There's a kind of movie that I think of as "all premise, no delivery." APND movies have hooks or initial situations that are attention-grabbing, but then several things tend to happen: the characters and their relationships, once established, don't develop; the movie falls back on slapstick or caricature; the inevitable ending is delayed by the increasingly desperate machinations of the screenwriters; and last-minute reversals or dei ex machinis are thrown in to resolve the plot. I realize that having a gimmicky premise is almost the definition of a commercial movie. But it's how that premise is developed that separates the good films from the bad.
APND movies can be entertaining up to a point, which is usually intermission--and then they fall victim to the dreaded Curse of the Second Half. Examples are Heyy Babyy (2007; premise: bachelors care for a baby girl), Bachna Ae Haseeno (2008; premise: dumped Lothario apologies to mistreated past girlfriends), and now Jhoom Barabar Jhoom (Dance Baby Dance, 2007; premise: two strangers block any possibility of romantic attraction by telling each other that they're engaged--but are they?). Here's what didn't work for me in JBJ:
- When Alvira (Preity Zinta) and Rikki (Abhishek Bachchan) meet at London's Waterloo train station while ostensibly waiting for the arrival of their respective fiancés Steve (Bobby Deol) and Anaida (a virtually unrecogniable Lara Dutta), and each spins a lengthy story about how they met their significant other, it's obvious that those stories aren't true. Either Alvira and Rikki are lying to each other, or they're being scammed by their erstwhile lovers. (Which alternative it is doesn't get revealed until later, but it's absolutely clear that neither of their stories can be taken at face value.) So when the "surprises" are revealed in the second half they fall completely flat because we're at least 90 minutes ahead of screenwriter Habib Faisal.
- The direction by Shaad Ali (who also directed the superior Bunty Aur Babli (2005)) alternates between pedestrian and hyperkinetic, the choreography by Vaibhavi Merchant is uninspired, and the music by the usually reliable Shankar-Eshaan-Loy is often irritating. Two of the main songs feature English tag lines, always a bad sign. "Ticket to Hollywood" is a lame bhangra-hip-hop fusion that substitutes mugging for the camera for dancing. (A tip to S-E-L: "Monsieur" is not pronounced "mossy-eh.") And in "Kiss of Love," what does "Stay away from the kiss of love" really mean? Both numbers are pure filler, and aren't even entertaining filler. The "Bol Na Halke Halke" joint fantasy sequence would be lovely if Ali's overactive camera didn't spoil the mood, but it seems to belong to a different, better film. The only song that's truly memorable (in a good way) is the title track, picturized throughout the film on Amitabh Bachchan.
- Bobby Deol's poodle perm.
- The contrived, tacked-on, silly (and endless) dance competition climax, which arises from nothing but Habib Faisal's desperation. (Vaibhavi Merchant's lack of choreographic inspiration in this movie is especially apparent here.)
- The contrived, tacked-on, silly denouement.