Speaking of Akshay Kumar and Karisma Kapoor; like every other filmmaker, Darshan has his usual suspects. He seems to love Akshay very much (of the 5 Darshan movies I’ve seen so far, Akki shows up in 4), Lolo, Bobby Deol and (in smaller doses) Juhi Chawla and Mohnish Behl. Darshan seems to have shifted his focus from Akshay to Bobby a bit – he gave Bobby a role previously reserved for Akshay (‘Barsaat’, which would probably have fared much better with Akshay in the lead role – not because Akki is better than Bobby, but because he’s much cheesier), and also gave him a lead role in SLBB. Darshan has said in an interview (can't find it right now) that he thinks Bobby is best actor in the Deol family (needless to say, I disagree).
Anyway, on to the Darshan movies I’ve seen (in the order in which I viewed them):
‘Ek Rishtaa – The Bond of Love’: I’ve blogged about this movie before here… I liked this film, and it’s the Darshan movie I’ve liked the most. Its music was quite sweet, I thought most of the songs were very good. The story was fine, until about three-quarters of the film, when it just seemed to get out-of-control – it felt like the writer was grasping at straws, trying to wrap it all up in a hurry. On balance, though, the story was not bad at all.
Karisma (playing Nisha) and Akshay (playing Ajay) were a cute couple and had nice chemistry together (I love their ‘Mohabbat Ne’ number), but the biggest problem I had with the film revolved around these characters. The story was quite sexist in the way Nisha’s place in Ajay’s family was treated. Nisha made her share of mistakes and apologized for them – but Ajay treated her pretty badly as well, and never apologized or even admitted to being wrong. Their story was also quite shoddily resolved, which was pretty annoying – after spending a lot of time on how the couple got together and the crisis they faced, the resolution was pretty much thrown away. In fact the entire ending was unsatisfactory – the closing scene is particularly cheesy, unrealistic and irritating, and detracts from the overall standard of the film.
‘Jaanwar’: Oh, ‘Jaanwar’. I said a bit about it here. It’s impossible to take this film seriously, really. But its heart is in the right place. The film is one big stereotype, packed to the gills with many smaller stereotypes that don’t always work well together. But, its heart is in the right place. ‘Jaanwar’ opens with a vicious car-chase, making it clear that this is one of the films that won Akshay his ‘action hero’ stars when he was younger. Then we see that Akshay’s character (‘Badshah’) has been trapped in a life of crime since childhood, by an evil ‘Fagin’ (from Dickens’ ‘Oliver Twist’) type. Of course, this is a respected Bollywood plot device – I recently saw it brilliantly deployed by Raj Kapoor in ‘Awaara’ in the ’50s.
Before long, we come to a scene with Karisma Kapoor (playing ‘Sapna’) dancing for money. She too is oppressed, by a mean uncle who’s greedy enough to sell her body to the neighbourhood lecher. Naturally, Badshah comes to her rescue just in time – but oops, I forgot to mention that before that, she had saved his life and nursed him very prettily, so he’s kinda returning the favour. Of course, they fall in love… but things don’t go smoothly for their relationship...
To cut a long story short, Badshah, so sadly led into crime in his youth, serendipitously gets the opportunity to bring up an adorable little kid on the straight and narrow – and of course, he abandons crime in order to do so. Unfortunately, the kid actually belongs to a young couple (played by Mohnish Behl and Shilpa Shetty), who, when they find him, are desperate to get him back. Meanwhile, the Fagin-type that was abandoned by Badshah re-discovers him and wants his pound of flesh. Sapna manages to return to the story as well. CRISIS! And resolution – everyone ends up happy somehow (except for the bad guys, of course). And did I mention that Johnny Lever is in there for laughs? Ha ha.
