Saturday, October 4, 2014

Bang Bang Review: Rulake Gaya Sapna Mera...!

The dialogue that encapsulates Bang Bang happens towards the beginning of the film while Harleen Sahani (Katrina Kaif) is taking a shower. Harleen’s Dadi wanders into the bathroom and, with Harleen as a captive audience, starts talking to her about the dashing Indian thief who stole the kohinoor diamond right out of the Tower of London. “Ah,” she sighs. “A jewel thief. Dev Anand, Ashok Kumar. I’d love to meet a man like that…” Harleen just kind of rolls her eyes at her dadi’s nostalgia for the dashing romance of evergreen Dev Anand but, come on, ladies, deep inside, don’t we all feel the pull? The yearning for the dashing heroes of ages past? To be swept off our feet and into an adventure?

Harleen may not get giddy over dapper Dev but she wants… something. Adventure. Travel to exotic places. Romance. An advertisement for couples frolicking in far away lands--finally spurs her into action and, with much trepidation, she clicks “accept” on a blind date with a dude named “Vicky.”

That one click on an Internet dating site changes the course of her entire life.

While Harleen is waiting for Vicky at the restaurant, in swoops one dashing gentleman who looks exactly like Hrithik Roshan. He gazes into her eyes, tells her she’s beautiful, does a dance for her, and feeds her lines about “living for today.” Of course she falls for him immediately. What girl wouldn’t?

Complications arise when Hrithik (“Rajveer”) turns out to be a thief or spy or secret agent or… something that has the police, ISS, and a gang of terrorists all chasing after him. And, wouldn’t you know it, Harleen’s life is in danger because they spotted her with him so she just has to come along for the adventure of a lifetime, a wild ride from her little town of Shimla to tropical islands to glamorous Prague to the sands of Dubai.

Like It Happened One Night (or, if you prefer, Chori Chori), Bang Bang isn’t about the destination but the journey, specifically, Harleen’s journey. While living out the heroine fantasy that so many of us have while watching these hero-driven masala films, what Harleen is really doing is diving headfirst into the world. She is the one who decides to go with “Rajveer;” she is the one who kisses him first; she is the one who figures out his past; and she is the one who, in the end, rescues them both. Bang Bang is Harleen’s story, Harleen’s fantasy.

Hrithik, as “Rajveer,” is the embodiment of that female fantasy and, wow, does he embody it. Hrithik’s strength as a hero, since at least Koi... Mil Gaya, has been his ability to fuse his superhuman physicality with a simple emotional core. Hrithik is not a clever actor nor a quick actor. His talent isn’t in delivering dialogues but in using his body and, as much as a non-Rakesh Roshan production possibly could, Bang Bang works with his natural ability to fluidly, gratuitously take off his shirt as the camera lingers longingly. But “Rajveer” is more than a set of abs and Hrithik deftly parses the difference between his glib flim-flamming of Harleen in the beginning and his actual flirting later. We can see in his eyes when he’s lying and when he’s annoyed and when he’s just happy making shish kabobs in a beach hut. He’s the perfect fantasy of the invulnerable hero who’s actually vulnerable, needing to be saved by the heroine.

Hrithik is as good as he always is but Katrina, as Harleen, puts in her best performance to date. Despite what all the reviews seem to be saying, Katrina wasn’t just “arm candy.” She had the responsibility of most of the narrative and emotional progress of the film and did it all with aplomb. What actually impressed me the most was how Katrina was able to convey how Harleen--despite looking like gorgeous Katrina Kaif--had managed to isolate herself, that Harleen’s fears of ending up alone were believable. There was a reserve, a remove, a distance between Harleen and other people that gradually crumbles. I also appreciated that Katrina always had Harleen appear capable and in control of herself, she never gets shrill or flustered or gooey. Harleen is a level-headed, intelligent girl and it was lovely to watch Katrina portray her opening up and taking her first steps into the wide, wide world.

