Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Decline of Seriousness

Discussing the presently extending conversation between Slavoj Zizek and Nivedita Menon, the latest leg of which you can follow here, a friend of mine suggested to me that there was really no point responding to anything Zizek had to say, because, don’t you see, it’s all a big joke? Don’t take it so seriously, ya.

It is just me, or is seriousness becoming taboo? We live in a time when a bland and thoughtless “popular culture” sensibility has attained maximum saturation. It’s a total victory for the most pernicious kind of postmodern position, and I fear it’s taking the edge off our faculties. Things today are too sacred for seriousness. One can’t really touch a topic of conversation – Bollywood, the News, our lives – without being told to check our seriousness in at the door.

Zizek had obviously gotten the memo. At the Stein Auditorium earlier this week, Zizek said a few interesting things, but mostly he said uninteresting things that sounded like he was reading off his Twitter account – “I hate Mother Teresa”, “I love Kant”, “I hate Jaws”. His one-liners had about as much grace and finish as large footballs kicked in the audience’s face. Zizek can be an entertainer, but that Zizek (yes, the Other One) had taken the day off, and on Tuesday night at Stein he had the presence of a drunk uncle at a large family dinner, not of an intellectual superstar at a public lecture. Because if you think about it, why does he hate Jaws? He never really told us, but we can take solace in knowing that he doesn’t think the shark represents Socialism. I was subjected to ninety minutes (I can assure you it felt longer) of extempore without a moment of illumination, but to say “What the Fuck?” is to be asked in return “Why so serious?”. Smokes and mirrors aplenty, I can report, but sense and meaning, I fear, had all but vaporized.

The decline of seriousness is a global calamity. Priyanka Chopra, who otherwise strikes me as a woman of not mean intelligence, was on the radio this evening promoting her new film (and I apologize for the title) Pyaar Impossible. “Why should people watch this film?” she was asked. “Well,” she replied, “It’s just a light, sweet film that you can take your girlfriend to with popcorn and without thinking too much. You’ll come out feeling really good about yourself”. For a second I felt enraged at the treasonous abandonment of sentences for non-sequiturs (and when actors describe their films as “light” or “sweet”, you can be sure you’re in for a world of pain). But Piggy Chops, I must admit, makes a frighteningly accurate prediction. Not being forced to think is one of the great concessions movies are making for us today, and of course that helps us feel good about ourselves. Because if you did think about it, you’d realize you’d paid a 150 bucks for tripe, and then you wouldn’t feel so good about yourself, would you?

The movies are being sustained as a popular establishment now by jettisoning seriousness. The real catastrophe in all of this is that ’seriousness’ has become an Ahab to ‘entertainment’, a middle-aged bore who doesn’t just sulk in a corner but kills the party for everyone. What if I were to get serious about, say, 3 Idiots? I would see a terribly bloated vanity project with a thoroughly unexciting and uncontroversial moral center (“Suicide is bad”). But no one wants to get serious about it, because that’s unsportsmanlike. I suppose it’s our misfortune that when someone does decide to blow the whistle, that someone has to be Sagarika Ghose. Her blog-post serves to discredit the thoughtful as, well, idiots, who cannot only not write on cinema or culture without sounding like royal bores, but also as inarticulate and incompetent fools. With friends like her, seriousness needs no enemies.

It has long been standard practice for snobs to dismiss the popular as an inhospitable environment for seriousness, but must the popular so readily comply?

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Avatar/3 Idiots

The greatest difference between Avatar and 3 Idiots, it occurred to me, is in the visual effects department. Where James Cameron spent hundreds of millions of dollars to stunningly realize life on another planet, the best F/X talent in Bombay couldn't make a 45 year old pass for a college student.

Aamir Khan is the worst thing that could have happened to Rajkumar Hirani's inspirational-comedy, a film so close in spirit to the Munnabhai films ("Follow Your Dreams", "Institutional Education Sucks"), that it serves unwittingly as an illustration of what happens when Sanjay Dutt doesn't get enough bail-time. Over the last few years it has become apparent that Khan has few charms to offer audiences, and as soon as he appears on-screen you can be sure a Not-For-Profit message is coming your way. When he isn't on-screen is when 3 Idiots is most like Avatar - a colossal entertainment - built on spectacular supporting turns from Boman Irani, Madhavan, and Sharman Joshi.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Hurt Locker: Revenge of the Critics

The four-trillion dollar Transformers movie marks the first time in memory that a truly bad film has lived up to its hype as a truly bad film, and then some. Michael Bay's latest offering is an unapologetic summer blockbuster that is currently accomplishing the heroic deed of making tons of money while simultaneously making no sense at all. It is already the biggest hit of the year, and what a pity.

