Movies en Sat Mar 06 12:43:29 IST 2021 roohi-review-do-not-waste-your-time-horror-comedy <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Before the release of the film, Rajkummar Rao said in an interview that a movie like <i>Roohi</i> "is meant to be watched with the audience because you want to laugh and feel scared with everyone around. I think it will be a very unique and fun experience for people to watch it in theatres.” He was right in a way: Roohi, being the first big budget film to be released on the 70mm screen after exactly a year post COVID-19 did bring back the joy of community entertainment but I am not sure if it scared anyone around.</p> <p>And in that sense, if the makers were intending this to be a 'horror-comedy,' then without doubt they have failed at it. Having said that, I must admit that only and only the first few minutes in the first half of the film are a laughter riot and the entire credit for it goes to the stellar performances by the two leading men—Rajkummar as Bhanwara Pandey and Varun Sharma as Chitanni, or Bhanwara's sidekick and best friend. But the entire film after that is at best a drag, so much so that you'd simply want to get up and leave this so-called horror comedy, if you value your time, that is.</p> <p>To begin with, the plot itself is a huge disappointment: It is set is a small town which is famous for 'Pakdaai Shaadi,' in which young women are randomly abducted and forced into unwanted marriages. And to add to this, it seems this is the only way marriages "happen" in this place, even as mother-in-laws tell the shocked and wailing to-be daughter-in-laws that this is a tradition they must respect and carry forward. It will make you cringe in your seat. Rest of the film is dedicated to de-ghosting young women, yes, you read that right.</p> <p>Jhanvi Kapoor, as Roohi looks hardly convincing as a screaming chidail [witch] Afza despite the elaborate prosthetic make-up. She is neither scary nor funny and just as her acting portrays, she is devoid of all expressions and any acting abilities. Then the two men Rajkummar and Varun, who are journalists-turned-part time kidnappers are hired by an entitled groom to abduct Roohi for a 'pakdai shaadi'. They then realise, that she has two sides to her - one of a docile young girl, Roohi and the other of a witch.<br> </p> <p>Why does Roohi never once question her kidnappers or even try to flee the jungle in which she is left? Nobody knows. So, as time passes in the jungle, Rajkummar and Varun lose their hearts, to Roohi and Afza, respectively. While Varun falls for Afza, Rajkummar promises Roohi he'd help her get rid of the chudail. And then for the rest of the time, which in all, stretches to a painful 180 minutes, the camera simply keeps taking us through the town and its people's multiple superstitious beliefs, supernatural practices and paranormal activities.</p> <p>All one can really takeaway from the film are Rajkummar and Varun's stupendous delivery in the face of a very shoddy script and confusing direction. Varun, is hilarious to watch and is every bit believable as Chatanni Qureshi. He really has given tough competition to Rajkummar, who too, does a decent job at holding our attention in this exceptionally unsavoury film. The supporting cast brings nothing much to the table, either. Do not waste your time on this, even if you're mighty impressed with Rao's acting prowess in <i>Stree.</i> He fails to deliver the same punch here.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Roohi</b></p> <p><b>Director: Hardik Mehta</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Rajkummar Rao, Varun Sharma, Jhanvi Kapoor</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 1 star</b></p> Thu Mar 11 13:18:03 IST 2021 the-girl-on-the-train-review-parineeti-shines-in-this-forgettable-flick <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>First things first. Though <i>The Girl on the Train</i> is based on British author Paula Hawkins's eponymous 2015 novel, it does not make much sense to compare the movie to the novel or to the 2016 Hollywood adaptation starring Emily Blunt. Because, as director Ribhu Dasgupta had said ahead of the movie's release, they had to mould the story to be "palatable" to Indian audiences. So, no more talk about the novel or the Blunt showreel.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is only right that the Parineeti Chopra-starrer is judged only on its own merit. But, before moving on to merits, the understanding of what is palatable to Indian audiences must be questioned? Does it mean throwing in a couple of completely unnecessary songs? Because that is what this movie does. They serve no purpose in the plot. Whatever little light they shed on the story could have been easily achieved without them. So, they seem to be there because, well, this is Bollywood.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, apart from these unwelcome breaks, the story moves along at a steady pace. Character development is careful and concise. The movie picks up pace in the last 50 minutes. But, just as things get really interesting, we have another song and this one cannot be skipped like the two earlier songs because it also has some revelations. The background music felt a tad overdone, at times, trying too hard, and mostly failing, to get the viewer excited. The editing, too, left much to be desired, especially in the first half.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Chopra grows into her role and is convincing. It is arguably her best performance. Aditi Rao Hydari has also been given an interesting role and does justice to it. Kirti Kulhari is believable as a police officer. The supporting cast does not disappoint either.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For those who already know the story, it would be better to jump to the last 20 minutes or so. The minor changes from the source material does not add much value to the plot. The major change (the big reveal) is likely to catch you by surprise, but soon descends into absurdity. And the climax is followed by, you guessed it, a song. (At this point, I feel compelled to clarify that I am not a song-hater; at least two of them are beautifully rendered.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To sum it up, it feels like the changes which were intended to make the story more palatable made it slightly unpalatable.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: The Girl on the Train</b></p> <p><b>Director: Ribhu Dasgupta</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Parineeti Chopra, Aditi Rao Hydari, Kirti Kulhari</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 2/5</b></p> <p><b>Platform: Netflix</b></p> Fri Feb 26 20:31:12 IST 2021 1956-central-travancore-review-tales-from-a-foregone-era <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Sibling bond or rivalry is the central theme in several stories in the Bible. Such a conflict had resulted in the “first murder”, according to the book of Genesis. The Old Testament has stories of sibling duos like Cain and Abel, Esau and Jacob, Er and Onan. The New Testament too has a few siblings, most popular of them being Simon, Peter and Andrews, and James and John. The parable of the prodigal son, appearing in the Gospel of Luke, also has sibling relationship as a subplot.</p> <p>Acclaimed filmmaker Don Palathara (<i>Shavam,Vith)</i>, is someone with a penchant for placing his cinema against a Christian backdrop. His third film, <i>1956, Central Travancore</i>, is the story of two Syrian Christian brothers—Onan and Kore—who try their luck in the High Ranges of Kerala. The film's protagonists aren't directly inspired from any of the sibling duos in the Bible. Nonetheless, <i>1956… </i>seems to have a connection to the recurrent Biblical motif of the sibling relationship. In majority of the Biblical stories on siblings, it is the younger brother who causes the conflict. In <i>1956… </i>too it is the younger brother Kora’s tough financial situation that forces the brothers to attempt an adventure in the wilderness.</p> <p><i>1956…</i> is set in a period just before the land reforms in Kerala that brought drastic changes in the socio-economic structure of the state. The film starts with a static shot and a monologue about a strange custom among the Christians in a Tamil-dominated area. It is one of the several subplots in the movie that may not have a direct connection to the main plot of the cinema. The most appealing factor about this film is its writing that packs all these stories into a single unit. The movie seeks to find the truth about the oral traditions and lores of a foregone era, and thereby questions the validity of historical narratives. The protagonists would find that the “reality” they have to face is far different from what they have heard as “truth” in the stories.</p> <p>The director uses more static shots at different junctures and offers an immersive experience to the audience— something like a fourth-wall-breaking, in reverse. In one of these static shots that would last more than four minutes, Onan is speaking to a woman who is sitting in a treehouse. The conversation that begins as flirtatious ends as an insult. You don't get to see the facial expressions of any of these characters, but the director lets you experience what happens between the charterers through their voice modulations and pauses.</p> <p>The characters in the film are complex, and cannot be boxed as black or white. Onan is the one with most dialogues. A typical conservative Syrian Christian, Onan’s egoistic and chauvinistic attitudes come to the fore at times. He hates migrants, but the epilogue of the story tells that Onan and Kora would make a migration to the High Ranges.</p> <p>The main plot of the film starts when Onan accidentally finds Kora in the High Ranges. He wants to take his brother back home—'a return to home/ homeland’ is again a recurring theme in the Bible. However, Onan is not ready to pay for Kora’s debts. Instead, he suggests an illegal way to make some “easy money”. Onan wants to prove to others that he is morally superior, brave and knowledgeable. He speaks in parables, and at times his parables sounds more like an insults to others.</p> <p>The cinema captures the language and vocabulary of Central Travancore in the 1950s and the ethos of Syrian Christians of that era. Just like his previous feature-length films, <i>1956…</i> is also shot in black and white. The cinematography by Alex Joseph is top class. One notable feature in the cinematography of this movie is that it makes the audience forget about the presence of the camera. Besides, the intelligent use of sound design elevates the immersive experience that the director seeks to offer.</p> <p>The editing of the film follows an unconventional style, and there no intentional effort to establish the characters. Instead, the cinema allows the characters to get etched to the mind of the viewer in a more organic form, in a deeper way.</p> <p><i>1956…</i> is a complex film that demands multiple watches. Each time the stories embedded in it would offer new insights and revelations.</p> <p><b>Movie: 1956, Central Travancore</b></p> <p><b>Directed by: Don Palathara</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 4.5/5</b></p> Sat Feb 20 18:11:18 IST 2021 drishyam-2-review-elementary-for-dear-georgekutty <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Perfect crime is a myth. If fans of Jeethu Joseph's hugely successful <i>Drishyam</i> thought otherwise, its sequel <i>Drishyam 2</i> is a reality check. Or so, Joseph wants us to believe.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The writer-director, who has straddled diverse genres like comedy (<i>My Boss</i>) and investigation thriller (<i>Memories</i>) with ease, turned the corner in 2013 with <i>Drishyam</i>, which was lapped up by the audience and was remade into several other languages. Though hard to digest in patches, Joseph the writer managed to convince the viewers that <i>Drishyam</i> and its protagonist Georgekutty – a cinephile cable TV operator who outwits top police officers to save his family – were possible.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Drishyam</i> ended with a perfect cover-up to an inadvertent criminal act. The sequel picks up from where the first film left, and goes on to reveal that the cover-up was not so perfect after all. Six years have brought about their share of changes – Georgekutty (Mohanlal) is not just a cable TV operator now, but owns a theatre and is also planning to produce a film. The children, Anu (Esther) and Anju (Ansiba), have grown up now and have their own set of problems to deal with. Rani (Meena) is at her usual grumbling, bumbling best. But the horror of their past lurks in the shadows, pouncing on them every now and then. Even the neighbourhood and their perception of the family have changed over the years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The first half, laboriously, documents these changes and sets the stage for the story to take wings. The police have not stopped the investigation and Georgekutty knows that. One cannot wait for the real action to begin. It is a marked change from <i>Drishyam</i>, where there was hardly a dull moment. It takes more than an hour – the stroke of interval, if it was a theatrical release - in the sequel for the first WOW moment (the last one, too, perhaps?) to arrive.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What follows is a predictable game of one-upmanship between Georgekutty and IG Thomas Bastin (Murali Gopy), who replaces Asha Sharath from <i>Drishyam</i> as the anti-hero in khaki. The film moves on like a man possessed in the second half, revealing the twists and turns, as plotted by a far-sighted Georgekutty, in a hurry. At times, it seems a bit too much to take in. The film rushes to tie up all the loose ends and some of the knots seem contrived. The same applies for the climax, too. In Georgekutty's cinematic universe, nothing is impossible, and nothing is beyond him. As he says in the film, 'It's cinema after all'.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Interestingly, in <i>Drishyam 2</i>, Georgekutty's cover is blown by a person who, too, commits an inadvertent crime but serves sentence for it, unlike the former. The protagonist, on the other hand, atones for his 'sins' in a way he deems right. Oh, it's cinema after all.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The highlight of the sequel has to be its cast. Mohanlal impresses yet again, albeit in an older, wary avatar who has been keeping his family out of harm's way all these years. It's not the carefree Georgekutty from seven years ago anymore, but one who keeps looking over his shoulder now. And Mohanlal does justice to this Georgekutty 2.0. His chemistry with Meena and their emotional exchanges are a delight to watch. Ansiba and Esther take their time to fall into the groove but roll along relatively well. But the surprise package is Murali Gopy, who holds his own against Mohanlal and others.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There haven't been too many success stories in Malayalam film industry as far as sequels are concerned, except the Dasan-Vijayan series or the CBI series, perhaps. Joseph was initially reluctant to make a sequel to <i>Drishyam</i>, and one can see now why. Isn't a perfect sequel, much like a perfect crime, a myth?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Drishyam 2</b></p> <p><b>Language: Malayalam</b></p> <p><b>Director: Jeethu Joseph</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Mohanlal, Meena, Ansiba, Esther, Murali Gopy and others</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3/5</b></p> <p><b>OTT platform: Amazon Prime</b></p> Fri Feb 19 06:51:52 IST 2021 the-white-tiger-review-adarsh-gourav-roars-as-2008-angry-young-man <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In 2008, three years after Thomas Friedman visited Bangalore and, enthralled by its globalisation, eagerly described the world as “flat”, Aravind Adiga released his debut, Booker Prize-winning novel, White Tiger. It was unrestrained in its biting depiction of an India struggling against itself, divided between the “dark” India (of perpetual have-nots) and the “light” India (those with big bellies).</p> <p>Globalisation was not yet a dirty word and India appeared keen on letting the world peek in through doors that were opened not too long ago. It was a time, perhaps, where it was still insightful to observe that Bangalore (not yet Bengaluru) was the “Silicon Valley” of India, or that this century would be one for the Asians, or that bribes made the wheels of government go round and round.</p> <p>Enter <i>The White Tiger</i>: Released on Netflix in 2021, it is a caustic reflection of 2008, narrated by Balram Halwai, a seemingly successful entrepreneur who claims to have lived in both Indias, and who writes an autobiographical letter to former Chinese premier Wen Jiabao. Over the course of his narration, Halwai charts a tale that spans the daily brutality of life in rural India, telling his journey from tea-seller to driver to would-be murderer and then, at last, successful Indian entrepreneur.</p> <p>Iranian-American director Ramin Bahrani’s adaptation of Adiga’s novel feels like it should have been made sooner. After all, between the late 2000s from whence this story came, the 2010s that followed it, and the very first year of the 2020s that we have only just barely scraped through, it does seem like three decades have passed and not 13 years. Consider that <i>Slumdog Millionaire</i> released in 2008, and while the memories of that movie were still fresh, <i>The White Tiger</i> (2021) could have existed as a pithy response—a yin to a yan.</p> <p>Both films, after all, were made by non-Indian directors trying to communicate the intrigues of the rags-to-riches idea of India. But where <i>Slumdog Millionaire</i> sought a lighter tone, from its world half-full outlook to its dance-party ending, <i>The White Tiger </i>feels far grimmer: Thinks <i>Breaking Bad</i> meets <i>Gangs of Wasseypur</i> with a hint of <i>Wolf of Wall Street</i>—cautionary tales with a hint of rogue protagonists you can’t help but love.</p> <p>Adarsh Gourav plays Halwai, a class-3 dropout forced to sell tea who was determined to escape the clutches of his social upbringing. The big names in the cast include Priyanka Chopra as the NRI “Pinky Madam” and Rajkummar Rao as Ashok, Pinky’s husband and the US-returned son of the zamindar. Both the “NRI” characters perform their accents convincingly, seeming neither from India nor entirely from outside of it (One wonders whether Chopra is still acting). But it is Gourav who steals the show.</p> <p>A relative newcomer (his Wikipedia page is but a day-old, though you may have seen him as the teenage Rizwan Khan in <i>My Name is Khan</i>), Gourav plays a captivating narrator and protagonist. His exudes thirst—a burning passion to live out a life greater than the cards dealt to him—and is the highlight of film. Whenever the film starts to lose you, whether due to its relentlessly caustic depiction of India or its occasionally directionless feel in the first half, Gourav pulls the reins and reels you back in again. His rage against the system mixes well with his desire to survive it, maybe even beat it.</p> <p>Though ostensibly hailing from Bihar’s Gaya district, Gourav’s character sinks comfortably into English, capturing well the dilemma of being a servant to an “upper” class India, torn between loyalty to ones roots and the trappings of luxury acquired from the “master”. There are moments where the choice of language does feel strange, as if Gourav acquired his eloquence from years of reading and not from three years of schooling rudely interrupted, but convincing acting lets these fade.</p> <p>Above all else, <i>The White Tiger</i> explores the culture of servitude in India, its inherent cruelties and the many arrogances of the ruling class that lets drivers be treated as servants, and servants be treated as bonded labourers. “Do we loathe our master behind a facade of love, or do we love them behind a facade of loathing,” Halwai asks as he is tasked with taking care of a ruined and drunken Ashok.</p> <p>Rao plays Ashok well, encapsulating the many tropes of the NRI-returnee—a degree of Western righteousness and beliefs about equality (beliefs frequently let down by his own servitude to the authority of his family, which blatantly disregards ideas of equality in favour of casteist and sexist power moves). Ashok and Pinky are well contrasted by Ashok’s zamindari family—frequently at odds over trivialities, and burdened by the reality of “not knowing how India works”.</p> <p>Ashok grapples, like a good NRI who dislikes being called “sir”, with his desire to be good to Balram. But at the end of the day, he sleeps in his luxury condo after dismissing Balram to his cockroach-infested room in the basement. He bribes to government officials, flees responsibilities with ease, and is convincingly despicable at all the right moments. Yet, he seems directionless.</p> <p>In contrast is Balram, whose confidence in being the eponymous White Tiger, a rarity of the jungle, also makes him starkly vulnerable—whenever he is met with the reality of the social trap he was born into on account of his caste and class, he faints from the sheer existential dread of it all. He is hungry, and in the end, he makes sure his patience was fed. When Gourav gets a chance to steal a large sum of money, he chooses not to, saying “This was at least two years salary, maybe three. I was worth more.”</p> <p>The film avoids discussing revolution, preferring an idea of individual emancipation over a collective one. Like the book, it makes the case that India is broken from the top-down, using the analogy of the poor being trapped in a rooster coop—forced to watch their brood slaughtered before their very eyes, but unwilling and unable to escape</p> <p>The book is more open with such themes, but also remains largely cynical.</p> <p>In a line from near the book’s ending, Halwai muses to the Chinese premier, “Keep your ears open in Bangalore—in any city or town in India—and you will hear stirrings, rumors, threats of insurrection. Men sit under lampposts at night and read. Men huddle together and discuss and point fingers to the heavens. One night, will they all join together—will they destroy the Rooster Coop? Ha!”</p> <p><i>The White Tiger</i> makes for powerful viewing. For the typical middle-class Indian audience, who may have a servant or two to ease life’s many (and mandatory) burdens, the film can make you feel uncomfortable in all the ways the novel managed without coming across as a preachy sermon of privilege-checking. It is shot well, though there are few stand-out visuals, barring the scene where Balram revels in the seemingly emancipatory joy of defecating outdoors. In many ways, the film feels better suited to 2008 than it does to 2021, mostly because 2014’s change of guard makes many of its political references feel bygone.</p> <p>Nonetheless, if the film can make us even slightly uneasy about the power structures we inhabit and perpetuate, perhaps it has done its job.</p> <p><b>MOVIE: The White Tiger</b></p> <p><b>DIRECTOR: Ramin Bahrani</b></p> <p><b>STARRING: Adarsh Gourav, Rajkummar Rao, Priyanka Chopra</b></p> <p><b>RATING: 4/5</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri Jan 22 20:17:00 IST 2021 tribhanga-review-women-show-all-the-way <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Women cannot have it all, seems to be the message of the movie, Tribhanga.&nbsp;</p> <p>A movie about family, love and loss, Tribhanga tells the story of women belonging to three different generations. The choices two women from the older generation seem to have impacted the third generation considerably. It is depicted in how Masha, played by 'internet star' Mithila Palkar, chooses to be conventional.</p> <p>The story does have plot holes, but the thought behind the film deserves attention. The women in the movie— Nayantara played by Tanvi Azmi and Anuradha played by Kajol— are shown to have shattered a few patriarchal notions women are expected to live up to. But, in the end, the message writer-director Renuka Sahane conveys is that women find it more difficult to strike a work-life balance. This is because they are expected to flit in and out of several roles at once. This can clearly be seen in how Nayan is shown failing as a wife, a daughter-in-law and a mother.&nbsp;</p> <p>The point also comes through when Anu is seen trying to grapple with a physically abusive live-in partner. And later, when Nayan seemingly meets the man of her dreams. As a viewer, I am split between whether or not the narration was too fast or not just fast enough.&nbsp;</p> <p>The setting and cinematography of the movie reminds one of movies like Shaban-Azmi-starrer Morning Raga or Dance like a Man, starring Anoushka Shankar.</p> <p>Performance-wise, it may seem like Kajol is a tad over the top, but, her abrasiveness seems justified as the second half of the film unfolds. Tanvi Azmi, who plays a woman forced to make tough choices in the 80’s, comes out as the real winner. The talented Mithali Palkar isn't given enough screen time to bring out her acting chops.</p> <p>Movies depicting complex relationships between women are rare and far in between. This seems more true of Indian cinema. Whenever women are the lead characters with flaws et al, they are immediately&nbsp; categorised as a ‘bitch’ or a ‘manipulative shrew’. Right from Kaikeyi of Ramayana to Priyanka Chopra in Fashion have been shown in this light, where, in the end, they realise that they need a man to bring in a sense of completeness. This is the convention that Tribhanga attempts to defy, and manages to do so well.