The Power of Biswa Kalyan Rath’s Narrative

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I don’t know if you are all familiar with Biswa Kalyan Rath, of the popular Biswa- Kanan duo of the Pretentious Movie Reviews series on Youtube. Biswa has a stand-up series on Amazon Prime, and you can catch the clips on Youtube as well. I have been following these clips but it was only recently that I caught a complete show.

I have no expertise to comment on stand-up comedy, but after seeing Biswa’s performance I couldn’t help but be impressed with his narrative style, which I think is the reason that he is unique and becoming more and more popular.

I think all stand-up comedians have a prep process before they go on stage. It is no surprise that that the show has a pre-planned theme. Biswa too has a theme in mind before going on stage, but what is so fantastic about Biswa’s performance is how he threads that theme throughout the narrative. He often dives into different topics, but somehow connects these topics to the main theme at the end. It’s a fantastic way of building-up an idea, and the re-emergence of this common theme creates confidence and comfort in the audience and helps them to bond with the narrative, and the comedian.

I’ve not been so much into stand-up comedy until recently, and it is mostly thanks to the new generation of Indian stand-up comedians, who truly do comedy with intelligence. Check these guys out on youtube when you get a chance.

How Films Influence Our Notions of Death and the After-world

I think it was in 1993 or 1994 that I had a birthday party screening the one and only 1988 cult classic “Beetlejuice.” (A 7 year old’s birthday party with Beetlejuice, and that too in Turkey, weird family I know…). As an adult, I still love this film, and not only because of its unique premise, but also how the usually ghastly topic of death is portrayed in such a humorous way. Until then in cinema, we had not considered that the dead could be a sweet couple from the suburbs, or that the after-world could be a waiting room not too different than a dentist’s. There are very few films that have actually tackled death in this satirical way, and maybe this is also why the film obtained such cult status over the years.

Bhoot World Mein Teen Cheezo ki Kami HaiThe 2008 Hindi film Boothnath starring Amitabh Bachchan followed a similar path, albeit with less humor. It was successful in normalizing death and the dead however, just as Beetlejuice had done. In Boothnaath, the dead was a grouchy but good-hearted old man (based on Oscar Wilde’s The Canterville Ghost in fact), and the after-world was basically an Indian government office.

There have been a few other Indian films that have helped disseminate some of the stigma attached to death, for example the 2013 Telugu horror comedy Prema Katha Chitram and the 2012 Bengali film Hemlock Society. Rather than using satire to display a fantasized and ironically ‘normal’ death, these films mocked suicide by suggesting suicide, thereby bringing attention to high suicide rates among youth in India.

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It’s rather sad that this humorous and satirical take on death and what await us afterward, cannot become more mainstream in cinema. There is a plethora of films and TV shows releasing daily that remind us of the horror that we normally associate with death– serial killers, revengeful murders, painful accidents, and after it’s over, zombies, vampires, ghosts and demons to haunt us and give us sleepless nights. If you notice, death is the main thread in all horror products. I don’t think we even realize the extent to which the big screen influences how we think of death. If only more cinema could take death as lightly as it often does life, and remove some of the stigmas and subconscious fears usually associated with it.

It’s Entertainment Review

Entertainment

Is Indian comedy getting worse and worse or is it just me? Whatever happened to films like Andaz Apna Apna and Hera Pheri? Heck, I’ll even take a Welcome or a Housefull. Or give me a film like Aage Se Right, Paying Guests, Golmaal 2 or Teen Thay Bhai. Recent comedy releases have been highly disappointing. After a film like Humshakals, which is possibly the worst comedy in the history of Indian cinema, it’s rather difficult to make a worse film. And I’m not saying that Its Entertainment is as bad. It had some funny moments. But there is just nothing new in this film. It’s the same type of jokes and the same loud Akshay Kumar overacting in every scene. When did Akshay come to the conclusion that being funny means being angry and yelling a lot? I watch comedy films to de-stress, not get a headache. I know he is good with comedy and has a good comedic timing, but he needs to try a different approach.

The only positive aspects of Its Entertainment are the dogs and the great message the film gives about pets. When they said on Comedy Nights with Kapil that the dog is the hero of the film, I thought they were joking. But it’s true. The dog is the hero of this film and he is the only thing that makes it watchable.

The other thing I will give to the film is the music, or more specifically, the song “Johnny Johnny.” It’s such a peppy, fun song and the newest addition to my playlist.

