Thursday, August 14, 2014

Entertainment: It's Entertainment.

Warning: I go a little more into the plot than I usually do but I certainly don't give away all the gags or ruin any major points. I'm trying something new with putting more plot in. So if you have any feedback, I'm happy to hear it. I'm not sure why this took me so long to write, except that I'm rusty.

Also, P.S. Happy New Year is REALLY not to my taste. It's about as far from the opposite of my taste as you can get--Sonu Sood, excepting--so I probably will try to avoid it and discussion of it. I'm just not a fan of SRK as he is today.

Entertainment, like Kick, was directed by first time directors with long histories of doing something else in Bollywood. Sajid Nadiawala (Kick) is a producer; Sajid-Farhad are the writers behind recent comedy blockbusters Golmaal 3 and Housefull 2. And much like Kick has the stamp of a cost-conscious producer all over it, Entertainment is very much a film by a couple of writers. Though Entertainment is in the mold of Golmaal 3 and Housefull 2--fourth-wall breaking filmi humor, zany plotting, ridiculous characters, groan-worthy puns, and just a dash of honest-to-goodness masala dil--Sajid-Farhad put their own artistic stamp on the material. They do not attempt any of the massive, complex comedy-action set-pieces that Rohit Shetty (Golmaal 3, etc.) delivers so well and their slapstick’n’boobs-per-minute ratio is much, much lower than Sajid Khan’s (Housefull 2, etc.).

Sajid-Farhad are much more comfortable with the verbal than the visual and, to that end, Entertainment is packed with running jokes and puns so specific they aren’t translated in the subtitles. But putting writers in charge also means that the story is well-plotted and full of interesting angles. Entertainment may not be a work of genius but it is the work of two men who know and love films inside-out and judging by the ace performances turned in by all the leads, they managed to transfer this joy to the cast and, indeed, to audiences. Sajid-Farhad proved--to me, at least--that they understand the difference between using filmi references to make a point and nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake; the difference between satire and dumb mockery; and, most importantly, that an actor reciting dialogues about learning the meaning of family to a puppet golden retriever can be just as moving, if not more so, than anything from a serious film if that actor has the skill and motivation to deliver.

The word “entertainment” has become almost a dirty word in English-speaking “Hindie” film circles. As Vidya Balan’s Silk Smitha says in The Dirty Picture, “Filmein sirf teen cheezon ki wajah se chalti hain... entertainment, entertainment, entertainment... Aur main entertainment hoon.” Entertainment is Silk Smitha jiggling; entertainment is some comedian in a dress make horrible gay-panic jokes; entertainment is Rohit Shetty flipping over cars. Entertainment is “brainless.” Entertainment only pleases our base, animal instincts to gawk and laugh. Well, then, how appropriate for Sajid-Farhad to name the dog headlining the film… Entertainment. (A reference only Mihir Fadnavis and I seem to have picked up on. Hell has truly frozen over..)

Let me rewind for a moment. Entertainment, despite being named for the dog, is actually the story of Akhil Lokande (Akshay Kumar). When we meet Akhil he is working 24 hours a day trying to pay his father’s medical bills except--with a nod to Asha Parkeh’s Kati Patang--the man Akhil thought was his father turns out not to be his father and--with a more blatant nod to Golmaal: Fun Unlimited--Akhil’s real father turns out to be Pannalal Johri (Dalip Tahil), the Diamond King of Bangkok… who has just conveniently dropped dead offscreen. Akhil and his film-crazy buddy Jugnoo (Krishna Abhishek) tromp off to Thailand only to be told by Pannalal Johri’s lawyer Habibullah (a surprisingly understated Johnny Lever) that Pannalal Johri’s fortune has been left to his dog, Entertainment.

Akhil and Jugnoo attempt to off Entertainment but get outwitted by the dog at every turn.

Enter brothers Karan (Prakash Raaj) and Arjun (Sonu Sood)--“Yeh bandhan tooooo pyaar to bandhan haaaiiiiii...”--second cousins to Pannalal Johri and after his fortune. While Akhil and Jugnoo are trying to kill the dog, Karan and Arjun--“Yeh bandhan toooooo”--are trying to kill Akhil.

But! Entertainment saves Akhil and Akhil is so moved that he decides to stop trying to kill the dog and instead accepts the dog as his sort-of-brother. After all, the whole reason Entertainment has the fortune is because he was there for Pannalal Johri when Pannalal Johri needed somebody. Akhil rightfully feels guilty for thinking only of himself and the fortune this whole time.

Akhil, Jugnoo, Entertainment, and… Akhil’s lady-friend Saakshi (Tamannaah) team up to flip the tables on Karan and Arjun--“Yeh bandhan toooooooo”--by attempting to turn the brothers on each other by using a series of increasingly silly tricks and traps. In the end, as a film like this should end, everybody becomes friends and Entertainment lives happily ever after in his fancy house. Woof! A dog’s life isn’t so bad, huh?