</p> <p>Regrets and unspoken words are sentiments several storytellers and directors have explored. But, Renuka Sahane’s take is non-melodramatic. The movie may be a tough cookie to chew overall, but definitely deserves a one time watch. The movie depicts feminism in its many layers, and the greatest takeaway might be that the men just fade away in the background.</p> <p><b>Movie: Tribhanga</b></p> <p><b>Director: writer: Renuka Sahane</b></p> <p><b>Starring: Kajol, Mithila Palkar, Tanvi Azmi,&nbsp; Siddharth Roy Malhotra&nbsp;</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3/5</b></p> Fri Jan 15 21:09:41 IST 2021 maara-movie-review-the-film-fails-to-capture-the-soul-of-its-original-charlie <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>How would it be to reimagine or reinterpret Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Macondo without any magical realism in it? Would you feel that you are missing something? Those who have watched the 2015 Malayalam film <i>Charlie </i>would feel the same when you watch its Tamil interpretation, <i>Maara</i>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A remake or a reinterpretation has to face the unavoidable fate of being compared with its original. And, Dhilip Kumar’s <i>Maara</i> fails to imbue the mystical aura offered by Martin Prakkat’s <i>Charlie</i>, though it is a decent “realistic drama” when considered as a standalone film.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Maara</i> portrays a restoration architect, Paaru, in search of an artist who painted a wall art series that has some connection to a fairy tale she heard as a child. In her quest to find him, Paaru comes in touch with a number of people who guide her to him. Shraddha Srinath plays the role of Paaru and R. Madhavan plays the role of the title character, Maara.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Maara</i> has almost all the characters in the story of <i>Charlie</i>, plus some additional ones. Many of these characters, including the lead characters, have a reimagined storyline.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But while doing that, the film fails to build a larger-than-life image for its protagonist Maara. In fact, Charlie, portrayed by Dulquer Salmaan, was all about being a mystical maverick, who can be compared to the “wind”—one does not know from where it comes from and where it is going. Here, Madhavan’s Maara is too ordinary; Maara cannot boast anything more than an amazing painting skill, a heart of gold and a Harley Davidson.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In <i>Maara</i>,&nbsp;major portion of the story is happening in Kerala. Though some of the Malayalam dialogues in the film were pathetic, the film is an ode to the rich cultural heritage and diversity of Fort Kochi and Mattancherry.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At times, the film drags and fails to keep the audience engaged. It also fails to create any thrills or chills. And, towards the last portion, it shifts the perspective from Paaru and fills the narrative with some flashbacks intended to spoon-feed the viewer. The climax is very much different from that of Charlie. Charlie’s climax is an open-ended one with enough scope for interpretations, whereas Maara does not keep anything for the audience to think.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film’s music by Ghibran is average. There is not one soul-uplifting song in this film. The background score is too loud at times. However, cinematography by Dinesh Krishnan and Karthik Muthukumar was praiseworthy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dulquer’s <i>Charlie</i> was a trendsetter in Kerala. The character has a cult-like following even now in the Malayalam social media film groups. <i>Maara</i> does not have the calibre to attain any such status, as it fails to capture the soul of its original.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Maara</b></p> <p><b>&nbsp;</b></p> <p><b>Director: Dhilip Kumar</b></p> <p><b>&nbsp;</b></p> <p><b>Cast: R. Madhavan, Shraddha Srinath, Padmavati Rao</b></p> <p><b>&nbsp;</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 2/5</b></p> Fri Jan 08 10:16:36 IST 2021 ak-vs-ak-review-a-departure-from-straight-laced-cinema-style <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Netflix original <i>AK Vs AK</i>, directed by Vikramaditya Motwane (Udaan, Lootera, Trapped, Bhavesh Joshi) is watchable for its novelty, a departure from straight-laced cinema style in Bollywood. A meta experiment, cast in the mould of a mockumentary, this "work of fiction" has Anurag Kashyap and Anil Kapoor play their respective selves and trade stinging truths which are also perpetual conflicts between the old and the new, mainstream and the independent in the fraught world of entertainment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"2020 <i>mein aakar app bhi Mr India ho gaye ho</i>...Invisible and Irrelevant...<i>Is umar mein bhi aapko hero banna hai</i>," charges Kashyap at Kapoor on a online chat show scuffle which devolves into a takedown of Kapoor with his face splashed with water. Kashyap, the maverick auteur, has to pay a price for publicly humiliating a "superstar" and starts to lose his actors and shoot dates. At one point, a harried Kashyap is amazed how even Nawazuddin Siddiqui could hang up on him. "I have made your career Black Friday, Gangs of Wasseypur, Raman Raghav, Sacred Games...," Kashap yells into the phone. He then joins forces with a rookie filmmaker who suggests making a hostage thriller, cinéma vérité style, by kidnapping Kapoor's daughter Sonam and shooting Kapoor's breathless race against time to find her. This could be the film Kashyap needs in his bid to make a dramatic comeback and settle scores with Kapoor for previous slights when he was a struggling director.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The action that follows plays out over a day on 24 December which is also Kapoor's birthday. It moves from his vanity van to his luxurious house, from a five-star hotel to Mumbai Central station, from Kashyap's apartment with his impressive DVD library to an abandoned mill in Byculla. Along the way, it features Kapoor's family members including Sonam, her brother Harshvardhan (who rues to Kashyap how his career failed to take off with Motwane's Bhavesh Joshi Superhero) and Kapoor's brother Boney, with Sonam's partner Anand piping up now and then on speakerphone. The hotfooted chase of a superstar father to find his famous daughter, without any cover among the hoi polloi has its moments, every time there are requests for autographs and selfies and acting-writing hopefuls. Both Kapoor and Kashyap are in on the ride, ready to make fun of themselves and lay bare their insecurities with a good deal of cussing to propel their clashes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But beyond a point, the narrative seems a bit too stretched; it often appears too clever for its own good. Some of the plot twists seem unnecessary and the device of a television media ruckus to amplify the unfolding drama now needs newer, more exciting iterations. Some of the brutally honest statements are by now tired jokes and the ending is a lazy attempt to keep the audience on edge till the very last frame. But this undefinable film still holds together.&nbsp;</p> Fri Dec 25 21:14:32 IST 2020 paava-kadhaigal-review-four-poignant-tales-of-honour-vs-love <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The anthology of four films, directed by Sudha Kongara, Vignesh Shivan, Gautham Vasudev Menon and Vetrimaaran definitely does justice to the long wait for it. The four different stories that unfold in</p> <p>separate premises bead through a common thread of the theme—honour, or rather its monstrous form that permeates the society.</p> <p><i>Thangam,</i> the first short by Sudha Kongara is set is a village where Sathar (Kalidas Jayaram), a transsexual, struggles to get a foothold to establish himself as part of the society.</p> <p>Sathar is perpetually dogged by identity as well as existential crisis in his rustic hamlet where social norms matter more than living standards. <i>Thangam</i>, a young man who is the son of a ration shop</p> <p>owner in the village, is Sathar's heartthrob for whom he is planning to to undergo a sex-changing surgery in Mumbai.</p> <p>He harbours a bit of human values and finds a good friend in Sathar, though his love interest is different. The clash of differences in class and community flares up, and how honour burns into ashes the existence of someone who does not belong to any class or identity is the rest of the story. This is an immaculate performance by Kalidas, who might preserve the character close to his heart for the rest of his life</p> <p>However, Shantanu Bhagyaraj who donned the role of <i>Thangam</i>, could have scaled the intense moments a bit higher to reach the peak of the emotional intensity that the tale conjured up.</p> <p><i>Love Panna Uttranum</i> by Vignesh Shivan tells the story of twin daughters of a feudal lord in a village— Adhilakshmi and Jyothilakshmi. While Jyothilakshmi is in a city, trying to build her own life, Adhilakshmi is with her father.</p> <p>When Adhilakshmi reveals to her father the man she has chosen for her life, conquering her fear, her father agrees to their relationship. She conveys her new-found joy to her sister and friend Penelope and invites them home, given the changed attitude of her father.</p> <p>Performances by Anjali as Adhilakshmi and Jyothilakshmi, Padam Kumar as Veerasimman and Kalki Koechlin as Penelope are outstanding. However, the writing slips at times and falls to triviality.</p> <p><i>Vanmagal</i> pitches on a common middle-class household that begins with the same old story of a happy family with father, mother, two teenage daughters and son who bond well. But the narrative has something else to unveil as the journey progresses. It dwells on the theme what body means to a girl once she reaches gestational age.</p> <p>The story revisits the same age-old subject of the menacing social insecurity of the fairer sex, but the narrative whizzes way forward and puts across some questions on right to life versus honour in an</p> <p>absorbingly dramatic fashion.</p> <p>Gautam Menon as Satya, Simran as Mathi have superbly handled the characters. Adithya Bhaskar, of <i>96</i> fame, as Bharat is a class apart.</p> <p>The saga of honour versus right to life culminates in the final segment, <i>Oru Iravu</i> directed by Vetrimaaran.</p> <p>Sumathi, played by Sai Pallavi, is on her own living with the man of her choice in a world she has diligently created after deserting her kin.</p> <p>When her father Janaki Raman, played by Prakash Raj, comes to know that his daughter is pregnant she finds her address and drops in. Sumathi's filial love allows her to let go of all her past skirmishes with the family.</p> <p>Whether the sense of honour and pride numb his senses or his sensitivity gets the better of him is unravelled at the end of the story.</p> <p><i>Oru Iravi </i>is the most absorbing story in the compilation. Sai Pallavi, through a stellar show, takes away a great chunk of the 'honour' of the drama.</p> <p>As the credits roll up, what might haunt for some more time would be the relentless hoots of the terms, pride, honour, social norms and so on embedded in the culture of Indian society that, ironically, prides itself for familial bonding.</p> <p><b>(This review was first published in onmanorama)</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri Dec 18 19:56:57 IST 2020 sky-high-dashed-dreams <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Dream big. You can achieve in your life. These words are definitely inspiring. But how long can you chase and fight for your dreams to succeed. The story of Nedumaaran Rajangam, based on the real-life story of Air Deccan owner G.R. Gopinath, is an inspiring story of a man obsessed with his dreams and willing to go anywhere to make it come true. And Nedumaaran aka Maara chases his dreams despite several setbacks in his life.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As the movie begins, a pilot asks the airport authority to give him permission to land his flight as there is no fuel. But the authorities don’t approve. And there begins the fight to fly. <i>Soorarai Pottru</i>, with Suriya playing the role of Maara, revolves around his dream to start a low-cost airline and the struggles in his life. He smiles, he cries, he gets angry, he protests, he fights, and finally he flies. And that is Maara. For the entire length of the movie, Suriya is the best in his emotions as Maara, the man from a rural village called Sholavandhan near Madurai. Hailing from a very humble family, Maara is the son of a school teacher, who always petitions the government for change. But unlike his father, he believes just petitioning won't work and calls his style a failure. Maara’s mother played by Oorvasi, again an excellent character, brokers peace between father and son. Her words, as she narrates the quotes written by Maara’s father in bit papers, actually makes Maara dream.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These characters, especially that of his two friends, played by Vivek Prasanna and Krishnakumar, truly stand out. And Sundari aka Bommi, played by Aparna Balamurali, is a real-life inspiration, narrating the character of a woman behind a man’s success. With her bakery dreams, Bommi comes into the life of Maara just to support him. And not to be missed, the movie at the beginning has the touch of the Dravidian land. Old women arguing with an upper caste Hindu in a train while travelling in an unreserved coach, and the self-respect marriage of Maara and Bommi, are some instances. Another character that deserves a definite mention is Paresh, played by Paresh Rawal, reminding the audience of a corporate villain, one who does anything for his business to be successful. Paresh Rawal, though his voice doesn’t match the emotions, is basically a man who feels that the rich remains rich and the poor always remain poor.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And Suriya, after movies like <i>NGK</i> and <i>Kaapan</i> bombed in the box office, stands out with the meatiest role. He emotes every delight and despair of the hero. Aparna, as Bommi, is equally good as the baker wife. But the chemistry between the male and the female lead doesn’t go well. Sudha Kongara’s characters, the execution of each character like Maara’s friend Kaali who gets injured during a protest to stop the train, Bommi’s uncle character played by Karunas, who gives 11,000 rupees to start the airline, are real strengths to the movie. Then comes G.V. Prakash’s background score, which matches the flights in the air, the crashing plane, and every bit of Maara’s emotions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But the film is a little slow, failing to tingle the audience’s interests. As Maara fails each time, even when he has big ideas, the audience are let down. And more than all this is the time period during which the film is set in. Being in 2020, the audience are taken back at least three decades, the days when there were no mobile phones and only pagers and phones worked to connect people.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And <i>Soorarai Pottru</i> is yet another step forward in Suriya’s acting career.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Director: Sudha Kongara</b></p> <p><b>&nbsp;</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Suriya, Aparna Balamurali, Karunas, Paresh Rawal and others</b></p> <p><b>&nbsp;</b></p> <p><b>Music: G.V. Prakash</b></p> <p><b>&nbsp;</b></p> <p><b>Streaming on Amazon Prime</b></p> Thu Nov 12 08:45:59 IST 2020 the-discreet-charm-of-the-savarnas-understanding-casteism-of-the-anti-caste-woke <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The short film <i>The Discreet Charm of the Savarnas</i> immediately springs to mind the title of a once popular web series with multiple spin-offs: <i>Shit Girls Say</i>. When three "woke" upper caste friends from south Bombay, in their desperate attempts to find a "Dalit-looking person" for a film due to go on the floors the next day, bumble along revealing their inherent biases, it is almost like 'Shit Savarnas Say'. In a way, film critic and director Rajesh Rajamani in his 21-minute film is highlighting how the caste-conscious can also be caste-blind, how virtue signalling and the moral superiority around "social justice know-how" is great performance but nowhere near any meaningful engagement with the historically oppressed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Triggered by a 2018 casting call on Facebook "for an actor who looks Dalit”, Rajamani has aptly referenced the 1972 French comedy <i>The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie</i> in the title of his short film which dropped on YouTube last month. <i>The Discreet Charm of the Savarnas</i> is also an attempt flip the template of poverty, humiliation and extreme violence as framing devices for caste-based stories in popular media. It uses humour and satire to gently poke fun at the caste-blindness of the young and well-read in urban milieus and holds a mirror to the "upper-caste gaze". Played out to the accompaniment of sweet, lilting, harmonica-inflected soundscape created by Imphal Talkies, the mood in this comedy of manners is laidback and breezy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The opening credits set the tone by showing a famous vintage poster of Pears' Soap as a comment on colonialism through the cleansing metaphor, suggesting how the colonized were unlcean and it was the White Man's burden "in brightening the dark corners of the earth" through the soap. The three friends flit from one scene to the next exchanging repartees and funny stratagems. The female protagonist Aruna constantly takes offense at the flippant use of the word "B****" by her anxious male friend and cribs how every man on Tinder boasts he is either a sapiosexual or a feminist. But in the next scene Aruna can't understand the difference between a Dalit actor and an actor playing a Dalit character. In the friends' conversations around casting, a Dalit person can't look too sophisticated or too middle class or lower middle class. They need someone who looks "more Dalit" than that. When they meet a "real Dalit person" in the film, it takes them by surprise.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film released around the same time when news of the Hathras gang rape and murder started gaining traction and exploded into the national limelight. Last week, while returning from a reporting assignment to the village where the horrific crime took place, a friend sarcastically remarked, "Hope the Savarna guys were not there". Vicious caste violence in the badlands of Uttar Pradesh is far away from the embarrassing casteism of three pretentious friends who can easily detect casual sexism and anti-Black attitudes. But the ubiquity of caste prejudice in varying degrees at both ends of the divide—urban and rural, educated and not—continues to feed into each other.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> Mon Oct 12 18:11:40 IST 2020 c-u-soon-review-engaging-social-thriller <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>From the 2006 Indie horror thriller&nbsp;<i>The Collingswood Story&nbsp;</i>to the recent John Cho starrer missing person drama&nbsp;<i>Searching</i>, film makers—both amateurs and the seasoned—across the globe have been exploiting the possibilities of computer/mobile screens with found footage films. Joining this list of movies that unfold entirely on screens is director Mahesh Narayanan’s work-from-home film&nbsp;<i>C U Soon</i>.</p> <p>Jimmy (Roshan Mathew), working in the UAE and Anumol (Darshana Rajendran) match on a dating app. The conversation quickly moves on to Google Chats because she does not have WhatsApp, nor a mobile number. He reveals too much, too soon; Anumol is evasive, reticent. Within a few days of meeting, he introduces her to his family, and proposes to her. While Jimmy's mother (Maala Parvathi) does seem to approve the relationship, she also enlists the help of his cousin Kevin (Fahadh Faasil), a perpetually pissed off IT professional with some hacking skills, to find out more about the girl. Kevin gives the go-ahead as his 'searches' show her to be a good match for him, until she is not!</p> <p>Things quickly escalate&nbsp;and Jimmy is forced to bring her home, despite knowing that live-in relationships are illegal in that country. Things go south when he tries to get the approval of her father for their wedding against her vehement protests, and soon Anumol is found missing. While Jimmy is picked up by the police, Kevin uses his hacking skills to get to the bottom of the matter.</p> <p>While you begin to wonder at the pace at which their relationship is progressing initially, things fall in place in the third act, even as the director keeps the audience hooked to the proceedings and guessing throughout. Narayanan introduces us to the world of the two lovers, and you begin to get to know them through their chats and video messages. Eventually, you forget the limits that the screen spaces, and get pulled into their lives, even as the director keeps throwing one surprise after another at you at regular intervals.</p> <p>The three protagonists, Darshana Rajendran, Roshan Mathew and Fahadh Faasil are in their elements as the movie progresses from a regular love affair to a missing person drama to a social thriller. Darshana, who has managed to establish herself as a powerful performer with her role in&nbsp;<i>Virus&nbsp;</i>after playing second fiddle to heroines for quite some time, sinks her teeth into her character from the word go. We have seen Roshan playing the smitten man a few times, and in&nbsp;<i>C U Soon</i>, he also plays to perfection the petrified youngster in a foreign land, afraid of the prospect of losing his love for ever and having to serve time for only trying to be helpful to a woman in distress.&nbsp;<i>C U Soon</i>&nbsp;does not have the scope to bring out the best in Fahadh, but he does not disappoint with his angry man act.</p> <p>While all the action tickles down to your computer/mobile screen, you forget the limitations of the same as director-editor Narayanan manages to fully immerse you into the proceedings with seamless transitions from chats, to cams to footage to back to camera again. Technically,&nbsp;<i>C U Soon</i> is a trendsetter as far as Indian cinema is concerned.</p> <p><i>CU Soon</i>, filmed and edited entirely during the COVID-19 induced lockdown, despite ability to keep the audience glued to the edge of the seats, is not devoid of flaws. While Kevin is shown as a quite resourceful hacker with the ability to think on his feet when the going gets murkier, you realise that he is also quite sloppy, although this does not affect what unfolds on screen. Besides, the film makes getting access to things in a different country—like Jimmy managing to secure some CCTV footage with the slightest efforts—look like a child's play.</p> <p>The director uses convincingly Anumol as a prop to narrate the ordeals of young girls brought on the promise of a brighter future to a foreign land only to be playthings in world of heartless men.</p> <p><i>C U Soon</i> is an engaging thriller with some fine performances, if you can overlook a few unconvincing moments.</p> <p><b>Film: C U Soon</b></p> <p><b>Director: Mahesh Narayanan</b></p> <p><b>Starring: Fahadh Faasil, Roshan Mathew, Darshana Rajendran, Saiju Kurup, Maala Parvathi</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3/5</b></p> Tue Sep 01 10:19:46 IST 2020 sadak-2-review-mahesh-bhatt-film-cliched-dated <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The worst part of <i>Sadak 2</i> is that it never lets you forget the 1991 <i>Sadak </i>with montages from the film woven into the storyline as flashbacks. The best part: there’s hardly any. To some extent may be Sanjay Dutt, who reprises his role – that of an intrepid taxi driver Ravi Kishore, from the first part. He now owns a travel company, Pooja Tours and Travels that guarantees, “security”, too, on trips.</p> <p>But Ravi isn’t in his best shape, mentally. He has recently lost his wife, Pooja (Pooja Bhatt), whom he rescued in the first part from the grip of a frightening pimp, Maharani (Sadashiv Amrapurkar). His brooding, grieving and suicidal Ravi Kishore, who just wants to reunite with the love of his life, at times, seems to just bring gloom on screen that’s unconvincing. But he finds purpose when he meets a young girl, Aarya (Alia Bhatt); first, in a psychiatric ward where they both are being treated. And later, when she lands up at his garage with a payment slip of a trip that she booked at his company three months ago.</p> <p>In the state that he is in, Ravi refuses her. But Aarya manipulates him emotionally. It’s easy to do that in the name of his dead wife who he dearly loved. It’s the beginning of a relationship. As the two open up to each other, Aarya reveals her plans of unmasking a ‘dhongi baba’, Gyaan Prakash (Makrand Deshpande) who has turned her life upside down. He has been responsible for his mother’s death and has brainwashed her father, Yogesh Desai (Jisshu Sengupta) to turn into a “bhakt”.