Thursday, July 29

Khatta Meetha

Happy to let you people know that my review of Khatta Meetha has been published in the NXG supplement of the Chennai edition of The Hindu newspaper dated 29th July 2010. Here's the online link to the review at The Hindu website -

That was an edited version of the review. Posting the full, unedited version here, 

Movie - Khatta Meetha (Hindi)

Director - Priyadarshan
Producer - Akshay Kumar, Ashtavinayak
Cast - Akshay Kumar, Trisha Krishnan, Rajpal Yadav, Johnny Lever, Manoj Joshi, Khulbushan Kharbanda, Urvashi Sharma, Neeraj Vora, Makrand Deshpande, Milind Gunaji and others
Music - Pritam
Cinematography - V Manikandan
Production Design - Sabu Cyril
Editing - Arun Kumar
Story, Screenplay - Priyadarshan
Dialogues - Jay Master
Release Date - 23rd July 2010

Khatta Meetha draws inspiration (almost entirely) from Priyadarshan's own Vellanakalude Naadu (Malayalam), a strong social satire made in 1989. And like the original, Khatta Meetha is not an out and out comedy which it was promoted as (Mainly since Priyadarshan - Akshay Kumar films have always been slapstick comedies). Things get pretty serious in the second half and the movie enters the drama mode after some hilarious comic sequences in the first half. It also addresses the issues of corruption and political powerplay in our government offices. Comparing Khatta Meetha to its original is pointless since it would be blasphemy to compare Akshay Kumar to someone like Mohanlal. Unlike Malayalam, there is no subtlety or underplay in Priyadarshan's Hindi films, where every actor screams his dialogues at the top of their voices regardless of what kind of scene it is. But the Akshay - Priyan team has done a commendable job by refraining from making yet another slapstick comedy and attempting something a little more serious, without the grandeur and glamour of usual Hindi movies. 

Khatta Meetha tells the story of a desperate, unsuccessful road contractor Sachin Tichkule who is neck deep in debt. He is a descendant of a royal family and his father (Khulbushan Kharbanda) is a much respected person in the neighbourhood. His elder brother and brother-in-laws also work in the Public Works Department building roads and bridges, but they are all extremely well-off since they have the money and they know to utilize the loopholes in the corrupt system and get their work done faster. The entire family looks down upon Sachin except his sister Anjali (Urvashi Sharma). Things get worse for Tichkule when his ex-lover Gehna (Trisha Krishnan) takes charge as the new Municipal Commissioner of the town, and she completely hates him. There's a bridge which collapses, a murder that happens, a man out to take revenge, a road roller that rams into a house after being pulled by an elephant and much more which happens during the 2 hours 40 minutes of the film's running time. 

Akshay Kumar brings in some genuine earnestness to his character Sachin Tichkule. He succeeds partly, but everytime he impresses us, he spoils it with shouting his dialogues during the very next scene. He gets his attire right including the aviators, the black bag and the omnipresent umbrella, travels around in bicycles, auto-rickshaws and even police jeeps at times. He is effectively restrained in some scenes and goes irritatingly over the top in certain others. But on the whole, Akshay's performance is one of the positive aspects of the film and he brings out the hopelessness and desperation of the character really well. Tamil Cinema's darling Trisha could have chosen a better film and a better character to make her debut in Hindi. She doesnt really have much to do and in the very little screen time she gets, she is not all that impressive as well. Shobana played the same fiery character brilliantly in the original, but Trisha pales in comparison. The romantic portions between Akshay and Trisha also do not look great. Akshay as a Gandhian law college student singing 'Nanachi Tang', was a little too much. Rajpal Yadav is in top form after a long time and manages to deliver loads of laughs. Johnny Lever comes in a hilarious cameo as the driver of a road roller. But for a person who has seen Kuthiravattam Pappu's legendary performance in the original, Lever's act looks like a mockery. Khulbushan Kharbanda and Asrani are good. Tinu Anand, Urvashi Sharma, Milind Gunaji, Neeraj Vora and Makrand Deshpande are decent. Manoj Joshi shouts almost all his dialogues and is really irritating. 

The film has some very good scenes, comic and otherwise. Akshay's interactions with Khulbushan Kharbanda, the house-maintenance scene at Asrani's house (lifted from Siddique's Friends), all of Rajpal Yadav's antics, the entire road-roller sequence with Johnny Lever, Asrani's conversation with multiple people and Akshay's dialogue to Trisha about the corruption in our system, which is the most effective of them all. But on the flip-side, most of the serious events in the film looks outdated and out-of-place. The murder, the sister track, the entire college sequence, Trisha being framed and the subsequent scenes, etc. made sense in late 1980s, but do not make much sense now. But one thing that has remained constant then and now is the corruption in our system, and that aspect has been brought out well. The movie is set in rural Maharashtra, but some of the characters speak in a hybrid Marathi-Punjabi accent. Priyadarshan has only been partly successful in adapting his friend Sreenivasan's screenplay to Hindi. 

Music by Pritam is serviceable, but all the songs are placed at really odd places in the narrative. They just pop up randomly between scenes. 'Sajde' has been shot well reminding one of Priyadarshan's most famous songs in Malayalam (Ambalappuzhe from Advaitham). The song that comes in the end credits goes 'I'm allergic to Bullshit'. They wouldn't really have included that song in the movie, if they really meant it. National Award winner Ouseppachan has done the background score which has a strong southern feel to it. V Manikandan has done some really good cinematography. Sabu Cyril creates the perfect atmosphere of rural Maharashtra through his sets. Arun Kumar should have used his scissors more in the second half. The stunt sequence towards the end of the movie has been shot very well and it was surprising to see a stunt scene in a Priyadarshan movie after ages. 

On the whole, Khatta Meetha is passable fare. Dont go in expecting a usual Akshay-Priyadarshan movie, you may end up being disappointed. Carry some cotton also along with you since a major part of the dialogues are shouted out. On a more serious note, it is a satire which starts with some hilarious scenes in the first half, and goes into drama mode in the second half. It is not bad, it is not great either. 

Rating - 2.8/5