WHAT THE FISH

What all could happen in your house in your absence? Director Gurmeet Singh tries to discover through a belligerent Delhi aunty Sudha Mishra (Dimple Kapadia). With an obsession for cleanliness and a domineering attitude, she seems crossed with the world. The only living beings that this irritable character, which is more of a caricature, cares for are her fish Mishti and her money plant. When she goes out of town for a month she gives the keys to Sumit (Sumit Puri), the fiancé of her niece after making him promise that he will take care of her prized possessions. From here on, this quirky idea takes wing as the carefree Sumit ensures that auntie’s home gets a new set of house sitters every few minutes.

It starts with an innocent-looking runaway couple. Soon, we have a lecherous property dealer (Manu Rishi) desperate for a one night stand followed by a boxer, who is grappling with his true identity. Then there is a female boxer from Manipur in love with a Haryanvi henchman. As expected, eventually, the house is reduced to a mess. In between, each of them has to rush to a fish store run by a shrewd boy (Manjot Singh) to find a ‘new’ Mishti. And then there is a witch angle as well!

It seems there is too much on the plate but somehow it doesn’t translate on screen as this fishing trip in the neighbour’s pond takes you nowhere. Singh has taken a non-linear route to tell the story to keep pace and maintain interest in the story, but the problem is that we can see through his trick. There is obvious lack of substance to sustain interest. The visits to the fish store get repetitive.

Of course, there are moments and performances which strike a chord, like Anand Tiwari as the boy who leaves his girlfriend in the care of a property dealer friend is top rate. Singh exploits the small-town-girl-eager-to-be-cheated template. Rishi is reliable as ever in a Delhi setting. So is the twist in the boxer’s punch and the funny stereotypes built around the North-Eastern family.

However, the Haryanvi tone to generate humour is no longer a novelty. Dimple has done what she has been asked to. She holds the single note. As a loud and cantankerous divorcee she deserves little empathy. A little more fleshing out of the back story could have made it a more wholesome character as it seems Singh is overpowered by his idiosyncrasies.

Nevertheless, at 110 minutes, it is a safe recipe for a few easy laughs. Try it on TV.

JACKPOT

In the week of quirky themes, Kaizad Gustad returns with a lame thriller. When you have an adult film star (Sunny Leone) headlining your film it should not be the case, but Gustad is in a mood to develop an intricate riddle of a film. Once upon a time, very few were able to make head or tail of Gustad’s Boom and Jackpot leaves you with a similar feeling of hollowness.

Set in Goa, it a about a casino King called Boss (Naseeruddin Shah), his secretary Maya (Sunny) and a conman called Francis (Sachiin Joshi). Francis shares a plan with Boss to make quick money, but as it turns out, everybody is after money in this amoral tale. The director, of course, has ambitions of making a noir thriller. However, a few minutes into the film, you realise that it is clear as daylight that Naseer with his ‘beady’ hairstyle is here to chew the Goan scenery and Sunny and Sachiin have to make do with the leftovers. The complexity in the screenplay is as contrived as Sunny’s attempt to act. When it comes to expressions, she is definitely better than Sachiin, but then we know he is leading the wooden pack these days.

Whether you are hoping for a high sleaze quotient or expecting a taut thriller, Jackpot is a huge disappointment .

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG

When you make three films out of a 200-page book, chances are that the audience will see through the marketing game at play by the second film. But then Peter Jackson is known to rise above matter and, here again, as he puts J.R.R. Tolkien’s Hobbit in the celluloid hunt he impresses with his vision, visual splendour and visceral performances.

This time Bilbo Baggins and the wizard Gandalf join Thorin Oakenshield and his company of dwarves to burgle a gem called the Arkenstone from the hoard of a dragon named Smaug.

At 161 minutes, the journey appears arduous but Jackson has created a fantasy that sucks you in. The attack of the mammoth spiders in the Mirkwood establishes it. Like the web Jackson weaves around us, the spiders trap the dwarves in their web. Be it the battle between light and darkness with Gandalf holding on the beam or the escape of dwarves in barrels, the choreography of violence never puts you off. It is only when the imposing Orcs comes to the scene that things get bloody.

The best part is how Jackson and his team of writers keep space for emotions in CGI-governed action. Before the climax, when Bilbo indulges Smaug with some unalloyed flattery is an example. Martin Freeman once again humanises his hobbit character.

Amid the high octane action and chest thumping, Jackson provides him space to convey simple fears and dilemmas. And as the ring is showing its effect, there is a perceptible change in his behaviour. He conveys this transformation through his little twitches and gestures making it a believable exercise.

Another guy who is getting corrupted is Thorin. Richard Armitage turns in a solid performance as the leader of dwarves. Benedict Cumberbatch brings suitable menace as the voice of the dragon. However, there is too much talking by Ian McKellen as Gandalf and the Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) sub-plot. This is to give a romantic and feminine side of the story, but remains an unnecessary appendage, which slows the down the pace. Also, the length ensures that you start noticing the consistency and, at times, the deliberate rasping in the voices.

Yes, it is spread thin, but the hobbit is not hobbling yet.