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Phir Hera Pheri

PHIR HERA PHERI is the sequel to HERA PHERI involving the famous trio -- Raju [Akshay Kumar], Shyam [Suneil Shetty] and Baburao [Paresh Rawal]. Only thing, the film has not been directed by Priyadarshan [who directed HERA PHERI], but Neeraj Vora, who has penned a number of Priyadarshan movies.

The question uppermost on everyone's lips is, Does PHIR HERA PHERI pale when compared to the predecessor? Or does it provide more laughs, gags and punches and lives up to the humungous expectations?

Before we answer the question on whether or not PHIR HERA PHERI works, let's get one thing straight. In keeping with the trend of laughathons that are the order of the day [NO ENTRY, GARAM MASALA, MALAMAAL WEEKLY et al], PHIR HERA PHERI also embarks on an identical route. Meaning, don't look for logic in the film, leave your thinking caps at home, never look for answers, rationale or reasons…

PHIR HERA PHERI doesn't promise to be different. It packs in ample laughs, illogical situations, rib-tickling sequences and witty one-liners in those 2.30 hours. In fact, writer-director Neeraj Vora borrows everything available on the shelf and comes up with a plot that may sound silly to a few, but nonetheless succeeds in its endeavor of making people laugh.

Comparisons with HERA PHERI are inevitable. However, since there has been a substantial gap between the two parts, PHIR HERA PHERI still stands out as a comic caper that's amusing and entertaining. Watch the frolics of the three buffoons [Raju, Shyam, Baburao] and how they goof up yet again and you'd agree, PHIR HERA PHERI is a sure-shot paisa-vasool entertainer!

HERA PHERI ended with the trio [Raju, Shyam, Baburao] receiving a hefty sum in the end. So what did the trio do with all the money? Did they live happily ever after? Or did they become greedy for more? PHIR HERA PHERI takes off from here…

Raju comes across a scheme of doubling his wealth in a matter of weeks. But for Raju's plan to materialize, he needs to invest a minimum of Rs. 1 crore with a chit-fund company [Bipasha Basu]. While Shyam and Baburao are initially reluctant, they give in subsequently. Raju, Shyam and Baburao contribute Rs. 10 lacs each, but there's a shortfall of Rs. 70 lacs now to complete the Rs. 1 crore figure.

Raju bumps into a street-smart goon [Rajpal Yadav], who also contributes Rs. 20 lacs. As for the remaining amount of Rs. 50 lacs, Raju sells the bungalow [owned by the three] to a Parsi gentleman [Dinesh Hingoo], thus fulfilling the criterion of the chit-fund company.

Three weeks later, Raju, Shyam and Baburao realize that the chit-fund company was actually a big scam and has duped a number of investors. The goon also finds himself in troubled waters since he had borrowed money from a dreaded gangster, Tiwari [Sharat Saxena], who will eliminate him if he does not pay up.

In their quest for more wealth, Raju, Shyam and Baburao find themselves in one big mess. They have already taken a big risk and are now on the run to save their lives.

It's not difficult to relate to PHIR HERA PHERI even if you haven't watched the first part [HERA PHERI]. Of course, Nana Patekar's voiceover at the outset gives you an insight and refreshes your memory, but the antics of the three principal characters and how they get conned by the scamster [Bipasha] keeps you focused all through the first hour.

In fact, the first part abounds in funny moments. Akshay trying to impress Rajpal Yadav at a tea stall and then at his mansion are such sequences. Later, Akshay, Suniel and Paresh's constant bickering and squabbling after they've gone bankrupt, keeps you thoroughly entertained. The jokes may seem juvenile at times, but the impact is very, very funny.

The post-interval portions aren't as amusing. The focus never shifts from the main plot, but with the writer involving more characters [Sharat Saxena, Milind Gunaji, Johny Lever, Manoj Joshi, Suresh Menon, Razzaq Khan] in the fracas, the pace of the film slackens intermittently in this hour. Also, the romantic track of Akshay-Rimmi as also the song ['Mujhko Yaad Sataye Teri'], even though an excellent composition, looks like a forced ingredient in the narrative.

However, the climax in the circus is the highpoint of the film. Even though the entire exercise looks unbelievable, it seems like an ideal culmination to the story. The buffoonery in the circus, where everyone's chasing everyone, is truly hilarious and side-splitting. It wouldn't be wrong to state that the climax works as a damage control exercise in the second hour.

Neeraj Vora's writing and direction are aimed at the masses. Besides, Vora has been faithful to HERA PHERI by making the characters look and behave exactly the way they were in the first part. Only thing, as a writer, he could've packed in more gags in the second hour. Vora's dialogues, as always, are outstanding!

Himesh Reshammiya's music is of the popular genre. 'Yaad Sataye Teri' and the title track are first-rate compositions. The filming of the two tracks is also lavish. Cinematography is alright.

PHIR HERA PHERI belongs to Paresh Rawal from Scene A to Z. The actor is at his best yet again and all actors in the radius, even though they come up with competent performances, get eclipsed in front of this towering performance. If Rawal stole the thunder in HERA PHERI, he walks away with accolades yet again in PHIR HERA PHERI, no two opinions on that.

Akshay Kumar is fantastic, but the only thing is he's repeating the same act in film after film. GARAM MASALA, DEEWANE HUYE PAAGAL and PHIR HERA PHERI have him playing similar roles, of a street-smart guy. Suniel Shetty is quite good. In fact, he compliments Paresh and Akshay beautifully. Both Bipasha and Rimmi are hardly there. Rajpal Yadav excels. Sharat Saxena and Johny Lever are able. The remaining actors enact their parts satisfactorily.

On the whole, PHIR HERA PHERI has ample masala to keep its target audience -- the masses mainly -- more than happy. At the box-office, the film has opened to a thunderous response and in view of the fact that there's no major opposition for the next two weeks, the film will prove a money spinner for its distributors. Has all it takes to attain the 'Hit' status due to the huge, record-breaking initial and patronage from the masses.


