SAHEB BIWI AUR GANGSTER RETURNS
Tigmanshu Dhulia returns to the decadent royal world and like a master raconteur emerges with details that are juicier and more intriguing than the original where he spent a lot of time peeping into bedrooms.
Bolstered by the success of Paan Singh Tomar , he once again proves that he can create sexual tension without undressing his protagonists. That he can achieve the requisite punch and ethnic flavour in dialogue without resorting to abusive language.
No doubt it is a stereotypical portrayal of royalty caught in a time warp. It is a territory we are familiar with but don’t mind revisiting for Dhulia proves to be an enterprising guide who comes up with riveting anecdotes every time you put your money on him. Once again he manages to evoke the Ek Tha Raja, Ek Thi Rani kind of feeling as if a pulp fiction has got life on screen with all the nuances and etiquettes that define royal life. He might have resorted to illegal activities but when Aditya Pratap Singh (Jimmy Sheirgill), or Saheb as he is popularly called, says that they are still a living reality and have not become a museum, it captures the pain some of the royal families are still grappling with after the Government of India took away their privy purses. When Inderjeet (Irrfan), who has lost all his royal trappings except for the fact that people still call him Raja Bhaiyya (we are in Uttar Pradesh, mind you), pays a photographer to be seen in a newspaper, it captures the criminal desperation of a class trying hard to cling on to a cherished past.
Dhulia is not one of those who rely on grand sets to create the sense of time and space. No, his cinema is not real, but his leaps of faith are from a realistic ground. His larger-than-life world is inhabited by characters you have seen. Dhulia could find humour in tragedy, satire in reality and everyday emotions in royalty. Even in the technique – from shot taking to background sound – there is a deliberate rawness that goes with the theme.
Taking the story forward, Aditya is wheelchair-bound but still calls the shots. His wife, the Meena Kumari-sh Madhavi (Mahie Gill) has become the local MLA but is no more than a puppet for the writ of Saheb runs large. The friction between the two is no longer behind the curtains as the alcoholic Biwi goes completely out of bounds as Saheb starts showing interest in Princess Ranjana (Soha Ali Khan). He arm-twists her father (Raj Babbar) to agree to the alliance but in the process sows the seeds for acrimony as Inderjeet enters the picture. In love with Ranjana, he is out to destroy Saheb’s empire for he holds Saheb’s forefathers responsible for robbing off his royal status. He preens Madhavi and she is all the more willing to use him to rein in Saheb.
As the game of chess gets chequered, we are in for a riveting interplay of love, lust and betrayal. Dhulia ensures that every character has a reason to show. We know where each one is coming from.
Improving with every outing, Sheirgill is in top form as Saheb. He makes Saheb’s handicap his strength. With his eyes doing all the talking, he manages to garner empathy even while playing the egoistic evil.
An amalgam of poetry and power, Irrfan is his usual nonchalantly charismatic self as the new gangster in Madhavi’s life. Mahie has improved by leaps and bounds since the first part. She not only looks the part in chiffons but also gives us an insight into the character’s motivations. Amid all the manoeuvrings, Soha provides an interesting counterpoint to Madhavi’s character. The support cast is equally strong with Dhulia’s trusted Rajeev Gupta once again impressing as the porn-watching minister who finds himself synonymous with tomato.
This one is a three-course meal!
Raising the burning issue of runaway inflation, debutant Anshul Sharma has come up with a low-budget satire which pleases in parts. It is about a family which resorts to desperate measures to survive the price rise.
It has its heart in the right place, the casting is spot on and some of the scenes capture the mood brilliantly but it offers too simplistic a solution to merit a shelf life. The way it pans out takes away the bite from the satire and the realistic setting fails to save the day.
Set in Sonepat, Haryana, Puttan (Sanjay Mishra) is finding it hard to run the family by mating the livestock at the Animal Husbandry Department.
His younger brother is unemployed and his father (Vishwa Mohan Badola in form) wants quality food every day. His enterprising wife (Pragati Pandey, superb) runs a beauty parlour where she gives tips on how to economise on the waxing area to customers hard on cash but she has no clue how to tighten the usage of sugar or milk in her kitchen.
Puttan comes up with a foolish plan to buy rations for three years by taking an interest-free loan under a government scheme. Now the scheme is for starting a small business and when the loan inspector (Zakir Hussain) realises that the family has bought the food supplies for personal use he gets after them.
The film goes in a hang after that as Sharma loses control of the proceedings and what started as an interesting idea remains just that. It raises a topical issue but in terms of narrative structure the film ceases to move beyond a point and keeps underlining the same point over and over again. It reminds you of students who feel underlining the topics will keep the examiner away from finding flaws in the answer sheet.
Mishra is reliable as ever and Hussain and Badola lend solid support but the writing lets them down. In these inflationary times, try it on TV where you’ll get to watch it for free!
OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL
It is yet another attempt by a Hollywood studio to blind the target audience with a spectacle. With little regard for narrative fidelity, it carpet bombs our senses with computer-generated imagery. Based on the writings of American author L. Frank Baum, director Sam Raimi conjures up the tale of a magician Oscar Diggs (James Franco) who is blown away by a tornado from Kansas to the Land of Oz where people identify him as the Wizard of Oz.
It is almost a parallel universe ruled by women who seem to be in need of male company. According to a prophecy, Oz will save the kingdom and its ruler Glenda (Michelle Williams) from the curse of two witching sisters (Rachel Weisz and Mila Kunis). Along the way he befriends a talking monkey with wings (voiced by Zach Braff) and a china doll (voiced by Joey King).
Oz’s treasure makes him greedy but he stays back for the noble mission, which doesn’t prove as tough as Raimi tries to make us believe. A flimsy script and lack of surprises makes it a tedious exercise. The witches don’t prove hazardous enough to bring us to edge. Evanora (Weisz)’s crystal ball becomes redundant at crucial moments. It is Mila’s charm that keeps us mildly interested but there is very little to make us invest emotionally in this jamboree of special effects.
The biggest problem is the magician himself. James Franco seems out of place in this fantasy land. He is too laidback for a role that demands boundless energy and a bit of magic.