Review: Action Replayy

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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72 thoughts on “Review: Action Replayy

  1. Aditya Pant: Uh… I’m so not getting that comment of yours. Did I actually fall asleep at some point during the film? Or is it something in the review? :-)

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  2. Aishwarya Rai is the only reason I would want to watch even a pathetic movie. And there are many like me. May be that is the reason she is still the No.1 actress in India, despite being married and age nearing 40. Whatsay, Mr.Rangan?

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  3. BR: In case you’re still trying to remember the portions where you slept off, let me remind you… He was bailed out by “Mahesh Kumar” who used to hear him sing in two voices every night in jail, and also gave him a job of Rs. 400 pm with Mahesh Kumar & Party. Now, why “Mahesh Kumar”?

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  4. Aditya Pant: I gave the thing some two seconds worth of thought and then gave up. I didn’t even remember the Mahesh Kumar bit. But let me compliment you. To remember scenes and lines from the likes of Udaan is easy. But to recall details from… this! Man, that’s involvement! :-)

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  5. I remember this, because I wondered how many, even those who grew up in the 70s, would get it. Mahesh Kumar was a singer in the 70s who could sing in a female voice. His most famous song is Chhuk Chhuk Chhak Chhak Bombay Se Baroda Tak from Rafoo Chakkar, where he sang along with Asha Bhosle and Kanchan. He also has sung a fe songs in the female voice with Kishore Kumar and Mohd. Rafi.

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  6. Aditya Pant: What a wonderful bit of trivia. Thanks. I’d have thought they’d have referred to a Narendra Chanchal-type singer, but this is something else. Was he active through the 70s, or did he just sing the odd song?

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  7. @Baradwaj : I detect a change in your writing style.Well perhaps not exactly the writing but what’s with the plethora of links through the article ?

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  8. Aditya Pant: thankyouthankyouthankyou!

    Bala: Can’t speak about writing style, but the links were something people have been asking for a long time now. So I tried it out here. Is it very annoying? As in, do the links make the piece hard to read?

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  9. @Baradwaj : hard to read…no.But I guess some of the linking seems like over kill for those who know what is being written about.Also,beware the laziness that linking might induce :D You might find it easier just to link something rather than write about it :P

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  10. aishwarya rai bacchhan owes all her “success” to that last name…a pretty face that’s not so pretty…ughhh

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  11. The links were a bit annoying dude! I would have preferred it if you had returned to reviewing with something that was really worth your time. Maybe a Raktha-charitha/Daayen ya baayen/do dooni char.. Not some piece of trash Akshay signed when OSO released. But am glad Guzaarish is releasing in a fortnight,hopefully your review will be a gem even if the movie isn’t.

    And Happy diwali. :)

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  12. I suggest you don’t hyperlink – it is distracting, and is fragmenting attention. I guess that’s ok for your bitty ruminations, coz those are just casual rambles. But in this case, for me at least, I feel like I am reading some informational piece. Not able to quite enjoy the writing.

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  13. @Aditya Pant: Growing up in Mumbai in the 70s, I remember a lot of ads for an orchestra called ‘Mahesh Kumar & Party’

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  14. Speaking of time travel movies, did you watch Hot Tub Time Machine ? And, what are your musings on the recent ‘Making of Endhiran’ if you watched it ?

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  15. I am not a great fan of Aishwarya…in fact, not even a fan, but I would beg to differ from ‘K’s comment. Aishwarya Rai became Bachchan just 3 or 4 years back, and she was successful before that. In fact, she seems less successful after that, with most people trying to get her to be a mom and asking (aloud in forums) why she is still childless and not retiring.
    That aside, thanks for the review, had been waiting for your review ever since the other sites gave a somewhat thumbs down for the movie….and now, am probably not spending $10 to catch it!

