sequences and colourful settings.

The story, whatever little there is of it, deals with the escapades of do-gooder Prem (Ranbir), President of the Happy Club, in an unnamed idyllic hill station. While Prem rapidly falls in love with and proceeds to woo pretty-as-a-picture, Jenny (Katrina), she is in love with Rahul (Upen Patel looking completely repulsive). Even when faced with this heartbreak, Prem agrees to help Jenny marry Rahul. Needless to add, by the end of all the craziness that occurs, Jenny realises that it is Prem who is her true love.

My misgivings about the movie began almost as soon as it started since there was some weak and totally unfunny slapstick happening. Later as one adjusted to the weird world of Prem, there were some genuine laugh-out-loud moments. Prem's desperate attempts to impress Jenny, the reliable comic timing of his parents (Darshan Jariwala & Smita Jayakar) and the fast paced action helped. But the second half brought the tenuous humour setup crashing down. Unnecessarily encumbered with some sentimental scenes alternately with slapstick ones, it soon got to a point where one was almost waiting for the movie to reach its predictable conclusion.

APKGK used a lot of Andaz Apna Apna's comic devices like the father-son squabbling, the hopelessly inefficient suited goons and the 'we all fall down' kind of humour. It also has a hotchpotch of scenes which leave you reminiscent about other movies - some of which were possibly intentional. You have Ranbir in a towel - an image strongly linked to "Saawariyaa", the Sufi singers of "Jodha Akbar" appear in a song in this one too, both the lead actors suffer from a stammer when they get emotional a la "Kaminey", Prem dissuades Rahul from marrying Jenny much like SRK had in "Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa"...

In other words, there's very little that you've not seen before in this movie except maybe the jodi of Ranbir and Katrina. While the two have good onscreen chemistry, Ranbir clearly steals the show with his earnest performance. He is fast approaching the stage where he will have enough screen presence to match the big stars. He has pretty good comic timing as well and his sheer goofiness adds more value than the situations or dialogues. He is the only good reason to watch this movie methinks.

In the movie, Prem, on spotting Jenny talks about her "silky-silky hair and her milky-milky skin...just like vanilla ice cream." And just like vanilla ice-cream Katrina is plain throughout - no added flavours, no zing, nothing except that thrill one gets on seeing a walking-talking Barbie doll. Truth be told, she has suggested in other movies that she might have unexplored depths in histrionic ability and this movie was probably too mindless for her to try anything.

Though the songs appeared to jump up at odd times, the soundtrack of this movie is decent. The one I liked best was 'Tera Hone laga hoon' by Atif. 'Main tera dhadkan' and 'Prem ki naiyya' were also catchy.

Overall, the movie did draw out some genuine laughs but these were too erratic and sometimes too forced, to make a successful rom-com.

Would give this one a 5/10.

Final words of advice: Watch it for Ranbir. He's the real paisa-vasool. :)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Barren Box-office

There has been such a dearth of good Hindi movies to watch in theatres for the past few weeks. After 'Wake up Sid', not one movie has managed to evoke a modicum of interest in me.

First there were those three duds - 'Blue', 'All the Best' and 'Main aur Mrs. Khanna'.
'Blue' sounded promising till I heard Chiggy Wiggy - a contender for the Stupidest Song Ever. Then I saw a haggard and bloated Sanjay Dutt in the promos trying to look like a cool surfer dude next to fit-as-a-fiddle Lara. Have you seen the poster where the guys are in wet suits and trying to throw some serious attitude? It was hilarious to see Sanju Baba with his back to the camera, glancing over his shoulder, since he couldn't afford to show his bulging belly in the wetsuit (thank heavens!) Akshay was the only thing close to cool and even he has been high on hype and dismal on delivery, so I didn't take any chances. I did hear though that the movie made huge gains on Day One itself thanks to a great opening. That's how most of the big budget movies recover costs these days methinks. Also, as a friend put it, "movie tickets - Rs. 400, popcorn and Coke - Rs. 300, Lara in a bikini - priceless!"