Producer
Firoz Nadiadwala

Director
Neeraj Vora

Star Cast
Akshay Kumar...... Raju
Sunil Shetty...... Shyam
Paresh Rawal...... Baburao Ganpat Apte
Bipasha Basu...... Anuradha
Rimi Sen...... Anjali
Johny Lever...... Munnabhai
Manoj Joshi...... Kachra Seth
Rajpal Yadav...... Pappu (Anjali's brother)
Sharat Saxena...... Tiwari
Suresh Menon...... Peter
Dinesh Hingoo...... Parsi man
Javed Khan...... Police constable
Tiku Talsania...... Inspector
Milind Gunaji...... Nanjibhai
Ravi Kissen...... Tiwari's sidekick
Razzak Khan...... Goon
Viju Khote...... Ram Leela troupe member
Sunil Pal...... Munnabhai's sidekick
Manmouji...... Ram Leela troupe member
Nana Patekar...... narrator
Birbal...... Circus magician
Neeraj Vora...... special appearance (bus passenger)
Raj Shekhar
Dia Mirza...... special appearance in item song

Cassettes and CD's on
T-Series

Singers
Himesh Reshammiya
Tulsi Kumar
Sonu Nigam
Shaan
Rakesh Upadhyay
Kunal Ganjawala
Sunidhi Chauhan
Arya

Lyricist
Sameer

Music Director
Himesh Reshammiya
Akbar Sami

Cinematography
Velraj

Choreography
Ganesh Acharya

Action
Abbas Ali Moghul

Art
R Verman

Editor
Diwakar P Bhonsle

Screenplay
Neeraj Vora

Dialogue
Neeraj Vora

Processing Labs
Filmlab India Pvt Ltd

Publicity Designs
Studio Link

Publicity Stills
Dabboo Ratnani

FANAA

A Yash Raj film is special. The illustrious banner has cemented its position as the Numero Uno production house by churning out memorable films and successfully transporting us to a world of make-believe in those three hours, over the years. And if the avant-garde production house teams Aamir Khan and Kajol -- two of the finest talents of Indian cinema -- together for the first time, you expect nothing short of a landmark film.

Now to the question every avid moviegoer is curious to ask: Does FANAA work? Does this much-hyped film live up to the colossal expectations? Is it worth the price of the ticket?

FANAA is one of the finest products to come out of Yash Raj. In fact, it wouldn't be erroneous to state that it's one of the most accomplished products to hit the Indian screens in a long, long time. The film works on every level: script, music, visuals, technique and yes, the performances.

It would be gross injustice if one overlooks the contribution from the captain of the ship: Kunal Kohli. While Kohli showed a meteoric rise as a teller of tales in HUM TUM, he establishes himself as a master storyteller with FANAA. Kohli catches you by your finger, introduces you to Rehan and Zooni, makes you peep into their lives and also the varied emotions they experience -- from joy, elation, euphoria and contentment to grief, distress, sorrow and anguish. And at the end of the day, the proficient craftsman narrates a story that leaves you with a tear in your eye and a smile on your face.

In short, FANAA is not just worth the price of the ticket, but also the price of the samosas, popcorn, sandwiches and soft drinks that you stock up in your lap while watching the film. In short, FANAA is an experience to cherish!

Choices... to choose between right or wrong is simple, but what defines one's life is the decision between the greater of two goods or the lesser of two evils. This is the advice that Zooni [Kajol], a blind Kashmiri girl, receives from her father [Rishi Kapoor] just as she is about to venture into the world on her own for the very first time. Little does she know that these very words will shape her life.

Zooni meets Rehan [Aamir Khan], a local tour guide and an incorrigible flirt, who goes from city to city exploring their architecture as also the women. Her friends warn her against this good-for-nothing roadside Romeo, but she chooses to ignore them. She is not the one to be protected. It is now her time to discover life and love.

Rehan is fascinated by Zooni. He truly wants her to see life as it should be seen, in its many colors -- and he promises her, the time spent with him will be the most precious in all her life. Zooni sees Delhi, life and love like she never has before, because of Rehan.

What Zooni doesn't know is that there's more to Rehan, the other dark side of his life that he has kept away from her… something that cannot only change her life, but also destroy it.

Originality is a prized commodity because there is so little of it in Bollywood these days. Of late, critics [and non-critics, for that matter] are fond of complaining about how cineplexes are populated by motion pictures that follow safe, formula-derived patterns, designed to please audiences who want a different version of a story they have already seen dozens of times. While there's some truth to the maxim that 'There's nothing new under the sun,' FANAA is an exception.

The initial portions of FANAA may give an impression that it's one of those archetypal Hindi films that follow the similar route of boy meets girl, romance blossoms, song-n-dance routine…, but there's more to it as it unfolds. The terrorism aspect, the emotional moments in the post-interval portions and the climax specifically hits you like a thunderbolt. FANAA is powerful and disturbing stuff. It is not for those who strongly believe in fairy tale endings. While hearts and flowers are great for a fantasy, this is the kind of expression of emotion that touches a deeper chord.

Any blemishes? The length and the pacing. Most of the times, three hour movies have a few flat spots and FANAA is no exception. The film tends to get very lengthy and also, the narrative tends to get very slow towards the second half. Slight trimming would help tremendously.

The writing [screenplay: Shibani Bathija] pushes the envelope, taking us in new and unexpected directions. Every time you thought you recognized where the story was headed, the movie surprises you. Cinematically speaking, this is a well-balanced, multi-course meal. Dialogues [Kunal Kohli] are excellent, specially the shayari throughout the movie. FANAA is gorgeously composed and photographed by cinematographer Ravi K. Chandran. The locales of New Delhi and Poland enhance the visual impact.

Music [Jatin-Lalit] is pleasing to the ears. 'Chand Sifarish' and 'Mere Haath Mein' are two melodious gems. 'Chanda Chamke' [the tongue twister] appeals because it comes at a time when you yearn for some relief. The action scenes [George Aguilar ], in minimal doses, are kinetic and exciting. Background score [Salim-Sulaiman] is topnotch. The sound quality [Dileep Subramaniam] is excellent. Visual effects [Tata Elxsi] could've been better, especially the blasts of the helicopters.

