This week's film column for the Sunday Guardian.
Most cringeworthy film I’ve seen all year
ALWAYS KABHI KABHI
Director: Roshan Abbas
Starring: Ali Fazal, Giselle Monteiro, Satyajeet Dubey, Zoa Morani
Star Rating: 1/2
This is the kind of movie in which schoolboys are presumed to have bikes a hundred times cooler than their teachers and feel entitled to make fun of them. The kind of movie in which the declaration "It's my 18th birthday next Sunday" is greeted with "Sh**!", to which the miffed birthday girl says, "It's 18, not 30." The kind of movie which believes that Hinglish = teen anthem no matter how unmemorable the lyrics or lacklustre the choreography (Sample lyrics: "Thoda sa complicated hai yeh love ka art, Undi the condi of my heart"). Or perhaps just the kind of movie that's counting on SRK's presence in the trailer – and his bizarre appearance in the post-climactic youth anthem – to make it work. Because there's no other reason it should.
Always Kabhi Kabhi is the most cringeworthy film I've seen all year. Director Roshan Abbas collects some fairly talented youngsters, adds a few worthy middle-aged actors (Lillete Dubey, Satish Shah, Vijay Raaz, Akash Khurana) and puts them down in the ridiculously baroque environs of La Martiniere School, Lucknow with a script that isn't worth the paper it's written on. The school layabout, Sam a.k.a. Sameer (Ali Fazal) decides he must be Romeo in the school play if he is to successfully romance his (and the play's) Juliet, Ash a.k.a. Aishwarya (Giselli Monteiro, atrocious). Meanwhile, his friend Tariq (a likeable Satyajeet Dubey) first quarrels with, then romances Nandy Bull (aka Nandini), the official bad girl-who's-really-a-softie, played by the striking Zoa Morani with something resembling flair. And as if these problems weren't enough to deal with, the poor kids also have to struggle against their evil parents – MIT-obsessed, Bollywood-obsessed, exploitative, or simply unfeeling.
But the plot isn't anywhere near the biggest problem with this film. It's the shockingly amateurish direction, the abysmal dialogue (sample exchange between Ash and Sam: "Chemistry period!" "Means I'm history!"), the horrendous gags (are jamalgota and sleeping pills really funny?) and the failed attempts at coolness (using Facebook or Gmail chat to transition between scenes seems funky, but need it be so mystifying?). I much preferred Luv ka the End. That's saying something.
Story goes overboard when they hit island
BHEJA FRY 2
Director: Saagar Ballary
Starring: Vinay Pathak, Kay Kay Menon, Minissha Lamba, Amole Gupte
Star Rating: **
2007's runaway small-budget hit Bheja Fry, based on Francis Veber's French film Le Dîner de Cons (1998), had as its starting premise a rather cruel game played by a group of friends, where each person invited to dinner the biggest 'idiot' they could find. The person whose invitee was universally judged prize idiot would win the game. Bheja Fry's plot involved the smug, self-satisfied Rajat Kapur hurting his back and ending up at the mercy of the 'idiot', a tax inspector with musical pretensions called Bharat Bhushan (the brilliant Vinay Pathak).
Bheja Fry 2 marks the return of the distressingly sincere and unbelievably irritating Bharat Bhushan – and a new specimen of the smug, self-satisfied type: business tycoon Ajit Talwar (Kaykay Menon). The first half of the film is rather good fun. Pathak's Bharat Bhushan, now finalist on a fictitious show called Aao Guess Karein, is a thoroughly entertaining presence. He breaks into song to announce the ad break, and mouths immortal lines in praise of his chosen brand of undergarments: "Darpan Jangiye: Thoda Dekhiye, Thoda Mangiye". Having won the grand prize, Bhushan finds himself on board a luxury cruise liner full of various corporate bigwigs, including the smartalecky ladykiller Ajit Talwar. Talwar, a whitecollar criminal who happens to be running away from a tax scam, discovers Bhushan's occupation and decides he's here to spy. Much hilarity ensues as Talwar first tries to keep an eye on the clueless Bhushan, with the reluctant aid of the eyelash-batting Ranjini (Minissha Lamba in surprisingly good form). He decides to bump him off, but ends up marooned on an island with the relentlessly cheerful Bhushan.
From this point on, the film loses the plot. The jokes get repetitive, Bhushan's musical histrionics get more and more insufferable, and once Amole Gupte makes his entry as the excruciatingly screechy lunatic with a fake Bong accent, we can tell we're a long way from the charmingly madcap humour aboard the cruise ship. But if you've ever been irritated by people who think they're doing you a favour by breaking into Antakshari, Bharat Bhushan will ring a bell.