R…RAJ KUMAR

One should be careful with the kind of cinema one supports. Those who made Rowdy Rathore a monstrous hit, should have been ready to face this monster, steeped in misogyny and moronic mayhem.

When the film-maker is not sure about the first name of his protagonist, how can you take the film seriously? Is it Rambo, is it Romeo, it could well have been Rowdy Raj Kumar as Prabhu Dheva continues with his “Rowdy” template. Perhaps, he settled for Romeo not just because the makers of Rambo took umbrage but for the fact that it suits Shahid Kapoor’s visage.

The rootless narrative reinforces patriarchy at its worst. The girl is stalked by the hero, until she gives in. The villain lusts for her and her uncle batters her. In this land of brutes, she declares she will surrender herself to the man who will vanquish the opposing candidate. In Prabhu’s violent fantasy, you are not supposed to question the logic or the absence of words like dignity and grace in form and content. With words pyaar and maar playing on a loop in the background, it seems the composer has put cotton in his ears before drumming us into mute spectators of the bedlam.

However, Prabhu doesn’t believe in half measures. He is not trying to please two different sets of audience. He knows he is indulging in “ gandi baat ” and goes the whole hog. Bullets are minimal here; it is all about unalloyed brawn. With the CBFC granting him U/A certificate, he doesn’t care what imagery the impressionable minds will carry home. And, perhaps, that’s why if you try to discern, by removing the shades of the sensitive viewer, this loutish approach, there is opium for the masses in the punches and the punchlines.

Ironically, the film is set around the opium business. Is Prabhu getting metaphorical! Two feudal lords Parmar and Shivraj (Ashish Vidyarthi and Sonu Sood) control the opium export. When Romeo joins Shivraj, the balance shifts in Shivraj’s favour. When not breaking bones, Romeo remains in a constant pouted state, trying to tame the shrew called Chanda (Sonakshi). As it happens in most masala films, Shivraj’s glad eye also falls on Chanda. Soon, we discover that Chanda is Parmar’s niece and is being bartered for truce between the two warring factions. Eventually, Romeo turns raucous to take home his booty.

Such cinema also requires detailing and honesty! Prabhu takes into account the height of Shahid and the chubbiness of Sonakshi so that by the time he sings Saari Ki Fall Sa to describe their on screen compatibility, you are not too concerned about the physical difference between the lead players. For long, Shahid has played a charmer. Here he blends his inherent cuteness with the fury of the fist and manages to take away a little bit of crudeness from the narrative. Sonakshi, once again, fits into the role of a proud lover and Sonu dons the dark shades with flair. Ashish Vidyarthi is reduced to a whipping boy and with every lashing, one feels the attempt to turn an accomplished actor into a monkey. If you judge R…Raj Kumar by its genre, you will value Prabhu’s sleight of hand in this circus, but if you believe in the tyranny of taste it will leave you puking!

CLUB 60

If you are breathing it doesn’t mean you are alive. Debutant director Sanjay Tripathy’s film comes with sunshine for people who believe they are hobbling towards sunset. Without being overtly didactic, he passes on some crucial lessons for those who equate old age with living in the past, drawing from the memory bank.

Here is an unlikely gang of oldies (played by Tinnu Anand, Sharat Saxena, Raghubir Yadav, Satish Shah and Vineet Kumar) who are members of a club devoted to the senior citizens. They are competitive on court and off it. They indulge in banter like youngsters do. They talk about women and the jokes get dirty. In short, these boys are not done with life as Sanjay breaks some stereotypes associated with old age.

In comes a doctor couple called Tariq and Saira (Farooq Shiekh and Sarika), who are grappling with the loss of their son. The way Tripathy has shown Tariq finding it more difficult than Saira to come to terms with the reality is both refreshing and sobering. As a nosy neighbour, Mannubhai (Raghuvir Yadav) tries to show the doctor that all is not lost, the film gets its moments.

However, Tripathy takes some easy liberties. He is talking only about the well-heeled people, who are physically agile. There are standard issues on offer…parents, who are abandoned by their son, for career or in-laws. We know these gentlemen can still crack juvenile jokes but that doesn’t mean humour needs to be lame. Also, there is a set pattern in the way the tragic past of each of the characters is revealed to us.

Yadav, who for a change is cast against the type, overdoes the act of the lively cog in the wheel. Saxena repeats his act of a frustrated man. They are not bad, but heir limitations look glaring in the presence of soulful performances by Sarika and Sheikh. Sarika, in particular, is a picture of grace as a working woman fighting the guilt that perhaps she is a little less remorseful than her husband. Her tears and smiles flow effortlessly as she never allows the melodrama to turn cloy. In fact, all the female actors (Sarika together with Zareena Wahab and Suhasini Mulay in cameos) prove to be a lot more realistic.

At the end, the narrative gets stretched beyond its welcome, but still it is a well-meaning effort to look into the life of an age group which seldom finds meaningful reflection on screen.

THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE

Blending the timeless myths with the phony disquiet of reality shows, the second instalment of the four part The Hunger Games franchise manages to fuel the imagination once more from the word ‘go’ when the TV cameras pounce on Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, the survivors of the last edition, like a hungry reptile.

Apart from a believable depiction of a dystopian world, it is the presence of a girl who knows her way out of this orchestrated jumble that makes an impact that goes beyond the realm of the film. Amid all the action and sci-fi tricks on the surface, here is a narrative, drawn from Suzanne Collins’ best selling trilogy, which suggests that the game boys play is not a mystery anymore and that the future belongs to the girl. Emotional or physical, she is in control in more ways than one. Through the game, the franchise quietly questions the moral code that we associate with our heroine in our films and myths. And when the girl is played by Jennifer Lawrence, you have a few extra layers on display. With a face that can fit into multiple nationalities, as Katniss, she can reach out to the world.

Director Francis Lawrence is helming the show this time and it seems he has been asked to go slow as the producers want to milk every chapter. So, he spends a lot of time in building the mood, in depicting the brewing revolution against the powers and in showing us the vulnerable side of Katniss before she is manipulated to participate in “The Hunger Games” once again with her partner Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). Once the action, masterminded by a new gamemaster (Philip Seymour Hoffman is suitably sinister), begins we feel nauseated by the poisonous gas, sense the anger of the baboons and the numbing artificiality of the whole exercise. And when you start asking yourself is this the human behaviour that ravenous hunger will lead us to, it doesn’t remain a game and herein, lies the success of this disturbing franchise.