Ragini MMS 2: Sex sells

MUMBAI: Ragini MMS 2 has two major factors working for it: the brand equity created by Ragini MMS and the image of Sunny Leone. What is more, while anything goes in the name of horror genre, there is a lot of inspiration in Hollywood films so that you don’t need to copy only one source but use various sources to create characters, get-up and events.

A haunted house is the most convenient and plausible place to actually be haunted. Since this is a sequel, the ground is laid for the theme. A director, Pravin Dabas, wants to make a film on the Ragini case. He gets more than he asked for as the place has its own in-house chudail and spirits. For distractions, there are the side artistes in Sandhya Mridul who is prepared for the casting couch and there is Karan Mehra, the TV star and Divya Dutta, a psychiatrist, who treats the spirits rather than victims as she chants mantras to drive the evil away!

Though there is more horror than there is sex, it does not totally disappoint those who went mainly for Sunny. Starting with a display of Sunny’s daily change of colourful underwear to bathroom sex and lesbian scenes, the film delivers what it promises to viewers. When it comes to horror, the main source seems to be the TV serial, American Horror.

Sunny is competent in sex scenes. For the rest, she passes muster. After all, histrionics is not what people come expecting from her. Divya Dutta is good in a corny role. Sandhya Mridul and rest are okay. Direction is tacky. The film has two popular songs, Baby doll… and Char bottle vodka.. the latter one having been wasted on end titles.

Producers: Ekta Kapoor, Shobha Kapoor.

Director: Bhushan Kapoor.

Cast: Sunny Leone, Pravin Dabas, Sahil Prem, Sandhya Mridul, Divya Dutta, Karan Mehra.

With its ace of spade, Sunny, assures the film a good opening response.  Merits won’t matter for Ragini MMS 2 at the box office as it should sail through in its opening weekend.

Lakshmi: Misnomer for box office

Lakshmi is about child prostitution and, hence, there is nothing that you have not seen often before. Sadly, it is so commonplace that even the newspapers don’t cover it except when it is something sensational or involves a famed NGO. However, it is a staple fodder for crime-based TV serials like Crime Patrol. The story of Lakshmi is also based on real life cases, though several incidents have been composited and told through one character, that of Lakshmi. The outcome is neither a formula for a box office hit nor a documentary.

Monali Thakur (Lakshmi) lives with her drunkard father and two younger sisters in a small Andhra village. She is pretty and presentable and her father sells her off to a local female municipal councilor, Gulfam Khan, who maintains a supply line of young girls for a brothel owned by Satish Kaushik and managed by his brother, Nagesh Kukunoor, in nearby Hyderabad. The brothers run a brothel under the guise of a needy women’s hostel. Kaushik, who initially berates Nagesh for bringing an underage girl, decides to keep her with him on the girl’s own insistence! Now, why would she want to give up her two loving younger sisters who depend totally on her in their village to willingly stay with Kaushik? This is only the beginning; the film’s script abounds in illogical inputs.

Kaushik who comes across as a pure heart, is not all that. He is getting the girl treated for early physical maturity through artificial hormonal enhancement. In three weeks, he is ready to rape her and then put her out in his brothel. Now Lakshmi is raped every day but, tutored by her roommate, Flora Saini, she learns to manage. Her attempts to escape continue on and off for which she pays heavily with bodily harm at the hands of Kukunoor.

Producers: Nagesh Kukunoor, Elahe Hiptoola, Satish Kaushik.

Director: NageshKukunoor.

Cast: Monali Thakur, Satish Kaushik, Nagesh Kukunoor, Shefali Shah, Ram Kapoor, Flora Saini.

Enter an NGO which sends a man in the guise of a customer who, with the help of the madam of the joint, Shifaali Shah, plants a video camera in Lakshmi’s room! Why only her room? Now it is time to bring the culprits to book. There is no scene wasted on establishing how and why Reddy brothers, Kaushik and Nagesh, are so dreaded but seems like no lawyer in his senses will accept Lakshmi’s case when she decides to file for rape. So, inspired by many Hollywood and some Indian films, it is left for a loser lawyer, Ram Kapoor, to take up the case. What follows is a test of tolerance of a viewer.

This can go down as one of the worst scripts complemented by most unimaginative direction. Unsurprisingly, the director and the writer happen to be the same person. Most characters contradict their part in the film. In later parts, the film resorts to gore and cheap gimmicks like a cigarette up a woman and hitting the victim girl with a rod prepared with multiple nails. This is frankly disgusting. The court trial is comic and the judge and the lawyers are caricatures. So is the courtroom set. Music is no help. Of all the performers, Monali tries her best despite her funny getup with a wig! Shifaali is okay despite her poor characterisation. Flora Saini emerges the best of the lot. Kaushik is a make-believe Andhrite. Kukunoor is rank bad as an actor. Direction is shoddy and visually too, the film is grim.

Lakshmi is one film which was better off not attempted.

Gang of Ghosts: Ghost of a chance

Since many people are worried that ghost stories may encourage superstition, such films often end with vested interests—all of the non-ghost variety—creating situations to drive people away from lucrative properties. However, Gang of Ghosts is a remake of a hit and much-acclaimed Bengali film, Bhooter Bhabishyat and actually tells the story of ghosts, the troubled souls whose abodes are being eyed by a greedy land grabber, Rajesh Khattar. It is about how a bunch of ghosts decide to take on the land mafia to save their terrain.

