Movie : Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic
Director: Kunal Kohli
Producer: Aditya Chopra, Kunal Kohli
Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Rani Mukerji, Amisha Patel, Rishi Kapoor, Akshat Chopra, Shriya Sharma, Rachit Sidana, Ayushi Berman
A story built around a super-busy man, saddled with kids out of compulsion, who undergoes a character transformation towards the end and falls for the guardian angel in the guise of a nanny is an old one. A questionable one. A beaten-to-death one. Think Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, Nanny McPhee and the dozen odd spin-offs these films inspired. Yet when Yash Raj Films decided to spend big bucks on a story that would appeal to a general audience, they picked this one.
In Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic, in an unfortunate accident, tycoon Ranbeer Talwar (Saif Ali Khan) rams into a car, killing a couple. The media extensively covers the case (regular clichÃ©d shots of breathless news anchors screeching into their microphones). And the judge decides to let Ranbeer off the hook. But he does slip in a suckerpunchâ€”he rules that Ranbeer must look after the coupleâ€™s four orphaned kids and, if he doesnâ€™t do the job well, he would go to prison.
As is the norm with children in our films, we are told how the four are passed from relative to relative, whom they harass out of their wits (Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke, anyone?). Finally, they come to Ranbeerâ€™s home and meet his striking girlfriend Malaika (Amisha Patel), who has taken the effort of decorating their rooms.
For some unknown reason, despite her attempts at befriending them, the kids take an instant dislike to her. We get to know her a little better: sheâ€™s fashionable, has a penchant for revealing clothes (the Bollywood definition of a vamp who we know will eventually get dumped) and talks non-stop on the phone.
Meanwhile, we see Ranbeer as a really uptight businessman with a vocabulary limited to words like deals, companies, shares and nuksaan. But all said and done, the hotshot businessman and his bubble-headed hottie are happy.
The children, however, are not happy and want to revenge their parentsâ€™ death. Up in the sky, we see God (Rishi Kapoor in an unflattering white suit, two sizes too small) painting clouds and holding a meeting with his lady angels. He entrusts his favourite and most â€œbatameez pariâ€ Geeta (Rani Mukerji) to go to earth and help the kids out. The rest you already know by heart.
She wins over the kidsâ€™ hearts, and perplexingly, takes an instant dislike to Malaika, calling her chamakchalo. Naturally, Ranbeer falls for the nanny and the nanny falls for him, too. But, heck, sheâ€™s a pari and so she must decide whether she wants her magical powers or love (think City of Angels, My Stepmother is an Alien).
So, is TPTM a sad rehash of a hundred films you already know? Yes, resoundingly. But what redeems the film is its sparkling performances. Rani is pure sunshine as she brings an air of mischief and liveliness to every scene. Sheâ€™s so likeable; itâ€™s difficult to imagine the film without her.
The four children (Akshat Chopra, Shriya Sharma, Rachit Sidana and Ayushi Berman) give heart-warming, honest performances. They are portrayed as little adults with problems, confusion and feelings of their ownâ€”not the monotone, over-cute cherubs of other films.
It is the interaction between the characters that infuse life into this otherwise insipid film. The four children are adorable as they plot against Ranbeer; Ranbeer is sweet as he tries to endear himself to the kids; and kids will love Geetaâ€™s magical solutions.
Saif is effective, but itâ€™s not his best performance. The first half has him scowling, with a character delineation that is too rigid to allow him any acting leeway, though the second half gives him more scope. Amisha is fabulousâ€”we saw her comic prowess in Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd and sheâ€™s supremely funny here as well.
While the actors have done a superlative job, one cannot help fault the lazy characterisation. Raniâ€™s Geeta is playful, which is acceptable, but whatâ€™s she doing sneaking up on a towel-wrapped Ranbeer after a bath? Itâ€™s also utterly disappointing that our filmmakers still choose to portray heroines in two opposite spectrumsâ€”either the high maintenance girl who is wardrobe challenged, whoâ€™ll get dumped in the end or the virtuous wife-material who adores kids and covers herself up from head to toe and snags the man.
Itâ€™s plain claustrophobic is to see Rani buried under layers of clothes (Manish Malhotra, Mamta Anad, Mandira Shuklaâ€”wonder whoâ€™s the culprit?).
The filmâ€™s central technical aspect worth discussing is its computer graphics. While they are imaginative, the quality is not world class. But still, the shots of Geeta cycling down a rainbow and floating on water are likely to elicit excited shrieks from kids. Songs like Bulbula and Beete Kal Se are superbly picturisedâ€”the former has Geeta transform the moon into a boat, the latter has the fairy and the kids in the museum with a dancing, toothy dinosaur.
Of course, the makers also get carried away. You see the group being transported back in time to Mahatamaâ€™s Dandi March (gulp) and then she transports them to a war zone where the littlest cherub plants a flower in the gun of a soldier.
TPTM also has several cartoon interludes, like in Taare Zameen Par, and one of the most delightful one is where Geeta explains the law of karma by asking the kids to imagine participating in a game show where points are awarded for every good deed. To this one kiddo asks: â€˜Is there any website where we can check out points?â€™. Nice.
Sandeep Chowtaâ€™s background music is peppy, but at times Hollywood-inspired. Music (Shankar Ehsaan Loy) is imminently hummable with some wonderful lyrics (though lyricist Prasoon Joshi suffers a TZP hangover). Sound designing by Dileep Subramanium is excellent.
Dialogue is effective (Kunal Kohli, Rohena Gera), save some dead lines like Geeta telling God â€˜Aap to bade hoshiyar hoâ€™. Her lingo, too, flits between Hindi and Punjabi without any logic. Some classic lines in English like the break-up line â€˜Itâ€™s not you, itâ€™s meâ€™, has been translated into Hindi without much thought to language adaptation.
Kunal Kohli succeeds when it comes to putting his immensely talented cast to play and extracting some superb performances. But the story has no freshness to it and the emotional scenes, save a few, lack soul. Other than the charismatic actors and their clever renditions, thereâ€™s not much in the film one can really recommend.