As for Tamannah, again I’m disappointed with her movie choice and if she signs another comedy film, I might just scream. One interesting thing was I think she dubbed her own voice in this film. Since I have seen so many of her Telugu films where her voice was always dubbed by a dubbing artist, I had a mini heart attack when I heard her real voice. I felt like it wasn’t her voice but someone else’s! It’s going to take me a while to get used to it. I still think she should give up on Bollywood and return to Tollywood where she was making far better films.

Seeing the fate of actresses who move to the Bollywood film industry from a South film industry, I wonder if North cinema is more progressive in terms of women roles? Or is it just that these actresses don’t mind or even prefer to do flowerpot roles? There are meaty women roles in many South films as well. Actresses who are originally from the North but who act in the South industries seem to mainly do these roles where they are just eye candy. I guess the only exception to that might be Charmy who never does flowerpot roles.

What I don’t understand is after spending 5-10 years in the South film industries doing mostly insignificant roles, why do these girls want to continue doing the same when they’ve made an entry into Hindi films? I thought that Ileana was going to break that trend with Barfi, but seeing her consequent Hindi films, it doesn’t seem so. I guess I’m disappointed because I consider these girls talented and I think they can do so much more if they want to. I want to see actresses reaching new heights and showing the cinema world that women are no less than men when it comes to acting. I want to see more Vidya Balans and Kangana Ranauts. It’s okay to do some flowerpot roles, do them if you need to. But after about five years in films, I think it’s time to move beyond those roles. If not for the audience, then for yourself and your individual and personal growth as an actor.

Now that I got the lecture out of the way, I’ll conclude by saying that Its Entertainment is watchable if you enjoy being served the same old “dal chawal” so to speak, when it comes to the comedy genre. I only recommend this film for dog lovers. 😀

Humshakals Review

Humshakals is a comedy film starring Saif Ali Khan, Riteish Deshmukh, Ram Kapoor, Tamannaah Bhatia, Bipasha Basu and Esha Gupta. It’s written and directed by Sajid Khan.

The story is straightforward. As the name implies, it’s about people who look like one another. There are three pairs of look-alikes of Saif, Riteish and Ram. The first pair played by Saif and Riteish are rich guys. Their uncle played by Ram, who wants to take over the company try to make these two go mad by giving them a medicine that makes them act like dogs. They get locked up in the mental asylum, with their look-alikes (also played by Saif and Riteish) who end up taking their place at the mansion. Saif and Riteish realize what they’re uncle is up to and find out that their uncle has a look-alike too. They decide to use the look -alike to mess up their uncle’s plans of taking over the company.

There is unfortunately, no other way to put this, Humshakals is an awful film. I’ll be honest, I only watched the first half and about ten minutes of the second half. I felt that I had lost enough brain cells at this point and decided to stop. I’m not saying that you will never laugh while watching this film. You’ll probably laugh once, or maybe twice. I laughed when Saif and Riteish started acting like dogs the first time. After that, the film just went downhill and became unbearable by interval time.

What was I expecting? It’s a Sajid Khan film. Well, maybe I was expecting something because he also made Housefull and Housefull 2 which weren’t all that bad. Housefull was actually very funny. I did not see Himmatwala after seeing how horrified critics were from that film. And it seems like Sajid Khan is intent on continuing the legacy of horrible filmmaking with this rare gem. What I don’t understand is… what in the world were the actors on when they signed this film? Did Sajid serve them those coke and vodka parathas during the first film meeting? I sure hope so because I don’t see how anyone in their right mind could sign this film and promote it too.

I’m also disappointed with Tamannaah, one of my favorite South actresses, who made her debut in Bollywood with the one and only Himmatwala. She made some comment in a magazine about how surprised she is that she’s “still getting work after a film like Himmatwala.” Is she mad?! Wasn’t she aware that Sajid Khan made both films? I’m afraid she’s on her way to becoming yet another flowerpot role actress in the Bollywood film industry. She should have just stayed back in the Telugu industry where she was actually starting to get some roles that required acting like Endukante Premanta and Cameraman Gangatho Rambabu.

Something else that I don’t get is, how can this film become a ‘hit’. Seriously?!

I can’t recommend Humshakals to you, watch at your own risk.

Total Siyapaa Picture Review

I’m Ali Zafar and I play myself in this movie, you know, a charismatic Pakistani singer. Someone remind me to wear looser pants in my next film, this pair is emphasizing my matchstick legs.

Come luv, gale lag ja in slow motion before the UK cops nab me for saying the word “bomb.”

 And I play his Indian, Bengali looking Punjabi fiance. I’m a news reporter in London. When I want to kiss my fiance, I put my hand over his mouth and kiss my hand. Yuck who wants germs! As soon as the cops stop searching for bomb materials in his bag, I will take Aman to meet my family. I told my family he’s Muslim and they’re totally cool with it but I forgot to mention that he’s Pakistani. And they hate Pakistanis. Whoops.

