NEW DELHI

A week somewhat engrossing, and a little insipid...



ZIYA US SALAM

SHAADI KARKE PHAS GAYA YAAR(At Golcha and other Delhi theatres)

This is cruel! Destiny conceals the future but director Adhiyaman denies us the right to be in the present too! His long-in-the-cans film comes soaked in the colours of retrospection. There is that lingering feeling of yesterday once more: Reema Lagoo, Mohnish Bahl, Shakti Kapoor... Tuffy... Sooraj Barjatya... "Maine Pyar Kiya", "Hum Aapke Hain Koun!"... Hackneyed themes, contrived situations, fading actors. There is nothing, absolutely nothing that we have not seen in those films dripping with saccharine sweetness. Now, if there could be a wilful suspension of memory!

Adhiyaman only makes it worse by lifting scenes in entirety, including the names of the characters from the Rajshri blockbusters, hoping that yesterday's rose will smell just the same. He might as well have hoped for infinity to be intelligible.

Interested in knowing the story? For Salman Khan's sake? Well, it starts off as a boy-meet-girl, they fall in love - translate that into singing in the park, with Salman in all-white, and Shilpa Shetty, all midriff and little else, changing costumes with stanzas - get married. Then the film lives up to its name. Soon song-laden lips give way to screams. Inherited privileges become a liability for the girl with a tyrant masquerading as a protecting mother at home, and wimp for a father. There is nothing in the frames, in the music, in the direction that merits a single look.

What about the actors? Salman is a wise guy. He looks disinterested all through. Shilpa gets an increasingly rare outing here. She looks good, acts cool. But her pluses are too little to offset the minuses of the film. Really, life's bitter medicine may cure the hopelessly romantic but it does nothing for the hopeless. Sorry, but Adhiyaman, who once gave us "Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam", is hopelessly out of form here.

ANTHONY KAUN HAI?(At Shiela and other Delhi theatres)

After many years of struggle, Arshad Warsi got a lifeline with "Munnabhai MBBS". For a while it seemed the tortoise would finally breast the tape ahead of the rest. Since then he has often lived on borrowed time, his fine work in films like "Sehar" or "Kuchh Meetha Ho Jaye" not yielding any results at the box office. The tortoise starts again. How slow, how swift!

Here he tries the ultimate: Carry a film on his shoulders despite the presence of Sanjay Dutt. Impudence? Maybe. Recklessness? Not at all. Warsi almost succeeds. No, again he is not a runaway winner. And even allows you a blink or two in this thriller where he plays Champ or Champak Choudhary, the man accused of the worst crime. The film builds up slowly, almost imperceptibly. Almost like Warsi's career.

First few minutes over and you are thinking, is this a con game, a thriller, a whodunit? Or just a case of missing diamonds, first dug deep into the ground, then dug out. Never mind. Here the beauty lies in the frames, and some very soothing comic situations between Dutt and Warsi. Nobody drops his pants, nobody mouths double entendres. There is perfect comic timing in one-liners. That keeps the audiences hooked on till the end: Anthony kaun hai? Is it Dutt who is alternately interrogating and intimidating Warsi? Or Warsi, clearly floundering with mounting evidence against him? Or is it somebody else, a guy almost unseen or unnoticed?

By the way, director Raj Kaushal's film, which is quite good to look at, could have done better with some editing. And better work from the girls: Anousha Dandekar promises a lot in her bump and grind routine, then disappears. And Minisha Lamba, who was so delectable in "Yahaan", seems washed out. Her beauty could clearly do with some concealment.

So, should one watch "Anthony Kaun Hai"? Well, go ahead. Do it for Warsi, that guy who saw a hundred tombstones before founding a pillar of triumph.

THE SENTINEL(At Spice PVR, Noida and Delhi theatres)

Count your blessings, name them one by one, and you will be surprised to see what the Lord has done. Michael Douglas just dusts off the timeless message a little: Count your strengths, know your limitations, and you will be surprised by that you can do or have done. He does all that he has done in the past in this film based on Gerald Petievich's novel. And does it with such rehearsed ease that there is not a stroke awry, not a minute when there is even a screeching sound, or a note that fails to please. All that is missing is spontaneity, the joy of the unseen.

Expect no great fare in this film where the protector is accused of the worst, and lives to fight the stigma by catching the culprit: Douglas is Garrison, a Secret Service agent guarding the President of the U.S. for a period long enough for saplings to turn into trees. But the President is not safe. There is a mole in the office. With the needle of suspicion pointing towards him, he has to do something to clear the air. What? Well, "The Sentinel" will tell you that if you survive long enough. The problem with the setting is everything has a look of familiarity, there is not a breeze of fresh air. Everything so proper, so corporate that even forbidden romance seems to have a deadline!

The film has lots of action and sense of inevitability to the whole plot. Clark Johnson, as the director, keeps you interested in the affair even if that extra spark is missing all the way. And Douglas is efficient but keeps some distance from excellence. Watch it alone and the proceedings might just keep you involved. Watch it with kids and they will head for cola and popcorn!

CARS(At Spice PVR, Noida and Delhi theatres)

This is a trick as old as your first beloved and as new as the latest. Director John Lesseter puts together an animation saga where cars breathe and talk, mope and walk. Yes, they run too; but are not cars supposed to run in the first place? He just adds a dash of novelty. Here he does not talk of mileage or chassis, fan belts or radiators. Instead, he brakes, oops, breaks into a whole new world where cars learn little lessons denied to many humans always on the highway of accomplishment. Once off the conventional path, there are greater joys to be savoured.

The lead character, Lightning McQueen - nice voice by Owen Wilson - loses an important race and finds himself off the beaten track, in a small township where acquaintance with everybody is the norm.

There are new friends, new denizens, each of whom has a shield on the mantelpiece. And an anecdote to relate. McQueen wants to win the Piston Cup, then realises, the joy is in the journey and some companions who warm the heart.

It is all pretty soothing. That is if you don't mind getting into a world where machines tease each other, a dashed bumper just means a little nudge, and a world where everything looks beautiful, if unreal. Yes, it does affect you to see a crowd of cars cheering cars in a stadium. Ignore that; look for the larger purpose of this simple tale. In little asides lies the message of "Cars". Listen to that.

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