The year had its share of big-screen duds. Which is not to say that all films which don’t work are necessarily deserving of failure, or inversely, all films that work are worthy of their success. Success and failure apart, here are the films I hated on sight.
Arjun Patiala: Director Rohit Jugraj has had considerable experience in Punjabi films with Diljit Dosanjh. In Hindi, the Punjabi flavour gets tediously diluted rendering many of the jokes not only feeble but also fatuous. By the time Sunny Leone (yes, she’s in it too! ) shows up at Diljit’s thana speaking breathlessly in her own voice (yes, her OWN voice and not dubbed!) about her beauty parlour which she wants our khaki-clad hero to rescue her from goons, we are placed in a state of giggly trance, the kind that occurs when you drink too much bhang during Holi and you are laughing at the stupid jokes being cracked, not because they are funny but because they’re trying to be funny.
Cabaret: If you had a couple of hours to spare you could have used it for more rewarding activities than watching Cabaret. Like banging your head on the nearest wall. Or driving your car full-speed into a fast-flowing river. At least you ensured more excitement than what this dead project offers. Chances are, after seeing Cabaret you would never want to look at another cabaret number. Come to think of it, it would be hard for you to go to the next Richa Chadha film without a shudder of apprehension. I was so shaken after watching this trashy homage to that hoary prototype known as the Holy Whore, I wanted to take a dip into the Ganga to cleanse my sullied soul. But it isn’t really my fault. It’s my job to sit through films, no matter how degrading they are to spiritual health. And believe me, this one drags you down to the dungeons of despair.
Drive: Netflix’s Drive drives you around the bend. It is an infuriatingly infantile boyz-and-gadgets fantasy played out at a shrieking pitch, with screeching tyres yelling retards and bubbling bimbos with actors who think posing in bracelets and six-packs is all that the audience craves to see. Little do they know. Sadly Sushant Singh Rajput seems to have lowered his acting skills to match the brainless aspirations of his co-stars who think they are characters in Fast & Furious. Dwayne Johnson has reason to feel insulted. Jacqueline Fernandez races motorcycles. But only in the skimpiest of clothes. She also brakes for sundry item songs where her hips move faster than the cars she races. As for the plot, they lost it. I made a vain effort to retrieve at least the remnants of a massacred narrative from its graveyard. It was like looking for humility in a Salman Khan live concert. The film’s storyline is a complete mess. It must have made sense to somebody at some point in the film’s troubled genesis. The end-product makes as much sense as dog poo in a luxury spa, which is what this film is to Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions. The film makes no sense. Its concept of machismo involves guys with loaded guns riding revved-up automobiles while the women cheer them on. Greed is good, says Drive. Gekko just puked.
Dabangg 3: And then, God created Salman Khan.
Junglee: Meet Mr Junglee, Vidyut Jamwal, who is direct-lee related to how Bruce Lee loves elephants. He probably watched Haathi Mere Saathi many times during his childhood and grew up befriends with a forest full of elephants, one of whom Bhola is our Jungler Hero’s special buddy. Their reunion sequence is as elaborate as Devdas returning to Paro from London in Sanjay Bhansali’s Devdas. Tragically Junglee is directed by a foreigner who gets the privilege to helm a project toplined by a sinewy muscular hero who has father issues. Dad wants Jung- Lee to look after the family business, namely, elephant raring. But Jung-lee wants to do his own thing, and that includes some heavy-duty kalarippayattu in scenic Kerala. The film looks green. But feels dry and colourless.
PM Narendra Modi: This was not the Narendra Modi biopic that we had all been waiting for. The one that shows this powerful well-meaning sincere statesman taking hard decisions and taking on opponents like a lion in a jungle of craven wolves.No. This is not even a biopic. It is a mythological saga, a passionate Pauranic paean to the powerful prime minister who took his tea-selling childhood to a glorious Himalayan summit beyond ‘Chai-na’. Seen in that dazzling hagiographic light this film is not so offensive. Viveik Oberoi handles the principal role with a certain amount of flair and decency. His eyes speak more than a thousand words. Lamentably this is a film that believes in the power of verbal lamp-posts. Every self-glorifying thought that this celluloid holographic Modi feels must have a verbal counterpoint. Every rhetoric and retort, every aphorism that our prime minister has uttered or not uttered (the line between fact and fiction in this ersatz bio-pic is non-existent) is given the status of large hoarding. You have to be blind to miss the message. PM Narendra Modi is very clear about its agenda. And Oberoi obliges with overt obsequiousness.
Rangeela Raja: It is karma hooting dharma, albeit with a cruel whoop of taunting joy, that the once-flourishing flamboyant and quite simply fantastic Govinda returns to form in a double role, one of which requires him to play the decadent debauch to the hilt. Uncontrollable urges command the extravagant excesses of Rangeela Raja, a bawdy burlesque of a comedy where the relentless focus is on the two Govindas. There are three or four debutante heroines to accompany Govinda in his raunchy romp through the risqué route in Rangeela Raja. Let’s just say, none of these ladies is ever likely to be seen again. But Govinda….ah, Govinda! He proves that in the journey from Raja Babu to Rangeela Raja, the flesh may have grown flabby, but the spirit remains in the high mast.
Saaho: Saaho is all action, no reaction. The hijinks are relentless and after a point, unendurable. It’s like being at a rave party where the noise assails you. You wish the music would stop long enough to let you breathe in peace. For just a while, please? You wish the actors (who act and act and act) would speak normally instead of bombarding us with what sounds like wisdom culled from the back of cereal cartons. The villains, there are so many of them, I lost count. But I must credit the film for representing evil from every generation of its perpetrators. From a wizened and still wacky Tinu Anand to Chunky Pandey who grimaces like he just saw his star daughters latest interview, to Neil Nitin Mukesh who is just about the only believable creature of vileness, and then Mandira Bedi so slinky and seductive in a film that favours flab.They all ham, oh yes! That’s the need of the hour. Three hours. The brief for swag. Prabhas tries to do everything from comedy to dancing to….errrr….acting. But—how do I put this politely?—if you want to see a better Prabhas, buy yourself entry into a screening of Baahubali. Here in Saaho (won’t reveal why the film has that strange Bhojpuri-sounding title) when Prabhas summons menace, the Dennis within him shows up.
Syeraa Narasimha Reddy: This misfire propounds the most basic kind of patriotism practised in cinema: portray the invaders, in this case the Britishers as cheap avaricious villains, pitch them against a one-man army and let the drama unfold. Syeraa Narasimha Reddy is a fast-flowing frenzied hysterical homage to an unsung martyr of Andhra Pradesh who fought the British goons (the film tells us that’s what they were and who are we to argue?) with his faithful bunch of unarmed warriors. While the legendary Chiranjeevi occupies the central part with confident swagger the supporting cast especially in the mob sequences, are reduced to two basic emotions: cowering and glowering. The Britishers are played by a bunch of inept actors, one more oafish than the other.
Total Dhamaal: Is there any polite way of saying this? Total Dhamaal is the worst most undesirable brand of filmmaking obtainable to mankind. Crass, corny, lowbrow and utterly non-intellectualised, it boils down to watching a bizarre burlesque of line and situations borrowed from lowbrow Gujarati theatre. Some people never learn. Indra Kumar is stuck in a time warp. He seems to think comedy in Hindi has not grown beyond the theatre of the absurd that he has been translocating to cinema from the time he made Dil in 1991 wherein he made actors like Aamir Khan and Kajol do the silliest of things.