Film Review: Ready

Directed by: Anees Bazmee

Starring: Salman Khan, Asin, Mahesh Manjreker, Paresh Rawal, Arya Babbar and Puneet Issar

All images courtesy of: http://www.readythemovie.com/

WARNING: This review contains spoilers so if you do not wish to know what happens, please visit my review after viewing the film. Thanks!

When I was in primary school, I remember being invited to a friend’s birthday party and being very excited, not only because my friend always had the latest toys/films at home but not everyone was invited to the party making me part of an exclusive clique that felt very smug about itself. Furthermore, the party was going to take place after school so the build up to it was just as exciting. I didn’t actually get to find out what happened at that party as I fell ill on the day, throwing up at lunchtime and feeling feverish at home time so instead, I had to go home whilst the smug clique enjoyed jelly and ice cream and party bags full of cool stationery and sweets. Of course, when I got back, everyone mentioned how fun the party was, new friendships had been formed and there was a distinct change in the dynamics of the class. Although I did get to go the party the following year (where we went swimming, ate McDonalds and had birthday cake and a really nice party bag), I always felt I missed out on that party and wonder what would have been if I had been able to go.

Fast forward to present day where the missed party is now replaced by the must see film I haven’t seen (Tere Bin Laden, Udaan, Ragini MMS being a few recent examples) where they were released in India but not abroad or worse still, only showing in a cinema in the UK  far away from me. Added to this was the IPL which saw Bollywood take a break of sorts as the cricket juggernaut rolled into town, drawing in mammoth audiences and keeping them in its belly meaning films had to take a backseat in the interim. But with IPL over, its now time to get back to business and like an oasis in a desert, Ready arrives, Salman’s first film post Dabaang and carrying the world and its mother on its shoulders in terms of expectations and hype. But as I sat on the sweltering underground on my way to Central London, that feeling of contentment on seeing first day, first show warded off that feeling of missing out with ease and with the reviewer within eager to stretch his legs, I hurtled towards the cinema in a way that can only be described as athletic – I was ready

Ready is the story of Prem (played by…guess who?You don’t know? REALLY?) a kind hearted brat whose family are eager for him to get married and settled down in the hope it will change his wild nature for the better. Going on a recommendation from their spiritual guru, Prem is meant to pick up Pooja from the airport but is met by Sanjana (Asin) who pretends to be Pooja and wins over Prem’s family and Prem himself. But of course, as the film itself acknowledges, what would a love story be without an obstacle or two, so we delve into Sanjana’s back story and the film descends into a familiar farce of mistaken identity, wise cracks and other shenanigans…

Sadly, as much as I loathe to diagnose a film, Ready is an open and shut case of a film of two halves – the first half is clever, runs at a good pace and is well executed whilst the second half unravels all the hard work, then falls into a black hole, only to emerge as a ridiculous farce at the end. Now, I understand that Ready and Anees Bazmee’s films in general have a very high element of the absurd about them and these types of films really are an acquired taste – you either like it or you don’t with no middle ground. What really annoyed me about Ready is that the first half actually makes this genre of film palatable to those who don’t like this kind of all out entertainer and has some fun with it – I liked that Sanjana gives Prem a run for his money, I liked some of the in jokes and that Ready was not only proud of its wackiness but also gets mischevious – there are references abound to other films, real life and real people tied in with situations in the film that work really well. However, the second half phones it in, falling right back into a comfort zone, taking the safe option and losing any goodwill accrued faster than a disgraced bigoted Hollywood star and whilst there is the odd moment where a glimmer of hope appears, this is quickly quashed by lazy writing and shamelessly catering to the lowest common denominator with an almost perverse pleasure.