The acting is of the highest caliber. In fact, most performances in the enterprise are perfect -- no hints of artifice or fakery. Yet, there's little doubt that one of the assets of the film is the chemistry between the lead pair. For Aamir, FANAA is another opportunity to broaden his range. He successfully buries his personality beneath Rehan's, allowing the character to come to the fore. The ferocity with which Aamir delivers his lines and the restless energy he imparts to his character, electrifies every scene that he's in.

It's an altogether different experience watching Kajol after a hiatus. It is her complex work, depicting a woman torn by love for and fear of the same man, that elevates the film to a higher level. Without doubt, FANAA ranks amongst her strongest works. Her performance only makes you realize why she's still the best in the business. Moreover, she looks gorgeous all through!

Rishi Kapoor is efficient. Kiron Kher is lovable. Tabu gets limited footage; she's just okay. Shiny Ahuja is wasted in an inconsequential role. Ditto for Lara Dutta, who is there for just one scene. Shruti Seth is excellent as Kajol's friend. Satish Shah, Sharat Saxena, Lilette Dubey, Jaspal Bhatti and Vrajesh Hirjee are effective. The child artist is fantastic.

On the whole, FANAA is a beautifully written, effectively acted and meticulously crafted effort that is likely to remind many viewers of a simple axiom: A movie doesn't have to be groundbreaking to be compelling. At the box-office, the film has already embarked on a record-breaking start and thanks to [i] the massive print count, [ii] the 12-14-16 shows being performed at movieplexes every single day and [iii] the inflated ticket rates will yield rich dividends in days to come. The first weekend business will be historic, the first week billing will be unprecedented and in the wake of no major oppositions for the next two weeks, FANAA will attain the 'Hit' status in a matter of days. In short, FANAA is yet another landmark film in the remarkable and enviable repertoire of Yash Raj.

Producer
Aditya Chopra
Yash Chopra

Director
Kunal Kohli

Star Cast
Aamir Khan...... Rehan Quadri
Kajol...... Zooni Ali Beg
Rishi Kapoor
Kirron Kher...... Special Appearance
Tabu...... Tyagi (Special Appearance )
Shiny Ahuja...... Guest Appearance
Gautami Kapoor
Lara Dutta...... special appearance
Ahmed Khan
Shruti Seth
Sharat Saxena
Lilette Dubey
Jaspal Bhatti
Vrajesh Hirjee
Master Ali Haji...... Rehan
Sanaya Irani
Suresh Menon
Satish Shah

Cassettes and CD's on
Yash Raj Music

Singers
Shaan
Kailash Kher
Sonu Nigam
Sunidhi Chauhan
Aamir Khan
Kajol
Mahalakshmi Iyer
Babul Supriyo
Master Akshay Bhagwat

Lyricist
Prasoon Joshi

Music Director
Jatin Pandit
Lalit Pandit

Executive / Associate / Co-Producer
Sanjay Shivalkar

Cinematography
Ravi Chandran

Choreography
Saroj Khan
Vaibhavi Merchant

Action
George Aguilar (USA)

Art
Nitish Roy
Sharmishta Roy

Editor
Ritesh Soni

Screenplay
Shibani Bathija

Sound
Dileep Subramaniam

Dialogue
Kunal Kohli

Costume
Manish Malhotra
Mamta Anand
Mandira Shukla

Visual Effects
Tata Elxsi

Publicity Designs
Fayyaz Badruddin
Yash Raj Films Design Cell

Publicity Stills
Abhay Singh

Story / Writer
Shibani Bathija

THE MISTRESS OF SPICES

But THE MISTRESS OF SPICES falters, and falters terribly at that. Plenty of reasons…

* Adapted by Berges and Chadha from the novel by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, the execution of the subject is a complete downer.

* What makes matters worse is the slow pacing of the film. The story unfolds at a lethargic pace, with boredom seeping in after an interesting start.

* Also, the chemistry between the lead pair -- Dylan and Aishwarya -- which should've been the highpoint of the enterprise, is frosty.

To sum up, the spices are bland this time!

THE MISTRESS OF SPICES looks at the conflicts faced by Tilo [Aishwarya Rai], a beautiful young woman trained in the ancient and magical art of spices. Ordained with special powers to help those that come to her, Tilo can sense people's problems with a startling ability to see into their past and future.

Tilo works in a small San Francisco store called 'Spice Bazaar', where, with the guidance of her spices, she finds the perfect remedy for anyone who walks through her door. For her powers to work, she must obey three simple, but strict rules: She must use the spices only to help others, she must not touch another human's skin and she must never leave her store.

When Doug [Dylan McDermott], an architect, crashes his Harley Davison outside her San Francisco store, she has to tend to his wounds and her life is changed forever. For the first time, Tilo's own desires are stirred -- is there more to life than helping others? Tilo knows the rules and her spices warn her to stay away. But Doug doesn't have any spices telling him what to do and soon returns to ask her on a date.

No matter how hard she resists him, his persistence, honesty and friendship draws them closer to each other. When they accidentally touch, another rule is broken and the spices are enraged. The spices are in no mood for either leniency or romance, but Tilo is captivated by the force of love and agrees to go on a date leaving her spices behind. The spices begin to punish her -- the more she falls in love and defies the rules, the more her customers suffer.

All Tilo wants to do is carry on her work and fall in love as well, but she is forced into a painful dilemma. If she turns her back on her way of life, all the people that she has helped will suffer, but if she doesn't, she will lose Doug forever.

Paul Mayeda Berges had a fascinating story on hand and even the screen adaptation of the novel has its high points, but it's the powerless execution of the subject material that makes the film sink faster than Titanic. There's not one sequence in the film that you actually cherish, primarily because the narrative is handled in the most slapdash manner.

Tilo's relationships with her clientele consume most of the time. And that tends to make the proceedings monotonous. Tilo's relationship with Doug and the 'anger' of spices at the growing friendship could've been depicted far more interestingly, but the impression you get after having watched the film is that the director was more keen to tell the qualities of the spices rather than a sound story. That's precisely why the film makes a zilch impact!

