Dhoom 3: Are You Watching Closely?

Dhoom 3 is this year’s big Christmas release, so I guess that makes Aditya Chopra Santa Claus. The difference is that Santa Claus has actually been seen in public. Now no matter what you say about the Dhoom franchise, it accomplished something that no one thought possible: it made people emulate Uday Chopra.  And by people, I mean biker boys from Bandra East who sincerely believe that if they don’t use their 100 cc crotch-rockets to overtake you from the left, they’ll end up going to hell, or worse, school.

D:3 is the best film of the series, which is like saying Kim is the smartest Kardashian. An important cinematic feature that works for it is the absence of Sunheri “Are you like checking me out like funny guy” from Andheri. (That character was possibly the most offensive representation of people from Andheri, which is saying a lot. We’re talking about people whose entire resume is ‘Once made eye contact with Ram Kapoor at a urinal’.)

D:3 opens in 1990, which is also where most of Bollywood’s comic interludes come from. The Great Indian Circus, owned by weed’s gift to pop culture, Jackie Shroff, is about to go under for failing to repay its loans to the Western Bank of Chicago. The only thing that might be able to save it is a private performance for the bank owners, who are thankfully not played by Tom Alter anymore. (Bollywood’s choice of token firang is now Katrina Kaif.)

But the show fails to convince the head honcho, who asks Cirque De India to pack up. A distressed Jackie pulls out a gun and pops himself, and we cut to the present, where Aamir is intently staring out a window. (Trivia: To prepare for this staring shot, Aamir went through a rigorous training regime that involved having eyes.)

First up, I’m just happy to see the return of Jackie Shroff (Latin for ‘Bhidu’) How can you not love a man who names his kid Tiger, knowing full well that his own name is Jackie? What are the Pomeranians in the family called? Rajiv? Also, Jackie’s last words, right before he shoots himself, are “Bank waalon, tumhari aisi ki taisi” which is so odd. Let’s face it – Jackie Shroff isn’t known for an insult like “tumhaari aisi ki taisi”. No, the man is the Picasso of cuss words and will create masterpieces that star your maternal aunt, a minimum of six body parts, three vegetables, one religious artefact and two types of farm animals. And that’s while saying hello.

Aamir’s tap dance in the opening song is great, because if you listen closely, you realise he’s stomping in Morse code that says, “Suck it Chennai Express!” There are also little pangs of Dark Knight nostalgia brought about by the Chicago setting. I half-expected Batman to walk in and help, especially since the cops offered keen insights as follows:

Bank Bigwig: Who committed the robbery?

Abhishek: All we know is, he was a thief.

Bank Bigwig: Wow. Who wrote this amazing dialogue? 

Abhishek: It was a writer.

Bank Bigwig: You’re from the CBI, aren’t you?

Abhishek: I LOVE LAMP!

The film takes the robbery theme seriously, because someone seems to have stolen all the heist sequences from the print. Seriously, all you ever see is Aamir fleeing a bank after the robbery. It’s like watching a porno where you see the woman open the door for the pizza guy, and then it cuts straight to the end, i.e. a crippling sense of shame and drowsiness.

They try and make up for the lack of this totally irrelevant detail – I mean who shows heist sequences in a heist film? – with the chase sequences.  There’s one where Abhishek drives a rickshaw, as a fitting tribute to his U.P roots. (He then refuses to chase the baddies because “Gas nahin hai gaadi dene ka time ho gaya hai”)

But my favourite is the one where Aamir rides his bike off a bridge and as he’s falling towards the water, the bike turns into a jet-ski, races along the surface and then dives underwater, y’know, as things that are designed to float often do. (Trivia: To turn his bike into a jet-ski, Aamir actually studied mechanical engineering under Optimus Prime.)

All this happens in the first half, which is the entertaining love child of Chris Nolan and Rohit Shetty. The second half goes full Yashraj, as a love angle takes sixteen hours to reaffirm the old adage of bros before ladies. At least I didn’t spend 900 bucks on the IMAX version. That version is called “Audience waalon, tumhari aisi ki taisi.”

(Note: This is my HT humour column dated 22nd Dec 2013.)

We Are The Youth of The Nation. Like, Totally.

So ‘Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani’ made a 100+ crores this week, of which 98.3 came from Ranbir fans who have heartgasms every time he does something awesome, such as appear on screen. The rest came from the coffers of The Gentleman’s Society For Appreciation of Slow-Mo Champagne Spray On Deepika.

YJHD is the story of Kabir aka Bunny, who sets out to forge his own path, makes mistakes and discovers true love in the end. This is different from Ranbir in Wake Up Sid, where he sets out to forge his own path, makes mistakes and discovers true love in the end, and of course, that was nothing like Rockstar, where he sets out to forge his own path and then puts Nargis Fakhri in a coma by having sex with her. (Although with her range of expressions, it’s hard to tell exactly when she went comatose.)

This isn’t to say that YJHD is a terrible film. It’s not. It’s basic “dal-chawal”, except it’s being described in the way five-star hotels do it, i.e. “Steamed fine long grain white rice hand-picked in the emerald green lap of the Vindhyas, accompanied by a golden lentil soup that was gently simmered over the smouldering kisses of angels.”

It says a lot when, in a youth film, the only character that makes a mark is the father (played endearingly by Farooque Shaikh.) I just wanted to reach out and give the poor man a hug. The last time I felt so bad for Farooque Shaikh was when David Dhawan dropped a giant, steaming Pile No.1 on Chashme Buddoor.

There are currently two major entities that try and define the youth of India. One is Chetan Bhagat, whose characters exist in easily marketable groups and talk in the most badly grammar you will finding anywhere Orkut roxxx. The second is Bollywood, which, on occasion, does a great job, and on another occasion, tried to convince us that Shahrukh was a college student by dressing him up in a blue-green Polo Sport condom.

