Lowers the brand equity

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By What's worth the ticket and what to avoid
  • Published 29.10.04
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More tribute, less film

Ladders 49

Director: Jay Russell Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, John Travolta, Jacinda Barrett, Robert Patrick, Morris Chestnut, Billy Burke 4.5/10

So much fire, so little spark. Either before or after the fire flares out and blazes against, conveniently, mostly against the night sky, and once, against the gently falling snowflakes on Christmas eve ? to make for more spectacular shots, of course.

But the fire?s blaze is beaten hollow by the halo around the fire-fighters of Ladders 49, director Jay Russell?s 9/11-inspired tribute to fire-fighters, whose job is to rush into raging buildings, when everyone else is running out. And sometimes, fated to get trapped in the same situations from which they are trained to rescue others. Like Joaquin Phoenix, a fireman assigned to search and rescue.

And while he waits to be rescued, Jay Russell flashes us back to the last 10 years of Joaquin?s life. Trying to reveal the human face behind the fire-fighting mask. The daily nightmare of his wife, Jacinda Barrett, of a red car pulling up to her door with the news she dreaded to hear, ever since her well flashed-back courtship and marriage to Joaquin. The spirit of comradeship between the fire-fighters and Joaquin?s bonding with his chief and mentor, John Travolta. Which is all very fine, but as one began, there is too much fire, too little spark.

Too many raging fires they rush into, not once betraying the slightest qualm, the slightest fear, the slightest hint of it, even. Almost more of a tribute. And less of a film.

Hand-picked kitsch

Mastaan

Director: Ravi Kinagi Cast: Jeet, Swastika Mukherjee, Mihir Das, Master Bappa 3/10

Amid the razzle-dazzle of ?theme pujas?, the avant garde spirit is in the city air. But Tollywood as usual is vaccine-immuned to the virus of change. So, in Mastaan, our Premi director safely and smugly reshuffles ideas handpicked from C-grade Bollywood kitsch and lovingly pushes those down our throats.

Our matchstick-chewing supermaster Jeet is a socially ?victimised? criminal who alternately turns good and bad with the frequency of basketball scores. Swastika loves Jeet, marries another, loses her child in a train accident to be found and brought up by Jeet. This throws up the problem of dual parenthood, sizzling the overheated dhishum-dhishum and bang-bang stuff with slobbery schmaltz.

Swastika puts in a convincing enough debut lead performance, though a tatty script and syntactically Hindi-ised Bengali dialogues scotches her effort. Amid zillion of gaffes, the editing (done by the director himself) stands out as particularly atrocious. Mastaan shows that, Puja or no Puja, the Tollywood culture is as unaltered as the paunch of Lord Ganesha, our darling deity.

Just don’t!

Ami je ke tomar

Director: Prabir Nandi Cast: Tapas Paul, Debashree Roy, Soumitra Chatterjee, Sabitri Chatterjee, Ramaprasad Banik, Rita Kayral, Kharaj Mukherjee, Dilip Roy, Chinmoy Roy

1.5/10

Peruse the dos and don?ts for watching the movie.

First the dos: (1) Try, in the first place, to believe what you?re watching does make sense. (2) Pretend interest in an inane, stultifying romance. (3) Savour the ?He stoops to conquer? theme, as the rich Tapas embraces poverty to hook the poor maid Debashree. (4) Sympathise with veterans like Soumitra Chatterjee and Dilip Roy who are doomed to such insipid roles.

Now the don?ts: (1) Don?t care (or dare) to watch till the end so that you can avoid being cretinised. (2) Don?t look for clues for what is happening and why. (3) Don?t rue the wastage of your bucks or Debashree?s talent. Or even that of the august ensemble of support cast. (4) Last, but not the least, don?t be so unkind as to persuade somebody to watch the movie. Unless, of course, he represents a threat to your life or property.

Mildly tangy

Flavors

Directors: Raj Nidimoru and Krishna Dasarakothapalli Cast: Anjan Srivastava, Bharati Achrekar, Reef Karim, Pooja Kumar, Rishma Malik, Anupam Mittal, Jicky Schnee, Sireesha Katragadda, Gaurang Vyas, Mohit Shah, Punit Jasuja, Manan Katohora, Gaurav Rawal 4.5/10

Love in the times of cell beeps can make hearts leap to ratherquirky beats. As the yuppish Reef Karim and the Bombay Dreams girl, Pooja Kumar, who begin as friends, or something like it, physically separated across coasts, virtually just a beep away, discover. Who wine and dine, while they whine or shine through life, and slowly yak their way towards that final beep that bonds them in marriage, even as another marriage ceremony is on.

That of a rather dowdy but thinks himself sexy Anupam Mittal and a rather dazed Jicky Schnee. Can?t blame her though. Not after the more-than-intimate probing into her life by Anupam?s just-flown-down-from-India parents, convincingly and cutely played by Anjan Srivastava and Bharati Achrekar.

A lot of it is rather typical of such diasporic films with heard-it-before dialogues in tolerated-it-before accent by met-them-before characters. Too many of them, anyway. Criss-crossing through rather aimless paths, only to come all together at the Great Indo-American Wedding.

But Raj Nidimoru and Krishna Dasarakothapalli do stir in enough funk and fun to ensure that the film retains a mildly tangy flavour. And some endearing moments, too. Like married-but-single Sireesha Katragadda, looking longingly at the world outside, a la Charulata, through the blinds of her window.

Nothing too original about the flavour, either.

Deepali Singh Arnab Bhattacharya

Sharp Focus

Lowers the brand equity

Vaastu Shastra
Director: Sourabh Usha Narang
Cast: Sushmita Sen, Chekravarthy, Ahsaas Channa, Peeya Roy Choudhry, Purab Kohli, Sayaji Shinde, Rajpal Yadav

3.5/10

Vaastu shastra is a pretentious scare flick that is frightfully low on logic and nightmarishly thin on substance. Unfortunately, debutant director Sourabh Usha Narang is convinced that he is making a great scream movie for the multiplex audience which allegedly wants the Hollywood kind of stuff in an Indian setting. So there are no distracting subplots, no sleeveless songs, no annoying clowns. But there is no story, either. And the script has more holes than a fishing net.

Right from its title, which is totally unrelated to its content, Vaastu Shastra seems to have little respect for the audience. Obvious questions are left unanswered and the characters seem to be reacting as per the director’s orders, not by the logic of unfolding events. The trite plot reminds you of a bad, old Ramsay flick. Narang gets a New Millennium couple — doctor-wife works out, writer-husband stays home — with a kid and a teenage saali move to a haunted house on the outskirts of Pune. Thereafter, he has only one agenda: get the audience scared at any cost. Most of the time he doesn’t.

Innovative and imaginative background music often elevates an ordinary fright flick. That is what made Ram Gopal Varma’s earlier supernatural movies such as Raat and Bhoot both eerie and engrossing. In Vaastu Shastra, the background music is irritatingly overdone. The virtues of terrifying silence is lost on Narang.

What stands out in this debris of disappointment is Ahsaas Channa. His is one of the most natural performances ever by a child actor in Bollywood. And, like old wine, Sushmita is getting better with age. Conversely, Chekravarthy has regressed since Satya.
Vaastu Shastra is the sort of product that lowers the brand equity of Varma’s film factory. It doesn’t deserve a second look even in a factory seconds sale.

Avijit Ghosh