Wazir – A Review

Bejoy Nambiar directs Farhan Akhtar, Amitabh Bachchan and Aditi Rao Haidari in chess inspired revenge thriller Wazir in a story written by Vidhu Vinod Chopra.

 

The story starts with an introduction into Farhan’s idyllic family life where he plays Daanish Ali a Delhi Cop, has a kathak dancer wife Ruhana played by the beautiful Aditi Rao Haidari and an adorable toothless daughter noorie. Disaster strikes when defying all logic he chases down a known terrorist with his daughter in the backseat as his wife is getting her ghunghroo repaired. And this is not the most absurd plot line in the movie.

Farhan amped up on sleeping pills goes on a rampage and kills the said terrorist while the Police are running a parallel operation trying to nab the terrorist alive to get information on the politician-terrorist nexus. Spiralling out of control Farhan tries to kill himself at his daughter’s grave and is stopped from doing that by Amitabh Bachchan. Amitabh Bachchan teaches Farhan Chess and helps him get his life on track and enlists him in his fight to nail the perpetrators behind his daughter’s death.

There is John Abraham playing a Kashmir Cop and Neil Nitin Mukesh playing the eponymous Wazir and while these actors are not exactly brimming with talent, their limited talents are also wasted with a half-baked  plot lines.For what is a short movie it feels overlong and poorly paced. The editing or the lack thereof is really what sinks the ship. For what could have been an intelligent thriller is rendered boring and insipid with its watered down plot and dumbed down narrative. The problem with Bollywood is that it has never owned a Wren and Martin or never attended figures of speech class. While going for Metaphors it ends up doing Simile. While trying to make the narrative complex and interesting using Chess moves as metaphors for calculated moves Daanish must make to help nail the culprits Amitabh ends up speaking out loud everything just in case Farhan doesn’t get it. And the final climax which you can see coming from a mile away is made even more obvious when a Child is asked to lay out the plot in sobbing bursts of storytelling while Farhan holds a gun over the head of a fearsome terrorist. Coincidence is a mark of lazy storytelling and it is on glorious display here.

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While watching a director’s round table with a popular film critic one director made a very important point of how the Indian movies are made with the interval in mind and how that breaks the flow of the story – while that director was speaking of it in defence of intervals and how it helps with long stories here it couldn’t be more unnecessary. For a movie with a total running length of 80 minutes the interval is entirely unnecessary and it manages to deflate whatever little energy the movie manages to build leading up to the said interval. And the other Achilles heel of Bollywood? Pointless songs! The whole movie can be broken down into 2 parts – the one part where nothing really happens in normal speed and with no background score and the other where nothing happens in slow motion with one monotonous song playing in the background regardless of the situation at hand. I almost gasped when at the end they had a song sung by Amitabh playing as the credits rolled and not the overused “Tu Mere Pass”

What could have been slick almost psychological thriller is watered down and made so bland I can’t believe how excited I was when the trailer first released months ago. Amitabh is good as is Farhan but the story is overly simplistic and the non-existent editing and over direction is what kills this story. Want a well written, competently directed and marvellously edited thriller? You’d be better served by rewatching Kahani instead and not waste your time with this tepid mess.

Madras Cafe – A Review

Shoojit Sircar directs John Abraham in Madras Café based on the Rajiv Gandhi assassination story. Sircar coming off the tremendously successful Vicky Donor has huge expectations to live up to and doing a volte face by going international espionage and political drama way after the relatively light hearted Vicky Donor has set himself a herculean task to deliver.

The story tracks the 2 and a half year leading up to the assassination of India’s former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and the Sri Lankan Civil war which acts as the catalyst for the assassination.   The movie opens with an almost unrecognizable John Abraham (took me until he first spoke to realize who it was) walking up to a priest to confess the burdens of the life he has left behind.  What starts of as a powerful opening sequence with John Abraham living through the nightmares of the PTSD he suffers after the brutality he witnessed in Sri Lanka is left half-baked with his confession to the priest who is terribly mis-cast, here someone like Darshan Jariwala would have been wonderful and not felt as out of place as the priest does.

The movie can be summed up as one part great and one part missed opportunity. The problems are not so much with the lead acting pair of John Abraham and Nargis Fakhri who turn in credible performances but with the script that is for the most part confused as to what story thread it wants to focus on.  Story lines are pursued just to be left open ended.  Characters are asked to vocalize every inner working of their mind lest the audience “doesn’t get it”; the relentless voiceovers make for a tiresome and lazy story telling. And one key ingredient of an espionage thriller has got to be the feint – leading the audience to believe that one character is the bad guy while the end result is something completely different or at least letting the audience in on the secret but letting the characters in the story struggle with the double cross till the final reveal. Madras Café fails to achieve what Kahaani managed so effortlessly. The double agent is given up with no effort made at creating a cover for him.

Scripting issues aside the movie is shot beautifully with many wonderful shots. The brutality of war has never been captured more effectively than in this movie the shots which were clearly referential from the National Geographic library ( it got a credits mention as well) are fantastic and they serve as a better context setting for the civilian struggle in Sri Lanka than the entire first half put together. A Voice over with those images would have served the movie better with the rest of the focus set on the assassination. The shots of the sunrises and sunsets with helicopter silhouette are reminiscent of Full Metal Jacket; the shots of the soldiers walking in a single file again silhouetted against the sky are reminders of Saving Private Ryan. While referential these are still beautiful on their own merit. The luscious shots of the emerald isle, the shots of the colonial Cochin and the claustrophobic Madras are beautifully framed by the cinematographer Kamaljeet Negi. The music by Shantanu Moitra is also a perfect accompaniment to some of the most poignant scenes of the movie.

The third act is where the movie picks up steam and I wish the director had put in a little more effort in developing the first two thirds of the movie and the end result would have been one of the best retelling of an important chapter in India’s political story.  Still Sircar delivers a decent thriller with some really goose-bump inducing moments and telling an important story that not many might not know.

Don’t watch it if you are expecting a JFK type tout thriller , watch it for what is undoubtedly one of the best looking movie with decent acting and a very important story that is an important chapter in Indian Political annals.