And a good sign in any masala is a cast packed full of quality character actors and Bang Bang does not disappoint on this end. I may have cheered out loud in the theater when my favorites Jimmy Shergill, Javed Jaffery, and Danny Denzongpa made their (all too brief) appearances. Jimmy managed to make me cry in his under five minutes of screen time and Javed Jaffery was… well, I still don't know why he's not a MEGA SUPERSTAR.

The one major weak point in Bang Bang was the direction in the action scenes. To put it frankly, the action sequences ranged from dire (an early rooftop sequence in Shimla) to mediocre. The editing was choppy, the framing sloppy, and despite what looked like fantastic effort on Hrithik’s part, all of the action sequences were either confused looking or anticlimatic. Director Siddharth Anand clearly has no feel for action and I’d strongly recommend pairing him up with somebody who does in his next film because, action aside, what Siddharth Anand really delivered well were the human moments. I’ve only seen two of his previous films--Bachna Ae Haseeno and Salaam Namaste--but what I liked about those two films is what I liked about Bang Bang, a subtle sense of humor, an ability to find pathos in ridiculous situations, and a focus on women as people.

And I do mean a subtle sense of humor, helped along with a crackling script by Sujoy Ghosh and Suresh Nair and dialogues by Abbas Tyrewalla. I would bet some amount of money that a version of the Bang Bang script exists with an overt reference the infamous crocodile sequence from Yaadein rather than just the covert reference, as well as to Dhoom 2, Krrish, and what have you. Sujoy, Suresh, and Abbas pack as much fun as they can into a script that had to be written to please the soul-killing, corporate overlords of Fox Star Studios. There are all sorts of wonderful moments hidden inside for us to savor. One of my favorites scenes in the entire film has “Rajveer” destroying an entire restaurant while Harleen is in the bathroom and as she’s confusedly surveying the destruction, the owner comes up and hands her the bill!! That type of detail, a scene meant to do nothing but delight us with its sudden departure from the filmi norm, is part of what made Bang Bang so much fun.

The one sour note in the scripting--and dialogues--is in a product placement scene at Pizza Hut that seemed shoe-horned into the story without much thought. It’s only in that one scene where Rajveer overplays the Tom Cruise glib and verbal bickering between the hero and heroine feels off-putting and forced, as if it was written with a different hero in mind. Saif Ali Khan can bicker-flirt; Ranveer Singh can bicker-flirt; but verbal bickering neither Katrina’s nor Hrithik’s strong suit.

Finally, the music. The background scoring was really charming in kind of a retro way. I thought the Salim–Sulaiman score added a good texture. As for the picturizations, I had been unimpressed with the song promos but, in context, I felt all the songs worked really well and, after hearing it properly, “Bang Bang” has been on constant repeat on my iPod. The stand out, as far as picturizations go, was the gorgeous “Meherbaan”. It’s not clear from the video but the song is actually Harleen’s fantasy. Context is king for picturizations and knowing that it’s Harleen who imagines herself being desired and serenaded and swanning around Greece in pretty clothes adds an important layer of meaning to the song.

Bang Bang isn’t a masterpiece of cinema but it is a fun film and much cleverer than other reviewers are giving it credit for. If you enjoy masala and like Hrithik and/or Katrina, I would definitely recommend giving it a shot… or two. Bang.


Kimberly Tully said...

Great review, but it's amusing that I too loved the film but had a completely different reaction to Katrina's Harleen. I do completely agree with you about the respect that Katrina deserves for her dedication and growth. I liked Harleen and her desire for adventure (and I think you're right on with the remoteness of her character from the world). I liked how Katrina matched Hrithik in her physicality, though maybe not the dancing. It's her character's dialogue, right after she meets "Vickie" and is swooning in the bathroom about him and at the end when she's under the power of the truth serum that I disliked. I giggled but cringed a little on the inside. Kaif is not great at playing the "silly girl" and this seemed forced to me. For me, Mere Brother Ki Dulhan was my favorite film of hers...she's wacky, but strong bordering on "manic-pixie" but always direct and in control, not needy.

Hrithik's performance while hugely entertaining was so calculated (now I'll be sexily frustrated, now I'll be vulnerable, now I'll turn on my "thunder-face" of anger and intensity).

