Movies en Tue Jan 08 11:15:30 IST 2019 super-30-review-annoying-film-that-does-no-justice-to-its-characters <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In a world of the impoverished and not-so-privileged, <a title="'Super 30': Anand Kumar reveals he has brain tumour" href="" target="_blank">Bihar mathematics whiz Anand Kumar</a>, son of a postmaster, created a whiff of optimism with Super 30. A batch of 30 students, unable to afford education in a cut-throat world, got support from Kumar to clear the joint entrance exam of the Indian Institute of Technology. The story, without a doubt, is inspirational and important, but it's treatment in the film isn’t so much. What should have stirred emotions is diluted with overbearing dramatisation and simplification of complex issues.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What’s welcoming about the film is that a big ‘superstar’ like Hrithik Roshan, mostly known for larger-than-life characters, is playing the oppressed without any inhibition. That is rare in Hindi mainstream cinema. But then, he has gone too far to give an authentic touch and has <a title="'Super 30': Hrithik's deglam look triggers age-old Bollywood racism debate" href="" target="_blank">dabbed himself with tan</a>, different shades in different parts of the movie. The approach may have come out of sincerity, but it, instead, is too distracting to give<i> Super 30 </i>a touch of finesse.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But bronzing the protagonist is not just meant to achieve a look that is closer to the real-life person he is portraying. It is to create a distinction between the classes, caste—not as much—as the film tries its best to avoid any direct mention of it. And that is where it falters the most. By avoiding talking about the caste, the film fails to emphasise the point that the real-life Kumar has made—that of breaking through the clutches of social demarcation and making a place on the back of talent.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kumar’s story in the film begins in 2017 in an auditorium in London that is overflowing with global citizens. A Super 30 alumnus, Fugga Kumar (Vijay Varma), as he prospers in his career and is felicitated for his work, relives his past. His story of success coincides with that of Kumar. In 2002, he decided to leave a miserable life and his village in Bihar and ran to Patna to join Anand’s Super 30 classes that began in the same year. Fugga’s narration of the story, however, does not begin in 2002.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Fugga goes back to the 90s when Kumar rose as a math whiz during college. He goes back to the time when he romanced a girl from an upper class. And, to the time when Kumar secured a seat in the Cambridge University, but his plea for financial help is turned down by the same education minister, Shree Ram Singh (Pankaj Tripathi) who had earlier, at a college award function, promised him help. He loses his father, is stuck in a financial mess and resorts to selling pappad on the streets to keep life going. He is pulled out of the financial mess by an IAS-officer-turned-teacher, Lallan Singh (Aditya Shrivastav), with an offer to teach math in his institute. Things look better. Kumar is flourishing and pays little attention to how the institute where he is employed is running an education racket. Until one night, under the influence of alcohol, his conscience shakes him. And, he decides to start Super 30.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While you as an audience wonder about how is Fugga aware of everything in such detail, he goes on to paint a picture of Kumar that is sympathetic and full of struggles. His story is heroic, but the narration, not as much.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Somewhere in between<i> Super 30</i>, everything starts falling apart. Some overlooked details glare in your face, other effects used to give dramatic undertones to the story are played up so much that even the suspension of disbelief starts giving up. For instance, Anand, during the pappad-selling phase, gives away his offer letter from Cambridge University to one of the customers. It burns to ashes in front of his eyes. A moment created for compassion. In reality, Anand Kumar has posted the picture of the offer letter on social media to create a buzz about the film.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The reality, however, is murkier. Questions have been raised about the success of the Super 30 model—about its fund-raising method, about the students and the classes. The film, in which Kumar has been closely involved, could have answered a lot of those questions. But it does not. Is Kumar teaching all the three subjects—maths, physics and chemistry—to his Super 30 batches? In reality, no. But in the film, yes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In fact, in the film, he has been so good at imparting the knowledge of all three subjects that his young students turn into superheroes during a testing situation. They invent weapons to fight goons who are approaching the hospital where a wounded Kumar is being treated. But this over-the-top sequence in the film is also the only time when a direct jibe is made on the class-structure. A hospital peon, in his earnestness to help Kumar, reproaches an unhelpful doctor as “donation walla”, a dig at the management quota students. Other than this, the mention of class and caste is limited to narrating Eklavya’s story from<i> Mahabharata</i> and repeating the line “raja ka beta raja” many times over.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If Sanjeev Dutta’s script lacks a punch and coherence, Vikas Bahl’s direction is uneven and patchy. Add to that some really loud background music, and the result is an annoying film that is not able to do justice to its characters, even if there are some good actors. Nor is it able to elevate the experience that a subject like this should have.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Super 30</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Director: Vikas Bahl</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Starring: Hrithik Roshan, Mrunal Thakur, Pankaj Tripathi</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rating: 2/5</b></p> Fri Jul 12 12:48:58 IST 2019 Pathinettam-Padi-review-Promising-climb-faltering-descent <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A racy trailer, which got over a million views in less than a day. More than 60 promising new actors. Megastar Mammootty sporting an uber cool look in the film. An impressive star cast. Lyricist-turned-director Shanker Ramakrishnan's <i>Pathinettam Padi </i>had all the rumblings of a thrilling entertainer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And thrill it does. Albeit in (extended) patches. Now, films revolving around rivalries between schools have been there from the times of the iconic <i>Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar</i>. What separates <i>Pathinettam Padi </i>from the rest is that it looks at the school life outside classrooms, away from the gaze of the teachers and parents. There are two institutions—Government Model Higher Secondary School and the swanky International School—who are always in the cross hairs of each other. There are hardly any scenes inside the classroom—the action is on the grounds, inside stadiums, on public roads and buses. Literally.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A brooding and rustic Ayyappan (Akshay Radhakrishnan), who flies off the handle quite easily, leads the Model School boy gang, while Ashwin (Ashwin Gopinath) is part of the International School gang. The two groups are a world apart in almost all aspects. Except when it comes to trading blows. The action sequences are perhaps the most thrilling part in the film. When you have Bangkok-based action choreographer Kecha Khamphakdee of <i>Troy</i>, <i>300</i> and <i>Baahubali 2 </i>fame, can you expect anything less? But therein lies the aberration. These are school kids, but most of them fight like trained fighters. It seems surreal at times.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The rivalry takes an ugly turn and things start spiralling out of control. And so does the narrative, unfortunately. It seemed like the director and scriptwriter Ramakrishnan was caught in two minds—he couldn't delay the arrival of the megastar further, but at the same time he had to make it convincing enough to gel with the rest of the narrative. The result? The flow of events is disturbed, and the film loses its grip on the audience. The songs slow down the film further in the second half, though, kudos to composer A.H. Kaashif for some soothing and foot-tapping music.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The attempts by the director to build up on a tragic incident, which sets up the second half of the film, largely falls flat. What started off as a film revolving around school rivalry and drug abuse, soon transforms into something entirely different. To accommodate John Abraham Palackal (Mammootty), perhaps? It's more of an extended cameo for the 67-year-old actor (yes, he is 67!), and he does what is expected of him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The climax is tailored for the fans, but that's as far as it goes. The film belongs to Ayyappan and Ashwin, and the boy gangs that they are part of. Or rather, that's how it should have stayed. Cameos by popular and talented actors might up the star quotient of the film (as Prithviraj—who doubles up as the narrator, Arya, Priyamani, Unni Mukundan, Suraj Venjaramoodu do in <i>Pathinettam Padi</i>), but it's a challenge really to weave them all seamlessly into the narrative. <a title="Virus movie review: A realistic look at Kerala's fight against Nipah" href="">Ashiq Abu's recent flick <i>Virus</i></a>, though belonging to a wholly different genre, did it brilliantly.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Also, there lies the risk of the focus shifting away from the central theme and the lead actors. <i>Pathinettam Padi</i> suffers from these precisely. The cameos are, essentially, just cameos, for the sake of it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A word about the title of the film, too. The director Ramakrishnan had said in an interview that he chose the number 18 because that age was an important 'step' in a person's life.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But it's also the term used to refer to the 18 holy steps to the sanctum sanctorum of the Sabarimala temple. It is believed that after climbing these steps, a person symbolically detaches oneself from all the worldly ties that bind him or her physically and mentally to the world. So, was it an attempt by the director to refer to the coming off age of the lead characters Ashwin and Ayyappan or... ?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We leave it to the viewer!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>P.S.:</b> Interestingly, while the Sabarimala issue was on the boil, Prithviraj had announced his next film <i>Ayyappan </i>based on the life of the deity, which will be helmed by Ramakrishnan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: 18am Padi (Pathinettam Padi)</b></p> <p><b>Language: Malayalam</b></p> <p><b>Director: Shanker Ramakrishnan</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Akshay Radhakrishnan, Ashwin Gopinath, Mammootty, Ahaana Krishna, Chandunadh</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 2.5/5</b></p> Fri Jul 05 17:45:20 IST 2019 spiderman-far-from-home-review <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>Warning: Film and review contain spoilers for Avengers: Endgame</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A curious factoid kept occurring to me as I watched <i>Spiderman: Far from home</i> — Spiders can fly. No, really. Some species of spider lift their abdomens to the sky and fire long silken threads, using electrostatic repulsion to generate lift and send them soaring; sometimes flying hundreds of miles. This is called ballooning and <u><a href="">it is real</a></u>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a way then, an electricity-powered flying spideybro is not the most far-fetched part about <i>Spiderman: Far from home</i>. That honour goes to the complete absence of international law and radar in Marvel’s post-Endgame universe.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>More on the law, and radar, later.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This film takes place following the events of <u><a href="">Avengers: Endgame</a></u>. In this world, the implications of Thano’s infamous snap are still feeling felt. People attend therapy workshops for the PTSD they faced. Interestingly, those who disappeared and then returned did not age, despite five years passing in the time it took for the Avengers to bring them back. Everyone they know is now five years older. This leads to an unfortunate situation at Peter Parker’s high school, where his juniors are now his peers, with a once-scrawny infant named Brad now a hunk who catches the eye of Michelle, AKA MJ.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Played laconically by Zendaya, MJ sets the emotional stakes in this film. She is the emotional impetus for Peter to spend more time being a normal person chasing after the girl of his dreams. After helping save the universe from Thanos and watching his mentor die, Spidey’s priority is now himself.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Much of the film comprises Peter Parker insisting that he does not want to superhero for a bit and would instead like to have a romantic Eurotrip with the crush-of-his-life. This is why he will not answer Nick Fury’s calls, to his own comic detriment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His break comes in the form of a Eurotrip where he can find himself, hopefully, alone with MJ so he can ask her out. It’s a scenario that teenagers who graduate high school in the Western world might find more relatable than their Indian counterparts (who, post-high-school, only take competitive exams, working their way towards a placement in a multinational company that might, someday, sponsor an ‘onsite’ Eurotrip).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In an era of increased mental health awareness, one could argue that Peter has earned a holiday. Sadly, he does not entirely get one, courtesy events sparked by the arrival of ‘Mysterio’— played by Jake Gylenhall — and beings called ‘Elementals’, the latter of whom turn Spidey’s Eurotrip into yet-another-work-outing as he tries to save multiple iconic landmarks from devastation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is much to empathize with in this Spiderman movie and that is what makes it good. Spidey, at the end of the day, is a friendly-neighbourhood-hero. Unlike the likes of <u><a href="">Captain Marvel</a></u>, the issues that concern him are not necessarily galactic in scale. He has a crush, like any 16-year-old would, and he goes through the torment of watching something else hit all the right notes with her while he fumbles around in a web of awkwardness.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This Spidey is still reeling from the emotional weight of Iron Man’s death, and the responsibility of being Tony Stark’s implicit successor. Without revealing too much, this film is a must-watch if you want to see how Tony Stark’s legacy will play out.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Speaking of legacies, it is worth remembering the legacy of the Spiderman franchise in the grand scheme of things. Though the Marvel Cinematic Universe is now the most -valuable cinematic franchise of all time, it owes its rise to Sam Raimi’s <i>Spiderman</i> (2002), which was the first superhero film to cross $100 million in its opening weekend. It was this film, as well as <i>X-Men (2000)</i>, that triggered the golden age of modern superhero movies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are unrealistic moments, not least of which is the absence of international law and outrage. Non-state vigilante actors blow up things and aliens in foreign countries without so much as a “Hi, might I request permission to detonate explosions on your sovereign soil”. The world seemingly made its peace with the chaos of superhero battles in <i>Avengers: Civil War</i>. This is what allows drone strikes and attacks to be carried out with impunity in Europe, with neither radar nor law enforcement ever making an appearance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another gripe is Tom Holland’s annoying habit of taking his mask off every few moments, despite having the rest of his costume on. Does he no longer care for his identity being revealed? He may as well be Tom-HollandMan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The stakes may not be as large as they are in <i>Endgame</i>, but that does not make it any less compelling to watch. The film’s plot twists and emotional moments may seem predictable for those who have watched too many movies to enjoy a ‘typical’ superhero film, but it remains slick Hollywood filmmaking.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Spiderman: Far from home</i> is easy to sink into. Watch it for Spidey (who gains new abilities with a new suit), for closure over Tony Stark, and for the promise of that one great Eurotrip where you find yourself. And also, for an end-credits sequence that is arguably more intense than the film itself. The next Spiderman movie will be a doozy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Movie</b>: <i>Spiderman: Far from home</i></p> <p><b>Director</b>: Jon Watts</p> <p><b>Starring</b>: Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders</p> <p><b>Rating</b>: 3.5/5</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Thu Jul 04 20:01:46 IST 2019 the-office-india-season-1-review-imitation-not-always-best-form-of-flattery <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>There is a moderately popular folk tale in Kerala, the story of a man whose greatest wish was to swim across the Arabian Sea and into the land of riches that awaited beyond. In preparation for his mission, he chose a 50-feet-long pond in his home village. He calculated that if he manages to finish one crore laps in the pond, he would succeed. He threw in an extra 1 lakh to account for the turbulent tides that might await him. As anyone might predict, he drowned on the very first day of his attempt at sea. The moral of the story: It did not matter how intricately you understood the first 50 feet of a task that lay ahead of you, but how well you knew the unpredictability of the next 50 feet that eluded your line of sight. And then the next, and so on.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When I watched the <a title="'Not daunted by apprehension over 'The Office' Indian remake'" href="" target="_blank">first season of the Indian version</a> of <i>The Office</i>—a hit TV show starring Ricky Gervais in the UK, later adapted into a US version and six different languages—this tale came to mind.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>The Office India</i>, influenced heavily by the iconic Steve Carell-starrer US version, features Mukul Chaddha as Jagdeep Chaddha (Carell’s Michael Scott), Gopal Dutt as TP (Rainn Wilson’s Dwight Schrute), Sayandeep Sengupta as Amit Sharma (John Krasinski’s Jim Halpert) and Samridhi Dewan as receptionist Pammi (Jenna Fischer’s Pam Beesly).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The story unfolds at Wilkins Chawla paper company in Faridabad. The opening five minutes of the show give you an idea of what to expect throughout the season—for the large part, a shot-by-shot duplication of the US version.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Before long, it is amply clear—the cast understands its first 50 feet very well. In the performances of Chaddha, Sharma, Dutt and especially Dewan, we are treated to glimpses of the idiosyncrasies of the fun-loving Michael Scott, the unmotivated, prank-loving Jim Halpert, the timid Pam Beesly and the stick-up-his-behind authoritarian that is Dwight Schrute. Dutt’s TP (Dwight Schrute) is easily the most Indianised among the bunch, spouting non-stop nationalism and one-liners that miss more than they hit and often comes out artificial and forced (“Why are you cutting their allowances, TP?”; “But sir, think of our soldiers at the border”).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I don’t know whether it was naivete, but the idea of taking on this role didn’t daunt me at all,” Chaddha told <i></i> in an interview pre-release. “Maybe that was partly because I hadn’t seen the show till I had been called for the audition. He [character of Jagdeep] treats the office as his family. The mix between personal and professional, the boundary isn’t there for him. Which is also very sad because everybody doesn’t see it that way. He is loveable, but also very annoying and very politically incorrect.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dutt, in an interview to <i>The Hindu</i>, said he found his character of TP (Dwight Schrute) as someone who “likes to speak in shuddh Hindi, is very sanskaari, and he likes to use everything swadeshi”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, this raises a big question. How will they traverse the next 50 feet? Is Michael Scott merely a “loveable, annoying and politically incorrect character”? Or, as his evolution in subsequent seasons testifies, a man so thoroughly and irrevocably locked in a cage of utter loneliness that his absolute power over those who work underneath him manifests in occasional episodes of dark, malevolent sociopathy? Is Dwight Schrute really a man hiding his insecurities—borne out of a long and lonely fight to reach where he has reached—with a mask of ruthlessness and cruelty? Or is it actually a double façade? One that enables him to hide his sadistic, egomaniacal edges—smoothed over by rare instances of human tenderness and redemption—never more visible than his savage glee at the expense of his hapless friend Andy, with whose fiancée Angela he was having an affair.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the first season, the Indian cast shows glimmers of potential in the shallow waters—the 50 feet that lies in front of their eyes. The question is: will it translate into the rough seas ahead? (Personally, I harbour a rather pessimistic take.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When Hotstar announced <i>The Office India</i> project, millennial Twitter erupted in howls of dismay. “Why would you do that?” “Why ruin a cult classic?” “Cease and desist or I will cancel my subscription.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mukul Chaddha had reacted measuredly, saying he did not see it as criticism as no one had seen the show yet. &quot;These comments on Twitter aren't based on anyone who has watched the show. So, I don't take it seriously. I found some comments hilarious. At some basic level, this is coming from the space of deep love for the series.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Where the showrunners slipped up was in blindly aping the US series sans the regional and social undertones that shaped the narrative. Socio-economically, in the US, it was a time of de-industrialisation, growing unemployment and loss of basic human rights like healthcare (<i>The Office</i> US version episode 3). Geographically, Scranton is a quiet, sleepy suburb, irreconcilable with Faridabad.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One of the finest moments of the first season of the US version was the episode <i>Diversity Day</i> (<i>Anekta Diwas</i> in Indian version). In the midst of a mandatory diversity lecture, Michael Scott horrifies everyone with an uncensored version of African-American comedian Chris Rock’s groundbreaking ‘Black men and n*****s’ routine, following it up with a grotesque imitation of an Indian convenience store owner right to the face of Kelly Kapoor (Mindy Kaling). Nothing came close to representing the fraught race relations, and the schizophrenia and xenophobia in the post-9/11 US, on modern television than Carell’s demented performance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Leave aside the fact that the makers directly imported the <i>Diversity Day </i>concept, something that is laughable and incompatible with the Indian milieu. In <i>Anekta Diwas</i>, the ‘Funjabi’ boss unleashes his inner Michael Scott with cringeworthy ‘madrassi’, ‘rasam’, 'coconut' and ‘sambar’ jibes, ending with a ‘gurkha’ joke and Chinese eye schtick aimed at a gentleman of supposed northeastern heritage. Why? What was the context behind this provocation? If such a topic was to be broached, there is no dearth of relevant issues to be raised. Trust me, a South Indian being called a ‘sambar-swilling madrassi’ (me being one, proudly) is not the worst thing to happen in deeply caste-ridden, religiously volatile workplaces across the country. The first season seems to be a saga of missed chances.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Final take:</b> A recommended watch for those who have never seen the US or UK versions</p> Fri Jul 05 13:41:19 IST 2019 annabelle-comes-home-review-adequately-terrifying-conjuring-spinoff <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The third instalment of the Annabelle series (after <i>Annabelle</i> and <i><a title="'Annabelle: Creation' is a winner at Indian box office" href="" target="_blank">Annabelle: Creation</a></i> in 2014 and 2017, respectively) entertains the audience just enough to remind them exactly why it belongs in the Conjuring Universe. <i>Annabelle Comes Home</i> is the seventh movie under the horror franchise, and within an hour and 46 minutes, it shows the audience precisely what 'not to do' when confronted with the presence of evil.</p> <p>The plot begins with the Warrens (played by the incredible Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) acquiring the widely coveted (not really) and grossly malevolent doll Annabelle after a series of hauntings that she (the doll) was responsible for. They take her back to the Warren home, and confine her inside a box for safekeeping. The couple’s involvement in the movie, however, ends here, and as the plot moves forward, Judy—their daughter—becomes the centre of focus. The young girl begins to witness disturbing apparitions, and slowly realises she had inherited her mother’s affinity for sensing the supernatural.</p> <p>One day, Ed and Lorraine leave Judy in the care of her babysitter Mary Ellen (played by Madison Iseman) as they travel overnight to investigate another case. Soon after, Mary Ellen’s friend Daniela (Katie Sarife) comes over to the Warren house, and ‘accidentally’ unleashes all the evil that had been contained within a room in a bid to communicate with her deceased father. As the day melds into the night, each of the girls— Judy, Mary Ellen and Daniela—experience odd events as the demons come out to play. They come to haunt the girls the way one falls in love—slowly, and then all at once. The activities culminate in a climax as Daniela herself tries to murder the other two.