Royal Mansion is a palatial mansion built by Anupam Kher next to a mill in this pre-independence saga. Having sold his mill to the British Raj in exchange for the title of Rai Bahadur, he plans to use the place to fete and celebrate evenings with the rulers. You may compare this part to a chapter from Kolkata’s Jagirdari era when every evening was a celebration. But, by selling his mill to the British, Anupam has offended his mill workers who are now being exploited by the new owners. Deprived of their dues, the workers decide to burn down the mill as well as the adjoining Royal Mansion.

The burning mill and the mansion also take Anupam along. Anupam, now a ghost, is lonely in his mansion while a lot of stray ghosts are looking for a place to belong. He decides to accommodate some more ghosts in his mansion so as to make ghostly-hood livelier. Starting with an Empire era J Barandon Hill, the ghost family goes on to include Mahie Gill, Saurabh Shukla, Rajpal Yadav, Meera Chopra, Yashpal Sharma and the later additions Chunky Pandey and Jackie Shroff.

Producers: Venus Records & Tapes Ltd, Satish Kaushik Entertainment.

Director: Satish Kaushik.

Cast: Sharman Joshi, Parambrata Chatterjee, Mahie Gill, Anupam Kher, Meera Chopra, J. Brandon Hill, Rajesh Khattar, Saurabh Shukla, Rajpal Yadav, Yashpal Sharma, Vijay Verma, Chunky Pandey, Jackie Shroff, Paoli Dam and Aniruddh Dave (guest app).

Sabyasachi Chakrabarty is an ad film maker on a visit to recce the mansion as a location for his ad film. The place used to be a popular location for film shoots but out of favour since a starlet saw a ghost in her makeup room mirror! Here, he is being stalked by an aspiring/ struggling script writer, Sharman Joshi. Sharman has a script on ghosts which he wants Sabyasachi to direct. Joshi narrates the script of the owner of Royal Mansion, Anupam, who haunts the mansion along with few others and how there is a plot by Rajesh Khattar to bring down the mansion and build a mall in its place. The ghosts have their own social networking media called Spook Book from where they trace Khattar’s ghost wife, who he killed, and a don-turned-ghost Jackie Shroff to tackle Khattar, in an effort to save the mansion.

After spending considerable footage on Sharman introducing the characters of his story, there is some song and dance as the ghosts party. But then the property and mall aspects of the film make it just another routine story. Suffering from a poorly written script despite adaption from an acclaimed Bengali film, Gang of Ghosts goes nowhere and lacks in substance. Satish Kaushik, who is known for his comic roles and who has found some success in directing remakes (usually from South) is totally at sea here. There is no comedy evident except some punning, which is over the top; only the characters on screen seem to enjoy the film since they laugh all the time. Music is bad with songs crammed in at random. Editing needed to be tighter as the film sags often. There is not much to performances unless loud gestures pass as acting.

Gang of Ghosts is poor in all respects and will remain so at the box office too.

Ankhon Dekhi : Seeing is believing…but not this one

Ankhon Dekhi is a film which you can’t slot in any year; it is so ancient! The closest you can come to identifying it is with the 1984 TV serial (in the era of Doordarshan’s monopoly days) Hum Log, which is about a middle class Old Delhi family. This film looks like a prequel to Hum Log if such a thing was possible. The ‘Hero’ of the film is Sanjay Mishra and his name is expected to draw the audience to cinema halls.What else can one expect when the maker calls Mani Kaul and Kumar Shahani his idols or inspirations. Whatever you call it, this film has nothing to do with the business of high-risk filmmaking.

Producer: Manish Mundra.

Director: Rajat Kapoor.

Cast: Sanjay Mishra, Rajat Kapoor.

Sanjay Mishra and his brother, Rajat Kapoor, live jointly in a middleclass Old Delhi locality. The house is always bustling with activity and efforts to solve typical middleclass problems. Resolving one such problem, it dawns on Mishra that he should never believe in hearsay and commit himself only after being sure of facts. This is like a person swearing never to tell a lie. One can imagine the problems such a decision can produce. Mishra works at a travel agency. When a customer wanting to book a ticket wants to know about timings, Mishra refuses to commit on the basis of airline website since he has not travelled to the destination and has no first hand information! For him, the motto is ‘Seeing is Believing’. Not willing to continue with a job where he has to rely on secondhand information, he resigns.

For a few days, Mishra pretends to go to office. Instead, with his tiffin in hand, he roams around the city like a bunking school kid would. The family soon finds out and troubles start on home front too. Firstly, because Mishra has stopped praying as he used to since he has not seen God. Mainly, he counts on his brother and son to support the family. The inevitable happens, Rajat wants out while the son he was counting on has become a gambler and builtup debt with the local gambling den. That is when the film starts getting really odd: Mishra turns a professional gambler himself jockeying for the club. It is hard to think of many middle class homes where such things can happen.

Mishra is a seasoned artiste and does very well. Rajat is suitably restrained. The rest are okay. But where is the monotonous background music from, the Film Division library?

The film can be described as an old-fashioned family drama, the kind they made in mid-1900s, except that this one is an odd ball. With a slow-paced script and direction to match, shot on drab surroundings, it is not much of a viewing pleasure.

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