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  16. Hi Baradwaj,

    Was really looking forward to this one the promos were interesting and aishwarya was looking soooooooooooooo good in them. Now I think I will skip it. Agree on your comments about ash. Man she is looking so gorgeous (I am transported back to the 90s). No one comes anywhere close to aishwarya, and she has maintained her dignity on and off-screen – no smooching, vulgar clothes, bikinis etc. for her, unlike these cultureless crappy Kareenas, Katrinas and Lara Duttas.

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  17. Bala / Pradyumna M / jussomebody: Was the distraction due to the temptation of clicking on the links? Or was just the presence of links annoying? Because when I look at it, it’s just like run-on text — except that some parts are in a different colour. Anyway, let’s see…

    Rangeesh: Couldn’t catch the making of… But saw the Kamal show in the morning and really liked it.

    Apu: Even I’m not much of a fan of Ash. And that’s why I find her career amazing. We’re used to seeing actresses coast by on beauty till they get married, and then they either retire or switch to character roles. I think she’s done a terrific job of shaping her career, much like Madonna — again, someone whose music I don’t much care for but I find it amazing how she’s “manufactured” a career that’s lasted so long in the public eye.

    BTW, I guess Hema Malini too would count among actresses who did glam roles after marriage, no? I mean, films like Naseeb and all…

    Raj Balakrishnan: I quite like Lara Dutta :-)

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  18. The gags in the second half mildly interested me but I was snoring away in the first half. And then if that motherblade singing contest wasn’t enough they had to have that circus chase. Everyone in the cast and the director seemed too bored to put in any effort.

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  19. The presence of links was annoying! And what did you think of Pritam’s music? This is the second disappointing score from him for a film set in 1970′s after Once upon a time in Mumbai..

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  20. Mahesh Kumar Kanodia , and brother Naresh Kumar Kanodia, are big in Gujarati cinema. Mahesh Kumar and Party is a well-known orchestra, where he sings in voices of different famous singers (male and female). In the link below, you will get an idea – claim is he can sing in 32 different voices!

    He is now an MP from Gujarat.
    Naresh Kumar Kanodia has been a star/hero in Gujarati films since 1970′s, and he has also been an MP from Gujarat.

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  21. w: Am not going to be writing regularly for a while — other than Sunday reviews. But thalaivar might be tangentially referred to in a piece I hope to have ready for next weekend…

    Pradyumna M: Pritam’s music is generally catchy. Haven’t listened to this too closely. But I did like a few songs in OUATIM — ‘Tum jo aaye’ and ‘Pee loon’ were nice.

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  22. Reg: “Am not going to be writing regularly for a while”…are you going to take up direction? Acting? Come on, if we have to hear the news, it better be here :-)

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  23. Padawan: I hear a voice somewhere saying, “Indha moonjikkellaam acting oru kedaa?” :-) Saw Va yet? I get the feeling the only non-review film I’m going to be venturing out for is Manmadhan Ambu, which is of course obligatory.

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  24. In that case continue the tradition you started with Endhiran(of course it has happened before, but not so elaborately) of writing an almost-BR in the comments space.

    Saw Va? I quite enjoyed it and though it sagged a bit at the end of the first half and got really engaging in the 2nd. Of course, suffered from a Oram Po hangover but fun movie all things considered.

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  25. The way I see it, hyperlinks are just that many damn windows you allow for people to jump out of your line of thought onto something else :) which is a great thing if someone is looking for information – this way, you can process a lot, but may not be ideal when you’d rather have them READ your stuff.

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  26. jussomebody: Oh come on! That’s like blaming the Internet because you’re not able to concentrate on work with getting distracted. It’s still possible to read the piece at one stretch, no?

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  27. @Baradwaj: unga reading comprehension skills koranjitte irukku :p I didn’t find it too distracting , just a little pointless ,Also,felt that you might end up using it as a crutch for your writing :D(whatever that means).As jussomebody said , perhaps you should be the hyperlink maniac in your bitty ruminations pieces :D

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  28. Bala: I did get your point. It was the others I was talking about. The onset of dementia is still a few years away :-)

    Abhishek: Haven’t seen any of them yet.

