Judwaa 2 – A few things should have updated in 20 years

 

I really wanted to like Judwaa 2.  I had a blast watching the first Judwaa earlier in the week, starring Salman Khan and Karishma Kapoor.  While Varun Dhawan gave 1000 percent to the double role, I just didn’t find it as funny.   Jackie Fernandez wasn’t given as much to do as Karishma.   Both she and Taapsee were treated like bimbos.

It was depressing to watch a scene of Varun smacking Jackie’s behind in a store.  Really?  You’re going for that same joke 20 years later?  And Taapsee gets kissed to the point she cries.  Again.  NOT FUNNY.

So much could have been done with this twin story.  It needed a better script.  One set in the 21st century.

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Hindi Trailer Roundup

 

I am really looking forward to Varun Dhawan in Judwaa 2.  This seems like the perfect kind of comedy for him.

 

Patel Ki Punjabi Shaadi seems like a good fit for Rishi Kapoor, but I’m not familiar with the actor playing his son.

 

Newton, starring Rajkummar Roa, will be the opening night film for the Chicago South Asian Film Festival.  I’m not going to be able to attend that screening, but Rajkummar will be staying through the weekend and doing a Q&A for his film Trapped.

 

Saif Ali Khan is remaking Jon Favreau’s Chef.  This is a good fit for him.  I’m going to enjoy seeing Saif as a father onscreen.

Student of the Year – A look back ahead of the Dream Team concert

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I woke up to this @KaranJohar tweet this morning:

And my reaction was just like this one I saw on Tumblr:

“student of the year 2!!!”

“…starring tiger shroff”

I have yet to see a Tiger Shroff movie (and I hear I’m not missing much).  But he is a good dancer:

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I looked back at my original Student of the Year review, and it’s quite the time capsule.  I wasn’t into Indian cinema when it came out in 2012.  I saw it in November of 2014, and it was my first introduction to Alia Bhatt, Siddarth Malhotra and Varun Dhawan.  (Whatever happened to that Fault In Our Stars remake?)

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It was curiosity about Varun Dhawan, who has been cast as a lead in the Bollywood remake of Fault in Our Stars (with Deepika), that led me to check out this Karan Johar film. SOTY is set at a junior college where the gay dean (Rishi Kapoor) has an annual contest for, you guessed it, the Student of the Year to win a scholarship to an international college. And this contest is not just academic, there is a triathlon, a scavenger hunt AND a dance contest. The film begins with the group of former students gathering at the hospital bedside of the dying dean, and then flashes back 10 years in the past.

Evidently, it was quite notable that Karan Johar debuted several young actors and actresses in this film, rather than matching one unknown with an established actor/actress. Of the students, only the college vamp is played by a familiar face, Sana Saeed albeit when she was a child actress in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai as little Anjuli.

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This film reminds me of John Hughes films of the 80’s with the rich kids pitted against the scholarship kids from the Indian equivalent to the wrong side of the tracks. Or Gossip Girl or The O.C., etc. Karan Johar is just SO good at setting up melodramatic love triangles. Varun is the rich kid and Sidharth Molhotra the scholarship kid, and Alia Bhatt plays the rich girl that they both love. I had not seen any films with these three young new actors, and while all are good, Sidharth Molhotra’s performance is the standout. (Seems like all the Indian awards agreed, nominating him for best male debut.) Very Ben MacKenzie (a la O.C.) silently pining over the rich girl while trying to act all tough.

 

Also notable was a supporting role by Kayoze Irani who gets a big “Go to Hell Dean” speech near the end, who it turns out is Boman Irani’s son. Huh, fancy that, a child of a Bollywood star getting a role in a KJo film. 😉 Boman, Kajol and Farah Khan all have cameo appearances.

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Fairly predicable plot with the Bollywood emphasis more on the bromance of the two male leads than on the romance of Sidharth and Alia’s characters.  Karan Johar is masterful at taking you on that emotional journey, and I tip my hat to him.  Very entertaining and enjoyable.

I gave the film three and a half stars back then, out of five.

What’s fascinating to me is how I wasn’t that impressed with Varun and Alia, and they have gone on to mature so much more over the subsequent years in film.  Alia blew me away in Highway and in Udta Punjab.  Varun just was off the chain in Badlapur and fantastic in Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania and Main Tera Hero.  We got a hint of Varun’s great dancing in SOTY, but he was so good in ABCD2, and worth watching even if the plot wasn’t.  Siddarth tried to do more dramatic work, in Brothers, and Kapoor and Sons, but he just doesn’t seem to have the chops of the other two.  But that’s okay – he’s carved out a niche as the strong silent type in romantic movies like Hasee Toh Phasee and the upcoming Baar Baar Dekho.

Thank you Karan, for giving us all three young new stars.  And for this.  Always for this:

from Baawri’s Tumblr

AND for SOTY’s fantastic soundtrack!  Can’t wait to see these three stars and the rest of the Dream Team this Friday perform live in Chicago!

Dishoom – Varun shines in this enjoyable buddy cop action flick

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Dishoom was exactly what it was advertised to be — a silly fun somewhat comedic action flick.  Varun Dhawan and John Abraham are odd couple buddy cops directed by Varun’s brother Rohit Dhawan.  It wasn’t the greatest flick, but it was an enjoyable time pass.

John Abraham’s tough guy custom agent is introduced to us kicking a guy out of an elevator because the poor guy dared to ask him to not smoke.  Funny enough.  But the next scene was problematic, as Kathy of AccessBollywood.net points out.  John discovers his girlfriend is cheating on him, and holds a gun to her head to get the lover to come out of hiding.  Completely unnecessary.  There are plenty of other scenes to establish how John Abraham’s character doesn’t play by the rules, and this threatened violence against women is jarring and the one off moment of the movie.

