White Guy Watches Bollywood

A random white guy engages with contemporary Indian cinema... one movie at a time

Anil Kapoor

Hindi Movie Review: Fighter is another top-notch blockbuster crowd-pleaser from Siddharth Anand and Hrithik Roshan

Hrithik Roshan stars in the new Hindi movie "Fighter," here reviewed by White Guy Watches Bollywood.

Much like its clear source of commercial inspiration, Top Gun: Maverick, Siddharth Anand’s Fighter knows how to play to audience tastes with filmmaking that’s skillful and self-aware enough that it never feels pandering in an icky way. And while it may be playing in the same sandbox as the Tom Cruise megahit, it entirely justifies its own existence, strongly executing each genre component of its masala mashup (drama, action, romance, buddy ensemble). From very early on in the movie, we know exactly how it is going to end, but that doesn’t make us any less engaged by what it’s dishing out. Fighter is perfectly calibrated popcorn entertainment.

Co-writer/director Anand brought us last year’s Pathaan and 2019’s War, and he once again proves himself to be one of Bollywood’s cleanest commercial craftsmen. That might seem like a backhanded compliment, insofar as it implies a “sanitized” body of work aimed at the widest audience possible. But I mean it as a sincere commendation: it isn’t easy to consistently deliver movies catering to mass tastes that retain their elegance and their vitality. This achievement was a big part of what made Top Gun: Maverick such a big worldwide word-of-mouth sensation, and Anand is able to achieve the same feat in his films. Yes, they follow the expected beats, but they do so in a way that reminds us of why the beats exist in the first place.

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Hindi Movie Review: Animal may end up being a mess, but it’s often a rousing one, with a truly wild lead performance

Ranbir Kapoor stars in Sandeep Reddy Vanga's Hindi-language "Animal," here reviewed by White Guy Watches Bollywood.

Clocking in at three hours and 22 minutes, Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s Animal is the kind of sprawling opus that wins a baseline level of audience admiration through scope of ambition alone. Even as its soap opera-esque dramatics occasionally make it feel more like a television miniseries strung together for theatrical consumption than a bona fide movie, there’s something undeniably bold about the sheer amount of plot that writer/director Vanga squeezes in here.

Even if the material isn’t exactly the most cinematic at the script level, Vanga’s stylistic influences are clearly the kind of films that occupy the biggest screens: The Godfather, Scarface, Kill Bill, John Wick… not to mention all the Bollywood references I certainly missed as a very recent convert to Indian cinema. The term masala film is typically used to describe Indian movies that blend multiple genres into the same work; Animal doesn’t necessarily qualify in the traditional sense, but it combines so many stylistic reference points, watching it can sometimes feel like you’re being pulverized by an immersion blender to the head.

The movie’s strong sense of swag becomes increasingly apparent as it ramps up to its high-body count action sequences, but even before this point, Vanga indulges in his excessive, decadent sense of aesthetics as he introduces and develops the title character. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen exposition this grandiose – and I mean that as a compliment. It helps that Vanga’s leading man, “Superstar Ranbir Kapoor” (as the opening titles credit him), is incredibly game to play in his director’s depraved, pulpy sandbox. His character’s name is technically Ranvijay Singh, but if there ever was an antihero who earned the moniker “Animal,” he is it.

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