India mein kahan rehte ho beta?

Hehe. 

Ohh.
There is only one thing left to do. I will go and entertain the little kid with the container of frozen soup in the kitchen…. which consequently will slip out of my hand, out of the kitchen window and land on a bald man’s head.

So. Asha. I think I killed someone with the container of frozen soup.

 Pshhtt! That was fate! If you hadn’t dropped the soup on his head, someone else would have! Don’t worry. 

I think that was your dad.

What?! You killed my dad?!
Meanwhile dady ji is taken to the hospital from which he walks out. He loses his memory. And since people who lose their memory also lose logic, he thinks that a London call girl who comes up to him in the street is his wife.

I play the father in this film. Yes, I’m the same actor who played caring, lovable father and friend roles throughout the 80s and 90s. Now I enjoy playing characters that do nothing for my acting career and that ruin my image.

Not only is dad missing, but he was cheating on momma too! Let’s go search for dad at his office. 

Daddy is not here. Let me dance and flirt with my would-be sister-in-law. Free advertising for my music album. Yes!
After several fake fights later, daddy comes back home and the couple make up. 

Asha: I want to be with you so that we can fight. 
Aman: Aww, how sweet.

Why did we sign this film?

Wait, why did they arrest me in the beginning of the film? Weren’t they going to tie it to something?

Don’t look at me. I always make films like this.

 

Chennai Express

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Chennai Express is a Hindi romantic comedy starring Shahrukh Khan and Deepika Padukone. It is a Rohit Shetty film.

The film is about the by chance meeting of a Tamil girl (Meenamma) and a Punjabi boy (Rahul) on the Chennai Express. Somehow Rahul lands up in Meenamma’s hometown and Meenamma lies that they are lovers so that she can get out of an arranged marriage. The rest of the film is about how Meenamma and Rahul escape the wrath of Meenamma’s family and the marriage that is being forced on Meenamma.

I didn’t have specific expectations from this film, I didn’t think that it would be amazing or anything like that. But still, I felt disappointed and a little bit cheated. It really wasn’t that great and I think the reason is the combination of poor story and performances. The film’s promotions also confused me.

It was revealed many months before that the film was about a a boy and girl travelling on the Chennai Express. So I thought that almost all of the film took place in the train and these two were traveling to the same destination. Well that’s partly true, but they’re not alone on the train and then they get off the train even before the interval. And there is no love blooming between them all through this time.

 

I might be biased about Chennai Express because I have seen a lot of South films and I’m familiar with South stories and South Indian culture and accent. Chennai Express doesn’t have a special story, it’s the same story found in every other South Indian film. Marriage is forced upon the girl and she tries to get out of it. The girl’s father is a big don and there is always lots of fights and blood spilling everywhere. The only difference in Chennai Express is that the boy is North Indian and he doesn’t even love the girl! And he can’t fight. And he has a terrible sense of humor. And he’s old enough to be her dad.

The other problem with the story is that Rahul’s love for Meenamma was not convincing. He suddenly fell in love with her right at the end of the movie, no explanation given. Meenamma’s love was explained and Deepika portrayed it well.  But Rahul doesn’t seem like a guy that would fight for Meenamma’s love.

And what about that fight sequence at the climax? I have seen some very crazy fight sequences in South films, but this fight sequence was the craziest. Which human being can survive so many deadly blows to the head? And then they hug like nothing happened? Rahul should have collapsed and died from concussion and brain damage. Thangaballi too. Shahrukh hits the guy in the head with a propane cylinder. ROFL.

Shahrukh was almost the worst part about this film. He is one of my favorite actors but he was very irritating in this film. Over-acting does not equal funny and that’s all Shahrukh seemed to do —overact. His performance was very similar to his other performances and at one point, it just seemed like he was acting like himself and not his character.

Deepika was better than Shahrukh performance wise, she was more natural and she really seemed like a South Indian girl in most scenes. Deepika’s problem was her fake South Indian accent that was only convincing in two scenes of the movie. In order to make what she thinks is a South Indian accent, she made her voice very thick at times. I thought I was listening to a transvestite (no offense meant). I have no idea why she did that and I have no idea how Rohit Shetty believes that this is what a South Indian accent should sound like. Just terrible! Moreover, in that emotional scene after Rahul dispersed his grandfather’s ashes, Deepika completely forgot to use her South accent!