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen is two and a half-hours too long - without beginning, middle, (or especially) end in sight. You could possibly rearrange many sequences and fanboys wouldn't notice. Forget narrative logic or basic screenwriting rules, but since when was it okay for an action movie to not have a climax? And though occasionally the expensive visual effects resolve themselves into something of intelligence or interest, most of the time the action is at so close a range I couln't tell if this was an Autobot or a Decepticon I was looking at. Not that the movie makes you care. Characters have the depth and reality of, I don't know, childhood toys, and one wonders if there was even a working script for the actors. LeBouf and Duhamel had a lot of lines like 'This is bad!', which was sometimes alternated with 'This is NOT good.' What an awful, awful film. For the geeks, though, there is Megan Fox. For the rest of us....well, it helped to know that one hundred and fifty minutes do pass, however painfully. Revenge is not sweet.

In these dire times, critics have searched high and low for an action film that can answer to the inequities of Michael Bay's disastrously bloated mojo-vehicle - and they have heard a low guttural growl in the form of The Hurt Locker, a Venice/Toronto champion that is currently going into wide release.

Director Kathryn Bigelow's look at an elite bomb disposal squad in a scorched, shattered and war-torn Iraq is a master-class in discipline, pacing, and atmosphere. Most bombs are dismantled before they can be detonated, but here are one hundred and twenty minutes of thumping terror. At the center of this unexpectedly meditative action thriller is a fearsome, commanding performance from Jeremy Renner, and I would love to see some recognition for it as awards season approaches.

Quietly anti-war in its own way, Bigelow's film is also vastly more critic-friendly than Bay's - it looks well-made and inexpensive, has a no-name cast and is working its way into wide release on word of mouth. With the bonus of political relevance and a woman filmmaker at the helm, The Hurt Locker is in every way the antithesis of ersatz auteur Bay, who himself represents the antithesis of meaning, existence, and civilization. Bigelow has banished all the shock and awe, disinterring a shell of stealthy silence in which we feel the sweat on every brow and hear the woosh of every bullet and sense the presence of death. Majestic in the minutiae, The Hurt Locker shows us why the principal virtues of the greatest summer blockbusters ought to be be rhythm and restraint.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Better Potter

The new Harry Potter Movie, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, is the best entry in the series in a long time. Like Alfonso Cuaron's incomparably staggering execution of the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), here is an occasion for beauty - beauty sublime and sometimes bemused. Jim Broadbent is beyond superlatives in a supporting sketch, and the young cast by now has taken that decisive leap into puberty when uniforms fit in a very different way. Director David Yates has affectionately doled sexual tension into the folds of the otherwise apocalyptic drama, so that The Half-Blood Prince thuds and storms relentlessly with deatheaters and heartbreakers. It's the best kind of lead-in Warner Brothers could have hoped for before the plunge into the two-part finale.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

New York, I Don't Love You

Oh, how badly I wish I could have live-blogged the experience of watching New York, Kabir Khan's well-meaning but ill-conceived film about South Asians in the United States after 9/11. Here is a movie that changes gears so often, and sometimes so clumsily, it would have been easier to blog about it every ten minutes than it is to write a full review in retrospect. I hear it's a hit, and I like the fact that New York, hatched in the plush offices of Yash-Raj, searches for something approaching meaningful menace in Manhattan. But it's still an uneasy mess of a film, and ultimately doomed by the same orchestral fanfare and sweeping autumn leaves as all the Johars before it.

In an utterly compromised first half, Khan seems out of his depth. There's a hoary love-triangele plot in the offing, but its shabby and unconvincing, which only makes the orgiastic, musically-announced happiness of it all quite miserable. Abraham, Kaif and Mukesh don't have very much to do here, and they do that pretty well, I guess. That's the first half. Tedious.

