One of my biggest filmi wishes is to be able to see some of the classic Bollywood films on the big screen, in the way they were intended to be seen. While a DVD and a small screen is fine for certain films, things like Wake Up Sid that almost have a television screen feel to them, I know that films like Sholay and Karz lose something in the transition to the living room. Picture Sholay with the big open vistas actually appearing big and open; Gabbar Singh 12 feet tall dragging his belt, sending chills down your spine. You can’t pause to go get snacks and you can’t switch to a different window to check your e-mail. You just sit, absorbed in the experience, and let all the worries of daily life drift out of your mind.
I love seeing films in the theater. I love hearing the crowd laugh at the jokes and sniff tears back at the sad scenes. There is something visceral about seeing a film in the theater that is really missing from a living room DVD experience.
Alas, Bollywood has, for the most part, stopped making films to be seen in the theater and has started making films that play best on television and in-flight screens. The picturizations are designed to be seen on MTV India and youtube, not projected 20 feet tall. One of the things I loved about Endhiran was that it WAS meant to be seen in a theater, surrounded by a crowd of Superstar Rajini fans. And the point of all this introductory rambling is that Action Replayy felt like 1970s Bollywood film in that way, too.
Action Replayy is not a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination. The plot makes absolutely no sense and leaves a ton of loose threads hanging. Former “London Dreams” band member Aditya Roy Kapoor plays Bunty, the son of eternally bickering parents (Akshay Kumar and Aishwarya Rai). Now, Bunty’s girlfriend Tanya (an emaciated looking Sudeepa Singh) keeps trying to get him to marry her but he keeps refusing because his parents’ marriage is so terrible. Also, she has a wacky uncle (Randhir Kapoor!) who built a time machine… you can see where this is going. Bunty hijacks the time machine to travel back to the 1970s in order to fix his parents’ marriage before it starts.
That is the main premise of the film and everything relating to it is awful. I hated both Bunty and Tanya and Randhir Kapoor has about three lines in the film and delivers them all as if he is reading a cue card.
Now, that being said, this narrative set up takes up only a small amount of screentime and the real meat of the film – the emotional narrative between Akshay Kumar and Aishwarya Rai - is actually very touching and the movie becomes a lot of fun once we get past Bunty and his trite drama. The performances from all the ‘older generation’ in the 1970s were fantastic; Akshay, Aishwarya, Neha Dhupia, Rannvijay Singh, Om Puri, Kirron Kher, and Rajpal Yadav put on a great show.
I can’t say enough good things about Akshay and Aishwarya – they knocked it out of the park. Here is a 30-something woman and a 40-something man who managed to believably play both a 60-something couple and two carefree youngsters. The body language, the facial expressions, the dancing - everything was excellent.
One of the things I really love about Akshay Kumar is his ability to shapeshift into a role. His character of Kishen Kumar is a wimpy, nerdy, butt-ugly, but sensitive man and Akshay morphs into the role so seamlessly that I was actually kind of shocked to see the Tees Maar Khan trailer at the interval where he plays such a different character. I had gotten so involved with nerdy Kishen Kumar that I had kind of forgotten that Akshay can be all buff and sexy.
And if this year has proven anything to me, it’s that I love watching Aishwarya Rai do her thing. Everything I’ve seen her in this year has been great - Raavanan, Endhiran, and now Action Replayy. Her character of Mala is the classic bullying pretty girl with a soft center but Aishwarya gives her a little extra sparkle and depth. Plus, she looks fantastic in all those 1970s outfits. The bellbottomed trousers do amazing things to her, um, “rear view.”
You understand why Mala is annoyed with the wet dishrag Kishen and then you understand why she falls for him.
The supporting players are great, too. I always like Neha Dhupia and she does her usual excellent job here. I will never understand why she hasn’t been able to burst through to the top tier of mainstream actresses. She’s a much better actress than some of the other former Miss Indias floating around Yash Raj studios. Kirron Kher and Om Puri should have had more screen time, as per usual, but the one guy who really surprised me was former VJ Rannvijay Singh. His character is a ridiculous combination of Ranjeet and vintage Johnny Lever but he really pulls it off. If Bollywood doesn’t snatch him up, I hope he gets some offers from down South where he can join Rahul Dev and Sonu Sood in the Northern Villains’ Club.
But to bring this back around to my intro, what really makes Action Replayy worth seeing in the theater is the 1970s feel of it. The wide vistas of the song picturizations are meant to be seen projected 20 feet tall. And the set design and costume design is a lot of fun – those colors really pop. There is a scene set against all of these multi-colored lanterns that is mind bogglingly fun to watch and another set in the perfect Yash Raj mountains that would be so dull on a small screen, where you can’t feel the majesty of the surrounds.
Most importantly, perhaps, there is a sequence that I don’t really want to spoil if you haven’t seen the film, but it recalls a most beloved section of the film Hum Kisi Se Kum Nahin… okay, I’ll just say it – there is a Singing Contest. With backup dancers. And disco balls.
Action Replayy is not a great film but it is a fun and entertaining film. The romance is very, very sweet and the visuals are bright and eye-popping. If you are a 1970s film fan and can handle some nonsensical plotting, a handful of 'women trap you into marriage' song lyrics, and full-on Akshay Kumar, then I highly recommend you go see this in the theater!
Don’t wait for the DVD – it won’t be the same.
Note from Filmi Girl:
I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.
If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.
xoxo Filmi Girl