Furthermore, I was appalled by the racism in the scene where Paresh Rawal attacks the black security guard – seriously, there is no need for such a regressive scene and Ready should be ashamed of perpetuating such a negative stereotype for laughs. Furthermore, the depiction of women is seriously unbalanced – whilst we have the positive in form of the delightful Asin (more on that later) all the women are shown as subservient or nagging and totally submissive to the men – the whole allowing women to eat first had me rolling my eyes as did Prem’s assertion that Sanjana’s request to save his father at the climax is the first sensible thing said by a woman – whether Ready was making a  clumsy social commentary or not, these sub plots do not work and only serve to reinforce prejudices that quite frankly need no further publicity. There was also a waste of location with the beauty of Thailand only referenced in the songs and the climax chase. Styling wise, Ready was not quite ready – aside from the ethnic wear, there isn’t much to write about. I liked elements of Salman’s tailored look in the Humko Pyaar Hua Hai song though poor Asin was made to look like an air hostess moonlighting as a model. She did look gorgeous in the churidar coral suit with silver/gold detail as well as both sets of shaadi ka jodhas. I also liked her pink hareem pants in the Dhinka Chika song. I did like the corset and trouser combo worn by Zarine Khan in the Character Dheela item number as well as her sequin dresses though some of the clothes looked quite “ho” like which was in context but a tad worrying. What struck me most about the styling was the clothes were very wearable and too real – they could easily slip into one’s everyday wear; but on screen, they lacked that punch to make them covetable or other worldy – nothing iconic or trendsetting here. Whilst I wasn’t expecting a high fashion show, I didn’t expect to be so underwhelmed either.

If there is one thing going in Ready’s favour, it is that the film is a Salman Khan vehicle through and through and anyone who wasn’t ready for that really should abandon all hope forever as after Dabaang, it looks likely that any film Salman does will be a showcase for him and again, you will either be unable to stand it or can’t get enough of it. I didn’t mind it – Salman carries the film on his shoulders with alarming ease, deadpans with aplomb and always hits his mark with no qualms. Whether it is an ensemble scene or a two parter scene, Salman is literally unstoppable and makes fun of himself, rouses the front benchers and annoys his critics and though there were times when I found him irritating, at other points I thought he was very good. It takes star quality and power to drive a film like Ready and Salman is more than capable of generating this energy. Though his performance is not a patch on Dabaang, Salman does everything that is required of him and to be fair, we can’t ask for more – except to mix it up a little and maybe do something out of his comfort zone alongside this kind of film. To be fair, the ghost of Dabaang looms large and Salman now has a fresh tank of goodwill to last him so this is but the tip of the iceberg.

Thank god then for Asin who proves Ghajini was not a flash in the pan. She jumps head first into the role of Sanjana and gives a spirited and determined performance – the first half, she matches Salman step for step and proves a worthy co-actor and for me (high praise alert) reminds me of a Sridevi who managed to elevate the ordinary into something three dimensional. Sadly, Asin is let down by poor scripting which starts her off on a high but then descends into regular heroine fare which Asin goes through by numbers (and one can hardly blame her) – but she gives a good account of herself and when the film allows it, she shines. Out of the supporting cast, Paresh Rawal picks up another pay cheque but the person who pulls it out of the bag is Mahesh Manjrekar as the father who forgets words – Mahesh gives a consistent and earnest performance not only making his character likeable but also stealing the odd scene here and there in a covert manner.

Ready is going to do well – there is no doubt about it. The film has all the ingredients needed to succeed at the box office and beyond and will be one of those films that will not only satisfy a baying mob but leave them wanting more. For the rest of us, we have a one time watch here, maybe watch in parts here and there on telecast or on DVD but certainly not one for posterity. In terms of comparison to Dabaang, well for me Dabaang is the superior film in every way, with a stronger story and a grittiness that the glossy Ready could never hope to have. But then Ready is a totally different film and has a more fast food nature about it and no doubt will spawn a dozen contemporaries that will do equally well. Hence, Ready might not be a must watch but will entertain and hit the spot if this is your bag. But for anyone concerned about missing the party, don’t worry – there’s always next year’s party in the offing….

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