Film Review: Thoda Pyar, Thoda Magic

Thoda Pyar Thoda Magic

Directed by: Kunal Kohli

Starring: Saif Ali Khan, Rani Mukerji, Ameesha, Rishi Kapoor

Alright, i am going to be honest and say this was not the film i wanted to review. I had hoped to write about Sarkar Raj, which I previewed earlier on but thanks to a number of busy weekends and sadistic scheduling courtesy of cinemas in Central London, it is impossible for me to catch a screening of this movie without a trek to the suburbs late at night.

So with great anxiety, I went to see TPTM (too long to type out each time). Having seen and hated the trailer, I was not expecting much. In addition my attitude to Rani Mukerji is the attitude most girls seem to have towards Keira Knightley; less is more. Still, I am a Saif fan and Kohli’s last offering, Fanaa with Aamir Khan and Kajol certainly had some charming moments. The first sign I was to be proved wrong came when I had to pay less than I expected to see the film. This somewhat softened my outlook, knowing that even if the film was crap, I hadn’t been ripped off too badly. With no Indian film trailers, (odd and disappointing as I had hoped Yashraj would be plugging their next release Bachna Ae Haseeno) it was straight into the movie.

TPTM is the story of Ranbeer (Khan), a young boy starved of love and affection who loses everyone he loves and is aloof from the world. As he grows into an adult, though he achieves success in his career, he remains cold hearted. Driving home one evening, Ranbeer crashes into another car killing the other driver and passenger but surviving without a scratch. It emerges Ranbeer has killed the parents of four children. A year later, a rather progressive court judge rules Ranbeer must adopt the four orphans into his care and raise them as his own until they are eighteen. The four children move in, turning Ranbeer’s and his girlfriend Malaika’s (Ameesha) lives upside down. This is when God (Kapoor) decides to send down his favourite angel Geeta (Mukerji) to inject some love into their lives as well as learn something herself.

This story has more than a whiff of Mary Poppins, throwing The Sound Of Music, E.T., a medley of assorted Disney hits and Harry Potter into the mix, all served up with a strong Indian flavour. There is even a song which asks how do you solve a problem like Geeta? But mercifully, though the story may not be original, there is much to entertain the viewer in the meantime. TPTM has all the hallmarks of a Kohli film – animation, a medley of old songs, a chatty script, New Delhi as a backdrop (and what a backdrop it is) plus Saif and Rani, with whom heΒ made the lovely Hum Tum. Β The special effects are decent though they don’t compare with Hollywood but then this does help give the film a very Indian flavour. Plus the Yashraj polish is very evident from the product placement (Apple get some screen time – after Sex and The City, this is the second plug I’ve seen on the big screen this year – go Apple!) as well as the colours and references here and there to older films. Technically the film is good with some inventive camera work (including underwater camera work and close ups), brisk editing and tight direction. Also, we have to mention, in this time of credit crunches and property misery, the gorgeous bachelor pad featured in the film, which is pure property porn, distracting us from the flaws of the film.

Ah yes, the flaws. The brisk pace of the film sacrifices character development and does at times feel like it is being done by numbers. Secondly, the screenplay asks some very pertinent questions and deals with some interesting themes concerning Ranbeer’s guilt and the children resenting him for murdering their parents. Whilst some of these questions are answered, some remain hanging and are quickly glossed over lest the audience start thinking too much. Whilst the audience doesn’t want to be bogged down in detail, a little bit of food for thought would have gone down well.

However, where the film does get it right is concentrating on the relationship between Ranbeer and the four children and how such a complex situation turns itself around with…you guessed it, a bit of love and a bit of magic. Furthermore, the performances also help save the day. Saif Ali Khan surprises with a mature performance that gives the film solid grounding. After having nothing to do in Race and being cast to type in Tashan, TPTM allows Khan to give a sensitive performance and show he can carry a film on his shoulders with ease, shaking off that second hero tag for good. Khan also shares a good chemistry with Rani, Ameesha and the children, which raises some scenes above average.

The children also perform well, with a natural performance that really does endear the audience and make them care what happens to the quartet. While some scenes shamelessly aim for the tear ducts, there are some lovely scenes with Saif and the children that are quite subtle and touching. The children are all quite natural and three dimensional rather than stock types which also bolsters the film. Rishi Kapoor gives a solid performance in his cameo, having fun wih the role without hamming it up too much.

The weakest links are the heroines roles which seem to have no solid base. Ameesha’s comedy track soon becomes annoying and her item number Lazy Lamhe though a good song, feels inappropriate for a film like this. It seems like Ameesha was drafted in simply to get in a good few product plugs (Manish Malhotra and Prada are the lucky ones this time) and her bikini and short skirt show feels boring seeing as Kareena Kapoor has already pushed the trend to new necklines and hem lengths in Tashan. Rani (who was just about bearable) is the Punjabi Julie Andrews, using magic and songs to soothe the children but there is no scope for her really to perform. I felt Rani had been miscast as she seems to be bored throughout the film and her love interest in Saif barely registers with the audience. Like Saif has done, Rani now needs to reinvent her onscreen persona with her choice of films. She has shown flashes of inspiration with her roles in Yuva and Black, and a few offbeat films at this stage would suit her nicely.

Plus in one of her key scenes, outside a dumpster in Los Angeles, next to a ripped poster of When Harry Met Sally (which was the blueprint for Kohli’s first hit film Hum Tum with Saif and Rani and is way out of date) is some graffiti which reads Fush Buck which had me in fits of laughter totally bypassing her emotional denoument. Oops!

TPTM is however an entertaining film and may just be the film that will end the Yashraj run of bad luck at the box office. It certainly doesn’t overstay its welcome and as an addition to the genre of the children’s films, an area which has been given a new lease of life with Taare Zameen Par, TPTM is an above average family entertainer. This one is worth a watch, if only for Saif’s performance and Yashraj’s Films hopefully turning a corner.

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