Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Bollywood 2012: Of disappointments, past romances, dacoits and comebacks


Less than two weeks into 2012, hopes for a vintage year for Bollywood have already been dashed somewhat with the overwhelming disappointment that is ‘Players’.  In spite of boasting some of the brightest young talent in India – from Abhishek Bachchan and Bobby Deol to the luscious Sonam Kapoor and Bipasha Basu – a seasoned director duo in Abbas-Mustan and a classic storyline for inspiration in the form of ‘The Italian Job’, the directors and actors have somehow contrived to make it a crashing and crushing bore that makes next to no sense.
 
The eternal optimist  will however say that if things start out as bad as it has, the only way forward is upwards.  After ‘Players’ comes ‘Ghost’ marking the return to the big screen of every woman’s favourite bad guy Shiney Ahuja.  In a land where the average criminal prosecution takes a bare minimum of several years, Ahuja – an actor whose star was on the rise – was convicted by a ‘Fast Track Court’ in Mumbai for raping his domestic servant two years ago.  There’s something of Robert Downey Jr about Ahuja and if Downey’s career resurrection is anything to go by, it all bodes well for Ahuja.  A horror thriller cum love story, ‘Ghost’ sees Ahuja teaming up with Sayali Bhagat who also accused Ahuja of harrassment but that was allegedly a publicity stunt.

2012 will also see the return of Karan Johar, the king of Bollywood cheese.  Last year he was involved in the rather weird, animated remake of ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’; toe-curlingly called ‘Koochie Koochie Hota Hain’.  In 2012, he’s back with a vengeance, first up with ‘Agneepath’, the remake of the 1990 revenge epic of the same name.  Multi-thumbed Hrithik Roshan takes up the role played by Amitabh Bachchan in the original film.  The film follows Roshan’s ‘Vijay Dinanath’ spending his youth plotting to exact revenge for his father’s slaying by the fearfully monikered drug lord ‘Kancha Cheena’ played by Sanjay Dutt as you’ve never seen him before; beefed up to the point of bursting and swaggering around like a hungry rottweiler.  It all sounds fearsomely entertaining so long as Johar is not tempted to throw in a colourful dance number in between fisticuffs. 

Johar follows up ‘Agneepath’ with ‘Ekk Main Aur Ekk Tu’, an unabashed remake of Ashton Kutcher’s ‘What Happens in Vegas’ although one would be hard pressed to get Johar to admit to as much.  The film stars Bollywood’s hottest young actor Imran Khan, a talented young star with the strange inclination to pick roles from opposite ends of the Indian movie spectrum without much in the way of the Middle of the Road; from the darkly comic ‘Delhi Belly’ to the candy floss that is ‘Ekk Main aur Ekk Tu’.  Khan’s paired with Kareena Kapoor in Vegas and if the butt pinching and general mayhem of the previews are anything to go by, it should be a fun ride from Kareena and Imran in Sin City.
 
Johar will certainly be busy this year with his beautifully manicured fingers in everything from film production and direction to coffee mugs and gift hampers.  The director, producer and chat show host however cannot hold a candle to Bollywood’s hardest working man, Akshay Kumar.  Quite apart from hosting Prime Time TV shows like Fear Factor India and Masterchef India, Kumar will appear in no less than 5 feature length films this year; following on from his equally busy 2011.  His first outing will be the first of two Akshay sequels; Kumar returns as the luckless Aarush in ‘Houseful 2’ this time to connive even further with the delightful Asin Thottumkal.  In ‘Rowdy Rathore’, Kumar takes on the dual roles of a petty thief and his doppelganger who happens to be a police officer.  Next up will be ‘Joker’, a 3D movie about an underdog who makes it in life with the assistance of some extra-terrestrials.  That joke – sorry ‘Joker’ – is followed by ‘Khiladi 786’; the latest in his convoluted ‘Khiladi’ series of films.  And the tireless Mr Kumar will round off the year, appropriately enough, playing infamous Indian Mafia boss Dawood Ibrahim in ‘Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai 2’.  So all in all, a pretty typical Akshay Kumar year.

