Saturday, December 25, 2010

In defense of Tees Maar Khan...

Let me start with a disclaimer since I’ve been getting hassled by people with too much time on their hands who seem to think that just because I loved Tees Maar Khan that I must somehow be associated with Shirish Kunder, Farah Khan, and/or Akshay Kumar in some way. I am not. I do not get paid to write nor do I get any other sort of compensation. I do this on my own time because I love films and I find that my point of view isn’t really represented in a lot of the film writing out there.

You can read my review of the film here.

ETA: Please read the commenting disclaimer. Disagreeing with me is fine but nasty comments will be deleted.

The intention is to make you laugh of course, which it manages at exactly 2-and-a-half places. Don’t ask which, because those moments don’t really stay with you.

It’s the kind of movie whose makers couldn’t care less if you hated the film, fell asleep during the film, left the film in twenty minutes, or collapsed from a stroke midway through the film. They only care about the fact that you paid your two hundred bucks and bought your ticket. To hell with you after that.

- Rajeev Masand for CNN-IBN

[E]ntertains in bits and pieces but the comical situations just arent enough to keep you in splits throughout. It also tends to get a bit boring. Also the major problem with Welcome is the writing, neither the story (which of course doesn’t exist) nor the situations connect. The chemistry between the lead pair (Akshay – Katrina) is completely lacking.

So, it looks like the critics really hated
Tees Maar Khan, right?

Well, yes but these are taken from the reviews of Housefull, Singh is Kinng, and Welcome respectively. Three box office hits and three films mostly trashed by the critics.

Here is something I think critics don't understand: just because something aims to please a wide audience or bases a joke on a pratfall doesn’t make it inherently worthless. A single well-timed pratfall is worth more to me than an entire film pretentiously musing on the emptiness of the middle-class lifestyle.

Physical comedy and farce aren’t inherently stupid and are not easy to do well. Something we can accept when it’s tempered with age like Kishore Kumar in Half Ticket.

Imagine somebody trying to make this today – Tun Tun (whose main joke was being fat), cross-dressing, Kishore doing full-on comedy shouting, and a plot that involves Pran trying to grab Kishore’s butt for 90% of the film.

Oh, brother, would it get panned if this had Sajid Khan’s name attached to it but we all look at it fondly now. Did they make this film with the intention of making money off of the viewing audience? Absolutely. Does that make it worthless? I don’t think so. Critics who seem to have traded their funny bone for a first-year film student’s reading list (and who cling to this ridiculous idea that film isn't also a business) do a real disservice to their reading audiences and to the industry by failing to differentiate between a smart farce like Singh is Kinng and something that’s just plain bad like No Problem.

The great Roger Ebert has a theory of film reviewing that says something like: look at what the film is aiming to do and the audience it’s aiming at, and review a film on those terms. In other words, review a film on its own merits and don’t judge a film based on your preconceptions of what you thought it was going to be. It’s good advice and advice that cycled in my mind as I read review after review of
Tees Maar Khan that were all essentially 500 word declarations of butthurt about how it wasn’t Om Shanti Om 2.

(Pssst… confidential to Rachel Saltz: It wasn’t trying to be.)

There are two differences between
Tees Maar Khan and Farah Khan’s other films – one is Akshay Kumar and two is Shirish Kunder’s script.

For whatever reason Akshay Kumar cannot catch a break from critics and the press, who seem to resent that he is making films at all. Akshay is mocked not just in reviews but all the time – what other hero gets called
a jackass in the mainstream media? Having Akshay Kumar in your film automatically puts it in the negative column for critics, just like having Shahrukh will give you a boost. I’m not hating on SRK or saying he doesn’t deserve praise, just that critics are a lot more forgiving of SRK films than they are of Akshay Kumar films.

Akshay Kumar puts in a tour-de-force performance as TMK, charming, sexy, and completely in control but still that’s not enough for the critics. What did they want from him? To be Shahrukh Khan? They are two completely different actors with different styles – comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges. Shahrukh has a tenderness and sweetness to his acting where Akshay is more bombastic and aggressively physical. For example, in the “Bade Dilwala” song, you can see him bite Katrina’s ear – I mean he really nibbles on it. That’s not an acting choice Shahrukh would have made, but does that make it wrong? (I, for one, thought it was super sexy.)

