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Film reviews from Budapest Bollywood Film Week 2017

By Alex Deleon

Deepika Padukone as Mastani in "Bijirao-Mastani"

This was the prestige opening film of the Budapest Bollywood Film Week.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali, known as the author of grand-scale, epic motion pictures, has adapted the love story of two historical figures to make Bajirao Mastani, his biggest film yet. The story is set in the early 1700s in Rajasthan and the hero, Bajirao, the Peshwa (Governor) of the Maratha Empire, is regarded as one of the most prominent warriors in Indian history. Bajirao was a Hindu who truly loved his wife, however, for political reasons, he also married a Muslim princess Mastani who came to live at his court, and soon became obsessed with her. (who wouldn't be!) However, because of Mastani's religion the Hindu family never accepts her which leads to tremendous intramural conflicts. An important point of the picture is Bajirao's insistence that differences of religion must be accepted and have to take a back seat to political interests. A key selling point in a country with one of the largest (but nevertheless minority) Islamic populations in the world. 

 Part one is full of spectacular mass battle scenes while post intermission the film focuses on the conflict of interests between the two wives, who are, incidentally, the two top female stars at the moment of the Mumbai industry, the incredibly beautiful Deepika Padukone as Mastani, and the also impressively beautiful Priyanka Chopra as wife number one. The interplay between them in the film is an event in itself, but not enough to save it from an overall laborious straining for effect and pounding repetitiousness. 

 With its current superstars featuring Ranveer Singh in his biggest role to date Bajirao Mastani has been breaking box office records in India but is not likely to find much crossover appeal. For one thing it is devoid of the usual songs and dances at which Bhansali is a recognized past master, but more important, Bhansali seems to have lost his earlier magic touch in striving for high seriousness and acceptance in straight drama. Aside from the indisputable appeal of Deepika and Priyanka, the film smacks of overly obvious striving for effect and endless unconvincing verbal exchanges. Moreover, for me at least, Ranveer was wrong for the part. It needed an actor with more natural charisma such Salman Khan or Saif Ali Khan.

 At the Filmfare awards ceremony, (The Indian equivalent of the Oscars)  Bajirao Mastani swept 9 awards including Best Movie, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress. I can see Deepika as Best actress, but, no thank you, none of the others. 


Friday - 6th of October:

"FAN",  2016.   Director, Manesh Sharma, RT 138 minutes.


This is a far fetched tale of Insane Fan worship and Identity theft starring Shahrukh Khan (SRK), still "King of Bollywood" at age 51, in a double role as a star modelled on himself, and his grudgingly obsessed look-alike admirer.

Just for the record: Shah Rukh Khan (born 2 November 1965), also known as SRK, is an Indian film actor, producer and television personality. Referred to in the media as the "Baadshah of Bollywood", "King of Bollywood" or "King Khan", he has appeared in more than 80 Bollywood films, and earned numerous accolades, including 14 Filmfare Awards. Khan has a significant following in Asia and the Indian diaspora worldwide. In terms of audience size and income, he has been described as one of the most successful film stars in the world.

As for the film: Gaurav Chandna, a young man from Delhi has been living under the spell of Bollywood actor, Aryan Khanna since childhood and wants nothing more in life other than to meet his idol in person. After winning an Aryan look-alike contest, he travels to Mumbai to meet his idol. Unfortunately, in spite of his twin like physical similarity to his superstar idol, he is turned away --unceremoniously kicked out. 

The disillusioned Gaurav is now obsessed by a thirst for revenge, and swears never to let star Aryan breath freely, stalking him relentlessly by taking advantage of his uncanny resemblance and following him to London's Tissaud wax museum, then to the medieval Croatian city Dubrovnik on the Dalmatian coast. Here a breathtaking (overly extended) foot chase ensues over the high ramparts of the city as Aryan tries to catch the crazy young fan who is turning his life into a nightmare. The chase ends with a high drop into the sea that looks like the end of Gaurav. However the stalker survives and invades Aryan's home back in India, even deceiving his wife temporarily. This leads to another impossibly death defying mad chase where Aryan finally catches his nemesis but forgives him after a stern lecture on ethics and morality. The credibility level of this movie is comic book stuff and yet it manages to deliver a potent statement on the madness of star idol worship and its potential dangers. 

Almost as two elements of his own person, Shah Rukh Khan, the ’King’ of Bollywood portrays his own on-screen alter-ego and an obsessive fan in this fantastic dual role. I must say that at first, the makeup was so good I was convinced this must be a new actor who has been discovered with a striking resemblance to SRK, not  a "younged down" version of the actor himself!    This alone speaks for SRKs tremendous acting ability when he takes himself seriously.  While totally over the top from start to finish this tale of an obsessed Fan which maintains a surprising level of intensity till the very end, addresses the dark side of celebrity worship and the flesh and blood human behind the star mask as well. An unexpected strong move by SRK shoring up a king like reign that seemed to be faltering of late.