</p> <p>As she battles the new realities of her life including an evil stepmother, Nandini (Priyanka Bose), she runs a campaign, “India Fights Fake Gurus”. In one of the initial scenes, she paints a poster of Gyaan Prakash with the word “revenge” and then sets it on fire. Her family is quick to call her a cynic; she is termed crazy and is sent to a mental hospital.</p> <p>The film that is now streaming on Disney+ Hotstar, has brought back Mahesh Bhatt as a director in this ambitious collaboration with his daughter Alia. Considering he has given us <i>Arth</i>, <i>Saaransh</i>, <i>Zakhm</i> and <i>Daddy</i> previously, one’s expectations are high, especially because of his treatment of some of the most tabooed issues of the time.</p> <p>But <i>Sadak 2</i>, with aesthetics from the 90s, fails in its attempt to be modern. Written by Bhatt along with Suhrita Sengupta, the film’s take on mental illness, fake gurus and death is clichéd and dated.</p> <p>To add to it, the romance between Alia’s Aarya and Aditya Roy Kapur’s Vishal lacks chemistry.</p> <p>In order to live up to the 1991 <i>Sadak</i>, the film plays with tropes that worked wondrously in that film, but is disastrous in this.</p> <p>For instance, in one scene towards the end, Deshpande’s guru turns up in a sari. It may have been a well-intended sequence to remind the audience of Maharani. But it is too comedic to believe.</p> <p>In fact, the second half of the film with twists and turns and clichéd villains, like Gulshan Grover’s Dilip Hathkaata, seems like a tacky tribute to a 90s film. The acting talent of neither Dutt, nor Alia is able to elevate the film to a point where it can become anything beyond that.</p> <p><b>Film: Sadak 2</b></p> <p><b>Director: Mahesh Bhatt</b></p> <p><b>Starring: Alia Bhatt, Sanjay Dutt, Aditya Roy Kapur</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 1/5&nbsp;</b></p> Sat Aug 29 15:02:03 IST 2020 gunjan-saxena-review-janhvi-kapoor-pankaj-tripathi-shine-this-inspirational-film <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In the canteen of an Air Force base in Udhampur, the semi-nude posters of Pamela Anderson are being hastily removed, much to the ire of the officers sitting there. They are perplexed until informed that a big change is coming. Commotion follows in the background as the first woman pilot makes her entry at the camp.</p> <p>It could have been filmy with music blaring to mark the entry of the titular character, played by Janhvi Kapoor, at that point. But <i>Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl </i>keeps its filminess in check, often choosing to be restrained and refined in the retelling of the story of India’s first woman combat pilot.</p> <p>Before it goes back to where it all began – that is in an aircraft where a young girl travelling with her brother hankers for a window seat before she is given access to the cockpit by the friendly in-flight staff. The film starts with an aerial shot of the Kargil Valley. Uniformed men from India are walking past a hilly terrain as they crack unfunny wife jokes when the neighbouring country attacks them. Rescue choppers are urgently needed. Gunjan gets her first rescue mission.</p> <p>But a lot has unfolded in her life to reach this stage after that ringside view of the sky from the cockpit of an airplane as a young girl. Flying is the only dream she harboured. But she was often dismissed by people around her with the statement that women can’t be pilots, except for her supporting father, an army man, (played by Pankaj Tripathi) who believed that the cockpit doesn’t know if a man or a woman is sitting in it.</p> <p>The film captures these emotions through the personal dynamic that Gunjan shares with her family. A worried mother (Ayesha Raza) who wants her daughter to study but isn’t sure of her ambition of being a pilot. A paranoid brother (Angad Bedi), who grows up to believe that it’s difficult for women to survive in the defence forces, which is hugely male-dominated. His reasoning comes from a place of concern, but is deeply misogynistic nonetheless. In the larger scheme of things, his character is symbolic of the widespread societal outlook.</p> <p>His discernment isn’t completely wrong. With all the roadblocks on the way, Gunjan comes a long way to procure a place in the Air Force with destiny playing a part and the Air Force starting to induct women in the year she completes her undergraduate. But she has to face discrimination often, deal with an environment that is suitable for men but ill-equipped for women – no separate toilet for women, no changing rooms which she could use before a sortie, and unwelcoming colleagues.</p> <p>Jahnvi as Gunjan in her sophomore feature (punctuated by a strong performance in the short film anthology <i>Ghost Stories</i>) after <i>Dhadak</i>, has a strong presence. The film shines with her delicate performance. But what really worked for me is debutant director and co-writer Sharan Sharma’s (credited earlier as assistant director on <i>Ae Dil Hai Mushkil</i>, <i>Ye Jawaani Hai Deewani</i>) focus on the father-daughter relationship.</p> <p>It is because of that that Tripathi evolves as an on-screen father. It is as if he is charting a separate journey of playing fathers – from a guilt-ridden man who killed his new born daughter in Gurgaon as he absolves himself by adopting a girl later in his life, and then being a chilled out undiscriminating father in <i>Bareilly Ki Barfi</i> to now being an enabler of letting his daughter fly freely in this film, Tripathi is setting an example of how to be a father in this age and time.</p> <p>Another laudable aspect of the film is the distance it maintains from being over-the-top jingoistic that most films in recent years have pandered to. The serious notes in the film are punctuated by mentions of the popular films and songs in the timeline it chooses to show – like the mention of <i>Hum Aapke Hain Koun</i> during Gunjan’s selection process in 1994, or the constant playing of <i>Choli Ke Peeche</i>… in the dining hall of the Udhampur base later.</p> <p>That’s perhaps a good way to chart timelines too.</p> <p><b>Film: Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl</b></p> <p><b>Director: Sharan Sharma</b></p> <p><b>Starring: Janhvi Kapoor, Pankaj Tripathi</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3.5/5</b></p> Tue Aug 11 10:55:16 IST 2020 raat-akeli-hai-review-a-whodunnit-thats-more-than-a-criminal-investigation <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The directorial debut of casting director Honey Trehan with the story, screenplay and dialogues by Smita Singh (<i>Sacred Games</i>), <i>Raat Akeli Hai</i>, is a trite whodunnit set in a small town.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The patriarch of a high-profile family in the politically dynamic city of Lucknow has been brutally murdered on his wedding night. The much older victim, Thakur Raghuveer Singh, had married young Radha (Radhika Apte) who had been living in his house after his wife’s death. Her life as a concubine hasn’t been easy. But with the Singh’s death, Radha is as much in the purview of Inspector Jatil Yadav (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) as anyone else in the household because of the inheritance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But as the story unfolds, <i>Raat Akeli Hai</i> becomes much more than just a criminal investigation. It dissects into the system, the police and political honchos being hand-in-glove, the patriarchy, and outstandingly makes a statement on our obsession with looks. To be precise, with fair skin.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Siddiqui’s complex and yet righteous Jatil Yadav, who finds himself in the thick of things, is well past his prime—he is still single and a social misfit in a police chowki full of married men, and can be awkward around women. Jatil has his own ideas about women—they must be <i>susheel</i>, <i>sanskari</i> and wear clothes that’s not revealing; his mother, at the same time, seems more progressive than him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Trehan, Vishal Bhardwaj’s constant collaborator, started his own production house, MacGuffin Picture, along with Abhishek Chaubey, with the much celebrated and acclaimed <i>A Death In The Gunj</i> (directed by Konkona Sen Sharma). The production house followed with Chaubey’s <i>Sonchiriya</i> and now with the Netflix original, <i>Raat Akeli Hai</i>. The last time Trehan tried to direct his debut film, he had found himself attracted to Sapna Didi, a chapter from Husain Zaidi’s book, <i>The Mafia Queens of Mumbai</i>. A film Trehan thought would be better directed by Bhardwaj as he had written the script anyway. But his fascination with stories that have deep crime angles is evidently visible.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Speaking to THE WEEK on a video call, Trehan admits he is a huge Alfred Hitchcock fan, and the thrilling aspects of stories fascinate him. That’s the reason his company is also called MacGuffin (an object or device in a movie that is important to the character or plot and sets a chain of events into motion) Pictures—a term that has its origin in theories of Angus MacPhail, but was popularised by Hitchcock. “I am, of course, fascinated by these stories.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But he says that it is the finer elements covered in stories that attract him even more; the genre may just be a path to telling stories that have more meaning. In the case of <i>Raat Akeli Hai</i> that took more than two-and-a-half years in development, it was the inherent questioning of patriarchy that was very fascinating to him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“It’s my motive to attack the patriarchy, which is a curse in our society,” he says as he talks about his prime character, Jatil Yadav. “He is a victim of society. That is why he is carrying that kind of a patriarchal mindset. That is the reason he wants to marry a certain kind of girl. That is also the reason behind his complex because of his dark skin. Through the journey of this case, however, he is digging deeper and understanding the reasons behind what he stands for. He goes through an internal journey.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film starts analysing these themes early on. Jatil has a clandestine space for his fairness cream, which he applies without fail before stepping out for work. Trehan recalls Siddiqui’s personal story, his own complexes with his dark skin, which was similar to the ones explored with his character. As a teenager, the actor had been referred to as “Kaalu” by family members and friends while growing up. Before meeting a girl on whom he had a crush, Siddiqui, who had insecurities about his dark skin, went out and bought a knockoff version of a popular fairness cream for Rs 2.5. When he applied “Fairly &amp; Lowly” on his face, it left white patches all over. “Cream <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">laga kar aaye ho?</i> (Have you come to meet after applying cream),” the girl asked Siddiqui, before dumping him.<br> </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“It was so exciting how a script chooses the actor or vice versa,” says Trehan laughing at his own narration of Siddiqui’s story. “The actor-character meeting is visible in the final product.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These are some of the things that have kept Trehan intrinsically attracted to the art of filmmaking. He hadn’t come to Mumbai in the early 2000s to become a casting director. In fact, he was directing plays in Delhi under the tutelage of Barry John. He was just 19 when he was revered as the youngest theatre director by the media. It was for directing Munshi Premchand’s <i>Kafan</i>. His parents, who lived in Allahabad, weren’t too sure of their son’s artistic choices till then. “The bargain was on,” recalls Trehan. But the success of <i>Kafan</i>, his interest in the rooted reality of India instead of a Western drama, piqued the interest of the national broadcaster Doordarshan at the time, and Trehan was called for an interview on TV. It sealed the deal for his parents and gave them the confidence to let him explore the arts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The journey to Mumbai would be for directing a play written by Sarveshwar Dayal Saxena. Actor Piyush Mishra introduced him to Bharadwaj, who was in the process of making his first film <i>Barf</i>, which never got made. But the association continued and Trehan started working as an assistant director with Bharadwaj on <i>Makdee</i>&nbsp;. “Direction was the only thing I was pursuing. But keeping my theatre background in mind, he pushed the envelope for me and asked me to look into the casting by the time the script was being worked upon,” he reminisces.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There was no concept of casting directors till then. The same actors were repeated across movies for certain roles for villains and side heroes. But Trehan pushed the boundary. Over the years, he has been hailed as one of the best casting directors, bringing in a plethora of roles to people often unimagined for the part—whether it’s casting Saif Ali Khan in <i>Omkara</i>, or Amole Gupte in <i>Kaminey</i>, Trehan has won plaudits on the way.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Meanwhile, he has kept his passion for direction alive often associating in films, especially directed by Bhardwaj, as an associate director. Now, as he makes his directorial debut, he wants to continue the same path till he finds another story to direct. “I am interested in everything to do with filmmaking,” he says, barring acting that is. “You wouldn’t see me make a debut as an actor,” he laughs.</p> Fri Jul 31 17:17:12 IST 2020 shakuntala-devi-review-the-equation-remains-unsolved <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Remember linear equations in school? The one-variable type where, once you find out the value of the ever-elusive 'x', you have to verify the left hand side (L.H.S.) and the right hand side (R.H.S.) of the equation are equal, using that value? Ah... the joy of writing '<i>Since, L.H.S. = R.H.S., hence verified</i>' at the end!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Forgive the maths class, but simple as it may appear, even if you get the value of 'x' correctly, you might end up getting L.H.S. unequal to R.H.S. Why? Probably because you did not follow the 'BODMAS' rule properly. Moral of the story? A job half-done is a job undone.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Alas... that's the story of Anu Menon's <i>Shakuntala Devi</i>, which is based on the life of the famous 'human computer'. The equation has been out there for the world to see—a maths prodigy from Karnataka who conquered the world with her magical ability with numbers, a strong-willed, independent, confident and witty woman who lived life on her own terms. Interestingly, for such a celebrated and public personality, little is known about her personal life. But the director, Anu Menon, managed to find out the 'x'—to look at the genius's life through the eyes of her daughter Anupama, who had a strained relationship with her famous mother, and not just as a cradle-to-grave story.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are other positives, too, like the cast, for instance. It's difficult to imagine anybody else in the role of the brainy and vivacious Shakuntala but Vidya Balan, who, despite the on-and-off south Indian accent, and over-the-top portrayal at times, manages to carry the film pretty well. The original maths wizard enjoyed playing with the numbers and with her audience, and Balan embodies her spirit ably. Sanya Malhotra as the daughter Anupama, too, is brilliant in patches. The sheer range of characters she has portrayed in the past few years (<i>Dangal</i>, <i>Photograph</i>, <i>Pataakha</i>, to name a few) is testimony to her talent and potential. The two male protagonists, Shakuntala's husband Paritosh Banerji (Jisshu Sengupta), and Anupama's husband Ajay Abhay Kumar (Amit Sadh), though remain mostly in the background, make their presence felt when given a chance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Now the director's challenge was to use the 'x' and link the rest of the equation. The screenplay, by Menon and Nayanika Mahtani, is the first deterrent. Following a non-linear narrative to link Shakuntala's childhood and her present as a mother, the storytelling jumps from one era to another as quickly as Shakuntala Devi solves her maths problems, often leaving the audience confused. It seems the director was in a perpetual hurry to reach the 'conflict' in the plot—that between the mother and daughter. But, in the process, the finer points are missed. An attempt is made to establish why Shakuntala Devi became what she became—a flawed genius, and kudos to the makers for portraying her so—and how life comes to a full circle for both her and her daughter. How Shakuntala ends up becoming what she despised. How she robs her child of a childhood the same way her parents robbed hers. Mother-daughter relationship has only been explored fleetingly in Hindi cinema (The beautiful <i>Nil Battey Sannata</i> is one that comes to mind). And that's why the plot held much promise. But the film hovers over the details, never quite descending into the depths.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film touches upon the milestones in her life alright. But she was much more than just a maths wizard. She was an author, who wrote books on maths puzzles, murder mystery and even on homosexuality (one of the most disappointing and confusing moments in the film), and an astrologer. She even dabbled in politics, contesting against Indira Gandhi. How did all this happen? It's almost a sin to gloss over such details and hoping the conflict between the mother-daughter alone will hold the film together.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That the inputs were given by her real-life daughter herself, lends credibility to the whatever we see on the screen. Well, most of it. There are moments in the film which makes the audience wonder how much of it is real and how much of it is 'creative liberty'—be it the dialogues (by Ishika Moitra) mouthed by a five-year-old Shakuntala, or the exchanges between Javier (Luca Calvani) and Shakuntala, or between her and husband Banerji.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We Indians are like that only. Drama or nothing,” Shakuntala tells Javier in a scene. Yes, <i>Shakuntala Devi </i>was never meant to be <i>The Man Who Knew Infinity</i>—a subtle and beautiful biopic on yet another Indian maths genius, Srinivasa Ramanujan—simply because Shakuntala was no Ramanujan. But, isn't it ironic, for a film on a woman genius who broke stereotypes, the Indian audience is stereotyped as one which loves nothing else but drama?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>P.S.: When the end credits roll, there's song and dance routine in a class, where the maths sir is teaching the students the 'BODMAS' rule!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Shakuntala Devi</b></p> <p><b>Director: Anu Menon</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Vidya Balan, Sanya Malhotra, Jisshu Sengupta, Amit Sadh</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 2.5/5</b></p> Fri Jul 31 06:36:30 IST 2020 dil-bechara-review-despite-minor-faults-this-girl-meets-boy-tale-is-worth-your-time <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><i>The Fault in Our Stars</i> (2014) was not an easy film to remake in Hindi. The most challenging aspect was perhaps the cultural differences. This has been handled well in <i>Dil Bechara</i>. The adjustment into the Indian context is believable and has even been used for comic relief.</p> <p>For those who are not familiar with <i>The Fault in Our Stars</i>, nor the John Green novel it is based on, it is the story of a girl with stage four cancer, who meets and falls in love with a boy who is recovering from cancer. Their blossoming romance and how they support each other through many travails and one common dream forms the rest of the story.</p> <p>The film moves along at a steady pace, and much like the source material, focuses on the human spirit rather than the tragedy surrounding the protagonists. There is almost no unnecessary time wasted on the proceedings. But, just as the audience, at least the uninitiated, is lulled into a false sense of security, there is a grim reminder of the ferocious opponent that cancer is.</p> <p>The scene where the female lead, Kizie Basu (Sanjana Sanghi), has to be hospitalised looks tad over-dramatised; but only someone who has suffered similar symptoms will be able to comment conclusively on that. Arguably, <i>Dil Bechara</i>'s most important plot point is Saif Ali Khan's cameo. The changes in the script and a blip in the quality of writing did not do the scene any favours. But it is carried well by Khan.</p> <p>The acting is generally good. Sanghi is impressive in her first leading role. Sushant Singh Rajput gives a memorable performance in his last movie, and is extraordinary at times. Indian cinema will miss him. The supporting cast puts in a strong performance. Swastika Mukherjee plays the overreacting Indian mother to perfection, but some of the cliched 'overreaction' scenes could have been and should have been avoided. These seemed like the only unnecessary scenes in an otherwise compact plot (the run time is only 1 hour and 41 minutes).</p> <p>The music by A.R. Rahman is refreshing. Though some of the tracks seemed ordinary independent from the movie, in the film they mesh seamlessly with the narrative. The background music is beautiful.</p> <p>If you liked <i>The Fault in Our Stars</i>, you may find faults with <i>Dil Bechara</i>. And while comparisons with the Shailene Woodley-starrer are inevitable, its Hindi remake is definitely worth a watch. Mukesh Chhabra's directorial debut is a well-made movie in its own right.</p> <p><b>Film: Dil Bechara</b></p> <p><b>Director: Mukesh Chhabra</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Sanjana Sanghi, Sushant Singh Rajput, Saif Ali Khan</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3/5</b></p> <p><br> <br> </p> <p><br> <br> </p> <p><br> <br> </p> <p><br> <br> </p> Fri Jul 31 15:07:38 IST 2020 kalla-nottam-review-letting-the-lens-tell-a-tale <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In 1816, a French inventor, Joseph Nicephore Niepce, developed a device. In the years that followed, many versions of this device served the desire of the humankind to freeze the present for the future. It also served as the tool to peep into the lives of others. Over the years, it evolved in shape, size and capabilities, even as the dirty trio of voyeurism, violence and surveillance stayed as its best friends. This is exactly what award-winning filmmaker Rahul Riji Nair’s latest flick, <i>Kalla Nottam</i> (The False Eye), communicates in its 75 minutes of running time.</p> <p><i>Kalla Nottam</i> features a number of human characters, but the protagonist and the silent narrator of the movie is a digital camera that moves from place to place as it changes hands. In the hands of each of these owners, it serves different purposes.</p> <p>The story begains on the premises of a stationary shop, where the cam has to play the role of a surveillance tool and a silent guard. Soon, it becomes a toy in the hands of two film-obsessed boys. Later, it becomes an extra eye for a voyeuristic act, witness to heavy violence, and finally chronicler of a tragedy.</p> <p><i>Kalla Nottam</i> is a novel attempt, as far as Indian cinema is concerned, at using the concept of screen-life format for its narration. The focal point of this concept is that whatever the audience see happens on the screen, or from the perspective, of an electronic device. Hollywood mystery thriller <i>Searching</i> (2018) is one of the most popular films to use this format as a narrative tool.</p> <p><i>Kalla Nottam</i> is a brilliantly scripted film, executed with minimal resources. The finest performers (after the digital camera) are undoubtedly the three child artistes—Vasudev Sajeesh Marar, Suryadev Sajeesh Marar, and Ansu Maria Thomas. Renjith Sekhar Nair, Vinitha Koshy, Vijay Induchoodan and P.J. Unnikrishnan play the other major characters.</p> <p>The movie, shot entirely in a GoPro cam, is also commendable for its cinematography.</p> <p>The film touches a number of socio-political issues. There are pertinent observations about how the patriarchal mindset is getting ingrained in children at an early age; it mocks the hero-worship culture of the mainstream films, and<i> </i>also takes on moral policing, voyeurism and suggestive jokes.</p> <p>However, the movie falters a bit in the third act. The director takes the oft trodden route of mainstream cinema while telling the story of a girl who is caught in an “immoral” act, seemingly forgetting its own lessons on moral policing and progressive thoughts. </p> <p>Nonetheless, the director,&nbsp;Rahul Riji Nair, deserves to be lauded for the narrative and innovative filmmaking.</p> <p>The film has got two award nominations—for the best screenplay and best child artiste—at the New York Indian Film Festival.