Review: Action Replayy

Posted on November 6, 2010

72


HOURS NOT TO REASON WHY…

A time-travel romance makes you wish you could travel back to a happier time, with no memory of the movie whatsoever.

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NOV 7, 2010 – A TITLE CARD AT THE OUTSET insists that Vipul Shah’s Action Replayy is based on the Gujarati play of the same name – in other words, it’s not Back to the Future, as we’d surmised from the previews. But after the obligatory eye roll, this does turn out somewhat true. Despite the premise of a boy (Bunty, played by Aditya Roy Kapur) hurtling back in time and matchmaking for his mismatched parents, there is very little that hints at the earlier (and utterly endearing) sci-fi smash. Everything happens too easily. There’s none of the nail-biting tension of fracturing the space-time continuum and ceasing to exist. There isn’t, either, the sense of powerlessness borne by the protagonist, a stranger in a strange town hoping to be accepted without being asked dangerous questions. There isn’t even the suspense of locating the long-ago version of the mad scientist (Randhir Kapoor, as a character named Anthony Gonsalves; cue another obligatory eye roll) and convincing him to repair the contraption that facilitated Bunty’s time travel, a vaguely metallic ovoid that, in mid-flight, looks nothing so much as a bug attempting to ascend to the heavens by lighting its own farts.

All of which begs the not insignificant question: Why employ the framing device from Back to the Future? Why go back in time at all? Why not have Bunty attempt to reconcile his aging parents – Kishan (Akshay Kumar) and Mala (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) – in the present, after they storm off in opposite directions to match their opposing stances in the miserable marriage they’re trapped in? Why not hatch a series of amusing plot contrivances to unite a couple in the sunset of life? The answer is twofold. One, the paying public (presumably) does not care to spend a couple of hours with a liver-spotted hero and a gracefully graying heroine. But more importantly, staying contemporary would not allow for a segue into Bollywood’s ongoing obsession with the seventies, hinted at during the opening credits with bongos, trumpets and other brassy enablers of Eastman-Colour nostalgia.

The latter, essentially, is the reason for this film’s being – with bad clothes, loud colours, crazy accessories, shag haircuts and occasionally, very occasionally, a splash of genuine wistfulness (like the mom-and-pop eatery echoing with Karvatein badalte rahe instead of a Café Coffee Day with piped muzak.) The recent Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai visited the same era with far greater style, with far more restraint. Here, everything looks shiny and new. We don’t dissolve imperceptibly into the past, as we would when we travel back in time in our mind’s eye; we sit squarely in the present watching a pageant pretending to be the past. There’s no surprise in the storytelling, no joy in the performances –background is explained, plot points are carried forward, and every other shot appears to be a reaction shot, cuing us on what to think, how to feel. Who are these people portrayed by Neha Dhupia, Om Puri and Kirron Kher? In a more involving movie we might care. Here, we simply wait for the central couple to bury their differences so their future son can return to the present and we can return to our homes.

Shah would probably argue that the gags are all that matter, that too much is being made of the lack of everything else. I suppose that argument would hold water for those who find it funny that the heroine of Murder is referred to as Mallika Sharbat. The rest of us have to contend with Kundan Lal (Rannvijay Singh), a singer named after a singer, capable of voicing both male and female portions of a duet – this led to my sole laugh-out-loud moment, hinged on a composition from Jewel Thief. Elsewhere, my thoughts kept wandering to the frankly amazing career of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. There have been actresses earlier, like Nutan and later Kajol, who’ve pursued significant post-marriage careers, but none – to my mind – as a still-glamorous leading lady. The telltale lines on her throat are beginning to resemble age rings on a redwood, mocking time and making little difference to her survival. In the Bekhabar song sequence, she shimmies about in the kind of polka-dotted sari favoured by those tawny models with mile-high waists in the Khatau calendars I recall from the barbershops of my childhood. That might be the only time I was truly transported to the seventies, and in those all-too-brief minutes, banality gave way to beauty.

Star Ratings

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