White Guy Watches Bollywood

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

Kriti Sanon

Hindi Movie Review: Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya satirizes the raging A.I. debate with irresistible rom-com hijinks

Shahid Kapoor and Kriti Sanon star in "Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya," here reviewed by White Guy Watches Bollywood.

The “robot woman” subgenre has certainly had a notable impact on culture worldwide, spanning landmark titles from The Stepford Wives to Ex Machina, but there are actually fewer of these movies than you’d think. The list gets even shorter if you winnow it to just those films that are not strictly about the perils of robot technology, i.e., those that attempt something more than just dystopian science-fiction. I point this out simply to say that the time is ripe for a movie like Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya, which definitely has its fair share of cautionary points to make in the end, but spends much of its runtime thriving as a frothy, off-kilter romantic comedy between a man and a female-appearing robot. Especially with all the media discourse of artificial intelligence’s role in present-day civilization, this subgenre feels like the right well to go back to in our current moment. Leave it to Bollywood to get there first.

But the movie doesn’t just feel like it’s seizing upon the zeitgeist; topicality aside, it chiefly succeeds as pure entertainment. Sometimes it’s aggressively silly, yes, but this is the type of good-natured, mass-appeal amusement that moviegoers used to love before they got overly self-conscious. The setup is simple, but satisfying: protagonist Aryan (Shahid Kapoor) is a brilliant robotics programmer whose personal life lacks the excitement of his coding innovations, marked by a refusal to marry any woman his family presents to him. Fortunes change, however, when Aryan’s U.S.-based boss and aunt, Urmila (Dimple Kapadia), introduces him to her lovely assistant Sifra (Kriti Sanon) on a business trip. He’s immediately struck by her – she’s perfect for him in every way – but the only problem is, Sifra actually stands for “Super Intelligent Female Robot Automation” (brilliant movie scientists just have a way of picking the lamest acronyms ever for their inventions!). Aunt Urmila had to test her technological masterpiece on Aryan without revealing the secret behind “her.”

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Hindi Movie Review: Ganapath is an epic sci-fi failure that defies human logic

Tiger Shroff stars in "Ganapath," here reviewed by White Guy Watches Bollywood.

In a year that has seen the use of A.I. in film productions – at least those in Hollywood – consistently remain a hot topic in industry trade publications and union strike negotiations, it comes as something of a shock that actual living humans were responsible for writing and assembling Ganapath, even if it was made half a world away. The film represents perhaps the most haphazard cobbling-together of every science-fiction movie cliché to ever exist that one could have possibly imagined. Dystopian setting? Check. Epic strife between rich and poor? Check. “Chosen one” protagonist who is initially oblivious to his prophesized role? Check. Antagonist who speaks through a creepy voice-box for no apparent reason? Check. I could go on, but you could probably come up with the list yourself without even having seen the movie.

Putting aside writer/director Vikas Bahl’s insatiable appetite to rehash the familiar – so shameless it really feels like something a computer spit out – the actual execution of the script is so inept, it verges on unbelievable. This includes CGI effects so rudimentary, it appears as though the filmmakers looked at the VFX vendors’ previz renderings and told them, “This looks good enough and we’re short on cash, so we’ll consider it final.” But terrible visual effects are hardly the movie’s worst offense; from cinematography to editing to sound design, the production seems to lack any sense of proper “film language.” Which is to say, Ganapath doesn’t even feel like a real movie so much as a lot of shots that happen to be strung together – and this isn’t a case of filmmakers intentionally breaking the rules, it’s just pure incompetence.

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