Time to whisk ourselves off to India for a special “shared review” with our good friend Stephen of “Gweilo Ramblings” to put a proper finish to our March “Thrilling Adventures!!” Movie Review Festival. Our final film? The 2006 Hindi action/adventure “Naksha”. What? Not a Korean film? Nope… thought I’d throw Stephen a little curve this time out and lure him away from our usual movie selections to something a little more different and unusual… and nothing says “different and unusual” like Bollywood… 😉
Thanks Miyu. You know I am always looking forward to our collaborative blogging, and watching some proper Bollywood fun is always on my to-do list, even if I never seem to get around to it.
The synopsis goes like this: “After the death of an archaeologist, Kapil Malhotra. 20 years later his frivolous playboy son, Vicky attempts to take up his father’s quest to find the legendary Armour of Karna taken by the God Indra in the epic story Mahabharata. However Vicky does not seem to have any clue to meet this challenge, so to proceed he is forced to delve deep into the jungles of India with the help of an ancient map, and his elder half-brother, Veer. Together they will have to join hands to defeat an evil rival Baali who wants to uncover the armour only to selfishly use it to become an unstoppable immortal conqueror that no one could destroy.”
Okie Dokie… sounds like we’re in the right movie for some “Raiders” style action, and Bollywood certainly knows how to do things with their own style, so if nothing else I expect things to get trippy… and hear some catchy music along the way, Hehehe!!. So… without any further fuss, let’s get to it, shall we?
Bollywood films are definitely an acquired taste. They are usually waaaaay long compared to Western efforts…. they enjoy odd continuity shifts and multiple side plots…. and they are all musicals… every blessed one of them. My sweetie Carolyn has actually started to kind of like them, believe it or not… It’s probably the way they love their stories bright and peppy and full of color and music. She’s a real sucker for musicals… and yes… the romantic elements that always seem to creep into a Hindi film too. However, I wasn’t so sure about Stephen. Part of me was secretly tickled when he agreed to give this one a try. Just like when I spring something sweet, spicy, and totally exotic on my friends come dinnertime. Here’s to hoping you enjoy the experience, Stephen… 😉
Part of the reason I have avoided Bollywood in the past is that there are two things which usually turn me off cinematically. Length is a big issue, anything pushing 2 hours is going to seriously have to work hard to maintain my interest. The other thing is… I hate musicals. There are a handful of exceptions. But probably you could count them on the fingers of one hand. Or Homer Simpson’s hand… But, I am willing to give anything a try once or twice 🙂
Our story gets underway with one of those somber voice overs all ominous and such about the secrets of the Gods and how man constantly strives to learn that which they really shouldn’t and the like. Then we get a look at Dr. Malhotra, archaeologist and scholar who’s on the verge of his life’s greatest quest… the uncovering of the ancient artifacts that prove the truth of the Hindi mythological epic “The Mahabharata”. Only one problem… he’s not the only guy anxious to make that discovery. Nope… he’s discovered just at that crucial moment in his efforts by Baali Bhaiyya (played by Jackie Shroff), once a learned, respected archeologist himself but now only a man determined to find the secret hidden in Dr. Malhotra’s recently uncovered map at any cost… even cold blooded murder. But… before that can happen, Dr. Malhotra seemingly thwarts Baali’s evil ambitions by burning that map and throwing himself to his untimely death from the cliffs near his bungalow in rural Kishanganj leaving behind a divorced wife and eldest son, Veer; as well as his present wife and younger son named Vicky niether with any clue as to the truth behind it all.
Jump forward 20 years, and Vicky (played by Vivek Oberoi) has grown up into a frivolous playboy with no more ambition than to party and waste away his life on wine women and song… (Especially song… Cue the first of many peppy Hindi Item Dance numbers!!)
Now… mind you, they did manage to make the plot excuse that our hero was at this tacky bachelor party for a buddy of his and the whole sequence pretty much cements the overall character of Vicky firmly as a fairly worthless “party guy” and amateur womanizer. Yep. You could say he really rubbed a certain lil’ Catgirl the wrong way… and not just me. We also get a quick intro to pretty Riya (played by Sameera Reddy) who’s a friend of the bride-to-be supposedly crashing the party to spy on her friend’s fiancé… She’s not impressed with our hero… and pretty much tells him what sort of butthead he really is before leaving with the pissed off bride in a torrent of stupid catcalls and misogynistic crap. Grrrrr!! I’ve mentioned it before and I’ll say it again… Neko just hates the way women get treated in most Hindi film… It’s about the only bone I usually pick with them. It’s not that its sooooo annoying in and of itself… It’s that it’s so darn pervasive…. and so mainstream… as if it’s just an ordinary and perfectly normal thing. Like freaking breathing… And the few times a female character is written as strong or self minded, she usually gets marginalized or ignored in favor of the male lead. Unfortunately for us… that’s pretty much the case here.