By contrast, the last ninety minutes have a lot of plot and punch, and would have made for a better movie by themselves. Repairing the damage done by Irrfan-I-Need-A-Makeover-Khan, playing a - you guessed it - cop, there is a beguilingly tortured performance from an actor whose name I don't even know, playing a Muslim who was detained by the FBI for weeks and weeks after 9/11. He only has two or three scenes, but I'm counting the small mercies. Similarly, while I find it hard to believe that the FBI would ever handle any undercover operation the way they do this one, I was solemnly struck by the Guantanamo Bay/ Abu Ghraib evocativeness of the film's middle passages. There is also a satisfyingly bloody climax, but a perfunctory final scene that looks like it crept back into the film from the cutting floor.

I don't know how I feel about New York in the final analysis. It plays out like a balance sheet, on which some minor victories are accomplished in the shadows of major disasters. I'm not crazy about it, but I don't hate it either; but then again, it usually is hard to hate any movie in which really bad things happen to really good-looking people. I suppose one could be grateful for the compensatory charms of Khan's mannequinish menage de trois, who break out of the pre-interval stolidness to move and melt our cynical hearts. Even Kaif, whose emotive range we sense is restrained by her ongoing battle with the language, comes through. Technical contributions are just fine, with camerawork rapidly approaching that globally standardizing tendency to shake and quiver just a bit every now and then so that things look, you know, 'gritty' and 'real'. The music is superb too, but I can't shake the suspicion that it was written for a film that dealt with lesser evils than urban crime, racial profiling, and global terrorism.

It's a case of Hmmm.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire: Are You Sure This Is it?

Update: Kartik is currently swirling in pools of impotent rage at the EIGHT Academy Awards - the grand finale of this whole catastrophe.

Slumdog Millionaire
, darling of the international festival circuit and on Tuesday nominated for ten Academy Awards, hit Indian shores this weekend. I watched it on a sold-out Friday night; the movie is packing shows deep into the week. I see that over at The Times of India, Nikhat Kazmi has pronounced Slumdog Millionaire “a piece of riveting cinema, meant to be savoured as a Cinderella-like fairy tale, with the edge of a thriller and the vision of an artist.” And here is Shubhra Gupta, writing for the Indian Express: “One look at Slumdog Millionaire and you know that its spirit and soul is flagrantly, proudly India: the Empire has been finally, overwhelmingly trounced.” Film criticism in the Indian press has been gone to the dogs for a while; it is now en route to the slumdogs.

The fact is, for years now, Boyle has been pulling out shot after shot from his intimidating visual imagination. He then apparently spends weeks with them in post-production, where images are spliced and processed and spliced back together with relentless energy. The results are sometimes dazzling; sometimes, they’re plain awful. It depends on what movie Boyle is making. Where an intensified mood is to be summoned, Boyle’s MTV-on-steroids arsenal is a fit. He has given us remarkable films that are nothing more, or less, than a temperament: Trainspotting is a superior hallucination, and what would 28 Days Later be without its hysterical thudding? In such cases, Boyle’s talent seemed to rise above the occasion, compelling often-mediocre writing into something entirely new: pure mood.

When the material is more mainstream, however, Boyle’s deficits become discernible. There is indeed a fabulous conceit in Swarup’s novel, this idea that from the residues—indeed, from the trash of our lives—we can all make our millions. It suggests depth and soar. But Slumdog Millionaire is not depressing, it is not uplifting; it ranges around on an anaesthetic flatline. Why? I don’t know for sure yet. Consider, however, Boyle’s repertoire. Here is a filmmaker with a demonstratedly sure sense of style, colour and space, but apparently none of people. Is it a surprise, then, that the romantic drama of Slumdog Millionaire has almost no punch, in a year in which the most convincing love story is a futuristic, animated, fable of a garbage-collecting machine overcoming evil intelligence to be reunited with his robot love.

