JUDWAA 2 – Who said remakes cannot be fun

I mean they’re making remakes of my films and I am not even dead yet – Norman Jewison

 

INTRO

 

#TWINDRAGONS, a little known film of Chinese actor #JackieChan released in the year 1992 to a lukewarm response and that would have been the end of the story but for a filmmaker from Tollywood aka Telugu film industry who felt that the story of two identical twins had potential. He was right. The rehash, HELLO BROTHER which starred Telugu matinee idol #Nagarjuna smashed all box office records. Not to be left behind Bollywood came up with it’s own version simply titled JUDWAA. Starring Salman ‘Bhai’ Khan in a rare double role it also raked in the moolah. That was 1997. Now a full two decades later the same makers (producer #SajidNadiadwala & director #DavidDhawan) deem it fit to come up with (yet) another remake – JUDWAA 2.

 

STORY

 

Nothing new here. Two identical twins (Raja & Prem) separated at birth grow up living different lives. So you have Mister suave who has lived abroad all his life and the other is a #Tapori (Mumbaiyya slang for Slumdog) Till one fine day they accidentally end up swapping places and all hell breaks loose.

 

SCRIPT, SCREENPLAY & DIALOGUES

 

Over the last decade brothers and writers #Sajid-Farhad have built a reputation as the go-to men when it comes to penning comedies so much so that makers like Rohit Shetty (the #GOLMAAL franchisee) and Sajid Khan (the #HOUSEFULL franchisee) swear by them. And while watching JUDWAA 2 it is not difficult to see why. Even if you are a Bhai fan and might crib that Varun Dhawan is nowhere in comparison ten minutes into the film you will actually find yourself chuckling. And at slightly less than 150 minutes JUDWAA 2 is a breeze to sit through.

 

TECHNICAL CREDITS

 

That director David Dhawan is an ace editor has always been an added advantage and it is no different with JUDWAA 2. Though the credits do mention Ritesh Soni the stamp of David all over is unmistakable. DOP Ayananka Bose’s pleasing work shows that David has grown as a technician. And like all Nadiadwala productions this one is lavishly mounted. The soundtrack credited to Sajid-Wajid uses a couple of tunesĀ  from the 1997 film which is a good thing. One wishes they had used ‘East or West India is the Best’ which was a personal favorite back then.

 

PERFORMANCES

 

Like it’s predecessor JUDWAA 2 has several comic actors (Anupam Kher, Johnny Lever, Upasana Singh, Rajpal Yadav, Ali Asgar) but none of them really leaves a lasting impact and they are all strictly average. But it is a little disappointing to see the very talented Pawan Malhotra in a role that could have been essayed by any lesser actor. Those who have seen the earlier JUDWAA would know that the heroines had precious little to do and so it is with this one too. All through the film Jacqueline Fernandes seems to not know whether she is coming or going.

The very talented #TaapseePannu who wowed one and all with her bravura act in PINK makes the transition to what is a hardcore commercial film seamlessly. From wearing itsy-bitsy bikinis to full-on jhatka-matkas she does it all unflinchingly (After all the temptation to go through the motions must have been immense) Proving that a good actor is a good actor is a good actor. #VarunDhawan is the star of this enterprise. He knows it and revels in it. Though his father David would like to think that his son is #SalmanKhan & #Govinda rolled into one that is hardly the case. He is even all right in the role of the street smart ‘tapori’ but brings nothing to the other role. Yes he is very comfortable in front of the camera with all the trappings of a star not necessarily a good actor.

 

DIRECTION

 

David Dhawan has been the ‘King of Comedy’ when it comes to directors in apna Bollywood and his association with actor Govinda (they have done a mindboggling 17 films together) is the stuff of legend. Sadly with the actor’s career nosediving in the last decade David has also struggled. Not surprising then that his last big hit, #PARTNER was a decade ago. With his favorite actor, Govinda (who else) Hopefully with JUDWAA 2 this talented director has found his ‘mojo’ again. With son in tow. This is not nearly his best but the (imminent) success of this film might just do the trick.

