Monday, January 14, 2008

Johny Gaddaar / Jab We Met

Johny Gaddaar

Johny Gaddaar starts off like a heist film but turns out to be not about the heist at all(in fact, all the talk and planning seems like overkill for a heist that essentially just involves just a train ride). Instead, it is about the consequences of the actions of one of the participants in the heist. This is a little disappointing initially since the planning and execution of the heist are the best parts of most heist films. But we forget that disappointment soon enough as things spiral out of control. Smart, suspenseful and tautly-paced, it is a terrific crime thriller.

I don't remember how many of the the characters read James Hadley Chase during the course of the film but its a book by Chase that the film's plot most closely resembles. Like Chase's books, it focuses on a group of criminals whose well-laid plans go awry because of the greed and avarice of one among them. And though it is all about criminals, the moral is that crime doesn't pay. Almost no one in the film earns our sympathy but though they may not be good, they are definitely interesting.

Among the characters, its fascinating the way Neil changes as the film proceeds. We do get an early hint of his character in this fantastic - and familiar - scene where he flips a coin to decide on a particular course of action. As he keeps increasing the number of flips we realize that he isn't really going to let fate decide; he is going to do what he wants and just blame fate! But as he stumbles through his plan, he looks like someone who is a victim of circumstances and doesn't really like what he is being forced to do. But he gradually becomes this cold and calculating person ready to do whatever's necessary to reach his goal and by the time he instructs Rimi Sen near the end, the transformation is complete.

The screenplay is well-crafted. Complicated enough to grab and hold our attention but not confusing enough to lose us, it keeps us engrossed. It is impossible to guess how the plot will proceed and the twists and turns are surprising but never insult our intelligence. The movie opens with a murder and is entirely a flashback but even after the story unravels to that first scene, I still couldn't guess who commits the murder until it is actually revealed. Now that's suspense!

Jab We Met

When it comes to romantic comedies, the ending is a foregone conclusion. As are most of the plot points. So the biggest factors are usually the actors, their characterization and the script and its precisely those that make Jab We Met a sweet and likeable movie.

Its not like JWM does anything radical or even new. The plot point that pits Shahid and Kareena together is very contrived(I was OK with Kareena jumping out of a running train to try and drag Shahid, a total stranger, back to the train. But making her turn away from the train, which she just can't afford to miss, to drink water was a bit too much). And their characters - the bubbly girl, the despondent hero - aren't exactly new(Idhayathai Thirudaadhey anyone?). But their conversations after that that make us overlook those contrivances. Kareena's sunny attitude is infectious and their exchanges are smart and funny.

Switching their characters is a nice idea. In hindsight it seems pretty obvious but it is brought in naturally and is clever. But the movie gets a little too cliched towards the end. After being natural for this long, the actions of Shahid and Kareena become forced and the situations around them become contrived as they allow themselves to be part of something brought about only because they are silent in a very cinematic manner.


At 11:17 PM, Blogger D.E.V said...

After a long time, u have finaally reviewed some hindi movies. i want to see ur reviews or views on "chakde india", om shanti om" and "bhul bulaiya". i was anticpating ur review for "guru" but u never posted it. did u miss out the film?

At 7:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hindi cinema has been making some quiet strides. As Pongal releases show, down South they are still churning out hero-centric masalas by the dozen and sadly actors like Vikram, Bharath who had the potential to do something different have decided to take the easy route instead.
BTW,Can someone issue a fatwa for Perarasu?

At 8:03 AM, Blogger Balaji said...

skanda, i did see 'chak de india' in the theater but i'm not sure why i didnt write about it. will defly see OSO but not so sure about 'bhool bulaiya'. and yeah, i did miss out on 'guru' :)

vijay, true, hindi cinema tackles far more themes than tamil cinema. but as i always say, the much bigger audience allows for experimentation. they have big enuf niche audiences who can make such experiments profitable. but cos the total audience size is small, the niche audiences sizes r very small and experiments r tough since they mostly will not be profitable.

At 12:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wasn't Johny Gaddaar awesome..was one of the best movies I've seen in recent times, and you are right about the J.H Chase influence. The Beauty parlour woman is touted to be nominated for a few awards this year (totally deserving) and the hero Nitin Mukesh I thought was pretty darn good and doesnt show that this is his debut.

