Tees Mar Khan
When a bumbling villager with a toothless grin, suffering from what looks like leucoderma, is forced into playing the role of a British man in a film within a film because he has white skin, or when a newborn steals a gold chain because his pregnant mother watched too many crime capers, you can make a safe conclusion: a lazy and thoughtless writer is at work. In Tees Maar Khan, which has this repulsive brand of humour, it’s the job of the writer duo Sirish and Ashmit Kunder. Tees Maar Khan goes down in my roster as one of the worst films of 2010. Clichés collapse on clichés; racist and sexist jokes become tools to arouse laughter. It has some direct and unimaginative references to popular culture and films, including a TV commercial for Happy Dent about a dark-skinned man with sparkling white teeth. Skin colour is a refrain and a gag throughout the film.
This is director Farah Khan’s third film. She is good at caricaturing the industry she is part of. In her own brand of brazen humour, she belittles Bollywood delusion and shallowness—and in extension, herself, because her two films Main Hoon Naa and Om Shanti Om Khan have been unapologetic exercises in the same boy-girl-song-dance tradition. In this film, Khan’s direction screams of tasteless slapstick. It has a loud, breathless pace. Actors are uncomfortably on the edge, using physical gestures to unnecessarily raise the film’s pitch. Almost every scene in Tees Maar Khan is hollow and pointless.
The original film is by the Italian neo-realist master Vittorio Di Sica. It is a relatively unknown film called After the Fox , with Peter Sellers in the lead role, about a criminal who dupes a sleepy, coastal Italian village by enlisting its residents in a grand heist. When it ran in theatres in 1966, the film did not impress critics and some said it was the director’s worst.
None of its absurdity is redeemed in the Indian remake—perhaps it’s a worse film now.
Akshay Kumar plays Tabriz Khan or Tees Mar Khan who, in the bizarre opening sequence, cons two CBI officers on a flight from Paris to India. On landing, he heads straight to Mumbai’s Mehboob Studio with his flunkies, where his girlfriend Anya, played by Katrina Kaif, is performing an item song for a clownish, air-kissing film director. In collaboration with a pair of conjoined twins who are also dangerous criminals, Tees Maar Khan plans a heist involving precious national treasures and dupes a village named Dhulia into helping him. He is also helped by a Bollywood actor Atish Kapoor (Akshaye Khanna) who is obsessed with the idea of winning an Oscar. Tees Maar Khan poses as “Manoj Day Ramalan” (brother of the Hollywood director “Manoj Night Ramalan”) and convinces the pathetic actor, seething with jealousy over Anil Kapoor’s real-life Slumdog gig, that this film is his ticket to Hollywood. The writers’ postshots at Hollywood, especially Danny Boyle and Slumdog Millionaire, are misplaced and laboured. The attempt at lighthearted self-flagellation turns sour and flat. Every villager in this film is an idiot and every woman, a simpering, brain-dead person.
Katrina Kaif and Akshay Kumar in Tees Mar Khan
Kumar has nothing to show that he has not shown in all his films. He tries hard to pass off throbbing veins caused by excessive strain on his vocal chords and muscles look like acting. He can’t muster even a semblance of a screen presence. It’s time his utter lack of talent is accounted for in the film industry. How far can an actor go before he can prove that he has no surprises hidden somewhere? For Kaif, this role is a regression. All she has to do is look and speak stupid.
The only bright spark is Khanna, who seems to have got the fake seriousness of his role right. The other good thing, which we figured out in the film’s promotional videos, is Farah Khan’s choreography. Sheila ki Jawani has an attractive studio-controlled scale and vibrancy. Her trademark inventiveness as a choregrapher is visible.
But a song is not a film. Tees Maar Khan is no different from the numerous offensive, slapstick films which pass off as comedies in our theatres. It’s the kind of film I don’t want to watch in 2011—or ever.
Tees Maar Khan released in theatres on Friday.
The Tourist | Venice encounters
A boring and predictable caper reminiscent of B-grade Hollywood thrillers
It’s a mystery why The Tourist has three Golden Globe nominations. More mysterious than the story itself, about a gangster, a thief, an FBI agent and a tourist. Every cop and bad guy is after Elise Clifton-Ward (Angelina Jolie) and Frank Tuppelo (Johnny Depp) because of the man Elise works for, Alexander Pierce.
After numerous chase sequences in yachts, the couple is united in love, but only after a twist that any crime-fiction lover would be able to predict. Performances are lukewarm and the failure to evoke a vintage Hollywood mystery is blatant.
The Tourist is definitely not for any respectable reader of crime fiction. For anyone else too, it will be boring after the first 20 minutes.
The Tourist released in theares on Friday.