Saturday, 22 November 2008

Getting Fergalicious

The Black Eyed Peas girl gave Dubai an hour of spirited funky fun, reports Sneha May Francis

It felt like a high school reunion party. What with happy 16-year-olds crowding the arena for the much-awaited Fergie concert, I wondered if there was actually an age limit for the concert. Fortunately there was none and we walked in only to be reminded again that we’ve grown way past our high school days and should have come only if we were in our teens or had teens of our own. The Dubai Media City arena was bustling with teenagers, giggling and gossiping, making us feel like intruders at their school party!

We arrived way ahead of time, so we could catch up with a handful of our peers in a caged corner for the over 21s. Though the grounds were embarrassingly empty, they slowly started filling up with more teenagers. And the waiting crowd was entertained by RadioOne RJs, who reminded us time and again that the ‘Dutchess’ was just a few minutes away from ‘setting the stage on fire’. So we heeded their words and waited patiently. They made the wait a tad easier by playing an interview with the singer, giving us a little insight into her. I doubt the idea went well with the teenage crowd, who were more interested in partying with their school buddies.

The wait was bearable only because of the pleasant weather, sufficient space on the greens to spread ourselves and ample time to chat with old friends.

So at 9.10pm (we clocked ourselves, a cool hour late from what the tickets announced), we were witness to the vivacious curly blonde in a hippy orangy dress, taking us through her journey from Black Eyed Peas to her Dutchess. All over, kids, teenagers, their mums and dads, and a few oldies started matching their steps with her charismatic voice. Fergie kept it going with her eclectic mix of songs.

Her hour-long concert saw three costume changes during which her troupe kept us entertained with their fascinating dance routines and music.

She opened her show with London Bridge, and though a tad nervous in the beginning she warmed up to the crowd in no time and set the pace with Clumsy. Her soulful rendition of Motown gave us a taste of her powerful voice. Fergie’s Voodoo Dolls essayed the rough patches in her life. She hit the rock chord, dressed in leather pants and a blue top, and belted covers of Rolling Stones’ Start Me Up.

Fergie paid tribute to her famous association with the Black Eyed Peas with an interesting medley that included Where is the Love and Shut up, which had the crowd singing along, proving just how far she had to go to achieve the status of her ‘godfathers’. There are bound to be comparisons and it’s unfair to expect Fergie to set the same pulse as her band but she doesn’t fall too short, her funky voice was enough to entice the crowd. Also, the fan base is widely different – Fergie’s more a teenage rage than the Black Eyed Peas, which strikes a chord with young and old alike. Let’s face it, Fergie is not Madonna, her stage did not feature lavish sets or thousands
of spectacular dancers, but her powerful voice was enough to capture the crowd.

Fergie’s most famous No 1 single, Big Girls Don’t Cry, from the Dutchess, was a rage with the crowd. And to imagine she wasn’t even planning on including it in her album. For the uninitiated, Fergie’s solo career kicked off in 2005 with the ‘Dutchess’, a misspelt version of the Duchess of York, stressing her close link with a woman whom she shares a popular nickname and last name.
Fergie put on her glittery girlie dress for her hit song Glamorous. From rock to reggae to R&B, she proved her versatility with amazing ease.

Fergie understands that she has a long way to go in terms of a solo career and is smart enough to hold on to the Black Eyed Peas. And keeping this association alive, she rendered her famous Don’t Phunk With My Heart and Lady Lump. She ended her hour-long journey with the most apt – Fergalicious.

On the whole, the concert was nothing spectacular but just a reminder that here’s an artiste who has come a long way and is determined to make it on her own. Kudos to that!

Published in E+ issue November 20-26, 2008

Saturday, 15 November 2008

'D' does it for Karan Johar

After dabbling with a series of ‘K’ films, Karan Johar has finally hit the nail on the wall with Dostana. And surprisingly the omission of his lucky ‘K’ has actually proved lucky for him. Dostana is a coming of age film for a director who boasts of nothing more than lavish sets of predictable mushy-mushy candy floss romance.