Santosh Sivan's cinematography and the art design are up to the mark. Only thing, the director hasn't done justice to the beauty of San Francisco. There was scope to show several breath-taking locations of the city when Doug and Tilo spend an entire day together. The instrumental version of a yesteryear hit works beautifully in the romantic scene.

Aishwarya looks ethereal and impresses in parts, not in entirety. Dylan is strictly okay. Again, the director hasn't tapped his potential to the fullest. Anupam Kher goes over the top. Nitin Ganatra pitches in a decent performance. Ayesha Dharker is wasted. Ditto for Zohra Segal and Padma Lakshmi.

On the whole, THE MISTRESS OF SPICES is a spiceless, bland fare with nothing to excite the moviegoer. At the box-office, this one's a disaster!


Director
Paul Mayeda Berges

Star Cast
Aishwarya Rai...... Tilo
Dylan McDermott...... Doug
Anupam Kher...... Geeta’s Grandfather
nitin chandra ganatra...... Haroun
Ayesha Dharker...... Hameeda
Caroline Chikezie...... Myisha
Adewale Akinnloye-Agbaje...... Kwesi
Padma Lakshmi...... Geeta
Zohra Sehgal...... First Mother
Shaheen Khan...... Jagjit’s Mother
BANSREE MADHANI...... Young Tilo
SONNY GILL DULAY...... Jagjit
NINA YOUNG...... Doug’s Mother
TOBY MARLOW...... Young Doug
PAUL BHATTACHARJEE...... Satish
REBECCA BOWDEN...... Bougainvillea Girl
HARVEY VIRDI...... Geeta’s Mother
COSIMA SHAW...... Doug’s Ex-Girlfriend
ANTHONY ZAKI...... Doctor

Executive / Associate / Co-Producer
Jane Barclay
Susan Cartsonis
Steve Christian
Hannah Leader
Patrick Mckenna
Duncan Reid

Cinematography
Santosh Sivan

Editor
Alex Rodriguez

Costume
Stewart Meachem

Hairstylist
Charmaine Fuller

Story / Writer
Gurindher Chadha
Paul Mayeda Berges
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Bunty Aur Babli

Meet Bunty and Babli. They aren't your average running-around-trees-shooting-the-breeze kind of lovebirds. Bunty and Babli are special, and not just because they are played by the very special Abhishek Bachchan and Rani Mukherjee.

Shaad Ali, whose debut film "Saathiya" was about a working class marriage gone unpleasantly awry, here sinks his teeth into a finely written caper that moves our endearing couple with devilish dexterity through a series of corny-and-funny encounters with petty crime.

Some of these caper situations are decidedly unique to Hindi cinema. Come to think of it, Shaad Ali's narration sets out to achieve an impossible dream: it makes the dreams of two small-towners the fulcrum of narration, and makes these dreams both funny and sad, sometimes both at once.

The way Rakesh and Vimmi meet on a desultory railway station in a dusty town of Uttar Pradesh seems almost like a parody of Mani Ratnam's "Dil Se" where Shah Rukh Khan spotted the forlorn figure of Manisha Koirala in a remote corner.

Shaad Ali loves trains and other modes of communication for the working class. Dammit, he loves the working class! Not too many filmmakers today dare to follow small town dreams. Like "Saathiya" his romance is rooted to a real milieu. But there's a difference in "Bunty Aur Babli". Here the couple's escapades border on the bizarre.

The way Rakesh invents doubles for the two-some is a tongue-in-cheek swipe at armchair psychology. All the criminal activities that the pair indulges in is the handiwork of the couple's doppelgangers, alias "Bunty Aur Babli".

The comfort zone that Abhishek and Rani create for their characters' comic romp is mystical and yet earthy.

What was the need to suddenly brake on the burlesque mood, and put the pair in a lengthy erotic song?

At such times, Shaad Ali's considerable pluck plummets. You wait for him and the film to survive the compromises that creep into the second-half. But the joie de vivre and kinetic energy of the pre-intermission phase never quite returns.

Oh well, enjoy the blizzard and the blast of ruggedly visualised episodes while they last, as the two dreams steamroller their way through a stupendous rush of celluloid adrenaline.

It's regrettable that the film's deeper darker beyond-caper thrusts get drowned in the din of dusty retribution in the second half. As their blast from the past catches up with "Bunty Aur Babli" in the form of a scowling sneering cynical cop (Amitabh Bachchan) the caper kingdom of the innocuously anti-social protagonists falls apart.

It's the fun fiesta of petty crime that irrigates the strange and satirical world of Rakesh and Vimmy, also known as "Bunty and Babli". Abhik Mukhopadhyay's camera captures the dusty crusty rusty and thirsty milieu of north India in shrieking silhouettes.

In the opening song "Dhadak dhadak", we are introduced to the dreams and yearnings of the twosome with an infectious gusto. Indeed Rani Mukherjee and Abhishek Bachchan transform into the deviously self-gratifying heist-makers with a feisty passion. Their faces and body languages convey the eagerness of eagles waiting to take wing.

Rani's comic timing, specially in the sequence where, missing her parents after her runaway mirage, she wails like a baby is a delightful reminder of growing confidence as a performer who surrenders to the camera unconditionally.

In the portions where she impersonates high society women, Rani seems to miraculously mimic Sharmila Tagore and Kareena Kapoor simultaneously.

Throughout the film we hear and see references to cinema of the past. For one conning interlude, Abhishek impersonates his father gravely dialogue delivery in "Agneepath". Songs from the Amitabh Bachchan films of the 1970s are played like parodies on the soundtrack.

Abhishek Bachchan's power to hold the camera with his steady and deep gaze deepens the impact of the caper immeasurably. While Rani pulls out all stops, Abhishek gives a reined-in, often hilarious performance in a series of disguises that he flaunts without an exaggerated swagger.

His disguise as a 'bhaiyya' tout from Uttar Pradesh hawking the Taj Mahal to a dumb American millionaire (complete with a Mayawati look-alike chief minister) is priceless.