Hence the conundrum: If the protagonists of a Boyle film are only vaguely human (zombies, drug addicts, zombies), the collateral is minimal. But it will take a while before he can direct a good, authentic human predicament. I’m afraid he hasn’t been prepared by experience for it. He cannot, for one, direct his actors. Anil Kapoor is a disaster from start to finish, and how he was cast remains a more perplexing question than anything computer-ji can throw at you. Irfan Khan has a thankless role, and he gives us nothing to be thankful about either. Freida Pinto is the biggest miscalculation of the lot; it doesn’t help an amateur (albeit an attractive one) when she has to speak such unspeakable dialogue as “I thought we would be one only in death…Kiss me”. The only exception is Dev Patel, who I’m guessing must have directed himself.

Patel tries his best to bury the British accent, but it peeps out every now and again. What irritated me no end was Jamal’s inexplicable, and very sudden, facility with English. And I mean English. Perfectly rounded, often accented, grammar-school-finished. We are never told how he learned the language. Curious, given the movie’s preoccupation is providing explanations for how Jamal knows the things he knows. (It must have been something in the air, I suppose, since by that point in the film even the local goons bark in English). This will be a minor problem, if at all, with Toronto or New York or London audiences ('Ah! Finally no more subtitles!'); for Indian audiences I suspect it shall be a major cognitive hurdle. It has the egregious effect of somehow making the writing (“My enemy’s enemy is a friend”) seem worse, stuff that wouldn’t even pass on daytime television.

I’m going to go ahead and call this movie a mess. Since Slumdog Millionaire can't decide what it wants to be, it ends up as little more than a savvy consolidation of the flashiest trends in global cinema. As such, Rahman’s score is an instructive calamity. Like Boyle, he energetically plunders a variety of sources—Bombay, the inner city, the ghetto. The final product is a jukebox that won’t sit still, and only occasionally makes sense. (Again, like Boyle, except that most of the work Rahman plunders is his own.)

The movie is very good with garbage, I'll give you that. If you're going to exploit urban squalor, I suggest you learn from Danny Boyle, who seems to have been learning from this generation’s masters: Fernando Meirelles (City of God), Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu (Amores Perros), and without a doubt, Anurag Kahsyap (Black Friday). I pick out for notice an early chase (the first of many in Slumdog Millionaire) in which the density of Bombay’s slums is navigated with breathless speed. There is another particularly striking, inventive image of young Jamaal, lathered from head to toe in shit; yet another in which towering heaps of garbage edge out of the frame. Poverty porn? Absolutely, and some of the very best I’ve seen.

Festering in my head though is the notion that the over-heated debate on slums and dogs, and exploitation and third world woe and first world guilt, has been a kind of press miracle. It has materialized fortuitously, and Fox Searchlight should sponsor it: it obscures the much simpler, and infinitely more frightening prospect, that Slumdog Millionaire isn’t a good movie at all.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Everything Fades Away

"It's just like a series of circuit-breakers in a large house, flipping off one by one."

Alzheimer's comes to claim a lifelong romance in Away From Her, a film that takes us straight to the heart of a plummeting world too often obscured by talk of caregiving and caretaking. Sarah Polley's awakening directorial debut casts Julie Christie as a woman shoring her life against the tide of oblivion, and Gordon Pinsent as her loyal and lonely subject.

They've been together for more than forty years, decades in which their happiness has sometimes been tested, their love sometimes tortured. "You could have driven away and forsaken me," she tells him. He does not, cannot, for she has the "spark of life." He never wants to be away from her, and yet her whole life is going, inexorably dripping into the vast black pool of forgetting: "The thing is, half the time I wander around looking for something...but I cant remember what it is. Once the idea is gone, everything is gone. I think I may be beginning to disappear."

Whole scenes and conversations are orchestrated around Christie's electric presence, who towers over the film even as she performs her gradual and upsetting absence. Pinsent is the best kind of actor for his role: he commands our attention and our affection quietly. We join him in witnessing the gradual disintegration of their former and future lives.

The movie will invite comparisons to One True Thing, where Meryl Streep confronts her death and in so doing confronts her life. Away From Her is similarly being oiled for Oscar season mostly on the Best Actress ticket, but is lit by so much love in so many corners it deserves multiple nods: Jonathan Goldsmith's score is somewhere between sublimity and mystery; Pinsent is a jewel; Polley fuses laughter and tears in a script second to none.

