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Two kinds of circuses

Two kinds of circuses
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First Published: Fri, May 06 2011. 07 32 PM IST

Updated: Fri, May 06 2011. 07 32 PM IST
Yash Raj Films (YRF) launches its banner for “youth-centric” films with a teen flick, Luv ka The End, a derivative of many such Hollywood films which don’t run in theatres for long, but have a loyal following on DVD among teenagers. Rich, bad boy with Jaguar entices 18-year-old virgin. Virgin and her two friends—one of them overweight and aggressive, to keep the stereotype alive—take revenge.
This is not film-making. The intent of the makers is obviously fuelled entirely by the commercial prospect of capturing a teenage market.
What is a teenage market? It is a nebulous demographic of consumers, considering the diversity of information and media at their disposal through the Internet. The film unabashedly trudges along, one puerile stunt after another, towards appeasing a crass teenage sensibility defined only by global fashion brands and bad Hollywood teen flicks.
Finally, Luv ka The End is a crushing heap of clichés, a film meant for dumb teenagers and perhaps depraved middle-aged men. In a country with one of the world’s youngest populations, it’s a pity that “youth” could even be considered so ditzy.
There’s absolutely nothing spectacular in Luv ka The End—not the music, not its production value, not the way it has been shot. MTV, 10 years ago, looked much cooler than this. Besides, there are age-old Hindi film jokes such as mixing the brat’s food with laxative and sprinkling his boxer with something called “itching powder”. So much for teenage India.
The story is about Rhea (debutante Shraddha Kapoor). She is in love with the son of a millionaire smuggler who impresses girls with, in Rhea’s own words, the four Cs: “Car, cash, charm and chamche (sycophants)”. On the eve of her 18th birthday, when she decides to have sex for the first time with her boyfriend Luv (Taaha Shah), she discovers that Luv is on an Internet site meant exclusively for billionaire sons who gain points by uploading videos of themselves having sex with pretty virgins. She finally takes revenge, helped by her two friends, Jugnoo and Sonia, who complete the “BFF trio”. Sonia, played by Sreejita De, is the only believable character, which is also effortlessly acted. Kapoor is inconsistent and so is Shah, also a debutant. His accent is American in some scenes and Spanish in some. Neither of the newcomers shows promise.
Some situations in Luv ka The End, especially those towards the end, when girl power takes centre stage, have their moments but bad performances and shoddy direction ensure they verge on the ludicrous.
A Hindi film openly shows a sexually aware 18-year-old. Girls finally have the last laugh. But even that is not a redemption because the whole enterprise, from writing to filming and performances, is so bereft of intelligence.
It’s the Depression Era in America, and the Benzini Brothers, a travelling circus, its labourers and cruel, mercurial owner shuttle between small towns in a train whose compartments are festooned with rotten food and flies. The caged animals are a heartbreaking sight.
In this grimy and insane world, a precarious love affair blossoms. The animals are tortured. As with the times it’s set in, the world in Francis Lawrence’s Water for Elephants, based on the best-selling novel by Sara Gruen of the same title, is decadent and pathos-filled.
I have not read the book, but the screenplay, adapted by Richard LaGravenese, recreates a flat and forgettable story. It’s unflinchingly sentimental, a monotone, denying the age its potential to impinge on the personal—and more importantly, denying Benzini itself, and its drivers, the crazy charm they deserve. Most characters in the story, barring the three protagonists in a predictable love triangle, are almost afterthoughts, contributing nothing to this neon universe of showmanship. The circus shows themselves are impressive and there’s a particularly agile elephant, Rosie, who can stand on her feet and understand Polish and who is much too nice (not astounding for those who have watched the 1970s Rajesh Khanna-starrer Haathi Mere Saathi.
This is one of Robert Pattinson’s major roles after his famous tryst with celluloid vampireland. Here he seems woefully mismatched as Jacob, a veterinary science student from Cornell University who turns pauper overnight when his parents are killed in an accident. He hops on to the Benzini Rail after a directionless sojourn in the woods and becomes the staff veterinarian. The thrilling Austrian performer Christoph Waltz (last seen, unforgettably, as a Nazi officer in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds) plays August, husband of Marlena (Reese Witherspoon), the glamorous star of the circus who performs by riding horses, and later the elephant. Witherspoon is an open-hearted and involved performer, but the role itself is too sketchy and predictable. Jacob falls in love with Marlena, which invites August’s ire. There is no chemistry between the lovers and the predictable end contributes nothing to the film’s already lukewarm impact. Waltz is the only really interesting character and his histrionics, suited to surprising and scaring audiences, keep the screen somewhat alive till the end.
Technically, it’s an accomplished film, but not spectacular. A cute, freckled elephant is not reason enough to watch a soppy drama which, in its slightly stretched end, also becomes a sordid revenge tale.
Luv ka The End and Water for Elephants released in theatres on Friday.
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First Published: Fri, May 06 2011. 07 32 PM IST