BLUE. Director: Anthony D’Souza. Players. Sanjay Dutt, Akshay Kumar, Lara Dutta, Zayed Khan, Katrina Kaif. Music: A.R.Rahman. Theatrical Release (Cine Vision).

With a reported $25 million budget—reportedly the highest ever for an Indian film to date—Blue quickly emerged as the most anticipated Hindi release during the festive Diwali season. Then a couple of very funny things happened. First someone forgot that movies need more than just expensive sets. Then most of the high budget appears to have been spent on floatation devices to keep this lackluster adventure from drowning in deep waters.

Missing a great opportunity to draw fiction imbedded in plausible historical context, Bryan Sullivan’s screenplay only hints at the true story of Indian treasures looted by the British on their way out of India at Independence—treasures carried out by ships that were never fully accounted for. Instead, Sullivan’s script wants to be everything to everybody. Crossing Fast & Furiousstyle motor cycle chases with a shark-infested underwater adventure inspired by everything from Jaws to Open Water, Blue finds Sagar (Dutt) and Aarav (Kumar) as two buddies running a marine business in the Caribbean. Playboy Aarav is intent on enlisting the more seasoned and strangely reluctant Sagar into helping search for a mysterious sunken ship named Lady in Blue and its storied cargo of treasure stolen from India long ago.

Where the Blue team earn their huge keep is the staging of underwater scenes which are nothing short of breathtaking. The water looks crisp, and inviting, and dangerous all at once. Red, blue, and yellow diving suits glow with an eye-catching neon hue while the size and scale of marine fauna comes alive with unadulterated detail. To get this many sharks this close to this many stunt folk had to be a feat. When the DVD is released, Blue will be a must-have title to test the color-correcting techie gizmos built into ever-larger home theater TV screens.

It’s on dry land that Blue struggles for oxygen. For one, most of the story takes place on land—curious for a movie named Blue—and the land-bound action is not all that enticing. There is Sagar balancing his love life with Mona (Dutta) with playing father-figure to his detached younger brother Sam (Khan). The acting is uneven and Dutt appears to put on weight in some scenes and sheds it in others. Certain scenes painfully reveal a rookie filmmaker’s limitations at steering this very expensive land boat. When the double-identity of a central character is revealed, the revelation is made by a lesser villain with an anti-climatic delivery.

The biggest let down is A.R. Rahman’s music. This Rahman CD is a far, far cry from the artistry Rahman served up with Delhi 6, let alone Jaane Tu Ya Na Jaane or Jodhaa Akbar. Even Australian pop star Kylie Minogue’s presence in a scene/song does not help. If Kevin Kostner has to stare in the mirror at the guy whose seafaring opus Waterworld sank like a rock a decade ago, it’s only fair that Akshay Kumar stare in the mirror at the guy whose would-be opusBlue sank under the weight of its own budget.

Globe trekker, aesthete, photographer, ski bum, film buff, and commentator Aniruddh Chawda writes from Milwaukee.

A Slacker Shines

WAKE UP SID. Director: Ayan Mukherjee. Players: Ranbir Kapoor, Konkona Sen Sharma, Anupam Kher, Rahul Khanna, Supriya Pathak, Kashmira Shah. Music: Shankar Ehsan Loy. Theatrical release (UTV).


Wake Up Sid is to 2009 what Jaane Tu …  Ya  Jaane Na was to 2008— a coming of age trajectory rooted in finishing college and the search for professional, moral, and romantic footing. Aimed mostly at the wired crowd that incessantly downloads, twitters, and texts effortlessly in the virtual world and yet often has trouble making human contact on terra firma, Wake Up Sidscores a creditable uptick for Kapoor, Sen Sharma and Mukherjee.

Kapoor superbly gets under the skin of Siddharth, the titular “Sid,” a spoiled, rich slacker about to graduate college—or so he thinks. Mukherjee’s campus postcard, which he also wrote, sticks memorable little yellow stickeys that make this slacker story shine. There is the opening scene of Sid cramming for yet another euphemistic do-or-die exam. There is his new friend Aisha (Sen Sharma), who freely admits that she is older than him. There is Sid spending most of his indoor hours in little more than colorful boxer shorts and wood-gliding thick socks with aloof, even sexy, absentmindedness that would put any boy band headliner to shame. There is Sid’s near-virginal bout of self consciousness at appearing in boxers in front of Aisha for the first time. Sid is a college dropout, a fresh departure from scripts of yore where the male lead always finished college “first class first.” Finally, there is the departure from convention in how Sid resolves his career dilemma.

The story’s Mumbai setting, ironically, became producer Karan Johar’s biggest headache. Referring to Mumbai as Bombay throughout the movie had the PC police out in full force. Johar had to issue post-release apologies which including making amends by inserting a disclaimer to the hundreds of copies of the prints distributed throughout India. Mumbai or Bombay, watching Sid wake up is charming.

Globe trekker, aesthete, photographer, ski bum, film buff, and commentator Aniruddh Chawda writes from Milwaukee.

Globe trekker, aesthete, photographer, ski bum, film buff, and commentator, Aniruddh Chawda writes from Milwaukee.