Almost in sync with Hollywood’s Something About Mary, the film is about unadulterated fun. His humourous touch to the ‘gay’ issue is actually funny. Maybe because it’s a topic very close to his heart, what with numerous rumours about his supposedly ‘close links’ with SRK and also his famous last film Kal Ho Na Ho, which jumped the popularity charts because of SRK and Saif’s mistaken gay link! In fact, the infamous scenes were so popular that it was repeatedly enacted at almost all film award ceremonies, until it stopped being funny any more. And this could probably be why Karan, very sensibly, decided to omit the two Khans from playing the lead roles in Dostana.

After handing over the directorial reins to debutant directors for his last film, Karan follows the trend this time around as well. The new kid on the block, Tarun Mansukhani, does an impressionable first film.
It might sound weird, but I am actually convinced this is SRK and Karan’s take on the world for pointing fingers at them. Somehow I felt the joke was on US! It seemed the most apt way of getting back at the world for categorizing them as gay. Whatever the case, this film is an absolute winner. It does have its weak moments, when you cringe in your seat, but that’s forgivable, considering it’s Karan Johar. I mean, if it weren’t for those scenes I would have seriously suspected that someone else had ghost-written the script for him.

Yes, the film is full of obvious, we’ve-heard-that-before-a-million-time gay jokes, but it still works. And this film will definitely place John and Abhishek as the best reel-life couple ever in Hindi cinema. They complement each other throughout the film, with brilliant comic timing. It’s easy to go over-board with such roles, but they play it just right. They play it subtle at times and then hit the havoc button just when it’s absolutely right. And in a way, that’s what makes this film work.

Dostana is about Kunal (John), a fashion photographer, and Sam(eer) (Abhishek), a nurse, who pretend to be gays so that they can rent an apartment with the landlady’s savvy niece Neha (Priyanka Chopra). The boys instantly strike a good friendship with the girl, but this friendship takes a twist when they find out she’s smitten by her new boss (Bobby Deol). The film is about this mad race to win Neha’s heart. I wouldn’t give the end away and spoil the fun. But this I have to say, Karan’s handled it maturely and for the first time ends it in style!

On performances, this is an outright Abhishek Bachchan film. He’s got brilliant comic timing and gives his all to each and every scene. John, on the other hand, gives in once in a while but quickly bounces back. Must say, it’s a huge improvement from his earlier stone-faced performances. Priyanka does very little to her role. She plays it safe and giggles her way through. Bomen and Kiran Kher are the icing on the cake. They effortlessly push us off our seats (rippling with laughter) with their funny moments. Bobby Doel is the only sore point. How could an actor, who claims to have good acting lineage, ruin such a simple role. All he had to do was to look smart and sexy, but even that he can’t do without making us want to hit him! Forget comic timing, this man couldn’t even wipe the dumb look on his face. They didn’t even him in flesh and blood, all they had to do was scan his picture, make paper masks and paste it on some dummy and complete the shoot!

It’s true that Karan’s characters have no real dum but for a fun film like this it’s pardonable. In fact it’s appropriate. And he doesn’t confuse his audience with a large bunch of supporting actors with no real story to say.

The songs are an interesting mix with all the spunk necessary. And what’s a Karan Johar film without his lucky mascots – SRK, Rani and Kajol. Unlike Kal Ho Na Ho and Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, he doesn’t picture them in a song, but cleverly introduces them through his earlier film Kuch Kuch Hota Hai,. Watch it to get the twist.

On the whole, this is truly a mindless, entertaining fun film. Karan has finally learnt the art of adding just the right ingredients to make his film just right.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Fashionably unreal

It's just my second week in Dubai, so the prospect of attending a premiere, reminiscent of my stint with the glitzy Mumbai world, was extremely exciting. So I dragged a friend along, promising a date with the stars! But the Fashion premiere on Wednesday night turned out to be anything but a big yawn!