</p> <p><b>Kalla Nottam (The False Eye)</b></p> <p><b>Director: Rahul Riji Nair</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Vasudev Sajeesh Marar, Suryadev Sajeesh Marar, Ansu Maria Thomas, Renjith Sekhar Nair, Vinitha Koshy, Vijay Induchoodan and P.J. Unnikrishnan</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3.5/5</b></p> Sat Jul 25 22:34:48 IST 2020 sufiyum-sujathayum-review-an-illusion-worth-listening-to <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>&quot;When in deep sleep, there is no untouchability, no caste, no religion, no anger, no sorrow, no hatred... only the Almighty. All these are mere illusions of the sleepless folks....&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a land full of such sleepless folks, can Sufi and his Sujatha slip into a deep and easy sleep?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The first ever Malayalam film to be released on an OTT platform (Amazon Prime), <i>Sufiyum Sujathayum</i> narrates the tale of forbidden love between a Sufi saint called, err... Sufi (Dev Mohan) and a speech-impaired upper caste Hindu girl Sujatha (Aditi Rao Hydari), with 'love jihad' thrown in.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The concept of 'love jihad', though, spoken in hushed and not-so-hushed tones in this part of the world, has not been explored much in Malayalam cinema, with the exception of, possibly, the critically-acclaimed <i>Kismath.</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But Naranipuzha Shanavas's <i>Sufiyum Sujathayum</i> is no&nbsp;<i>Kismath</i>. It was never meant to be. It is more of a musical journey, through a small-town, possibly near the Kerala-Karnataka border, with its own rustic charm, beautifully framed by Anu Moothedathu. And whether the protagonists manage to attain closure, 10 years down the line.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The music is brilliant, and is the saving grace. M. Jayachandran has invoked the Sufi spirit admirably, though, at times, the repetitive 'Roohi' in the background reminds one of the iconic BGM in yet another 'forbidden love' saga<i>, Ennu Ninte Moideen</i>, where it was used more aptly, perhaps.&nbsp; To his credit, Jayachandran, right from the azaan to the clarinet portion, manages to give goosebumps to the listener.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The discordant note, however, is the writing. Shanavas, who is also the scriptwriter, fails to add depth to either the plot or his characters. In fact, the love itself between Sufi and Sujatha, which is the bedrock of the film, is woefully under-explored. As a viewer, it is difficult to believe that their love transcends boundaries of time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The absence of any real conflict is yet another sin that Shanavas the scriptwriter commits. A Sufi saint, on a spiritual quest, falling for a 22-year-old girl, must cause some inner conflict, right? But not in Sufi. Even Sujatha, who has been raised in a conservative upper-caste household falls head over heels in love with the saint at first sight. Agreed that he whirls like a dream, and she is an angelic beauty, but is that enough for these two to behave like lovestruck teenagers? Even the 'love jihad' angle makes only a guest appearance or two, after promising much.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The loopholes in the script affects the actors, too. Debutant Mohan, reportedly, trained for nine months to get the whirl of the Sufis correct, and even learnt Arabic. But his character is mostly one-dimensional, and, as a result, he looks promising only in patches.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Jayasurya, in an extended cameo of a suffering husband Raveendran, does justice to his role but the same cannot be said about Hydari, who sticks out like a sore thumb. Though the language barrier is taken care of by casting her as a speech-impaired girl, she struggles to not only look the part, but also fit into the role. And it's not solely her fault. Despite being a proven actor and a talented dancer, Hydari disappoints as Shanavas's Sujatha.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With a tighter script and proper casting, perhaps,<i> Sufiyum Sujathayum</i> would have been much more than just the illusion it turned out to be, for the sleepless folks who logged in at midnight to catch the exclusive premiere.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Sufiyum Sujathayum</b></p> <p><b>Language: Malayalam</b></p> <p><b>Streaming platform: Amazon Prime</b></p> <p><b>Director: Naranipuzha Shanavas</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Aditi Rao Hydari, Dev Mohan, Jayasurya</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 2.5/5</b></p> Fri Jul 03 10:11:22 IST 2020 penguin-review-keerthy-suresh-shoulders-thriller-solid-performance <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>As the film opens, a dog finds a torn shoe of a kid. Wearing a yellow jacket, a boy walks towards a statue deep in the woods even as the dog cautions him with his barks. A man donning a Charlie Chaplin mask and a yellow umbrella in his hand emerges from behind the statue. He slashes the boy with a long knife. He then picks up the body and walks away towards the lake only to disappear into the water. The chills at the beginning of <i>Penguin</i> last till the end, powered by Eashwar Karthic’s crisp screenplay<i>. Penguin</i>, which is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, is set in Kodaikanal, adding an eerie tone to each scene.</p> <p>In the next scene, a pregnant mother, Rhythm(Keerthy Suresh) wakes up to a bad dream, as she tells her dog, “Cyrus, I am OK.” With a grief-stricken face, Rhythm is a disturbed woman, who carries the guilt of letting down her son, Ajay played by Master Advaith, six years before. Losing Ajay had brought in changes in her life—separating from her first husband Raghu, played by Linga and marrying Goutham (Madhampatty Rangaraj). Rhythm, despite several warnings from her doctor, goes in search of her son, whom she lost six years ago. She drives all the way up to the lake where she lost her son. Does she find the child? Who was the kidnapper and what was his motive? These are questions <i>Penguin</i> takes you through as Keerthy heads out on the quest for her lost child. Eashwar Karthic comes out with several twists and turns to give answers to “who” and “why?”</p> <p>Keerthy has once again proved her acting mettle in <i>Penguin</i> after her fantastic performance in <i>Mahanati.</i> As Rhythm, Keerthy is flawless—portraying a range of emotions as well as carrying off the body language of a pregnant woman. “I am pregnant and not brain damaged,” she says when she interrogates a criminal only to make a point that being pregnant does not make a woman incapable of handling difficult situations.</p> <p>However, the supporting cast is very weak, and does not match up to Keerthy’s powerful performance. In fact, both her husbands do not perform much, thus letting down the audience. Master Advaith, with his silence, adds more to the thrill. His blank stare in itself speaks volumes. Some scenes like Rhythm interrogating a criminal, inside a police station in the presence of police officers, is quite exaggerating.</p> <p>Keerthy’s performance, combined with Karthik Palani’s cinematography and Santhosh Narayanan’s background score set the stage for a gripping thriller. The first half keeps you on the edge, while the second half shakes you up with unexpected thrills.</p> <p>Film: Penguin</p> <p>Cast: Keerthy Suresh, Master Advaith,&nbsp;Madhampatty Rangaraj<br> </p> <p>Director:&nbsp;Eashwar Karthic<br> </p> <p>Rating: 3.5/5</p> Fri Jun 19 10:59:11 IST 2020 gulabo-sitabo-review-amitabh-ayushmann-starrer-keeps-you-smiling <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Early on in <i>Gulabo Sitabo</i>, a hunchbacked Mirza (Amitabh Bachchan) with a protruding nose is seen hankering for money. He steals the electric bulbs, bicycle bell and pickle jar from his own house, or rather the house he believes he owns, and from the people who inhabit this large mansion—Fatima Mahal—and pawns them for a pittance. The co-inhabitants of the mansion aren’t Mirza’s relatives, but tenants, five families, who have been in the house for so many years that their rents are meagre amounts that don’t go beyond Rs 30 to Rs 70.</p> <p>The tenant paying the lowest rent is a young man, aggrieved with the realities of his life. Baankey (Ayushmann Khurrana), having lost his father at a tender age, is burdened with the responsibilities of his three younger sisters—the youngest in Class 3 and the eldest in her final year of graduation—and a widowed mother. The only source of income is from a humble flourmill he runs. Weighed down by life, his defences are always on; always ready to take on a fight. Here’s a young man who has turned bitter because of the circumstances in his life. The frustration shows in his body language, in the resentment he holds towards Mirza every time he is asked to pay the rent, which is almost always pending.</p> <p>There is constant bickering and bantering between Baankey and Mirza for something that either of them has no claim over. It is Mirza’s wife, Fatima Begum (a sparkly Farrukh Jafar), 17 years older than him, who is the legal heir of the house. Unwell most of the time, it’s her zest for life that keeps her going. The love between the couple is almost lost, with Mirza’s one-dimensional approach to life. The only dream he has harboured is of owning the house. Fatima may need the help of a walker to move, but holds her own, never letting Mirza dominate and often asking him to stay away.</p> <p>This is where things get interesting for this Shoojit Sircar-directed film, written by Juhi Chaturvedi (including screenplay and dialogue). It keeps its focus on a dilapidated old structure in Lucknow (the Nawabi city is epitomised in the film with utmost love), but often traverses finer nuances. In a delicate manner, it dissects the power balance in a marriage (Is it ever about the gender?). Chaturvedi triumphs in etching her female characters—from Fatima Begum to Guddo (Shristi Shrivastava), Baankey’s sister, who often ruptures his male high-handedness—who are never compromised or taken for granted in a film headlined by two male stars.</p> <p><i>Gulabo Sitabo</i> brings to the fore the age-old fight of ownership and responsibilities between landlords and tenants. In this case, there are too many claimants to the space and almost nobody readily available to take the responsibility of a structure wearing down with time. Things only get more complicated with Mirza involving a lawyer (Brijendra Kala as Christopher Clark) and Baankey giving in to a lucrative proposal by an Archaeological Survey of India official (Vijay Raaz as Gyanesh Mishra). They both manoeuvre their own plans, often misleading the two men in the thick of things. With Clark and Mishra, there is a sly commentary on the existent system, the capitalistic society that cares for nobody and is often manipulative in nature.</p> <p>But that is where <i>Gulabo Sitabo</i> loses the plot a bit. It packs in so much that it is difficult to figure out what’s the point it is trying to make, or is it trying to make a point at all. It seems a bit of a stretch and a slight distraction. But Chaturvedi’s whimsical characters and stunning visuals (by cinematographer Avik Mukhopadhyay) clubbed with Shantanu Moitra’s music that mounts on the folk flavour, it’s difficult to lose attention.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In an <a title="The puppet master" href="">interview with THE WEEK earlie</a>r, Sircar promised, “one would have a smile on their face throughout the film”. He wasn’t wrong. But then, he also evokes many emotions. The moving shots of the desolate mansion towards the end of the film bring a lump in the throat. And then, as it closes, there is this realisation how nothing lasts—neither the youthfulness nor the material possessions. It’s the people who do, and it’s a bad idea to lose them to greed.</p> <p><b>Film: Gulabo Sitabo</b></p> <p><b>Director: Shoojit Sircar</b></p> <p><b>Actors: Amitabh Bachchan, Ayushmann Khurrana</b></p> <p><b>Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3.5/5</b></p> Fri Jun 12 09:27:43 IST 2020 choked-review-anrag-kashyap-netflix-film-on-demonetisation-lacks-punch <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Sarita Pillai (Saiyami Kher), a tired bank cashier, had asked her husband Sushant (Roshan Mathew), an unemployed failed musician&nbsp;hopping&nbsp;jobs, to stay away from home for a day. She had a chai-tambola session planned that afternoon. But the unavailing, drifting Sushant fails to stay away. As they go to their bed that night, in their cramped house in a Mumbai chawl, they scuffle, their 10-year-old son sleeping in between them. He was the only witness to their earlier agreement, and he is the only one to bring an end to the disagreement with his opinion. It is unsettling, but intimate – two warring spouses trying to find a middle-ground through their only offspring. It’s also telling of the despair in life when there’s little money at disposal and everything looks bleak.</p> <p><i>Choked: Paisa Bolta Hai</i>, directed by Anurag Kashyap (story by Nihit Bhave), is about spouses Sarita and Sushant, migrants in Mumbai from Konkan and Karnataka, who are choking under the burden of a financially fragile life. The dreams – of becoming a singer and a musician respectively – with which they had come to Mumbai has faded long back in just an attempt to make a decent living. Love has lost its charm in the absence of money. If Sarita is haunted by the thought of strobe light falling on her in a packed auditorium where she froze during a performance years ago, Sushant’s artistic ego has taken precedence and if anything, he seems disenchanted by the daily chores of life saddling the wife with all the responsibilities.</p> <p>But then, something unexpected happens. Wads of cash start spewing out of Sarita’s clogged kitchen sink pipe. The everyday dreariness is replaced by new enthusiasm to liven up her life. The penny pincher in her is slowly giving way to a spender, surprising the husband who is still living under the stress of debt. Unexpected strikes again; this time as the demonetisation move of the Modi government. Sushant, with fractional money in his pocket, celebrates: “ab maza aayega”. He anticipates hoards of black money to come out from the rich. Sarita gets buried in work – with the insurmountable transactions happening in her bank even as she keeps plotting the way to exchange her own old currency notes.</p> <p>Is it possible to have Kashyap make a film without politics intricately woven into the story? Seems unlikely, even when during the promotions of the film he has called it his warmest film with shades of <i>Abhimaan</i> and Sai Paranjpye films. Of course, it has those shades. And, maybe that’s why the opening music score (inspired by Federico Fellini’s 8 ½) fits perfectly well too. Like Fellini’s film that focuses on the battles of a creative person blurs the line between creativity and personal struggles, and charts on a territory of finding happiness within a life struck with intermittent difficulties, <i>Choked,</i> too, primarily explores that.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>But the film is as much a critique of the government, of the social structure, and of gender biases that come into play in everyday lives. The story that unfolds in the October of 2016 takes into account the Modi government’s demonetisation move that year, two years into power as people wait for <i>ache din</i>. The politics in the film doesn’t reveal itself easily. It is, instead, subtly peppered in smaller moments, more as subtexts. That one scene when a customer in the bank sneers at Kher’s Sarita for counting the notes three times and blaming her femininity for that. Or another scene in the midst of a dinner when the news playing on TV in the backdrop tells the audience “to be like Modi” and to eat “mushrooms”. Or the aimless people of the chawl passing time by playing carom that soon turns into jeering Sushant “for being the wife” in the relationship. At various stages, the film calls out the prevalent corruption and then makes everyone an equal participant in it. But unlike Kashyap’s earlier films, the politics is never overt and maybe that’s why the film seems too subdued at most times, exposing the holes in the script.</p> <p>While Kher is surprising as a non-glamourous, lower-middle class woman, who is quite a contrast to her image; it is Mathew’s Sushant, who in his portrayal of a flawed, damaged artiste grabs attention – often evoking feelings of disgust. Then, the neighbours – the interfering and loud Sharvari Tai (Amruta Shubash) and the nosy Neeta (Rajshree Deshpande), add a little spice and flavour to the story.</p> <p>Sylvester Fonseca’s camerawork that closely captures the claustrophobia of life in tenements and goes deep into capturing little details is commendable. Through the film, Karsh Kale’s music clubbed with Garima Obrah’s lyrics and Rachita Arora’s arrangement may not have been prominent, but as the end credit rolls and the song, 500-1000, composed on the tunes of nursery rhymes plays along, it does the magic. Echoing the politics of the filmmaker – visible more prominently on Twitter -- it may not be wrong to wonder if the song is going to become a popular protest anthem when the nation is ready for one.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Choked: Paisa Bolta Hai</b></p> <p><b>Director: Anurag Kashyap</b></p> <p><b>Starring: Saiyami Kher, Roshan Mathew</b></p> <p><b>Streaming on: Netflix</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3/5</b></p> <p><b>&nbsp;</b></p> Fri Jun 05 10:47:20 IST 2020 ponmagal-vandhal-jyotika-thriller-overdose-emotions <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Jyotika's latest outing<i>—Ponmagal Vandhal</i>—reminds us of the pain and unanswered questions around countless child abuse and murder cases that haunt us. The film, now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, throws light on the dark side of society and a flawed legal system that often denies justice to victims of abuse. With Jyotika at the helm, <i>Ponmagal Vandhal</i> breaks the usual macho hero-turns-saviour narrative.</p> <p>The film opens in 2004, with a shot of the beautiful landscape at Lovedale in Ooty. Suddenly the sound of a gun shot cuts through the pleasant chirping of birds. We learn of a double murder—two young men are killed by a woman. The film then moves on to explain the story behind the gun shot—a woman named Jyothi aka “psycho” Jyothi is a serial killer who targets children. Police investigate the case, while parents protest for justice and Jyothi dies in a police encounter. And 15 years, Petition Pethuraj ( Bhagyaraj) files a petition in the court, seeking justice for Jyothi. His daughter Venba (Jyotika) appears for him in court despite severe opposition from the public.</p> <p>What follows is an enthralling courtroom drama, where Jyotika as Venba brings in all evidence in support of Jyothi. As the very first court scene begins, it is clear that Venba has strong evidence and an even stronger reason to revive a 15-year-old case. And debutant director J.J. Fredrick’s script adds weight to the character as he brings in twists at every stage of the argument inside the courtroom—from eyewitnesses, police, parents of affected children and even survivors.</p> <p>The entry of advocate Rajarathinam (Parthiepan), who represents the influential father of one of the young boys killed by Jyothi, elevates the plot as Venba begins facing obstacles with his arguments in court. As the hearing proceeds, it gives the audience a sense of a legal drama crafted around high-profile VIPs who could influence police and the prosecution. But soon it turns out to be melodramatic when Venba brings in emotions more than evidence inside the court.</p> <p>The 123-minute film, which begins by saying justice is served based on evidence and not logic or emotions, later plays on emotions that revolve around child abuse. A courtroom drama, the film could have been more engaging and intense, rather than emotional. For a film that deals with subjects as hard-hitting as sexual violence and murder, <i>Ponmagal Vandhal</i>&nbsp;is not chilling enough.</p> <p>Jyotika holds the thriller together with her stunning performance as a crusader and confident advocate. While Jyotika takes the lead role, the characters of Bhagyaraj, Parthiepan and Prathap Pothan are not defined well.</p> <p>The visuals from Lovedale in Ooty go together with the emotional storyline. Debutant director Fredrick’s <i>Ponmagal Vandhal </i>has been in the news for sometime after the team's decision to release it on an OTT platform, skipping theatrical release.</p> <p><b>Film: Ponmagal Vandhal</b></p> <p><b>Director: J.J. Fredrick</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Jyotika, Bhagyaraj, Parthiepan, Prathap Pothan, Pandiarajan, Thiyagarajan</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3/5</b></p> <p><br> <br> </p> Fri May 29 15:00:45 IST 2020 ema-movie-review-a-melange-of-fire-dance-and-psychedelia <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>There is something about Pablo Larraine’s narrative, which is deeply complex and convoluted. Except for his last <i>Jackie</i> (2016) that came after his Oscar nomination for <i>No</i> (2012) and he didn’t write, there is an eccentric nature in all of Larraine’s films. <i>Ema</i>, his recent release, is no different. If anything, it’s a psychedelic colour scheme, elevated by the music of Nicolas Jaar and reggaeton dance moves.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Set in modern-day Chile and starring newcomer Mariana Di Girolamo and Gael Garcia Bernal, <i>Ema</i> begins with a scene set on a dark roadway, a traffic signal burning. In the following scenes, we find out that we are dealing with two characters that have a fascination to burn things. The camera zooms out; a figure geared with a flamethrower is taking a good look at the signal that has been set on fire, before quietly walking out. There seems to a certain sense of satisfaction.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As the plot shifts between the past and present, we are introduced to Ema (Girolamo), her husband, Gaston (Bernal) and their life together. They have a love story—the man, a choreographer has helped the woman realise her love for dance and she has excelled. Now, they work in the same company—he leads a group of dancers of which Ema is a part. But there is trouble in paradise. Their adopted son, Polo, who is a brat like his mother, has accidentally been involved in causing a fire. It has burned one side of Ema’s sister’s face. What do you do with a naughty child? If you think morally, it’s your responsibility to teach him to conduct himself better. But the couple here has sent eight-year-old Polo back to the orphanage, leading to fights and blame-game.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In one of the initial scenes, Ema is talking to a person from the child protective service and enquiring about what would happen with her son. The woman refuses to give her an explanation before telling her off, “What you want isn’t a child. You want a child who does nothing.” Later in the film, there is more introspection on the entire issue of child adoption and raising kids. A couple of scenes really stand out. There’s one with Ema having a conversation with her own mother during a bus ride where the latter talks about instilling the idea of staying together, always. In another, involving a protective services officer, riveting questions are raised around adoption and what follows. Can an adopted child be returned like a commodity because of bad behaviour? What do children want? To be loved, perhaps. To be told again and again that they will be loved even if they go wrong at some point.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But a drastic step has already been taken, and not without leaving Ema with maternal instincts that keep growing with the absence of the son who loved her immensely. In addition, the eccentricity and volatility of both Ema and Gaston lead to a breaking point in their marriage. They work together but not without conflicts as Gaston seems to stand by the decision they have made, while Ema wants to recoup.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Girolamo is arresting. With dyed hair pushed to the back, her lithe body lost in dance, and her striking way to look into the camera keeps the focus completely on her. Bernal, on the other hand, is completely submissive, never letting him shine, always playing himself down. It says a lot about their relationship equation. He is older; probably, has been more aggressive, too. But she has taken charge. She leads and he follows.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Larrain, who has already got a thumbs up for the film at almost every international film festival, strikes a stunning balance between dance and drama. The film can’t solely be put into any one category. When there is neither dance nor drama, there’s lots of sex. And yet, nothing seems to fall apart, even for a minute. If you don’t get distracted by the continuous to and fro between the past and present, the three elements come together in the most surprising and suspenseful way in the end.