I didnt quite enjoy Jab we met, donno why because everyone I know loved the film. I couldn't sympathise with Kareena in the second half, because she seemed very unintelligent, and I couldnt see Shahid adopt her attitude which helped things in his life..

Btw, another offbeat hindi movie that you might enjoy is "Manorama - 6 feet Under". It released a few months back and apparently didn't fare well at the box office (neither did Johny G :( ) The movie was very good - a strong plot and completely natural acting from everyone in the cast and a very involving storytelling. Do check it if you find it in the store. It does draw a few references from an old Hollywood classic, which I will not reveal lest it takes away the thrill :)


At 2:27 PM, Blogger Orange Fronkey said...

hmmm... must see if netflix got it..

i recently watched "darling".. thought it was pretty good since I'm into supernatural/horror flicks. i also rented chalte chalte.. how come no one warned me? took me 3 days to finish that gagworthy movie. oh and finally got to watch "kuch kuch hota hai" it was ok.. suppose i watched it when it actually came out i would have liked it more

At 9:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

JAB WE MEt was awesome.yeah,i admit its a normal story but the way it was directed makes me say so.kareena's character was too cute.i think this is her best perfomance so far.i'm not a great fan of her but she did well in this movie.shahid looks like shahrukh in certain scenes.

balaji,i was thinking the same thing.why dun u write on Chakde India? eventho i'm not an India citizen but watching Chakde made me feel some of the India patriotisme.I really really wish tamil movies will undergo some kind of miracles and get rid of the action masala movies. for us the theme has to be dryness(paruthi veeran), super sadness (nayagan), abit unrealitistic character(pithamagan) or massive heroism to make good films. why cant the directors opt for something soothing and soft and feel good films?? i really wish cuz i love watching tamil movies more than other languages.

At 11:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Balaji,a lot of experimental movies in Hindi fail as well. As someone before mentioned movies like Johny Gaddar and also Vishal Bharadwaj's movies like Blue Umbrella,Omkara, Anurag's No Smoking all are commercial flops, although critically acclaimed. But those directors are unflailing in their efforts to keep trying something new. Same with Aamir. Atlhough His Taare Zameen Par has done commercially well, thanks to his conviction. Vikram seems to be more interested in churning out masalas that will also sell well in Goltland(especially after all his talk about him being Kamal and Rajni rolled into one). Sad. Kamal is the only actor after all these years who seems to have been resilient enough to try diff things. Jeeva to a certain extent. Vikram/Surya have been colossal disappointments of late.Amongst directors, Venkat Prabhu, a couple from Prakashraj/Shankar's production houses and Bala/Ameer/Selvaraghavan(to an extent) hold out some promise. But we have long ways to go.With big production houses and corporates entering the fray and multiplexes slowly catching up in TN, hopefully there should'nt be much of an excuse for lack of experimenttation from hereon. Atleast Maddy tried something diff in Evano Oruvan. Hope others follow suit.

At 9:10 AM, Blogger Balaji said...

shwetha, yep, that beauty parlor actress was awesome. 1 particular dialog where she asks her husband if he is praying when he asks her not to fight made me laugh so hard! heard about 'manorama' a bit mainly in baradwaj rangan's blog's comment section :) i do want to watch it.

merino, i saw 'darling' recently too. was interesting the way horror and comedy was combined but didn't work too well for me. but watchable for the most part. i don't think i finished 'chalte chalte' when i saw it a long time ago. but i love kajol in KKHH :)

rathi, i felt exactly the same way about kareena. i don't like her much but she was great in this. played her character perfectly. shahid reminded me of SRK so much.

hope u saw 'mozhi' :) i think that fits ur definition of "soothing and soft and feel good film" perfectly!

vijay, yeah some of them have flopped(though i think 'omkara' was a hit). but i was talking about mainly from the target audience size rather than BO performance. the target audience for an offbeat film is much much bigger for a hindi film than for a tamil film. so directors and producers can take more risks, thats all. but i defly feel the same way as u when it comes to the direction i wish tamil cinema goes in...

At 5:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

balaji,yeah.of course i watched MOZHI.which i enjoyed to the max.same as you,i simply love jho and i miss her presence on screen so much. yeah i wish i watched Alagiya theeye. hope to catch it soon.


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