</p> <p>Mckenna Grace, playing Judy Warren, delivers a riveting performance as Ed and Lorraine Warren’s daughter. Seemingly the smartest among the three and definitely the most experienced, Judy weaves through the never-ending hurdles and directs the small group into safety. The only thought that runs through the spectators’ mind throughout the duration of the movie is that the whole situation could have been avoided if one only remembered the old proverb “curiosity killed the cat” (Looking at you, Daniela).</p> <p>The movie alternates between jump scares and building up scenes excruciatingly slowly, but manages to achieve what it set out to do—scare the audience out of their wits. The cinematography, as characteristic of the other movies in the franchise, is dark and despondent, mourning the absence of all that is joyful and bright.</p> <p>Gary Dauberman, previously a screenwriter for the first two movies in the Annabelle series, turned to direction for the third one. Though the movie does fail to deliver the intensity that <i>The Conjuring</i> perfected, it births an acceptable performance. However, it was the music and the realistic portrayal of the characters that tied the whole movie together.</p> <p>Joseph Bishara, who worked on the scores for <a title="The Nun review: Thwarted by ineffectual jump-scare tactics" href="" target="_blank">three other movies in the Conjuring Universe</a>, has not failed to meet expectations this time around either. The movie would not have been the same if not for the viscerally haunting melodies that he composed, managing to enhance the already distressing experience and keeping the audience’s attention on the screen.</p> <p>Annabelle (the doll) itself is the most terrifying aspect of the movie, the other apparitions and demons don’t hold a torch to the inherently unsettling feeling that she induces in the audience—her perennial gaze boring through the screen into each living soul. Seems like Annabelle just won’t quit. And there’s an audience who’s willing to let her stay.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Movie: Annabelle Comes Home</b></p> <p><b>Director: Gary Dauberman</b></p> <p><b>Cast</b>: <b>Mckenna Grace, Madison Iseman, Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3/5</b></p> Thu Jun 27 16:34:15 IST 2019 article-15-review-ayushmann-breaks-the-mould-gut-wrenching-film <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Almost 15 minutes into the film, in a scene in <i>Article 15</i>, the newly-posted superintendent of police, Ayan Ranjan (Ayushmann Khurrana) wants to share food from the plate of one of his subordinates, Jatav (Kumud Mishra). The latter is hesitant and uncomfortable with the idea, while some of the other colleagues prod him to get another plate for the boss. Ranjan, however, hasn’t read too deeply into what just happened.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Son of an IFS officer, Ayan grew up mainly in Delhi and very many parts of the world, oblivious to what caste-discrimination really looks like, mostly romanticising and taking pride in India, its culture, heritage and Taj Mahal and Khajuraho. For how long can he remain ignorant though? Not long. Not while being posted in the interiors of the country, which appears only on “page seven” of the newspapers; from where if you take right, you reach Ayodhya; if left, Lucknow; and a straight route leads to Kolkata—all of them and everything in between being the hotspots of politics.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He cannot remain oblivious also because <a title="Was always intrigued by caste divide in India: Ayushmann Khurrana" href="" target="_blank">caste discrimination</a> is not being practiced in hushed up tones, like in the cities, but in the open. Here, people are open about their prejudices. There is no embarrassment and no guilt. Ayan’s driver refuses to buy a bottle of water from a particular area because people from the Scheduled Caste live there. Another refuses to perform his duty, which includes cleaning up a marsh, because again it is in an area occupied by the SCs. And, it goes on.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Directed and co-written (along with Gaurav Solanki) by Anubhav Sinha, who seems to have rediscovered cinema with <i>Mulk</i>, <i>Article 15</i> (this time also with less preachiness and focus on a streamlined story) is not the most comfortable film. Inspired by the rape and hanging of two young girls in Badaun village in Uttar Pradesh in 2014, the film which borrows its title from an article in the Indian Constitution that encourages equality, the film prods you, questions you, shocks and horrifies you, while still maintaining a rationality in the narrative.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film does not look at the caste structure of the village from a single point of view, but gives ample opportunities to go deeper and understand it from the perspectives of different people representing different castes, letting the audience into a world that they may not have seen before, the problems of today and their roots. A low-caste Jatav’s inclusion into the police force with an upper-caste Brahmdutt (Manoj Pahwa) scrutinises the pervasiveness of caste in the workforce. While in Gaura (Sayani Gupta), we find a fighter from the lowest echelons.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For Sinha’s protagonist to be a deracinated Brahmin, unaware of the deep-rootedness of the caste system, does two things—puts him in a spot to either go with the flow or change things for better, and when he chooses the latter, it gives him an upper hand to bring about change. He is not the victim here, like we have seen the protagonists of the very few recent films, like <i>Aarakshan</i>, <i>Sairat</i>, <i>Masaan</i>, <i>Kaala</i>, raising the issue of casteism. He is the one that stands with the victim and fights for them, while also having a voice that people listen to.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Two hours before watching the film, I came across a news report that said a police officer in UP had refused to file an FIR for a rape. It is nothing new and not an one-off thing. We come across such reports more often than imaginable. The backdrop, of an investigation into the rape of two women, is not just pertinent but very urgent, too. It unmasks the demons of the system, ensures that the white, black and grey of the socio-political setup comes to the fore. In the process, it maintains a pace that is engaging and explores a <a title="Teaser for 'Article 15' promises hard-hitting socio-political drama" href="" target="_blank">subject that is heartbreaking and gut-wrenching</a>. Club it with the rousing background music by Mangesh Dhakde and the experience only elevates.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That the film does not isolate itself to discussing only the caste is something that works in the film’s favour more than expected. In its little ways, there are too many intricate details. A young female doctor’s despair to come out with the truth in a system crammed with bullies trying to make her work in their way; orthe hopelessness of a man who lagged behind in his public service examination and settled for a lower job only to meet his classmate Ayan who is on the top of his game and be discomfited for no reason, are things that layers the story.</p> <p>And then it is Ayan, who has had a good and privileged life. He is trying hard to be the best version of himself and bring out the best as a cop, and yet, he feels a sense of insignificance in front of Nishad’s (Md Zeeshan Ayuub) revolutionary. The uniform has not given him a sense of entitlement. Is it because he is still new in the system? Well, could be. But for now, all it takes it is one person like him to change a few people if not all.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Article 15</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Director: Anubhav Sinha</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Starring: Ayushmann Khurrana, Kumud Mishra, Manoj Pahwa, Sayani Gupta</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rating: 4/5</b></p> Thu Jun 27 12:28:47 IST 2019 Toy-Story-4-review-Can-Pixar-do-no-wrong <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>I refuse to believe that the makers of <i>Toy Story</i> do not have some kind of tie-up with the tissue industry. It would be a genius idea actually. Where else (not counting <i>Endgame</i>, of course) will one find such a large number of grown ups weeping unashamedly?</p> <p><a title="Could not relate to damsel in distress formula in animation filmmaker Jill Culton" href="">Twenty-four years after <i>Toy Story</i> made its debut</a> as Pixar’s first ever film, the fourth instalment in the series cements the aura of magic and excellence the studio has built around itself.</p> <p>Where to begin with this movie?</p> <p>Two years after Andy left for college and broke thousands of hearts with his ‘so long, pard’ner’, Woody (Tom Hanks) finds himself being neglected more and more often. Unfazed, he sticks to his commitment of making Bonnie’s (his kid) life as easy as possible, and that includes accompanying her to her first day of kindergarten, and taking care of her newest toy—a spork named Forky (Tony Hale). No doubt this would bring up doubts into a few minds (the annoying few who question the logic in a toy-centric movie), namely, 'what exactly makes one a toy'? If a child puts googly eyes and pipe cleaner limbs on a book, is it still a book or a toy or both? What gives life to the toys?</p> <p>Have no fear. The film has enough self-awareness about these issues to leave the audience free to relax into the nostalgia-packed emotional sucker punch that is <i>Toy Story 4</i>.</p> <p>The rest of the story follows Woody’s attempts to keep Forky close to Bonnie, and meet up with his old flame Bo Peep (Annie Potts) along the way. Together, they battle through the existential questions of a toy’s life outside of their kid, being replaced, and what to do after reaching fulfilment—all themes that the original <i>Toy Story</i> audience would well relate to, considering they would be in their 30s by now.</p> <p>The cast is such a concentrated pool of talent that they could single-handedly form their own Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and no one would bat an eye. All of them bring their own delightful tidbits into the film, especially Tom Hanks, whose rich timbre brings the beloved Woody to life one more time. Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele breathe their unmistakable chemistry into Bunny and Ducky, while Annie Potts proves herself versatile enough to liven up this spunky version of Bo Peep as well. And <a title="Keanu Reeves doesn't know Internet is obsessed with him" href="">Keanu Reeves is delightful as ever</a>, and most probably the future trademark holder of the phrase ‘Yes I Canada!’.</p> <p>Debut director Josh Cooley is no stranger to Pixar, having worked on the storyboards of classics liked <i>The Incredibles</i>, <i>Cars</i>, and <i>Ratatouille</i> before taking over the screenplay of the iconic <i>Inside Out</i> in 2015. According to him, Pixar has been working on <i>Toy Story 4</i> for five years, and boy, does the effort show. It is also evident that the writers John Lasseter (who directed the first two movies), Rashida Jones (of <i>Parks and Recreation</i> fame), and Will McCormack definitely knew their stuff. Randy Newman is back on the musical helm, and lends two original songs to the mix. And before you ask – yes, they do play 'You’ve Got A Friend in Me', and yes, it is as tear inducing as ever.</p> <p>One has to really scramble to find fault with this film, so why waste time nitpicking? Hold on to almost as many boxes of tissues you needed for <i>Toy Story 3</i>, and watch till the end as animated toys teach us lessons for life. And beyond.</p> <p><b>Movie</b>: Toy Story 4</p> <p><b>Director</b>: Josh Cooley</p> <p><b>Cast</b>: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Tony Hale, Annie Potts, Joan Cusack, Keegan Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Keanu Reeves</p> <p><b>Rating</b>: 4/5&nbsp;</p> Sat Jun 22 12:51:09 IST 2019 The-Extraordinary-Journey-of-the-Fakir-review-An-ordinary-but-feel-good-journey <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>“A long, long time ago…,” the narrative begins with these lines, setting the tone for the rest of the movie. <i><a title="Extraordinary journey: Dhanush on Hollywood debut" href="">The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir</a></i> is a fairy tale, set in a modern times, and at its centre is a young man struggling through circumstances that seem to pull him deeper into an abyss.</p> <p>The movie, which is based on the book 'The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an IKEA Wardrobe' by Romain Puertolas, has already won two awards – the Ray of Sunshine Award at the 2018 Norwegian International Film Festival and the Best Comedy Award at the 2019 Barcelona-Sant Jordi International Film Festival. And it certainly lives up to its accolades. However, it is—at best—a feel-good movie, designed to take its audience on an adventure that seems to go on forever.</p> <p><a title="Dhanush shares his plans for Bollywood; says he has no political aspirations" href="">Dhanush</a> (playing Ajatashatru Lavash Patel), making his debut in Hollywood, has given a remarkable performance. He remains the centre of attention throughout the movie—playing the part of the grieving son, the determined young man and the love-struck fool—each role performed to perfection. Aja – his character – often finds himself having a stroke of luck one second, only to find it leaving him in the next. However, the situations meant to offer comic relief fail to deliver more often than not, with many of the funny scenes feeling forced. With a Bollywood number and a random musical performance thrown in between, one cannot help but wonder if it was incorporated to please Indian audience—after all, the protagonist is a young man brought up in the slums of Mumbai.</p> <p>Hearty Singh (playing the younger Aja) manages to capture the attention with his sincere portrayal of the role of the disobedient but loving son. Amruta Sant (Siringh, Aja’s mother) and Berenice Bejo (Nelly) play exactly what they are meant to be – support for the protagonist in his fantastical journey. Erin Moriarty, who plays Aja’s love interest, Marie, is not the pining heroine who waits for her hero to come rescue her. Rather, the movie’s end shows her seeking Aja out on her own, and finding her “happily ever after” in a school in Mumbai. The rest of the cast should also be commended for the realistic depiction of their characters, especially Barkhad Abdi playing the role of a Sudanese immigrant who Aja befriends.</p> <p>Though the entire adventure starts with Aja flying to Paris to find his estranged father, the main plot is set aside to focus on the many entertaining escapades that the man finds himself in the middle of. However, the movie does end with a beautifully poetic scene, tying up the main plot in a predictable, yet satisfying denouement.</p> <p>The elements of magical realism in the movie are at times glaringly evident and other times subtle and poignant. Yet it does not seem out of place within the movie’s fairy tale-like setting. The protagonist, who is caught in the middle of trying circumstances, also seems to find himself exactly where he needs to be—whether it is inside the suitcase of a famous actress in Rome or in the middle of a modelled bedroom in a Swedish furniture store (which is very obviously IKEA, but is not mentioned in the movie).</p> <p>Ken Scott has directed the movie to cater to an audience that yearns for a “happy ending”, much like the stories that one grew up with. The feeling of hope permeates throughout the movie, never once disappearing even in the worst of times. Though the film dabbles into a few serious matters, it always manages to return to what it essentially is—a lively, happy-go-lucky portrayal of a man in search of happiness.</p> <p><b>Film</b>: The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir</p> <p><b>Director</b>: Ken Scott</p> <p><b>Cast</b>: Dhanush, Amruta Sant, Erin Moriarty, Berenice Bejo</p> <p>Rating: 2.5/5</p> Fri Jun 21 17:49:53 IST 2019 Kabir-Singh-review-Toxic-masculinity-thy-name-is-Kabir-Singh <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>His friend tells him, "<i>Frenchie pehan ke khada hoga toh pachaas ladkiyaan aise hi milengi</i> (If you wear a brief and stand, 50 girls will come to you)”. This, after Kabir Singh (Shahid Kapoor), who plays the titular character in Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s <i>Kabir Singh</i>, manhandled and manipulated the girl he claims to love, bullied her classmates, assaulted her, threatened her to leave his family and given her an ultimatum to be with him in six hours.</p> <p>The film, a remake of <a title="'Kabir Singh' an unusual love story director Sandeep Reddy Vanga" href="">Vanga’s 2017 Telugu hit <i>Arjun Reddy</i></a><i>,</i> is as problematic in its theme as it was when it was first conceptualised. Nothing has changed – neither the film’s core, nor the director’s vision. Vanga’s hero reeks of toxic masculinity, which is presented under the guise of a man dealing with anger management issues.</p> <p>Don’t we always end up doing this? Hiding a man’s weakness under one or another pretext. Excuse him often because he is going through such and such things. One character in the film says, “Democracy me itna free-spirited hona possible nahi hai”. Very wisely, the harmful behaviour of the film’s hero is turned into being a “free-spirited soul”. He is forgiven frequently because may be his behaviour was misunderstood.</p> <p>Misunderstanding or understanding is the major issue here. When the hero runs after his middle-aged house-help when she breaks a glass, with the <a title="Shahid Kapoor opens up about toxic masculinity in 'Kabir Singh'" href="">cigarette pursed between his lips and an aggressive demeanour</a>, the audience understand it to be comical. Almost the entire theatre laughs their hearts out. Perhaps, even the makers understood that it is going to add some comic relief to a film that is peppered with aggressive, uncalled for behaviours. Every now and then there is a little sentiment added to give it an emotional turnaround.</p> <p>But does that really matter? The hero, an alcoholic and drug addict, threatens a girl with a knife and asks her to strip for him. He kisses a girl in the college’s patio without her consent, and asks her to cover herself up after the first time they have sex. There is entitlement – of being a “man” of course, but also of being the best in his medical college.</p> <p><a title="'Kabir Singh' as honest and raw as 'Arjun Reddy': Shahid Kapoor" href="">Kabir Singh is a bright student</a>, who bullies everyone in his college and gains favourable feedback from the dean and the teachers. When he is denied something or is asked offer an apology, he bursts out in anger. Bringing a little balance to his life is his college buddy, Shiva (Sohum Majumdar), the voice of reason, at least till some part of the film. But by the end of the film, Kabir’s anger seems to have influenced Shiva partially, too. His genuine and selfless portrayal of the sidekick is marred with writing which requires him to scream and support his friend.</p> <p>But what does one expect from a writer-director who has reduced the heroine to just a prop for taking the hero’s story forward. Advani has little to do in the film, except to stay silent and look down most of the time. And when she speaks, it is either for pleading or crying. Kabir says, it is 2019 and caste shouldn’t be an issue in the union of two lovers. But it’s 2019 and this is not what you expect girls to do, either. Especially, a girl who has been brought up to be ambitious, study medicine and do something worthwhile in her life.</p> <p>As far as Kapoor goes, he is honest with his performance, like most of his other films. But is that enough to salvage him from the toxicity that he would spread with the theme of the film? Maybe, he will. After all, in the common parlance, everything is well if the end is well. And, we get a happy/tear-jerking ending after all.</p> <p><b>Film</b>: Kabir Singh</p> <p><b>Director</b>: Sandeep Reddy Vanga</p> <p><b>Starring</b>: Shahid Kapoor, Kiara Advani</p> <p><b>Rating</b>: 1.5/5</p> Fri Jun 21 17:01:34 IST 2019 MIB-International-review-A-poor-addition-to-a-brilliant-franchise <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Perhaps, it was the absence of the enigmatic duo of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones or the clever direction of Barry Sonnenfeld, but <i>Men in Black: Internationa</i>l fails to live up to the hype it created when it cast <a title="Why Chris Hemsworth named his daughter India" href="">Chris Hemsworth</a> and Tessa Thompson in the leading roles.</p> <p>Undoubtedly, the leading duo carries on the chemistry they had from <a title="'Avengers: Endgame' review: Just what we wanted it to be" href="">Marvel Studios'</a><i> Thor: Ragnarok</i>, but their characters are bare-boned and do not stand out in any way. Thompson plays Molly, a girl who was not neuralyzed (a process of erasing recent memories) when she was supposed to and grows up with the awareness of the extra terrestrial existence and is dying to join the 'Men in Black'. Once she gets recruited (and renamed Agent M) on a probational basis, she is teamed up with <a title="Chris Hemsworth to play Hulk Hogan in new Netflix film" href="">Hemsworth</a>'s Agent H, a typical cocky-but-smart high level agent of the MIB. For their first mission together, they are given a seemingly easy task, which (surprise, surprise) goes haywire.</p> <p>The plot only gets more predictable from here on and climaxes in an even more obvious ending. New characters are introduced incessantly without really exploring them in their entirety. Rebecca Ferguson's character Riza, who is the head of the largest crime syndicate is also Agent H's ex-beau. This situation could have provided for some excellent gags had it been developed further. The writers, Matt Holloway and Art Marcum, fail to replicate their comedic genius from <i>Iron Man</i> (2008) as the jokes fall flat and are largely ignored by the audience. Their only saving grace is perhaps the CGI alien sidekick that Agent M picks up along the way. Voiced by Kumail Nanjiani, the alien delivers almost all of the laughter inducing one-liners and that is in most part due to Nanjiani's talent as a stand-up comedian, making written lines sound like in-the-moment quips.</p> <p>An annoying thing about the movie is that it repeatedly beats its own drum. We get it, there are women in 'Men' in Black. What a hilarious concept. Thompson and Thompson (Tessa and Emma) do a good job of portraying the importance of women in the organisation, the multiple reminders are quite unnecessary. Also unnecessary was the amount of CGI used, the numerous (although enjoyable) Chris Hemsworth thirst traps and the horrible, horrible pun in Liam Neeson's British character's name –High T.</p> <p>The only thing the movie lives up to is its title. It shuffles between New York, London, Marrakesh and Paris. This constant change of scenery does not let the audience settle. The earlier MIB movies used to mainly take place in one location, only very briefly transporting us to other locations. That lets the audience understand how the alien community could exist within the human one and how both could interact with one another. <i>MIB International</i> denies the people of such an experience.</p> <p>In conclusion, subpar movies should not be added to brilliant franchises. The movie definitely fails to impress MIB fans and leaves a forgettable and non-lasting impression on the viewers. There's definitely no need for a neuralyzer here.</p> <p><b>Film: Men in Black: International</b></p> <p><b>Director: F. Gary Gray</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Tessa Thompson, Chris Hemsworth, Liam Neeson</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 2/5</b></p> Tue Jun 18 09:52:47 IST 2019 Unda-movie-review-This-Mammootty-starrer-is-a-police-story-with-a-difference <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>“....<i>athanu police... athu aavanam police</i>! (that's what police is... that's what police should aspire to be)”. Famous lines from the 2008 Mammootty-starrer <i>Roudram. </i>The scene is a confrontation between two police officers in the middle of the road—where the righteous and (moustache-twirling) heroic cop reminds the corrupt and cruel cop that a policeman's duty is to protect the life and belongings of a common man. Pure mass!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Cut to 2016. Another Mammootty-starrer—<i>Kasaba</i>. Another confrontation between two police officers—a man and a woman cop—at the police headquarters. The cocky male cop—a known womaniser—grabs the belt of the female cop and openly threatens her with rape. Tch, tch! <a title="Parvathy not fully satisfied with Mammootty's response to Kasaba issue" href="">The scene had the feminists up in arms</a> against director Nithin Renji Panicker and the superstar.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The year's 2019. The film—Khalidh Rahman's <i>Unda</i>. Mammootty dons the police uniform for the umpteenth time in his career. The scene: Another confrontation between police officers, alright. But, with a twist. Sub-Inspector Manikandan C.P. (Mammootty) heads a team of eight Kerala Police officers on election duty at a remote village in Maoist-prone Bastar, Chhattisgarh. They 'attack' at night and Manikandan fails miserably to defend himself or the team. The respect is lost. The junior officers confront the senior officer later. An embarrassed Manikandan admits he messed up and if they want him to apologise to them all, he would do that too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Narendran in <i>Roudram</i>. Rajan Zachariah in <i>Kasaba</i>. Manikandan in <i>Unda</i>. Three police officers as different as chalk and cheese. It is this ability to live a character that sets Mammootty apart from his more popular contemporaries. Manikandan could have been any other ageing cop you find around you, with no filmy, superhuman abilities. He is part of a Kerala Police unit that is sent to Bastar to assist the Indo-Tibetan Border Police during the elections. The unit branches off there and he leads a smaller team to one of the villages.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>None of them have been in this part of the world earlier. Their struggles with the terrain, scarcities and the language are depicted beautifully, and, at times, hilariously. Director Rahman, who co-scripted the film with Harshad, ensures the humour and the endearing moments do not look forced. You will come across them in the most unlikely of places. Even in the midst of land mines and threat of a Maoist attack, the team treats it like an “excursion”. The audience gets a feel of Bastar's raw beauty, thanks to Sajith Purushan's brilliant cinematography and Prashant Pillai's lilting music.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The reverie is broken when the team gets a rude reality check from the ITBP. That's when they realise the danger they are in and how terribly unequipped they are to face it [<i>Unda</i>, in this context, means bullet in Malayalam. And the team's unending wait for it....].