WARNING

A group of friends go for a reunion in Fiji. One of them is in the yacht business and he takes them out in the sea. After a bit of customary bonding and bickering, with the camera unabashedly caressing the female forms as they get down to embrace the waves, they find there is no way they can go back to the yacht. The reason is anything but convincing, but even then we wait for some action to unfold. However, what we get is a postcard from Fiji in 3D.

After putting his protagonists into the Pacific Ocean, we find director Gurmmeet Singh all at sea as his characters come up with some absurd ideas to salvage their lives. The most ludicrous is to make a rope out of swimwear! With Manjari Phadnis and Varun Sharma leading the pack of non-actors, the acting is reduced to making faces and faux posturing. Actually, it is not the fault of the actors for the writer has given them very few options to keep us interested for two hours. Yes, the same old story. One has to contend with the fear of water; the other sees it as an opportunity to dive into the past. Only Madhurima Tuli manages to merge with the atmosphere with some flair.

After a point the screenplay comes to a standstill. There is no urgency, little sense of purpose. If the idea was to bring out the deeper human secrets in an emergency, it remains floating on the surface. Even the predictable dose of past affairs fails to perk up the proceedings and the plight of the lonely baby on board doesn’t manage to stir up the melodrama. Hope this is enough to warn you against this misadventure!

PRAGUE

It is one of those ‘arty’ festival films which hides more than it reveals. Touted as a psychological thriller, here the mind games lose their potency much before the director decides to take the lid off the mind of his crazy protagonist Chandan (played with panache by Chandan Roy Sanyal).

Chandan is an architect whose mental architecture is flawed when it comes to relationships. He says he comes across only troubled women but perhaps the problem lies with him. He ditches his classmate Subhangi (Sonia Bindra) because he believes that she is using him for his talent in academics and is, in fact, infatuated with his rakish classmate Gulshan (Kumar Mayank). Gulshan is one of the two alter egos that struggles for space in Chandan’s schizophrenic mind. The other one is of a possessive, sceptical boyfriend represented by Arfi. To make the screenplay full of twists and turns, director Ashish Shukla and writer Sumeet Saxena have created these characters representing Chandan’s ever-altering state of mind.

In the beginning you don’t know which one of them is for real and which one is a creation of his mind but as the film progresses we get to know that Shukla is going abstract because he doesn’t have too much to say and wants to lend an art house feel to his work. When the scene shifts to Prague, we hope the city will add a new flavour to the screenplay but as the bond between Chandan and the gypsy girl Elena (Elena Kazan) evolves, a sense of sameness sets in. Like the joints his characters roll, the quirky theme works in spurts but the hallucination doesn’t last the distance. It could have been any other city and we would not have complained. It is like that painting which demands interpretation but when you find one it begins to look shallow.

MAAZII

In a week of small films with big designs, debutant Gaurav Chopra’s Maazii surprises with its intent and craft. Set in Western Uttar Pradesh, it is our own Western and impresses with its honest approach and powerful performances. Unlike many polished versions from Bollywood, backed by stars, there is no fakery in accent and the sense of pride that the cowboys of the region hold dearer than their lives permeates through the celluloid seamlessly. To top it the layered screenplay keeps you riveted. It is the story of a young man called Tarun Singh (Sumeet Nijhavan), who is trying to bury his violent past (maazii means past) but it keeps lurking around his peaceful life with his wife (Mona Vasu) and daughter in the hills of Mussoorie. A flower seller, Tarun doesn’t know that a bed of thorns is awaiting him when he saves a female customer from the attack of notorious criminals Rathi and Bhati. The act of heroism takes the lid off his concealed identity and the trail of muck takes us to the hotbed of crime in Meerut.

The violence is nothing new but it is rare to find a mainstream Hindi film where every bullet is accounted for and when the action looks more persuasive than stylish. And the way it is written, you can’t guess what lies in store for Tarun. Chopra uses razor sharp dialogues dipped in acerbic wit. Pankaj Tripathi as Rathi has mastered the diction as the remorseless killer. So has Manav Kaushik as his accomplice Bhati. Similarly, Manish Chaudhari has come up with stellar performance as the policeman, we usually find at the chowkis in the cow belt. Then Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub gives vendetta a fresh meaning in a small but impactful role. Sumeet as the central force comes across as a limited actor but has just the right kind of wooden face to justify Tarun’s artificial calm.

Of course, there are signs of rawness at the edges and there are some trademark Bollywoodish exaggerations while dealing with Tarun’s past but overall it is a film that won’t disappoint you if you keep your expectations in check.

GAMBIT

When the ploy is to blend masters of broad humour with champions of subtlety, it is bound to misfire. This is the story of Gambit , a remake of the 1960s hit of the same name. Here, Coen (Ethan and Joel) brothers bring in their trademark low-brow humour and broad characterisations in a film helmed by Michael Hoffman and led by Colin Firth. Both are known for their ability to underplay but here they are caught justifying forced humour and gags. Firth plays Harry Deane, a docile art curator, who works for a bullying media tycoon Lionel Shabandar (Alan Rickman). Seeking revenge for years of exploitation, Deane and his friend The Major (Tom Courtenay) join hands and rope in Texan rodeo queen PJ Puznowski (Cameron Diaz is off-key) to mount an elaborate fraud against Shabandar. They convince her to pose as the owner of a rare canvas by the Impressionist master Claude Monet.

It starts with how Deane expects the con to unfold. It is an interesting episode that tickles you in the right places but soon the reality dawns on Deane that Shabandar is not as stupid as Deane thinks him to be. After a crackling start, Coen brothers lose direction. The episode goes on and on. Firth wants to make it realistic while the writing wants him to loosen up. It is where the narrative starts bursting at the seams and we can see through the charade. The brothers seem desperate to bring the pants down and only Rickman seems to know how to do it without making a fool of himself.

At the end of the day, it is Puznowski’s initials that define this con job!