Saturday, November 6, 2010

Action Replayy: A Sweet Nibble of Nostalgia

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.


Shell said...

Some movies are just meant to be seen in the theatre! It makes me so sad that my own bolly movie experiences are so few and far between, so I have to settle for the little screen. Boo hoo. That being said, I'm so glad to hear that this movie is turniing out to be as visually spectacular as I'd hoped it would, and you know I'm a sucker for a heartwarming romance! I look forward to seeing it, whenever I get the chance!

bollywooddeewana said...

I enjoyed this too, i just termed it a popcorn flick and approached it that way i described my feelings about it with Raj and Pablo today but my co reviewer and best buddy didn't like it and had some really interesting things which i picked on as well but didn't spoil my enjoyment of the film. She hated the fact that a feisty Aish got tamed by a domineering Akshay who was more or less telling her to Shut Up with his "Awaaz Neeche". Still great watch and this film just reminds me that Aish is the last of the original bollywood diva's left

Filmi Girl said...

@shell One of these days, we'll make a bolly blog excursion to Mumbai and see some movies the way they were meant to be seen... :)

@Bollywooddeewana You know, I was going to mention something about the 'taming' of Aish but decided not to - I can totally see how that would have bothered somebody but the way I personally saw it was that the "Awaaz... neeche" was more about Kishen not letting anybody walk all over him anymore. I didn't see it specifically as him not letting a woman walk all over him. That made it okay for me.

kintama said...

Firstly, that's a great blog. Especially the Dhoom2 and Love Story 2050 stuff.

So if I understand well FilmiGirl, you're an American with no Asian descent? So two things: you understand the hindi cinema and culture quite well (as you don't seem to be a mere ShahRukh fangirl or something and you watched Raavanan!!) and you live in USA.

So does this mean now hindi movies get released all over the world at the same time?

I live in a country sooo close-minded. They think other than Hollywood and their own crappy-crappy cinema, there's nothing else in the world (just fearing for their profits if bollywood makes its niche).

Anyway, a lot of "professional" reviewers heavily criticized the movie, but the fan response seems to be quite positive. And I always believe the actual audience. So thanks for this review and I'll just wait for the DVD -_- (and sorry for this little rant, I know it's not a discussion forum, although I wish it was :))

Filmi Girl said...


Hi and thank you for visiting! Yes, I am an American of no Asian descent. Some Hindi movies are released at the same time as in India but we must wait for others. :)

I think you will find that I disagree with professional reviewers quite often. They don't understand that fans don't always need to see something meaningful, sometimes we just like fun.

There are definitely problems with the story of Action Replayy, which I think is what the reviewers are criticising, but Aishwarya and Akshay do such a good job that it didn't matter. :)

And there is always room for discussion around here!

Which country are you from? Japan?

kintama said...

Hey, no no France, although I have asian origins.
Yes to me a movie has to entertain me. It can be very serious but it has to be interesting. Cuz if I wanted boring real-life movies, I'd look outside my window.

And yeah I was so eager to see this movie because of the pairing. Akshay, although he does the same types of comedy/romance/Action movies all the time, he is good at what he does. And Aish is just the most versatile actress of India (well that's my point of view after seeing her lesser known films anyway).

And it's too bad the story isn't apparently perfectly written, as you would expect it to be since it had time to be tested by the audience way before... But Vipul Shah did the same kinds of mistakes in London Dreams, which had also potential with a great cast.

Filmi Girl said...

@kintama Oh, France! How lovely!

Cuz if I wanted boring real-life movies, I'd look outside my window.

I agree! That is why I like Bollywood - nothing like real life. :)))

Some French movies are very good but I prefer the spectacle of Bollywood most of the time.

And I agree about London Dreams, too. At least the music was good in that one. :)

kintama said...

Oh critics have been so harsh on Shankar/Ehssan/Loy for their work on London Dreams, I didn't know I'd find somebody else who'd appreciate its soundtrack! :)

And yeah, there are some good french movies (but most is rather boring), but it's more like I hate how its industry avoids India. It seems like there's a huge understanding between all media members to make Indian cinema look like kitsh, weird and ridiculous musicals. I mean, even Endhiran/Robo(t) was out on (I believe) only 1 movie theater in France. I remember watching Singh is King back then in Berlin in a huge theater, just not the same mentality I guess.

yip said...

Seeing Bollywood films in the UK is quite the challenge - mainly because the cinemas are outside of the city centres.

When I first heard about this film I imagined re-recordings (and I don't mean those horrible 'remixes') of classic RD Burman and Laxmikant Pyarelal songs, done with modern recording techniques. I think that fact that this potential didn't seem to be followed through put me off somewhat, but having said that after your great review I know am extremely intrigued.

Basically you had me at the words 'The bellbottomed trousers do amazing things'!

Filmi Girl said...

@yip Thanks for the comment!

Action Replayy certainly has it's problems but terrible remixes isn't one of them. :) It's a cute film if you enjoy Aishwarya and Akshay and don't think too hard about how the Time Travel plot is supposed to work.

I don't really like those campy "updates" on classic films, either. The new Don was the worst but there have been some other offenders, too...

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