And where Shahrukh puts a lot of emotion in his face and voice, Akshay is more of a full body actor. In the scene where TMK is trying to convince Aatish Kapoor to join his film shooting and gets him all whipped up into an Oscar™ frenzy, Akshaye raises his hands over his head in celebration and Akshay deliberately echoes him but hilariously leaves his arms in the air just a beat too long as he turns and is confronted by Akshaye’s secretary. Again, I’m not saying that one is better than the other, just that the choice of Akshay in the role makes for a very different kind of film than Om Shanti Om was.

And as for the story, unlike
OSO or MHN, TMK doesn’t have a personal storyline. Where OSO and MHN were about the main character’s (Shahrukh Khan in both cases) personal journey and his personal emotions, Tees Maar Khan is a set piece, moved along through gears and levers. Does it matter how or why TMK calls up Salman Khan for an Eid song during December? No, not really, we’re just glad to see it. Is the whole making a film within a film contrived? Obviously. Do I care? No, of course not. It’s a farce; of course events are going to be manipulated for maximum comedic effect. You have to just go with it – it’s a different style of filmmaking but it’s not wrong. Again, look at Half Ticket - did it have zero emotional resonance and extremely contrived characters? Sure! But it’s still funny and worth watching.

We get a few flashes of emotions here or there, all coming from TMK’s growing bond with the villagers, but for the most part, the main drive of the film is the meta-narrative
FU aimed at the pretentious tone of contemporary Bollywood. Towards the end of the film, TMK is in custody and he asks his henchmen to take care of something for him. “Ma?” asks one. “No,” he replies. “Cine-ma.” The world is bigger than the small films coming of Bollywood recently and mass audiences still crave films that provide something that will transcend daily life instead of getting bogged in the details – films like Endhira or Magadheera. Obviously there will always be a place for ‘international’ films that win Oscars™ but what about regular folks? Are they supposed to go line up to get depressed at Dhobi Ghat (the trailer for which played before TMK)? I’m sure it’s going to be a great film but reveling in the mundane details of contemporary life is not something that everybody wants from a trip to the cinema. The desire for films that touch on Magadheera-style transcendence has been so strong that even films which are good but not amazing like Dabangg, which heavily drew on recycled Southern masala conventions, have been pounced on like manna from heaven.

Critics need to take a good hard look at who they are actually reviewing films for – we are not all easily offended little girls on the way to a tea party who will faint at a sexy pelvic thrust from Akshay Kumar. Things can be politically incorrect without being hateful; jokes can hinge on pratfalls without being insulting to our intelligence; and you can make a good movie without having it be about the hero’s personal growth or his unrequited love.

I’m not saying that everybody has to like
Tees Maar Khan but it’s not fair to jump on it because it’s a farce that doesn’t star Shahrukh Khan and isn’t Om Shanti Om 2. And it’s certainly not the worst film of the century, a charge I have seen thrown around from irate commenters on Twitter. What people want to write on their blogs is fine. It’s what I do –I’m not pretending to be impartial. But reviewers, who are supposed to be objective, need to take the sticks out of their butts and recognize that they aren’t doing anything worthwhile by trashing a film simply because it wasn’t to their sense of humor.

(And if I’m going to be completely honest, I didn’t find
OSO all that emotionally resonant, although MNH, rooted in the 90s soft-focus Karan Johar genre, is very sentimental. Of Farah’s three films, TMK is now my favorite.)


prem said...

thnks a billion what a blog u must deserve huge round of applause.. once again thnk u so much for this article. critics r worst then piracy. they r here to damage the industries. critic should stopped writing review till monday after film released. save the industry..TMK is my all time fav.

