Review: Mission Istaanbul / Money Hai Toh Honey Hai

Posted on July 26, 2008


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A brain-dead action thriller set in Turkey feels suspiciously like ‘The Firm.’ Plus, a brain-dead comedy that feels suspiciously like a root canal.

JULY 27, 2008 – IS THERE ANY WORD IN ANY LANGUAGE that Ekta Kapoor cannot coax an extra alphabet into? The numerological havoc, so far, has been restricted to the transliterations of the titles of her made-for-TV epics – Kahaani Hamaaray Mahaabhaarat Ki, Kasamh Se – but now, perhaps emboldened by her Midas touch (or possibly with an eye on world domination), she’s set her sights higher, at the ancient seat of the Ottoman Empire. The latest offering from Balaji Telefilms is called Mission Istaanbul (though, come to think of it, given Ekta’s fetish for the eleventh letter of the English alphabet, it’s a mystery why this mission wasn’t set in Kkenya or Kkazakhstan). And after enduring the movie in question, it must be said that if the producer had possessed an iota of decency, she’d have labelled it Mission Istanbull.

Apoorva Lakhia’s film is one of those instantly disposable action thrillers that loses credibility from the get-go, by showcasing a dudish Zayed Khan as the intrepid journalist Vikas Sagar, who’s invited to Istaanbul to become part of the cunningly named news channel, Al Johara. (You haven’t seen anything till you’ve witnessed Zayed, towards the end, admonish the villain – who, incidentally, does have an eye on world domination – about What Journalism Really Is.) Vikas is so committed to his profession, he has no time for anything else – even a wife in the comely shape of Shriya Saran, who plays one of those women who, never mind the gravity and the urgency of a situation, always manages to find time for a lipstick touchup. At one point, she’s tied to a chair and surrounded by bloodthirsty terrorists, and she appears to have stepped off a Maxim photo shoot.

Such grace under pressure is perhaps the result of taking tips, during shooting breaks, from the film’s other female figure, a RAW agent with the enticing name of Lisa Lobo (Shweta Bhardwaj), who ferociously – and single-handedly – takes on about ten goons and survives with nary a chip on her nail polish, let alone a bead of sweat. These generically staged action sequences are about the only diversions in this incredulously plotted story, which plays like The Firm (every journalist who wishes to leave Al Johara ends up suspiciously dead) crossed with Tomorrow Never Dies (the Al Johara head, played by Nikitan Dheer, is a megalomaniac who wants to engineer the course of history through his media network).

Vikas, naturally, wants to be the first journalist from Al Johara to leave and live, and in his efforts, he’s aided by the mysterious Rizwan Khan (Vivek Oberoi, with the perpetually cocky smile of someone who’s read the script beforehand and knows that, whatever happens, he’s going to live to fight many more battles, or at least, make many more bad movies). If there’s something vaguely distasteful about using actual, present-day horrors – a nod to the arms markets in Kabul, kids crawling under barbed wire while training to becoming terrorists, an Osama lookalike who’s targeting Kashmir – as simply the backdrop for the kind of film that features an Abhishek Bachchan item number, no one seems to be bothered. All they’re interested in is delivering an adrenaline rush in the name of saving Inndia.

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HAD RAJKUMAR HIRANI DIRECTED Money Hai Toh Honey Hai – the title has little relevance to the film, but that’s the least of its problems – he’d have cottoned on instantly to what would have made it work. He’d have smelt an immediate audience connect with the subplot about Shruti (Celina Jaitley) wanting to make affordable designer clothing for the common man – she shows off her creations in a fashion show filled not with anorexic stick figures but ordinary men and women with hearty paunches and chubby cheeks – and he’d have tailored the rest of the story around this engaging and unique idea. After all, which one of us wouldn’t fall for this only-in-the-movies conceit of a guy-next door (or a girl-next-door) sharing space with Carol Gracias and Muzammil Ibrahim?

But Ganesh Acharya, the director, wants Shruti to rub shoulders with Govinda, Manoj Bajpai, Aftab Shivdasani, Upen Patel and Hansika Motwani, all of whom are bequeathed the fortunes of a dying loon (Prem Chopra, given to playing with something that resembles a snitch from the Quidditch games in the Harry Potter books). They must then devise a way to save the company they now own from bankruptcy (or something; I tuned out some fifteen minutes into this nonsense, which is so unwatchable, a wag at the theatre yelled “Thank you” when the power went off for a minute). Govinda has a moment where he looks at Sophie Chowdhury (who claims she’s never had a boyfriend) and whispers this leering aside, astounded that such a hot girl is in such a plight: “Itna achcha maal aaj tak godown mein pada hua hai.” I chuckled at this Govinda of old, the sleazebag who used to make you smile (as opposed to, say, Shakti Kapoor, the sleazebag who used to make you cringe) – but the price of that single nostalgic chuckle is two-and-a-half hours of unrelieved tedium.

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Posted in: Cinema: Hindi