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Ema</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Director: Pablo Larrain</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Starring:&nbsp;Mariana Di Girolamo, Gael Garcia Bernal<br> </b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Streaming on: Mubi till May 30</b></p> Fri May 01 20:18:41 IST 2020 panchayat-review-a-peek-into-india-hinterland-sans-overdramatisation <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The small-town/village drama from the Hindi hinterland has almost peaked in films, even web-series, over the last five years. But go deeper and there are a gazillion stories waiting to be told. They need not be extraordinary, but isn’t that’s what life is about -finding the interesting in the ordinary. Created by The Viral Fever (TVF), Amazon Prime Video Original, <i>Panchaya</i>t, an eight-episode series, through the journey of city-bred protagonist Abhishek Tripathi (Jitendra Kumar), sketches the life in a village and tries to build on instances that may seem inconsequential but are important to those living it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In lack of a better job opportunity, Abhishek has joined as a secretary of a&nbsp;panchayat&nbsp;office in a remote village, Phulera, of Uttar Pradesh’s Baliya district. The decision has been taken with much contemplation. In the beginning of the series, he rues to his friend (a brief part played by Biswapati Sarkar) about his failing to procure a better placement in college that wasn’t as fancy as his friend’s, who would be working in a multinational company with a Rs 12 lakh per annum package. What he has instead got is a job that was easy-to-crack with a salary of Rs 20,000 a month.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The vocation of either of their academic courses is not mentioned. Perhaps, because it doesn’t really matter what they studied; people with higher, specialised courses opt for low-paying jobs because the options are limited and jobs are few. The show doesn’t delve deep into it, but it’s understandable. &nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“But you will get a chance to see the real India, the rural India,” the friend convinces Abhishek, insisting, “You will get a chance to become the Mohan Bhargava of <i>Swades</i>, develop roads and install hand-pumps.” Abhishek would take up the job eventually, but not because he is convinced with his friend’s reasoning, but because he doesn’t have an option. He would have preferred a regular employment in the familiar confines of a city. He will keep trying though to get back to the life he wants, the dream job that may come by preparing for the common aptitude test (CAT).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But before that, he has to put up with the idiosyncrasies of the people he has just got acquainted with in Phulera. Brij Bhushan (Raghubir Yadav) who is happily serving as the pradhan of the panchayat even though the seat has been won by his wife Manju Devi (Neena Gupta) after the government’s reservation for women in the previous election; the inimitable good guy, Vikas (Chandan Roy), the office attendant; the deputy pradhan (Faisal Malik).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Panchayat </i>does not go for dramatic moments that would bring in drastic changes in the arc of any of its characters. It focuses, instead, on the regular life – like having instant noodles in the busy-ness of the day; the daily grind – something as simple as explaining to your mom on the phone your daily routine and diet; the idea of ‘hang in there’ for some more time no matter how overbearing life seems. The highlights, the crowning moments, are culled from these occurrences. But while the series sets out to paint a picture of what a simpler life in an Indian microcosmic world means, it does not forget to underline the loneliness of its protagonist amid its over-zealous inhabitants. He is still affected by the social media posts of his friends partying on weekends in the city life that he has left behind just to ensure a job security.</p> <p>The show also does not overlook the deep-seated patriarchy, the male ego that hurts in minute instances no matter where you live or what your achievements are, the class and caste divide, the prevalence of dowry, the petty politics and much more.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But some moments are deeply resonant, elevated by Anurag Saikia’s soothing music. Villagers are fearful of that spreading tree with deep roots on an isolated path leading to the village. They consider it haunted. The myth behind it has to be busted and how. A water tower, something akin to the one in <i>Sholay</i>, is the best place to give a ringside view of the entire village. There is a certain sense of compulsion to keep nostalgia alive by protecting materialistic things like an ancestral lock. The show thrives in some of these moments, but withers in few when it starts advocating ideas. But those are rare and thus do not harm the overall simplistic atmosphere of the show.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, what bothers is that the simplicity is taken too seriously. The city-bred and hopefully an aware youngster, in pursuit of a life he wants, does not seem to question enough and when and if he does, it seems too late. Also, for a village that has a woman as a pradhan, the screen time given to her is miniscule. That is not just a waste of Gupta’s talent but also a missed opportunity to create a wholesome show that could have gone deeper into analysing the village life.</p> <p><b>&nbsp;</b></p> <p><b>Series: Panchayat</b></p> <p><b>Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video</b></p> <p><b>Written by: Chandan Kumar</b></p> <p><b>Directed by: Deepak Kumar Mishra</b></p> <p><b>Starring: Jitendra Kumar, Raghubir Yadav, Neena Gupta</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3/5</b></p> Fri Apr 03 17:55:57 IST 2020 maska-review-a-one-note-film-that-leaves-emotions-partly-explored <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The pull of glamour, fame and the aspirations to achieve the unattainable could sometimes become so strong that to pay a huge financial and emotional price for it may seem nothing. <i>Netflix</i>’s latest release, <i>Maska</i>, puts a confused young millennial in the centre of a story that explores his dreams, an aspiration of becoming an actor that he struggles with and the eventual difficulties that he faces to realise them even when he is ready to part with his family's legacy.</p> <p>Raised by a single mother (Diana Rustom Irai, <a title="Manisha Koirala to star in Netflix Original film 'Maska'" href="">played eloquently by Manisha Koirala</a>), Rumi (Prit Kamani) is under the immense pressure of living up to the example set by his father. He may have passed away early, but did his best to carry on the family name and its legacy created by the ancestral Iranian restaurant, Rustom Café. Everyone swears by its authenticity.</p> <p>Diana has run the café successfully for years after her husband’s passing, just in the hope that her son will grow up to take charge of the family business. She is one of those mothers who imposes and expects a lot, wanting the son to fit into his father’s shoes, literally and figuratively, perfectly.</p> <p>Rumi finds his father’s shoes old-fashioned and is reluctant to try them on. It's overbearing for him to have that constant pressure of fitting into the ideas that have carried on for generations in the family. He has newer choices and other dreams, like becoming an actor, causing much distress to the mother who wants to retire at the earliest, with old-age health issues knocking on her door.</p> <p>But Rumi is insistent. May be Diana could have convinced him in a scenario where there was no other influence. But to make things worse, Rumi has fallen for a strong-headed, aspirational north-Indian girl, Mallika (Nikita Dutta), who, too, is struggling to make it big as an actor. While Rumi struggles to act, she excels in every part that comes her way, which not just works as a motivation for Rumi, but her influence also overpowers him. It's enough to push him to leave the comforts of his privileged life and venture into the unknown by renting a house to follow a passion he is only partially good at.</p> <p>Through the twin life of Rumi, the film presents two contrasting pictures of Mumbai—that of the endearing Parsi culture against the setting of an Iranian café, and another of the young, mostly migrants, who come to the city to fulfil their dreams of being a part of the razzmatazz of the entertainment world. Every lane, by-lane, hutment, slum, high-rise, row house in Mumbai is a treasure-trove of interesting stories that intersect in amusing ways.</p> <p>In one of its earliest original films, <i>Love Per Square Foot</i>, <i>Netflix</i> explored the housing issue in Mumbai through the constant trouble faced by two young people to own a house of their own, and got it on point. But <i>Maska</i>, even if it is entertaining on the surface, lacks the depth of <i>LPSF</i> or many other slice-of-life films. It often leaves the emotions unattended or partly explored.</p> <p>In a film propelled by its characters and their motivations, <i>Maska</i> is reluctant to take defined stands. The hesitance of writer-director Neeraj Udhwani in creating characters that could go into a grey area to keep the overall essence of the film feel-good, even when a few characters scream to have a better arc, is a let-down.</p> <p>Udhwani, who is debuting as a director with this and has writing credits in films including <i>Dil Toh Bachaa Hai Ji</i> and digital series <i>Inside Edge</i>, among others, seems too conscious to take a plunge and explore human emotions and its dichotomies to its fullest. The result is a one-note film that refuses to get into the emotional depth that could have become the film’s strength. The film also strictly sticks to conservatism by almost becoming preachy about ideas of sticking to your roots and traditional values, continuing the lineage and so on.</p> <p>Then there are those clichéd plot points. There is the dead parent (the father played by Javed Jaffery) who keeps reappearing to invoke some sense in to Rumi. It’s a clever idea to introduce it, but much done, especially in films about young people like <i>Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na</i>, for it to look innovative. Also, there is little effort to make it look fresh. Then, there’s the other girl, who is more balanced and realistic. Played by Shirley Setia, Persis is a level-headed, aware-of-her-reality-and-dreams person. But to pit her opposite Dutta’s Mallika seems like a contrived idea, again creating a clichéd plot-point of good versus bad.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Maska</b></p> <p><b>Director: Neeraj Udhwani</b></p> <p><b>Streaming on: Netflix</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 2.5/5</b></p> Fri Mar 27 08:44:44 IST 2020 angrezi-medium-review-irrfan-khan-shines-in-film-that-loses-its-plot-midway <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A rearticulated version of the famous line by poet Avtar Singh Sandhu (or Pash as he is popularly known)— sabse khatarnak hota hai sapno ka mar jaana (Death of dreams is the most dangerous thing)—forms the crux of <i>Angrezi Medium</i>. At an emotional juncture in the film, Champak Bansal (Irrfan Khan), a widower and a single parent, tells his daughter, Tarika (Radhika Madan): “aadmi ka sapna tut jaata hai na toh aadmi khatam ho jata hai (When a person's dream breaks, it is his end)”. He has learnt it the hard way.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Right at the beginning of the film, Champak confesses to being a confused soul—always conflicted between two choices. There are only three things (that evolve over the course of the film) that have made him certain of his choices. The first of the three being the choice of the woman he marries. And yet, he did not let her opt for further studies, the only thing she desired for. He eventually loses her and somewhere blames himself for killing her dreams. He would not do that to his daughter, who has only harboured one dream since she was a child—of going abroad.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Through three instances where as a child Tarika is introduced to the Eiffel Tower (France), the Queen (United Kingdom) and Hollywood (United States), with an undertone of humour, the script establishes her aspiration to go abroad. Champak, in the meanwhile, has just made false promises. It is only in her late teens and as she is completing school that Tarika’s resolute becomes stronger. Even if it requires an average student like her to double the amount of effort she puts into studies to attain that scholarship that would ascertain her entry into a London college, she does.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, Champak, a sweetshop owner in Udaipur, is very possessive about the family name Ghaseetaram that he uses as the name of his shop, so does over more than 100 other extended family members. For the ownership of the name, the entire family is embroiled in a bizarre legal battle often leading to inexplicable situations between Champak and his cousin, Gopi (Deepak Dobriyal). The peculiar fight also becomes the reason for Tarika losing her seat at the University with the only option remaining is go for a seat through a private counsellor.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Director Homi Adajania's fourth feature, <i>Angrezi Medium—</i>a follow-up to the 2017 <i>Hindi Medium</i> (directed by Saket Chaudhary)—is about an aspirational daughter and a loving father who fears losing her to her aspirations. Besides his initial hiccup of overcoming his fear of losing her, Champak’s battles also become about managing finances, finding an alternate route to procure a seat for Tarika in London, and eventually being indiscreet about his and Gopi’s identity, who travels with him to London, after being blacklisted by the cops. A series of misadventures follow.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That is when, mostly in the second half, the core of the film—about the father-daughter bond and aspirations—takes a backseat. It becomes more about the misadventures of Champak and Gopi, their inability to communicate in English and often finding themselves in odd situations. It’s a good trope to introduce humour, especially when both Irrfan (who is back on the screen after a considerable gap) and Deepak have an established camaraderie and comic timing from the time of <i>Hindi Medium</i>, but does not fit too well in the film. There are some scenes that stand out for the coming timing and presenting serious issues with a lighter undertone, like the jokes on stereotyping Muslims or the constant struggle of not knowing English in a foreign land. But most situations are forced and outright bizarre to believe.</p> <p>Written by Bhavesh Mandalia, Gaurav Shukla, Vinay Chhawall and Sara Bodinar, the film even with a bunch of good actors including Kareena Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia who shine every time they are on-screen, falters because of inconsistency. It also wastes the talent of Pankaj Tripathi and Ranvir Shorey, who have been given caricaturish parts just to introduce laughter and seem force-fitted into the scheme of things.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Towards the end, even if the film gets back to its original plot point bringing the focus back on Champak and Tarika, it loses its underlying theme. The father’s character, which started out as someone committed to fulfil his daughter’s dream, becomes a ploy for a commentary about being with family, embracing one’s own country and shaming kids who want to be independent after a certain age without any social restrictions and expectations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Angrezi Medium</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Director: Homi Adajania</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Starring: Irrfan Khan, Deepak Dobriyal, Radhika Madan</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rating: 2.5/5</b></p> Fri Mar 13 13:00:55 IST 2020 kaamyab-review-sanjay-mishra-endearing-in-tribute-to-bollywood-sidekicks <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In one of the initial scenes in <i>Kaamyaab</i>, Sudheer (Sanjay Mishra) is reminded of a dialogue that has almost become his identity for years. On being recognised, he is often asked to reprise that dialogue “aur option hi kya hai” from a film he did in the 90s. Sudheer, now in his 60s and away from work for a few years, is being interviewed by an Uttarakhand-based channel when he is asked what could have possibly made the dialogue so famous. “Dialogue ki kismet thi, nikal gayee [The dialogue was lucky, it took off],” he responds with indifference. His significance in a film is almost equivalent to that of a potato in a curry, he says at one point. Like a potato, the sidekick like him, can be used in any form in varied preparations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hardik Mehta’s feature debut, after the National Award winning documentary <i>Amdavad Ma Famous,</i> brings the sidekick to the fore. With many anecdotal accounts of what a sidekick goes through, <i>Kaamyaab </i>focuses on one such person, Sudheer, who has been a part of 499 films without any identification—standing next to the star, being a henchman, being a villain who elevates the heroic identity of the star and more. He may have been unidentifiable in most parts, but what if he could add one more role to his filmography to attain that round figure of 500 and also, in his old age, give a performance that is remembered?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There begins Sudheer’s quest to attain a personal milestone. The world of films, which he used to navigate with much ease, has moved on. Casting directors have taken over the reigns in many ways. As Gulati (Deepak Dobriyal) flaunts on his company’s mug, “casting is 50% of filmmaking”. Long queues outside his office are only a testimony to how important his job is. And, Dobriyal, in his best form, aces the character as he struggles to find that one role Sudheer is looking for.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But even as Sudheer attempts to get back to the fold, championing whatever comes in between, there is resistance from his daughter, Bhavna (Sarika Singh). She remembers a distasteful experience the last time her father decided to work on a film. She constantly reminds him that he doesn’t need to work because he is financially stable and has a family that can take care of him. But Sudheer is compelled by his quest.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The family angle may not work too well for the film, giving it a little melodramatic turn. But what works really well is its attempt to put the spotlight on the film sets and show how everything film is not such a glamourous affair after all. Mehta brings back a coterie of popular sidekicks including Avtar Gill, Guddi, Lilliput among others playing themselves. While there is a considerable plot of rivalry between Sudheer and Gill, which is not just great but also reflective of the nature of the film industry, the other actors are sorely underutilised.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mehta isn’t keen on showing the glamour of the film world, like in <i>Om Shanti Om</i>. He is not even portraying the dream-like nature of the industry where fairy tales come true, like in <i>Rangeela</i>. But he depicts the dark edge where a production executive haggles with the sidekicks and background artistes, where stars rule and everything else is secondary. And, that is what works well for <i>Kaamyaab</i>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Kaamyaab</b></p> <p><b>Director: Hardik Mehta</b></p> <p><b>Starring: Sanjay Mishra, Avtar Gill</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3/5</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri Mar 06 13:56:40 IST 2020 baaghi-3-review-tiger-roars-syrians-run-for-cover <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>With <i>Baaghi 3</i> taking us to Syria, the potential of the series now seems limitless. There are plenty of countries left and as long as Tiger Shroff remains fit enough to pull off the stunts, this thing could go on and on. Africa could be a good choice for the next part, you know, to break the monotony of Islamic terrorists with some colourful racism.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But in all fairness, <i>Baaghi 3</i> is a movie which knows what it is. There is no attempt to be intelligent. It is all about the fun, which in this case is unleashing Tiger's full fury against hapless bad guys (who clearly did not see <i>Baaghi</i> and <i>Baaghi 2</i> or they would surely have sued for peace.) They never stood a chance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The USP of the film—the fighting—is executed well. If only the itch to copy things could have been avoided. But more on that later. The film starts slowly, but is then saved by a display of Tiger's incredible fighting skills. His kicks and flips are neat as always. But in the past he has looked like a ballerina is some fight scenes. That has been dealt with and there is more intensity here.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are a few funny moments in the first half and bad attempts at comedy. The lead pair, Tiger and Shraddha Kapoor, has been given ample opportunities to showcase their acting skills. They even impress fleetingly. One comic scene in particular may surprise the duo's detractors. But there is plenty of room for improvement.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Baaghi 3</i> has silenced those who criticise movies for not devoting enough time to develop the plot and the characters. Because it makes us wish there was less plot and much less character development. Even after Ronnie (Tiger) and Siya (Shraddha) land in Syria, a lot of time is wasted. And in case you were wondering, Siya proved herself to be a useful ally.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tanks, helicopters, mega blasts and Wonder Woman impersonations follow. Some of the stunts are phenomenal, others extremely dangerous, but some are underwhelming. Tiger must be appreciated for his commitment and dedication to his craft—<i>heropanti</i>. His emoting is still subpar. When he threatens bad guys, he looks about as intimidating as a pouty child. And the crying is painful to watch. And if you are waiting for the climax, it is one of the silliest in recent memory.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Shraddha looks set to continue her fine run at the box office with <i>Baaghi 3</i>. While her acting credentials are questionable, there is no denying that Shraddha has established herself as a star. But she will need to improve her body of work to be respected as an actor. Comedy seems to suit her.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Riteish Deshmukh, a fine actor, is downright irritating. Jameel Khoury, who plays the villian Abu Jalal Gaza, is convincing. The cinematography by Santhana Krishnan Ravichandran warrants a special mention and is one of the saving graces of the film. The music is mediocre. But the third edition of the Baaghi anthem, 'Get Ready To Fight', gives it a lift. An unavoidable element of any Bollywood blockbuster-in-waiting is the item song. <i>Baaghi 3 </i>fits one in, too, giving Disha Patani an opportunity to show off her stunning body (#fitnessgoals). It would take a lot of effort to look past the 'similarities' the song (Do You Love Me) has to other people's work, but Disha moves like a dream.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The much-hyped 'Dus Bahane' remake features in the end credits. Tiger and Shraddha both look hot. Tiger has some cool moves, Shraddha does not. In the end, <i>Baaghi 3</i> is simple enough to rate. One star for Tiger, and one star for everything else put together.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Baaghi 3</b></p> <p><b>Director: Ahmed Khan</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Tiger Shroff, Shraddha Kapoor, Disha Patani, Riteish Deshmukh, Jameel Khoury</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 2/5</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri Mar 06 13:09:45 IST 2020 thappad-review-a-timely-urgent-take-on-misogyny-and-male-entitlement <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>She is resigned to a routine. Amrita (Taapsee Pannu) is the archetype of the perfect housewife. She is the last one to sleep and the first one to be woken up by an alarm clock that she makes sure doesn’t disturb her husband sleeping next to her. She picks up the milk bottles from the porch, makes tea for herself, clicks a photo of the rising sun, checks her mother-in-law’s sugar level before waking up her husband with a tray of tea and snacks. She heaves a sigh of relief when she sees her husband, Vikram (Pavail Gulati), leaving for office with his files, coffee container and lunchbox.</p> <p>Their life appears to be perfect. She is the caring wife, and he is the doting, dependent husband. She doesn't rue or complain about the career she could have made had she continued her classical dance training. She isn’t jealous of her next-door neighbour who is progressing every passing day, moving on to a bigger car, and busier schedule. She doesn’t mind taking care of an unwell mother-in-law and doesn’t fret when a party has to be organised within a few hours. But Amrita’s seemingly perfect life is shattered when Vikram slaps her once in the heat of the moment in the presence of family and friends. While most people around her dismiss this as a one-off incident, some, including Amrita’s parents (Ratna Pathak Shah and Kumud Mishra), wonder if this is an indication of what she is subjected to on a daily basis.