Movie reviews

The President Is Coming kickstarts the year with exactly the sort of lift we’ve been looking for — it’s free-spirited,irreverent,and funny...

Written by Shubhra Gupta | New Delhi | Published:January 10, 2009 1:03 am

The President Is Coming
CAST: Konkona Sen Sharma,Ira Dubey,Shernaz Patel,Namit Das,Vivek Gomber,Satchit Puranik,Shivani Tanksale,Anand Tiwari,Imran Rasheed
DIRECTOR: Kunaal Roy Kapoor

The President Is Coming kickstarts the year with exactly the sort of lift we’ve been looking for — it’s free-spirited,irreverent,and funny.

George Bush coming to India in 2006 was fact; what happens in the film is fiction – the anointing of one young Indian as the person who will shake Bush’s hand. The 100-minute mockumentary,the first out of Bollywood,takes a series of savagely hilarious digs at the whole I-want-to-get-to-America-at-any-cost thing – the lust for green cards,H1-B visas,truckloads of greenbacks. It also tells you that hey,India may not be such a bad place,after all.

The six short-listed candidates are put through their paces by a two-woman PR agency (Shernaz-Shivani),and the race to the finish line is peppered with smart characterisation: a Bengali novelist who is passionate about tribal midgets (Konkona),a Delhi heiress to a cosmetic company and a complete daddy’s girl (Ira),a Marathi ‘manoos’ who’s a delish combo of a language fascist/ social worker/ anti-capitalist (Puranik),a South-Indian software nerd who publicly slobbers over the female sex to hide his gay self (Das),a Gujju stock-loving fellow who thinks the Ambanis are the richest guys in the world (Tiwari),and an accent-trainer from Gurgaon who’s dying to get back home (Gomber). And that’s,of course,the US.

The tough part about doing regional types is the stereotypes you can drown your characters in. But debutant director Kunaal Roy Kapoor and writer Anuvab Pal,who were involved with the smash-hit play of the same name that ran in Mumbai last year,make sure there are enough sharply-observed quirks to keep us amused. “I’m like,Archana,and like,that’s my pathetic boyfriend” — Ira Dubey’s stinking rich Dilliwali is pitch-perfect. So is Anand Tiwari’s superb Kapil Dev Dholakia who thinks everything can be bought,even hand-shaking contests which play out like reality TV,and who probably counts stocks instead of sheep,in bed.

There are several little gaps in the gag-a-minute pace,where things lapse,making attention wander. But the curve never flattens enough to flatline. The President Is Coming,produced by Rohan Sippy,picks up from where it left off,and you’re laughing again.

Is a new wave in Bollywood coming?

Bad Luck Govind
CAST: Gaurav Kapoor,Hrishita Bhatt,Parmeet Sethi,Vrajesh Hirjee,Govind Namdeo,Archana Puran Singh,Zakir Hussain
DIRECTOR: Varun Khanna

And then you walk into Bad Luck Govind,and wonder if anything’s ever going to change. This flick about a penniless fellow from Delhi who lands in Mumbai looking for a job,looks like one of Ram Gopal Varma’s left-over films.

It’s got two locations: a chawl,and a hospital. And a bunch of actors trying desperately to do the ‘tapori’ act. Govind (Gaurav Kapoor,of Channel V fame) is convinced that the moment he gets close to anyone,he brings them bad luck So a bunch of goons (Parmeet,Vrajesh,Govind) commandeer his services to put a hex on their rivals.

There’s also a leading lady (Hrishita) who chants,and a bad guy (Zakir) who starts getting in touch with his feminine side by learning to cook ‘nimboo chickan’. And Govind Namdeo in a deep maroon lungi. What luck.

shubhra.gupta@gmail.com

THE ACCIDENTAL HUSBAND
CAST: Uma Thurman,Colin Firth,Jeffrey Dean Morgan
DIRECTOR: Griffin Dunne

A woman foolish enough to professionally advise other people on love on the radio,and other women foolish enough to seek out her advice – all apparently need to be brought down a peg or two.

And that’s the premise of The Accidental Husband,where Uma Thurman is a doctor and a successful radio host,on top of being Uma Thurman,who can’t see through one of the flimsiest ruses of all time as she is so hopelessly wrong about all she holds valuable. So the expert on “real love” keeps swinging between two guys till one of them graciously steps aside and the other smilingly scoops her up.

In one corner is Colin Firth,a guy who screams taste,dependability,trustworthiness,worries over shades of white,and is a gentleman who all girls like,but just so. In the other is an Irish fireman who is a buddy’s buddy,plays soccer,wears sweatshirts to black-tie dinners,charms stiff upper-class women off their feet,can hold his drink,sing romantic songs off the top of his head and counts an Indian family — how is that for being different? — as his family.

Wow! Call that a dilemma? Ever seen a movie in which the first guy won? Especially a movie in which that first guy was Firth,with the rare,and qualified,exception of Bridget Jones?

Thurman or Dr Emma Lloyd’s life-changing discovery could have been handled at least more funnily. But Firth gets barely a chance,Thurman is all nervous agitation and Morgan,the third angle of the troika,is so desperate to charm,the width of his smile rankles. Plus,he reminds you of Robert Downey Jr,and if you are Jeffrey Dean Morgan,you don’t want that comparison.

And what’s all that Indian connection — delineated in one elaborate janeyu ceremony,with Bollywood song-and-dance; a Samosa Palace; a techie kid; some nosey neighbours; and henna that conveniently vanishes in a few hours — all about?.

Anyway,any script that dresses up Sarita Chaudhury in an ill-fitting salwar-kameez and casts her as a middle-aged housewife needs crucial changes.

ROCKNROLLA
CAST: Tom Wilkinson,Mark Strong,Gerard Butler,Thandie Newton,Jimi Mistry
DIRECTOR: Guy Ritchie

If guy Ritchie had a bad time last year,this is the good news. The director,who has long been trying to establish himself as more than Madonna’s (now ex-) husband,comes up with a solid RocknRolla,carrying a distinct stamp of style,cool and Britishness that immediately sets it aside from Hollywood mob films.

Also written by Ritchie,the film begins by underlining what is rock ‘n’ roll,and this film captures,according to it,all of it: the music,the glamour and the madness.

While the plot,basically about real-estate corruption in a fast-growing England,is complex,and has many,many side stories you shouldn’t really care about. The characters — and there are a lot,in a colourful mix of races,nationalities and accents — ensure you just go with the flow.

They include Mob boss Lenny Cole (Wilkinson),his henchman Archy (Strong),his main thug One Two (Butler) of the Wild Bunch,a sexy,bored accountant organising robberies on her own boss Stella (Newton),and corrupt councillor (Mistry).

That’s a nice cast and Ritchie gets good,edgy performances from all of them. But perhaps his bigger achievement is that all are on the same wavelength as him,and so each knows better than to take himself/herself too seriously.

shalini.langer@expressindia.com

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