A miracle of eternal wisdom and courageous sorrow.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Lame One

Jodie Foster and Terence Howard brave the mindless cold of Neil Jordan's latest

The Brave One begins by building on the perplexing question of vigilantism, and is unbuilt swiftly with the aid of one of those astonishingly vapid scripts that somehow went to the screen rather than the shredder. Foster and Howard are reservoirs of talent, but Jordan seems unable to give them much more to do than shoot people, or talk to each other about shooting people. The silliness of the whole thing is aggravated by its length, and bombast gives it the hoary air of a pretentious sandwich. I recommend a miss.

Note: Vigilantism has attracted better product (if not better talent) than this, in the form of Shyamalan’s somewhat unloved hit Unbreakable. There the ethical problem of individual heroism is distinguished by the filmmaker's penchant for gravitas. The Brave One has similar aspirations, but with no weight to back it and a taste for grandeur that’s mortifyingly misplaced.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Things I Loved in 2007

Scary, Sexy, Smart
Vacancy Kate Beckinsale and Luke Wilson play a couple trapped in a seedy motel. 70 minutes of terror add up to my favourite film of the year. Also:

Zodiac David Fincher's ambitious and winding journey through decades and cities in pursuit of a killer.

Om Shanti Om
There wont be a more superficial and heedlessly orgiastic exercise in filmmaking to top this until Farah Khan returns to the director's chair. A loving look at the movies and why we love them.

A Mighty Heart Angelina Jolie shows us why she isn't yesterday's news just yet in Michael Winterbottom's remarkable post 9/11 film that's as contemplative and devastating as United 93 was last year.

Ratatouille The pure heart of Pixar and its genius for storytelling scale magnificent heights in this gorgeous rodent tale.

Things I Liked

300, a feat in post-production that looks unlike anything I've seen before
Jab We Met, simply for making Kareena Kapoor tolerable (this must also be a feat in post-production)
Knocked Up, Judd Apatow's fuzzy, wild romp through the pregnancy comedy genre
Chak De India, with Shah Rukh Khan and an electric team on and offscreen
The Bourne Ultimatum, with that Moby song I simply love
Spiderman 3, for not sucking as much as everyone said it did
Taarein Zameen Par, by which means my tear ducts have been hung out to dry
Die Hard 4.0, in which unspeakable dialogue and unbelievable action are spoken and believed
Disturbia, which may not be Rear Window but sure is a lot of fun
Freedom Writers, since Hilary Swank can make any material a pleasure to watch
Music and Lyrics, because it took throwback seriously instead of turning it into camp, adding great music and Drew Barrymore to the mix
28 Weeks Later, which doesn't skip a beat rejuvenating the horrors of its predecessor

And Then There Was This Stuff

Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, Rob Zombie's Halloween, Premonition, Lucky You, Bhool Bhulaiya, Transformers, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, and Ocean's 13.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

MovieWatch: Lost in Space

Khoya Khoya Chand isn't a good movie, but you can tell there's a good movie somewhere inside it.
Soha Ali Khan is luminous in Khoya Khoya Chand, a languid tale of uncertain lovers. In its gloaming, nostalgic, 60s Cinema ambience, she's an unambiguous star the way Vidya Balan was in Parineeta. That movie as a general experience hangs around the perimeters of this one (the sun to its moon, if you will). The comparison, in other words, is unfavorable. Where Pradeep Sarkar made a melodramatic and effective, contemporary period film, Chand is an incoherent, meandering project in which tons of offscreen talent are squandered; poor editing and Shiney Ahuja combine ably to give us the impression we're watching skectches rather than finished product. Ali Khan is a blessing, but this haphazard effort will be forgotten in a fortnight.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Video Throwback: Past-Masters' Weekend

I finally got my grubby paws on a copy of Vertigo. In Hitchcock's tightest and most precise film (perhaps second only to Psycho) James Stewart is a prematurely retired cop pulled back out of exile by a comatose Kim Novak. There's much to be said of this this heady, hypnotic, and yes, vertiginous, thriller that failed spectacularly as an intellectual and commercial exercise back in 58, and prompted the leaner rhythms of the Bates Motel. Don't miss it. I already took too long.

On the same day, I watched Rob Zombie's Halloween, which is an undistinguished and affectionless massacre of John Carpenter's classic. I usually like anything. Give me a slasher film and I'll love it to death, but Zombie's boring and bloody retread, unredeemed by vision or conviction, is a braindead Dead Teenager Movie. I suggest you skip.