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  29. @Baradwaj : hehe.Won’t push that point again. Do watch Va though.I think I liked it.Won’t know for sure unless I see it again :D It does have the weirdest Micheal Jackson tribute at the end if that helps :D

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  30. BR, I find the links very useful,and it is also kinda amusing in itself to see what you choose to hyperlink…
    I am all for this new format, but do tell as to why you wont be writing regularly for a while. You can’t tell us and then not tell us.

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  31. rangan,
    At the very least, hope you will comment on this “Mynaa” film. Been reading the same “refreshing divergence from masala”-type, reviews, so I wonder if this is going to be another “Mozhi”-type response for you…

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  32. BR: I liked Koffee with Kamal, but what was new in it? Same old Thangappan master, sitting in Sivaji’s lap, Nagesh-Manorama. Kamal may be left with a maximum of 10 films in his career, I would have wanted to question what is going to do about them and in what way he chose Manmadhan Ambu to be the first of his rest?

    You missed making of Endhiran; It exemplified Shankar’s ability to successfully lead and project manage a team of professionals and deliver results to the expectations of stakeholders – investors 7 audience. In it production complexity, Endhiran is no different to any of Hollywood’s best. Was proud to see an Indian director delivering this project brilliantly. So much so that I can foresee a case study coming up in Project Management reports.

    And the way he signed off the program was nothing short of genius!!

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  33. Sukanya: I will be writing reviews regularly. Just the BRs and the Part of the Picture columns might be on hold. I’m just working on some other stuff, that’s all — and no, nothing as dramatic as a movie :-)

    prasanth: If I get the time, I’d rather check out Va than Myna, though I’ve been hearing a lot of near-raves about the latter.

    Anand: See, the probing questions you want to ask will never be part of a “Koffee with..” format. Whether Karan or Anu, the show is meant to be fluff, an extended gossip session. I think those kind of questions are more likely to be found in print. Then again, a lot of people don’t like extremely immersive interviews.

    About the making-of show, it just didn’t interest me because I’ve seen a few Hollywood making-of documentaries and generally find them a bit tedious. But seriously, Shankar is one person whose head I’d love to dig into :-)

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  34. Right now it seems Bollywood can’t even come out with a decent 70′s style masala movie. I would rather recommend to get a pack of old 70′s masala DVD’s and watch them, rather than this crappy Retro tribute.

    Waiting for Sriram Raghavan’s Agent Vinod. That is one director who surely knows how to fashion a truly good ole entertainer.

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  35. Va QC was overall disappointing except for a handful (well, maybe two handfuls)of genuine laughs and some cheeky references. Nowhere close to Oram Po even; the concept is amusing but little effort seems to have gone into developing the plot. It meanders through exasperatingly for 21/2 hours with no sense of space or time, to an underwhelming climax.
    Did you get to see Rakt Charithra 1?

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  36. Kiruba: No, haven’t seen RC 1. Heard a LOT of good things about it, and from within the industry. I think I’ll make a double bill with 1 & 2 — because the Tamil version is a truncated cut that focuses only on Suriya (from what I’ve heard).

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  37. Anand – I agree the making was very interesting and made me see Endhiran in a new light . It also got me thinking how Endhiran wouldn’t have been possible if Kamal hadn;t shown him what could be done with make up and stuff in Indian in a “Vedhai naan potadhu” way :-) .

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  38. You think Kajol has had a “significant career” post-marriage? Maybe others in her lineage (Nutan, as you say, and Shobhana Samarth) have, and many other character actresses (Durga Khote, Leela Mishra, Tun Tun, and on and on) have too, but surely not Kajol?

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  39. Nope. Va is yet to be seen, but I have not been hearing good things about it. Did watch RC1 and Uththamaputhtiran. One was good and the other horrible.

    If this is how Dhanush is going to choose his movies, I am going to be (sigh!) a fan of Simbu.

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  40. memsaab: I mean, she doesn’t do many films but she’s managed to get strong heroine-centric roles in each one. That, in Bollywood terms (or perhaps even in Hollywood terms) is a “significant career.” Tun Tun, Leela Misra, Durga Khote and so on were playing supporting-character roles for the most part.

