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Karthik comes calling and it's worth answering

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OLD AND NEW: Debutant Vijay Lalwani's KARTHIK CALLING KARTHIK
OLD AND NEW: Debutant Vijay Lalwani's KARTHIK CALLING KARTHIK

ANUJ KUMAR

KARTHIK CALLING KARTHIK

(Delite Diamond and other theatres in Delhi and elsewhere)

Bollywood's dalliance with disorder continues. Since this one is billed as a thriller, it would not do to reveal much but debutant Vijay Lalwani has not taken out a rare bug – as is the trend these days – from the doctor's hat. Script writers have been hobnobbing with it since times as far back as Raat Aur Din.

What's fresh here is the treatment that keeps you glued till the intermission. It is textured, it's intelligent and is refreshingly today – times when a thousand unsent e-mails are enough to establish your unconditional love and make her eyes well up!

Vijay lures us into believing the story of Karthik (Farhan Akhtar), a submissive construction firm employee who has a way with numbers but not his mean boss (Ram Kapoor), who refuses to see his utility in the office. Not accustomed to selling his talent and showcasing his personality, Karthik merges with the background so much so that Shonali, the gorgeous architect colleague he seeks, never notices his presence.

Chucked out of the job, Karthik believes life has shut the door on him. Not really! He gets a mysterious call from his namesake and his life begins to change overnight as this Karthik reels out some confidence-building measures. He gets his job back on his terms and Shonali begins to find him a safe bet!

Yes, there is more to it as Vijay keeps us guessing by keeping red herrings in play but the film gets its best scenes when Karthik decides to get even with his boss and serenades Shonali. The humour element in dialogue is sharp and authentic and backed with some heart-throbbing beats Farhan and Deepika light up the scenery. Farhan's plus point is he is not captive of a particular style or mannerisms. Every time he walks out, he is the character at play tuned to a believable pitch. He might not be a spring chicken, but his styling (particularly hair style) is always up-to-the-minute which hooks the young urbane eye. Here again he will make many a heart skip quite a few beats as he switches from dull to debonair. The vivacious Deepika matches him with her dimpled smile and bewitching gaze that allows her to get away with a hundred murders!

Unfortunately, Vijay couldn't carry the surprise value or the appealing honesty of the first half into the pensive second. He does bring in shock elements like the benevolent “phoney” Karthik turns into an enemy or the phone rings in the presence of the doctor (Shefali Shah) but somewhere down the long drawn out second half you know how it's eventually going to culminate. Farhan is formidable but Vijay's inexperience shows in his inability to remain one step ahead of the audience.

When it is time to sum up, he opens the implausible third act.

It might not give you a high that you expect from a taut thriller or the pathos that come along a syndrome-led script but it definitely sets you ringing.

TEEN PATTI

(Shiela, Delhi, and other theatres)

It is yet another instance of wasting superlative talent and millions of bucks on a shallow script. We thought five years of sabbatical must have made Leena Yadav clear in her head but she seems even more confused than she was in Shabd. Here her muddled characters suffer from verbal diarrhoea and the screenplay is incoherent. So much so that she manages to make Amitabh Bachchan and Ben Kingsley look mediocre!

A thriller demands mystery but here we get a series of half-baked characters and arcane situations. Bachchan plays a maths professor whose superiors feel his work has no practical application. His latest is the thesis on the theory of probability which can take the randomness out of the card game, Teen Patti. In short, he can predict the winner. Leena wastes ample stock on the thesis but couldn't conjure up any logic as how it is not magic but mathematics.

We take her word and move on. The professor is drawn into testing the thesis in real life by a fellow professor (Madhavan). Together with a bunch of students they start visiting the underground gambling dens. And keep on shuffling cards till late in the second half. We know Leena wants to show that the experiment takes a backseat in front of the lucre of money but the story needs to evolve. Here only the characters keep crowding the scene (the likes of Ajay Devgn, Jackie Shroff, Mahesh Manjrekar, Tinu Anand and Shakti Kapoor show up at random) mouthing gibberish, the plot remains static. The professor keeps on indulging in the illegal activity because he is being blackmailed by an unknown entity but Leena doesn't care to explain why the professor never thinks about the option of informing the police. Ultimately when the culprit turns out to be the same person you have been suspecting, the very purpose of the genre is wasted.

Bachchan tries hard to salvage some sense but having got absolutely inane dialogue he is unusually loud and robotic. The only plus is Aseem Bajaj's cinematography and among the newcomers only Shraddha Kapoor stands out.

Don't show up!

INVICTUS

(Wave, Noida, and other theatres)

Clint Eastwood's cinema is always filled with rare elevating moments that keep us riveted despite knowing how the plot is going to unfold. Be it Million Dollar Baby or last year's Gran Torino, he has picturised human triumph over insurmountable odds like no other. Here he is at it again as he unfolds a chapter from the eventful life of legendary Nelson Mandela where his politics seamlessly blend with sports. After decades of apartheid when he became the President of South Africa, the cynics feared that the country would break up as society was still racially divided. But Madiba, as he is called by his fervent followers, had a plan up his sleeve. He teaches his followers the path of compassion and forgiveness.

In the Rugby World Cup of 1995, he sees a great opportunity. Till then rugby was considered a white man's game in the country. He believes if he backs the game, the fears of the white community will fade away. He faces criticism from his community but he stands his ground. It is not a utopian idea. He knows the crucial sectors of economy are still in white community's hands and it is prudent to win their faith to propel the rainbow nation on the path of inclusive growth.

Despite its predictable curves and heavy-handed execution of certain situations, Eastwood holds our attention with some arousing moments veering around the melting of ice. Like the one when the rugby team visits the black-dominated country side or the one when Captain Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon) visits Mandela's cell on Robben Island or the one where Mandela imparts Henley's poem, Invictus, his motivational mantra, to Pienaar. Morgan Freeman as Mandela brings the big man's spirit on the screen alive. From the accent to body movements to hiding his personal pains, Freeman is very much the cheerful Mandela we admire. Damon is convincing as Pienaar, whose conservative facade cracks in front of Mandela's sanguinity.

An enriching experience that deserves to be absorbed!

IT'S COMPLICATED

(PVR Saket and other theatres)

Audaciously adult, this one is an enjoyable romantic comedy by Nancy Meyers who has a reputation of making aging people fall in love all over again. Remember Something Gotta Give? Here she makes the immensely watchable Meryl Streep play Jane, who falls in love with an uproarious big man Jake (Alec Baldwin) at her son's graduation ceremony.

Simple…not quite! The two have been divorced for ten years and in the meantime Jake had married a much younger girl. So in the present equation, Jane becomes the other woman. Add to this the entry of a well-meaning architect (Steve Martin) in Jane's life. Now it's really complicated! Jane doesn't want to suffer the ignominy of feeling like the keep of her ex-husband while Jake doesn't like the thought of turning up at kindergarten for the admission of his son from the young wife. Interspersed with cheeky lines, this entertainer subtly points at the physical and emotional needs of the aged.

An easy choice to make this weekend!

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