Planet Bollywood
Producer: Nitin Manmohan and Sohail Maklai
Director: Mani Shankar
Starring: Sanjay Dutt, Suniel Shetty, Bipasha Basu, Isha Koppikar, Kabir Bedi, Raj Zutshi and Negar Khan (Sp app.)
Music: Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Vishal-Shekhar, Shashi Pritam
Lyrics: Sameer, Mast Ali and Arun Bhairav
Genre: Action
Recommended Audience: General
Film Released on: 13 February 2004
Reviewed by: Narbir Gosal  - Rating: 5.0 / 10
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Public Rating Average: 5.1 / 10 (rated by 411 viewers)
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When Mani Shankar┬┤s debut 16th December released nobody really expected anything from it. It took the industry by surprise when the film actually did well, and the good fortune gave Mani more confidence to explore new avenues in Bollywood. With his follow up venture Rudraksh, Mani goes down a road which has never been traveled. The science fiction genre is gaining prominence in Bollywood after Koi Mil Gaya. Rudraksh falls in the same genre, but is completely new to the Bollywood audience. The film mixes the paranormal, science and mythology, however the results aren┬┤t up to the mark. What could have been a very interesting film suffers due to a underdeveloped script and especially the tacky and sometimes cartoonish special effects. Still Mani should be applauded for trying something new and original, even if it was too ambitious of a project.

The film revolves around Varun (Sanjay Dutt), a man who possesses the special ability to heal the pain and suffering of those he touches. His special ability gets the attention of a paranormal researcher Gayatri (Bipasha Basu). Gayatri and her team of researchers are blown away by Varun┬┤s mental capacity and magic powers. They travel from America to India to perform some experiments, and Varun willingly agrees. In the process him and Gayatri fall in love. Varun┬┤s powers are a mixed blessing. A dark force begins to stir somewhere in India and it wants Varun. The force is linked to Ravan┬┤s Rudraksh, and it compels Varun to search for it. Thus Varun embarks on an adventure which takes him from the northern tip of his country (The Himalaya┬┤s) to the southern most tip (Sri Lanka). As Varun searches for this mysterious seed, a lowly laborer Bhura (Suniel Shetty) and his sexy sidekick Lali (Isha Koppikar) are the ones who find it first. The problem is that the seed makes Bhura power hungry and bent on destruction. He cannot unlock the secrets of the seed and he needs Varun to help him. In the process he proposes that Varun and Bhura join hands to rule the world. Here begins the battle of good and evil.

First things first, credit must be given where it is due. Mani Shankar deserves a pat on the back for trying something new. This is definitely an experiment, and a brave one at that. Rudraksh is Mani´s baby all the way. He´s handled the direction, editing, SFX, dialogue, story and more to ensure that he gets his point across. In the process he neglected some departments and paid too much attention to others. Mani´s script needed a lot more work, it´s as if he wrote a rough draft and left it at that. The film would have come across much better had the director decided to read his script through a few more times and tweak it. There are loopholes galore and a lot of instances are left unexplained. The main thing is the true powers of the Rudraksh, we never know what it is capable of. Considering that the seed is a central aspect of the film, it would have been nice to include how destructive it really could be. Mani should have also paid more attention to his direction, which is inconsistent. Some sequences are well done, but some are laughable. 

Chief among them is Varun ┬┤massaging┬┤ Gayatri┬┤s pain away which causes her to break into a song sequence. Several of the fight scenes are well choreographed but go on for way too long (thanks to all the slow motion) and Mani would have been smart to use his editing skills more effectively. The film can do without a few scenes. The dialogues are decent, although some of the sanskrit is indecipherable, at least the dialogues keep with the theme of the film. While a lot of the scientific jargon may fly over peoples head, it seems authentic enough. Cinematography is also a plus, as is the background score. The films music, provided by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy is a definite highlight. The songs Ishq Khudaai, Ishq Hai Nasha, Rak Rak and Kya Dard Hai are all pleasant and well picturized, even if they do break the flow of the film. The film would have actually benefited from no songs, but their inclusion isn┬┤t too much of a problem. Shankar┬┤s SFX are a big let down...make that a giant letdown. Bollywood needs to learn that if they are going to attempt SFX in their movies they should go for the best to make sure that the effects fit the film. Shankar┬┤s effects are so tacky they make you cringe. It looks like reality superimposed in a cartoon.

 The effects are so bad they bring the movie down several notches. While some of the visuals are passable (note; none of the actors wore contacts, Shankar added all the changes afterwards through effects, which is nice) there are these fight scenes on this giant cartoon platform which looks so fake you´ll be laughing, and that is just one of the many glaring examples. The point of using effects is to make them look realistic so that the audience cannot differentiate between effects and reality in the film, however the difference is loud and clear here. Also, if the film takes place in ruins, why not scout for an authetic location, Mani´s ruins are guady and obviously a constructed set! Much was made of the 75 minutes of special effects in the film, but when you can see The Matrix or The Lord of The Rings, these effects looks like an amateur attempt. In the end those 75 minutes are a big waste of money.

Performances are passable, ranging from average to good. On the good side are Suniel Shetty and to a lesser extent Isha Koppikar. Suniel is just as comfortable in the villainous image as he is in a heroes image. In Rudraksh he gets the menacing act down pact, to the point where I was rooting for him in several sequences. In addition to a good show, his getup is great, whether it be the dirty long haired worker, or the destructive yet stylish Bhura who is discovering the powers of the seed. Isha Koppikar has steadily been making room for herself in Bollywood with several small character roles and item numbers. In Rudraksh we see her in a negative light, much like Laila in last years Qayamat. Lali may not have much screen time in Rudraksh, but Isha makes good use of her limited role, giving the proper expressions and playing off of Suniel´s character. She looks drop dead gorgeous to boot. Sanjay Dutt looks either bored or uncomfortable for the most part. Although he handles the role with ease he doesn´t look like he´s having much fun while doing it, his lack of enthusiasm shows in several portions. He wears the same wooden expression for the most part and his perfectly styled hair would give the heroines a complex. He isn´t bad, but he doesn´t shine either. I´d rather see him in something more endearing like Munnabhai MBBS anyhow. 

Bipasha Basu isn┬┤t all too effective either but she seems confident for the most part. It┬┤s not her performance that works against her, it┬┤s the get up and the situations her character gets into. I seriously doubt that a serious scientist would be dancing to Ishq Khudaai in the clubs (or trying to dance, Bipasha needs to either stop dancing or take some lessons, cause watching her in the aforementioned song reminds me of Sunny Deol). And her getup is a cross between a college girl, Lara Croft (Tomb Raider), and in some rare sequences a mature scientist. It┬┤s evident she is trying hard, but her character is too inconsistent and Bipasha cannot rise above that. The supporting cast is fine, a special mention should go to the stunning Negar Khan who burns up the screen in the highly sexualized Ishq Khudaai.

Rudraksh was supposed to be a good entertainer, but the end product is a waste of time. With an all star cast, a novel concept, and great music you┬┤d think that the film would have managed to make a mark, but in the end you feel cheated. Mani Shankar has goofed up here by paying too much attention to how the film looks. The direction and story/screenplay took a back seat which is a big no-no, because they are what propels the film forward. In short the movie has no soul. To add to his woes, the special effects in the film are a let down. A lot of money was wasted on those garish effects, don┬┤t bother wasting money to see this movie in the theatres. Watch on DVD if you must.

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