'All the Best' was a comedy so I had some hope. But it takes some serious 'willing suspension of disbelief' to watch Mr. Intense, Ajay Devgn and Mr. Clueless, Fardeen Khan deliver the goods. I gave this one a miss too though I did hear some reports that it was passable. That's the thing with comedy - someone or the other is sure to find it funny.

'Main aur Mrs. Khanna' looked like one more of those Salman-Sohail lets-keep-it-in-the-family type of wannabe movies. Kareena was there too with her 'I'm so perfect' expression, so I skipped this one too. Just as well because the movie didn't last a week at the theatres. I believe Salman actually had just a cameo in the movie though it was a being promoted as a two hero film. In one interview, Salman said he realised they had goofed up when his nephews walked out in the middle of the movie saying it was too boring. And this they unleash upon the unsuspecting audience!

Last week's releases have also received poor word of mouth but that's no surprise. 'Aladin' had little to tickle one's interest what with Riteish Deshmukh essaying the title role. During the pre-launch publicity drive, the director blatantly touted it as an Amitabh Bachchan movie. Arrey dada, why didn't you name it 'Genius' then (that's what Amitabh is called in the movie)? Poor guy probably realised he'd made a hash of it and was falling back on the tried and tested Mr. B.

My interest in 'London Dreams' faded when I found out that Ajay Devgn and Salman Khan were playing rock stars in it. I mean, puhleeze, gimme a break! Agreed Sallu Mian belongs to the rock star personality type but surely its 15 years too late for him to be doing this kind of a role. And Ajay Devgn? I just feel sorry for the guy. Also, for a movie about music, there was precious little of the good stuff in this soundtrack.

What I'm looking forward to now is 'Ajab Prem ki Gajab Kahani'. Why? Well firstly, its a comedy and I liked Raj Kumar Santoshi's last attempt at the genre (Andaz Apna Apna), second, Ranbir and Katrina together are a refreshing watch and third, the promos look good.
So its wait-to-watch time now folks!

A lot does happen over Coffee

Met up with friends at Cafe Coffee Day (CCD) yesterday. Going to a coffee shop at least once a week is almost a ritual these days.

I often wonder where people used to hang out before coffee shops became big in my city. Were there enough places outside of homes or proper restaurants to just sit and while away the time? Where did the college students go in between classes? Where did one drink a quick cuppa while waiting for a friend? Which place did the young office-goers visit to rant away the week's stresses (yes, that's what I was doing)?

As far as I can recall, Barista started the coffee shop trend in Kolkata. Though it seemed pricey back then (esp. since one was a student), the novelty of the concept was attractive. The ambiance, the wood finishing at the outlets, the games like Pictionary, the guitar in the corner - all encouraged one to take it easy, let one's hair down, put one's feet up, watch the world go by (you get the drift)...all the while sipping on a cappuccino (not just a "coffee" you see). The price justified the means one might say.

When CCD came along the idea of a coffee shop was already established and flourishing, at least for me. CCD offered 'old coffee in a new cup' so to speak, by charging lesser and catering more directly to a younger crowd. The decor is brighter and the music is louder.
I am no coffee connoisseur and most times am happy with the variety of cold coffees on offer. Yesterday I had the Cafe Frappe with a dollop of ice-cream. It was refreshing after a tiresome Saturday. My friends and I also tried the New Zingy Pizza sandwich. It was, as the name suggests, a sandwich made using grilled pizza base. It tasted pretty good and our only complaint was that it was smaller in reality than it had looked in the picture in the menu. But that could just be our hunger talking. :)
We also had their Garlic Chicken Sandwiches and rounded off the repast with a Chocolate Doughnut which was completely delightful - being not just warm and chocolatey but also much larger than a standard doughnut.

We had captured one of the low divans and were ensconced on it for quite some time, indulging in all the random tales that apparently give us inordinate pleasure - our never ending workload, diets and gymming, gifts and weddings, the latest fashions victims, London Dreams vs. Ajab Prem, Bigg Boss and Amitabh Bachchan...

These particular friends will be moving to another city shortly and the evening spent at the coffee shop I will add to my list of happy memories.