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Apr 122012

Our first thought after watching the Hindi film 9 Eleven was that it’s a pity everyone and his brother is making movies these days.

Bozos with a few coins jingling in their pockets get an irresistible, uncontrollable itch that won’t abate until they see their name in the Produced by [Insert Bozo’s Name Here] credits.

Surely, it’s high time for some kind of film rating system to warn viewers they’re about to watch an amateurish exercise.

It’s unlikely we’d have watched or even heard of 9 Eleven but for Sonny Chatrath.

Sonny’s New Jersey travel service business has been advertising on for about a decade and we’ve gotten to know the bloke well over the years.

And those who know Sonny know he’s an ebullient fella who likes to excitedly share what he’s up to.

For the last couple of years, Sonny has been badly bitten by the modeling and acting bugs. And on several occasions, he’s provided us an update on his movie forays.

So we were well aware since last year that filming of 9 Eleven was happening in the DC suburb of College Park (MD) and of Sonny’s role in the film.

9 Eleven – A Remake

Those familiar with Bollywood are aware that Indian film-makers’ enthusiasm for the movie business far outstrips their competence in the craft.

After watching several hundred Hindi films spanning several decades, we’re painfully conscious that the Indian movie business is a wreck resulting from big ambition colliding with small talent.

Given the paucity of talent, most Bollywood films are unendurable horror-shows, the scripts are often stolen outright from Hollywood films (Partner, Heyy Baby, Ek Ajanabee ….the list of stolen Indian movies is endless) and trash is the name of the game.

Unlike Chinese, Spanish, French, Japanese or  Korean films that have grown an audience beyond their borders, no one, virtually no one except Indians and the diaspora watches Indian films.

9 Eleven too is not an original exercise.

For the most part, the 9 Eleven script is based on the straight-to-DVD English film Nine Dead (available on Netflix Instant play).

A legal remake, proclaim the makers of 9 Eleven at the fag end of the credits.

Manan Singh Katohora directed the film that was produced by Narain Mathur.

You can see the full list of 9 Eleven’s cast and crew here.

Amateurish Exercise

Now unless you’re a Roman Polanski (don’t miss his brilliant Carnage), a Sidney Lumet (12 Angry Men) or an Alfred Hitchcock (Dial M for Murder) working with a strong cast and gripping script, you ought to stay away from making films where everything happens within the narrow, restricted confines of a single room.

We suspect nouveau Indian movie-makers who opt for scripts in a restrictive setting are hamstrung by finances and think it’s an easy, cheap way out to fulfill their dreams.

When you’re painting on a large canvas or filming in a larger setting, a lot of inadequacies can be camouflaged, at least to some extent.

People’s attentions are drawn to or can be diverted to so many elements unlike in a small setting where the script and acting are paramount, the be all and end all.

Little do these tyros realize they’ve doomed their enterprise from the get-go because the immense talent required to succeed in a small confine is just not within their grasp.

With revenge as the leitmotif, the basic premise of 9 Eleven has intriguing possibilities.

But the execution demands a strong script and powerful acting midwifed by a competent director who can ably lead the team.

All these rare but necessary qualities are lacking in 9 Eleven.

The acting is, for the most part, pedestrian.

One might be forgiven for wondering if the actors were randomly picked from a parking lot on the Indian strip on Oak Tree Road (NJ) or Silver Spring (MD) with the promise of a few free buffet lunches in Moghul or Woodlands.

Sure, some were less hopeless than the others.

But overall this bunch acted as if they’d drunk one Lassi too many.

We heard the actors went through rehearsals before the shooting commenced.

Clearly, the rehearsal time was not long enough.

On Tuesday, Sonny candidly told us the “acting is very weak across the board.”

If the acting never scaled great heights, the writing (by Manan Singh Katohora) was downright mediocre.

Again, no surprise when you’re doing a sentence-by-sentence translation from a below-par English film.

Except for some changes at the end, 9 Eleven is a verbatim remake of Nine Dead, just with a different cast and crew.

In both movies, a bunch of people are kidnapped separately, confined together in a small room and asked by their captor to find out why they were brought there.

They must find the answer quickly because the kidnapper promises to kill one of them every nine minutes should they fail to deduce  the reason.

And he soon proves his threat is no idle bluff.

The victims are a mixed bunch and include a pedophile, a gangster, a priest, a doctor, a prosecutor, a cop, an item dancer, a Chinese woman, a bartender, a student and a thief.

By the way, if you’re indianizing the English film, shouldn’t you at least change the ethnicity of the Chinese woman to, say, a Tamil or Oriyan.

Given the deadly predicament of the kidnapped victims, one would have expected the tension quotient in the room to be a lot higher. The tension quotient was a little higher in the English version.

With the script so effete and the acting so pedestrian, the interaction between this motley bunch was just not gripping enough to sustain our attention.

When we heard that director Manan Singh Katohora got an award at the Canada International Film Festival for this junk, we lost all respect for the jury.

Other Issues

Then, there’s the problem of the sound.

Something’s gone seriously wrong here because the pitch of the actors’ voices does not seem loud enough, particularly in the early part of the movie.

As if all of the above were not bad enough to sink this movie, viewers are also subjected to the torment of a pathetic item number featuring an aging, repulsive Bollywood hag (Kashmira Shah).

Atrocious and good-riddance was all we could say at the end of the item number.

Admittedly, the surprise element or the gradual arrival of the reason was lost for us because we’d watched Nine Dead on Netflix Instant before seeing 9 Eleven. But then we were not much impressed with the English version too.

Bottom line, the dubious quality of the parent (Nine Dead) is reflected in the off-spring 9 Eleven, albeit in a magnified state.

Avoid 9 Eleven

Your favorite blog does not recommend 9 Eleven.

When there are so many fine films (Korean, Chinese, English, Japanese etc) out there on Netflix and Amazon Prime, it’d be a sin to squander time on fluff like 9 Eleven.

But should you be in a masochistic mood, you can stream 9 Eleven from Databazaar Media to your TV (via Roku) or PC.

As for Sonny Chatrath, our unrequited advice to him – Don’t leave your day-job at the travel agency. ;)

Related Content:
9 Eleven – Cast and Crew