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‘Bawaal’ and ‘Barbie’ – both have missteps and obscure strong points (reviews)

‘Bawaal’ and ‘Barbie’ – both have missteps and obscure strong points (reviews)

Two track film seems badly judged but cinematography is a treat

THE TRAILER was a big tease and left most bewildered.
In the ensuing global press conference established director Nitish Tiwari (‘Chhichhore’; ‘Dangal’) didn’t elaborate – the scenes of World War II and the holocaust and Hitler didn’t seem to make much sense in what seemed to be a romantic drama – pairing two big young box office draws together – Varun Dhawan and Janhvi Kapoor.
We know simply from the trailer that Dhawan plays Ajay, a history teacher and the couple travel to Europe together.
In the actual film, Ajju Bhaiya aka Ajay (Dhawan) is a Lucknow-based primary school teacher who has a traditional arranged marriage with the intelligent but shy Nisha (Janhvi).
Ajju is perennially obsessed with his image and his life revolves around creating an aura for himself. So much so that he has confined his epileptic wife to the confines of their home, because he can’t afford for his wife to have a seizure in public.
Ajju’s doting parents (Manoj Pahwa and Anjuman Saxena) do everything they can to keep the marriage together but divorce still seems likely, until Ajju is suspended from his teacher’s position following pressure from a local politician. Some think, he’s a fraud.
With the sole intention of improving his dented image, he devises a plan to embark on a trip to places synonymous with World War II. He aims to impart history lessons to his students online during his visits. His wife tags along the trip, which is funded by his parents.
As the duo step out for their first outing in Paris, Ajju learns that Nisha is much more knowledgeable, familiar with history and better informed than himself. The couple visit the Anne Frank Museum, the Normandy beaches and the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Every historical site visit brings back flashes of the past; battle scenes in black and white and the lead pair being suffocated in a gas chamber at a concentration camp. There is shooting, dead bodies, blood and gore a la ‘Saving Private Ryan’, which is uncalled for in a movie, which is more of a romantic drama. Mitesh Mirchandani has done a commendable job in the cinematography department. During most of the movie, Janhvi looks clueless. Even the dialogue fails to strike a chord. The juxtaposition of historical events with a contemporary visit doesn’t make sense either. The film’s release on Amazon Prime is probably the best thing to happen to it.
Its makers realised the film wouldn’t find an audience in cinemas.
It seems like ‘Bawaal’ has trivialised the pain and horror of the millions, who perished in events portrayed in the film. Tiwari and his wife, Ashwini Iyer, a successful filmmaker in her own right, (‘Panga’; ‘Bareilly Ki Barfi’; and ‘Nil Battey Sannata’ (‘The New Classmate’ – LFF 2015), who conceived the story, seem to be well off the mark in this. (Rodrigues C)
ACV rating: ** ½ (out of five)

Bawaal is out on Amazon Prime now(from July 21)

Barbie: We must discuss Patriarchy – Really ?

Ken (Ryan Gosling) and Barbie (Margot Robbie) in ‘Barbie

MANY are hailing this film as the blockbuster of the year and while it has several things to commend it, it falls some way short of being an absolute classic. Yes, we know it’s a box office smash…
Now, as you might surmise, this isn’t the kind of film we might get excited about purely on the basis that – actually, when all is said and done, this film is centred around, a doll.
That too, a leggy blonde one that seems to have been dreamt up by a middle aged heterosexual American man, who has probably seen better days. Brit Ritu Arya appears fleetingly as the Indian Barbie, Kiyaa.
Warner Bros, the production company which employed the services of Greta Gerwig to co-write (with partner Noah Baumbach) and direct, orobably thought how cool and clever, are we?
In practice, the regal couple of US indie filmmaking and the queen herself of mumblecore (a genre we never really cared much for) have produced a film of mixed movie quality.
It is funny in places and that talk of Ryan Gosling as Ken – and Barbie (Margot Robbie) partner, possibly being nominated for an Oscar might not be too far from the mark. He is the best thing about this film – both in character and execution. Okay, so he is a little bit of a himbo – cute muscles, cheesy smile and one dimensional but that’s the point of him – pretty and pointless. Haha. And Gosling plays it with all that he has.
Robbie’s Barbie (she is an executive producer on this) is more complex as you might suspect – she’s beautiful, but she’s also smart, compassionate and definitely against gender inequality, oh yes, a feminist.
All good there. The issue is the plot and what it delivers – or what it doesn’t.
A straight, kitschy send-up would have been right out funny and have everyone laughing – no pretensions, just Barbie and Ken for laughs, nothing less, nothing more.
Unfortunately, Gerwig tries to do something clever and for this critic, it doesn’t work. She isn’t able to strike that balance, say of the classic franchise, ‘Toy Story’, where both kid and adult – and the kid in the adult – can revel and find an accommodation with themselves. The 2019 film ‘Booksmart’ is also much better in handling similar themes, but it is aimed at slightly older teenagers.
We get patriarchy – groan. Of course, patriarchy in the real world is something we must discuss…
Gerwig is a smart and funny writer but trying to address the stereotype of Barbie in a film like this seems overambitious and misplaced. There is a strong script here but this isn’t the movie to deliver it in – there are one or two good set pieces but overall the film is a tad dull and drawn out in patches. There is fun and that saves it.
In among this, there is some sort of dedication to Ruth Bader Ginsburg (a little old lady appears) – undoubtedly a great women’s champion, the first Jewish Supreme Court judge in the US and only the second woman to serve on it – we don’t doubt Gerwig’s impulse for doing this but it would have been better just to make this film an all out fun one with no other purpose. Trying to make it smart and insightful…sorry, this wasn’t the film, in our humble opinion. Maybe many 13 year olds are ready for that patriarchy talk…??? (Sailesh Ram)
ACV rating: ** (out of five)

Barbie’ is out in cinemas worldwide now (from July 21)

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture