There’s a point in the story of London Dreams when Manjit (Salman Khan), a hard-boiled Punjabi from Bhatinda who has found sudden success as a rock star in Europe, is seduced into snorting cocaine and guzzling tequila shots. We see another such night of drugs in a nightclub, and in the very next scene, the rock star is in a drug rehabilitation clinic, shaking and whimpering!
This is as sanitized, and as puerile as a rock star movie can get. Rock On!!, the most celebrated, was antiseptic enough, although more sophisticated. London Dreams makes a joke out of the rock star movie. Director Vipul Amrutlal Shah is obviously clueless in this area.
Not so rocking: The members of London Dreams, a band in the film, are riven with jealousy.
The story goes: Arjun (Ajay Devgan) and Manjit or Mannu are childhood friends who hang out in Bhatinda’s mustard fields. Mannu’s father is a musician, but Mannu is not interested in learning the art himself. He, it turns out later, is an untrained, natural singer. Arjun, on the other hand, is passionate about music, but his father doesn’t allow him to learn because Arjun’s grandfather, who was a Sufi musician, once went to perform in London’s Wembley stadium and was tongue-tied when he saw the huge crowd. Arjun runs away to London when he gets an opportunity. He plays the flute on the road and earns money to train as a musician, forms a band, London Dreams, with two Pakistani boys and Priya, a Tamilian (Asin). Mannu joins the band later, and predictably enough, steals Arjun’s thunder and his secret love Priya, who Mannu calls “Chennai Express”.
It’s an expensive film, made with around Rs80 crore, and the money shows in the sweeping sets. As in his earlier films, Shah has made yet another big film—big, in the literal sense.
The script and performances fall woefully short. There are some genuinely funny moments when Mannu is up to his son-of-the-soil antics, but unfortunately, most of the funny moments arise because of the ludicrous situations in the plot. For example, Arjun whips himself until he bleeds when Priya distracts him from his music, and when he plots against his friend to grab the limelight. Everyone in the audience laughed aloud when that happened.
The two rock stars are too old to be true and laughable too; if you’re can’t be like Mick Jagger, you can’t pull off the sex-on-stage in your 40s.
Devgan is a fine actor trapped by his persona—the dark, brooding hero, as we know him. In this film, he’s a caricature of that persona. His intensity is exaggerated and unconvincing. Asin has little to do except dance in the background when Mannu and Arjun take centre stage. Khan plays up to his real-life image—that of a generous, impetuous, comical star. If London Dreams works at the box office, it would largely be because of Khan’s star appeal.
The music, by Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy, has variety as well as depth—one of the best this year. But it’s difficult to survive all 160 minutes of London Dreams just because of its music.
Sujoy Ghosh’s Aladin was an anticipated film for the special effects that have gone into it—an entire fantasy town, genies vaporizing into life, magical human leaps and contortions. The film has all of that. Although the work can’t be compared with the best in this genre—the Harry Potter films, for example—the work is very competent; the best we have seen in a Hindi film so far.
But Aladin’s charm lies in its story and characters. It’s not an original, but a mish-mash of the classic tale of Aladin and the magic lamp, and Harry Potter. Aladin Chatterjee (Riteish Deshmukh), a shy, simple fellow who just wants to be liked, lives alone in an antiquated house in Khwaish town after the death of his parents and grandfather. The boys in the town bully him because of his name. When Jasmine, (Jacqueline Fernandez), a beautiful girl, joins the college, Aladin is enraptured. Once, while being bullied by the other boys into rubbing a lamp, Genius, the genie (Amitabh Bachchan) appears. Aladin’s life changes for the better, but only until Ring Master, an evil wizard, comes looking for the lamp Aladin possesses.
The story is not new, but making it Indian and contemporary is a challenge. Despite the fantasy, most scenes ring true. The humour is of the classic fairy-tale variety—you can’t help but chuckle when Aladin’s guitar turns into a multicoloured toad or when his face turns into a donkey’s.
A role where Bachchan plays a benevolent protector with a rough exterior never works against him. In parts, his histrionics are loud, but overall he carries it off with great ease. Deshmukh holds up to Bachchan; he is best in the comic scenes where he is the laughing stock. Refreshingly enough, Dutt fits into the part of the villain, and he is better here than in most of the roles we have seen him in recently.
Aladin is for everyone. But most of all, it’s a movie you want to take your children to.
London Dreams and Aladin released in theatres on Friday.