As for the senior Bachchan, in how many ways has he played the cop before? And yet his surly boorish lawman's role here delights you, specially when he gets on the dance floor with his son and Aishwarya Rai for a rabble-rousing qawwalli that could possibly rank as the grandfather of item songs.

Positioned invitingly in the second-half, this item song seems to dictate a large chunk of the footage, some of it unnecessary.

You often feel Shaad Ali could have made better use of the invaluable father-son combination. The dialogues and the situations created between the two Bachchans leave you thirsting for more. The dialogues, though incisive and topical, lack the bite and impact that the narrative demanded.

Some of the shared screen space between the two Bachchans is uneasily gimmicky. For a film about protagonists who break rules and a film that breaks many rules, it's embarrassing to hear the senior Bachchan say: "You've begun to seem like my own child" to Abhishek. It's completely out of character and context.

Maybe it's the parched wasteland where the comic drama unfolds...Throughout we see Bunty and Babli as wickedly naughty wannabes trapped in a bubble that you know won't burst on them.

In fact the film's moral ambiguity is intriguing.

Does Shaad Ali approve of small town people harbouring big time dreams? On the verge of retribution, Bunty and Babli with their new-born child are virtually pulled out of the gallows by the surly cop and put back into their original milieus, and then again "rescued" out of their humdrum existence to "con happily ever after."

Naina

Scary movies are meant to send a chill down your spine. If the viewer bites his/her nails in anxiety, if the eerie goings-on on the silver screen bring about a cold sweat on your forehead, if the supernatural moments raise the nape hairs, it only means that the storyteller has succeeded in scaring the daylights out of you.

NAINA is one of the most imaginative and pulse-pounding horror films to come along in recent times. It leaves the viewer frightened, terrified and petrified. As a horror movie, it packs one genuine scare after another, right till its finale. Those who get unsettled by ghost stories are sure to freak out by NAINA. The film is definitely not for the weak-hearted!

NAINA tells the story of a young woman, Naina [Urmila Matondkar], blinded in childhood by an accident. Twenty years later, she receives a cornea implant and with it, the ability to see again. When the bandages come off, Naina opens her eyes to see not only the world she left behind, but also the unsettling presence of people who aren't really there -- dead people.

The cornea's former owner was a girl with psychic powers, Khemi [Shweta Konnur], who could see dead people. A resident of Bhuj [in Gujarat], Khemi had witnessed and suffered much and her journey into the next world isn't complete.

As Naina comes closer to finding the ill-fated donor, she begins to understand the truly horrific Cassandra complex with which she is cursed: Naina sees the future and yet is powerless to change it.

No one believes Naina. Not her grand-mother [Kamini Khanna], not even the sympathetic psychiatrist Sameer [Anuj Sawhney], who seems to have taken more than just a clinical interest in her.

NAINA borrows the thrust of its plot -- the ability to see dead people -- from Pang Brothers' Cantonese-Thai language film JIAN GUI [THE EYE, starring Angelica Lee], besides bearing a striking similarity to Manoj Night Shyamalan's THE SIXTH SENSE [starring Bruce Willis].

NAINA mutates from a horror movie to a psychological drama to a disaster flick [a twist in the climax]. It casts a spell strong enough that viewers won't want to look away.

NAINA marks the birth of an outstanding storyteller in Shripal Morakhia. In both concept and execution, NAINA has a great deal more to offer than the thrillers made in the recent times. Morakhia has studied his predecessors [who've mastered the art of scaring moviegoers] very minutely and understands exactly what it takes to create the perfect scary moment.

NAINA works due to several factors; topping the list is, without doubt, a taut screenplay [Sagar Pandya, Shripal Morakhia]. The plot is refreshingly different and the narrative is laced with twists and turns that keep you on tenterhooks all through.

A few sequences in the first half do send a chill down the spine:-
• Urmila's initial encounters with the dead, after she regains the ability to see again.
• Urmila's experiences in the art gallery and also in the restaurant.
• The intermission point -- when Urmila looks at the mirror, but what she sees is something else.
• The underwater sequence [filmed in London with U.K.-based professionals]. One of the most outstanding underwater sequences witnessed on the Indian screen.
The post-interval portions lend a different color to the story. The story shifts from the streets of London to a hamlet in Gujarat and the flashback portions -- when Khemi's past comes alive -- keep you glued to the goings-on.

The finale -- when Urmila again gets the visions at the Charing Cross station -- is expertly executed, although it only adds to the length of the film. Ideally, the film should've ended when Urmila returns to London, once the Khemi chapter closes. Also, the entire exercise of how the station gets blown up should've been better explained!

Besides a captivating script, NAINA scores in those four vital departments that contribute enormously to a horror film -- sound design [Parikshit Lalwani], visual effects [Biju D.], cinematography [C.K. Muraleedharan, Jonathan Bloom] and background score [Salim-Sulaiman]. The art direction [Muneesh Sappel] is noteworthy, especially the 'Gujarat look' in the second half.

Yet another reason why NAINA works so well as a horror film is because of Urmila Matondkar's strong and convincing performance. Her performance here is nothing short of perfect and she handles the frightening episodes and the quiet, contemplative scenes with equal skill. The young actress, who proved her versatility in three contrasting roles [PINJAR, BHOOT, EK HASINA THI], drives home the point yet again that she can carry a film on her able shoulders.

Anuj Sawhney is efficient, handling his part skilfully. Kamini Khanna is effective. But it is Khemi's mother, essayed by Amardeep Jha, as well as Khemi, enacted by Shweta Konnur, who attracts your attention in the post-interval portions. Dinesh Lamba, as the villager, is first-rate. Sulbha Arya is adequate.

On the whole, if you're expecting scares from NAINA, you will not be disappointed. The film delivers the goods without insulting anyone's intelligence. At the box-office, the slow and classy treatment in this horror show will meet with some diverse reactions. Some will love it, while others may not give it their whole-hearted approval. Its business should be best at multiplexes!