</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Expectedly, panic sets in. Can Manikandan keep his flock together? Can he inspire his team to beat the odds? Or, will he fail yet again?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The build-up to the election day gives us a peek into the working of the political machinery, the hardships faced by the ITBP in the Maoist-affected areas, and the every day problems of policemen. The Indian Army is revered, more so now than ever. But people often forget that the men in khaki, too, sacrifice a lot for the well-being of the society. <i>Unda</i> also, boldly, highlights the caste divisions existing in the police force. These moments are made memorable in the film by a stellar supporting cast of Lukman Lukku as Biju, Shine Tom Chacko (Jojo), Arjun Ashokan (Gireesh), Gokulan (Gokul), Abhiram Pothuval (Unni Krishnan), and Omkar Das Manikpuri of <i>Peepli Live</i> fame (Kunal Chand).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Comparisons with <a title="Newton review: A fresh political satire" href="">Rajkummar Rao-starrer <i>Newton </i>(2017)</a>, are bound to creep in, with both the films revolving around elections in Maoist-affected areas, and how government servants are duty-bound to conduct fair and free elections. Whether they succeed or not, is a different matter. But the similarities end there. Though Kapil Dev (Bhagwan Tiwari) in <i>Unda</i> will remind you of Atma Singh (Pankaj Tripathi) in <i>Newton</i>, a bit.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mammootty has started 2019 on a strong note with <i>Peranbu</i>, <i>Yatra</i> and now, <i>Unda</i>. Die-hard fans will remember <i>Madhura Raja</i>, too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Unda</i>, to its credit, will leave you wondering—are the Maoists or Naxalites as great a threat as they are made out to be? A relevant thought, won't you say?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>P.S.: There's a guaranteed goosebump moment in the film, but it's not Mammootty who gets the cheers and whistles!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Unda</b></p> <p><b>Language: Malayalam</b></p> <p><b>Director: Khalidh Rahman</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Mammootty, Ranjith, Arjun Ashokan, Shine Tom Chacko, Lukman Lukku, and others</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 4/5</b></p> Fri Jun 14 17:25:21 IST 2019 Virus-movie-review-A-realistic-look-at-Kerala-fight-against-nipah <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>“Not today.” Game of Thrones fans know it. For the uninitiated, it is what young Arya Stark in GoT is taught to tell the God of death. A life lesson, to never say die.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>People of Kerala would have said as much to the same God when the twin calamities came knocking on its door last year. If May brought the deadly Nipah virus to its shores, August bought a deluge it had not seen in almost a century. But amid the helplessness and despair, what stood out was the resilience and selflessness shown by Malayalis. Many would have expected it to succumb to the inevitability and throw in the towel, but that didn't happen. Thanks to a number of unlikely heroes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Aashiq Abu's <i>Virus</i> is a fitting tribute to them and several other faceless, nameless persons who helped contain and fight the Nipah virus. A series of deaths in Kozhikode and Malappuram districts in May threw the doctors and state administration into a tizzy as they struggled to identify the disease and the source. Even after it was identified, there was no vaccination or treatment protocol for it. Fear of the unknown spawned fake news, conspiracy theories and spread panic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Many of us saw it from close quarters, others learnt about it through media reports. But what really went into fighting the virus, which killed 17 people, the paranoia associated with it, and the rampant misinformation being spread on social media? <i>Virus </i>attempts to answer these questions with a cinematic depiction of the real-life incidents. And it sets the pace brilliantly in the first half, with a realistic look at how the tragedy unfolds at a private and the government medical college hospital in Kozhikode. The audience can feel the confusion and fear building up, thanks to a taut script by Muhsin Parari, Sharfu and Suhas, slick direction by Abu and Rajeev Ravi's unassuming cinematography. There's hardly a moment to relax as every now and then we come face-to-face with an important revelation or a character. Sushin Shyam's music flows along beautifully in the background. There are hardly any distractions as the film stays true to it character.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It's only fitting that for a venture like <i>Virus</i>, the who's who of Malayalam cinema (the “second generation”, that is) have played their part in it. There are a few central characters (if one may say so) like Dr Abid (Sreenath Bhasi), Dr Annu (Parvathy), Kozhikode Collector Paul Abraham (Tovino Thomas), nurse Akhila (Rima Kallingal as the real-life nurse Lini), Dr Suresh Rajan (Kunchacko Boban) and Health Minister C.K. Prameela (Revathy), but the film doesn't revolve around them alone. It is as much the story of their challenges and decisions as it is of the ambulance drivers, contract workers and the affected families.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film struggles a bit in the second half to tie up a loose end in the form of Unnikrishnan (Soubin Shahir). In fact, it is only time in around 150 minutes of the film that one feels whether providing a back story to each of the affected characters and trying to bring it all together has finally taken its toll on the pace of the film. The film, however, ends on a strong and poignant note.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It's worth noting that apart from a dig at the Union government's alleged attempt to try and paint it as a biological attack by terrorists, the film steers clear of politics. It is a fact that the Kerala government came in for praise for its adept handling of the crisis, but Abu sings no paeans to the government, and rightly so.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Eerie coincidence once might say, but <i>Virus</i> releases at a time when the Nipah virus has made a reappearance in the state. It seems to have been nipped in the bud this time with <a title="Nipah in Kerala: 3 more test negative, search for virus source on" href="">no more than a single case being tested positive</a>. It looks like the state has learnt its lessons. Thanks to those unlikely heroes who looked into the face of death and said, “Not today”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Virus</b></p> <p><b>Language: Malayalam</b></p> <p><b>Director: Aashiq Abu</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Nipah, and the rest...</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 4/5</b></p> Fri Jun 07 19:12:34 IST 2019 Bharat-review-A-perfect-Eid-gift-for-Salman-Khan-fans <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Sallu bhai did it again! The actor managed to garner applause and bucket load of tears from his fans with his Eid release. Not only did he flaunt his ‘dolay sholay’(muscles) but also his signature emotional act which made many pull out a tissue. <a title="Ali abbas Zafar on his latest project Bharat" href="">Classy drama with a tablespoon of history</a>, a dash of politics and a pint of action, garnished with some comedy, that is Bharat in a nutshell.</p> <p>The movie starts with a 69-year-old grumpy Bharat who refuses to let go of his ration store, 'Hind Ration Shop', to a foreign investor who wants to build a mall. Now, the name of the store keeps popping up throughout the movie, almost ruining the real focus of the script.</p> <p>The scene then <a title="Why was Salman Khan's character named 'Bharat' in the movie?" href="">shifts to Bharat’s home</a>, a joint family setting where talks about celebrating his 70<sup>th </sup>birthday are on. It was on August 15, 1947, that Bharat came to the newly-formed Hindustan from Mirpur, in Pakistan, on a train full of refugees. And so, he decided to make this day his birthday and celebrate it every year at Attari-Wagah border, the last railway station connecting Delhi to Lahore.<a title="Ali abbas Zafar on his latest project Bharat" href=""></a></p> <p>Enter Katrina Kaif a.k.a ‘Madam sir’ a.k.a Kumud Raina, who for a minute, the audience think is Bharat’s wife. Especially after Sallu’s blush when she calls him ‘sexy’. The viewers get clarity on their relationship only when Bharat’s niece asks him the reason why they did not get married despite having met 40 years back. With the clash of marbles breaking into a flashback, the scripted delay of the train at the station weaves in a perfect gap for Khan’s storytelling session.</p> <p>It starts off with an eight-year-old Bharat overhearing his teachers’ conversation about the perilous situation in Mirpur <a title="'Shooting partition sequences most challenging part of 'Bharat''" href="">after the Partition</a>. Jackie Shroff, who plays Bharat’s father, a station master, manages to deliver despite the short screen time.</p> <p>From sharing a <i>jalebi</i> with his son to covering Bharat’s eyes in the train full of corpse and letting go of his chance of escape to save his family had a strong impact on the viewers. The scene where Shroff hands his wrist watch to Bharat, asking him to take care of the family hits the audience right at the feels; some intricate detailing by Ali Abbas Zafar, symbolising a change of authority. “Go to 'Hind Ration Shop',” he keeps shouting as he climbs down the train. Separated from his father and sister, Bharat dedicates his life to keeping the promise he made to his father.</p> <p><a title="Salman Khan's 'Bharat' character gets a Twitter emoji" href="">Bharat’s story has a comical turn</a> after he meets a friend. Together, they join The Great Russian Circus team and that is where Disha Patani comes into the picture. Though Disha’s chiseled body added the fizz to the item number, it did not fetch her a lot of applause. However, Katrina Kaif had a strong role; a radically distinctive blend of comedy and drama, different from her other movies. From a government officer to a field supervisor to a television anchor, she sported every role with wit and grace. Her smart saree-clad look with the perm crown will be the talk of tinsel town for a while now.</p> <p>Sunil Grover did an excellent job bringing in the humour element. His role as Bharat’s best friend unveiled an interestingly emotional side of the actor who is mostly known for his comical skills.</p> <p>The Wagah border is definitely Khan’s lucky spot. Every scene there has fetched him applause and bucket loads of tears. Remember <i>Bajrangi Bhaijan</i>? Even in this movie, the scene where he waits for his father at the border moved many to tears.</p> <p>Even Tabu, like Jackie, had a short screen time but she did not let that affect her role as Bharat’s sister whom he lost during his escape. The scene where she holds out her torn kurta and Khan holding out the other bit was not just touching but also powerful.</p> <p>At the end of the movie, Khan marries Katrina Kaif at 70. Ali sure did overdo that bit. The movie could have ended with them on the swing and probably had people thinking about missed opportunities. Nonetheless, the wedding at 70 sure did get a couple of hoots from the crowd. Or was it the fact that his fans secretly want the actor to get married to her for real?</p> <p><b>Movie</b>: Bharat</p> <p><b>Director</b>: Ali Abbas Zafar</p> <p><b>Starring</b>: Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, Disha Patani, Jackie Shroff, Tabu</p> <p><b>Rating</b>: 3.5/5</p> Wed Jun 05 20:49:44 IST 2019 chopsticks-review-average-film-strong-moral-compass <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>You knew it was going to be an offbeat movie when you saw Mithila Palkar starring in it. And <a title="" href="Abhay Deol: Industry is no longer at the mercy of four or five producers" target="_blank">Abhay Deol</a> in the lead? Slap me if you were not waiting to see what director Sachin Yardi had in store for you.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A <a title="" href="Content is king, irrespective of whether it is film or web show: Mithila Palkar" target="_blank">Netflix original, <i>Chopsticks</i></a>, is a much needed movie. In this era of moral conflicts and not-knowing-what-the-right-thing-to-do-is; especially for youngsters who are living alone and are intimidated by every little thing life throws at them, the movie feels like a moral compass… to lead you on in the right direction, to restore your affirmations and to keep you from wavering your principles.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nirma (played by Mithila Palkar), who is named after a detergent because “the day I was born was the day my dad got his Nirma detergent franchise”, feels like she constantly needs to apologise for her existence. What more—she does not even know to hold chopsticks despite being a tour guide for Chinese tourists.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She earns good money—enough to buy herself a car which, ahem, gets stolen on the day it is bought. Gullible, harmless and honest beyond requirement, she lives inside the small set of rules she has made for herself. Timid, shy and having-to-think-twice even before wearing an earring, she is not likely to survive or make decisions but very likely to spray herself with the pepper spray.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But don’t worry, what she lacks, will be filled in by the Artist (played by Abhay Deol). The great chef who has avoided prison for 18 years, who is an “eccentric that way. If he likes you, he may even do it for free”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He tries to pull her out of her defenceless, crammy little world and shows her how in any situation, there are always options. He manages to leave an impact on her, she changes; she cuts off the wifi cable right before the guy who had been bugging her about letting him fix it. Yes, she adapts. She might survive. But no one can touch her moral compass. It always points right, no matter how many attacks life pelts her unsuspecting life with.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Chopsticks </i>is about how unfair life gets even when you are nice and kind to the people around you, even when you do no harm, and how important it is to remain that way and not let your compass waver. The Artist will teach you to take no shit and Nirma, to stand steadfast to your principles, no matter the cost. So what if you can’t eat with chopsticks; how about pulling your sleeves up and showing the Chinese how it is done in India?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mithila does not play Nirma, she is Nirma. Deol does a good job with the enigmatic Artist. Vijay Raaz as the gangster delivers a decent performance but not enough to be commendable. <i>Chopsticks </i>is<i> </i>your average, after-a-tired-day movie on the couch but with a powerful moral compass.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Chopsticks</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Director: Sachin Yardi</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Cast: Mithila Palkar, Abhay Deol, Vijay Raaz</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rating: 3/5</b></p> Sat Jun 01 12:36:22 IST 2019 ngk-review-suriya-standout-performance-cannot-save-this-muddled-film <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>When veteran director <a title="Suriya, Selvaraghavan open up about 'NGK', its politics and Suriya's role" href="" target="_blank">Selvaraghavan teamed up with versatile actor Suriya</a>, alongside Sai Pallavi and Rakul Preet Singh in the lead roles, expectations were high. Surya was last seen in the 2018 heist film <i>Thaanaa Serndha Koottam </i>and his fans have been waiting for <i>Nandha Gopalan Kumaran (NGK) </i>since its trailer released.</p> <p>Nandha Gopalan Kumaran (NGK), played by Suriya is introduced as an organic farmer who caters to the needs of the people around him. “<i>Avanku naatu mela paithyam</i> (He is fanatic about his country),” says his mother. His mom keeps taunting him for not being a dutiful son and husband, taking time to serve people ‘outside’ their home. Geetha Kumaran, played by <a title="Suriya reveals reason behind Sai Pallavi crying during shooting of 'NGK'" href="" target="_blank">Sai Pallavi is a devoted wife</a>, who supports her husband’s deeds. Very soon, he encounters a problem which leads him into politics. Initially hesitant, he understands the changes he could make as a politician—those he failed to achieve as a normal social worker. The rest of the story deals on how he accomplishes the same.</p> <p>This is a tried and tested formula, and a young man entering politics to fix the system is pretty much every other hero Tamil audience has seen. And sadly, this Selvaraghavan film offers nothing new.</p> <p>Personally, in spite of the first half being a drag, I still liked it. Suriya has no mass entry (should have been a major disappointment for fans after erecting the world largest cut-out at Thiruthanni), and with the title displayed, the film soon shifts to a middle-class household followed by light-hearted conversations. You fall in love with NGK (all credit to Suriya’s performance) and you even empathise with his character who struggles to fight against corrupt systems in the country.</p> <p>From there on, the movie falls flat. From being the uncertain helpless youth who wants to help the people around him, NGK outrightly turns into a smart tactical player who is aware of everyone and everything around him. He does not care if his actions are right or wrong, as far as he could achieve his needs. Rakul Preet Singh, playing Vanathi Thiagarajan, one of the top PR agents in the country is established as a badass voice behind the opposition leader, against the backdrop of the upcoming assembly elections. But she immediately falls head over heels for NGK, who enchants her with his ‘obnoxious attitude’. In spite of NGK outsmarting Vanathi on several occasions, he still comes back to her for ‘advice’. He completely forgets his wife (romancing Vanathi) and his family until another turn of events. Geetha Kumaran, portrayed as a strong character in the initial scenes, decides to hold up to her husband’s image by convincing herself, it is normal for a politician to have illicit relationships!</p> <p>Suriya’s performance is top-notch; the only shining grace that holds this film together. Sai Pallavi and <a title="Shelf life of heroines is less, so you need to work harder: Rakul Preet" href="" target="_blank">Rakul Preet Singh</a> have given decent performances, but fail to leave an impact due to their poorly written characters.</p> <p>Yuvan Shankar Raja’s background score is a major highlight but the songs disrupt the pace in this already tiresome journey. The choreography is a let-down to an otherwise average composition. The second half of the movie drains all your energy, with misplaced songs, unsolicited fight sequences and never-ending preaching. Towards the end of the movie, when NGK says ‘Kathukuren’ (I will learn); you are left wondering if it is an unintended apology from the director for putting the audience through this 148-minute wearisome watch.</p> <p><b>Film: NGK</b></p> <p><b>Director: Selvaraghavan</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Suriya, Sai Pallavi, Rakul Preet Singh</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 1.5/5</b></p> Fri May 31 15:39:43 IST 2019 Aladdin-review-An-all-too-familiar-world <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>From the talented director that brought you fast paced crime films like <i>Snatch</i>, two Sherlock Holmes movies, and <i>The Man From U.N.C.L.E</i> comes … Aladdin? Now, that is not where one expected the sentence to go when it began.</p> <p><i>Aladdin</i>, the latest offering from Disney’s live-action factory, directed by Guy Ritchie, stars Mena Massoud as the titular Aladdin, Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine, and <a title="Will Smith says 'Aladdin' music helped him play Genie" href="">Will Smith as the Genie</a>. The film opens on a ship—probably a subtle call back to <i>Pirates of the Caribbean—</i>where a decidedly non-blue Genie begins to tell the tale of Aladdin and the magic lamp. We are then transported to the brightly coloured streets of Agrabah and green screen, where a street urchin (Aladdin) bursts into song after a meet-cute with Princess Jasmine. Those who have seen the 1992 version will know exactly what happens next.</p> <p>Why? Because there are next to no changes that they have made to the original movie whatsoever. Yes, there are rather feeble attempts to flesh out Jafar’s (Marwan Kenzari) character, especially during a scene with Aladdin outside the cave, but the effort splutters and dies a quick death about halfway into the movie. The same can be said of giving more agency to Jasmine, which, despite Naomi Scott’s fierce performance, about limits itself to allowing her one extra song to sing. The song in itself was not quite bad though, so be prepared to hear 'Speechless' at countless talent shows in the coming year. Another addition is Nasim Pedrad as Jasmine’s handmaid Dahlia, and although it is clear from the beginning that she will remain a side character, the always welcome Pedrad acts the heck out of the character.</p> <p>The costumes are rich, elegant, and true to ethnicity, but the problem is that the movie seems reluctant to properly identify itself with its clearly Middle Eastern setting. Ritchie’s Agrabah is a mash of several vaguely Arabian countries stuck in Middle Eastern limbo. Consequently, the choreography (what little there is) suffers from the same issue.</p> <p>Of course, when it is a Disney movie, one cannot go without mentioning the music. The now household names of Pasek and Paul have joined forces with the indomitable Alan Menken to come out with a soundtrack that, much like the movie itself, closely sticks to the original, with 'Speechless' being the only original song. However, Pasek and Paul have altered certain problematic lyrics to better fit the times, especially the opening track ‘Arabian Nights’. Massoud and especially Scott deliver star performances vocally, while their ridiculous good looks and crackling chemistry transcend the clunky script to a whole new world.</p> <p>But then again, such is the fate of all remakes that they be compared with the original. And in this case, Will Smith is the one most severely affected by this nostalgic outlook. Objectively, one cannot fault his performance. Indeed, for the most part he tried to steer clear of even attempting to imitate Robin Williams’ iconic take on the Genie. He’s funny, he’s sassy, and he has abs. What more could one want? And yet, one cannot shake the gleeful, laboriously animated version that we all know and love.</p> <p>But who knows, for a whole new generation, this could be the only Aladdin they know. Not the most exciting prospect, but at least the <a title="Disney's 'Aladdin': First look out, fans upset 'genie's not blue'" href="">cast is not completely white Caucasian people</a>. Yay for progress!</p> <p><b>Film</b>: Aladdin</p> <p><b>Director</b>: Guy Ritchie</p> <p><b>Cast</b>: Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Will Smith, Marwan Kenzari, Nasim Pedrad</p> <p><b>Rating</b>: 3/5</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri May 24 22:13:49 IST 2019 indias-most-wanted-realistic-but-too-understated <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>An underwhelming Intelligence Bureau agent, a meek terrorist and a straightforward plot make <i>India’s Most Wanted</i> perfect for a couple of hours of mindless, patriotic hero-worship, but nothing more.</p> <p>Director Raj Kumar Gupta has cast Arjun Kapoor as Prabhat, a fiercely patriotic Intelligence Bureau agent, who takes it upon himself to apprehend “Yusuf,” India’s most wanted terrorist. In the film, Yusuf was responsible for a series of bombings in Pune, Hyderabad and Delhi that took place in 2008, killing and injuring hundreds. The movie revolves around the exploits of Prabhat and his team as they endeavour to bring Yusuf, who is hiding in Nepal, to justice.</p> <p>Interestingly, Yusuf’s story and that of the counter-terrorist units who apprehended him <a title="India's Most Wanted trailer: Who is the terrorist that inspired the movie?" href="" target="_blank">is similar to that of Indian Mujahideen (IM) terrorists Yasin Bhatkal and Abdul Suhan Qureshi</a>, who were caught in 2013 and 2018 respectively.</p> <p>The movie opens with a shot of a café in Pune, with people singing, dancing and having a good time. Suddenly, an explosion rocks the café, destroying it completely. Many were killed and injured. This was the only explosion depicted in the film — throughout the rest of the movie, explosions are shown as a black screen accompanied by sound effects, followed by black and white photographs of the aftermath.</p> <p>This could be either a creative or a legal choice to avoid glorifying the actions of terrorists, however, it results in a lack of emotional impact.</p> <p>The entire movie lacks emotional impact. Prabhat comes across as a very patriotic agent, but he does not seem to possess much charm or intelligence. His teammates are also bland and the way they ultimately catch the terrorist does not do justice to their courage and sacrifice.</p> <p>Consider that the film wanted to depict an unusual counter terror operation — one where underpaid IB agents on a budget of Rs. 66,000 go into foreign territory with neither weapons nor backup, leaving their families behind for a dangerous mission. Yet, by the end of it, one feels like it was not too difficult a task. They did not even really need weapons, to be honest.</p> <p>Yusuf’s capture ultimately proves underwhelming. Though he is initially shown as dangerous, a fanatic obsessed with bringing fear into the minds of “infidels,” he seems to accept his capture too easily. As a villain, he falls flat towards the end.</p> <p>The entire movie is very straight-forward. It comes across as your basic good-guy captures bad-guy plot. Given the source material, much more could have been done. For example, Prabhat seems to speak entirely in patriotic slogans. He comes across as determined, but dim.</p> <p>The only instances of humour in this movie come from Prabhat being teased about his inability to talk to women. Honestly, the movie could have done without those. The writing, too often, lacks wit.</p> <p>To the movie’s credit, it is refreshingly free from forced romance and item songs. It seems to realize the gravity of the events being portrayed and does a good job of portraying them seriously and realistically. It sheds light on the efforts and sacrifice of the men working in the shadows to keep the country safe. In the end, they are not even credited for Yusuf’s capture. The movie also builds a good atmosphere of tension in the right places, and despite unmemorable cinematography, manages to keep you engaged throughout its two-hour runtime. The ending is satisfactory, but not as triumphant as it could have been.