Yup, that’s the kind of film ‘Jaanwar’ is – it has a little bit of every major Bollywood stereotype out there in its mix, and it doesn’t always work, but you just can’t bring yourself to dislike it. It’s really cheesy, but it’s also quite entertaining. And the earnestness of the actors makes it work, somehow. There are some cute moments, some amusing ones that are actually meant to be serious (the ‘comic’ moments are actually not funny at all – Lever is wasted in this one), and it’s so funny to see Akshay sporting some luscious long brown tresses (they made him look sooo funny), wielding a hammer, and shouting angrily and passionately at every opportunity (one thing I will say for Akshay: he is game for everything, no matter how mad or daft – a bit like Salman actually – and the ridiculous, silly part of me totally respects that). In short, it’s all harmless good fun.
‘Dosti: Friends Forever’: I blogged about ‘Dosti’ here… the leads were not bad but the details were pretty appalling. I still can’t get over the fact that the kids aged 20 years but the world stayed exactly the same. And the female roles were really bland and uninteresting – I can almost conclude that Darshan doesn’t have much use for women in his films – he seems to use them a bit like fashion accessories – a tear from a neatly-kajal-ed eye here, a flash of leg there, a little conflict over a very undeserving man there.
‘Barsaat’: I’ve also blogged about this one before – here. Bobby Deol was miscast, but Bipasha Basu was even more so. The film just doesn’t work.
‘Mere Jeevan Sathi’: My most recent expedition into Darshan’s world, and one of the worst movies I’ve seen in a while. Released last year, MJS is the story of a woman (played by Karisma), who is obsessed with an up-and-coming singer (played by Akshay Kumar: a very cringeworthy performance, in a role that’s too young for him). Unfortunately for the obsessed lover, our singing hero is already in a serious relationship with his high school sweetheart (played by Amisha Patel). This, naturally, does not stop him from making a mistake that sorta messes up his life for a while.
What can I say about this film? It’s really trashy and the story is just dumb and annoying – from beginning to end. The performances are nothing to write home about – Akki, in particular, makes you cringe – he is just so OTT and cheesy. Lolo and Amisha are given the most horrendous, hackneyed lines ever. Lolo is not bad in some bits, but she totally overdoes the ‘femme fatale’ thing and becomes a sort of caricature. Amisha is way too sweet – any sweeter and she’d turn into a big ol’ bag of sugar. And the Akshay/Karisma love scene I mentioned earlier in this post probably was striving for tasteful sensuality, but it’s really just trashy and a bit eeuw.
There is so much to dislike in MJS, so many scenes and moments that make you cringe, so much senselessness in the plot… I can’t even begin to tell it. You do get a sense for what they were trying to do – it’s an attempt to have ‘grey’ characters – Karisma’s crazed character is portrayed quite sympathetically… but I’m sorry, I just think it’s all a load of rubbish – not much thought seems to have been put into it. So much is just pointless and/or extremely annoying (I wouldn’t mind the former as much – this is Bollywood, right? – if there weren’t so much of the latter).
They put so much eye make-up on Amisha for this movie, that sometimes you just can't see the whites of her eyes. Frightening.
There’s an older MJS, released in 1972 and starring Rajesh Khanna and Tanuja, that’s quite an interesting movie – some extremely camp and OTT grooviness, a storyline that’s a bit bizarre (different from the new one, although naturally there’s a love triangle – or two – in there as well – sigh), some great RD Burman music, and a really fun and silly lead role that only Khanna could play with such skewed relish. It’s a fun and sometimes even thought-provoking memento of the time in which it was made.
I wish I could say something complimentary about Darshan’s MJS, but I can’t – I could say Amisha and Karisma look great, but that would be praising Darshan’s apparent penchant for showing off the beauty of his female stars and just not giving them much (or much that’s meaningful or sensible) to do. I could say the songs are not that bad, but then I didn’t really like them either. So I’ll just say this is an awful film. A pity to end this piece on a downer, but there you go. I think – no, I know, that Darshan can do better than this mediocre film – what I’ve heard about SLBB isn’t promising, but hopefully he’ll do better next time. There's always next time.
You should know there's something amiss when the guest at your engagement ceremoy has wind blowing in her hair and you don't.