NAZAR

Soni Razdan's directorial debut NAZAR can be divided into two parts…

The first half takes its inspiration from Irvin Kershner's Hollywood film EYES OF LAURA MARS [starring Faye Dunaway, Tommy Lee Jones], considered by many to be a classic, while the post-interval portions bear an uncanny resemblance to Pang Brothers' Cantonese-Thai language film JIAN GUI [THE EYE, starring Angelica Lee]. Incidentally, JIAN GUI [THE EYE] also happens to be the source of inspiration for NAINA.

It's not blasphemous to get inspired by works that command respect, but this desi adaptation called NAZAR is engaging in parts, not in totality. Soni and her team of writers could've used far more imaginative tricks and dished out a fare that keep you on tenterhooks all through.

But NAZAR can easily be compared to the sensex -- the graph of the film goes up and down all the while. And when it comes to a close, the fulfilling experience that a moviegoer ought to have is clearly missing. Yes, the identity of the killer does come as a shock, but the motive that compels the killer to go on a rampage isn't convincing enough.

At best, NAZAR remains an ordinary fare, with a few 'Boo' moments as its USP.

Divya [Meera] is a successful stage show artiste. However, she leads a secluded life after her parents' demise. While driving back from her shoot one night, she meets with an accident that turns her life upside down.

Divya is suddenly haunted by strange visions of unnerving murders that make her believe that she is going over the edge. As the story unfolds, she meets Special Investigating Officer Rohan [Ashmit Patel], who is uncovering a case of serial killings of bar dancers.

Although Rohan's colleague [Koel Purie] refuses to buy Divya's story, terming it as hallucination, Rohan believes in Divya and decides to pursue the case far more vigorously. In the process, Rohan and Divya are attracted to each other and gradually fall in love.

But the growing friendship between Rohan and Divya bothers Tarun [Aly Khan], a doctor, who openly professes his feelings to Divya time and again.

NAZAR starts off brilliantly. The song at the very start of the film, filmed on Meera in true MTV style, sets the mood for the whodunit. And the subsequent sequence, when Meera 'interacts' with a victim on a secluded road, scares the daylights out of you.

Things move briskly thereafter. Meera continues to get visions, she can actually 'see' a bar dancer getting murdered in a yard, another bar dancer is knifed to death in the hospital… director Soni Razdan holds your finger and walks you through to a world that most Indians would believe in, while a few may find it surreal.

With everything well laid out in the first 30 minutes of the film, you expect the narrative to get far more riveting as the mystery deepens. Unfortunately, that doesn't happen!

The problem with the film lies clearly in its screenplay. Meera continues to get visions and the murderer knows it all through about this [which the viewer learns in the final reel]. But the murderer waits for the climax to strike and eliminate Meera. Why not before? Why leave footprints behind?

Also, Meera can see the face of the victim, location of the murder, the weapon being used to carry out the heinous crime, even the movements of the victim and murderer, but why doesn't she see the face of the murderer? Why does she see it only in the end?

The second flaw is the romantic track between Ashmit and Meera. In the post-interval portions, Meera runs wild on that dark street where she first met the lady who was murdered, but soon after this sequence comes a 'dream song', with a skimpily dressed Meera and Ashmit dancing under a waterfall. This erotic track [the title song] is well filmed, no doubt, but its placement is all wrong. Who'd even think of romance when life is on the edge?

Even Ashmit Patel's flashback looks completely half-baked. His better-half had been pushed to death by someone for reasons that remain unexplained to the viewer all through.

The finale is another downer. Like mentioned above, the identity of the killer does startle you, but the motive behind the killings is such an anti-climax. An apt example of a screenplay of convenience!

Director Soni Razdan has handled the eerie moments efficiently, with some supernatural moments making you chew your nails in anxiety, but she is letdown by the writing. Also, the film moves at a leisurely pace in the post-interval portions, which only harms the film.

NAZAR has four songs in all and in terms of tunes, the title track sounds pleasing to the ears. The opening track is impressive too, but its filming overpowers its tune. However, when compared to Vishesh Films' repertoire [AASHIQUI, DIL HAI KE MAANTA NAHIN, SADAK, FAREB, CRIMINAL, KASOOR, RAAZ, MURDER, ZEHER], the music of NAZAR doesn't live up to the track record. Cinematography is patchy. The lighting in a few sequences could've been better.

NAZAR rests on Meera's shoulders and the Pakistani actor does impress you in certain portions. She handles the scary moments with aplomb, but at places she is strictly okay.

Ashmit Patel is functional. However, in his new avtaar [long hair], the actor looks less of a cop and more like a ramp model. Koel Purie does very well. In fact, her performance is highly consistent all through. Aly Khan is effective. Vishwajeet Pradhan [as Meera's uncle], Avtar Gill [as head cop] and Bobby Darling [as choreographer] are adequate. Padma Rani is excellent in that lone scene. Neena Gupta [one song and subsequent sequence] is alright.

On the whole, NAZAR has a few scary moments to bank upon, but a weak screenplay is its biggest undoing. At the box-office, it will face an uphill task!

D

RGV and UTV's latest offering D, directed by Vishram Sawant, is another giant step in the right direction.

In his illustrious career, RGV has peeped into the underbelly of the underworld, courtesy films like SATYA and COMPANY. Now add D to this impressive list.

If you thought RGV had exhausted himself of those mafia stories and perhaps, you were about to pop up the question, 'What next, Mr. Varma?', the film-maker tosses D towards you. It's gritty, bold and most importantly, gives you that microscopic view of the underworld and the rise to power of one of the most interesting stories of our times.

D follows the same path as SATYA and COMPANY, yet it's different from films of its ilk. Films like PARINDA and VAASTAV and even SATYA and COMPANY depicted the other side of the law with amazing fluidity. D explores all that, plus tells the nowhere-to-somewhere story of a don in the most simplistic, yet accomplished fashion.

In terms of content, D completes the trilogy for RGV, after SATYA and COMPANY. And as a film, D can be spoken about in the same breath as its predecessors.

To cut a long story short, put your hands together for one of the most outstanding films produced in 2005. D also marks the birth of two supremely talented names -- Director Vishram Sawant and actor Randeep Hooda.

