September 28, 2008 2:42:04 am
Hari Puttar, A Comedy Of Terrors
Warner Bros were getting antsy for nothing. Hari Puttar has nothing to do with the Harry Potter films, other than the fact that both have been filmed in England. Hari isn’t a young wizard with a scar zigzagging across his forehead. He’s just a 10-year-old who gets left behind in a large mansion, somewhere on the outskirts of London. Sounds familiar? Yep, it’s got a lot to do with Home Alone, with Zain Khan doing a desi Macaulay Culkin.
Hari is dumped on by everybody: His elder brother thinks he is a total wimp, his cousins laugh at his accent; in fact, the whole caboodle thinks he should be neither seen nor heard. His mom (Sarika) is the only one who dotes over her beloved puttar, but even she forgets him, as the family hares off somewhere, leaving behind our young hero, and his one cousin (Swini Khara) who likes him.
If you remember the first Home Alone flick, you know what happens: The youngsters (Zain, last seen in Chain Kuli Ki Main Kuli, is likeable; Swini, last seen in Cheeni Kum, is not) beat a couple of thieves back, with all their arsenal: Dragging them across lawns, throwing smelly liquids on their heads, shooting sharp pointed objects at various body parts, and so on.
And because it is a Hindi film, it has an item number, fronted by Shamita Shetty. A larger-than-life villain who has one false eye and a hideous Mumbaiya accent. A couple of hoods called Diesel and Filter (Saurabh Shukla in waist-length rasta curls who lets loose noisy smells from his rear end at regular intervals, and Vijay Raaz in a florid flowery suit). A scientist who’s working on a secret computer “cheep” (chip). And a script which doesn’t know the meaning of sense, and so full of holes that several large-size trucks can drive right through.
Who cares, though? Certainly not the six-year-old sitting right ahead, who chortled his way through much the film. Plot to have your tykes whisked off to the film by elder siblings, while you take in that film you’ve been wanting to: That’s what multiplexes are for.
In bad taste
AND this one has nothing to do with that mid-70s barrel of fun-on-the-run starring Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh, other than the fact that they share the same name: Rafoo Chakkar.
Two middle-aged sisters (Archana Puran Singh and Mita Vashist) have to marry within 24 hours to fulfill the conditions of their father’s will. Two ne’er-do-wells (Yuddhistir and Aslam Khan) fetch up at their doorstep, and are reeled in, kicking and screaming. In addition to this happy foursome are two curvy airheads (Nauheed Cyrusi and Nisha Rawal), who claim they are penniless, but appear to be dressed (if you call Nauheed’s plunging tees ‘dressing’) to the nines every time they appear on screen.
B H Tharunkumar’s previous outing Nayee Padosan had fake sets, loud actors, and a story which didn’t have a subtle bone in its body. Rafoo Chakkar takes all these ingredients, and ratchets them up a hundredfold, making it way beyond bad.
The lines are worse. Sample this exchange between the two fellows, about to be led off to their wedding night: “Hamari bohni itni purane customers se nahin ho sakti.”
Yeah, it’s like that. All of it.
The Ex Factor
The X-Files: I Want To Believe
SOME files are meant never to be closed, and many would argue that The X-Files fits that category. Six years after the series ended and 10 years after the last film, Scully and Mulder take barely a scene between them to get The X-Files back in its rhythm. It isn’t the best case that the two have solved, it isn’t the most difficult, it isn’t even the best of science fictions, and it barely fits into the category of paranormal, but it is perhaps the closest look at two characters that TV audiences have loved for years now.
Older and wiser, less flashy and argumentative, Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Mulder (David Duchovny) here are retired from the FBI and at peace. Yes, they are living together, and the film just lets that drop, casually. After all those years of speculation about whether they would do “it”, when they would do “it”, this matter-of-factness sets the pace for the rest of this adventure. These Scully and Mulder are not here to impress us—that battle was a long one—they are here to be themselves, do what they believe in. And if you think about it, the Scully and Mulder we know would go about their love in their own way, at their own pace.
When the FBI seeks their help to look for a missing agent — as the only clue they have is a psychic who claims to be able to see her — they get into it grudgingly. With everybody doubting the psychic, Mulder, who is the “believer” of The X-Files, is quickly drawn in. Scully, now working as a doctor in a church-run hospital is ,as always, the skeptic.
More than the search for the FBI agent, the film at many levels is about the larger question of faith, and how far one would go for it. The film pits stem cell therapy against religion. It’s about scientists taking organ transplant far enough to play god; a serial paedophile priest who prays in the belief that God will forgive him; Scully debating reason and emotion in trying to save a dying patient; and Mulder who seeks no reason at all for his beliefs.
There are many things stunningly out of place. Such as a top-notch surgeon like Scully googling to find out about stem-cell therapy, and apparently using the information on her patient to save his life. But Anderson is so earnest; her portrayal of a doctor torn between what she knows and what she would like to believe is so tortured that you can almost believe she is doing everything in her power to save the boy.
Yes, it is not The X-Files we know, but as it is about the former FBI agents Scully and Mulder, let it herald the beginning of a whole new adventure: The Ex-Files. I want to believe.
A Crescendo of Intimidation
FROM Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs to Michael Haneke’s Funny Games, the home-invasion thriller has proved adept at eliciting the fear and dislocation that accompany the violation of our most sacred space.
The Strangers is no exception, raising the stakes with a bloody preview of the ending before flashing back to the horrors that precede it. But this is no slasher movie: Spare, suspenseful and brilliantly invested in silence, Bryan Bertino’s debut feature unfolds in a slow crescendo of intimidation as a young couple (Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman, both terrific) arrive at a country getaway after a friend’s wedding.
While navigating a tense crossroads in their relationship, the pair is interrupted by a sinister threesome whose identities and motivations are concealed. Alternately innocent and threatening, the intruders bang on the door and manifest as masked, blurred shapes behind the unwitting lovers. But even as the campaign of terror escalates, the movie remains levelheaded, smartly maintaining its commitment to tingling creepiness over bludgeoning horror.