CHAURAHEN – CROSSROADS

After the absolutely shallow Aisha , director Rajshree Ojha takes us to the inner recesses of the human mind through three stories set in three different cities. As the strands criss-cross, we get lessons in love, loss and longing. It is the kind of film that tries to be intelligent, full of meaning, but ultimately falls prey to its rousing ambitions.

In Kolkata, an aging Dr. Bose (Victor Banerjee) is bonding with a much younger Laia (Kiera Chaplin) even as his wife (Rupa Ganguly) is yearning for some covalence in their relationship. In Mumbai, Farooq (Ankur Khanna) is unable to let go the memories of his late father while his lively girlfriend Ira (Soha Ali Khan) tries to make him see the bigger picture. Meanwhile in Kochi, when Naveen (Karthik Kumar) returns from Vienna after the demise of his brother, he finds that his parents (Nedumudi Venu and Arundhati Nag) expect him to fill the vacuum. His parents struggle to cope with the loss but Naveen just wants to get on with his life.

Drawn from eminent Hindi litterateur Nirmal Verma's short stories, Ojha's film reminds you of the so-called New Wave days when directors loved to show off their hold on the medium. Perhaps unable to slot it, the media dubbed it as offbeat. Over the years, when a new generation of directors stopped talking down to patrons, the genre became off-key with audiences.

Verma is credited with the Nayi Kahani (New Story) movement but Ojha doesn't employ any new tools here. The film, largely in English, talks too much and the philosophy in the lines seems to be deliberately dropped to make the audience wonder: Oh! What a thought. It is particularly apparent in the episode between Farooq and Ira. One tries to remind oneself that Farooq is an author but it still doesn't work. Part of the reason is that the lines lose bite and the thought its malleability in translation.

Also at some points, the English dialogue delivery is so stilted that it gives the proceedings a theatrical feel. Like the scene where Farooq tries to restore his late father's dentures, the situation is overwhelming but Ojha fails to build on it because she resorts to word play. Chaplin doesn't have the potential to become a counterpoint to the depth of Ganguly. Yes, she is chirpy but little else. With the script refusing to provide an anchor, Banerjee meanders listlessly. Zeenat Aman lights up the scenery but Ojha again stops short of creating a character we would have loved to shed a tear for.

However, there are no such issues with the Kochi episode where Venu, Nag and Kumar realise the full potential of what is written and what is not, as you become one with their pain and little moments of joy like the scene when they break into an impromptu jig. These are some delicious crumbs in a rather overcooked meal.

Try it if you want to study how sincere efforts don't necessarily ensure a wholesome film.

ZINDAGI TERE NAAM

Mithun Chakraborty and Ranjeeta Kaur have given us many cine moments to cherish. They made a pair that lent passion and grace to even action thrillers. They still retain that emotional connect almost two decades after they were paired in Deepak Bahry's Woh Jo Hasina but director Ashuu Trikha fails to justify the efforts of the seasoned pair.

Though it seems heavily inspired by the Ajay Devgn-Kajol starrer U, Me Aur Hum , Trikha has an interesting premise to play with. An aged lady (Ranjeeta) with a fading memory is being wooed by a weathered man (Mithun). Trikha's choice of actors to play the young Mithun and Ranjeeta is completely off the mark. Aseem Ali Khan and Priyanka Mehta don't have the acting chops to carry off the 1980s' style melodrama when pedestrian scripts survived scrutiny because of individual charm and soulful music. Priyanka looks particularly odd as she doesn't exude the appeal required of the centre of attraction.

For some strange reason, Trikha seems to think that he is bound to tell the 1970s' tale with the pace of that era. So there are long portions where you doze off, only to wake up to some shrill background sound and discover that things haven't moved much. Yes, it is that kind of film where the divide between the amir girl and the no-so- garib boy was too deep to bridge, when the harsh words of the girl's father used to ignite the boy's self-respect. After Bobby , every underprivileged father was outspoken and had a glass full of whiskey in his hand. Here Sharat Saxena plays that stereotype lovingly created by Prem Nath.

Trikha is talking of times when the boy chose to write a letter a day for a year but didn't care to travel from Dalhousie to Chandigarh to ask the girl whether he figures in her scheme of things. Such half-baked obstacles have lost their zing and Trikha makes no attempt to update them. The love triangle plays out along predictable lines and so does the resolution. We are often forced to ask ourselves how we used to stand such cringe-inducing melodramas. In the penultimate scene when Mithun breaks down, one gets the answer. When in form, the oldie can still make the most placid of scenes moving.

THIS MEANS WAR

Some directors don't shy away from the fact that they specialise in serving stupid stuff to an audience which loves to leave their brains at the box office. McG (real name Joseph McGinty Nichol) is one of them. Like his name, he keeps his films short, shiny and sporadically smart. That his filmography includes films like Charlie's Angles will give you a fair idea. Here he combines a romantic comedy with dollops of action to create a potpourri which has already been served to us in films like Knight and Day and Mr and Mrs Smith.

The difference (if you can call it one) is that he has turned a usual love triangle into a sort of battle between two friends to get the girl. FDR (Chris Pine) and Tuck Henson (Tom Hardy) play CIA agents who are benched for their inability to keep an operation covert. In their “free” time they happen to strike a conversation with the same girl called Lauren (Reese Witherspoon). And soon we are in for a contest.

Both agents use their gullible colleagues to spy on the girl using state-of-the-art technology. Keep your why's and how's at bay and chances are you might enjoy the boyish antics, one of which involves bugging the lady's bedroom.

Are they in love with her or with each other? A digression worth following, but McG has other superficial concerns.

When Lauren finds Tuck safe, he shows her real action. When Lauren looks for emotions, FDR pretends to be a Gustav Klimt fan because Lauren loves the artist's work. The scenes ride on risqué lines and ribald action. Adding to the mood is Trish (Chelsea Handler), the agony aunt, who advises Lauren to pick the man who makes her feel good and the best way, according to her, is to test the boys in bed. Enough opportunity to go lowbrow! Hardy has the natural charm to fit in the arena. Pine tries a bit too hard. After a series of serious roles, Reese is in a mood to let her hair down but age is catching up with her and at times you ask yourself if she was the right choice for this silly film.

Definitely not made for the critics but has enough firepower to engage those rushing on the one-way street called youth!

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