Breathe… Miyuki… breathe. It’s just a movie. Sigh…
Now funnily enough, it wasn’t the content of this sequence that upset me, it was the utter pointlessness of it. It set up the character of Vicky, after which it really did little with that idea. And the way the females are treated in this film… well I am not going to disagree. I’ll just agree with your rant, otherwise we will never get to the film!
Anyways… Vicky get’s involved in this adventure once his father’s lawyer shows up with some papers to sign before the sale of that old bungalow in Kishanganj. It brings back some nasty memories of his dad’s death for his mom… still obviously torn up about that old mysterious event… so he decides to go up to the bungalow himself to see to things so she won’t have to. Once there, he naturally finds a secret passage and his father’s old stuff about the legend… and… another copy of the vital map. Inspired by all that, Vicky decides to make it his quest to unlock the secret his father was searching for and immediately goes looking for clues. That’s a big honking mistake….
It puts him on the radar for our evil villain Baali… still evil (and now dressed like a real villain instead of a “Miami Vice” wannabee… 😉 ) and still looking for that treasure all these years later. His henchgoons locate Vicky… and surprisingly… Vicky turns out to have some absolutely mad ass kickboxing skills. Who woulda guessed? Certainly not the bad guys… they get their butts kicked pretty darn good until in a moment of pure Hindi story slapstick, Vicky gets knocked out cold by an ill-timed swinging door.
He really did have some kick ass skills didn’t he? That came from nowhere! But this was the point I maybe started warming to the movie. I mean.. who doesn’t like to see people knocked out by a swinging door?
After they haul him away… for the natural torture and question session to come… Vicky’s mom decides that only one person can help. Her husband’s eldest son by his first wife, Veer. He’s a “Forest Ranger”, it seems… and luckily Vicky’s mom and Dr. Malhotra’s first wife are on surprisingly great terms. No seriously…. and so with one simple request, it’s Veer to the rescue.
Thankfully Veer (played by Sunny Deol) is familiar with the remote rural area around Kishanganj and apparently a Hindi “Forest Ranger” is kind of a cross between “Crocodile Dundee” and “Rambo”. Darn handy that… especially since Vicky is hanging upside down in a ramshackle bungalow and mere moments away from a bullet to the noggin’ before Veer bursts in through the roof and starts going all apeshit on those villains. Not before they get the map of course…
One quick chase later and it’s off a cliff and into the river for the boys… just the place to run back into our heroine Riya… who it seems is some kind of anchorwoman for a TV show called “Travel India” and is in need of rescue as she’s perilously floating down the rapids in a rubber raft after a photo shoot gone wrong. That’s handy, and awfully convenient considering our boy’s need a raft right about then. Yes…. yes… it’s a fairly stupid and unrealistic way to shoehorn our girl back into the story, but since she’s merely here for eye candy and the occasional dance number, that’s not really too much of an issue, I suppose. It’s a waste of a fairly pretty lady to be nothing more than that in our story, but Hindi audiences do love their romantic side-plots…. even if they aren’t well conceived or even needed. Just roll with it… Sigh…
Stupid and unrealistic. That pretty much covers it. I seriously don’t have words to describe how dreadful this bit of character re-indroduction was.
Why isn’t it needed? Well, for the most part, “Naksha” isn’t a romance film. It’s a “buddy comedy” and “bromance” firmly interested in showing that the familial bonds of brothers… even two half-brothers… is stronger than anything, especially when it comes to revenging dear old dead dad and completing his life work. Somehow… in a very weak and unconvincing fashion… our Vicky will find time to pull off the romantic sparks while completing his quest and bonding with his bro.
But first… there will be some more action…. and singing… and dancing!! With midgets!!
Ummmm? Midgets? Yes!! Because for reasons escaping all possible reality it seems our story would have us believe the northern jungles of India are home to a wild tribe of Hindi pygmies. Fierce primitive crazy lil’ pygmies. Ok…. Hey don’t blame me… they’re on the secret map! Apparently these guys are old friends of Vicky and Veer’s dad and so after a minor misunderstanding, its major party time at the village of the Liliputs.
The whole midget thing upset me way more than it did you. I wasn’t even comfortable using the word “midget”! And I am really not Mr Political Correctness!! More than that, the whole sequence just gave us nothing. Other than the “Crazy Punjabi” dance number that was probably the highlight of the movie for me. Yeah, you read that right.. I actually enjoyed the musical number. Move on please 😉
But…. not too far behind are our villains… catching up fast thanks to Sonia (played by Mridula Chandrashekar) dark-haired sexy hot pants wearing wicked vixen and supposed jungle tracking expert. Yet another potentially really interesting female character relegated to having no real lines… no back story… and seemingly a side job as hot gypsy dance temptress. Sigh…. at least I have to agree with Carolyn that she was pretty darn sexy in her one musical number… but adventurous lil’ me still would have like to also see her get all crazy and “kung fooy” or something at least once in our movie before completely dissapearing from the plot. 😦
I’m with Carolyn too. She was rather Hawt!! But I am also with you. She is introduced as some super tracking expert. And yet does little than stand around looking desirable in a “touch me and i’ll break your fingers” sort of way.