</p> <p>Overall, the film is a decent portrayal of the efforts of the unsung heroes of the country. It is also a welcome departure from <a href="">over-the-top dramatic spy thriller</a><a href="">s like Uri</a>. It presents a very realistic picture of an actual IB SOG (Special Operations Group) operation. However, its unremarkable writing, poor portrayal of the main characters and overall lack of emotional impact renders it mediocre.</p> <p><b>Film:</b> India’s Most Wanted</p> <p><b>Actors: </b>Arjun Kapoor, Rajesh Sharma, Prasanth Alexander</p> <p><b>Director: </b>Raj Kumar Gupta</p> <p><b>Rating:</b> 2.5/5</p> Fri May 24 19:01:32 IST 2019 omung-kumars-pm-modi-less-convincing-than-an-advertisement <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A boy so poor that he sells tea to be able to contribute a little more to his family, so industrious that he helps his mother wash dishes when he is not at school, so enterprising that he wears a jacket with “sabki chai Modi ki chai” embroidered on its back.<br> </p> <p>This is Omung Kumar’s representation of PM Narendra Modi. In the unofficial biopic of the man who just became a two-term prime minister, Kumar presents a hero, or rather, a superhero, who is saintly, disrespects no one, and has a solution for everything at his fingertips.</p> <p>It is chuckle-worthy to see how even the prime minister’s most-recent campaigns are woven around his early childhood. This Modi is a boy who eavesdrops on the conversation of two customers at his chai shop and who says things like: “chai pe charcha matlab sikhsha bina kharcha”.</p> <p>If Kumar's vision is to be believed, we are meeting a man who was so far-sighted that he had written his campaigns five decades ago. If this were the case, why were <a href="" title="Political ad spend on Facebook rises to over Rs 8 cr; BJP supporters way ahead of others">crores of rupees</a> spent on hiring the best advertising agencies to plan his campaigns later?</p> <p>This is not a hagiographic tale, but an exaggerated advertisement campaign, with an actor a little less convincing and a little more contriving than those in the actual political ads. Vivek Oberoi as PM Modi is an amplified version of Modi himself. He is so consumed with portraying Modi as simple, harmless and selfless that it starts to look like pretence.</p> <p>The first half of the film charts Modi’s early journey — from being a Sanyasi to becoming an RSS worker to rising up the ladders in the Bhartiya Janta Dal. Initially, Oberoi, sways often without finding any foothold. It is only in the second half, at least, that he achieves better control over his body language.</p> <p>The control on the film, however, is loose: From shoddy camerawork to haphazard editing, scenes switch from one to another without any synchronicity. But even if we leave aside the prettification, there’s very little to admire because the facts have been played with.</p> <p>The movie credits the success of the <a href="" title="The role of Cold War in Indira Gandhi's Emergency">Navnirman Andolan</a> of 1974 in Gujarat, which led to the eventual dissolution of the state government, to the wit of Modi. The reality, however, is that it is one of the most successful student protests in modern Indian history, one that was put together by not one but a bunch of young leaders. You wonder whether it is a result of the film team’s laziness to use publicly available archives from the recent past, or a conscious choice to only use those that paint Modi in a positive light and leave out everything else altogether.</p> <p>Kumar’s Modi concedes in front of (a very caricaturishly portrayed) Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani. He does that over and over again, till the time they disappear from the screen, or may be become so insignificant that there’s no need to give them space. Kumar’s Modi is a voice of reason and vulnerability during the <a href="">Godhra riots</a>. He is a helpless chief minister who has been denied help from the three neighbouring states, and goes on-ground to be with the victims immediately. In reality, the CM only met the victims five days later. But who cares about the details, publicly available or not.</p> <p>It is only through the course of the film that you realise the conscious choice, of not just whitewashing a person, or of making him a victim of a constantly-scheming opposition, but of building a product that can, in the times to come, disregard both history and the public facts of the very recent past.</p> <p>The movie's release date was pushed to May 24, a day after the election's vote-counting, following multiple complaints from the opposition and the <a title="Election Commission bans release of PM Modi biopic during elections" href="">Election Commission</a>.</p> <p><b>Film: PM Modi</b></p> <p><b>Actors: Vivek Oberoi, Zarina Wahab, Boman Irani, Manoj Joshi</b></p> <p><b>Director: Omung Kumar</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 1.5/5</b></p> Fri May 24 12:52:39 IST 2019 de-de-pyaar-de-except-for-tabu-very-little-in-film-is-appreciable <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Right in the beginning of <i>De De Pyaar De</i>, the trust of a soon-to-be-bride is broken because her to-be husband, during his bachelor’s night, gives in and indulges a little with the stripper invited over for the party. Next scene is about the bride and groom fighting and the stripper giving them a pep talk on trust and turning them into love-birds again. In short, the trust is broken by a stripper and then won back because of the same girl. The stripper, Ayesha (Rakul Preet Singh), tries to be cool when she says that she “felt nothing” and “she knows if a man is enjoying”, but it only seems outrageous. And that is what the film is defined by in most part.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If nothing else,<i> De De Pyaar De</i> has to be appreciated for its lead actor playing the part of a man whose age is almost equal to his age in reality. In the world of mainstream Hindi films that mostly sees older actors playing college students and romancing girls half their age, the idea is utopian. Maybe that is what draws a little interest. Apart from that, there is very little in the film that is appreciable.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ajay Devgn as a London-based NRI, the 50-year-old Ashish Mehra, with his restrained acting is hardly convincing. Devgn’s turn as a passive Ashish, who easily gets intimidated by his ex-wife (Tabu as Manju) and is overawed and confused in the presence of his girlfriend (Singh), is in complete contrast with his hyper-masculine, macho avatar that we have seen in most of his recent films. That could have been the most positive thing to have come out—the actor exploring variety—but the performance is so subdued and dull that it almost puts you to sleep at times, and at others you cringe because even though he is playing 50, he continues to behave like 25.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At a running time of 160-minutes, which is anyway too long and tiring, <i>De De Pyaar De</i> also seems to be many movies. It fails to bring out one cohesive storyline woven around one theme. At least, Luv Ranjan’s (the producer of this, and director of <i>Pyaar Ka Punchnaama</i> series) previous films, even if they were out-and-out misogynistic in nature, were tied by a theme. This, written by Ranjan and Tarun Jain, and directed by long-time film editor, Akiv Ali, is scattered.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Apart from the first and second half coming across as two different films, which ends in a style that seems borrowed from many chaotic comedies; it is also very fragmented in its theme. It tries to bring home too many points in perhaps trying to be gender neutral to avoid the criticism of being misogynistic. Is it about a 50-year-old old, separated for 18-years and a philanderer finding love and finally settling down? Is it a comment on gold-diggers? Is it about a confused 26-year-old girl who is not able to make up her mind whether she wants to be a stripper, a bartender or an engineer? Or, it is about normalising stigmas associated to divorce, live-in relationships and age-gap between couples. The film as it navigates each of these or all of these together left me confused, and also disinterested.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The only time, there is a little interest, is when Tabu comes onscreen. Thankfully, she holds on to her superlative performance even in the chaos that is happening. Then, there are performances by Jimmy Sheirgill and Kumud Mishra, that are admirable. But it is too little and inconsequential in the scheme of things. While Singh gets too much screen space and too important a part that leaves both her and the film in a spot.</p> <p><b>Film: De De Pyaar De</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Director: Akiv Ali</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Starring: Ajay Devgn, Tabu, Rakul Preet Singh</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rating: 2/5</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri May 17 14:58:57 IST 2019 Ishq-not-a-love-story-review-A-scathing-indictment-of-moral-policing <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Debutant director Anuraj Manohar’s <i>Ishq: not a love story</i> stays true to its tagline—it is not a love story, but a searing criticism of toxic masculinity. The film intricately presents the issue of moral policing in the state that has reared its ugly head multiple times in the past.</p> <p>The plot revolves around the lives of two youngsters, Sachi (Shane Nigam) and his girlfriend Vasudha (Ann Sheetal), who are madly in love. The opening scenes of the film beautifully capture young love with all its innocence. Sachi, who works in an IT company, sets out to celebrate Vasudha’s birthday and picks her up from her college. They both share a few romantic moments in the morning, and even before they realise, it is night with its set of demons waiting for them.</p> <p><i>Ishq: not a love story</i> keeps the audience glued to their seats with scenes that frighten, entertain and above all makes them question the need for ‘<i>sadacharam</i>’ in the 21st century as adults are punished just for enjoying the freedom that is their due. The screenplay by Ratheesh Ravi is a fresh take on the issue of morality and tries to differentiate between ‘love’ and ‘passion’ by taking a dig at patriarchy.</p> <p>Music composer Jakes Bejoy does a laudable job as the background score plays a pivotal role in setting the mood for the thriller.</p> <p>The film becomes an endearing watch with top-notch performances by Shane Nigam and Shine Tom Chacko. After Shane’s steller performance in <i>Kumbalangi Nights</i>, his impeccable portrayal of the multilayered Sachi proves that the actor is a gem that Malayalam cinema needs to cherish. Shine Tom Chacko stuns the movie goers with his negative role as Alby, who reminds the audience of those people in the society who consider themselves the custodians of morality.</p> <p>Though the film has Sachi and Alby trying to outdo each other with their macho behaviours, it is the character of Vasudha in the climax sequence that steals the show by inverting the underlying misogyny that shadows the film.</p> <p><i>Ishq: not a love story</i> is a much-needed break from all those Malayalam films that are infested with toxic masculinity.</p> <p><b>Film: Ishq: not a love story</b></p> <p><b>Director: Anuraj Manohar</b></p> <p><b>Starring: Shane Nigam, Ann Sheetal, Shine Tom Chacko</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3/5</b></p> Fri May 17 17:38:03 IST 2019 Student-Of-The-Year-2-review-A-disappointing-teenage-love-triangle <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In one of the scenes in <i>Student Of The Year 2</i>, some time before the climactic sequence, the male lead goes out looking for one of the two female leads. When he finds her sitting alone with headphones (its colour ordination with her clothes unmissable), she asks him whether one cheerleader was not enough.</p> <p>That one line, at least for me, was enough to sum up the movie. In the guise of a high-school romance, <i>SOTY 2</i> rallies behind the male lead, while the female leads merely end up as cheerleaders. Everything else in between is candyfloss, including the special appearance by Will Smith. Yes, he dances a bit to the tunes of the classic <i>Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani</i>, but doesn’t leave a mark, mostly because the others in the frame are disappointing. That, when the film mostly revolves around dance.</p> <p>So, there’s Rohan aka Ro (Tiger Shroff) who has been in love with Mridula (Tara Sutaria) aka Mia for as long as he can remember. Their love anthem is ‘school waala love’ (has a better meaning than ‘ishq waala love'). At least, there is one thing that is less inane in this film than the first SOTY.</p> <p>Rohan and Mia have been in the same school for 12 years in Mussoorie. But Mia, who is richer than Rohan (her mom boasts of an expensive front door to establish their financial status), has moved to an expensive college in Dehradun, St Teresa College, while Rohan has to rely on a scholarship to get in to the college of his choice.</p> <p>Rohan would follow her, of course. The sports scholarship is Rohan’s only way to St Teresa from his current, Pichoridas Chamanlal College, where he is a star kabbadi player. He is also the only hope of keeping the college at the second last spot in the much-hyped Dignity Cup inter-college competition between eight colleges. He gets through to St Teresa. But, briefly. Everything that could go wrong go wrong during that small period. He starts off on the wrong foot with the snobbish daughter of the college trustee Shreya (Ananya Pandey). He beats the achiever of the college, Manav Singh Randhawa (Aditya Seal), in a race. And as it it turns out, his childhood sweetheart is attracted to the rich and popular Manav.</p> <p>Rohan’s motto for life, as suggested in the beginning of the film, is to be with Mia and keep her happy. Following that would have kept the story on track. But the writer (Arshad Sayeed) and the director (Punit Malhotra), like the teenage characters in the film, seem confused. They take the plot to unimaginable levels of stupidity, and Rohan is back to Pichoridas. Soon, he will have both the girls falling for him and his ambition would change to beating Manav in the Dignity Cup.</p> <p>In the process, the film becomes a podium for Shroff to display his chiseled body, dance skills and backflips. But acting? That’s not needed. Pandey tries hard and even succeeds at times in being the spoilt rich girl, but is mostly let down by badly written lines. Sutaria and Seal, even with a good screen space, fail to leave an impression.</p> <p>The film exploits almost every angle that a college love triangle could possibly have— the class divide, college competition, sacrifices in love – and yet fails to strike an emotional chord. The unoriginal storyline ensures that one is reminded of many films set in colleges – from <i>Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikander</i> to <i>Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge</i> and <i>Kuch Kuch Hota Hai</i>. Shroff even attempts a Shah Rukh Khan from <i>Chak De</i>, but with his one-note performance fails at that.</p> <p>A film produced by Karan Johar, SOTY 2 falls below the low benchmark that Johar set with the first installment of the film.</p> <p><b>Film</b>: Student of the Year 2</p> <p><b>Director</b>: Punit Malhotra</p> <p><b>Actors</b>: Tiger Shroff, Tara Sutaria, Ananya Pandey, Aditya Seal</p> <p><b>Rating</b>: 2/5</p> Fri May 10 21:58:45 IST 2019 pokemon-detective-pikachu-watch-for-the-visuals-skip-for-the-plot <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>&nbsp;Spotting plot holes is thrilling, sometimes. Since cinema is often a social experience, watching a movie with a bunch of friends often becomes an exercise in spotting and pointing out errors in the storytelling with one another; a shared joke at the expense of what is on screen.</p> <p>Having the odd slip-up here and there is something that can happen to even the <u><a href="">biggest franchises</a></u>. The problem with <i>Pokémon: Detective Pikachu </i>is that if you try to spot all the plot holes, you will find more holes than Pokémon in the course of the film’s one hour and forty minutes of screen time.</p> <p>A few plot holes do not a movie kill, but if you have too many of them, the film struggles and stumbles to carry you in its wake. For <i>Detective Pikachu</i>, this is a real shame because it belies a fantastic effort at world-building and animation-quality. This could easily be the best videogame adaptation of a film ever made, so well put-together is the animation. The problem is the way the movie stumbles across its own narrative.</p> <p><i>Detective Pikachu</i> is the first live-action film of the Pokémon franchise. This franchise, which originates from a Nintendo videogame of 1990s vintage, is the biggest of all time — trouncing <i>Mickey Mouse</i>, <i>Star Wars</i>, <i>Mario</i>, <i>Marvel</i>, <i>DC</i> and everyone else. Pokémon is a religion, for some, and encompasses everything from videogames to television shows to card games, toys and even a commemorative day named Pokémon Day.</p> <p>Its fans have grown up with the show and can, to a unit, hum the theme song from memory. However, this film is meant to be a fresh take on an old show — so there is so Ash, Misty, Brock, Team Rocket. Pokémon battles, the bread and butter of the franchise, are downplayed in favour of character and plot development.</p> <p>You have Pikachu, who can now talk, voiced by Ryan Reynolds of <i>Deadpool</i> fame. You have Tim, voiced by Justice Smith of <i>Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom</i>, who plays a socially-awkward young man trying to make sense of the world after finding that he can suddenly communicate with a Pikachu (in a world where everyone else can only hear the Pokémon uttering their own names in cutesy voices). You have Kathryn Newton playing a hyper-active reporter who forced to work on listicles rather than on exclusive scoops.</p> <p>In a rarity, the film is shot on 35mm film. Backed by CGI, the effect is simply Hollywood’s best effort yet at capturing an animated world and turning it into a real one. This is live action at its finest — quality-wise. However, it is the plot that takes the critical hit.</p> <p>Plot holes assault the senses, with everything from logical fallacies to problems with the character’s motivations to simply bad writing.</p> <p>A top-secret facility is strolled-into without any hitch whatsoever. Villains “capture” the good guys after following and tracking them for ages, but then let them go with no explanation. Tim survives a rib-crunching fall with barely an “oof” while a Pokémon takes a small rock to the head and nearly dies. At one point, what looks like entire tectonic plates shift and stumble over each other in a sequence that trumps any science fiction thriller <i>2012</i> had to offer— but the characters treat this as a mildly inconvenient obstacle race that displaces them a small walk away from their original location.</p> <p>Some dialogues fall flat with excessive repetition — of the performances, Smith and Watanabe prove the most compelling. What never fails to impress, however, is the CGI. And, from time to time, the uniqueness of the film’s concept shines through.</p> <p>Ryan Reynolds voicing Pikachu is an interesting creative choice. The result is a fast-talking, caffeine-addicted and snarky Pikachu. Pikachu is funny when he speaks and cute when it does not. A strange mix of worlds.</p> <p>But, somehow, it works with the film’s theme — a film-noir sci-fi jump into the world of Pokémon. It is an offbeat take on an old franchise and might just be worth watching just for the sheer uniqueness of it all.</p> <p>If you want to see how a video-game world can be animated the right way, watch this film. If you want a film that is well-written or compellingly told, you might want to give it a pass.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Movie: </b>Pokémon Detective Pikachu</p> <p><b>Director: </b>Rob Letterman</p> <p><b>Cast: </b>Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Bill Nighy, Ken Watanabe</p> <p><b>Rating:</b> 3/5</p> Fri May 10 17:44:02 IST 2019 Celebrating-beyonce <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>On April 17, Netflix watchers found a heavyweight contender for their attention—Homecoming: A film by Beyoncé. For non-fans of the pop superstar, the decision to scroll past would have been simple. For fans, the decision was simpler: plug in headphones, and hit play. The film, like other initiatives by Beyoncé, is already making history. The day after the movie released, Michelle Obama tweeted: “Girl, you have done it again.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Last year, Beyoncé became the first black artist to headline Coachella, a festival that was better known for its white audience than for its black power. Coachella became Beychella for the legions of Beyonce fans, who now found ‘their’ voice on the glamorous stage of one of America’s most profitable events.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>By combining concert footage of the historic gig with important black voices from down the ages, Beyoncé has made a visual hype track for every woman of colour. It is a mixtape for those who can count on their fingers the times when their tales of daily struggle and resilience made it to popular culture.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film’s vision is best expressed by Beyoncé when she says, “I wanted every person who has ever been dismissed to feel like they were on that stage.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Beyonce’s vocal magnificence undergirds an emotive journey through the landscape of African-American voices, from those of Nina Simone and Audre Lorde to Toni Morrison and Reginald Lewis. There are also the personal stories of the talented crew members who choreographed the masterpiece. You see a little of Beyoncé’s thought process during the rehearsals—her private moments of doubt and uncertainty, her eye for detail, and the struggle she faced during and after a difficult pregnancy. You see her plan every square inch of the stage and every tiny movement by the performers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The result is a sum much bigger than its parts, a message of self-empowerment that resonates beyond the divides of gender, genre, race or fandom. A love letter to the fans, but also, to Beychella itself.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>HOMECOMING</b></p> <p><i>Available on Netflix</i></p> <p><i>Rating: 4/5</i></p> Fri Apr 26 11:41:18 IST 2019 avengers-endgane-review-just-what-we-wanted-it-to-be <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>This review does not contain spoilers, but expect certain plot points to be discussed.</p> <p>For <i>Avengers: Endgame</i>, its greatest enemy is the <a title="'Avengers: Endgame': Makers promise 'epic conclusion'; explain why it is called 'Endgame'" href="">expectations that come with it</a>. You and I are racing to cinemas near us not only because of how big this Marvel Cinematic Universe has become, but also because it is killing us to know what awaits us in this epic conclusion to the Infinity Stones saga. The movie is a winner in every way except one—the expectation versus reality battle.</p> <p>Not that the reality is one bit disappointing. To have 20-plus <a title="'Avengers: Endgame' makers shot 5 different endings to keep plot a secret" href="">Hollywood A-listers connected to this project</a> and still maintain the secrecy of the plot is an incredible feat for Marvel Studios. And, once you are done watching it, you feel just about content. But, never have so many fan theories been churned out for just one movie to make you want it to be the greatest film ever made. And that put the onus on the studio. It may not the greatest superhero film ever. But they make your wait worth it.</p> <p>The mystery of the plot makes it all the more difficult to articulate the pros and cons of a plot that cannot be discussed. If <i>Infinity War</i> left you at the edge of your seat with astonishment, <i>Endgame</i> will satiate your appetite for excitement. Because when you are done with it, you can put down your fork and knife, sit back and enjoy that warm feeling that comes with a good heavy meal. Don't expect any dessert though. <i>Endgame</i> is the first MCU film without a credits scene.</p> <p>It is worth looking back and seeing how far this series of films has come and how attached we've grown to it. Not since The <i>Dark Knight Rises</i> has there been this much emotion in a sequel. If <i>TDKR</i> was a disappointment for many, <a title="Google ‘Thanos’, click on the Infinity gauntlet and see what happens" href=""><i>Endgame</i> is a grand mess</a>. But a rather decently managed one. Because when half the universe has been wiped out and you have the remaining heroes trying to undo the damage, it would obviously involve some form of meddling with past events. (Trust me, this isn't a spoiler.)</p> <p>Time travel, as <i>Back to the Future</i> and a host of other pop culture material will teach you, is a very messy thing. Yet, it seems convincing enough in <i>Endgame</i>. For now. Give the geeks enough time to dissect the movie, and the plot holes and inconsistencies will certainly botch this mammoth effort. Thankfully, they joke about it enough in the movie to mirror your thoughts about how preposterous it sounds. (Relax, they didn't mess with the timeline at all. The Russo brothers know better than to attempt an <i>X-Men: Days of Future Past</i>.)</p> <p>The trailer was all about the emotion of loss and vengeance. Although those are addressed in the beginning, the team cuts straight to the chase. They have to avenge (read bring back) the fallen at all costs. Some want to do it, some don't (because they like their new life better), but such is the loss suffered that it cannot be ignored.</p> <p>Although the run time is 182 minutes, it zips through events and there is barely a dull moment. It gives the characters enough time to indulge in crucial moments along the way. It has rich doses of humour, thrills, action, euphoric moments, incredible background score and almost everything that you would associate with a Marvel movie.</p> <p>One area where it does not match up to <i>Infinity War</i> is the treatment given to characters. Barring a few key ones, the others are given precious little screen time and thought, and we know very little of what arc their stories would be expected to take. Their stories converged with these two movies, and their fate will be determined in their respective individual parallel tales, but one cannot help but feel that the movie perhaps has a weak spot there. Because MCU films have always been about the characters they made.</p> <p>For a task as complicated as this, the team once again relies heavily on the brains of Tony Stark and Bruce Banner. Someone as insignificant as Nebula is given a meaty role in the team's search for Thanos and in the larger scheme of things, while Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel is just meh. The best lines in the movie? Rocket Racoon, obviously.