ANAYAK

2001 / produced by A.M Rathnam / directed by S. Shankar / starring Anil Kapoor, Rani Mukerji & Amrish Puri / music by A.R Rahman / lyrics by Anand Bakshi

   A perfect example of over-the-top masala, Nayak tells the story of Shivaji, a camera man who takes the place of the Chief Minister for a day and soon usurps the wicked ruler permanently. Shivaji's tough rules and big heart revolutionize the country, but not without vast consequences, and he is forced to balance his love for the village girl Manjari with his political duties while dodging the former Chief Minister's assassination attempts.

   I really enjoyed the humorous aspects of this film. The early scene with the glowing "clap/laugh" signs and the bored audience made me laugh out loud, and even Johnny Lever's scenes are relatively comedic, especially when he gets beaten up by the hijra for calling them "eunuchs."

   I fully enjoyed the choreography, and I thought the picturizing was fun and funky--sometimes a little TOO funky. Speaking of funky: the costuming definitely shows improvement over some of Anil Kapoor's previous films. The flashy costumes used in the picturizing are absolutely gorgeous, like the various royal costumes seen during "Saiyyan."

   Some of the dialogue is great, other parts of the script are completely ridiculous, but it works as a whole to create a delightful masala flick. The writers managed to handle subjects like casteism, poverty, and police negligence surprisingly well, given the film's genre. Without ruining the plot, I can safely say that the riot scene is dramatic without being melodramatic, and the scene where Shivaji steps outside to take a call from Bansal ripped my heart out. Of course, it's not masala without SOME melodrama, so they threw some crazy twists in to the mix...and I actually liked most of them! Anil's character creates a minor plothole when he suspends just about everybody in an authority position, leaving the state virtually leaderless, but like most Bollywood movies, Nayak expects you to suspend your sense of reality for its duration.

   The other aggitating issue is the divide between the first half of the film and the second half, which are held together by some rather shakey plot threads. Overall, the film is well-shot, well-written, and enjoyable, but does suffer from a slight lack of fluidity, as well as some annoying "zoom-in-zoom-out" shots during the sillier songs.

    And what is it about Anil Kapoor that tugs on our heart strings? Even when he's playing the most disgusting human being on the planet, he manages to draw you in with his charisma and magnetism, and Nayak is no different. (Although I still want to give him a haircut and shave off that ugly mustache, ugh!) His parents--especially his mother--are the cutest elders I've ever seen in a masala flick!

   Of course, Rani Mukerji wows you with her good looks as soon as she walks on screen, and she gives a strong performance as the spunky Manjari. She looks especially stunning during the montage of video clips Shivaji recorded throughout the day.

    Amrish Puri was one of the best actors of his generation; despite his typecasting as a "stern father figure," he was always able to play a variety of rules, including this performance as a villain. Sushmita Sen really does nothing for me, and her special appearance during "Shakalaka Baby" gets old fast when she tries to speak Spanish, but she certainly dances well. Paresh Rawal is the real gem from this cast, and his character Bansal is easily one of the best characters in the film. The only major issue that I had with the characters was that a few were rather 2-dimensional because they were defined by a single personality trait. As a whole, however, I loved the cast and thought they performed marvelously.

   The soundtrack isn't as lyrically beautiful as Dil Se, but it still manages to create some poetry; the soundtrack isn't as musically catchy as Om Shanti Om, but it's still fun. While I prefer to watch "Tu Achcha Lagta Hai" in-film because of its obnoxiously cute picturizing, it's also a good stand-alone song. "Shakalaka Baby" is very upbeat, and "Chalo Chale Puriva" and "Chalo Chale Mitwa" have great lyrics. I like "Ruki Shukhi Roti," although it's so damn saccharine that it'll choke you with its sweetness if you try to take it seriously. Nayak boasts only one 5 star song, "Saiyyan," but it also lacks anything below a 3.5, so while it isn't the best soundtrack out there, it brings some unique elements to the genre and is definitely worth a listen.

   From far away, Nayak looks ridiculous. The main plot about an ordinary news reporter becoming a government official for a day and completely revolutionizing the lives of thousands of people is ludicrous; we all know it would never happen in real life. And yet that's what gives this movie its feel-good power. By portraying the main character as a simple-man-turned-hero, Nayak touches not only its vast and varied Indian audience, but its largely middle class western audience as well. This indulgent escape from everyday life, combined with an adorable love story, creates a wonderful film that you'll watch over and over again. I wholeheartedly recommend Nayak to everyone, especially if you've never seen an Anil Kapoor film before: he'll win you over in a matter a minutes!

- reviewed by Kragey

 

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Anil Kapoor and Rani Mukerji

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