The star player of the Indian cricket team has been captured in an unnamed Mid-Eastern country.  John is sent to solve the case and avoid an international incident.  Varun is a rookie cop not trusted with more than picking up the captains kids and groceries.  He’s an interesting character, a Muslim NRI who jumps at the chance to serve India even though he was born abroad.  (And in a running gag, he’s searching for a bride from India.)

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Basically, I think Varun Dhawan is the Zac Efron of Bollywood.  He’s fantastic with the music numbers, was introduced in a high school musical, and is trying to transition to more mature adult roles.  (And he has a nice six pack like Zac.)  But he’s still the young kid in this movie, an eager hyper puppy jumping around the stoic John Abraham.  He’s one of the best things about the movie, and I love his chemistry with John.

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The plot doesn’t make a lot of sense.   Villain Akshaye Khanna is angry at the cricket player for losing him money or not throwing a game.  Or something.  It doesn’t really matter.  It’s just fun to see Akshaye embracing character roles, and I welcome his return to Hindi films.  He’s sort of the Mark Strong of Bollywood (looks a bit like him, too.)

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Jacqueline Fernandez has a fun time as a thief who gets caught up in the plot.  She has a great number, sometimes dancing with Varun, and dancing mostly around John.

The cameos were some of my favorite moments.  Akshay is gay, super wealthy and sports a man bun.  He’s hysterical and obviously relishes playing against type.  This selfie with the cricket player is a highlight:

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Buddy cop films have a long tradition in Hollywood, with one suffering stoic partner and the hyper funny one.  There need to be more in Bollywood like this.  There’s so many super cop solo hero films, but having two leads play off each other is great.  Dishoom was a light fun summer flick.  But it could have been a bit better.  My attention lagged a bit in the second half.

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But the very end and the final credit song has the last fun cameo — Parineeti Chopra.  Loved their number together!

Three stars out of five.

 

Jatt & Juliet – Diljit Dosanjh is adorable in this Punjabi Rom Com

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Many people recommended Jatt & Juliet on my quora post.  After I saw Diljit Dosanjh in Udta Punjab, Jatt & Juliet moved to the top of the list.  I was completely taken with Diljit in Udta Punjab, and he was one of the best things about that film.  In Udta Punjab, he played a very quiet policeman who was shy in romance, but who could step up with the action when needed.

Diljit’s role of Fateh Singh in Jatt & Juliet is a bit different.  It’s a romantic comedy and he has a zany manic energy that reminded me very much of Varun Dhawan in Humpty Sharma ki Dulhania.  Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood compared Jatt & Juliet to DDLJ.  It does have the hate to love similar trope in the first half of the film.  But Diljit has this silly energy about him that reminded me more of Varun in Humpty — also because Pooja (Neeru Bajwa) is the rich girl that seems out of reach to Fateh.

Fateh’s goal is to marry a Canadian white girl and become a resident in Canada.  He meets Pooja at the airport and the sit together on the flight where he annoys her no end with his antics and incessant patter.  Pooja is flying to Vancouver to attend fashion school.

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Pooja is robbed when she’s about to put down a deposit on an apartment.  She hesitates to ask her parents for help because she doesn’t want them to tell her to come home.  She and Fateh end up living in the same rental house.  And then they end up working at competing next door restaurants.  Pooja thinks Fateh is ridiculous with his talking to his biceps every morning, and he loves to tease and torment her, nicknaming her “pest”.

There is an annoying subplot in the first half where Pooja helps Fateh scam their landlady’s white step-daughter to try to get Fateh a white Canadian bride.  That leads to both being kicked out of the rental house.

After the interval, they are both in dire straights and have to help each other.  Their competing restaurants were once one, owned by an estranged married couple.  They get the owners back together to save the restaurants from bankruptcy, and bond by working together.

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This was what I loved about their romance.  It wasn’t a bolt of lightning love at first sight.  It was gradual.  Little acts of caring.  Sharing work together, and teasing each other, and the romance happening organically.

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This is where the sweet Diljit I loved from Udta Punjab shone through in Jatt & Juliet.

Just like DDLJ, there’s another fiance for Pooja, and some misunderstandings on Fateh’s journey to get together with Pooja.  It has a great ending.

These two actors have fantastic chemistry together, and I’m looking forward to watching Jatt & Juliet 2.  Both films were mega hits in Punjabi cinema.

The negatives for me for Jatt & Juliet were some of the silly comedy side bits.  Instead of a comedy uncle like in Telugu films, there was sort of a comedy cousin.  Not that funny to me, but it may have also been the subtitles not portraying language play.

The other negative was that there weren’t enough songs!  Diljit Dosanjh is a leading Punjabi rapper singer, and he just lights up the screen in the song sequences and dance numbers.  I’m guessing it was the lower budget for a Punjabi film that limited the number of dance sequences, and maybe there are more in the sequel.  This one was my favorite from a wedding in the film:

 

Three and a half stars out of five.  I’m hearing that after Diljit’s Bollywood debut in Udta Punjab, that he is looking for more Bollywood roles.  That’s great news, because he is a real talent.  After seeing what he can do in this low budget dance song, I can only imagine what he would be like in a full blown Bollywood number.

Song of the Day – Palat Tero Hero Idhar Hai

 

Happy Birthday Varun!

Margaret on Don’tCallItBollywood has done a great post on why Varun could be the next Shahrukh.  I completely agree.

He proved he has the drama chops with Badlapur, and he’s a great dancer.  But what I love most about him is that he has that same zany lovable rogue persona that SRK did in his early films.  Humpty Sharma was an updated Raj from DDLJ (the character even cries watching the movie!) and this, my favorite number from the delightful film Main Tera Hero is called even Palat after my all time favorite scene in DDLJ!