 

VERDICT

 

#JUDWAA2 is designed to be a full-on timepass film and to that extent it succeeds. This low brow comedy will not appeal to the discerning audience but it never was meant for them anyway. You will smile a lot throughout and occasionally break into a laughter even. Expecting anything more is foolhardy. This one is a sure shot for the 100 crore club.

 

RATING

2.5/5

 

Is Dravidian politics on the verge of a tectonic shift?

Last week, actor & filmmaker #KamalHassan created a flutter in political circles (and outside it) by making his intentions of getting into politics, presumably on a full time basis. That he chose to specially meet with #DelhiCM #ArvindKejriwal and bonded over their common peeve, that of corruption made things so much more dramatic. After all his colleague and fellow actor #Rajnikanth had only gone public a month ago with his own announcement of taking the political plunge. The grapevine had suggested that since Rajnikanth was close friends with #RSS idealogue #Gurumurthy he would join the saffron fold. With Kamal Hassan seemingly evincing interest in what is considered the other end of the political spectrum the stage is set for a mouthwatering contest. Between two of the biggest matinee idols of #TamilCinema. The kind that any scriptwriter would be proud of.

It all began with the unexpected demise of CM #Jayalalitha in December of last year. The actor turned politician had been a dominant force in Tamil Nadu politics for almost three decades. Affectionately referred to as #Amma (Tamil for mother) Jayalalitha served a staggering six terms in this period as the Chief Minister of the southern state of Tamil Nadu. What makes this state different from all the others is that since the 1960s only two parties have ruled the roost here, #DMK and #AIADMK (the one which Amma was heading) Neither the Grand Old Party of India, #Congress nor the right leaning BJP or even the communist parties of India have been able to gain a foothold here. That Jayalalitha’s death coincided with the fading away (due to old age) of DMK’s tallest leader #Karunanidhi from the limelight has left a huge political lacuna right at the top.

Strangely enough for someone who was thought of as politically astute, Jayalalitha never groomed anybody to be her successor. As a result post her death there was bickering among senior AIADMK members regarding the person who should replace her. Similarly in the rival camp (read DMK) Karunanidhi’s son #Stalin has been unable to inspire confidence both within the party and among supporters. Which is why for the first time in almost half a century the people of the state are looking beyond the two parties and at the possibility of a #ThirdFront emerging. Clearly #Dravidian politics is at a crossroads and the two southern superstars sense it too. After all rumors of Rajnikanth entering the political arena have been going around for several years now.

A brief look at their long, distinguised careers will tell one that though both the actors command a huge fan following of their own they have chosen (and willingly) to chart different paths. Rajni has always held sway over the masses whilst Kamal has been preferred by the discerning audiences. One only has to look at the former’s choice of roles from the last many years to understand that there has been a political subtext in them. But always. So while the entry of Rajnikanth is more or less on expected lines it is the possibility of his compatriot Kamal Hassan joining the party that has proved to be the proverbial twist in the tale. And what better place than Tamil Nadu? After all this is the same state that has had no less than three Chief Ministers who were all from the film industry.

There are several questions that remain unanswered. Will the duo join hands with any of the national parties or decide to go it all alone? Can their on screen persona translate into electoral dividends off it? Is there a chance (however remote) of them both coming together and forming a new party? Perhaps we will have more clarity on all this in the forthcoming weeks. One thing is for sure. The addition of these two tinseltown demigods to the mix will have massive implications, nationwide. Expect fireworks.

The Blue Whale Challenge – Here is clear and present danger

When no one can hear you, what are you screaming for?
We can be silent, we can sing
Stay or run away, but we still we burn
A big blue whale can’t break the chain

These innocuous sounding lines are from a song called #Burn, composed by Russian alternative rock band #Lumen. Rumors abound that this very song was behind the name #BlueWhale given to an online game that has been linked to the mysterious death of several teenagers around the world. In fact reports suggest(unconfirmed) that in #Russia alone about 130 young boys and girls who took up the Blue Whale Challenge have tragically ended their lives. Last summer these reports first appeared in the Russian investigative newspaper, Novaya Gazeta.