Entertainment triumphs in Entertainment but it’s only with the help of some solid casting and really lively performances. Akshay shoulders much of the comedic and dramatic burden acting opposite--a various points--a dog, a puppet, nothing, and a guy whose only characterization is to spout ridiculous filmi puns. And Akshay delivers. His face just lights up, eyes sparkling, when Akhil is happy and his sadness is palpable when that comes. This isn’t a by-the-numbers performance but a real, fully engaged Akshay. His Akhil believably goes from feeling entitled to wealth to being willing to give it all up to a dog… because of love and family ties. We should all forgive and forget. It’s a simple but powerful message and Akshay plays it seriously.

And the other leads meet his level of performance.

Please don’t get me wrong, I adore both Sonu Sood and Prakash Raaj but you know we’ve all seen them phone it in for a paycheck. In Entertainment, however, Sonu Sood and Prakash Raaj dive right into Karan and Arjun’s brotherly bond--“Yeh bandhan toooooo”--with everything they’ve got. And because Sajid-Farhad have everybody playing it totally straight, their interactions were surprisingly touching and it was refreshing to see a couple of old-fashioned “evil cousin” type villains, the type who dance in song picturizations and are able to get reformed at the end of a film.

Tamannaah. With a range of comedic facial expressions to match Javed Jaffrey, she was one of the (few) highlights of Himmatwala and deserves an extra special mention for her work in Entertainment. While heroine roles usually get dismissed as worthless and heroines as interchangable, Tamannaah brought a deft comedic touch to a small but meaty role. She was able to flip from “real girl” to “TV serial actress” to--in one of the finest gags in the film--a double role as dream girls Sonia and Savatri.

(“Teri Mahima Aprampar” is worth watching to get a feel for Tamannaah’s double act.)

Sonia and Savatri enter the plot as a way for Saakshi to come between Karan and Arjun--”Yeh…” okay, you get the point--but they also serve as a really pointed dig at how Bollywood treats its heroines. Saakshi, for her small part in the film, is a pretty normal girl. She isn’t ditzy or snobby or drunk or money obsessed; she’s not a martyr to her family, dressed in a drab outfit and hunched over a pile of roti. She’s just… nice. And likable. As is her romance with Akhil, nice and likable. But to charm the villains she dresses up like Bollywood’s current and past Dreamy Girls. Sonia is a Deepika-in-Cocktail “one piece item in a two piece bikini” while Savatri is one of your fully covered and utterly pure Meena Kumari or Madhubala-style heroines. Both avatars are deeply unrealistic and it was really quite shocking to see them side-by-side and played by the same woman, really bringing home the point that whether a woman is in a bikini or a salwaar suit she’s the same person and should be treated like a human being instead of a fantasy creation.

Entertainment isn’t perfect but it was entertaining, on many levels. The story, the use of songs, the dialogues… were all top notch. The special effects were mostly a miss, the human performances were all wonderful and that’s what matters. For a first film, Sajid-Farhad showed a lot of promise and I can’t wait to see what they do next.


odadune said...

Thank you!!!!! After not being wowed by the trailers and kind of back and forth on the song promos, I really found this reassuring, and am bummed that I missed it in theaters. (it was just not going to be feasible to go last week).

My impression was that this was kind of a therapeutic experience for Akshay. Holiday had been a tough shoot for him in the first half of 2013, the drama and nonsense around Dobaara kept building (with Ekta and Imran supposedly feuding about the promotion plans), and I think he enjoyed kind of getting away from it all in Thailand, playing with dogs and hanging out with funny, good-natured character actors.

The directors are most likely directing Housefull 3 next, so they should have the benefit of Sajid Nadiadwala's sense of scale and production values at least. And they shoot their songs with a certain panache that I think Sajid N would put to good use.

Random heart-warming anecdote: the Entertainment shoot in Thailand managed to wrap up a couple days ahead of schedule, and Akshay supposedly gave the directors 20 lakhs with instructions to split it equally with the rest of the 60-member film crew and everybody go have some fun-either shopping for themselves and their families or partying, getting massages, whatever.

(He also supposedly asked the directors to keep it anonymous, which they didn't do, although in all fairness as of the point this bonus was clearly not coming from the actual producers there wouldn't be too many other possible candidates.)

Jess said...

I enjoyed the film too! Tamannaah and Mithun were probably my favorites in it. It was just a nice fun movie. My only real complaint is the first and second half climaxes dragged on too long. But yeah this film did seem therapeutic for Akki. Glad for him.

Jess said...

Just wanted to add my favorite part of Teri Mahima Aprampaar, which I didn't notice right away, is Akshay in the background of the village part dancing with the straw hat on. I couldn't stop laughing when I saw that!

Apex said...

Nice song there "tera Naam doon"--agree that the melody is ok, the "dynamics" are fresh & sorta cute
hadn't noticed it or this film for that matter-thanx
Ps: there something v inane and dull & "uninvitingly cold" about tamanna though in general --that's discouraging
Ps2: I haven't watched kick yet
Though liked akshay in holiday

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