Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Sachiin J Joshi

Filmed in countries such as Poland, Germany and Morocco, conspiracy thriller Azaan (2011) is a Bollywood blockbuster that wears its budget on its sleeve. What's interesting is that it doesn't star someone like Hrithik Roshan or Abhishek Bachchan. The backers of this globe-trotting action movie gambled on an unremarkable newcomer. Or did they?

Plenty of actors are plucked from obscurity to play action heroes, but it seems the only reason Sachiin J Joshi got to play badass counter terrorist soldier Azaan Khan is because his company made the film.  A vanity project, pure and simple.

How do we know this? Well, the banner above the title on the poster and at the start of the film states that the film was produced by JMJ Entertainment PVT LTD. After watching the film I made a quick visit to a search engine and found that this production company is a division of JMJ Group of which Sachiin is Vice-Chairman. His father Jagdish M. Joshi is Chairman and Sachin has sought to add further diversity to the family business's portfolio of interests.

In an outdated biography on the JMJ Group website it says that “Mr. Sachiin J. Joshi took up Feature Film production as a hobby. However, he has not pursued this line due to time constraints.” When he found the time he teamed with director Prashant Chadha to indulge his action hero fantasies (at least that is my perception).

Playing Azaan Khan, Joshi swings through glass windows like John McClane, drives fast cars like James Bond, fights and gets chased like Jason Bourne and mows down armies of opponents with machine guns like Rambo. At one point his character implausibly survives a car crash. He’s apparently unstoppable.

What he doesn’t get to do is deliver a lot of dialogue between the action scenes. The screenplay is crammed with exposition and most of the time it’s being directed at him. 

In a debut action flick (or even direct-to-DVD vehicles for Steven Seagal) it isn’t uncommon for the star to at times feel like a supporting player, but if the role is a strong one it doesn’t always matter. But it’s all very well being a man of action and few words but Joshi lacks any presence. He’s capable in the action scenes but lost in the dramatic ones, of which there are quite a few as Azaan is haunted by his past.

In addition to a lack of dialogue, Joshi wasn’t called upon to do any dancing either. Musical sequences are expected in Bollywood films but all we get in this film is South African model Candice Boucher (a genuine newcomer to acting) being encouraged to cavort before the camera in various locations as though on a photoshoot. Some may enjoy this but it’s out of place in the structure of the film. Boucher appears in ¼ of the film but is ostensibly the love interest.

I wasn’t convinced by Joshi’s attempts to launch himself as the next big Indian star but others seem to have been impressed. Following the release of the film, he picked up a Max Stardust Award for Most Promising Debut. I can’t help but wonder if that selection was influenced by the Joshi family’s status. Sachiin is well known in the business community and apparently close friends with Shah Rukh Khan; a brand ambassador for his XXX energy drink.

It’s also interesting to note that Azaan is not actually his acting debut. While the opening credits have “introducing” above Joshi’s name, this was not the first vehicle for his talents. His attempt to take Bollywood by storm followed several years after he apparently failed to impress Tollywood audiences with films such as Mounamelanoyi (Shyam Prasad, 2002), Ninu Choodaka Nenundalenu (R Srinivas, 2002) and Orey Pandu (SV Krishna Reddy, 2005).

Azaan is not a terrible film, but it’s such a vain folly that it reminded me of the imagined Taste the Golden Spray from The Big Hit (Che-Kirk Wong, 1998). That movie-within-the-movie (we never see any clips) was an inappropriate starring role for a wealthy businessman that had flopped badly. The film isn’t quite as ill-conceived and Joshi at least looks the part, but I’m sure it’s not the hit they’d have hoped for.

Like many Bollywood action films, Azaan (also known as Aazaan) is lacking in originality or innovation. Almost every action scene feels like it’s been cut and pasted from higher profile films. Perhaps the most obvious tip of the hat being the chase across Moroccan rooftops. That scene was shot in Tangiers just like a similar one in The Bourne Ultimatum (Paul Greengrass, 2007); itself arguably influenced by a scene from The Living Daylights (John Glen, 1987).

Despite a large budget, it’s also not as glossy as other faux-Hollywood productions that it’s competing with. It was released around the same time as Shah Rukh Khan’s Don 2 (Farhan Akhtar, 2011), with which this shares a supporting actor (Alyy Khan) and a German stunt team (Action Concept). In comparison to that film, with its extremely high production values and star names, this is practically low budget. It’s also a much more comprehensible film with a very charismatic hero.

Joshi is clearly a man of ambition. An entrepreneur keen to make a name for himself in the film world as well as the business world. Viewing his performance in Azaan, and taking a handful of other staring roles into consideration, his movie star aspirations appear unrealistic but he seems to be a persistent man. I would not be surprised if this was not the last we heard of Sachiin J Joshi.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Richard... I like your site. Reading back a few posts, you've honestly inspired me to rent Simon Sez, which I didn't think anything/anyone ever could.

    I was thinking maybe we could collaborate on an idea I had over at www.everystevenseagalmovie.com - email me (trevor [at] everystevenseagalmovie.com) if interested...

    I realize this is starting to look like a spam comment, but I swear it's not.