Madhur Bhandarkar might have thought it fashionable to host a red carpet premiere in Dubai but he conveniently forgot to brief his glamorous ladies on red carpet etiquette. Surely Bhandarkar could have taught them a thing or two about making eye contact, smiling and posing for the cameras. The actresses, however, looked uncomfortable and were rushed into the hall by their hefty bodyguards. Their eyes remained fixated on the red carpet and only rarely shot glances at the crowd. In fact, they looked more terrified than happy to see that a crowd, however small, had actually turned up for their film. This should have been an indication on the fate of the film.

And it wasn't bad enough that we were subjected to their snobbery, we were also pushed around by two huge bodyguards, who refused us our seats! They behaved as if we were a 'threat' to the actors. But we, like good Indian women, gulped down the abuses and decided to give Bhandarkar's angels another chance. The actors, after their rude red carpet entry, had the audacity of faking a 'we-are-so-happy-to-see-you-all' act.

Anyway, we finally got to our seats and were hoping that the film would make up for all the bad vibes... but sadly, it didn't! Bhandarkar's take on the fashion world is stale, insipid, cliched and highly avoidable. If anything, he has excelled only in the trade of film marketing. The swanky photo shoots and crisp editing end with the promos, leaving the film with nothing else. For a man who claims to be a 'realistic' filmmaker this is a far cry from reality. It's depressing to see him waste a perfect canvas on nothing but cliches.

The film is the journey of a plain, small town girl Meghana (Priyanka Chopra), who becomes a famous model, but her flashy career comes crashing down after she makes a few silly moves. In fact, reality goes right out of the window, when the filmmaker categorises Chandigarh as a small town! Doesn't Bhandarkar know the difference between a big or small town? Also, Meghana's struggle doesn't seem like a struggle at all - she looks the same from start to end - her look, hair, walk and apart from a few tacky clothes, she's boringly constant. It's funny how Meghana starts off aiming to become a supermodel, but is shown craving to become a showstopper, as if that's all there is to achieve for in the fashion world.

This is a film of contradictions. Initially Meghana's father is upset about her decision to become a model, but when she returns home, broken and in dire need of psychiatric help, it's her dad who encourages her to go back. And why he would push his own blood back into the big, dirty world of fashion is anybody's guess. Also, when Priyanka walks out of a live-in relationship, she's doesn't shed a tear, but goes absolutely crazy when her affair with the sleazy, married fashion tycoon comes to an end.

Bhandarkar makes us believe that all models sleep around, all male designers and make-up artistes are gay, there is only one big daddy in the entire fashion industry, and if you cry shamlessly on the ramp you can easily become a super model!

The shoddy script and weak character sketches, leaves the actors with very little to chew on. Often you can spot the uneasiness on the actors face while they mouth the insipid dialogues. Also, there are far too many characters who walk in and out of the screen without no real story to tell.

Despite all the glaring flaws, Bhandarkar does attempt to be realistic, only with quick, fleeting instances of wardrobe malfunction and design thieves. He completely forgets to throw light on the industry -- about how hard the designers work on their collection, themes, choreographers, music and more importantly issues like anorexia and their much-talked about low IQ. His models and designers are stereostyped, suggesting that there aren't any with a few shades of grey.

And all this controversy about Kangana being unhappy about Priyanka hogging all the limelight is pointless as this is an all-out Priyanka film. The rest of the beauties have only a few minutes of glamour on screen. Of the performances, Kangana is the most striking. Priyanka in the lead was an obvious choice, considering her place in the industry, but she's done nothing to win our hearts. Kangana absolutely rocks. For a model, Mughda has done what they do best, walk the ramp! Arjan Baweja may consider himself the male lead in the film but he's in it for all of 20 minutes! Arbaaz Khan is average but Kitu Gidwani is a treat to watch.

Salim-Sulieman's music is catchy and fresh. But I fail to comprehend why they worked out only four tracks? The composers kill the magic by repeating the same tracks, each time with a different beat. Either they weren't paid well or they were pure lazy.

All in all, I think it's about time Bhandarkar did a complete reality check!