Soumik said...

let's tackle what you are saying on various levels.
1. half ticket vs TMK - Half ticket was a super selling proposition because it featured the married couple Kishore-Madhubala, and the world knowing Madhubala wasn't going to live for long. And still do up a parable of nonsense laughs all the while knowing the heroine will soon breathe her last. And it had that impossible talent like Kishore (akki's talents are best used in the Khiladi charisma - he wudv been a superb more stunt friendly Chulbul) and that music! Yes, both are Hollywood ripoffs.
2. Why are ppl hating TMK - maybe no-SRk, maybe 2much expecttation from Farah - but actually why can't it be that people didn't like the movie..and that's why though critical word of mouth goes a long way (housefull opened big but dropped hugely post monday..same with I hate love storys etc and singh is Kingg didnt let distrobutirs make money). Same will happen with TMK. And as much as ppl may want Akki's films to flop, it is actually what distributors want i'll tell u why -
Akki takes a massive lumpsum, and profit share at sale level, which pushes up film cost(unlike SRK, Aamir who take net profit percentage). The distributors bleed while producers make money (but that too has slipped with Khatta meetah, action replay and now TMK). Hopefully it will bring hsi price down. And make filmmaking more viable, cos he truly is a superb talent.
3. Reviews do the same job as word of mouth. So what filmmakers want to hide won't happen in the era of twitter. And like you wud retweet good reviews, there wud be the other end of the spectrum who wud trash a bad film..and hosanna a Dabangg.Most ppl loved G3 which explains why its the 2nd biggest hit of the year despite having no it's not right to bracket ppl in classy and massy etc. A film when done well..and which acts across uniformly will reflect the numbers...its no conspiracy - it's sheer simple logic - entertainment sells (at the right price) and bullshit travels only the first wknd.
What is sad tho is that Akshay has dumped his sensibilities (which is essentially nonsense) on the making of a film. And that has eroded his equity. So u need a Sheila which creates more buzz than him in a film. When he goes back to the drawing board, surrenders himslef totally and reinvents himslef will audiences come back. As of now (and u'll see that with Patiala,priyan's next, thank you) the audience has had enough.

Bombay Talkies said...

"Here is something I think critics don't understand: just because something aims to please a wide audience or bases a joke on a pratfall doesn’t make it inherently worthless. A single well-timed pratfall is worth more to me than an entire film pretentiously musing on the emptiness of the middle-class lifestyle."

Honestly I think most of them understand that just fine. It's fine if a film aims to please an audience or is based on a joke or two as long as it's done well. A film can be full of good intentions and still be a stinker. I'd imagine a lot of people who didn't give the film good reviews did it because they didn't think the film was very good, not because they're snobs (which is what I think you're trying to imply).

Different strokes for different folks and all that. Personally I enjoy a big masala film as much as the next person but I had no interest whatsoever in seeing just didn't look very interesting.

Critics trash 'films for the masses' all the time. Here in the States critics criticize movies like Transformers, etc. It's not because they're big bad horrible snobs who refuse to throw the common man a bone or two, it's because that movie was hideously bad. So are a lot of big budget films. The ones that are well made get their due. You might have a point if you could show that there has never been a critic in India who gave any credit to any 'popular' films--that they all just band together and hate on the big films. But that isn't the case. I've read my fair share of glowing reviews of TMK-style films. In fact the only reason I rented Singh Is Kinng is because I had read so many great reviews of it. It turned out to be one of the stupidest movies I've ever watched.

I think in the end sometimes we have to accept that every now and then there's going to be a film that we really liked that critics didn't care for. I'd go out of my mind if I had to take the time to defend my favorite films against their reviews, you know? Critics aren't obligated to feel the way you do about films, nor are they required to echo the 'man on the street' sentiment when it comes to a movie. They are writing from their own perspective, and if they don't like it they don't like it. Nothing anyone can do about it.

In any case I'm glad you enjoyed TMK. A lot of people did. I won't get a chance to see it for a while but I probably will give it a go when it comes out on DVD.

Sorry for the ramble.

tabbu said...

I really appreciate your efforts. I'm Akki's fan but not so happy about his film 'TMK'. However, I noe I can't blame him, he is a fine actor. He did what he was asked to do, and he gave Farah more than what she had asked for.

Sunil Sharma said...

A bad movie is a bad movie..... I am a fan of Akshay kumar... But lately his movie has been disappointing.... Oh yes!If movie making is a business and the makers want to make a profit out of it, then why dont they work hard to earn it from movie lovers. If picking up of other film stars and their roles and even ridiculing them make up for 90 percent of the movie then dont expect it to work all the time.... So Filmy Gal, dont love bollywood just for the heck of it. Allow them to work harder and churn out better scripts and movies... Its about time to appreciate movies which are actually good rather than just falling in the trap of Directors like Farah Khan who considers audiences as idiots..

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
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