It was while trying to understand the alarming number of child suicides (for the record about 1500 teenagers all between the age group of 14 to 18-19 commit suicide in Russia every year) all unrelated that #NovayaGazeta inadvertently learnt about this diabolic online game. There had been whispers for long. Several support groups, local communities and journalists had been alleging that on popular social networking sites like #VKontakte (Russia’s very own #Facebook) there existed these closed groups, even murderous cults and pro-suicide groups that were known simply as ‘Groups of Death’

The Blue Whale Challenge requires a participant to perform certain tasks which are assigned to them by administrators (referred to as #Curators) and post pictures/videos to ascertain that these have been completed. Thus begins a conditioning of young, impressionable minds by getting them to watch #Psychedelic videos, depriving them of sleep (thus disorienting their senses) and increasingly cutting them off from the world at large. #SelfHarm in case tasks are not completed is encouraged and slowly the image of a Blue Whale is reinforced on the subconscious.

Why a Blue Whale, you ask? Well it is due to the strange phenomenon of this species tending to swim ashore (called #Beaching) and thereby killing itself. Somewhere the perverse minds behind this game decided that since killing oneself was the final aim (read task) of this game this name was apt. Before long the Blue Whale Challenge spread it’s tentacles all over the world with reports of teenagers killing themselves in similar circumstances (jumping off roofs, stepping in front of trains) pouring in. But when renowned fact checking (and rumor busting) site, #Snopes tried to get to the bottom of this here is what they found. Precious nothing.

Firstly there is no clarity about how kids (now worldwide) are able to get access to these groups. For there surely is no such App that is available to download and play. Some say that you simply update your status with relevant hashtags(like #F57 which is supposedly the group that started all this) and ‘someone’ will get in touch with you themselves. Sure sounds creepy but highly implausible too. In the middle of all this melee one suddenly heard that a 22 year old psychology student in Russia, who confessed that he was indeed the inventor of the Blue Whale Challenge, had been apprehended by authorities. All of this news sounding very murky and incredible.

In the end as we debate whether the #BlueWhaleChallenge actually exists or if it is all mere hoax it sure serves a wake up call. For adults and parents around the world to take notice of the dangers that lurk on the internet. And to ensure that their wards get due love, care and attention. So that they do not spend an unhealthy number of hours with virtual strangers. And have a normal childhood like we did. That is not asking for too much, is it?

NEWTON – This dance of democracy is mesmerising

The ballot is stronger than the bullet – Abraham Lincoln

INTRO

Politics lends itself well to #Satire and that some of the best black comedies, like Charlie Chaplin’s #TheGreatDictator, Stanley Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb were all rooted in politics is only further proof of the same. In apna Bollywood such films are few and far in between partly because successive regimes have been less tolerant of such films. After all it has been over three decades since that rare gem called JAANE BHI DO YAARON released. But in the last few years films like #AnushaRizvi’s PEEPLI LIVE, Sourabh Srivastava’s OH MY GOD and #SubhashKapoor’s JOLLY LLB have shown that things are changing. In that sense Amit Masurakar’s #NEWTON could not have released at a better time.

STORY

A story is something of a rarity in most Bollywood fillums. But this one actually has one. Newton is the story of this honest (to a fault) guy called Nutan Kumar (Rajkumar Rao) who along with his two colleagues is given the risky assignment of presiding over polls in the Dandakaranya forests. The job is risky because the area is #Naxal dominated. What happens on election day is what NEWTON is all about.

SCRIPT, SCREENPLAY & DIALOGUES

NEWTON is penned by the director himself along with writer Mayank Tewari (the lead actor with dishevelled hair who spouts the ‘Ganja Mangoge Coke Denge, Rishwat Mangoge Thok Denge’ line in Masurkar’s debut slacker film, SULEMANI KEEDA) Tewari is there in this one too but in a blink-and-you-miss role as a scribe. The best part about the writing here is that NEWTON touches upon several issues (democracy, the Naxal problem, woman empowerment, conditions of tribals) all at once but without ever feeling the need to hammer home the point (which was the case with PEEPLI LIVE) At one point during the film, Rajkumar’s character asks a polling booth officer whether she is a NIRASHAVADI (meaning pessimist) To which her terse reply is ‘Main Adivasi Hoon’ That one line sums up NEWTON. And at less than two hours (109 mins) the film has no flab that it needs to shed.

