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Upperstall Review

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Hindi, 2007, Color

Yet another Yashraj Films offering. So you have a 'well-packaged product' with top stars, an extremely competent technical crew behind the camera, solid production values and like many of Yashraj's more recent offerings (Fanaa, Dhoom 2), there is a total lack of a good, strong story and screenplay. Normally picking a story with a sports background wins you half the batttle in creating a rousing triumph of the human spirit story but TaRaRumPum for all its intentions and packaging is old fashioned, riddled with cliches, desperately emotionally manipulative, self consciously oh-so-cute and totally flat.

The film looking at the rise, fall and subsequent re-rise of a race car driver in NYC, with homages to Cinderella Man (2005) and Life is Beautiful (1997), falls prey to obvious flashy technique that cannot cover up lack of good storytelling. Unfortunately this is thought to be great cinematic craft in today's times. The script has too many problems with the focus of the film just too muddled. It tries to be a typical Bollywood love story, then a children's film, then a sports film all in one.The track with the developing romance of Saif and Rani is without doubt the weakest strand of the film. It is devoid of a single memorable moment and seems totally unnneccesary. The film could have easily begun with establishing Saif, Rani and their family and then moved on thereby being more focussed. Instead this boy meets girl - not hitting it off initially, of course the heroine's stuffed shirt father not approving the hero as marriage material and later on when they are in crisis offering her money with her tearing up the cheque and declaring her husband is the best and can look after the family have now begun to pall. Then in classic bad scripting, too much information comes through dialogue rather than through relevant scenes and the characterizations. For instance, you realize that Rani is supposed to be intelligent only after Victor Banerjee reminds her of the electives she is doing at college and how he feels Saif will not be her match intellectually. Not a single dialogue or action of hers till then (and there are quite a few by then including 2 songs) suggests anything like this even remotely as she comes across just another typical Hindi film bimbette-heroine.

The actors do what they can with the material but nothing more. Saif and Rani are extremely capable performers and they go through their roles efficiently enough. Saif has perfected the art of being the the loveable goof and has his endearing comic moments while being competent enough in the heavy emotional scenes while Rani is in her elements in the more serious scenes towards the latter part of the film. Her early scenes however both in terms of styling and performances are total no-nos. Regarding her look in this part of the film, honestly to God what were they thinking? That she looks trendy and sexy??? In fact she has never looked worse or more tarty and even her performance in the early part of the film like in the bar when she gets drunk leading to the first song is just plain irritating to say the least. Jaaved Jaffrey holds his own and given a chance to work with a more fleshed out character than his caricature in Siddharth Anand's last offering Salaam Namaste (2005), makes full use of the opportunity and easily gives the standout performance in the film be it in in the comic moments or when he visits Saif or Rani at their home in Queens. Here is an actor who needs to be seen more on the screen. The kids are the usual precocious we-are-so-cute kids one finds in Hindi films which still doesn't know how to create credible child characters. (Exceptions of course are the children in Shekar Kapur's Masoom (1982) and Mr. India (1987)). Victor Banerjee is indifferent and sleepwalks his way through as Rani's father.

On the technical side, cinematography is so-so. Disappointing in fact considering the man behind the camera is Binod Pradhan (Parinda, Rang de Basanti). Maybe the overdose of DI (Digital Intermediate) work that has gone into special effects (tacky) and colour correcting, thus endowing the film with a synthetic unnatural look, has hampered the natural work of the cinematographer. In fact, that could well be the case as well here as Pradhan has always proved to be an excellent cameraman with a variety of directors he has worked with. DI is without doubt the worst misused toy today with very few films knowing how to use it to advantage, Farhan Akhtar's Don for instance. The action scenes of the car races are adequate enough but fail to grip you or involve you. A film has to work emotionally for these scenes to rouse you like they did in Lagaan (2001) or Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander (1992) where one found oneself totally rooting for the underdog in the cricket match or the final cycling race respectively. The film is accompanied by yet another obvious and in-your-face background score by Salim-Sulaiman. (Obviously subtlety is a word that doesn't exist in their dictionary). But again, trying to give them the benefit of doubt, maybe it was thought necessary to have a background score like this to over compensate and 'create' emotion since the scenes were not working by themselves. The music by Vishal & Shekhar is nothing to write home about and perhaps the weakest musical score heard in a Yashraj Film for quite some time.While admittedly for a change in TaRaRumPum the narrative element has been used within a couple of songs to actually move the story forward, there is also the opening song when Rani is drunk or the animated cum live title song with the bears that pops out of nowhere, is totally out of place in the graph of the film when it comes and in spite of the effort to make it a rocking 'item number' for the kiddies, it frankly does nothing for the film. In fact song picturizations are average at best in the film.

All in all, the film seems to be yet another in the line of mediocre films that are cleverly hyped up and marketed suavely and which are being churned out factory-like now by the Yashraj Films banner. And the trailer of their forthcoming Jhoom Barabar Jhoom seems to indicate that this trend is likely to continue.

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