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  41. Hmmm. I guess I don’t equate “heroine-centric” with “significant”…I feel a stronger sense of anticipation seeing Durga Khote’s name in the cast than I do Aishwarya or even Kajol, for instance (I do love Kajol, although not always her roles so much). Mrs. Khote played some pretty strong female roles, and did it for 60+ years—even if the ones she is mostly remembered for were supporting or small roles, she always lights up the screen (and some of her films as heroine are amazing). That’s what a significant career means for me, anyway, but I get your point :)

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  42. memsaab: I was using “significant” solely in the box-office sense — that a heroine could command leading roles like this even after marriage. In any other sense, someone like Nutan had a far nore “significant” career because she was amuch better actress and also got much better films (as heroine).

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  43. Regarding actresses who had significant careers (ie. achieved box office success in leading roles) post-marriage – I think we’ve had this discussion before! Aishwarya is not by any means unique and I’m rather surprised that you’re unaware that most of Nutan’s box office success came post-marriage. “Bandini”, “Tere Ghar Ke Samane”, “Khandaan”, “Milan” “Saraswatichandra, etc. all came after marriage, and in the case of the latter listed films – after she had a child. Rakhee, Sharmila Tagore, Sadhana, Mala Sinha etc. all married mid-careers but continued to be popular leading ladies. Others like Meena Kumari, Moushimi Chatterjee and the redoubtable Nirupa Roy were married thier entire cinematic careers. I’m afraid you’ll have to find something else to distinguish the unremarkable Aishwarya’s stint in movies. :-)

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  44. BR: Sorry, forgot that RC 1 was not released in Chennai!
    As much as I found it good, was left wondering how much better this could’ve been.

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  45. I gotcha, no worries :) Can I ask who your all-time favorite actress would be, if you had to pick one? I know that is a huge wide world, but I respect your reviews a whole lot, and am just curious :)

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  46. Shalini: Like I told memsaab, this isn’t about having a “long” (in terms of number of still-active years) or “productive” (in terms of number of films) career. I was just expressing my amazement that Aishwarya is still playing the “glam heroine” in Robot and Action Replayy, the kind that of role could be just as easily have gone to much younger heroines like Katrina or Kareena or whoever. Take Sharmila Tagore in your list. She was doing heroine roles after marriage, sure. But was she doing the kind of roles that might just as easily have gone to Zeenat or Parveen? No.

    And for an actress with such questionable performing instincts, she’s cornered the best of the other side of the market too — with Mani Ratnam, Bhansali, Rituparno Ghosh and the like. This is a frankly amazing career she’s built up — plus, she’s still on the scene long after Rani, Preity and so on have fallen by the wayside. That, to my mind, is “significant,” — whether or not you are a fan :-)

    Abhishek: No, haven’t seen Do Dooni Char.

    memsaab: Very tough question, and not sure one I can answer. Can I just be lazy and say Zeenat Aman or Parveen Babi, and blame the shallowness of the response on my wayward childhood? :-)

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  47. Considering Maushmi Chatterjee’s entire career was as a married woman, wouldnt you consider her for comparison in glamour stakes. Not exactly in the costumes – and she was in bland movies for most part, and not big-stake, big movies like Rai – but whatever I have seen of her movies, it seems the directors seemed to accentuate the “woman as object of desire” part of her than acting talent. Infact, much as it embarasses me to reveal this, I noticed that in her first Hindi film, Anuraag, her first shot on screen has the camera focussing on…ahm..er…how do I put it here…well, let’s say a part of her anatomy that the front benchers would be very much interested in.

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  48. brannigan! shame on you! when you talk to an older woman actress worshipping feminist (i would say gulzaar hater , but that would be too specific, shalini) you go , worship, or face undying wrath of the cabal..er coven..er inquisition…

    say ” I used to worship the ground shabana azmi walks on, until I met konkana sen sharma, whence I switched. now I scour trade papers for new projects of said sen sharma.”

    also pick plain actresses- nutan nanda tabu, and manly ones- madhubala meenaxi seshadri(who has a nice muchtache) dimple…pretend tabu is hot for extra brownie points.

    pick films where plain looking women gallavant . the more unkempt their hair the better. (chalti ka naam gadi, seetha aur geeta).