TECHNICAL CREDITS

There are no songs in NEWTON really but for the inspiring ‘Chal Tu Apna Kaam Kar’ that appears towards the end and it really does give one goosebumps. The background score by Benedict Taylor is minimal and is in keeping with the subtle style of narration that the film has. The DOP #SwapnilSonawane seems to have a thing for films that are ‘hatke’ what with his other film being the 2015 feminist fillum ANGRY INDIAN GODDESSES. Though the temptation to use the vast forests of #Dandakaranya as a character in itself must have been immense, in keeping with the ‘less is more’ ethos of NEWTON Sonawane refrains from getting self indulgent. Special mention must be made of Shweta Venkat Mathew (of GANGS OF WASSEYPUR fame) whose crisp editing ensures that NEWTON never slips into docu-feature mode. And one cannot praise enough #DrishyamFilms who have consistently backed quality independent films like AANKHON DEKHI, MASAAN, DHANAK and now NEWTON.

PERFORMANCES

In it’s scope, style and canvas NEWTON bears a slight resemblance to the #AamirKhan production PEEPLI LIVE and Amit Masurkar acknowledges this by casting the lead actor of that film Omkar Das Manikpuri in a minor role (he even has a funny scene where he tries to pitch network marketing to the character of Rajkumar Rao) But it is the other actor from that very film, #RaghuvirYadav who shines in the role of Loknath who has done his masters in Hindi but regrets not having learnt English. The scene where he has to attend to nature’s call in the forests is quite superb. #PankajTripathi follows his superb act in BAREILLY KI BARFI a few weeks ago with the role of CO Aatma Singh here. His role is in ways the anti thesis of everything that Rajkumar’s character stands for. He is manipuplative, shrewd and will circumvent rules just so that he has his way. Sanjay Mishra is so good in a delightful cameo that one actually wishes there was more of him.

#AnjaliPatil who has won praise on the international circuit for some of her previous work sinks her teeth into the role of a school teacher who hails from the local community. Whether it is while acting as the go-between for the villagers and Rajkumar Rao or while admonishing the hero for being unaware of the ground realities she is in ways the moral compass of NEWTON. For some strange reason #RajkumarRao in the role of Newton (a name that he confesses choosing only to avoid ridicule) kept reminding one of what is arguably Hrishida’s finest film SATYAKAM. And more specifically of Dharmendra’s character in the film. Like in that film Rajkumar Rao is an idealist but not without flaws of his own. (What Sanjay Mishra quite interestingly terms ‘Imaandari ka Ghamand’) And it is this very arrogance that almost gets him killed in the tense climax. With this role Rajkumar Rao again reaffirms that he is the best thing to have happened to Hindi cinema in recent years.

DIRECTION

#AmitMasurkar who made his debut four years ago with the part-silly-part-funny SULEMANI KEEDA has upped his craft a few notches with this second film #NEWTON. He deals with a subject as tricky as that of the Naxal problem with rare maturity and never allows the film to become too grim. In fact there are several scenes in NEWTON where one laughed out loud only to become quiet realising how hapless the situation is (for the characters involved) Now that is an emotion that one has rarely experienced at the movies, certainly not in a Hindi film. And just for that one doffs one’s hat off to Masurkar.

VERDICT

2017 has been the year of small films. Films shorn of stars, hype, hoopla and songs. Films that actually boast of memorable characters, great writing and solid acting. NEWTON exemplifies all this and more. One fervently hopes that it reaches it’s target audience. Not really for the sake of the producer or the director but for those wanting to see good cinema come out of Bollywood. And NEWTON is clearly the best film one has seen so far this year.

RATING

4/5