Warring Power Couples
Speaking of couples getting all tangled up, it’s shaping up to be an interesting year for a number of Bollywood couples, particularly ones with less than rosy history.  Chief among the duos in discomfort is tough guy Salman Khan and his one time Chameli Katrina Kaif who will appear together in ‘Ek Tha Tiger’, a ‘romantic thriller’.  Rumour has it the crew became caught in the middle of a minor earthquake whilst filming in Turkey.  Promotional events leading up to the release should be equally earth-stirring given the recent history between the films’ stars. 


The lip-luscious Priyanka Chopra and the equally, er, lip-luscious Shahid Kapoor will no doubt bring some real life chemistry – albeit spent – to the big screen with ‘Teri Meri Kahaani’.  Director Kunal Kohli, renowned for his love of sweeping love stories, is attempting to wring the most out of the former lovers with a film about four different views on romance involving four couples from four different eras, all played – in various guises of course – by Shahid and Priyanka.  Phew!  

Last but not least, Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone, until quite recently the most glamorous young power couple in India.  The young and strikingly pleasant-looking pair was the toast of the film fraternity after hooking up on the set of ‘Bachna Ae Haseeno’ but fell out spectacularly after Deepika opened up about the relationship on a chat show; a move that didn’t go down too well with Ranbir’s Bollywood Royalty Kapoor family, not least because they were worried about what effect such public confessions of romantic joy would have on the legions of female Ranbir fans.  But it seems the pair have patched up and will appear in ‘Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani’, a love story produced by Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions.  It will certainly be interesting to see if there’s any chemistry left between the pair.

Far from the maddening crowd...
And for those bored with formulaic mainstream Bollywood cinema and the even more mundane  inner workings of Bollywood romances, 2012 still has plenty to offer.  After embracing and living the role of the raucously sexy Silk Smitha in ‘The Dirty Picture’, the left-field Vidya Balan returns to the screens playing another strong female character in ‘Kahaani’.  The film follows a heavily pregnant woman who goes in search of her missing husband on a journey that takes her from the chaos of Kolkata to the shadier boroughs of London. 

And in-between appearing in hit American TV shows, Hollywood movies, not to mention this year’s much anticipated ‘The Amazing Spider Man’, Bollywood’s most intense character actor Irrfan Khan makes a sojourn to Bollywood with ‘Paan Singh Tomar’, a film based on the extraordinary life of the titular Tomar who goes from abject poverty to becoming an Indian soldier to national steeplechase champion and a dacoit all in one lifetime.  The film was screened at the BFI London Film Festival 2010 and will be a serious Oscar contender come 2013. 

And of course it wouldn’t quite be a proper Bollywood year were it not for some comebacks.  The most notable blasts from the past arrive on screens in the form of two actresses adored by audiences as much for their bewildering eyes as for their acting capabilities.  Sridevi returns after a 14-year hiatus in the oddly named ‘English Vinglish’, playing the role of a housewife who elects to learn English as a way of pleasing her husband and his family.  Amitabh Bachchan makes a guest appearance in the film which is already creating a lot of buzz in the film industry not least due to Sridevi’s return.  Eros International has apparently paid well above the odds for the right to distribute the film in international markets where Highly Skilled Indian Workers who grew up watching Sridevi are not settled.

Following in Sridevi’s footsteps, Karisma Kapoor has announced her return to the movies, no doubt looking to partake in some of the thunder taken by her little sister Kareena.  Karisma will appear in ‘Dangerous Ishq’, an erotic-thriller in 3D directed by Vikram Bhatt.  Director Bhatt has said the film will explore the lives of people in India’s teeming cities and “the two sides of the coin that represent love and lust”.  Love, sex, chaotic metros and Karisma Kapoor in 3D?  It’s certain to be one of the highlights of the next 12 months.

-          Vijitha Alles/Poonam Joshi

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