</p> <p>There are certain things one would be wary of, ahead of the movie. A few are addressed, a few aren't. For instance, if you are one of those hoping for an explanation as to why the original Avengers weren't wiped out at the end of Infinity War, don't bother yourself. It was just for dramatic effect, is all. If you are expecting the stones and its different functions or the undoing of the snap to complicate things, fret not. They have been dealt with well.</p> <p>Does Endgame work as an independent movie? It might, but you will be robbed of the joy that comes with all the references to past incidents and the sight of a myriad characters make noteworthy cameos. It can be a tad too fast for the uninitiated, but it is a superhero movie that matches the standard that it has set for itself. The MCU has changed how superhero movies are made and consumed, and that is probably for the best.</p> <p>As you would have probably heard by now, <i>Endgame</i> is supposed to be the culmination or the end of the Avengers saga. It probably isn't. They've tied up some loose ends, let characters go and have left room for some sort of narrative to continue. One thing they probably could not avoid is the cheesiness that comes with closing a chapter—though even that comes in the right measure. The marathon has tear-jerking moments aplenty because that is how much they mean to us now.</p> <p>A decade of heroes we've loved, stories we've immersed ourselves in and the connective tissue that kept it all engrossing gets its fitting finish. Where to, now? Nobody knows. But in this grand canvas that keeps expanding and keeps us entertained, <i>Endgame</i> is a massive milestone. It is not the best MCU movie. But it does make us grateful for all we've witnessed. And we are satisfied that even if this long saga has its limits, it is worth staying till this destination. Because part of the journey is the end.</p> <p><b>Movie: Avengers: Endgame</b></p> <p><b>Directors: Joe Russo and Anthony Russo</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris&nbsp;Hemsworth, Josh Brolin, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 4/5</b></p> Fri Apr 26 15:59:26 IST 2019 Uyare-review-A-poignant-tale-of-courage-and-survival <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Newcomer Manu Ashokan's<i> Uyare </i>is<i> </i>a tribute to the indomitable spirit of every acid attack survivor who fights against all odds to hold their heads high. The film redefines the idea of beauty in a society that deems women unprepossessing if they fall victim to violence on their skin.</p> <p>The movie hits theatres at an apt time, as Kerala has been witnessing an alarmingly high rate of violence against women. Incidents of jilted lovers throwing acid and setting women ablaze have been on an all-time high in Kerala, and the film serves as a reminder against such atrocities.</p> <p><i>Uyare </i>revolves around Pallavi Raveendran (Parvathy Thiruvoth) who aspires to be a pilot from a young age and leaves no stone unturned to achieve her dream. She is hopelessly in love with Govind (Asif Ali) but dreads his authoritarian nature that commands unquestionable obedience. Though Pallavi’s father (Sidhique) is a pillar of support, she fails to strike a balance between her passion of becoming a pilot and her love life that leaves no room for her to breathe.</p> <p>Finally, Pallavi musters courage to break free from the abusive relationship, but a vengeful Govind <a title="Parvathy to essay acid attack survivor in 'Uyare'" href="">throws acid on her face</a>. The rest of the movie deals with her struggle to keep her life from falling apart and attain justice. She is supported by Vishal Rajashekharan (Tovino Thomas) who plays a pivotal role in her pursuit for self-respect and dignity.</p> <p><i>Uyare</i> does not ‘Bollywoodise’ her struggles and that is the best part of the film. The tensed and gripping start is sustained throughout, beautifully portraying the complexities of Pallavi’s life.</p> <p>Manu Ashokan does not reveal any jitters of being a first-timer and is truly a talent to look out for. Scriptwriters Bobby and Sanjay have given Mollywood another film that breaks free from the shackles of regressive representation of women on-screen. The movie also takes a few digs at the snail-paced judicial system and shows how justice evades victims of abuse.</p> <p>'Dirty Hands', the group behind the prosthetics of Parvathy does a brilliant job in conveying the physical agony of acid attack survivors.</p> <p>With <i>Uyare</i>, three women—Shenuga, Shegna and Sherga—venture into film production with their production house S-Cube Films. This is a first for Malayalam cinema, and the trio deserves a praise for picking a theme and a plot that revolves around a female read—a rarity in Mollywood.</p> <p><i>Uyare</i> marks another stellar performance by Parvathy, who manages to slip in to the character of an acid attack survivor, who refuses to bow down to societal pressure, with effortless ease. With her heart-wrenching portrayal of Pallavi Raveendran, the actor has once again proved that she is one of the best in business in Mollywood.</p> <p>Siddique impresses as Pallavi’s father and Tovino and Asif Ali do a pretty good job with their roles.</p> <p>Though <i>Uyare</i> suffers from predictability, it is an arresting depiction of the physical and mental agonies of an acid attack survivor and challenges the audience to reconsider the conventional definition of beauty.</p> <p><b>Film: Uyare</b></p> <p><b>Director: Manu Ashokan</b></p> <p><b>Starring: Parvathy Thiruvoth, Asif Ali, Tovino Thomas, Siddique</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3.5/5</b></p> Fri Apr 26 17:18:48 IST 2019 oru-yamandan-premakadha-dulquer-fails-to-impress-run-of-the-mill-romcom <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><i>Oru Yamandan Premakadha</i> lives up to its tagline 'Ithu ningal udeshiche kadha thane' [This is the same story you expected it to be]. Finding any sort of novelty in the film is a fool’s errand and it just offers the audience a touch of rustic vibes, frothy humour, splash of colours, passable fight scenes and forgettable characters.</p> <p>Set in the village of Kadamakudi, the film centres around Lallu (Dulquer Salmaan), who is a daily wage painter. Though he hails from an aristocratic family, the son of Kombanaayil John sir (Renji Panicker) prefers the company of his ‘low class’ loser friends Panchikuttan (Salim Kumar), Vicky Peedika (Soubin Shahir), and Teny Sebastian (Vishnu Unnikrishnan).</p> <p>The plot revolves around finding a suitable girl with a ‘spark’ for Lallu as his well-to-do younger brother wants to get married soon to his girlfriend. John entrusts this seemingly arduous task to Lallu’s friends and the rest of the film deals with their pursuit.</p> <p>The film is the directorial debut of B.C. Naufal, a veteran in the television scene for over a decade, who tries to deliver a mass entertainer but falters in his attempt. The script is penned down by the duo Bibin George and Vishnu Unnikrishnan who have teamed up for the films <i>Amar Akbar Anthony</i> and <i>Kattappanayile Rithwik Roshan</i>. True to their earlier films, the script of <i>Oru Yamandan Premakadha</i> also follows a similar plotline that ends up being formulaic.</p> <p><i>Oru Yamandan Premakadha</i> marks the return of Dulquer Salmaan in Mollywood after a gap of nearly one-and-a-half years. However, the actor fails to leave a mark in his role as a village hero. He does an average job of playing a character who lives by one’s own rules and seems satisfied with his dance and fight scenes. It is a huge let down to watch Soubin Shahir who had delivered a stellar performance in <i>Kumbalangi Nights</i> being reduced to hero’s ally in a script that does not leave much scope for him. However, it is Suraj Venjaramoodu who steals the show with his brilliant portrayal of a distressed father.</p> <p>The film is a mediocre attempt which elicits a few laughs from the audience but fails to weave any magic that would make it a worthwhile mass entertainer.</p> <p><b>Film: Oru Yamandan Premakadha</b></p> <p><a name="_GoBack" id="_GoBack"></a><b>Director: B.C. Naufal</b></p> <p><b>Starring: Dulquer Salmaan, Soubin Shahir, Vishnu Unnikrishnan, Samyuktha Menon, Nikhila Vimal, Dileesh Pothan, Suraj Venjaramoodu</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 2.5/5</b></p> Thu Apr 25 16:35:41 IST 2019 Kalank-review-Fine-performances-alone-cant-hold-together-this-unoriginal-affair <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>It wouldn’t be wrong to classify the regular Bollywood masala fare into a few of distinctive categories. Films about the heir of a rich family falling in love with a nautch girl, those about illegitimate kids, movies about long-lost brothers meeting and bonding in their adulthood, and those about the ultimate sacrifice made by women of the family.</p> <p><i>Kalank </i>has <a title="People should expect unexpected from me: Madhuri Dixit Nene" href="">all the elements of a quintessential Bollywood film</a>—star-crossed lovers, an illegitimate affair, two brothers from different mothers who meet for the first time accidentally and bond, selfless women who give up their lives for the happiness of the men in their families, and an evil and manipulative villain. It also has opulent sets, a brothel and a mansion, high-octane drama, and an overdose of dance and songs to introduce characters. What <i>Kalank</i> lacks is originality. It looks like a mishmash of many Hindi films over the years.</p> <p>The only element partly holding the movie together is some good performances by the actors—but not everyone’s role is well etched out. The movie brings together the on-screen hit couple of the 90s, <a title="In conversation with Madhuri Dixit, Dr Shriram Nene" href="!#col_leftparaside_articletopheader">Madhuri Dixit</a> (Bahaar Begum) and Sanjay Dutt (Balraj Chowdhury) after over two-and-a-half decades and the hit pair of recent times Varun Dhawan (Zafar) and Alia Bhatt (Roop) apart from Sonakshi Sinha (Satya) and Aditya Roy Kapur (Dev Chowdhury).</p> <p><a title="There is commercial pressure with 'Kalank': Varun Dhawan" href=""><i>Kalank</i> begins in the year 1944</a>, in Husnabad near Lahore when India is on the verge of Partition. Satya, the dutiful wife from the most affluent family in Husnabad that runs <i>The Daily Times</i>, discovers after a medical check-up that she has only a year or two to live. What happens next isn’t surprising. Foreseeing what would happen to her husband, Dev, after she is gone, Satya goes knocking on the doors of a man in Rajputana, who was helped by her family in the past. She wants the eldest of the three daughters of the man, Roop, to come and familiarise herself with her family before Satya dies, so that Roop can marry Dev later. Roop agrees after her father’s emotional plea but on one condition—she would only enter Satya’s house after she marries Dev.</p> <p>Dev, however, finds it hard to love Roop even after marrying her as he is still in love with Satya. Feeling betrayed, Roop looks for meaning beyond her marriage and steps to the forbidden area— Hiramandi that houses Bahaar to take music lessons from her. Later, she falls for the bad guy, the good-looking, bare-chested philanderer of the area, Zafar, the ironsmith.</p> <p>In the meanwhile, the community of ironsmiths, led by Kunal Kemmu’s Abdul, are putting up a fight against the Chowdhurys who want to set up a steel factory in the town, which may lead to unemployment for the community. In a town populated mostly by Muslims, Chowdhurys are a minority, but are empowered by money and a newspaper which is their mouthpiece. If this is not enough to expect the doomsday for the young couple in an illegitimate relationship, there’s also a backstory connecting them. As the relationship between Roop and Zafar evolves, secrets tumble out. But it takes so much time and repeated attempts to unravel the full secret that the plot becomes drab. Little attention to the characters of Dixit, Dutt, Sinha and Roy Kapur, ensures that you don’t connect with them emotionally, thus losing interest. Club it with the sets that looks tad synthetic and you would be bored out of your wits.</p> <p><i>Kalank</i> (taint) is based on a concept derived by the late Yash Johar. A Karan Johar production, written and directed by Abhishek Varman, it tries to bring home the point whether you look at love as as an emotion or a taint. But in the absence of a cohesive storyline, Kalank fails to offer the desired impact.</p> <p>Film: Kalank</p> <p>Director: Abhishek Varman</p> <p>Starring: Alia Bhatt, Madhuri Dixit, Sonakshi Sinha, Varun Dhawan, Sanjay Dutt, Aditya Roy Kapur</p> <p>Rating: 2/5</p> Wed Apr 17 18:55:52 IST 2019 Athiran-review-Predictability-haunts-this-Fahadh-Faasil-starrer <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>American novelist and art critic John Updike rightly said about art that “... predictability is aesthetically boring—an anti-virtue in a field where we hope to be astonished and startled and at some deep level refreshed.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Cinema is an art form where predictability is a cardinal sin. A sin debutant director Vivek commits with <i>Athiran</i>. Will a confession ease the pain? Who knows. The film's trailer piqued the interest of film buffs but it also led to speculations that it was 'inspired' from Martin Scorcese's 2010-thriller <i>Shutter Island</i>, which had Leonardo DiCaprio playing the lead. The makers of <i>Athiran</i>, however, categorically denied that the Fahadh Faasil-Sai Pallavi-starrer had anything to do with Scorcese's psychological thriller, though the genre was same.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Athiran</i> is set in the 70s and revolves around a mental asylum run by Dr Benjamin Dias (Atul Kulkarni) in Ooty. It has its share of secrets, weird patients and one special patient Nithya (Sai Pallavi) who forms the crux of the story. Rings any bells? Enter Dr M.K. Nair (Fahadh Faasil), a psychiatrist from Trivandrum Medical College, who has been tasked with investigating the alleged malpractices at the mental asylum. Nair is convinced that the asylum has skeletons in its cupboards, literally. But Dias insists that plays by the rulebook though his technique might be a bit 'different' (An oblique reference to lobotomy, perhaps? It was a rare form of psychosurgery to treat mental illness that involved severing connections in the brain's prefrontal cortex. Lobotomy was central to the theme of <i>Shutter Island</i>. And it is believed that it was practised in India in the 60s and 70s.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Coming back to <i>Athiran</i>, Nair, invariably, comes across Nithya, an autistic woman with a 'violent' yet royal past. He takes it upon himself to save her from the clutches of Dias and his partner-in-crime, hospital supervisor Renuka (Lena). Whether he succeeds or becomes one of the 'victims', forms the rest of the story. Surely you can hear the bells ringing loud and clear now.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The concept is director Vivek's brainchild but the screenplay is by veteran novelist and scriptwriter P.F. Mathews. For a scriptwriter of Mathews's stature (he scripted the award-winning <i>Ee. Ma. Yau</i> and <i>Kutty Srank</i>), there are several loose ends in the first half, which are, to an extent, tied up in the second half. In fact, even for those who have not watched <i>Shutter Island</i>, it might end up as a predictable fare towards the latter part of the second half.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But that is not to say that the film doesn't have its bright moments. The cast, for instance, is perfect. Fahadh, fresh from his <a title="'Kumbalangi Nights' review: This Fahadh Faasil-starrer is a must-watch" href="">much-acclaimed role of Shammi in <i>Kumbalangi Nights</i></a>, had come up with yet another convincing portrayal of the doctor with a twist. Kulkarni and Lena, too, scorch the screen in their own ways. But it is Sai Pallavi who, to borrow from legendary boxer Muhammad Ali's quote, 'floats like a butterfly and stings like bee'. The actress who mesmerised the Malayali audience as Malar in <i>Premam</i>, owns the role of the autistic and extremely lovable Nithya. She hardly speaks and lets her body do the talking. And she gets to show off her <i>kalari</i> moves, too!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The other highlights are the background score by Ghibran (though, at some points, it is too loud and jarring) and music by P.S. Jayhari.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, as a scene in the film shows, “the brighter the light, the darker the shadow”. It is a shadow that <i>Athiran</i> finds it a bit difficult to come out of.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>P.S.: What's Prakash Raj doing in <i>Athiran</i>, you wonder? Mum's the word. Part of our no-spoiler policy!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Athiran</b></p> <p><b>Language: Malayalam</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Fahadh Faasil, Sai Pallavi, Atul Kulkarni, Lena, Prakash Raj</b></p> <p><b>Director: Vivek</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3/5</b></p> Fri Apr 12 16:45:49 IST 2019 Five-Feet-Apart-review-A-formulaic-film-saved-by-some-fine-performances <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>After <i>A Walk To Remember</i> graced screens way back in 2002, cine goers were offered an array of similar movies—<i>Fault in Our Stars</i>, followed by <i>Me Before You</i>, <i>Everything</i>, <i>Everything</i>, and <i>Midnight Sun</i>. Considering this, one would be inclined to think that Hollywood may have reached the saturation point with regards to tragic love stories of star crossed, devastatingly attractive, (mostly white) young people with serious illnesses.</p> <p><i>Five Feet Apart</i> kindly begs to differ.</p> <p>Helmed by debutant director Justin Baldoni (of <i>Jane the Virgin</i> fame), the movie follows the lives of Will Newman (Cole Sprouse) and Stella Grant (Haley Lu Richardson), who both have cancer leukaemia photosensitive disorder Cystic Fibrosis. Through convenient exposition from Stella’s YouTube channel, the film tells us how CF means that the body produces ‘a shit ton of mucus’, which clogs the lungs and can be life threatening. What is worse, those diagnosed with CF are advised to stay ‘six feet apart’ at all times to reduce the risk of contracting each other's infections. Why the five feet then? The movie does provide a reason for it, although not a very convincing one. Anyhow, this rule is followed throughout the film, although the extent to which the characters mostly rely on mental estimates of how much distance constitutes six feet seems more than a little dangerous.</p> <p>Stella is cheerful and warm, determined to make the best of her circumstances, and Haley Lu subtly blends resilience with resignation to strip back the optimism to reveal her frustration and fear. And although introduced as a typical rebel with distinctly Jughead-esque sarcasm and artistic expression, Sprouse’s Will is just the same as Stella underneath it all – someone faced with their mortality on a daily basis. Sprouse is joined by his fellow Disney star Moises Arias as Poe Ramirez, Stella’s gay best friend and fellow CF patient in that order. All three of the actors bring a tired vulnerability in their portrayals that goes beyond what the patchy screenplay (by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis) demands of them. Although on second thought, the tiredness could also be from the burden of carrying the entire movie on their shoulders while the plot does its own thing.</p> <p>Kimberley Hebert Gregory fills the role of the adult as nurse Barb, while Claire Forlani, Cynthia Evans and Gary Weeks do not have much breathing room in their almost non-existent roles as Stella and Will’s parents. The score by Brian Taylor (who scored the <i>Avengers</i>) and Breton Vivian is classic YA fare, complete with pop montages and blaringly obvious audio cues dictating emotion.</p> <p><i>Five Feet Apart</i> is definitely commendable for its realistic depiction of the daily lives of those with Cystic Fibrosis. However, there is debate about whether to be happy about the all the much-needed representation, or be annoyed that <i>this</i> was the representation.</p> <p>All in all, it depends on what the movie wants to highlight in its portrayal. Should the fact that the protagonists suffer from illnesses demand a ground-breaking narrative about how their story is so different from everyone else? Or should it show that theirs is a love story like any other, just that they are both sick in this one? Too many movies have tried the former, and this one falls right in the middle—a well-acted but formulaic film that one can enjoy with a lot of ice-cream on a rainy day.</p> <p>Film – Five Feet Apart</p> <p>Director – Justin Baldoni</p> <p>Cast – Haley Lu Richardson, Cole Sprouse, Moises Arias, Kimberley Hebert Gregory</p> <p>Rating – 3/5</p> Fri Apr 12 21:04:21 IST 2019 Hellboy-review-An-enjoyable-yet-terribly-flawed-reboot <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>There are many dilemmas that come with “rebooting” a comic book franchise. Somehow, <i>Hellboy</i> seems to run into all of them.</p> <p>The first is the challenge of retelling the origin story, often worth an entire movie by itself. In the case of Hellboy, it was told (and told well) in 2004 by the brilliant Guillermo del Toro. It is hard and unnecessary to reinvent the wheel but a remake must necessarily do so in order to explain itself.</p> <p>The second is the challenge of finding a new plot for an old character. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but in the case of a reboot, one wonders whether a sequel could have been made instead. When fans have been asking for <i>Hellboy 3</i>, why remake <i>Hellboy 1</i> again?</p> <p>The final challenge is that of being different from the original. The original will always have its own seasoning and directors who try and add too much to this might end up ruining the soup altogether.</p> <p>In this reboot, director Neil Marshall opts to recreate the 2004 origin tale explanation with better graphics, greater violence and a dash of horror. Rather than beginning the film with Hellboy’s origin, we are instead shown the introduction story of the villain, a witch named Nimue (Milla Jovovich), whose story begins in the fifth century AD as King Arthur and his wizard Merlin set out to murder her.</p> <p>It is a rather quick introduction that manages to set the film up well in a “no nonsense” style of exposition. You are introduced the main villains, the plot and the eventual conflict in a matter of minutes. For some films, this 0-100 pace of storytelling works for a scene or two. The problem is that you cannot fill a movie with too many sequences like this, and Marshall’s <i>Hellboy</i> is packed with rushed exposition.</p> <p>Hellboy’s origin story begins around World War II, when a group of Nazis attempt a demonic ritual under Hitler’s orders, summoning a demon-baby who is prophesised<b> </b>to be the bane of all mankind. The Nazis are killed by an Allied attack, and the baby is rescued. He grows up to become Hellboy—a dour, giant, de-horned demon of a man with a right hand made of stone, and a mission to protect mankind from supernatural evil.</p> <p>After a rather confusing introduction to Hellboy, played by David Harbour, you are left wondering if this is a sequel or a reboot. It takes a while before the film gets to the point of explaining its hero, and when it does so, the resulting sequence is a rushed remake of the original 13-minute scene from 2004.</p> <p><b>Also read:<a title="'Hellboy': Why Dark Horse Comics is different from DC and Marvel" href="" target="_blank">&nbsp;'Hellboy': Why Dark Horse Comics is different from DC and Marvel</a></b></p> <p>There is something slick about <a href="" title="Why Dark Horse comics is different from DC and Marvel">Dark Horse films</a>; a throwback to the hard-boiled, noir, crime films of the 1920s-1950s. The problem with <i>Hellboy</i> is that it is too slick, over-greased even, and the result is a movie that slides past the audience at breakneck speed.</p> <p>The film’s style is distinct, a sort of blend of extreme violence and comic book magnificence. It is ridiculous,yet somewhat grim thriller, punctuated by action-sequences that are gory and satisfyingly done. Hellboy punches hard and stabs even harder, though in keeping with the comic canon, he is a terrible shot with his signature oversized revolver. There are cool moments, such as when he rides a flaming dragon over a hellish earth, but they are far too short to be memorable.</p> <p>The film is an enjoyable action-horror film with plenty of cool moments that will elicit a chuckle for their self-aware badassery. Ultimately, this is a badass movie let down by its own chaotic pace of storytelling. You can still enjoy it, especially if you want a change of style from the usual DC or Marvel fare. The violence, f-bombs, and R-rated theme make for satisfying adult viewing, but they lack the backing depth of Dark Horse’s other adaptations.</p> <p>In a month where <a href="" title="Shazam! review: A refreshing change of pace for DC"><i><u>Shazam!</u></i></a>, the <a href="" title="Avengers: Endgame': How will it all end for the earth's mightiest heroes?"><i><u>Avengers: Endgame</u></i></a> and <a href="" title="A binge-watcher's guide to Game of Thrones"><i><u>Game of Thrones</u></i></a> are all releasing, <i>Hellboy</i> feels like an unmemorable addition to popular consciousness.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: </b>Hellboy</p> <p><b>Director: </b>Neil Marshall</p> <p><b>Starring: </b>David Harbour, Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane, Sasha Lane, Daniel Dae Kim, Thomas Haden Church</p> <p><b>Rating: </b>3/5</p> Fri Apr 12 15:58:39 IST 2019 albert-pinto-ko-gussa-kyun-aata-hai-does-not-match-up-mirza-classic <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The last time I saw Manav Kaul and Nandita Das together was in one of the segments of Onir’s <i>I Am</i> (2010). Kaul, till then, had been seen in only a few films sporadically; Das had already established her mettle as an actor. In <i>I Am</i>, an anthology of four stories, the two had played a couple with conflicting opinions. In a short, they were together on screen very briefly and yet had an intrigue. I wanted to see more of them together.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Now, in Soumitra Ranade’s <i>Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyun Aata Hai</i>, there is a lot more of them together. But the film is not about them. Ranade’s is a “conceptual remake” of the four-decade-old Saeed Mirza film of the same name that scrutinised the post-Emergency era through the story of Albert (Naseeruddin Shah), a disgruntled young man, also a car mechanic, from the lower-middle class, and his family. It was about the things that concerned him, his father who was working in a Mumbai mill, a sister who went out to work and a brother who had dreams that were often termed unconventional. And, also Stella, Albert’s girlfriend (Shabana Azmi)—a working and independent woman—who often instilled sense into her short-tempered boyfriend. Mirza’s take on the society of that time, even if it was with Albert at the centre, was built through myriad characters and multiple storylines.