I am so glad I got to see this in the theater...I brought along four friends (all of whom I've introduced to Bollywood) and they all loved it.

Jess said...

I took 3 non filmy friends to see it last night, we all LOVED it! It was just so much fun. And I think one of them wants to blog about the product placement, we found it so funny, and we really did want pizza by the time the movie was over!

odadune said...

This sounds like a hoot-I didn't think the dialogue promos or full trailer did it any favors, but I was hoping it would turn out to be pretty entertaining anyway.

There were rumors about Akki producing/starring in Anand's next film, although how exactly that's supposed to happen in the next 12 months without someone stealing a time-turner from the Harry Potter universe, I'm not entirely sure. Probably be helpful from an action choreography point of view, though.

Apex said...

Loved the flick --had a ball --(infact I'm still havin gr8 fun but that's a different matter lol-how bout u)
Brilliant review
"I mean, a) who put this giant stick up the collective butt of film snobs in the first place and b) why do they insist on keeping it there?"
A high5 fg--more on this l8r (wen saner lol)

Baba said...

Very good review filmygirl. agree with you especially on katrina. this was one of her finest performances on the contrary and the film is actually shown from her POV and she is the one who ties all ends towards the climax

Here is what i wrote about the film:

It makes me cringe to see the way Hrithik has lost time since he debuted in 2000. He takes 2-3 years to complete movies like Guzaarish and mohenjodaro where his performances add up to just about tolerable levels if not bad. Its not his terrain. I am a firm believer that one should exploit his USP. And Hrithik’s USP is the Bang Bang/Dhoom genre. It took him 8 years to get back to this genre. Katrina on the other hand has been smart in choosing her scripts and roles. She knows her USP and largely her career decisions have been better. This is why she continues to stay on top in an industry/country she was once alien to despite desperate PR attempts by the likes of paadakauns and so on.

Bang Bang is the remake of knight and day. A film which starred Tom Cruise (equivalent to the stage SRK is in right now) and Cameron Diaz (someone like Preity Zinta). When you cast such old exhausted has-been actors for this genre, you are going to get crap. It would be equivalent to Bang Bang starring SRK and Preity Zinta. Its a disaster right on paper. This is the mistake bang bang makers corrected in the remake. I am not going to talk much about its story as its already known. Some scenes like the Aeroplane flight scenes, drugging scenes etc are modified/Indianized bcos they have to add songs. The first half has some cheesy comedy scenes involving Katrina’s dadi which I didn’t like. I dont think when you have cast such big stars you need to give screen time to side actors. They should have negligible role. That includes scenes of Danny/Pawan Malhotra/Javed Jaffery and so on. Their roles are not much but why to give them even that much screen time? No one comes to watch them.

That brings me to the leads – Hrithik and Katrina. Both are in top form and continue from where they left in ZNMD. In fact they have consolidated on it big time with the best kissing scene i have seen in Bollywood since Arjun and Sasha Agha’s Aurangzeb. Matlab poori tarah se le liya hai Hrithik ne Katrina ko is film mein :D Salman and Ranbir must be fuming.

The action scenes are better than Dhoom3, Kick because Hrithik has done most of his stunts by himself. Hrithik surprised me in the hand to hand combats. They were well choreographed. Slow motion was avoided. The first roof run scene was good though Hrithik used cables occasionally. They had hyped the water ski scene a lot but it didn’t impress me bcos cables were used extensively and one could see that in the body language of Hrithik.

Footnote: A lot of khan-paid reviews/critics/fans will compare this remake of Knight and Day to Raid Redemeption or Skyfall and bash it for its story. You know the ones who loved Ra.One, Kick and Dhoom 3.

Shellie said...

Really awesome review, my friend!
I have been absent from the Bollywood world for some time now, and Bang Bang is the first new movie I've seen in a few years. I miss the masala. I miss the beauty. I miss the way I feel when I watch a film that mixes everything I fell in love with years ago with my KHNH. I have always loved Hrithik. Katrina was understatedly brilliant as the herione. I'm really glad I watched this. I want more.

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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