She leads Baali and his mercs right to the secret Liliput village so there can be a big ol’ massacre shoot-em up. They eventually think our trio are dead after plummeting off a cliff, just like dear old dad. Nope… just playing dead so they can race Baali to the sacred Mountain temple where the mystical armour of Karna is hidden for our big climax. Well… all except Riya, who seems to have sprained her ankle or something during our big shoot-em up. Really? Sheesh!! C’mon now…. 😦
I have no words. Really. Maybe it was her last day filming or something?
So… what exactly is this funky magic armour good for? Well… legend tells us wearing it makes you invulnerable and immortal as long as “the sun shines upon it or the moon’s light bathes it”. Got it? Ok then. 😉
Don’t forget the Armour comes with Earings too. It’s a WMD that accessorizes!
At the hidden temple, things finally start getting all “Indiana Jones”, as we get the usual temple death traps designed to kill all those foolish mortals seeking the power of the armour for themselves. Bottomless abysses… flying blades… evil demon spirits that carry you off screaming to Hindi Hell… you get the picture. They even “borrow” that classic bit from “Last Crusade” where you have that invisible bridge you only find by trusting in faith. All leading up to the big treasure vault.
I rather liked this bit. It was fairly derivative and unimaginative, but for the first time I got some kind of vibe that the film was ramping up to something. Though maybe I just started setting my expectations lower and lower 🙂
Naturally our villain beats them to the prize… and naturally there’s a smack down slugfest that looks pretty hopeless for the boys until the Hindi Gods pull a last-minute “deus ex machina” to solve things by springing an unexpected total solar eclipse on everybody. No sunlight… no moon light… no magic invulnerability for Baali. Time to kick his butt and bury him under the collapsing temple along with the armour forever. Sounds like a wrap… well almost. There’s the fairly lame wrap to our romance side-plot between Vicky and Riya… but honestly it seemed really unnecessary and “tacked on” and superfluous. OK… now roll those credits. Ummmm? What? One more musical number first? Sigh… Ok… let’s do this thing. 😉
So. How do I call this one? Hmmmm? As adventure films go, its a miss, really. The action sequences and fight scenes are good… really good, actually as it seems Hindi cinema is embracing martial arts stuff with a serious vengeance. But a few cool fight scenes scattered amongst a paper-thin plot do not an adventure make. Marginalizing our heroine role in the story so severely didn’t win any points with me either. The message of “brotherhood’ and solidarity was nice, but got endlessly hammered home in a fairly heavy-handed manner diluting it’s strength. Our villain? Initially goofy looking… in his Don Johnson “Miami Vice” styling white suit, he improved a bit once he got all crazy obsessed and went brooding and long-haired in his ever so stylish duster and boots. Him I bought. Maybe a bit broad and melodramatic, but hey… as the bad guy you get some slack for that. The scenery? Gosh… now that was breathtaking at times. India has some impressive outdoor beauty. No doubt about that.
I guess, given it’s flaws and its occasional flashes of neat stuff, I’d lean towards 3 “Meows” out of 5. The sad thing is, it could have… with a little work, done better. Instead it chose to take the safe route and rely on being merely competent rather than innovative. Not the worst film we’ve looked at for the festival, but certainly not the best either.
The DVD? The usual well made Hindi effort, All Region and letterbox, with a decent “Making Of” featurette, some Trailers and the usual excellent English subtitles I always seem to find on Hindi discs. Want a copy? That’ll be easy, and at that crazy mad low price that Hindi DVD’s always seem to be, right around 10-12$ US or so. Even cheaper if you, like a certain crazy Catgirl import them right from India itself.
In the UK, this one cost me less than £2. So it is hard to be too harsh on it. My subtitles were not as good as yours, but I have had much worse times. I tapped my foot a few times, I enjoyed it in parts. I’ll take your 3 “Meows” and probably go for 2 “Rambles” myself.
Sounds like we are pretty close on our opinions this time out. Wanna read more of Stephen’s musings on this one? Then by all means trot on over to his blog, “Gweilo Ramblings” for the “flip side” of this special double-decker review… 😉
Yep… I even managed to snag a Trailer for this one… not the best quality, but certainly good enough to maybe get you all excited for your own Hindi flavored Movie Nite… 🙂