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ranade’s is not that. For the most part, it limits itself to a few key characters, three to be precise—Kaul’s Albert, Das’s Stella and Saurabh Shukla’s Nayyar. Kaul’s Albert is not from the lower-middle class. He is a son of a government officer, well-educated, and has seen the world growing up while his father traversed different regions on-job.<b> </b>Unlike his younger brother Dominic, the prodigal son, Albert is righteous, well-settled in a private job, and content, too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But we live in times of uncertainty, distress and betrayal. An incident with a loved one in the family is more than a valid reason for Albert to flip; for him, to question everything that is happening around—in society and in the country at large. Unlike the world Mirza created, Ranade’s characters are not working in mills or as mechanics anymore. But, they are in a rat race. Always in a hurry to take over. Always ready to make someone else the scapegoat to save one’s own failures. Corruption is at its peak, so is poverty.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We are introduced to Albert on a Mumbai road when he boards Nayyar’s jeep. In a parallel plot, Stella is filing a missing report for Albert in a police station. The plot keeps switching between the two, and at times goes into flashbacks while building a backstory of what conspired.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Albert is on a mission to kill the people who have implicated his father in a land scam case, Nayyar is the man deployed by the hitman helping Albert. As they move through the Mumbai-Goa pastures, beautifully captured by Rahul De, conversations happen, building up the premise. Albert is the paragon of the frustrations one deals with in the world today. Farmers are dying of drought, he is petulant to still see them smiling while greeting people from the cities. A group of nomads with little resources pass by and look happy, he is amused with the happiness that surrounds them. When everyone is singing praises about him and his good-natured heart when the police is probing the missing report, Albert is questioning everything and everyone. There is seething anger, doubtfulness and angst.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is not a surprise then that Ranade's Albert is not sure if the woman he is in a relationship with, is really in love with him. And if she is, why? But her thoughts remain with him. In every woman he comes across on the way, he sees a version of Stella (with Das’s superlative performance). These are also the instances where the film really picks up, the chemistry between the two lead actors being remarkable and the classic number <i>Abhi Na Jao Chodkar </i>(Hum Dono) giving it a fillip.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Otherwise, the pace remains slow, yet intriguing. It is not anywhere close to Mirza’s cult classic in the building of the story, but in essence, it is—capturing the little instances of fear and worry in a middle-class person.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyun Aata Hai</b></p> <p><b>Director: Soumitra Ranade</b></p> <p><b>Starring: Manav Kaul, Nandita Das, Saurabh Shukla</b></p> <p><b>Ratings: 3.5/5</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri Apr 12 11:48:20 IST 2019 Fighting-with-My-Family-review-Highly-engaging-despite-being-predictable <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>It is soap opera in spandex, says one of the film's leading characters, Hutch Morgan (Vince Vaughn), about the world of professional wrestling. A small explainer is warranted. Professional wrestling is a performance art which mimics combat sports by combining athletics with theatrics. The matches have fixed outcomes and combative maneuvers are rehearsed and staged to reduce chances of injuries. These facts are open secrets now, but performing companies, such as the US-based, multi-million dollar World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), demand suspension of disbelief from the audience.</p> <p>But, as Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, playing himself in <i>Fighting with My Family</i> (he is also executive producer), says to the film's leading characters: “Even though this world is fictionalised, the fans know when you are not being 1,000 per cent real.” And Saraya-Jade Bevis has always been real.</p> <p>Bevis, better known by the stage name Paige, is the WWE's youngest women's champion of all time. The wrestler from Norwich, England, won the title in April 2014, when she was just 21. Four years later, she was forced to retire from in-ring competition because of a serious neck injury. But during that brief spell, Paige revolutionised the women's division in the WWE and ensured that female competitors were given the respect that they deserved. <i>Fighting with My Family</i> is her story.</p> <p>The movie, directed by Stephen Merchant, is based on the 2012 documentary, <i>The Wrestlers: Fighting with My Family</i>, which profiled Paige's family, all of whom are wrestlers. The film is every bit as predictable as the source material suggests, but that does not take away its emotional impact.</p> <p>A young Saraya, who has hardly any interest in the sport, is forced to fill in when someone does not turn up for a match in her family's ramshackle wrestling promotion, and gets hooked. Roughly five years later, Saraya and her elder brother Zak get trials with the WWE, overseen by Morgan. Only Saraya gets selected. And Paige is born.</p> <p><i>Fighting with My Family</i> is a simple, feel-good movie, but has plenty of gloomy moments. One wrestler is asked matter-of-factly if he is ready to get hit on the head and the crotch with heavy objects and is then shown how painful those hits are. The desperate wrestler endures the pain and agrees to take the hits. The extreme athleticism required for the fixed fights in the WWE does not come easily. And though Morgan is nicknamed 'Sex Tape' (because he makes people famous), his training drills are gruesome.</p> <p>The pale, pasty, would-be star from England struggles to fit in at her training camp in Florida. The teen goth looks unremarkable next to the tanned, and mostly blonde, American models, cheerleaders and dancers who are training to become WWE performers. Just how much looks mattered for the women in WWE (before the Paige revolution) is shown in a scene where Paige and her fellow trainees make their in-ring debuts on the WWE's developmental promotion, NXT. While her more glamorous colleagues win over the crowd instantly, Paige is unable to impress the American audience. Her looks earn her the moniker “freak” fairly quickly and we see a different side of the fierce competitor as she runs out of the ring in tears. Though we know she makes it big eventually, it is hard not to sympathise with the teenager, far from home, and stuck in a world that she does not understand.</p> <p>The most impressive part of the movie is the portrayal of Paige by an outstanding Florence Pugh. She has nailed the moves in the ring and has slipped effortlessly into the vivacious and defiant attitude of the real-life Paige. The supporting characters, played by Jack Lowden (her brother Zak), Nick Frost (father) and Lena Headey (mother), are all spot on. Dwayne Johnson contributes his flair to the otherwise grounded story and brings the legendary WWE persona The Rock to life as only he can.</p> <p>The only flaw of the film would be Paige's abrupt rise through the developmental setup. Fans of the WWE would know that it took a couple of years of hard work before she exploded on to the main roaster and won the women's championship on debut. But apart from this, the film is much more engaging than its premise suggests. And despite its predictability, it catches you in an emotional grip early on.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film</b>: Fighting with My Family</p> <p><b>Director</b>: Stephen Merchant</p> <p><b>Starring</b>: Florence Pugh, Vince Vaughn, Lena Headey, Nick Frost, Jack Lowden and Dwayne Johnson</p> <p><b>Rating</b>: 4/5</p> Fri Apr 05 21:17:34 IST 2019 No-Fathers-In-Kashmir-review-Capturing-the-soul-of-a-broken-state <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>“We wiped out the history of our people with our own hands,” says one of the characters in <i>No Fathers In Kashmir</i>. He is the father (played by Kulbhushan Kharbanda) of a man who has been missing for years. When his 16-year-old granddaughter, Noor (Zara Webb), comes to Kashmir from the UK with her mother, Zainab (Natasha Mago), and wishes to see one of her father’s pictures, who she had never seen, the old man has nothing to show. His photos have been burned. All trace of his existence has been destroyed. The troubled state has ensured that his life gets enmeshed in the turmoil and he is susceptible to terrorism – irrespective of his education and the fact that he was away from the state, working in the UK.</p> <p>In another scene in the film, somewhere in the middle when the plot is still evolving, the young male protagonist—16-year-old Majid (Shivam Vij)—expresses his desire to become a militant when he grows up. He wants to fight for freedom. He too has never known his father like his new friend, Noor. He does not become averse to the idea of turning to militancy although his life was directly impacted by the unrest in the state. “There is a difference between being a militant and a terrorist,” he proclaims though. “Militants fight for freedom, terrorists are criminals,” he says. “But don’t they both carry guns,” Noor asks.</p> <p><b>READ MORE</b>:&nbsp;<a href="">Hamid review: A poignant tale of love, longing and loss</a></p> <p>Director Ashvin Kumar, who has explored the life and times of Kashmir since 2009, with documentaries <i>Inshallah, Kashmir</i> and <i>Inshallah Football </i>is there again. He, however, does not lay bare the realities straightway. He builds his story around these two teenagers – Noor and Majid – both united by almost the same tragedy and share almost the same emotions. The difference is just that even after belonging to the state, she is an outsider, while he is an insider.</p> <p>Noor, like any other millennial, is amused and transfixed by everything that she sees around her, clicking pictures for her social media profile. Before her journey to her hometown, she is asked by a friend to click photos of terrorists. “Is it so easy to find them,” she asks the friend. But it seems it isn’t so difficult, either. Majid poses for her with an Armyman’s gun. As their relationship evolves, more truth about the state is uncovered. They venture out to areas that civilians are not supposed to access.</p> <p>In the process, her lens that was trained to the beauty that she found in her broken home state, starts turning grim. From the photos of shikaras, she moves on to discovering secret lands – where missing bodies have been buried. And that is the most interesting arc in the film, especially elevated by the cinematography by Jean Marc Selva and Jean Marie Delorme.</p> <p><i>No Fathers In Kashmir</i> isn’t the perfect feature film. It has its flaws. For instance, a character played by Kumar (Arshid Lone), who has suffered at the hands of both the military and terrorists, doesn’t know which side he is on. His character is confusing, club it with his one-note performance and it doesn’t leave a mark. But may be it’s the imperfections that make it fitting to capture the blemishes of the state – it’s struggle, the dichotomies and the constant fight to be free to become that perfect civil society one day.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film</b>: No Fathers In Kashmir</p> <p><b>Director</b>: Ashvin Kumar</p> <p><b>Starring</b>: Zara Webb, Shivam Vij</p> <p><b>Rating</b>: 3/5</p> Fri Apr 05 21:12:05 IST 2019 shazam-review-refreshing-change-pace-dc <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A curious coincidence has taken place in the world of superhero fiction. There are two Captain Marvels battling it out on the big screen right now, one from Marvel and one from DC, and each of them carries the burden of rescuing their respective cinematic universe.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Marvel’s <i>Captain Marvel—</i>a billion-dollar box-office hit—features the fantastic Carol Danvers. After the shocking conclusion of the <i>Avengers: Infinity Wars</i>, the onus of saving the day in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) was left to the golden-haired warrior.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>DC’s <i>Shazam!—</i>featuring a character who was known as Captain Marvel decades before Marvel Studios pinched the copyright for the name—is instead a brilliant infusion of colour into the increasingly dark-hued and gloomy DC Extended Universe.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The dilemma in the DC universe is not one of plot. It is one of brightness. Metaphorically and cinematically, DC films have been dark for a while. It is a problem, for fans, that began with the release of <i>Man of Steel, </i>the first film in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). Zack Snyder turned earth’s most beloved superhero into a brooding, frowny superhuman with morality issues. For fans of Superman, the film denied viewers the simple satisfaction that comes with wish fulfillment—that staple of what happens when an ordinary person gets extraordinary powers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Shazam!</i> is all about wish fulfillment. Its premise is akin to something a kid would think up in a recess break brainstorming session for superhero ideas—a wizard gives a 14-year-old kid named Billy Batson the ability to transform into a superhero by just saying “Shazam!” out loud.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, Billy is not the first person that the wizard turns to. It turns out that not everyone can become a superhero, something that Mark Strong’s character, Thaddeus Sivana, learns when he is denied the wizard’s super-abilities and told off for not being good enough. If Billy represents a child’s excitement at gaining superpowers and recognition, Thaddeus represents the frustration that comes with being told you are not good enough for greatness. Strong delivers a powerful performance as the villain of the piece.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Shazam!</i> is essentially a film about a child put in a superhero’s body. He uses his newly found adult pass to buy beer, visit strip clubs, and escort his foster-home chuddie buddy Freddy Freeman out of school. The two do what anybody would do in the smartphone era on discovering a YouTube-friendly event—film and monetise! Billy performs superhero stunts for the camera and, in general, enjoys his superpowers to the maximum.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Until this film, David F. Sandberg was better known for making horror movies like <i>Lights Out</i> (2016) and <i>Annabelle: Creation</i> (2017). But in <i>Shazam!</i> he executes a textbook implementation of a light-hearted superhero origin story. The film is a throwback to the golden era of comic book heroes, a period where the good guys win and the smiles are golden and all-American.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Altogether, the film is a compelling watch, filled with funny moments and well-timed punchlines. It is a refreshing addition to the DC universe, but not one that viewers would think about too much on their way back from the movie theatre. It is a light-hearted watch in an era of DC films that took themselves too seriously (until, arguably, <i>Aquaman</i>).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Does <i>Shazam!</i> make the DC Extended Universe great again? Sort of. More importantly, it restores the pedigree of a superhero whose comics outsold <i>Superman</i> by millions of copies, when both were in print during the early 1940s. It may not be all that memorable, but it is good.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Shazam!</b></p> <p><b>Director: David F. Sandberg</b></p> <p><b>Starring: Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Djimon Hounsou, Mark Strong, Jack Dylan Grazer</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3/5</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Sun Apr 07 15:43:10 IST 2019 Lakshmi-NTR-Review-new-ntr-movie-review-ram-gopal-verma <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Ram Gopal Varma possibly is different personalities rolled into one. He is an unapologetic individual, unpredictable filmmaker and a master marketeer. It is only fitting then that one assesses his work through different lenses.</p> <p>Ram Gopal Varma's latest offering, <i>Lakshmi’s NTR</i>, which he co-directed with Agasthya Manju and co-wrote with Narendra Chary, is a semi-biopic of actor-turned-politician and former chief minister late NT Rama Rao (NTR). The movie had attracted a fair share of controversies even before the release as the film sought to capture the lowest phase of NTR’s life and show real life characters and incidents in an unfiltered way.</p> <p>With elections around the corner, the movie is in the eye of a storm as the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) is trying its best to halt its release as it is related to its founder. Except in Andhra Pradesh (a court order banned the movie till elections), the movie had a theatrical release In Telangana and overseas. The movie needs to be reviewed in two ways—purely in terms of cinematic experience and as a real life drama.</p> <p>One way of watching <i>Lakshmi’s NTR</i> is by leaving aside the biases and prejudices, which is difficult under the politically charged atmosphere. The movie can be broadly categorised under emotional political drama. It begins with NTR leading a lonely life in his bungalow. After losing power and getting replaced as chief minister, NTR (played by P. Vijay Kumar) has retired to be a gloomy and weak person. Enters Lakshmi Parvati, a stranger and a teacher, who wants to write a book on the life history of the actor. A self-confessed devotee of NTR, she gets closer to him even though she is married with a child. How he gets emotionally attached to her and seeks her out is explained through some intense scenes.</p> <p>However, from day one, though NTR is a widower, his family vehemently opposes her presence in his life, to the extent of abusing her. The first half is all about how she sticks to him despite all odds. Though the first half is a bit dragging, the second half makes up for it. The sons and daughters of NTR are under the influence of his son-in-law, Babu, who conspires to malign her in different ways. NTR wins the next elections with Lakshmi Parvati by his side and from there, the family feud gets worse. Since there is a constant fear that Lakshmi can take control of the party and call shots, party leaders, led by Babu, conspire to isolate NTR and his wife. The various twists and political moves planned by Babu keeps the audience hooked.</p> <p>Simply put, this is the story of an innocent woman who is the victim of ruthless family politics.</p> <p>The best performances were by the trio, Yagna Shetty as Lakshmi Parvathi, P. Vijay Kumar as NTR and Shritej as Babu.</p> <p>The production values are average. The outdoor scenes of election campaign and public meeting could have been shot better. The emotional scenes stand out, especially the last sequence. The music is nothing to rave about, and background score feels outdated and sub-standard.</p> <p>Watching <i>Lakshmi’s NTR</i> can be a revelation of sorts, for those who believe Ram Gopal Varma narrated a true story without compromising on facts. Keeping in mind the legal hassles, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) has been renamed Mana Desam Party and a chief minister has been named just Babu.</p> <p>Similarly, all the names of political leaders and actors who appear on screen and who are connected to NTR are slightly changed. In RGV’s own style, actor and MLA Balakrishna, son of NTR is trolled even before the movie starts. In the credits, Nanadamuri Balarishna is thanked. Why? Because it was Balakrishna who first pitched the idea of a biopic on NTR’s life to Varma. The movie begins where director Krish’s <i>NTR Mahanayakudu</i> ends. RGV had clarity regarding the protagonist and antagonist of his movie even before the movie went on floors. Lakshmi Parvathi is the hero and Chandrababu Naidu is the villain since the movie is seen from the former’s perspective. Some of the interesting aspects of NTR’s life which was not well-known was shown and the credit should entirely go to RGV.</p> <p>For those youngsters who missed out on important parts of the political history of the state, this can be a quick refresher if they truly trust RGV. And for those who believed what was fed to them by top media outlets at that time, get ready to be shocked and disillusioned by how a fake narrative was built. Most importantly, it will be a mind-tripping experience for those who want to understand Chandrababu, the politician.</p> <p><b>Movie</b>: Lakshmi’s NTR</p> <p><b>Directed by</b><i>: </i>Ram Gopal Varma</p> <p><b>Starring</b>: Yagna Shetty, P. Vijay Kumar, Shritej</p> <p><b>Rating</b>: 3/5</p> Fri Mar 29 19:13:59 IST 2019 Super-Deluxe-review-Hats-off-to-Thiagarajan-Kumaraja-Vijay-Sethupathi <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>* </b>“<i>Dai</i> rascal! <i>Enna Marundhitiya</i> (Hey rascal! Forgotten me)?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Eight years is a long time. When Thiagarajan Kumararaja ventured into Tamil film industry with <i>Aaranya Kaandam</i> in 2010, it didn't exactly set the cash registers ringing. But serious film buffs sensed the arrival of a mind-bending, path-breaking filmmaker. Only for him to vanish into thin air soon after. But they didn't forget him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Then came the news and trailer of his second film <i>Super Deluxe</i>, eight years later, with one of the most versatile actors today, Vijay Sethupathi, playing a transwoman. All hell broke loose on social media. The excitement was palpable.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And why not? The kind of story-telling and filmmaking used in <i>Aaranya Kaandam</i> was unheard of in Tamil cinema then. The film industry has evolved a lot since. It is more accommodating now and open to experiments. In fact, a look at the women characters—Subbu (Yasmin Ponnappa) in <i>Aaranya Kaandam</i> and Vaembu (Samantha) and Leela (Ramya Krishnan) in <i>Super Deluxe—</i>is an indicator of this change. While the former was treated as a piece of flesh, the latter ones know what they want, what they are doing and why.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film opens with a married Vaembu asking her ex-lover whether he has forgotten her <b>*</b> and inviting him over to her house when her husband Mugil (Fahadh) isn't at home. And before the audience can sink into their easy chairs, along come a bunch of adolescent boys who are hell-bent on realising their... er... adolescent dreams. Next up is Raasukutti (the mind-blowing master Ashwanth Ashokkumar) who is waiting for his father Manickyam (Vijay Sethupathi) to return home after seven years. And return he does, but as a transwoman. And then there is the Dhanasekharan (filmmaker Mysskin), a preacher who believes God saved him from the tsunami for a higher purpose.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Now, anthologies are nothing new. But, what starts as a dark comedy soon shape-shifts into a psychedelic, quirky, multi-layered trip into everything the society perceives as normal or abnormal, and rips it all apart in true Kumararaja-style. Kumararaja once said in an interview that “time is an interesting thing... you can f*** around with time”. So, you have pop culture references from the 80s and you also have the 2004 tsunami thrown in. And with the Kino Fist style (the manipulation of narrative by jumbling up the sequence of frames through composition and editing) Kumararaja does f*** around with time in <i>Super Deluxe. </i>But the “pleasure” is all ours, really.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What's amazing is that apart from Kumararaja, the film had three other writers—Nalan Kumarasamy, Mysskin and Neelan K. Shekar. It takes a genius to weave together these narratives into a single piece of art, and that's why you cannot help but doff your hat to Kumararaja. Each of these characters are fleshed out to a T. And they are not at all judged based on their choices.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kumararaja has got the right people to play them. Sethupathi nails the portrayal of the vulnerable transwoman, Shilpa. The scenes in the police station with the pervert SI, Berlin (Bagavathi Perumal, you beauty!), his meeting with Dhanasekharan in the dimly lit subway, the exchanges between the 'father' and son Raasukutti make you go 'wow'. Fahadh and Ramya Krishnan are brilliant but it is Samantha who has clearly punched above her weight.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A stellar cast and script notwithstanding, <i>Super Deluxe </i>wouldn't have been half as effective without Yuvan Shankar Raja's thrilling music. The background score is the film's constant companion, manoeuvring it through the ebb and flow. Even noise has a melody in the film, in the hands of Raja and Kumararaja.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Amid all this delightful cacophony of frames and noises spanning over three hours, <i>Super Deluxe</i> makes you question what man often takes for granted. Be it sexuality, God or relationships. And it doesn't provide you the answers on a platter. It is for you to find out.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film is a comeback of epic proportions for the gifted filmmaker. And no, we won't be forgetting you in a hurry after this.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Super Deluxe</b></p> <p><b>Director: Thiagarajan Kumararaja</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Vijay Sethupathi, Ramya Krishnan, Fahadh Faasil, Samantha Prabhu Akkineni</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 4/5</b></p> Sat Mar 30 19:39:05 IST 2019 us-review-jordan-peele-film-wakes-you-to-horrors-with-yourself <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>There are few genres in film as revealing of the human mind as that of horror. Horror forces the audience and director alike to ask, “What is it that really frightens us?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is a highly pertinent question for the modern movie-goer. When you have had your share of films about zombies, haunted houses and shark-filled-tornados, you are left with asking yourself what is it that remains to frighten you; buried within your psyche, what are you really afraid of when simple monster displays can no longer do the trick?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The answer is in the title of Jordan Peele’s latest and greatest film, <i>Us.