    Jaya bacchan doesn’t work(catfight with shabana azmi) nor does smita patil (theyve not heard of her, plus catfight with shabana azmi). pick heroines that lesbians would totally crush on – ayesha takia, madhuri dixit, madhubala…

    worship the wrong un, and youre dead, formulated stuck with a pin as a museum specimen. the word will go out. fix ‘im.

    fear the awesome power of the white bollywood fan!!!! (not so fast shalini!)

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  49. raj: “the front benchers would be very much interested in…” So the balcony audience shouldn’t enjoy boob-watching? You seem to hail from a highly evolved planet! :-)

    rameshram: I didn’t get that comment at all, but I did get the feeling there’s going to be a Fight No. 2! Ducking for cover now.

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  50. rameshram, what the hell are you saying? Are you talking in Mosquito language? Damn, man! Now I have to get the help of Robot to understand!!! don’t break my tiny little brain, dude! It’s already weak!!!

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  51. BR – I get and concede the point regarding Aishwariya’s surprising career longevity – just disagree that it’s unprecedented.:-)

    “Take Sharmila Tagore in your list. She was doing heroine roles after marriage, sure. But was she doing the kind of roles that might just as easily have gone to Zeenat or Parveen? No.”

    Yes. Sharmila wasn’t all “Amar Prem” or “Mausam” type fare post-marriage. She did plenty of glamorous turns too in films like “Aa Gale Lag Jaa”, “Shaitaan”, “Besharam”,”Yeh Gulistan Hamara” and my personal fave, “Ek Se Badhkar Ek.”

    And if Sharmila’s resume doesn’t convince you, there’s always Saira Banu… :-)

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  52. No. 1 actress?….why? how? when?…what is the criteria of being no 1 actress?…it is a foregone conclusion that she can’t act…

    even on the basis of pure commercial success (minus acting), Katrina Kaif is far ahead of her…ARB has had a huge number of flops in her career (& don’t tell me Robot was a hit because of her)

    She has ruined many a movies for me personally…

    I find it difficult to believe that she still has such loyal fans remaining while great actresses like Tabu are fading away due to lack of opportunities…

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  53. Here is the latest nandalala trailer:

    Already looking fwd to santhanam’s spoof of the ‘holding the trousers’ mannerisms.OMG,the creative team behind this film repeatedly insisted that, it isn’t a copy of the Japanese film kikujiro.But the framing/shot compositions hav been xeroxed,to use an quintessential indian term. Of course that magical film had the understated performance of the kid,Kitano’s trademark deadpan expressions and beautiful,brilliant music,beautiful scripting& direction avoiding cheap sentimentality.
    This will be loaded with sendimends,and cliches/formula like a mentally retarded hero assures success in tamil box-office.And dont forget the subsequent interviews abt pathbreaking film and creative visionary etc..
    Cheers
    k

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  54. B_R, Myshkin claims Anjadhe and CP were kuppai and Nandhalala is the kaaviyam he always wanted to make.
    Without revealing anything, can you give a one-liner on where you stand w.r.that

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  55. Baradwaj, do you remember the discussion we had on Anjaadhae. About why would he simply not take interest in making the fight scene in hospital believable.
    I think his recent comments kind of give a window to his thought process – it does seem like he is embarassed at the compromises(as he sees it) he made with the kuththu songs, and with some free extrapolation, the fight scene that you found as standing out in a bad way.

    He has categorically dismissed Anjaadhe as a film – it seems to me that he is evaluating by certain standards that his film education have given him as benchmarks – and that the very reason he is frustratedly calling his own films crap is that he had to make thosee compromises. Which kind of possibly accounts for their shoddiness.

    Which is the discussion we had then.

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