</p> <p>Amrita, meanwhile, refuses to move on from the incident.</p> <p>What does a woman’s selfless submission into a relationship mean? That is the question the film asks as Amrita files for divorce. Things keep getting complicated and messy as she continues to fight for she what she believes to be the right thing.</p> <p>Pannu's Amrita isn’t the fiery woman she has played in some of her recent films. She is a docile, calm, and yet strong-headed woman who can differentiate right from wrong. Aided by Pavail’s restrained performance, Pannu shines as Amrita.</p> <p>Meanwhile, we also get to know the women surrounding her, many of who embody prototypes. There is the domestic help (Geetika Vaidya Ohlan) who is beaten on a regular basis that it become almost a daily routine for her. There is Amrita's mother (Shah) who forgets that she has a talent that she could hone, as she has been busy taking care of her husband and family. A lawyer (Maya Sarao) who is overshadowed by her husband’s fame. The single mom (Dia Mirza) who does her best to never let her daughter develop any negative feelings for her deceased father. The girlfriend (Nidhi Uttam) who gives her boyfriend a second chance after he misbehaves.</p> <p>Co-written by Mrunmayee Lagoo along with director Anubhav Sinha, <i>Thappad</i> is timely and urgent—a reminder of how male entitlement works in daily lives, and how most people just brush it under the carpet. They find nothing unusual when a woman is slapped, or denied her right to choose a profession, and eventually lose her identity as a person.</p> <p>Sinha, who has made strong statements with his last two releases (<i>Mulk</i> and <i>Article 15</i>), makes the core conflict of his film so insignificant that while his women characters play out well and often take the onus for the larger societal complicity, the male characters are overly stereotypical and mostly freed from the responsibility. One can argue that that is what holds the film together. But the stereotypes, at times, start weighing heavy as the director has failed to create more rounded characters.</p> <p>Nevertheless, <i>Thappad</i> is a step in the right direction on calling out the deep-seated misogyny that fails to leave Hindi cinema.</p> <p><b>Film: Thappad</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Director: Anubhav Sinha</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Starring: Taapsee Pannu, Pavail Gulati, Manav Kaul, Tanvi Azmi</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rating: 3.5/5</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Wed Feb 26 20:54:26 IST 2020 shubh-mangal-zyada-saavdhan-review-a-refreshingly-warm-fun-watch <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>'My sexuality is my sexuality. Nobody else's sexuality.' This line best sums up the central theme of <i>Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan. </i>Homosexuality is normal, embrace it; love is gender neutral, accept it; same sex marriages will soon be commonplace, wait for it.</p> <p><i>Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan</i> is a refreshingly warm, fun and a highly dramatic story of Aman (Jitendra Kumar) and Kartik (Ayushmann Khurrana) who must together as a couple, battle it out with Aman's conservative Tripathi family and in particular with the parochial, 'traditional' mindset of his father (Gajraj Rao) who, despite being a scientist, and an ambitious one at that, fails to fathom the role of science and genetics behind same-sex behaviour, and that hypothalamus does not wait for one's instructions before releasing 'love' hormones.</p> <p>For Shankar Tripathi, his son has fallen prey to a 'deadly disease' and he tries everything he can to rid him of the spell, even as a frustrated Aman chides him with, 'Aapka Oxytocin pyaar, mera Oxytocin disease!' The film moves in a fast pace and keeps the viewer totally engaged with a lively screenplay, meaty dialogues and lyrics one would be left humming long after the film is over. While the first half has a multitude of characters with everyone bringing something interesting to the table, the second part seems a bit preachy and tedious, especially the last fifteen minutes when Kartik goes overboard and dresses up as Aman's runaway bride that leads to the never ending speech that ensues.</p> <p>Aptly, the setting is Allahabad and director Hitesh Kewalya has done a fine job of bringing out the intricacies of a traditional North Indian, joint family household with the elderly, the middle aged, young and children share the same roof and space to live together as one unit, despite their occasional fallouts with each other. You actually feel that you have been been transported to a real life household in Allahabad.</p> <p>Both, Khurrana and Kumar have given a stellar and a very believable performances, and Neena Gupta plays the role of the matriarchal head of the family flawlessly. This is a mass entertainer that has been successful in bringing the issue of homosexuality into the mainstream just as its 2017 version, <i>Shubh Mangal Saavdhan</i> was successful in making the subject of erectile dysfunction a dinner table conversations. What remains to be seen is if it can indeed get people to accept same sex marriages, as shown in the film.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Movie: Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan</b></p> <p><b>Directed by: Hitesh Kewalya</b></p> <p><b>Starring: Ayushmann Khurrana‎; ‎Jitendra Kumar</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3.5/5</b></p> Fri Feb 21 17:36:38 IST 2020 bhoot-part-one-review-a-horror-thriller-that-is-faithful-to-familiar-tropes <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The horror genre is undergoing a revival of sorts. It is no longer just about horrific ghosts. The story is becoming more important than the jump scares. But mainstream Bollywood productions have a way of diluting a movement. And, <i>Bhoot: Part One - The Haunted Ship</i> is a perfect example of this.</p> <p>Starring Vicky Kaushal as a grieving husband and father, Prithvi, the film is about a ship—Sea Bird— that is stuck in the dunes of Juhu beach in Mumbai. Prithvi, a shipping officer, along with his colleague-turned-friend Riyaz, is probing the details of the mystery vessel. While Riyaz has been updated in hushed tones about the ship being haunted and maintains a distance during the probe, Prithvi is drawn to it.</p> <p>Prithvi is in a mess. He is dealing with the guilt of having been responsible for the death of his wife and daughter. He refuses to take the tranquilisers prescribed to him and often hallucinates about his departed wife and daughter. He likes these as he is glad to see them at least in his hallucinations. The chaos in his life increase as he begins to to probe the mysteries of Sea Bird.</p> <p>He sees a young girl in the ship every time he goes in. With his medical condition, it is hard for him to convince anyone else about the apparition. Prithvi gradually begins to unravel the mysteries of the Sea Bird from the things he collects from the ship. By now, Riyaz too comes around to help him.</p> <p>Then there is Joshi (Ashutosh Rana) who has been working on paranormal activities. Although he appears to be the only sane person around, eventually he too falls into the same trope that most of the horror films follow— that of an exorcist. As expected, the exorcism does not work, but then nothing else works either.</p> <p>The fine lighting and camerawork by Pushkar John and the occasional eerie music by sound designer Anish John fail to uplift the incoherent script by director Bhanu Pratap Singh.</p> <p>Kaushal, doing a horror film for the first time, makes an earnest attempt to get into the character that requires him to look confused amidst the chaos that life has brought him. But his acting skills are hardly of use in a movie that heavily relies on cliched horror movie tropes. Bhumi Pednekar’s cameo as his wife is again too dramatic to be believable. In a time when socio-political subtexts are being explored in horror films, <i>Bhoot: Part One - The Haunted Ship </i>comes<i><b> </b></i>across as an ordinary, cliched affair.</p> <p>Since this is planned as a trilogy, one can only wait to see if better stories come out in the franchise later. For now, this is a disappointing fare.</p> <p><b>Film: Bhoot – Part I: The Haunted Ship</b></p> <p><b>Director: Bhanu Pratap Singh</b></p> <p><b>Starring: Vicky Kaushal, Ashutosh Rana</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 1.5/5</b></p> Fri Feb 21 19:57:50 IST 2020 trance-review-fails-to-impress-overall-despite-its-bold-theme <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Director-producer&nbsp;Anwar Rasheed wanted to keep the story of his new film, <i>Trance</i>, close to his chest and guard its fantastically intricate concepts till the film's release. So much so that he didn't even want to release a trailer just to avoid any sort of spoilers. It was for his hero Fahadh Faasil's push that Rasheed released the trailer for <i>Trance</i> at the last minute. Of course, revealing details of the film before its release would not only have killed the curiosity, but also could have invited controversies. Because, the film deals with a very sensitive subject—religion.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Trance</i> is definitely a bold attempt for its theme, as far as Malayalam cinema is concerned. But it fails to do justice to the theme it explores with its weak script that becomes so cluttered and confused towards the third act.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film explores the journey of a motivational speaker, Viju Prasad, from the locale of Kanyakumari to the world of tele-evangelism. In the first half, we see the intelligent use of montages to tell Viju's past. The sound design in these portions are truly world-class. The film follows a linear progression in its narrative. It starts at a slow pace. The protagonist’s character-building is decent. But, once his new avatar is introduced, the film gains speed and the whole show becomes more stylised. It becomes more and more messy, too, as far as storyline is concerned. Fahadh's character has references from Indian Godman Osho to Israeli televangelist Benny Hinn.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hinn used to have a theme of using his jacket (or 'God's Jacket') to “heal blind, deaf, people with cancer and AIDS” in his evangelical shows. His ministries had been dubbed financially suspect and corrupt by Ministry Watch—an organisation who reviews Protestant ministries for financial accountability and transparency—in 2006. In <i>Trance</i>, you could see its protagonist, too, waving his coat to sell “God”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Trance </i>goes to the depth of financial crimes happening in name of “God”. Though the film makes a direct attack on Protestant and independent churches, it takes extra care not to piss off the powerful Catholic church. There is a conscious effort from the director to show that Catholic priests or nuns do not support activities like interfering with medical treatment in the name of religion.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Trance </i>is a technically brilliant film. DOP Amal Neerad makes it a visual treat. Reportedly, this is the first time a Bolt High Speed Cine-bot camera has been used in a Malayalam film. Neerad explores a range of shots and angles to give a stylised output. Editor Praveen Prabhakar really deserves an applause for the beautiful montages, and the sound designing by&nbsp;Resul Pookutty is just mind blowing. However, at the end of the day, technical brilliance alone cannot save the film.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film’s cast is huge. Fahadh Faasil does a neat job. Actor-filmmaker Gautham Vasudev Menon makes his acting debut in Malayalam. But, the exceptional performance is that of Sreenath Bhasi. In <i>Trance</i>, Nazriya Nazim finally comes out of the cocoon of her cute, cuddly and naive “Nazriya-like” characters. But she is neither an enigmatic Ma Anand Sheela nor an eccentric Harley Quinn. And, her character is one of the badly written ones in the film.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Expectations for <i>Trance</i> were quite high, and for many good reasons. This is Anwar Rasheed’s first feature film after a gap of eight long years. The team had big names in front of the camera, and also in the background. Also, there were lot of speculations and intrigue about the theme it explores. But it fails to give a great impression, overall.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Trance</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Director: Anwar Rasheed</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Starring: Fahadh Faasil, Nazriya Nazim, Gautam Vasudev Menon, Sreenath Bhasi</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rating: 2.5/5</b></p> Thu Feb 20 17:50:09 IST 2020 love-aaj-kal-review-a-tiresome-watch-valentines-day <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>There is a scene in <i>Love Aaj Kal</i> where two young lovers are reuniting after a break-up. The girl is drunk, the boy is sincerely stalking her (now that is wrong, but have the Hindi masala entertainers ever thought about right and wrong). They could have had an emotional moment rife with tension and drama. In fact, there is every effort put in from the actors—Kartik Aaryan (Veer) and Sara Ali Khan (Zoe)— to make it a scene that displays the overpowering control of love. But what it instead turns out to be is a scene high on drama, overacting, and unnecessary idealism preached by the male character.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Imtiaz Ali puts in an effort to recreate the same magic like his 2009 <i>Love Aaj Kal</i>, a film about the emotional complexities of the human mind in two different eras, 20 years apart, with a new set of actors and newer contradictions. But does he succeed? Maybe, partially. The new <i>Love Aaj Kal</i>, like the earlier one, is messy and clings on to the prophetic philosophies, only that these do not translate too well in practical life.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film begins with two consecutive scenes in 2020 and 1990—of two firebrand girls of the respective eras confronting their stalkers. It soon launches into the present times—to the story of the millennials, and it is as millennial as it can get— claptrap lingo, absurd idea of self-love (Zoe unbuttons her top before going into a meeting to “feel more confident”), and torn between the idea of love and career even if the conflict seems unnecessary.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An ambitious 22-year-old Zoe has her plan to make it big in her profession as an event manager. It is chalked out well, as she mentions in one scene, till she turns 55. The idea of a serious relationship is something that she has kept on hold till she is 27. But Veer shows up early in her life. Something clicks and draws them to each other even when Zoe doesn’t want it to bother her.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A co-working space, Mazi café, run by Randeep Hooda’s Raghuvendra Raj, is the place where the romance brews. And, Raj—a spectator to the romance that is evolving—in turn, becomes the guide for Zoe. He is the “cautionary tale”, he tells Zoe as the film flashbacks to his love story every now and then (Hooda’s younger version played by Aaryan and his love interest played by Aarushi Sharma). Through the retelling of his own romance that eventually ends in tragedy, he guides her, or should we say influences her to an extent that an impressionable young girl is unable to make her own decisions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The narrative starts crumbling. The filmmaker, often impugned for giving agency to his male characters, is trying hard to give an agency to the woman in this film. But he starts burdening her with the lessons learnt by an older man, and in turn does not let Zoe learn her own lesson or have any agency at all. Even if the complexities of love unfold in two different eras and the gender is reversed in the two stories, Zoe’s decisions are based on the storytelling of the man. The idea to explore the changing expression and meaning of love over time seems overburdened.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The pop-culture reference to<i> Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak</i> and Salman Khan songs from the 90s only makes it worse; add to it the textbook-ish dialogues with emotionless performance and the experience worsens.</p> <p>Sara tries hard to come across as a strong-willed, independent woman of the current era, but it is forced and at times gets overwhelming. It is a new genre for Aaryan and his sincerity to portray the lover-boy, madly and deeply in love, is let down by overacting in the present era. However, his portrayal of Raghu from the 90s still has some promise. Aarushi Sharma fits the role. But Hooda, who even though not in his best form, is convincing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Love Aaj Kal</b></p> <p><b>Director: Imtiaz Ali</b></p> <p><b>Starring: Sara Ali Khan, Kartik Aaryan, Randeep Hooda, Aarushi Sharma</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 2/5</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri Feb 14 14:30:28 IST 2020 varane-avashyamundu-review-a-feel-good-family-drama <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>After a long hiatus, Mollywood's much-loved onscreen couple Suresh Gopi and Shobhana are back on the big screen in V<i>arane Avashyamundu</i>.</p> <p><i>Varane Avashyamundu</i> merges the stories of a few people living in an apartment complex in Chennai. Neena (Shobhana) is a single mom to Nikitha (Kalyani Priyadarshan). The movie begins with the mother-daughter duo's search for a suitable match for Nikitha. This search brings them in touch with several people and the film ties together the stories of these lives. Suresh Gopi, as a retired army officer, and a street-smart Dulquer Salman come into their lives at a certain point and what happens next makes up the plot of the movie.</p> <p>Debutant director Anoop Sathyan, son of filmmaker Sathyan Anthikad, has done a decent job with his first film. Sathyan Anthikad’s movies are known for their simplicity which exactly can be seen in his son's&nbsp;<i>Varane Avashyamundu </i>also. The movie is rooted in family bonds and emotions, with a sprinkling of humour—like Anthikad's movies.</p> <p>The film presents a strong comeback for the 90’s action hero Suresh Gopi. Unlike most of his other movies in which he thrills the audiences with punch dialogues and action sequences, <i>Varane Avashyamundu</i> features a totally different side of the actor—gentle, and often child-like. Shobhana, as always, enthralls with her charm on the big screen.</p> <p>Dulquer, who also turns producer with this film, has lesser screen space in the movie, but plays a crucial role in the plot. Johny Antony who is placed as a doctor in the movie has done his role well by pulling off the humour. The film also featured other actors like Urvashi, KPAC Lalitha, and Lalu Alex who have delivered their parts well. The climax of the movie was a little disappointing as the director ended the movie in an abrupt manner. Overall, <i>Varane Avashyamundu</i> is a decent, feel-good movie.</p> <p><b>Movie: Varane Avashyamundu</b></p> <p><b>Director: Anoop Sathyan</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Shobhana, Suresh Gopi, Kalyani Priyadarshan, Dulquer Salman</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3.5/5&nbsp; &nbsp;</b></p> Fri Feb 07 18:15:08 IST 2020 malang-review-aditya-roy-kapur-disha-patani-starrer-cocktail-cliches <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Cute boy meets pretty girl, fall in love, and eventually are struck by a tragedy. In between, there is suspense and thrill. A template that director Mohit Suri has time and again exploited. A template that when clubbed with the right people, the right music, the right timing and the right plot twists, often turns into a full masala entertainer. Suri’s recent film, <i>Malang</i>, does not deceive the template, but takes it too seriously and loses the plot somewhere.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Starring Aditya Roy Kapur (Advait) and Disha Patani (Sara) in lead roles,<i> Malang</i> begins in a jail. As the camera focuses on Kapur’s polished abs and biceps, a long-stretched fight scene unfolds. A knotted bracelet is the cause of Advait’s anger and the eventual fight with his fellow jail mates. Other characters are introduced—Kunal Kemmu’s Michael, a police inspector in Goa, and the reckless encounter specialist, inspector Agashe, played with a lot of ease by Anil Kapoor.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Soon, the film goes into a flashback as it builds the story around the bracelet that belonged to Sara. Advait and Sara, two bohemian people meet in Goa. Advait’s reclusive identity is a result of a dysfunctional family, while Sara just wants to live life to the fullest. A relationship built on the idea of having fun, it takes no time for them to fall in love. It is just the beginning of a clichéd storyline. Their love story evolves over many flashbacks and that does not necessarily work in the film’s favour, stretching it beyond a point that can be endured.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even if it feels that one has spent hours in the theatre, apart from the flashbacks, the film spans only a day when Advait is released from the jail and is working against time while he is on a cop-killing spree. Kapur’s well-built body, shot against the scenic Goa, and flexing muscles in the action and chase sequences is something that works brilliantly for the film. So does Patani’s toned body against the sea. But their chemistry is not crackling and often fails to work making the first half of the film drab. Thank god for the music and slick cinematography.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But as the plot builds up the backstories of Kemmu’s righteous cop against Kapoor’s hasty one and what has led to become the people they are, in the latter part of the film, the interest spurs. Credit has to be given to Kemmu and Kapoor (tripping over the song Aaj Ki Raat Koi Aaane Ko Hai) who seem to be having fun playing the parts given to them. Apart from that, <i>Malang</i>’s attempt at building a suspense story is hackneyed. It takes up a cause of how proving his manliness can drive a man to a point of being crazy and extremely violent. But in the film’s scheme of things, it all starts feeling pointless and banal as it reaches the climax.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Malang</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Director: Mohit Suri</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Starring: Aditya Roy Kapur, Disha Patani, Anil Kapoor, Kunal Kemmu</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rating: 2/5</b></p> Fri Feb 07 13:06:10 IST 2020 bad-boys-for-life-the-buddy-cop-franchise-gets-worthy-revival <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Michael Bay’s directorial career debuted with 1995’s <i>Bad Boys, </i>a buddy cop flick that had nothing new to offer over previous films in the genre like <i>Lethal Weapon </i>and <i>Beverly Hills Cop. </i>But what made the film so memorable after all these years, that it still gets a new installment, was the film’s lead heroes, Mike Lowery (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) and their on-screen chemistry. They brought to life the exploits of the mafia-hunting cops who steer through gunshots, bomb explosions and all the hooplas of a Michael Bay flick.</p> <p>In the third entry in the long-dormant buddy cop franchise, titled <i>Bad Boys for Life, </i>Belgian director duo <b></b>Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah<i> </i>look to bank on the popularity of the on-screen detective duo to recreate their camaraderie, all while keeping in mind that reviving the story of an aging duo, both on and off screen, will not ensure that this may go on for the next ten years. Some franchises are used to following this pattern—producing a sequel every two years with the formulaic narrative and redundancy. And no, I am not mentioning the <i>Fast and Furious </i>franchise.</p> <p>In the <i>Bad Boys for Life, </i>Mike Lowery and Marcus Burnett continue their escapades chasing criminals. For Burnett, his life is happier than ever with the birth of his first grandchild. Lowery’s life as a bachelor irks his longtime partner, who constantly coaxes his friend to “fall in love” and get a new life. In the opening minutes, a parallel series of events show a mobster and his nefarious mother set out to settle some old scores. Lowery and Burnett embark to confront these threats, with the aid of a specialised, well-armed and technologically-superior AMMO, a division in Miami PD that consists of ambitious youngsters and Lowery’s ex.