</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The story begins with a flashback to the 1970s, when a young Adelaide Thomas separates from her parents while on vacation in sunny Santa Cruz. While lost in a house of mirrors, she sees her own reflection turn around and smile at her. She runs away, but that smile would haunt her for the rest of her life. The movie fast forwards to the present day, where Adelaide (now played by Lupita Nyong'o) has built a family comprising her husband Gabe (Winston Duke), her daughter Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and her little son Jason “Pluto” Wilson (Evan Alex). As they move into a quintessentially Californian vacation home, they are greeted with a family of four in their driveway. Four terrifying doppelgängers—known in the film as “tethers”—of the main characters. Naturally, played by the same actors.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The tethers serve as deranged opposites of the main cast; matching them physically though as completely distorted versions of them. Adelaide’s tether, “Red”, is essentially the same person albeit raised under immensely-poorer circumstances. Pluto’s tether is a speechless manic version of himself who moves on all fours. The tethers hate their counterparts with a visceral fury and seek out a highly-performative revenge from them. This forms the primary conflict of the story.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Red’s character is fantastically-acted and one of the highlights of the show. Lupita Nyong'o delivers an iconic and researched performance both for Adelaide and for her tether. In an era of increasing mental health awareness, her depiction of Anxiety or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder will stand out as accurate and empathetic. When she first speaks, it is through a terrifying raspy voice that sounds as if she hadn’t had a sip of water in years. It is a voice that comes from effort, as Lupita researched spasmodic dysphonia with a team of specialists to get it down right.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film is a testimony to great film-making and has all the makings of an iconic classic. The cinematography is paced, deliberate, and elegant to a fault. Some of the tensest moments on screen are just extreme close-ups of Zora’s tether – a little girl whose smile is easily the most frightening thing about the entire film. The shots are almost always perfect compositions, with a deceptively simple two-shot in the film’s climax demonstrating the stark differences between Adelaide and her Tether. A powerful soundtrack backs the pace, blending the Beach Boys with N.W.A. and some R&amp;B Soul for the art of it all.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The technical mastery of the process is just a prop to an overall fantastic performance by the main crew. Duke—of <i>Black Panther</i> fame—is a jovial comedic relief who plays the essential American dad. Refreshingly, he does not end up playing the role of rescuer-of-all (despite his enormous build) – Lupita and her children are firmly in charge of being the film’s key badasses. For a very tense and serious film, there are moments where the family betray the writer’s sitcom roots, as they crack jokes and find humour in situations that are anything but funny.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Unlike many films, <i>Us</i> is not big on really explaining its setup and how the larger world came to be. Once you have finished watching the film, you will want to explore the world of fan theories (trust me you won’t be disappointed) and the numerous small Easter Eggs buried within the text. The movie stands by itself but you won’t necessarily have all the answers you seek by just watching it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Jordan Peele, best known for <i>Key &amp; Peele </i>and of course for the Oscar-winning<i> Get Out </i>(2017), has created a deeply “woke” film that explores the underlying tale of privilege and denial that defines contemporary American society. In a world where we take comfort in the narrative of “us” vs “them”, the truest horror is to be put face-to-face with a “them” who are none other than “us”. <i>Us</i> will age well and is a healthy study for any student of horror cinema. This is one film that gets it right on almost every count.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Us</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Director: Jordan Peele</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Evan Alex, Shahadi Wright Joseph</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rating: 4.5/5</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Sat Mar 30 10:11:08 IST 2019 nayanthara-airaa-fails-live-up-to-expectations-horror-flick <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>It needs to be said that director Sarjun K.M., has strictly followed the template of a horror movie in <i>Airaa</i>. The opening shots of a grey and gloomy bungalow manage to bring in ghostly vibes before the title of the movie is revealed. <i>Airaa, </i>however<i>,</i> keeps jump scares to a minimum, and sets its focus on the emotional background story that dominates the second half.</p> <p>Sarjun, best known for his much-appreciated short films <i>Lakshmi</i> and <i>Maa—</i>stories focusing on the lives of women—has presented yet another powerful woman through his lead Yamuna (Nayanthara). Yamuna’s statement against stereotyping a modern woman's professional life seems like an apt response to the recent sexist comment made by a senior actor against Nayanthara.</p> <p>Nayanthara's portrayal of emotions, however, seems repetitive after a point. Bhavani, played by Nayanthara again, showcases revenge, deep emotions and longingness to live with her loved ones. Nayanthara has adapted a very different body language to slip into the skin of Bhavani, which is in contrast to the recent characters done by the lady superstar. Amuthan, aptly played by Kalaiyarasan, is a well-maintained suspense until the intermission. Yamuna and Amuthan's journey to unravel the strange ongoings is neatly synced, and manages to keep the audience on the edge in anticipation. Kulappulli Leela needs special mention for her performance in the film. Yogi Babu's attempts at comedy fall flat most of the time.</p> <p><i>Airaa </i>also<i> </i>focuses on social stigma and ingrained superstitions. To be more precise, it talks about the Indian myth ‘Porantha neram seriyilla’, which roughly translates into being born at a bad time, hence bringing bad luck. The film concentrates more on the emotional part of the issue, not doing justice to its genre. The story is told through flashbacks, effectively conveyed through black and white shots. Certain events are unjustified till the climax, which makes us question the logic. The story misses out on logic multiple times.</p> <p>The pulsating background score by K.S. Sundaramurthy feels out of sync with the visuals in some scenes. Sudarshan Srinivasan has given beautiful aerial shots detailing the major landscapes used in the movie. Watching butterflies and a few ghost appearances on the big screen will literally make you cringe, courtesy poorly executed CGI.</p> <p><i>Airaa</i> does not live up to the expectations of a horror flick.</p> <p><b>Film: Airaa</b></p> <p><b>Director: Sarjun K.M.</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Nayanthara, Kalaiyarasan</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 2/5</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Thu Mar 28 15:31:20 IST 2019 Kesari-Review-Akshay-Kumar-war-movie-Battle-of-Saragarhi <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>On September 12, 1897, in the Samana Range, 10,000 to 12,000 Pashtun tribals launched an attack on the small and rocky British outpost, Saragarhi, that was situated between Fort Gulistan and Fort Lockhart in the North West Frontier Province, now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan. 21 soldiers of the 36th Sikh regiment, fought valiantly. Led by Havildar Ishar Singh, the battle went on for a day, until each of the soldiers gave in to the attacks from the huge army in the opposite side. The bravery of the soldiers has been unparalleled. In the end, it is the will of the soldiers that won. They wanted to keep the Afghanis occupied for the entire day so they don’t proceed on any of the other outposts, and they did manage it very well.</p> <p>In the last couple of years, the battle of Saragarhi has been discussed a lot across the media. One, because it makes for a fascinating story/script; and two, some well known stars have been associated with these projects.</p> <p>However, <i>Kesari</i>, directed by Anurag Singh and starring Akshay Kumar as Havildar Ishar Singh, is the first project to have come alive for the big screen, besides a TV series starring Mohit Raina. The others in the cast of <i>Kesari</i> are lesser-known actors. This ensures that the spotlight follows Kumar, and it does.</p> <p><i>Kesari</i> opens with a voice-over of the story behind the creation of the three outposts and the British Army’s constant scuffle with the Afghan tribesman as the camera (ably handled by Anshul Choubey) gives us an aerial view of the rocky, sandy mountain in the region. It doesn’t waste much time before it pans out to Kumar as he explains the concept of <i>sarhad</i> (border) to another soldier in the cantonment.</p> <p>The frequent use of the words <i>mullah</i>, <i>jihad</i> and <i>majhab</i>, during the course of 150-minutes of the film, is hard to overlook as something that is essential to the plot proceedings. Neither can the explanation behind the power of the colour kesari (saffron). But who are we to suggest anything?</p> <p>The first half of the film is a build-up to the day of the battle, and focuses on creating a character arc for Kumar—of a person who is valiant, righteous and always ready to take on a fight for the right causes, whether it is saving a woman or building a <i>masjid</i>.</p> <p>So, it doesn’t come as a surprise when a man single-handedly, you guessed it right –Kumar’s Ishar Singh – starts beating the Punjabi folk tune on his dhol, valiantly pitting it against the numerous Afghan men’s nagada, and his beats supersedes theirs. Unbelievable? Oh, yes. But that is our superhero, without a cape. And, he can do anything, even dream of his courtship days with his wife (Parineeti Chopra) back home.</p> <p>Perhaps, that is the reason the film seems too long and tiring by the time it ends. The writing by Singh and Girish Kohli is too patchy to keep the film engaging. But the film has its moments, especially during some of the action scenes and the time when the soldiers stand by each other. And, even with all the exaggeration, Kumar handles the character well, especially the action sequences in which he is adept. The prosthetics and fake beard is unconvincing in the beginning; the less attention paid, the better it is.</p> <p>But the stories of any other soldiers—for instance, Sumeet Basran’s Gurmukh Singh, who kept updating the Lockhart outpost with the happenings at Saragarhi—is too little and comes too late. When a lot of films on the battle were announced one after another, Randeep Hooda (supposed to be playing the lead in one of them) had said that 21 films could be made on this historic battle. “Each soldier deserves his own film,” he was quoted as saying. We wouldn’t be up for 21 films, but won’t mind one directorial that focuses on the stories of every soldier who fought instead of the star power.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film</b>: Kesari</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Director</b>: Anurag Singh</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Actor</b>: Akshay Kumar, Parineeti Chopra (special appearance)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rating</b>: 2/5</p> Thu Mar 21 22:47:44 IST 2019 How-to-Train-Your-Dragon-3-Review <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>There is always a sense of trepidation when it comes to sequels of great movies. It is a gamble when determining whether to improve on an already great work or leave it alone. But then again, for every <i>Matrix</i> trilogy, there is a <i>Dark Knight</i> series, for every <i>Lion King 2</i> and 3, there is a <i>Toy Story </i>world, and for every terrible <i>Cars </i>sequel there is now the <i>How to Train Your Dragon</i> franchise.</p> <p>Unlike many franchises that have populated the film industry, DreamWorks took their time with the <i>How to Train Your Dragon</i> films, letting the audience grow up and evolve along with Hiccup and Toothless over a span of almost a decade, making it all the more bittersweet to finally say goodbye to the beloved characters.</p> <p><i>How to Train Your Dragon </i>in 2010 brought us the lanky Hiccup, son and very reluctant heir of the strapping Viking chief Stoick. He does not fit into the archetypal Viking mould, although their trademark love for exploration is what led him to find and befriend a Night Fury, who he names Toothless. Over the course of the trilogy, the tale of the boy and his dragon remained central to the story, as did the themes of co-existence between the Vikings and those they once feared, discovery and loss of parents, and finding the inner resolve to lead.</p> <p>Jay Baruchel and America Ferrera return as Hiccup and Astrid for one last time, delivering performances on par with the ones given earlier, as do Cate Blanchett as Valka, Kit Harington as Eret Son of Eret, Jonah Hill as Snotlout, Craig Ferguson as Gobber, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Fishlegs. The funniest parts of the movie, however, come from the incessant snarky banter between the twins Ruffnut and Tuffnut, voiced with gleeful aplomb by Kristen Wiig and T.J. Miller.</p> <p>Writer-director Dean DeBlois has created a simple storyline that allows those who have not followed the franchise to ease into it almost immediately. With the multiplying dragon population at Berk putting up a figurative ‘Come Get Us’ board for the world to see, Hiccup must lead his people and dragons to lasting peace at the titular (and rather convenient) Hidden World—an Utopian abode for dragons to reside till mankind is ready for them.</p> <p>Also in the mix is Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham), a hardened dragon hunter with frankly unconvincing motives for wiping out the Night Fury population. Yes, the ‘thrill of the hunt’ is exclaimed more than once, but there is little back story given as to why he is so bent on eradicating dragons, except expository statements vaguely reminiscent of Stoick before his transformation to an understanding father figure. Ultimately however, the real conflict lies in the emotional realm as Hiccup must come to terms when to let go and move on.</p> <p><a name="_GoBack" id="_GoBack"></a>Astrid is portrayed as duly badass and supportive, but seems to receive no support in return, bringing to mind questions of whether the strong female character has been reduced to an emotional prop for the protagonist. John Powell returns stronger than ever with his Academy Award nominated score, adding new layers to an already amazing soundtrack. Ultimately, doubts about the strength of the story are instantly obliterated in the face of the animated brilliance that is Toothless.</p> <p>DreamWorks has definitely upped the ante with their animation for this one, with a single twitch of the eye communicating more than words ever could, especially at the emotional conclusion.</p> <p>All in all, what DreamWorks has done is bring a film that glows with family friendly humour, raise relevant questions about co-existence and letting go, and manage to make an adult become emotionally invested in ‘a malnourished runt with bad hair and a twig for a neck’, and his cat-dog-flootball amalgamation of a dragon – all without being Pixar. And if that is not praise-worthy, then what is?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film</b>: How to Train Your Dragon 3 – The Hidden World</p> <p><b>Director</b>: Dean DeBlois</p> <p><b>Cast</b>: Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, F. Murray Abraham, Cate Blanchett, Kristen Wiig, TJ Miller, Jonah Hill, Kit Harington</p> <p><b>Rating</b>: 3.50/5</p> Thu Mar 21 19:19:31 IST 2019 Hamid-review-A-poignant-tale-of-love-longing-and-loss <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A freezing town. Missing men. Half widows who make rounds to the police stations every day to find out if there is any news of their husbands returning. Grieving families making rounds at the local morgue to identify missing members of the family, just to bring some closure. Young kids waiting for their fathers to return. Protesting public. Armymen on duty. Militants ready to attack. Frustrated youngsters who have resorted to stone pelting. Military deployed outside mosques while namaz is offered. Pheran-clad children rowing pretty boats and wandering aimlessly. Another set of belligerent kids ready to take on the Army. Chants of <i>azaadi</i>. Men in the neighbourhood preying on these gullible kids to radicalise them, as early as possible. Amidst all these chaos, there are also those who harbour hopes of a better tomorrow.</p> <p>That is the searing picture of Kashmir that Aijaz Khan paints in his film <i>Hamid</i>. We see each of these aspects through the eyes of a bright, plucky five-year-old, Hamid (Talha Arshad Reshi) and sometimes through the eyes of his mother, Ishrat (Rasika Dugal).</p> <p>Both are in pain. Their lives have upturned. Hamid’s father, Rehmat (Sumit Kaul), a poetic carpenter, gave in to the young boy’s demand one night and ventured out to get batteries so that his son could play the radio. Little did his son know that his father would never return. No one knows what happened to Rehmat in those dark lanes of Kashmir. Ishrat has been consumed by grief ever since, paying little or no attention to her son. And Hamid, feeling responsible for what has happened, has posed many questions to whoever he could turn to, to find out his father’s whereabouts. The response has been variations of “he is with God”. Someone tells him his father is with Allah for some repair work. Hamid believes it.</p> <p>How many shades can be added to a story that emerges out of pain? Many, it appears. Khan’s masterfully crafted film has hues of innocence, humour, guilt, humanity, inter-dependence and a lot more—even when things are mostly grim.</p> <p>The best way, Hamid realises, to find his father is by getting in touch with Allah. 786 is his number, he is told. In his pursuit to touch base with the god, he tries a couple of permutations and combinations of the three numeric, till the phone rings.</p> <p>Surprisingly, it is answered, too. On the other side of the phone is Abhay (Vikas Kumar), a para-military officer, who we have seen before. Abhay, after unintentionally killing a kid, is reeling under guilt. There is a lot of anger in him as well, which at times comes out on the youngsters protesting for freedom in the state. On the personal front, he is longing to meet his eight-month-old daughter who he hasn’t even seen. Duty comes first after all.</p> <p>Abhay, when he is addressed as Allah, is quick to rescind Hamid’s call. But the young boy’s intent is stronger. He tries till the time Abhay starts understanding the plight of the kid. He turns softer, and a relationship of hope is built between the two. While the uproar in the state continues, Hamid has found an anchor in Abhay. But the truth has to be told. Even at the cost of breaking the kid’s heart, Abhay does that. What follows is a poignant moment of acceptance.</p> <p>In an earlier segment of the film, Rehmat is seen going to drop off his son till the school bus, when men pass with a funeral bier. Hamid is curious. Why are the dead buried, he asks. Rehmat, a man of better understanding, doesn’t want to inculcate delusional religious concepts. “So that we can forget them,” the father tells him. Hamid doesn’t have his father’s body, which he can bury to move on. He has his belongings though.</p> <p>The melancholy of Hamid is in these quiet moments. Whether it is the time when Ishrat breaks down during a silent march for the missing, or Hamid’s maturity to handle the truth. The experience is only elevated with the superlative performances of each actor. Dugal, who is having a really good run on screen over the last few months, seems to have internalised Ishrat – not just the physical and verbal aspects of a Kashmiri woman, but also her pain, which is measured and effective. Vikas’s portrayal of a RPF jawan reflects the contradictions and emotional turmoil the jawans go through. But it is Reshi’s innocence that wins you over.</p> <p>Adapted from Amin Bhat’s play 'Phone No. 786' by Khan and Ravinder Randhawa, <i>Hamid</i> is a tale of love, longing and loss. It doesn’t take sides, neither does it judge anyone’s intention. But it encapsulates the thought process of everyone, crafting a tale which is balanced and emotional at the core.</p> <p><b>Film</b>: Hamid</p> <p><b>Director</b>: Aijaz Khan</p> <p><b>Starring</b>: Talha Arshad Reshi, Rasika Dugal, Vikas Kumar</p> <p><b>Rating</b>: 4.5/5</p> Fri Mar 15 19:43:37 IST 2019 Mere-Pyare-Prime-Minister-review-Lost-in-execution <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>An eight-year-old boy, traumatised after his mother is sexually abused when she went for her early morning ablutions on an isolated pathway in Mumbai, tries to build her a toilet. In an isolated corner of his basti, he assembles four bamboos, a few discarded wood planks and rocks, and sets up a temporary toilet, covering it with his mother’s sari. You won’t have to go out in the open any more, he tells his mother. But the joy is short-lived as it turns into a public toilet when other women from the community start using it, leaving it dirty and unkempt. And soon, a heavy rainfall is enough to bring the structure down.</p> <p>This moment in <i>Mere Pyare Prime Minister</i> is gushy. In a few minutes, it captures many emotions—of the turmoil that the child goes through seeing his mother in pain, the problems that people living on the fringes face on a daily basis, and the the ordeal of living without the basic resources.</p> <p>Through the story of Kanhu (an adorable Om Kanojiya) and his mother, Sargam (Anjali Patil), the film captures all these and more. The young boy, with help from his friends in the neighbourhood—all of them adorable and innocent—takes up the challenge to convince the government to build toilets for them. The process is long and daunting. They understand this when they approach the local municipality. It lays bare the politics at play at every level of governance, irrespective of the region. It is as bad in Mumbai as it is in a rural region of the country. Files are passed from one department to another, and none of the 'babus' seem interested in helping.</p> <p>Only the prime minister can help, Kanhu is told by an official in the municipal corporation. Kanhu writes a letter to the prime minister next. It leads him and his friends to a little excursion as they board a train to Delhi to deliver it in person, bringing out some really touching and funny moments, thanks to some of the fine performances by almost everyone in the cast.</p> <p>That, however, isn't to say that the film maintains its pace and its emotional and sensitive gaze throughout. The strength and weakness of the film overlaps. The bare display of poverty and the disadvantages that come with it favours the film at times, and some moments stand out. But it frequently turns into poverty porn, almost like <i>Slumdog Millionaire</i>, and the conversation around poop seems never-ending. The frequency with which these conversations are repeated ruptures the beauty of the story. The dialogues meant to create humour become cringe-worthy, and the moments that could have been emotionally stirring end up being a device of manipulation.</p> <p>Director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra also wastes a lot of time in building the story that probably could have worked better if made shorter. It meanders into different things in order to capture the life of these kids, who often end up working in and around traffic signals. And if that's not enough, the film also comes across as too self-absorbed. Songs from Mehra's previous films play in the background every now and then, while the original music, composed for the film by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, fails to stand-out.</p> <p><b>Film</b>: Mere Pyare Prime Minister</p> <p><b>Director</b>: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra</p> <p><b>Starring</b>: Anjali Patil, Om Kanojiya, Rasika Agashe</p> <p><b>Rating</b>: 2.5/5</p> Wed Mar 13 22:58:33 IST 2019 Badla-review-A-masterfully-executed-revenge-saga <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>On the face of it, Mahabharata is nothing more than an ugly dynastic battle. The collateral branches of a clan fight for the throne, playing as many mind games as possible. Scratch the surface and you begin to see that the battle began to avenge the wrongs meted out to Draupadi.</p> <p>The story of Mahabharata is an essential part of <i>Badla</i>, a remake of the 2017 Spanish film <i>Contratiempo</i> (<i>The Invisible Guest</i>). The movie blends the references from the mythology with the Agatha Christie-esque story by Oriol Paulo, director of <i>Contratiempo</i>. Director and screenwriter Sujoy Ghosh, who has already established himself as a master of whodunits (with <i>Kahaani</i> and <i>Kahaani 2</i>), has been successful in executing it perfectly.</p> <p><i>Badla</i> begins in an apartment in Scotland where lawyer and witness preparation consultant Badal Gupta (Amitabh Bachchan) meets rising entrepreneur Naina Sethi (Taapsee Pannu) who is embroiled in a murder case. Gupta is there to prepare her for the impending trial hearing, which may see more witnesses emerge and the story take an unexpected turn.</p> <p>The murder took place in a closed hotel room where Sethi’s clandestine affair has come to the fore after her lover, fashion photographer Arjun Joseph (Tony Luke), has been brutally killed. Being the only person present in the room where the murder happened, Sethi is the prime witness and Gupta has to help her come out of the trial, unscathed.</p> <p>The lawyer expects the truth, and Sethi presents her version of the truth. But there is more, Gupta, the old hand that he is, believes. He insists on full disclosure. She insists on building trust. Meanwhile, another story from the past unfolds. It all began on an isolated road where Sethi and Joseph met with an accident and resulting in the death of a person. There was a passerby who could be a possible witness.</p> <p>There is also a helpful middle-aged couple—Rani and Nirmal (Amrita Singh and Tanveer Ghani)— residing ahead of that road. They help Joseph tow and fix their car. That’s not all though. A massive discovery is made at the couple’s home, and Sethi’s story sees a huge twist.</p> <p>But is she still telling the truth? No one knows. The conversation between Gupta and Sethi becomes intense as multiple versions of the story come to fore. There is a deadline of three-hours after which the trial may pick up speed. The clock ticks on the smartphone even as Sethi tries to evade questions. She is rich and powerful. She has already had help from her personal lawyer, Jimmy (Manav Kaul), in erasing her name from the death of the innocent guy. But can Gupta also help her with money and the power she wields?</p> <p>Ghosh’s execution of the story is engaging, and Avik Mukhopadhyay’s camerawork ensures that the suspense in the story never dies down. And then there’s the masterful acting chops of Bachchan and Pannu—last seen together in <i>Pink—</i>that keep you on the edge-of-your seat. As far as Indian-ising of this story is concerned, Mahabharata isn’t a hard sell. After all, both the stories, no matter what happens in between, at the heart of it, are about revenge.