One film that worked for my generation was Dil Chahta Hai, which was slick and funny enough for us to ignore the fact that Aamir Khan had been celebrating the end of college since QSQT in 1988. Then there was Lakshya, where Hrithik Roshan did a fine job of portraying angst, especially when his jiggly facial muscles kicked in. Seriously, just look at any Hrithik film. At some point during intense emotional scenes, a continuous wave of ripples starts dancing across his face, as if he just swallowed a vibrator.

There are some tropes that Bollywood loves to use. For example, the modern-yet-sufficiently-pious-for-family-crowd heroine, who loves going to the temple. Deepika is super religious for the first half of YJHD, only to have that trait disappear in the second half, probably because she realised that she was a hottie and did not want to be godblocked by religion. Kajol sang bhajans to impress Amrish Puri in DDLJ, which was weird:

Kajol: Dad, I want to travel around Europe with my girlfriends.

Dad: That’s crazy. Now go spend the rest of your life with some gaonwala that you’ve never met.

Kajol: <insert bhajan>

Dad: Aww. Mogambo melt hua. Okay, go. Just don’t sleep with strangers. That’s what arranged marriages are for.

Then there’s the concept of eternal, undying love, which young characters in Bollywood seem to possess in copious amounts. We fell for it as kids, but it doesn’t hold up now. Again, take DDLJ – one of the most romantic films ever, about an aimless rich kid who falls for Ms. Goody Two Chappals even though he barely knows her, chases her across continents, befriends her family and finally, some blood and punches later, asks for her hand. This is also the story of Darr.

And hey, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai fans, if you stay hung up on your college friend for ten years, then you should just marry your basketball. Even during YJHD, when the rest of the theatre was ooh-ing and aah-ing over Ranbir’s decision to put the brakes on his dream to marry Deepika, people like me were thinking, “OK, so they’re happy now, but soon enough, he’ll start resenting her. He’ll feel stifled, they’ll grow distant, one or both of them will have affairs and then end up battling each other over curtains and shared lip gloss.”

Then again, people like me aren’t really the target audience for such films. YJHD will end up being DCH-meets-DDLJ for a lot of people, which is natural. Meanwhile, we’ll be judging silently in the corner. It’s easy to spot us. We’re the ones in Polo Sport.

(Note: This is my HT humour column dated 9th June 2013.)

May The Stare Be With You

So, as it turns out, women are important. I was reminded of this last Sunday when Aamir Khan descended from the heavens and broadcast his message against female foeticide through ‘Satyamev Jayate’, a show that was watched by about seventeen billion people, including tribes that have not been discovered yet. And the verdict is out: Aamir Khan is the messiah that all messiahs go to when they’re down and out, and need someone to intensely stare at them.

I’m sure you’ve all noticed the Aamir Stare™. It’s impossible not to, what with Aamir having created vantage points out of every hoarding on every road in every city, from which he launches his soul-piercing gaze, conveying a mix of sincerity, intensity and smelled-a-fart-and-liked-it-maybe-I-need-to-revaluate-my-life.

Don’t worry – this isn’t going to be a diatribe against Satyamev Jayate. I quite like the show, and respect the efforts and ambitions of the brains behind it. Based on the current state of Indian TV, I can only imagine the confusion that went through the conference room when an idea like this was first pitched to TV execs, whose idea of ‘revolutionary programming’ otherwise involves some old bat tormenting her bahu to death, after which the bahu extracts revenge by being reborn as a haemorrhoid in the saas.

Just take a second to picture Aamir selling the idea to a roomful of marketing guys…

Aamir: I want to do a serious, no-frills show that raises awareness about India’s biggest problems. I’m thinking of beginning with female foeticide.

Marketer 1: Ooh, I like it! Then we can also line up a bunch of foetuses and ask the audience to tell us via SMS which ones they want to save, and which ones they want to eliminate. Solid branding we’ll get.

Marketer 2: But can these foetuses sing or dance?

Marketer 3: Also, can we have those two bald dudes from Roadies? They can look at the foetus and yell, “TU BABY BANEGA? BABY BANEGA **@#%$*!?? TU NE AAJ TAK KIYA HI KYA HAI??”

Aamir: *facepalm*

I’m more interested in the reactions generated after the show. As expected, there are the hardcore optimists who are elated at Aamir taking a stand, because it means that they don’t have to do any real work. And on the other hand are the cynics and the naysayers, who accord Aamir the same respect you’d accord a Nigerian dude trying to sell you aphrodisiacs. While you’re in bed.

What was really interesting was that both these camps ended up comparing Aamir to Anna Hazare. Of course, they’re both wrong. Aamir and Anna are two very different people. One is a popular celeb who is also known to be a publicity-seeking missile, and the other is Aamir Khan.

A common reaction that completely baffles me, though, is, “If Aamir is sincere, then how dare he charge 3 crores an episode?” Really, people? You’re upset that a professional is charging market rates in exchange for his services? It’s a stupid reaction, given that Salman gets about 80-100 crores for promoting Bigg Boss – a show whose only contribution to society is that it keeps the likes of Ashmit Patel locked far away from regular humans for a few days a year.

Aamir’s going to be around for a while, given the multitude of social ills like untouchability, caste politics, religious discrimination, Parliament etc., that makes India the sociological equivalent of an AIDS patient. Call me a cynic if you will, but I think talking can only do so much. It’s time for change, so SMS ‘Y’ to 58883 to get those creepy Aamir hoardings removed now.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 13th May 2012. Cross-posted from here.)