</p> <p><i>Bad Boys for Life </i>works where <i>Bad Boys 2 </i>did not. The new flick has all the explosiveness that Bay’s films had—car chases, ear-deafening shootouts and whatnot. But here, in this new installment, we have a deeper and emotional insight into the lives of the lead characters. We see the duo struggling with the probability of a retirement that could send them home for good anytime soon. Martin Lawrence’s Burnett is the one who seems to be enthusiastic about the new phase in their lives, while Smith’s Lowery remains apprehensive. One plus point in the film is the script writers’ attempt to consider their aging protagonists. At one point, when the team sets out to a drug peddler’s base for surveillance, we see Will Smith’s character trying to come in terms with the new technological advancements that the AMMO possesses, often quipping that he himself was enough for pulling off the operation.</p> <p><i>Bad Boys for Life </i>offers nothing different from other movies in the genre, as far as the narrative is concerned. Yet, it is more humane and emotional than its predecessors (<i>Bad Boys </i>and <i>Bad Boys 2)</i>. The action sequences are easily forgettable and are more cacophonous than thrilling. Will Smith takes centre stage in the film, in the finesse we are used to seeing, as Martin Lawrence’s role is reduced to that of an about-to-be-washed-up cop, who is forced to go on duty again as his friend’s life hangs in the balance. As for the other characters, played by Vanessa Hudgens, Paola Núñez, Alexander Ludwig and Charles Melton, their screen time is less and hence, seemed like additions that could have been done away with. The plot of the mother and son who seek to exact revenge is well-established by the writers and Jacob Scipio and Kate del Castillo, who portray them, have managed to pull off their performances.</p> <p>For fans of the franchise, and the genre, <i>Bad Boys for Life, </i>is an engaging watch. They get to see their favorite duo reunite after 17 years and the makers have done their best to not disappoint them. Adil and Bilall rise one step higher than Michael Bay in executing an action-heavy script with the required amount of humanity, sensitivity and, of course, humour. <i>Bad Boys for Life </i>is a worthy installment that revives a franchise which had for long been in dormancy. Yet, for a normal moviegoer who happens to chance upon the film, the movie strikes nothing new than the occasional action, gunshots, explosions and high-octane car chases.</p> <p><b>Film: Bad Boys for Life</b></p> <p><b>Directors: Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3/5</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri Jan 31 16:23:24 IST 2020 jojo-rabbit-review-nazi-era-satire-with-present-day-relevance <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Fascism blooms in the mud of hatred. If you consider any fascist organisation, you can see that their propaganda machinery applies three powerful techniques—dehumanisation, demonisation and idolisation—to indoctrinate and ensure support of the majority.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Nazi Germany, Hitler’s “democratically-elected” government took multiple legal measures to isolate, segregate and incarcerate Jews. But to create a climate of indifference towards their plight, the Nazis successfully demonised and dehumanised Jews in the eyes of German whites. The Nazi party’s rise to power can be greatly attributed to its anti-Semitic, anti-communist stance. They played a victim card by propagating the idea that the Jewish minority is to be blamed for all the miseries of white-German majority. (This finds resonance in the current political atmosphere in many countries where alt-right and ultra-right parties blame certain religious communities, ethnic groups or migrants for all the woes of the world.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The satirical film<i> Jojo Rabbit</i>, directed by Taika David Waititi, caricaturises Nazi Germany. Employing ample amount of black humour, it delves into the nuances of German propaganda machinery. The story is told from the perspective of a ten-year-old boy, Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis), who is an enthusiastic new entrant in the Deutsches Jungvolk in der Hitler Jugend—a section for boys aged 10 to 14 in Nazi party's Hitler Youth organisation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The boy lives with his mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson), who is secretly part of a resistance movement (even Jojo does not know about it). But Jojo is fascinated by Hitler. He dreams to be part of Fuehrer's personal guard. Moreover, Hitler (Waititi) is a secret imaginary friend for him. Looking back into history, the Nazi propaganda was successful in creating a superhuman image for Hitler. Thus, this “imaginary” friend of Jojo, could be seen as a representation of that Hitler-like, Aryan alter-ego every Nazi harboured inside them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Jojo’s life starts changing when he finds a secret that his mother has been hiding. Jojo is resentful because of his prejudices, and his imaginary friend is not helpful, either. Some may argue that<i> Jojo Rabbit </i>trivialises the horrors that happened in Nazi Germany—that the film is too much fun. But it should not be forgotten that the story is told from the perspective of a Nazi boy who truly believed everything is great about Hitler.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film brings in some interesting references to a few past satirical works on Hitler. The hand grenade scene from Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 classic <i>The Great Dictator</i> gets a distant nod in <i>Jojo Rabbit</i>. Another reference is to a 1939 British song ‘Hitler Has Only Got One Ball’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film has a surreal setting, overall. The cinematography and editing provides the best service to that setting demanded by the story. The performance by all the lead actors, especially Davis and Thomasin McKenzie, are worth mentioning. <i>Jojo Rabbit </i>has a bunch of “good Nazis”, too. I asked myself if a Nazi can be shown as a good human being. Then the images of the film <i>Schindler’s List</i> popped up in my head.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Also, the film shows Rosie’s efforts to secretly run a non-violent resistance movement from within the system. Rosie’s resistance method could be seen as a tribute to German pacifist resistors like Sophie Scholl of White Rose Movement (Scholl was guillotined for distributing anti-war leaflets at University of Munich).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Although the film is set in the Nazi era, it, in fact, laughs in the face of present-day hatemongers and institutionalised propaganda machinery. <i>Jojo Rabbit </i>uses Germany as an allegory to convey what indoctrinators and manipulators can do with the conscience of today’s youth.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Jojo Rabbit</b></p> <p><b>Director: Taika David Waititi</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Roman Griffin Davis, Scarlett Johansson, Taika Waititi</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3.5/5</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri Jan 31 12:02:26 IST 2020 panga-review-kangana-perfect-realistic-film-about-chasing-your-dreams <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The smaller moments make a lot of difference in<i> Panga</i>, a film about a passionate, national-level kabaddi player who gives it all up and is currently a selfless mother and dutiful wife. During a post-dinner reflective conversation with her husband Prashant (Jassie Gill), Jaya Nigam (Kangana Ranaut) talks about the happiness she feels when she sees him and her son Adi (Yagya Bhasin), and how when she sees herself, there is no happiness.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While the film is full of such moments, this stood out for me in the film directed by Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari (<i>Nil Battey Sanatta</i>, <i>Bareilly Ki Barfi</i>). A woman who was at her peak as a sportswoman seven years ago, leaves her only passion to nurture her family and find contentment in being a regular employee at railway ticket counter in Bhopal. But it is only a matter of time for her to sense meaninglessness in her individual existence seven years later. The beauty of the film is not isolated to this scene where Jaya realises she needs to give her only passion a second shot, but it is in the build up that leads to this particular moment and the struggles that follow after it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We are introduced to Jaya and her family as a happy entity living a middle-class life in a railway quarter. There are the usual moments of family banter, of selfless mother-child love, of loving spouses and of pressures at work. And one day, her seven-year-old still raises questions when she fails to show up for a school function amid work pressure. Is work that important that she would even miss her only son’s triumphant moment at school, he asks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Women face a relentless stream of such questions on a daily basis. Some fight it and some live with it. But <i>Panga</i> (that loosely translates ‘to mess up with’) is not about either, it rather is about the way one can find a middle path—to live and yet not create unnecessary conflicting situations, to find a balance. In a subtle way, the story, written by Tiwari and Nikhil Mehrotra with additional dialogues by Nitesh Tiwari, observes what it takes for a woman to realise her dreams, to beat the deeply-entrenched patriarchy, to beat the stereotypical expectations from women. Is it just women who can fight it, or do men play an equal part?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At times, it seems that the film gives too much importance to its man, Prashant. But an objective scrutiny of it makes it just fine. When Jaya’s mother (delightfully played by Neena Gupta) is doubtful about her comeback to kabaddi, she expects Prashant to side with her. But Prashant’s pragmatism is refreshing. He wants Jaya to give it a try. And that changes everything. In any different milieu, had the same happened, it would have come across as too righteous or may be too larger-than-life. But in the present context, it is just right. The man here deserves an applause for breaking stereotypes. He is ready to join an all-women WhatsApp group to be updated of the happenings in his son’s school, attempts to cook, tries juggling everything at home and work even as Jaya, in another city, is trying to revive her dream. The film is aware of what it is doing. At one point, a character says pehle ladkiyaan apne patiyon ko Shah Rukh Khan ki tarah romantic banne ko kehti thi, ab Prashant ki tarah supportive banne ko kahengi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If the family dynamics takes precedence in the first half, Jaya’s tryst with kabaddi as she vies for inclusion in the national team is integral in the second. Her best friend-turned-coach, Meenu (Richa Chadha) helps her in propelling her dream. That also talks a lot about female camaraderie. A neighbour, only addressed as <i>bhabhi</i> through the film, too, becomes part of the representation of this camaraderie. She helps and never frowns. But it is never about one thing—everything runs parallel, giving the film a life beyond a sports drama. Even in doing so, there’s a nice flourish in the kabaddi parts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kangana scores on the performance. She gets into the psyche of Jaya to create a character that pushes you to feel for her. Her struggles are real and her approach practical. However, it is Richa (in an extended cameo) and Jassie who surprise the most—the former with a feisty, funny and cool portrayal of a woman who has lived her dream without giving-in to the pressures of marriage, and the latter with his subdued and restrained performance that makes Prashant not just likeable but worthy of setting an example.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Panga</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Director: Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Starring: Kangana Ranaut, Richa Chadha, Jassi Gill, Neena Gupta</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rating: 3.5/5</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri Jan 24 16:05:28 IST 2020 Shylock-review-Mammootty-pulls-off-yet-another-mass-avatar-in-style <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Mammootty-starrer <i>Rajamanikyam</i>, which was released in 2005, was one of the biggest hits in Malayalam cinema. The veteran actor, who was mostly known for his method acting and fiery larger-than-life characters till then, made heads turn as 'Bellary Raja' in the film, showing great comic timing and perfect Thiruvananthapuram slang, along with mass appeal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>'Bellary Raja' continues to be one of the iconic mass hero characters in Malayalam cinema. With <i>Shylock</i>, director Ajai Vasudev tries to create another mass avatar out of Mammootty.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Shylock</i> is a treat for the Mammootty fans who adore his mass avatars, but the storyline is cliché. Boss (Mammootty) is a ruthless moneylender and locks horns with producer Prathapa Varma (Kalabhavan Shajon). How the moneylender exacts revenge from his enemies, forms the plot.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It's Mammootty's third film with Ajai Vasudev, after <i>Rajadhiraja</i> and <i>Masterpiece. </i>The superstar's stylish appearance and mannerism, and his punch dialogues, create a mass aura around the 'Boss' character. Jointly scripted by newcomers Aneesh Hameed and Bibin Mohan, <i>Shylock</i> has comedy, thrills and the revenge elements in it, but the mix isn't perfect. One also wishes they would have come up with more original one-liners for Boss, along with a less-cliched storyline.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While the first half is filled with punch dialogues and mass scenes, the second half of the film focuses on the back story and ends as a revenge drama. The latter half, in fact, restricts the flow of the film as emotions take centre-stage and the pace and energy of the film drop.</p> <p>The action sequences choreographed by Anl Arasu are a visual treat. Mammootty impresses with his punches and kicks, with Gopi Sundar's brilliant background score to boot.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The veteran actor has delivered an electrifying performance in <i>Shylock,</i> which also marks his first on-screen collaboration with popular Tamil actor Rajkiran. Meena, the popular South Indian actress, too makes a comeback after two years. Shajon, Siddique, Baiju Santhosh, John Vijay, Hareesh Kanaran and others have done justice to their roles.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Shylock</i> has also been released in Tamil as <i>Kuberan</i> with the same cast.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Shylock</b></p> <p><b>Language: Malayalam/Tamil</b></p> <p><b>Director: Ajai Vasudev</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Mammoottty, Rajkiran, Kalabhavan Shajon, Meena, Siddique</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3/5</b></p> Thu Jan 23 18:02:22 IST 2020 dolittle-review-little-to-write-home-about <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>It is a frightening thought, but films like these make one wonder whether Robert Downey Jr. had peaked with <i>Endgame</i>. And surely there must be some executive who realises that the children’s movie industry cannot sustain itself on remakes forever?</p> <p>In the fourth visual reboot of the beloved character created by Hugh Lofting in his letters from the First World War, Robert Downey Jr. stars as the titular Dolittle alongside a veritable who’s who of A-list voice actors.</p> <p>Before we embark on the breakdown of the film itself, it must be said that the movie went through considerable moulding before it saw the light of day. Following poor audience reactions to the initial test screenings of the movie, it underwent re-shoots under a different director (Jonathan Liebesman taking over from Stephen Gaghan), to make it funnier. Well, one can only say, if this was the one they fixed…</p> <p>The screenplay, written by Stephen Gaghan, Dan Gregor, and Doug Mand, feels so patchy that it seems like all three of them went home, worked on their individual parts, and simply patched them all together at the end, throwing tonal consistency to the wind.</p> <p>To be fair, that does not seem like something that children (their target audience) would be too bothered by, but the film does not seem to make up its mind about whether it wants to be an all out, loud fantasy adaptation or a deep retelling of a broken man’s quest to heal himself by healing others.</p> <p><i>Dolittle</i> is the latest in the slew of eccentric genius characters that Robert Downey Jr usually excels at portraying. However, his performance is bogged down by his inexplicable decision to make his character Welsh. He stumbles over the uneven accent, which frequently meanders into Irish, Jamaican and even Indian before making its way back to the mumbled Welsh that cries out for subtitled explanation.</p> <p>The other human characters include Tommy Stubbins, Dolittle’s self-appointed apprentice, played by Harry Collett who fills up most of his screen time by looking scared or confused or awed. Antonio Banderas plays Rassouli, the pirate king as cartoonishly as they required him to, while Michael Sheen portrays a rather one note villain. The voice cast is largely recognisable, but none except the ever delightful Jason Mantzoukas as the quippy dragonfly make much of an impression. And that is a shame, considering that the voice cast includes names like Octavia Spencer, Marion Cotillard and Kumail Nanjiani. What distracts from their performance is a lot of CGI inconsistency, leading to the human actors constantly missing eye-lines and taking away from the credibility of the film. The score by Danny Elfman is standard children’s fantasy fare, unfortunately failing to elevate the tone of the film.</p> <p>It is, however, rather unkind not to end on a positive note, so I must say this film would work great as background distractions at a child’s play day. Lots of bright colours and talking animals and fart jokes. Make of that what you will.</p> <p><b>Film: Dolittle</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Emma Thompson, Tom Holland, Michael Sheen, Antonio Banderas</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 2/5</b></p> Fri Jan 17 22:04:18 IST 2020 1917-review-an-evocative-and-deeply-affecting-war-drama <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>It was one of the anecdotes that his grandfather, a World War I veteran, narrated that inspired Sam Mendes’ <i>1917</i>.</p> <p>Among the many stories, his grandfather spoke about the urgent delivery of a message between two posts while the clock was ticking. Often, the soldiers carrying the message would have to get into zones occupied by the opponents, making the trip fraught with the fear of enemies always lurching in the shadows.</p> <p><i>1917</i>, which has already won the best film award at the Golden Globes and has been nominated for the Academy Awards, begins with this message delivery system. Two young soldiers, lance corporal Will Schofield (George MacKay) and Tom Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman), are entrusted with the delivery of a message by General Erinmore (Colin Firth) while they are a part of the British army in Northern France. They have to stop a fellow battalion, led by Colonel MacKenzie, positioned in another part, from launching an attack on the Germans after the British army has been notified of the Germans withdrawing from the zone “strategically”.</p> <p>While entering a war movie, one is always ready to witness the bloodshed and terror, but it is the little moments of compassion that take you by surprise. And <i>1917</i> doesn’t fail in that front either. One moment that especially stands out is when the two men try to help a hurt German soldier. Another is a heart-warming scene of brotherhood before the soldiers get ready to attack. Followed by complete silence, that moment is elevated as a young man sings the Wayfaring Stranger.</p> <p>It is the mechanism used to tell this story that makes <i>1917</i> an evocative and deeply affecting experience. If Christopher Nolan raised the suspense through the cinematography and music in his 2017 war film, <i>Dunkirk</i>, Mendes combines the elevated cinematography by Roger Deakins and music by Thomas Newman with a mechanism of narrating the story in one take. That builds the suspense. As the two guys traverse through the no man’s land, rickety paths with landfills coming in their way, the camera unhesitatingly also captures the decaying bodies of soldiers and war horses. Rats, flies and insects have infested those bodies and the two soldiers, hurried and exasperated, care less about their contact with them. The mission is important, the horrors on the way can be dealt with later.</p> <p>Even as they fight to survive, the urgency that the two soldiers show during their mission, focuses on the importance of the very many forgotten soldiers who would have put their lives on stake without the mention of their names in the history. To that effect, Mendes’ casting works brilliantly. The recognisable stars, including Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Andrew Scott and Jamie Parker, have special appearances as the senior officials calling the shots. However, it is the lesser known actors who do the heavy-lifting—a clever tool to put the message across that it was not only the known, gloriously written names who fought the wars.</p> <p><b>Film: 1917</b></p> <p><b>Director: Sam Mendes</b></p> <p><b>Starring: Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Andrew Scott, George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 4/5</b></p> Fri Jan 17 21:21:36 IST 2020 big-brother-review-mohanlal-doesnt-disappoint-but-the-film-does <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>As the title suggests, <i>Big Brother</i> is the story of a big brother Sachidanandan and his family. Sachidanandan, an ordinary man, who was sentenced for killing a police office, gets released from prison after 24 years. His family welcomes him with open arms and now he wants to live for his family. After his days behind the bars, Sachidanandan (Mohanlal) comes across the name of drug dealer Edwin Moses and Vedantham IPS, who is in a relentless pursuit to nab the mysterious drug lord. How Sachidanandan encounters Moses and Vedantham is what the film is about.</p> <p>In the first 30 minutes of the film, Sachidanandan, trying to be comfortable with his family, reveals to the family that he had a different past in the prison, thus establishing the 'extraordinary' part of his persona. Unlike other Siddique movies, <i>Big Brother</i> fails in its comical elements, giving importance to the action sequences. Arbaaz Khan as Vedantham IPS has an important role in the movie. His parallel story as a sincere police officer who has been working hard to nab Moses generates a bit of confusion and seems to get lost in the mess.</p> <p>Siddique tries his usual cliché style of using misleading techniques to end the plot by revealing who Moses is, however failed the attempt ends out to be.</p> <p>The overall performances of the film’s leading ladies Mirnaa, Honey Rose and Gadha were satisfying. Anoop Menon and Sarjano Khalid as Sachidanandan’s brothers Vishnu and Manu respectively delivered their parts decently. The performances of Vishnu Unnikrishnan, Tini Tom, and Irshad as the protagonist’s friends add a little element of humour to the story.</p> <p>Mohanlal does not disappoint us in terms of the action sequences. A couple of songs by Deepak Dev are unnecessary additions to the movie that is already 164 minutes long. <i>Big Brother</i> is not the best creation to emerge under the ‘Siddique’ brand. The film is completely different from the usual Siddique movies which have an equal mix of humour, romance and action.</p> <p><b>Movie: Big Brother</b></p> <p><b>Director: Siddique</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Mohanlal, Arbaaz Khan, Sarjano Khalid, Anoop Menon, Honey Rose, Irshad</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 2.5/5</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Thu Jan 16 15:54:20 IST 2020 tanhaji-the-unsung-warrior-review-when-current-politics-dominates-a-tale-from-past <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In a season dominated by historical war dramas, one more won’t hurt. It would only add one more chapter of history, one more glorious war fought, in the public conscience. But how the narration is taken forward is what makes all the difference.</p> <p>In the case of <i>Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior</i>, it is the political situation of the present times that dominates the storytelling. The storyline focuses entirely on the 'Us V/S Them' narrative and “bhagwa ka parcham” is an often used phrase.</p> <p>Directed by Om Raut, <i>Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior</i> tells the story of Maratha warrior Tanaji Malusare of the 17th century. One of the most trusted aides of Maratha ruler Shivaji (Sharad Kelkar), Tanaji fought many battles, but is remembered for the Battle of Sinhagad in the 1670s. And the film begins with this battle.