</p> <p><b>Film</b>: Badla</p> <p><b>Director</b>: Sujoy Ghosh</p> <p><b>Starring</b>: Amitabh Bachchan, Taapsee Pannu, Manav Kaul, Amrita Singh</p> <p><b>Rating</b>: 3.5/5</p> Fri Mar 08 20:17:15 IST 2019 Captain-Marvel-review-avengers-endgame-role-Carol-Danvers <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>There was so much riding on <i>Captain Marvel</i>—the movie and the character—that it is a relief to see that it all turned out pretty well in the end. In fact, just like the lead character, Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), quips, she doesn't really have to prove anything to anyone. And keeping that in mind has worked well for the makers.</p> <p>The 21st movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a treat like every other installment in the franchise that producer Kevin Feige has overseen. But it does play it safe in the sense that it does not bear a director's trademark style like the effect James Gunn had on <i>Guardians of the Galaxy</i> or Taika Waititi had on <i>Thor: Ragnarok</i>. It is an origin story that serves its purpose in the larger scheme of things.</p> <p>Although it is a story that seeks to establish a character, at no point does it feel like the plot is taking the usual predictable route often adopted in such movies. Except the fact that there is something on Earth that two alien races are fighting to retrieve.</p> <p>The story of Carol Danvers is told in an almost non-linear fashion, with the use of flashbacks. She suffers from amnesia from the get-go, and very little is revealed about her past. So, it does become a bit hard to piece the character together.</p> <p>She is caught in a war between two warring alien races—the Kree (from <i>Guardians of the Galaxy</i>) that Danvers identifies herself with, and the Skrull. At the height of her powers, she must do the right thing to bring justice to those who were wronged. As the story progresses, the extent of her power makes it clear why Nick Fury sent that distress signal after Thanos snapped in <i>Infinity War</i>. If there is one person who can take the fight to Thanos, it has to be Danvers.</p> <p>The movie is set in the 1990s and there are large doses of 90s nostalgia (using Nirvana's 'Come As You Are' is one such instance). The connector between Danvers and the Avengers is none other than a young witty Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) of S.H.I.E.L.D. For the first time, Marvel used CGI to make an actor look younger for a whole movie, and the fresh-faced Jackson with his wisecracks brings back memories of <i>Pulp Fiction</i>.</p> <p>The movie explores several strong relationships that Danvers forges—thankfully none romantic. With her mentor Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) it takes many turns, while with Fury, it is a friendship that is mostly filled with banter and jibes. But nothing comes close to the bonhomie she shares with her former fellow Air Force pilot Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch).</p> <p>It is this pair of headstrong, independent women that enforces the theme of women empowerment that the director duo of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck had been entrusted with. Thankfully, it doesn't feel like there is a “feminist agenda” forced on to the viewers as we are treated to vital glimpses of the two rebel women who fought discrimination all their life.</p> <p>It is not like the MCU didn't already have strong female characters. <i>Black Panther</i>, for instance, was a pathbreaker for so many reasons and one of them was the role played by strong and super intelligent women that had an influence on the lead character. We had women-centered Marvel series like <i>Agent Carter</i> and <i>Jessica Jones</i>, but yes, a female-lead film was overdue. But timing is everything, and nobody has worked that out better than the bosses at Marvel Studios.</p> <p>What better time to introduce the mighty Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel as the ultimate weapon against the merciless gauntlet-wielding Thanos? And what better time to unleash this most-awaited Avenger (she narrowly edges Spiderman in this regard) than on Women’s Day? An impeccable strategy that was bound to succeed.</p> <p>For all the review bombing that Captain Marvel had to face after Larson said she didn't care what white men had to say about her films, her performance speaks for herself. She kicks some serious ass and does it effortlessly.</p> <p>Sam Jackson, as always, gives us his best, complementing the newcomer to the Avengers family. We also finally find out how he lost his eye, and trust me, it was worth the wait. Full credit also to Ben Mendelsohn, who gives an emotionally charged performance as Talos, the Skrull leader.</p> <p>The evil force that Danvers fights is rather sadly another dud, joining a long list of soft MCU baddies. Though Danvers fights a collective bunch of villains to right some wrongs, the lack of a single strong force that can match her powers means that it more about discovering herself than the fight between good and evil.</p> <p>There are certain actions by characters along the way that don't justify the ends, but at the end of the day it is safe to say that <i>Captain Marvel</i> is more than just a prelude to <i>Avengers: Endgame</i>. It may not be mind-bending or enormous as next month's blockbuster is expected to be. But while <i>Endgame</i> is bound to disappoint many fan theorists and divide the fanbase, in the long haul, <i>Captain Marvel</i> will always be a decent film with a strong message.</p> <p>Happy Carol Danvers Day!</p> <p><b>Film</b>: Captain Marvel</p> <p><b>Directors</b>: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck</p> <p><b>Cast</b>: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Lashana Lynch, Ben Mendelsohn and Jude Law</p> <p><b>Rating</b>: 3.5/5</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri Mar 08 17:48:33 IST 2019 Luka-Chuppi-review-There-nothing-lovely-about-this-live-in-tale <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In a country that is infamous for making the private lives of celebrities a national issue, it is not a bad idea to make that the premise of a film.</p> <p><i>Luka Chuppi</i>, the Hindi directorial debut of Laxman Utekar, perhaps begins on the right note when Bollywood actor Nazeem Khan’s live-in relationship is blown out of proportion and political outfits start questioning his morality, and live-in relationships in general.</p> <p>However, the movie, which had the potential to take on the fringe elements in the society which pride in being the custodians of social morality, falls flat because of the lack of smart writing and forced attempts to elicit a few laughs. <i>Luka Chuppi</i> begins in the temple town of Mathura in Uttar Pradesh. A local political party, 'Sanskriti Raksha Manch', led by Vishnu Trivedi (Vinay Shukla), has taken Nazeem Khan’s relationship status to heart and is on a bullying spree, beating up young couples and blackening the faces of the men.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Guddu Shukla (Kartik Aaryan), a star reporter with a Mathura-based local news channel, is introduced to an electronic media graduate, Delhi-returned Rashmi Trivedi (Kriti Sanon), the daughter of Vishnu Trivedi. The two have to work together on a project to interview the <i>aad aadmi</i> about the hullaballoo around live-in relationships. The responses are surprising. Old men and women seem more progressive in their thoughts. While they are at it, cupid strikes.</p> <p>Guddu proposes marriage, but Rashmi wants to live-in before agreeing to marry. Guddu’s cameraman, Abbas Sheikh (Aparshakti Khurana), who is diligent in his role of a sidekick, comes to aid of the couple. Things go out of hand when their respective families find out about them staying together and they are forced to fake a marriage. A cross section of social issues is explored in the meanwhile. For instance, how Abbas is often sidelined and looked with suspicious eyes for being a Muslim, or how there is a certain pride in being a Brahman. The class divide too is touched upon. The film has its moments, but it fails to leave an impact because of stale treatment and trying too hard to be funny.</p> <p>There is nothing is more disappointing than the fact that two actors—Pankaj Tripathi (who plays a nagging and vile brother-in-law of Guddu’s elder brother) and Khurana—who have proved their talent and presence even in smaller roles in various films in the last couple of years, falter here. Tripathi’s Babulal is nothing less than a caricature. He wears colourful clothes, letches on married women and interferes in the family matters of his sister’s household. He tries hard to bring his much laudable comic-timing to the fore, but is held down because of poor writing.</p> <p>The lead pair of Kartik Aaryan and Kriti Sanon looks good. Perhaps, too good to fit into the mould of small-town youngsters. Their cutesy smiles and picture-perfect attires do not do justice to the region they are representing. If that’s not enough, their chemistry lacks charisma as well. To top it all, there are a number of remixed songs, pulling down the film completely.</p> <p><b>Film</b>: Luka Chuppi</p> <p><b>Director</b>: Laxman Utekar</p> <p><b>Starring</b>: Kartik Aaryan, Kriti Sanon</p> <p><b>Rating</b>: 1.5/5</p> Fri Mar 01 19:46:09 IST 2019 Sonchiriya-review-Sushant-Singh-Rajput-Ranvir-Shorey-impress-in-this-period-drama <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Caste, even if we leave out all the social intricacies involved, can become an issue of privileges. It can, at times, help you get better medical facility, or deny it depending on where you stand in the caste-hierarchy. The power of caste atrocities, especially in areas where the caste system percolates down to the greatest depths, can break one down. In one scene in Abhishek Chaubey’s <i>Sonchiriya</i>, a woman (Bhumi Pednekar as Indumati Tomar) hides from a bunch of outlaws in the ravines of Chambal, where the film is set. She is with a young girl, who has been raped brutally. To seek help from the gang of dacoits—popular for being righteous, religious and saviour of the weak—she has to first verify her caste. After much deliberation among the gang members, help is offered.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film, at the outset, isn’t the story of this woman and her battle to save the young girl. It is more about the behaviour of men she is running from. The men who want to dominate, irrespective of their relationship with her. And, it is also about being with dacoits, who are fighting their own demons of the past and trying to stay relevant while being chased by uniformed men (led by Ashutosh Rana as Virender Singh Gujjar).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The caste-divide, which frequently crosses the story line, gives the desired fillip to the plot. The film also tracks stories of people who do not give in to the existent atrocity, but fight it, selflessly. That’s what makes <i>Sonchiriya</i> unique.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Considering there have been umpteen films on the life of the bandits, mostly in the 60s and 70s, and more lately in Shekhar Kapur’s <i>Bandit Queen</i> (loosely based on the life of Phoolan Devi, whose reference peppers all over <i>Sonchiriya</i>, too) and Tigmanshu Dhulia’s <i>Paan Singh Tomar</i>, there’s little newness you expect from <i>Sonchiriya</i>. The expected violence is intact. But the film surprises you with the emotions that it deals with. A bandit who may have killed hundreds in his life is haunted by an incident where innocent kids have been put to death. He longs for atonement. Or, how a woman would go against her family, even her son, to protect a younger woman who she shares no relation with. Or, when one feisty woman from a low-caste tells another feisty woman from an upper-caste to fight as a woman and not as the flag bearer of a caste—women, as an entity, after all, are at the bottom of the caste ladder.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Sonchiriya</i>, set in the Emergency era when there was a massive crackdown on the outlaws, is dark from the moment it begins—a close-up shot of a snake’s carcass, with flies hovering over it. It's a bad omen, believe the gang of dacoits led by Man Singh (Manoj Bajpayee in a special appearance). A believer that he is, Singh prays as he holds up the snake with the barrel of his gun, and continues on his way. The gang follows. There’s hardly anyone to question him then. But not for long.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The fine performances by Bajpayee, and the members of his gang—Sushant Singh Rajput as the considerate Lakhna, and the aggressive Ranvir Shorey as Vakil Singh, who are at the other end of the spectrum as cracks in the gang widen—deserve plaudits. Each one of them bring the desired nuances needed to portray the layered characters. Rana’s Gujjar, even if impactful, lacks any surprise element. Pednekar hasn’t gotten into the zone of a village belle for the first time, but her portrayal of Indumati deserves appreciation for the range of emotions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Chaubey’s canvas is wide, both in terms of stories and the regions he traverses. An expert at exploring the lesser-known landscapes, he utilises his abilities to the full. With Anuj Rakesh Dhawan’s masterful cinematography that often switches to hand-held shots, the uneven terrains of the ravines are captured well.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In <i>Sonchiriya</i>, the dacoits rob, kill and spread menace. But they also fear and pray, and at rare times make merry. Even if the core subject is grim, the writing by Chaubey and Sudip Sharma, brings beauty with sensitivity in each of these moments.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Sonchiriya</b></p> <p><b>Director: Abhishek Chaubey</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Sushant Singh Rajput, Manoj Bajpayee, Bhumi Pednekar, Ranvir Shorey</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3.5/5</b></p> Thu Feb 28 21:38:17 IST 2019 Total-Dhamaal-Review-Dumb-and-dumber-And-dumber-and-dumber-and-dumber <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>After a rather well-made first film (<i>Dhamaal</i>), and a disappointing sequel (<i>Double Dhamaal</i>), Indra Kumar now gives us <i>Total Dhamaal</i>.</p> <p>Those who have followed the premises the franchise so far will be familiar with the storyline of this one as well—a dying man blurts out the existence of a treasure worth crores of rupees in his many last breaths, kicking the bucket conveniently before the location is revealed. All hell breaks loose when a motley gang of misfits use this information to hunt the treasure down through their misadventures, picking up a moral lesson or two along the way.</p> <p>The ensemble cast consists Ajay Devgn as Guddu, Riteish Deshmukh as Deshbandhu—a recently unemployed firefighter, and Anil Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit as a squabbling Gujarati couple on the brink of separation. Arshad Warsi and Javed Jaffrey reprise their roles as Adi and Manav, the dysfunctional brothers. Boman Irani plays a corrupt police commissioner, while Sanjay Dutt (who could not make a comeback for obvious reasons) and Aashish Chaudhary make nostalgic cameo appearances in archived footage.</p> <p>Kapoor and Madhuri do their best with the material they received, playing off each other with an ease that only comes with years of working together. Most of the supporting cast register average, if not mediocre performances, with Riteish Deshmukh throwing in a ‘bey’ every three seconds to assure the audience of his Bhojpuri pedigree, Ajay Devgn exploiting his slo-mo walk to the fullest, and Johnny Lever making a cameo as a helicopter pilot cum auto driver. Warsi and Jaffrey elicit a few laughs using the last few drops of humour left in their characters from the previous movies, although one wonders if they have it in them to take Adi and Manav through another one of these movies (already reported to be in the works, titled ‘Full on Dhamaal’). Esha Gupta appears towards the end of the movie to look pretty and add a belated romance angle, as does Mahesh Manjrekar as Chinappa Swamy—every Tamilian stereotype rolled into one. Oh, and a delightful but underused Jackie Shroff adds to the list of cameos as the creepily sentient Chindi GPS.</p> <p>There are rare beauties in the cinematography by Keiko Nakahra, but for the most part, it is a (VFX) jungle out there. This is seen especially in the scenes set at the zoo, where CGI animals teach our heroes lessons in kindness, familial love, and…Gujarati pride? Gee, one wonders who would be happy about that.</p> <p>Maybe, if they rebrand this as the Bollywood version of the <i>Disaster Movie</i>, the critics would appreciate the sheer number of predictable jokes and comic clichés that populate the film. Sadly, <i>Total Dhamaal</i> takes them very seriously. Our gang of characters (assumedly emulating their childhood animal heroes Thomas and Jeremiah) breeze through impromptu skydiving, cars bursting into flames, helicopter crashes, and plunging waterfalls with nary a scratch and an immortal tenacity that would make Chuck Norris beg for mercy. Indeed, the only visible drop of blood seen is when a vulture pecks Javed Jaffrey, who is lost in the desert wearing brown Minions overalls and a yellow beret.</p> <p>Now, that is not a sentence one ever expects to read.</p> <p>There were, however, consistent laughs among the audience at the innumerable puns and slapstick gags on screen. Maybe, the audience of today just need a mindlessly funny movie in any shape or form? And to be fair, the series was never advertised as pushing any sort of agenda than clean, slapstick, in-your-face-humour. And in that, it has moderately, somewhat made a faint impression. So there.</p> <p><b>Movie</b>: Total Dhamaal</p> <p><b>Director</b> – Indra Kumar</p> <p><b>Cast</b>: Ajay Devgn, Riteish Deshmukh, Anil Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit, Arshad Warsi, Javed Jaffrey, Boman Irani, Sanjay Mishra, Esha Gupta, Mahesh Manjrekar, Johnny Lever, Jackie Shroff</p> <p><b>Rating</b>: 2/5</p> Fri Feb 22 19:34:11 IST 2019 ntr-mahanayakudu-review-a-product-of-political-obligations <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In the first installment of legendary Telugu actor and former CM of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, N.T. Rama Rao’s biopic, the journey begins in 1947 and ends sometime in 1982 when NTR decides to start Telugu Desam Party (TDP). Covering 35 years, the movie tried to capture NTR’s rise to stardom and his eventual decision to enter public life. But the second part, <i>NTR: Mahanayakudu, </i>truncates his political life to just two years and the movie revolves around interesting episodes that took place between 1982 and 1984.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is but natural that those who watched the movie would come out feeling that justice has not been served by the makers to the person who enjoyed a demi-god status. For almost a decade, from 1984 to 1994, politics in the Telugu state was very colourful, courtesy NTR. He was known to be impulsive and emotional with his decisions which resulted in a lot of drama and surprising events. However, to the reasons best known to the makers, the movie highlights just one of the many phases of NTR’s political life, when attempts were made to destabilise his government. How he got back on his feet despite odds is the takeaway from the movie.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The beginning is similar to the first part, as the movie starts with Basavatarakam (Vidya Balan), wife of NTR (Balakrishna), flipping through photographs of her husband and reminiscing his life events, as she undergoes treatment for cancer at a hospital in Chennai. The flashback takes the audience to the time when NTR gets busy laying foundation to his party. Assisted by Nadella Bhaskara Rao (Sachin Khedekar) and with help from his son-in-law Daggubati Venkateshwar Rao (Bharath Reddy). Though advised against it, NTR decides to go into the public, leaving the comforts of a superstar’s life, by travelling in a ‘Chaitanya Ratham’—an old van driven by his son Harikrishna (Kalyan Ram). The following scenes give an understanding of how NTR began the culture of mass contact campaign by touring the state and understanding the problems of the people.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>During this yatra, he announces Rs 2 per kg rice to the poor and equal share for women in inherited property. The movie takes an interesting turn after India Gandhi is introduced. She decides to go for early elections to curtail the growing popularity of NTR as a political leader. Caught by surprise, NTR and his men quickly swing into election mode, finalise candidates and contest. On the results day, while everyone around is tense, NTR is busy playing with his grandchildren. These small details give an idea about how NTR was in real life.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What follows is TDP’s terrific victory in 1983 and NTR taking oath as chief minister in an open area, breaking away from the usual tradition of swearing-in inside the Raj Bhavan. NTR is shown as a committed leader and efficient administrator who is against corruption or misdoings of his own men.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Post interval, the plot revolves around how NTR is betrayed and overthrown by an opposite faction within the party supported by the Congress and how he tackles the crisis. Chandrababu Naidu (Rana Daggubati) is elevated as a sharp and brave strategist who helped NTR regain control of the party. He gets ample screentime and his character is the most significant in the movie after NTR.&nbsp;Rana's tranformation as Chandrababu Naidu is quite a revelation. From the body language to the way he is dressed, the effort that has been put is quite visible. In fact, every minute of the screentime, you are surprised by how the actor in him disappears and Rana effortlessly slips into the skin of the character.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The movie ends with the death of Basavatarakam. Director Krish has done a good job with emotional scenes, especially those between NTR and his wife. The one-upmanship between NTR and Nadella which spills on to the Delhi streets also keeps the audience glued. Not surprisingly, Balakrishna steals the show. Compared to the first part, Balakrishna as older NTR is more convincing and in some scenes it feels like the late actor has graced the screen.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The two-hour movie is fast-paced and interesting at times, but lacks honesty. <i>NTR: Mahanayukudu</i> is clearly a product of political obligations, keeping in mind the upcoming elections. A lot is left to be desired from the biopic which was touted as an ode to the pride of Telugu cinema and politics.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: NTR: Mahanayakudu</b></p> <p><b>Language: Telugu</b></p> <p><b>Director: Krish</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Balakrishna, Vidya Balan, Rana Daggubati</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3/5</b></p> Fri Feb 22 16:25:16 IST 2019 Dirty-John-review-As-real-as-it-gets <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Reality is often more chilling than fiction. Case in point: the story of John Meehan and Debra Newell. Debra, a 50-something interior designer from California, met Meehan, a nurse anaesthesiologist, on a dating site and they hit it off immediately. Meehan seemed to be the man of Debra’s dreams – charming, suave and caring. They got married two months after they met. He made fruit juice for her every morning, warmed water for her daily bath and squeezed paste on her toothbrush—talk about getting spoilt rotten. But her dream soon turned into a nightmare when she realised that her Prince Charming was a stalker and drug addict who had conned and swindled several women.</p> <p>A hit podcast—Dirty John—was made on Meehan by journalist Christopher Goffard and the <i>Los Angeles Times</i>. On Valentine’s Day, a series based on the podcast was released internationally on Netflix, with Eric Bana and Connie Britton playing Meehan and Newell respectively.</p> <p>The show starts with a bloody montage, which sets the tone for what is coming. The menacing music, fancy clothes, beautiful locales and great-looking people hint at the dramatisation of truth. But it need not have been stretched because the bare facts of the story of Debra and Meehan are themselves so gripping. Britton delivers a credible performance as the lonely woman in search of love, but it is Bana who steals the show, with his nuanced portrayal of a smooth-talking conman.</p> <p>Meehan is handsome and intelligent. He knows just what to say, but is a pathological liar. He is sadistic, shady and preys on the vulnerabilities of women. The complex matrix of his personality is potential gold waiting to be mined. It is frustrating to see Debra fall for his wiles when all the signs were there for her to pick up on—the suspicions of her daughters, his insistence on installing cameras in the house and open a safe deposit locker to “keep their valuables”, his anger when she refuses to sleep with him after their first outing…. But the sad truth is that there are too many Debras out there for men like Meehan to con. Love is such a potent force that it is difficult to discern when it turns deadly.</p> <p>John is as dirty as it gets and Bana who plays Meehan puts up a great act as a conman you want to hate with all your gut.</p> <p>Debra's every discovery about John from the second half of the season will make you want to reach out to her about the red flags. But as the season reaches the finale, there are moments where things sort of get tied together for Debra. Connie Britton does a great job as a woman falling for an anti-hero. When she is torn between going back to John or listening to her daughter, you can feel her angst. Writer-creator Alexandra Cunningham and director Jeffrey Reiner sure know how to loop you into Debra and John's worlds layered with her mother Arlene, parallel narration of her sister Cindi's story, Debra's daughters Terra and Veronica and John's own past with his father and sister.</p> <p>The narration that goes back and forth in timelines actually works well for a series based on real crime than make it tough for viewers to navigate. The jumps in fact give you 'ah' moments, especially when it comes to John's arc. The cinematography and background score go well with the tone of the series too. Even though initially you might find Debra's daughter Veronica and Terra played by Julia Garner and Juno Temple to be a tad irritating with their superfluous life of privilege, you realise that their dynamics with their mother, who has been through four marriages, cannot be any different than how it is.</p> <p>Dirty John is a must-watch for lovers of true crime stories.</p> <p><b>Series</b>: Dirty John</p> <p><b>Starring</b>: Eric Bana, Connie Britton, Juno Temple and Julia Garner</p> <p><b>Directed by</b>: Jeffrey Reiner</p> <p><b>Where to watch</b>: Netflix</p> <p><br> <br> </p> Mon Feb 18 18:32:02 IST 2019