D tells the story of Deshu [Randeep Hooda], who rises from the ashes and creates an empire of his own. While finding a foothold in the world of crime, Deshu faces opposition from within the ranks of his company.

The kith and kin of his mentor [Goga Kapoor] are unhappy with Deshu's rise and the rift widens every time Deshu conquers new horizons and scales new heights. Despite the hiccups, Deshu and his comrade Raghav [Chunkey Pandey] perform their duties with utmost honesty.

The two sons of the mentor [Yashpal Sharma, Sushant Singh] realize that the focus has suddenly shifted towards Deshu. The tension builds up with each passing incident and the duo decides to settle the scores. They first target Deshu's comrade and then Deshu and his actress-girlfriend [Rukhsaar].

The battlelines are drawn. It's Deshu on one side and his mentor's two sons on the other. What happens next?

As a viewer, you may have preconceived notions about gangster films being all blood and gore, with the end result being a bore. Come to think of it, how many facets of a gangster can any film-maker explore? But Vishram Sawant and his writer deserve all the credit for narrating a story that's explosive and captivating.

In most cases, the film starts off well but runs out of steam as it progresses. That's not the case with D. This one starts with a bang, with the engaging moments in the first half slowly taking you to an environment you can identify with.

But it's the post-interval portions and the twists in the story that give the film that extra sheen. The graph of the film reaches an all-time high when the battlelines are drawn. The Chunkey Pandey-Sushant Singh-Isha Koppikar sequence is amongst the brilliant sequences witnessed in a long, long time. Ditto for the immediate sequence, when Randeep settles the score right under everyone's nose.

One is extremely inquisitive about the finale, but the conclusion to the story doesn't let you down one bit. The best part is that neither does this film promote terrorism, nor does it say that those who live by the gun die by the gun. Thankfully, it doesn't preach!

Any flaws? Or is D a flawless film? One minor blemish. Ideally, D should've been a songless affair and the inclusion of songs, especially the 'Khudko Maar Daala' track, seems as unwanted as an unwelcome visitor meeting you unannounced. Other than the unwarranted songs, there're no flaws whatsoever!

Director Vishram Sawant deserves distinction marks for handling the subject in the most convincing fashion. The past two years have seen a number of first-timers explode on the big screen, but Sawant supersedes just about everyone. His style of storytelling is refreshingly different and most importantly, here's a director who concentrates more on substance than style in his maiden effort.

The usage of the background score during conversations is another brilliant stroke. Mercifully, the viewer is spared of the talk-heavy portions that would've otherwise been presented in the name of dramatics.

Cinematography is first-rate. The film captures the authentic look to precision. The background score is another area that deserves the kudos. The dialogues have rustic flavor and are soaked in acid at times, so vital for a film of this genre.

RGV has discovered and rediscovered a number of talents over the years. Actors like Manoj Bajpai and Vivek Oberoi specifically come to your mind for their effective portrayals in RGV's gangster flicks. And now there's Randeep Hooda. Frankly speaking, D wouldn't be what it is without Randeep. The actor looks and performs the part with such élan that it's indeed difficult to absorb the fact that D is his second film [after Mira Nair's MONSOON WEDDING]. Randeep changes his expressions like a chameleon changes colors and that's where he scores. If Vishram Sawant did repose tremendous faith in Randeep, the actor lives up the expectations completely.

D has more than 35/40 characters, but the ones who stand out are in this order: Goga Kapoor [excellent], Chunkey Pandey [fantastic -- stages a terrific comeback!], Sushant Singh [first-rate], Yashpal Sharma [effective] and Ishrat Ali [good]. The ladies don't get much scope in this male-dominated flick, but both Rukhsaar and Isha Koppikar make their presence felt.

On the whole, D is one film that stays with you even after the show has concluded. Well crafted and told in the most natural fashion, D should prove to be the cynosure of many movie buffs. A brilliant effort, this is a must-watch film that has the potential to grow with a strong word of mouth in days to come. Gangster films fare the best in Mumbai and D should charter the same path!

Time Pass

The entire story takes place in one night and how the pair faces several obstacles in their path. The writer could’ve packaged the film with so many incidents to make it one interesting love story. But what you get to see is skin show for no rhyme or reason.

Whether the heroine is watching television or a woman is running around in a two-piece in her house [chasing the hero!], TIME PASS is all ‘body’, no soul.

TIME PASS tells the story of a college student Vishal [Arjun Punj], who develops a passion towards Jenny [Mona Chopra]. In fact, Jenny also happens to be his family friend. Vishal is possessed with the idea of making love to Jenny. His friends [Sikander Kharbanda and group] engineer a plan for him, which would help him fulfil his desire.

As per the plan, Vishal takes Jenny out in the midst of growing communal tension. As fate would have it, they run into trouble and the plan goes haywire. How they suffer, whom they meet, how they accept various challenges that come their way forms the crux of the story.

The problem with TIME PASS is that it vacillates from a love story to a lust story [everyone seems to be lusting for the heroine!] to a film that depicts the Hindu-Muslim riots. Unfortunately, barring the passion play in the film, neither the love story touches your heart, nor do the communal riots depicted on screen give you goose pimples.

In fact, certain portions of the film are so childish that you often wonder whether the writer knows what he is talking about. For instance, while the heroine’s mother and sister are caught by a mob of Hindus in the middle of the night, the mob asks the mother and daughter to sing ‘Johny Johny Yes Papa’ and ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ to prove that they are indeed Christians. Absurd, isn’t it?

That’s not all! In this time and age, when cell phone is more of a necessity than a luxury, the lead pair doesn’t possess one, despite the fact that they belong to affluent families. Even their friends, all wealthy people, don’t seem to have a clue about cell phones. Just one question for the writer: Is this a contemporary love story or is it set in the 1980s, when cell phones hadn’t invaded India?