MovieWatch: Don't Dance So Close To Me

Madhuri Dixit returns in a tailor-made relaunch vehicle that kind of just hums along at its own mild pitch.

Let's observe that Aaja Nach Le is written by Jaideep Sahni. Like his previous outing Chak De, this is a formula film elevated by intelligence and talent. A keen eye for casting means there's fun to be had in the smaller parts, and Sahni shows continuing skill with handling ensembles. But where Chak De worked around Khan's easy and obvious star-power, Nach Le makes an idol of Dixit. It's still a joy to watch here and there, but comeback fever mires the crucial final act. What should have been the year's most predictable pleasure becomes a disproportionate and clumsy cult procession, and able supporters (Konkona Sen especially) are shuffled back into the second row.

We're glad she's bringing back back, and dancing the bejesus out of it, but maybe sometimes the trick is to let someone else dance with you.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Moviewatch: Jhoom-Gloom-Doom

As accessories go, high production values can assist movies; they've been known to work for this studio before. I was one of the six people impressed by the money pouring out of Ta Ra Rum Pum, and last year one of the three people who actually enjoyed Salaam Namaste. The new Yash-Raj, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, certainly has one of the most serviceable soundtracks in recent movie history. But flash can also annoy; it can serve to bring into focus the strident anti-matter unreeling before your very eyes. For Jhoom, director Shaad Ali brings expensive ideas into the machinery of mainstream product, but fails entirely to support those ideas with meaning. Therefore, Zinta and Bachchan sit around waiting for their high-voltage starpower to somehow manifest itself; it doesnt. Eventually, those less fortunate Deols and Duttas pull more than their share of the load to vastly compensate for the wretched first hour.

Curiously, the movie had on me the effect of a part-time Moulin Rouge, except without the genius that inspired it, and at other times the effect of a retread of, well, various pieces from the house of candy-coated NRIness. An Average Kind of Jhoom.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Moviewatch: Too Many Drops Spoil the Ocean

Julia Roberts is not in Ocean's Thirteen. Could there be a more powerful testament to star power than the total mediocrity inspired by its absence?

The third installment in Steven Soderbergh's hugely popular franchise is one long, lame joke. Smugness is not something I like in a film, and you will not watch a movie more infatuated with itself this summer. The revenge ploy in itself is a puzzle to watch, but its execution is so unbelievable I yawned. Nothing works in this film: not one witty line, not the Valentino suits, not the Vegas cool, not the many many moving parts to the heist. I should have just watched Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. At least Alba knows she's in a dump.

The biggest con-job this movie pulls is on your wallet. Stay Away.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Video Throwback: Bray, Muse

To honour the depressing spirit of the French Open, I went back 40 years to watch a depressing Robert Bresson film about a donkey. Au Hasard Balthazar is in the Criterion Collection, so you know it's going to be one of those movies people yawn through and then gush about, but I was still charmed by this epic-in-miniature about the fortunes of one ass, baptised Balthazar at the start of his life and led in and out of bondage the rest of it. There is cruelty in this film, but there is also love; death, but also life. There is a circus as well. And a glorious ending.

Our favourite donkeys talk too much. Balthazar brays every now and then. Stick with him one afternoon. Recommended.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Moviewatch: Shootout at Zzzz...

Rakhi Sawant has a great cameo in Shootout at Lokhandwala. That she is the lead-in to my bit on the movie should be revealing: this is a sprawling film that needed refinement, not as many B-grade stars as possible. While the trailer led me to expect a sort of Panic Room-with-terrorists, this two-hour excursion is more interested in a history of the Anti-Terror Squad, as headed ironically by Sanjay Dutt. Vivek Oberoi is Maya-aa, an underworld star on the ascendant in a competent Company-hackjob script. Shootout is at its best when it does the old kill-and-spill numbers; it is unwieldy when it tries to give its characters quirks; it is unbearable when Amitabh Bachchan is on the screen, and falls apart completely whenever a song is launched into. Diya Mirza's role needed more writing, Neha Dhupia's needed less, and Amrita Singh returns from her washed-out existence to give the ensemble appreciated street-cred.