Review: Karzzzz / Shoot on Sight

Posted on October 18, 2008


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A wholly unnecessary remake of a reincarnation saga is strictly for Himesh Reshammiya devotees. Plus, a disappointingly tepid exploration of being Muslim in a post-9/11 world.

OCT 19, 2008 – THOSE WHO BELIEVE IN REINCARNATION hold that what you do in this life defines what you are in the next – if you’re not careful, that karma thing could come bite you in the posterior and result in your rebirth as a porcupine or a duck-billed platypus. So can you imagine the heinousness that Dino Morea has unleashed in his time on this planet that he is reborn as… Himesh Reshammiya? All right, I know that’s a cheap shot – but what is it about The Man Who Nose Too Much that invites such sniggering? He’s hardly the worst actor to have graced our screens, and though I find myself completely immune to his vocalising charms, several singers before him have inflicted with their noses far fouler terrors. Why, then, this itch to pick on this particular not-so-great actor with this particular not-so-great voice? Could it be the air of entitlement he wears so nonchalantly like the baseball caps he used to – as if he’s practically daring you to deny his right to be up there on screen? Could it be that earlier mediocre celebrities had their fifteen minutes and moved on to, say, a judge’s spot on Nach Baliye – thus making the theatres a safe place for us again – while this one shows no signs of slowing down?

Or could it just be that we like to put him down because – as is the case in Satish Kaushik’s Karzzzz – Reshammiya insists on carpet-bombing us with never-ending solos, every ten minutes? The songs keep coming at us in alarming succession, and if they’d at least been memorable, I wouldn’t have half minded. The trouble is that they all sound like one another, a bland mishmash of an album of elevator muzak piped through a deviated septum – and through the duration of an entire film, that’s awfully hard to take. The earlier Karz, the Subhash Ghai version, was certainly no classic, but a number of factors pulled it through – an exuberant Rishi Kapoor (possibly our only star who looked like he belonged on the musical stage), Tina Munim at her porcelain-doll prettiest, and a rambunctious Laxmikant-Pyarelal score that worked well on screen. (It’s another matter that it’s completely dated today, as an audio-only experience.) Here, we’re asked to buy the wan chemistry between rock star Monty (Reshammiya) and Tina (Shweta Kumar) – together, they couldn’t heat up a cup of coffee – along with a mute villain whose preferred mode of communication is tapping out notes of music on a computer pad fitted on a steel forearm. And who can keep a straight face through that?

As the story goes, Ravi (Dino Morea) falls for the scheming Kamini (Urmila Matondkar), who reciprocates his affections by bailing out of a two-seater aircraft with the sole parachute on board. (This plane, by the way, gives the best performance in the film. It achieves smooth takeoff, stays airborne for a brief while, and goes down in a fiery plume of smoke – there, with remarkable economy of expression, is the summation of Morea’s Bollywood career.) Ravi is reborn as Monty, and the rest of Karzzzz stays fairly true to its predecessor – right down to its Hamlet-ish climactic reenactment of Kamini’s misdeeds. (Is there a future quiz trivia question here, by the way? Who’s the only actress to have appeared in a film named after a popular song – namely, Ek Hasina Thi and in the remake of the film that featured that song in the first place?) Karzzzz is not altogether unwatchable – if that’s any consolation – but about the only thing I’ll be happy about if it succeeds is that Reshammiya made it on his own, unlike the star kids who are routinely paraded before us with nothing to show but daddy’s clout. You’ve got to give the man that much. Now if he’d only parlay that success into a judge’s spot on Nach Baliye and make the theatres safe for us again.

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THE COLD WAR GAVE US RUSSIAN VILLAINS, The Troubles recast the bad guys as IRA patriots, and, now, 9/11 has redefined, yet again, the face of the movie miscreant. As a British police officer offers in his defense, when accused of wrongfully gunning down a Muslim youth, the point is not if all Muslims are terrorists but whether all terrorists are Muslims. That’s a terrific peg to hang a topical story on, but Jag Mundhra’s Shoot on Sight is a pallid connect-the-dots exercise that seeks to showcase nothing less than what it means to be Muslim in today’s world and ends up just another will-they-catch-the-bad-guy-before-he-blows-things-up thriller. Despite nods to rabblerousing Muslim clerics and misled youths, racism and reverse-racism (the film is set in England), good Muslims and bad Muslims, there’s little that roots this story in any palpable sense of the present-day – or if there is, we’ve seen (and heard) it all before in films like Mission: Kashmir and The Devil’s Own. A fine cast (Naseeruddin Shah, Greta Scacchi, Brian Cox, Om Puri) sleepwalks through sketchy parts that are uniformly shaped towards instant categorisation. Save for a moment that highlights the personal life of a cop thought to be racist, there’s not a single scene that allows these characters to breathe and reveal themselves to us in any interesting way. Is it a crime to be a Muslim, the film’s poster asks. No – but it is a crime to reduce complex truths to dully liberal-minded message movies.

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Posted in: Cinema: Hindi