Despite being stranded, barring the first time when the pair tries to reach their homes by dialing their landline number, they don’t even want to connect with their families subsequently. Also, the city is supposedly in flames, thanks to the riots, but when the pair embarks on their journey, the background scenes appear so very normal, with coffee shops open during the midnight hour and people roaming freely on their bikes and in cars.

Director Chander Mishra seems clueless about the changing tastes of cinegoers. The viewer of today wants the movie to be different, but within commercial parameters, but TIME PASS reminds you of the outdated cinema of 1970s and 1980s. Music is another minus point. Nothing to really rave or rant about!

Arjun Punj seems to have a massive SRK hang up and it shows all the way. Although he does an okay job at some places, he should refrain from using those typical SRK mannerisms. Mona Chopra exhibits her anatomy more than her talent. Amongst friends, Sikander Kharbanda is the best of the lot. Himani Shivpuri and Adi Irani, as Arjun’s parents, are passable.

On the whole, TIME PASS is anything but a time pass flick. At the box-office, it will remain a non-starter!

Paheli

On the wedding night itself, the husband left home for five long years on account of his business. The ghost took on the husband's appearance and entered her life.

Once upon a time, there was a lovely girl Lachchi (Rani Mukherji) who was married to a man who was only interested in making money. There was a ghost (Shahrukh Khan) who fell madly in love with her.

On the wedding night itself, the husband left home for five long years on account of his business. The ghost took on the husband's appearance and entered her life.

A few years later, when the husband returned home, the villagers and relatives were bewildered. How this situation gets resolved is the Paheli.

Paheli is the dilemma of the girl who had to choose between the ghost's eternal love and her husband's insensitive monotone.

Paheli is the dilemma of the husband who had to face rejection from his own people.

Paheli is the dilemma of the ghost who wanted to be human and yet remain sincere and honest to his love.

Paheli is the dilemma of the parents who accepted an adorable son who was not their real son.

Paheli is the dilemma of the villagers who had to decide whether to live with ambiguity or to resolve the riddle. slated for a June 2005 release, Paheli also stars Amitabh Bachchan, Juhi Chawla, Suniel Shetty and Anupam Kher in important roles.

Maine Pyaar Kyun Kiya

He is no stranger to playing the bewildered and frazzled rake. In the irrepressible David Dhawan's "Biwi No 1", Salman was trapped between the luscious Sushmita Sen and Karisma Kapoor. Here it's the still-luscious Sen and the new Lolita in town, Katrina Kaif. The threesome makes terrific eye-candy for the soul.

Not that Dhawan ever aims for any other part of you except the funny bone. Throughout he sustains a feverish comic pitch, thanks to the almost flawless comic timing of the actors and Sanjay Chel's witty wham-liners, which are blessedly free of vulgarity except when Rajpal Yadav walks in with his raunchy references.

The minor aberrations apart, Dhawan's remake of Gene Saks' 1960s comedy "Cactus Flower" leaves you with a big smile. It's sassy and savvy, quick on the uptake and always trotting on the fast track. Sure, a bland patch occurs after intermission when the rollicking ramble slackens a bit.

But then again, Dhawan catches his breath for a final sprint across a climactic canvas that leaves the audiences gasping for breath.

Portions of the film are appropriated from various sources, including "Cactus Flower". The sequence in the aircraft at the end where Arbaaz Khan - making a fleeting brotherly appearance - persuades all the passengers to disembark is ripped off from an episode of the American TV serial "Friends".

And then there's Sohail Khan... the surprise packet in this slick-and-span comedy of mix 'n' matched couples. His prankish puckish presence replicates Akshay Kumar's antics in Dhawan's previous comic outing "Mujhse Shaadi Karogi".

The quality of laughter is seldom diluted. Portions of the film are almost theatrical in their thundering display of exaggerated emotions. The opening sequence where Naina (Katrina Kaif) switches on the gas burner after a lovers' tiff with her supposedly married lover Samir (Salman) and is rescued by her new bratty neighbour Pyare (Sohail), could be straight out of a Broadway play...or an episode of "Friends".

Cool, smooth and sassy and yet as desi as the ghee in which grandma makes her parantha, "Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya" is actually a very smart satire on characters who insist on behaving dumbly due to circumstances.

Who would believe that the cerebrally sensuous Sushmita would actually get into the role of a nurse who gets into her boss' wife's role to appease the man's girlfriend and then his steamroller of a mother (Bina Kak), who incidentally rolls in the laughs just when the narrative shows signs of sagging.

Once again, Sushmita steals the thunder and lightning. Watch her swift-and-svelte moves in the rain song "Lagaa lagaa re" (composer Himesh Reshammiya getting the film's mood into his melodies bang-on). Then watch her do the frazzled nurse who turns into the coy wife and then the harridan pretending to be like the evil filmy bahu with a relish that makes the parody appear enormously frothy and delicious.

Sushmita goes through the gamut and comes up with a performance that very few mainstream commercial actors can equal. Katrina, pretty as a picture and fortunately not deadpan, is a like a kid learning the ropes of play-acting. She suits the role.

Salman is no stranger to the philandering guy's role. Here he shows unexpectedly inventive qualities (for example the way he uses his eyes to convey deception, confusion and childlike anguish) and comes up with his best performance in recent times.

But it's his brother Sohail who surprises you. He comes up with the kind of performance that has no reference points in Hindi films.

You wish there was more of the super-gifted Arshad Warsi, who as Sushmita's not-so-secret admirer leers and sighs at the lady with a gourmet's relish. Surprisingly the songs, dances and other emblems of courtship don't get in the way of the narrative.

The art direction and cinematography capture the film's bright, bubbly spirit without tripping over in giddy excitement.

The over-the-top mood, the exaggerated bonhomie and the broad bravura of characters caught in a cute and corny five-sided romantic musical chairs involving five characters who breathe fire and vice is infectious.

You may think of the film as a no-brainer with laughs borrowed from extraneous sources. But that's a mistake. A lot of brains go into making intelligent actors look spaced-out on the screen.

Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya
Starring Salman Khan, Sushmita Sen, Katrina Kaif, Arshad Warsi, Rajpal Yadav, Bina Kak
Directed by David Dhawan
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