Deepika said in an interview that she wasn’t getting this accent right and kept working on it and then one day she just “got it.” So clearly, she was casted for the film without the director or producer even worrying about whether she would get the accent right or not. I don’t blame them because isn’t Deepika South Indian? Deepika is a talented and beautiful girl but I think someone else would have been better in this role. Maybe someone like Asin or Genelia – people who have acted in the South industry for years–  would have been better.

I can’t say that Chennai Express is outright horrible, it did have its moments. There were some scenes that were very funny like the DDLJ train scene and Meenamma’s night time transformation into a Chandramukhi like character. Maybe Deepika should be casted for an Arundhati remake. And then there is the scene when Shahrukh is carrying Meenamma up the steps to the temple which was very touching.

The music of the film is decent. I like Kashmir Tu Main Kanyakumari, Lungi Dance and Titli. Titli is my favorite song, it’s very beautiful. And I can watch Bharatanatyam all day.

If you haven’t seen Chennai Express, consider it if you’re a fan of Deepika. This is Deepika’s film all the way.

EDIT: I’ve gotten a lot of feedback about my review from my IF friends. Majority of IFers seem to have liked the movie and especially Deepika’s performance. They think that I over-analyzed the film and that the performances and Deepika’s accent was supposed to be OTT because it’s a comedy film. Moreover, Rohit Shetty is known for OTT films (like Bol Bachchan). I still hold the same opinion about the film but I understand that it was very entertaining for other people. So you should probably see the film and decide for yourself.

Go Goa Gone

Go Goa Gone is a horror comedy about three guys—Hardik (Kunal), Luv (Vir) and Bunny (Anand). Hardik is the most “loose” of them all. He and Luv spend most of their time smoking weed and drinking. Bunny is the goody boy—doesn’t drink, do drugs or fool around. Hardik loses his job and Luv gets dumped by his girlfriend. Bunny on the other hand is being sent to Goa for a business meeting. Hardik and Luv take this opportunity and go with him to party in Goa and forget about their losses. The day they get to Goa, they find out about a rave party that night at a remote island that’s organized by the Russian mafia. They get to the party, during which a new drug is being introduced. The next morning, the three wake up to find that some of the people from the party had turned into zombies because of the new drug.  Good thing each pill cost five thousand rupees, because none of the three guys could afford it.

And then there is Boris (Saif)– the Desi who spent way too much time with Russians and decided to be one himself. His hair is dyed blonde and he insists on speaking English with a Russian accent. Boris is their savior and knows how to kill the zombies—by blowing up their heads. The rest of the story is about how the guys (and a girl) manage to stay alive and get off the island.

I quite enjoyed the movie. It had some slow moments in the latter half, but it never really got boring. It wasn’t scary. It was gory at times though. I had a few “eww” moments when the zombies were eating people. But it’s nothing that will cause nightmares. It’s mostly very funny. The conversations between the three guys are the most hilarious. The opening scene is also very funny. The first scene shows Hardik and Luv all doped up and watching Chiranjeevi’s zombie dance movie. “Goli mar mar mar mar!”

Saif was also very good as Boris, he looked hot and he did the Russian accent quite well in my opinion. He produced the movie under his production company (Illuminati) and Eros. If Kunal hadn’t been perfect in his role, I would have considered the film a family production and the role a favor for Kunal, but he really was perfect for the role. I don’t think it was necessary to show Soha Ali Khan (who is dating Kunal) as Hardik’s ex-girlfriend in the film. At that moment, it did feel a bit like a family production.

The music of the film is also good. I love Slowly Slowly, it’s in the “most played” list of my iPod.

Anyway, I highly recommend this film. It’s very entertaining, it won’t disappoint you. The most important part is that it’s something very different for Bollywood and they pulled it off.

Oh, and the film has a message: Say No To Drugs. I think. Why does the film end with the three guys singing “Babaji ki booti… solution to all the problems” again? Right.

Memorable dialogues from Go Goa Gone:

Hardik: Hi. I’m Hardik….

Girl: Hard what?…

Hardik & Bunny: Dik! Dik!

Girl: Really?!

Hardik: Always!

____________________

Bunny: Yeh Russian logon ki kya bagwan hota hai?

Luv: Stalin?

______________________________

Hardik: I know what they are. They’re zombies.

Luv: India mein bhoot bret hoti hai. Yeh zombies kahan se agaya?

Hardik: Globalization!

____________________

Luv: Chalo, hum zombies ke bare mein jante kya hai? What do we know? What have we learnt?

Bunny: We know nothing and we have done ganda.

____________________

Bunny: Are you really Russian?

Boris: Wat?

Bunny: You look a little desi. Are you really Russian?

Boris: ..pause… Haan, Delhi se hoon, bhen****.