Thursday, June 15, 2006

souten: saawan kumar se karan razdan tak

[a case of sand dunes, camels and a femme futile] {april 29, 2006 / may 06, 2006}

[Jun 25, 2006] a less auto-referential version of this also appears on

After borrowing the copyright of Souten from Saawan Kumar Tak, Karan Razdan, the intellectually bankrupt descendant of Salacious Crumb responsible for the soporific mix of incompetence, lesbianism, violence and money shots called Girlfriend, embarks on an attempt to drill a shot in the arm of Rajasthan's tourism industry. Since this is a Bollywood film some semblance of a "script" must be provided. Razdan wields the baton for story, screenplay and dialogue (in addition to "directing" this flick to nowhere in particular) and whips up a gazonga-thong disguised as a story of forbidden love. Gulshan Grover plays raNabiir si.nh (don't they all), the standard upper class filthy rich royal two-dimensional character you've seen on the silver screen for ages. Mahima (or should I say, mahaa-ham) Chaudhari plays his wife Mitali. Shakti Kapoor, another Bollywood villain, ends up as sumer si.nh married to smitaa, played by Padmini Kolhapure, who, for those who remember the original Tak film, offers the trivial link of no consequence. Enter raaj, played by Vikram "Wimp" si.nh, sumer's brother, who has the useful ability to fake violin playing come rain or come shine. He dedicates the "shine" to a dark stormy booze-laden night that cuts to a song of revelations of mounds of various kinds in the desert, and reserves the "rain" for a virtuoso romp in the rain with sapanaa, played by Kiran Rathod. Aha! You have spotted the three vertices of the triangle. What makes this one interesting? Well, sapanaa is raNabiir's daughter, and mitaalii is her step mother. With this scandalous set-up for disaster, there are scenes where the two assert that they are friends. These scenes are solely for the benefit of the weak-hearted NRI with principles and morals derived from the Raichand family.

Mahima excellently blends hamming with a general Poison Ivy-esque abandon, a latent promiscuity, and total cooperation as far as waving her assets for the benefit of The Wimp and front benchers who haven't dropped off during the dramatic scenes.

Despite its promise as a front bencher-pleasing oglefest, the film's primary failure is an attempt to spend more time on stupid sequences of no consequence: scenes with dialogue, scenes with familiar Bollywood conflict. Had he focussed on the T n'A, Razdan would've given B-mongers something to be proud of. It's not all a loss though. If you survive the vapid sequences that connect the unsatisfying intimate sequences, you're in for a treat during the second run of the song mohabbat ho gayii hai. Mahima sashays and dances against what looks like a matte background; In a tribute to Eisenstein, we cut between this and shots of some random cha.nduu off the street filmed separately; cha.nduu gets onto his motorbike in faux cool style, and, after a dangerous glance back to the dancing Mahima, hits a rock, and, in a bad fake stunt move, flings himself forward to fall off the bike.

Razdan also pays tribute to David Lean and other makers of epic picturesque sagas in the style he adopts to shoot the film. We are treated to sweeping approaches to and departures from vistas of Rajasthan that contribute nothing to the film. In one sequence, however, Razdan strikes gold. The set-up is ridiculous: Kiran Rathod and The Wimp have driven far away from their respective residential abodes to the middle of the desert in their respective vans for a dramatic confrontation. The sequence begins with a long crane shot of the two vans parked head-to-head. Cut to the camera approaching Rathod from the right. Cut to the camera approaching The Wimp from the left. Cut back to the camera approaching Rathod from the right. Cut back again to the camera approaching The Wimp from the left. Cut to a crane descent on Rathod. Cut to a crane ascent on The Wimp. Cut back to a crane descent on Rathod. Assembly line confrontational music inundates the background for this back-and-forth Mexican stand-off approach to filming a dramatic scene that could have taken place anywhere else but here in the real world. Wait till the end of the silly scene to watch The Wimp execute a wonderful chest-out move of defeat as he is forced to bite the dust of Rathod's departing van.

It's a wonder that such films get funded, made and even find enough known names to fill the cast roster. Having done a disservice to Rajasthan, human relationships, hams around the world, sand dunes and horses, Razdan nails his creative coffin shut with a boring title: Souten: The Other Woman. That's as good as screaming duh!. Why not something like Souten: Tea Is Served or Souten: Her Horny Highness or Souten: Camel Lot or Souten: Hot Humps and Then Some. JR's pun might be the only funny thing about Souten.

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