Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Bluffmaster, or, The Game's All Here

I couldn't quite bring myself to buy Bluffmaster sight unseen, despite Beth's wholehearted recommendation. Our offspring are many and our funds, not so much, but! I have loving relatives willing to shell out the bucks on their daughter's/sister's inexplicable fascination with films made halfway around the world. And so I got the movie for my birthday (along with another Abhishek film, Bunty aur Babli, of which more later). Bluffmaster (an Indian English expression for "con man") is a 2005 film starring Abhishek Bachchan, Priyanka Chopra, Boman Irani, Ritesh Deshmukh, and Nana Patekar. And, true to Beth's prediction, I did, indeed, love it.

Roy (Abhiiiiiii!) (Whoops, sorry, my inner fangirl just took over for a second and squealed for an autograph) is the Renaissance master of the con game. Everything about his life is a series of lies, with one large exception: his love for Simmi (Priyanka), an honest girl who has no idea about his true profession. When she discovers the truth, their relationship dissolves under the weight of the revelation, leaving Roy disconsolate but unwilling to effect real change in his life.

A terrible excuse for a fellow bluffmaster (Ritesh) keeps following Roy around, trying to pull jobs in his vicinity, but Roy isn't really interested until the other man effects a con on a doctor (Boman-ji) and Roy takes pity on the bilked sucker. Deciding to help the doctor recover his funds might be the biggest mistake of Roy's life... or it might turn his life around. Either way, it's at this point that Roy's life begins to unravel out of his control. Seemingly unrelated events pile one on top of the other until Roy is left reeling like a windmill on acid. His existence steadily becomes more and more surreal--reaching the pinnacle of confusion just before a passerby asks him, "Does this movie star Salman? Shah Rukh?"

Bluffmaster pulls from Matchstick Men, Criminal, Nine Queens, and Ocean's Eleven (going so far as to lift a two-line dialogue exchange directly from that last) for its inspiration, but it is definitely its own film. It simultaneously pokes affectionate fun at the WTF randomness of true masala and makes clever use of its conventions, with clear intentionality. (Hey, is that Shashi--it is! I see Shashitabh from Shaan!) Its cinematography is unusually realistic compared to the other Bollywood films I've seen--no blazing blue skies, foreign landmarks, or saturated reds and golds, just cloudy smog above Mumbai and the crumbling remnants of Colonial architecture, filthy with age and pollution, contrasting sharply with the million-dollar condos just down the block.

That cinematic version of realism follows through with the musical numbers--the only big song-and-dance sequences are the opening and closing credits (and hey, my husband's speculations were right, that is Abhi's real voice in "Right Here Right Now!"). The rest occur as a backdrop to the action. In any case, they didn't really make much of an impression on me--heavy on the Hinglish and too American, if I wanted to hear that I'd turn on a Top 40 station, but inoffensive.

The guys' performances are awesome--can I just say that Ritesh deserves to be a way bigger star than he is? The dude exudes charisma from every pore. I know people say Priyanka can't act but as far as I could tell she did fine here. And the story! There's one more movie that Bluffmaster owes, but I can't even mention the title without spoiling the ending, so just go get the movie if you haven't already. It's worth every penny.


  1. "Abhiiiiiiiii!" I second that one.

    Bluffmaster is totally worth buying sight unseen. I'm so glad I did. I also have le funding issues, but it was one of those movies I couldn't get by renting (Bad Netflix!) so I splurged a tiny bit.

    I have a question for you, Ajnabi, but it concerns the spoilers so I don't want to say it in public. Would you be willing to email me? deewani-for-bollywood at hotmail dot com.

  2. I really liked Bluffmaster. I've only seen it once though and have the dvd somewhere, I think, lol. You are defintely right about Ritiesh. Definitely underrated. I'm working on the Isha movie that I would recommend and Ritiesh is in it. Abhi's adorable like always. Priyanka is a hit and miss for me. She can be good in her movies or just plain annoying. I think she started off doing very well and just got sloppy.

  3. this was such a good film! i loved the background score, priyanka's entry music was soo hollywoodish! and riteish awww he was soo sweet, and i too squealed when i saw that i didn't need to contribute to the abhishek blobby fund!! lol

  4. SpyGirl--I got so sick of Bluffmaster being on my "saved" queue--that's why it ended up on my birthday wishlist instead. LOL I emailed you.

    Nicki--Ritiesh needs a DDLJ. If he's in a movie opposite Isha I'll definitely be checking it out.

    Rum--you're right, Abhi was lookin' slim in this film! I didn't notice till you pointed it out. :-D As far as the background score goes, I could've used a little less "Bittersweet Symphony" but I liked the Ocean's 11-esque jazz score.

  5. I liked this film a lot, too, but judging from your review I've forgotten a lot more than I remember! Perhaps a re-watch is due. :-)

    Thought Abhishek looked a lot better in his earlier movies - grown up small B just seems to go from "stubbly goodness into plain ol’ unkempt" as Amrita puts it in her post on Jr B.

  6. I liked this too, but Bunty Aur Babli was better :-)

    And congrats on having family/friends who might not understand but tolerate your love for films from halfway across the world!

  7. Hey. I'll probably post up that Ritiesh/Isha movie tonight. I rewatched it again last night. It's hilarious, to me. It is not everyone's type of comedy. 1) It's not your typical Indian comedy. It's more modern with some sexual implied comedy. More of the lines along American Pie but not that bad!! It's more implied. 2) Isha is NOT opposite Ritiesh but Ritiesh is such a natural at comedy. My fave movie of his is actually Apna Sapna Money Money. I want to review that one too cause I really liked it. I have too many movies I want to share on Blogspot. 3)

  8. Bollyviewer--do give it another shot; I have a feeling it improves on repeat viewing. And I thought Abhi was looking pretty hot in most of his films from last year--but I'm the last to claim impartiality. ;-)

    Memsaab--BaB *is* better. And I am very blessed in both friends and family. :-D

    Nicki--I can't wait to read your review. I can take sexual innuendo as long as it really *is* innuendo and not plain raunch. LOL

  9. Completely entirely awesome! This was a completely fun ride through and through- and yup u are right- Priyanka DID do fine here- I wonder how/why....

  10. I liked that movie but right now i am impatiently waiting for the movie Drona.

  11. Shweta: I'm convinced that Priyanka needs to feel comfortable with her leading man in order to be convincing; I think Abhishek puts most of his leading ladies at ease which is why most of his jodis are great! All in my opinion.

    Saheli: I still want to see Drona despite the drubbing it's taken in the press and with audiences; I tend to like Bollywood flops, unfortunately, so the fact that I was interested in Drona should've warned me it'd do poorly. LOL

  12. ill watch it tomorrow. i love these actors, and the mention that it has something inspired from Nine Queens definitely convinced me (i hope you are talking about the original Argentinian movie and not the horrible Hollywood remake!!! which was a total dissappointment)
    i have sort of a crush on riteish too :P

  13. Hi Laura--thanks for stopping by and commenting. I'm sure the Nine Queens is the Argentinian version since I too hated the Hollywood version. And heck yeah Riteish is awesome--I hope to see him in more stuff soon.


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