</p> <p>One of the most striking features, or rather a feature that sticks out the most is the colour coding of the characters. Maratha warrior Tanhaji (Ajay Devgn) wears ivory and maroon. He is righteous and breathes for the country, so much so that he leaves his son’s wedding to fight for the Kondhana Fort. He is a family man, but country is always his priority. Uday Bhan (Saif Ali Khan), a Rajput soldier appointed by the Aurangzeb-ed Mughal Empire stands in Tanhaji’s opposition. He wears only black, has his eyes on a widowed woman, and chomps on meat.</p> <p>The template for the portrayal of the two empires faithfully adheres to the one seen in Hindi historic war films, including the recent <i>Padmaavat. </i>What has changed is that the Mughal emperor decides to pit a Hindu against a Hindu. There are those odd and loyal Muslim fighters in the Maratha camp, and there are also disloyal Marathas who side with the Mughals. But that doesn’t make much of a difference as the desperate attempt to even out the story is evident. Also, even if Uday Bhan is Rajput, he is speaks the language of the Mughals and swears to kill.</p> <p>It often reminds you of Ranveer Singh’s Alauddin Khilji from <i>Padmaavat</i>, just that Saif brings his own flamboyance to the character and makes the character believable and despicable. As for Devgn, he isn’t doing slick stunts for the first time. If at times it seems that <i>Singham</i> is travelling to the past, there are also times when his role takes you back to <i>Shivaay</i> where he pulled a few smooth, gravity-defying stunts. While the director positions the film as stylised and action-driven, the existence of such stunts seems unbelievable in the period it’s capturing.</p> <p>Another thing working in the favour of the film is the chemistry between Tanhaji and his wife, Savitribai (Kajol) although her characterisation is limited. She is only a wife standing by her husband come what may. There is little layering, and she has only a few dialogues. But the two of them together still make those scenes count.</p> <p>The film has songs dedicated to Hindu deities and dialogues (written by Prakash Kapadia) with a nationalistic fervour. The movie appears to be inclined towards glamorising the Marathas to a large extent, while vilifying the Mughals.</p> <p><b>Film: Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior</b></p> <p><b>Director: Om Raut</b></p> <p><b>Starring: Ajay Devgn, Saif Ali Khan, Kajol</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 2/5</b></p> Fri Jan 10 19:23:33 IST 2020 chhapaak-review-deepika-owns-the-screen-honest-portrayal-womens-struggles <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>It’s December of 2012. Protests are on in Delhi. A gang-rape, now popularly known as the Nirbhaya case, has happened. People want answers. In the midst of the rape protests, a man with a photo of her daughter, her face disfigured with acid, goes in front of news cameras seeking help, trying to make people aware of what happened to his daughter. In a following scene, shot in a public bus, in Meghna Gulzar’s <i>Chhapaak</i>, people discuss how the rape victim may die. “Sarkar gir jaayegi,” one person says. “Uske liye marna jaruri hai kya?” asks Amol Dwivedi (Vikrant Massey), an activist fighting for the rights of acid attack survivors. The camera pans to the survivors with him. The film’s gaze is not sympathetic, but introspective. The tone that is set early on continues throughout and that becomes its victory.</p> <p>As it goes along, it makes Laxmi Aggarwal’s heart-wrenching story of being attacked by acid as a teenager by a man, her neighbour double her age, as the anchor. The focus of the story is not on the broken dreams and the miserable life the survivor leads because of the disfiguring caused by the splash of acid by a rejected suitor, Naeem Khan, but on the strength and the will to fight. Laxmi, in real life, made headlines for the cases she fought with all her might—one with the attacker, and another to ban the sale of acid. She set an example.</p> <p>So does Deepika Padukone, who reprises the role of Laxmi as Malti. She is not just honest in the portrayal, but also far from any of the roles she has played so far. Padukone’s first introduction in the film is when she has already lived with the attack (by Bashir Khan aka Babboo) for several years, with the disfiguring and the scars it has left on her, not just physically but emotionally, too. The things it has stripped her off—of not being able to wear the vast collection of earrings she has, getting a job, having a romantic life, the agonies of the constant court battles, and just the right to have a happy life. But she laughs, and laughs often and wins everything that she has lost with her resolve. With the one message coming out that it’s not easy to break a woman by taking away her beauty.</p> <p>It is easy for a film like<i> Chhapaak</i>, highlighting an urgent social issue, to get trapped and look at its subject with a “poor girl” glare. But the fact that it does not, and rather focuses on the moments where Malti leads and refuses to give in, makes it stronger. In the same vein, it never lets Amol become the hero. It was easy to train the lens on the man who fought for the women and saved them. But it is the women who are fighting here. And while Amol’s contribution is counted, it is never over-emphasised. Massey has to be applauded for the distinction he brings to Amol’s character, often acknowledging his flaws.</p> <p>Besides superlative performances by each of the actors, including Padukone and Massey, the film’s strength is also in these moments when it makes subtle observations about smaller things that matter. For instance, after a court case when people from the media surround Malti and her lawyer, personal questions are posed. There has been enough media bashing in films, but here a balance is shown. When one person gets too personal, there is another pointing it out. Another is the portrayal of Laxmi’s lawyer, Aparna Bhat, played with a lot of nuance by Madhurjeet Sarghi, which gives an added dimension to the film. Sarghi is never screaming in front of the judges, but still able to put her point across, at the end winning every case that she fights along with Malti. At home, she is supported by a husband (Anand Tiwari) who understands and does not shy away from taking added responsibilities—of raising a kid, or of being a sport when his wife has to leave in between a birthday party.</p> <p>Meghna, as a director, has often brought out the dichotomies of the society, the psyche of people, through her film. She often makes a point that for every bad person, there is a good one as well. In a script written by her along with Atika Chohan, she ably does that here, too. And it only makes sense to put it out there: in one scene it is made loud and clear that every person is different and so will their reactions be to the same situations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And then, there is Gulzar’s lyrics— 'Chhapaak Se Pehchaan Le Gaya'— sung beautifully by Arijit Singh, that plays often and leaves you haunted by what the gory crime can do.<i> Chhapaak</i> is an extremely powerful story of women’s victory with utmost sensitivity. It is a story of the spirit and valour that women have to live with day in and out.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Film: Chhapaak</b><br> </p> <p><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Director: Meghna Gulzar</b><br> </p> <p><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Starring: Deepika Padukone, Vikrant Massey</b><br> </p> <p><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Rating: 4/5</b><br> </p> Thu Jan 09 15:25:17 IST 2020 good-newwz-review-an-entertainer-through-and-through <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>It is the the end of the year and what better way to bid goodbye to the year than some laughter. Even if things look bleak otherwise, there is <i>Good Newwz, </i>a dose of humour from Bollywood.</p> <p><i>Good Newwz </i>is a movie that is packaged well with songs and dance, superstars, a bit of melodrama, and the desperation to keep the genes alive for generations—an emotion that a large number of people, if not all, would find relatable. The result is<i>, </i>a sure shot mass entertainer.</p> <p>The film begins in Mumbai. Varun (Akshay Kumar) and Deepti (Kareena Kapoor) Batra are living a comfortable life. They are at the top of their professional careers, plan a baby only after realising their career goals, and discuss sex, ovulation period and such things without inhibitions. That’s the good in <i>Good Newwz</i>. It doesn’t beat around the bush while discussing matters of sex, and the <i>sanskaari</i> scissors don’t come in between either. Nosey relatives and the social pressure that often afflict women prioritising career over motherhood is discussed well with a dash of humour.</p> <p>But the couple have passed their prime and conceiving is not that easy. The way out is to go for an In-vitro fertilisation (IVF). Why not adopt? Because “<i>apna khoon toh apna hi hota hai na</i>” (This is just the beginning when the flaws in the writing start revealing itself). What follows is a major goof-up—there’s a mix-up in the sperms of two Batra families consulting the same doctor in Mumbai. The other is a younger couple – Honey (Diljit Dosanjh) and Monika (Kiara Advani) from Chandigarh.</p> <p>Humour kicks in with the dissimilarities between the two sets of couples—the urban and the small-town—both privileged enough though. If the Mumbai Batras take pride in their elitism and make fun of their Chandigarh counterparts for their faulty pronunciations (sperm becomes spam and flush becomes flash), the Chandigarh Batras make a show of their money when they decide to shift to Mumbai in a blink and settle in the same posh building as their counterparts. Humour for rich people, is it?</p> <p>Thank god, some truths are universal. Like the dilemma of men who don’t seem to understand the tribulations of pregnant women. Even if it hinges on being a little too histrionic, a scene between Deepti and Varun where she reprimands him for his callousness and insensitivity towards her pregnancy stands out.</p> <p>What doesn’t impress, or rather, puts you off, however, are how the jokes borderlines on being crass and insensitive. At one point, Varun, after smoking up, laughs uncontrollably because a pregnant Monika farted. Later, he makes fun of a baby’s name. But then, with this, it also seems that the film is more a machinery to bring back the good old Akshay Kumar of the 2000’s when he was churning out comedies. However, the movie fails to have comedic moments that are situational and organically fit into the scenes. Instead, most of them are too made up to give Kumar a reason to shine. Kareena Kapoor does have her moments, while the over-the-top performances of Dosanjh and Advani are justifiable.</p> <p>Writers Raj Mehta (also the director), Rishabh Sharma and Jyoti Kapoor have a premise that is strong enough to the bring the dilemmas of today’s couples and their struggles with parenthood to the fore, but the execution disappoints because the emphasis is still on conservative beliefs and ideas.</p> <p><b>Film: Good Newwz</b></p> <p><b>Director: Raj Mehta</b></p> <p><b>Actors: Akshay Kumar, Kareen Kapoor Khan, Diljit Dasanjh, Kiara Advani</b></p> <p><b>Ratings: 2.5/5</b></p> <p><br> <br> </p> Fri Dec 27 22:30:10 IST 2019 star-wars-the-rise-of-skywalker-review-tame-end-to-an-era <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Disney, Disney, Disney... Why do they do this to us? First, they bought the dormant Star Wars franchise from George Lucas in 2012, then they rushed into announcing and making a trilogy, only to leave fans even more divided than they already were.<br> </p> <p>With <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker</i>, it is hard to say what this trilogy will be remembered for, given the rich legacy of the franchise. The film repeats the overused formula of trying to capitalise on nostalgia that we saw in <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">The Force Awakens </i>(2015) and that was later dropped in <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">The Last Jedi </i>(2017).<br> </p> <p>The decision to bring back J.J. Abrams, who directed <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">The Force Awakens</i>, has largely undone Rian Johnson's <a href="">2017 magnum opus</a>. The strong performances, visual brilliance and legendary soundtrack carry the film. But, these aside, <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">The Rise of Skywalker</i> is predictable in most parts, with an overdose of the past and a title that serves only as bait for loyal fans.<br> </p> <p>Resurrecting characters seems an easy cop-out for the makers. And, if you heard that evil cackle in the trailer, you know who is coming back to head the First Order. Or as he now calls it, the Final Order. It is now up to the band of rebellions led by Rey, Finn and Poe to find and fight the self-crowned emperor that wants to bring the galaxy under his thumb. Again.<br> </p> <p>The biggest disappointment of this film has to be the reversing of a finality that seemed to have been established in the previous film—that the lead character, Rey (Daisy Ridley), had no notable lineage. All along, the main Star Wars storyline has relied heavily on blood relations. The Force runs in the blood, apparently. But when it was revealed that Rey was a nobody, it was satisfying to know that you didn't need to be a Skywalker or a Solo to play decisive roles in the battle between good and evil.<br> </p> <p>Except that she isn't a nobody. I facepalmed hard in the cinema hall at this reveal, as many around me let out a groan. Some expressed their shock. Over and over again, we see or hear familiar faces and voices. A cameo here, a Force projection there, and oldies everywhere. Heck, we even hear Samuel L. Jackson's Mace Windu. Seems like there is no way that the saga would end without giving a nod to every major person from the last eight films.<br> </p> <p>Yet, if you push aside the historical baggage and dwell on what remains, <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">The Rise of Skywalker </i>manages to make for fairly decent viewing. It is fast-paced and has plenty of action, even as Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac play their hearts out. <a href="">Driver has had an impressive year, with his performances</a> in<i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">The Report </i>and <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Marriage Story</i> attracting rave reviews. He does not disappoint in this film either.<br> </p> <p>It still feels like so much more could have been done with Rey's character. It must be said that it has been fun following her journey from scavenger to Jedi ever since <i>The Force Awakens</i>. She gets plenty of lightsaber action to go with the enthralling visual effects and John Williams' background score.<br> </p> <p>It was rumoured that <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">The Rise of Skywalker</i> would bring an end to the Skywalker saga that started back in 1977. But it looks like Disney is not done yet. The studio is waiting to see the response to this film, before Marvel Cinematic Universe's Kevin Feige takes over. The next set of films is set to have Christmas releases (again) in 2022, 2024 and 2026.<br> </p> <p>Until then, the only question will be whether Disney will continue to milk the same fandom or chart its own course to give this generation of fans something fresh. Commercial sense would point at the former. As long as J.J. Abrams does not helm it, it could still have potential.<br> </p> <p>The 87-year-old Williams, who scored the franchise since the beginning, has announced that this will be his last Star Wars score. He certainly has witnessed the property turn from an epic saga to one that seems to have been stretched too far. If the prequel trilogy disappointed fans, this sequel trilogy leaves them more divided than ever.<br> </p> <p><b>Film</b>: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker<br> </p> <p><b>Director</b>: J.J. Abrams</p> <p><b>Cast</b>: Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac</p> <p><b>Rating</b>: 2.5/5</p> Fri Dec 20 21:53:07 IST 2019 darbar-review-rajinikanth-pulls-through-sluggish-cop-entertainer <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>If you are a '90s kid and expect to see an Alex Pandian on screen once again after decades, Rajinikanth's <i>Darbar </i>will be a definite disappointment. After decades, as the superstar dons the police uniform on the big screen again and emerges in style, it is fun watching him. The superstar is a bundle of energy in <i>Darbar </i>as he walks, laughs, flips his hair and puts on his sunglasses, but lacks the fire that we saw in <i>Mooondru Mugam's</i> Alex Pandian. And when the plot and screenplay are disappointing, all you can do is take comfort in watching Rajinikanth pull off his 'Rajinisms'.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Taking on the role of a tough cop who goes on rampage against drug peddlers, Rajinikanth is Aaditya Arunasalam, Commissioner of Police, Mumbai City. As the movie begins,&nbsp; every newspaper headline speaks about the chilling killing of bad men of the underworld. In the backdrop of these events, Rajinikanth gets his mass entry, beating up the bad men. Music director Anirudh Ravichander allows the audience to fully be gripped by Rajini's charisma as he blends in a reworked Annamalai BGM and also a bit of Baasha.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Aaditya Arunasalam&nbsp;is transferred from Delhi on a special assignment to Mumbai. A sincere police officer, he moves to Mumbai with his daughter Valli (Nivetha Thomas), and takes charge. He discovers that Ajay Malhotra (Prateik Babbar) is the kingpin of a major drug racket. What happens to Ajay Malhotra? How and why villain Hari Chopra (Suniel Shetty), who has a history of burning police officers alive, will faceoff with Rajinikanth forms rest of the plot.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Darbar</i> juggles with lots of Rajinisms—his characteristic style, dialogues, and the theme of a bad but genuine cop make it a commercial masala movie. As a cop, Rajinikanth, lacks the fitness and it is hard to imagine the youthfulness of an 'Aaditya' in him, while the Arunasalam is acceptable. Though director AR Murugadoss has tried hard to make Rajinikanth play the role of an energetic cop, the character fails to strike a chord. There is dearth of fresh ideas and knots in the screenplay are not enjoyable, especially when there is a proxy prisoner and when he is shot dead or when Rajinikanth sets into a romantic mood to impress Lilly (Nayanthara).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And of course, the lady superstar who has quite a huge fan following, has little role to play. There is nothing specific to be mentioned about her character, except a heroine who comes to dance with him and pays for her own coffee that she sips with the commissioner at a coffee shop. Nivetha, as Rajinikanth’s daughter, delivers an emotional performance in the second half. Nivetha has done her part, yet the father-daughter relationship feels cold.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Of course, an Alex Pandian cannot be recreated, because there is no villain like Senthamarai. At the end, with his hair tied in style and a few buttons of his shirt left open, Suniel Shetty aces the villain-walk with a gun, but depresses the audience with a lack-lustre performance that doesn't give you the chills. Rajinikanth has to be praised for all his hardwork, and entertaining his fans even at the age of 70. But the one big aspect missing in the theatre was the usual loud cheering and bustle of fans. The first cheer was heard as Rajinikanth entered in style, with a BGM to complement it. The second cheer was heard only in the second half as he goes for a workout to prove his physical and mental fitness.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Darbar</i> is a complete commercial movie; watch it only for Rajinikanth. With a weak villain character, a long flashback, unending cat and mouse games and an emotional second half, <i>Darbar</i> is just a regular cop entertainer for Rajini fans.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Darbar</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Cast: Rajinikanth, Nayanthara, Nivetha Thomas, Suniel Shetty, Prateik Babbar, Yogi Babu&nbsp;</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Director: AR Murugadoss</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rating: 2.5/5</b></p> Thu Jan 09 16:00:29 IST 2020 valiyaperunnal-review-shane-nigam-breaks-themould-vibrant-film <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Set in the backdrop of astounding Kochi, <i>Valiyaperunnal</i> is nothing but a feast of love, action, revenge and relationships. It lays bare the living culture of Kochi's iconic locales—Fort Kochi and Mattancherry—which are known for their vibrant mix of cultures. The movie, with its tagline ‘A feast of sacrifice’, is centered around Ashkar Salauddin (Shane Nigam) who is lovingly known among his dear ones as Akkar. Hot-headed Akkar is a dancer and his telltale love for Pooja (Himika Bose) looms around the entire thread of the movie. The inner core of the movie throws light into the dark underworld business as well.</p> <p>Be it action, drama, romance or vengeance—everything is sprinkled into the script in ample proportion. The movie unfolds with a gripping sequence which later shifts to an entirely different setting. Though this intrigues the audience initially, it slowly dampens due to the sluggishness of the movie’s first half. It lacks a connecting element. However, the latter part, spiced with action and humour, succeeds in engaging the audience. Also, dance as an incumbent element, is vividly featured in the movie. Choreographed by international dance group ‘Kings United’ from India, the movie can be tagged as the first-ever Malayalam film with quality hip-hop dance sequences.</p> <p>Shane Nigam strays away from his usual appearance and is able to present the flamboyance and attitude of the Kochi boy Akkar. Himika has attempted a good headstart in Mollywood. Director Dimal Dennis fares well with his debut movie though his scripting along with Thasreeq Abdul Salam needs more work.</p> <p>The movie features an ensemble cast which is unraveled at different points, bringing in a surprise factor for the audience. While Joju George and Sudheer Karamana played pivotal roles, the guest appearances of Soubin Shahir, Dharmajan Bolgatty and Vinayakan tickle the funny bone of the audience. Among its many unique features, the casting of more than 105 new faces stands supreme where each has played their part well. The movie also stands distinct as late actor Captain Raju’s last movie. The cast also includes Bollywood’s Atul Kulkarni and Raza Murad who play key characters.</p> <p>Produced by Monisha Rajeev under Anwar Rasheed’s Magic Mountain Cinemas, the film has a fine technical crew including national award-winning editor Vivek Harshan and cameraman Suresh Rajan.</p> <p><b>Movie: Valiyaperunnal</b></p> <p><b>Director: Dimal Dennis</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Shane Nigam, Himika Bose, Joju George, Sudheer Karamana, Alencier, Captain Raju, Soubin Shahir, Vinayakan</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3.5/5</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri Dec 20 16:36:40 IST 2019 mardaani-2-review-an-important-theme-that-loses-out-to-drama-heroine-pandering <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>At a time when crimes against women are hogging the headlines, a female cop taking on a bad guy who despises strong, opinionated women is an important theme to be explored in a film. Its urgency cannot be negotiated. In that sense, <i>Mardaani 2</i> is a significant film.</p> <p>Rani Mukerji reprises her role as tough cop Shivani Shivaji Rao from the 2014 film <i>Mardaani. </i>Rao, who was a senior Mumbai Crime Branch officer in the first film, is now posted in Kota in Rajasthan as the superintended of police. The choice of place serves well for the film. Thousands of young students from across the country throng the ‘city of coaching institutes’ every year to prepare for the competitive exams. They are potentially at risk of being either victims or criminals.</p> <p>However, in <i>Mardaani 2, </i>the criminal is not one of the students, but a 21-year-old migrant, Sunny (Vishal Jethwa). Working for some of the political bigwigs in the city, he has his own reasons to despise women. He brutally rapes them and leaves behind their bruised bodies as a sign of victory, even as the police struggles hard to find the culprit.</p> <p>Sunny is a pop-culture inspired serial rapist, a character we have seen in a lot of Hollywood films.</p> <p>Jethwa’s character is well-rounded; he is both smart and menacing. However, the same cannot be said of the film, which seems to be in a hurry to establish Rao as the smartest in the police force and looks to be in a haste to reach the climax where her heroism is further heightened.</p> <p>However, in the process, the film, written and directed by Gopi Puthran (writer of the first film), forgets to develop any other characters, leaving a few half-baked roles who create no impact. The film lacks realism as it focuses more on amplifying the emotional quotient of the audience. Unlike the recent Netflix series <i>Delhi Crime</i>, <i>Mardaani 2 </i>focuses more drama instead of creating relatable scenes. In both these cases, a woman was the lead investigator. Both of them had to fight a system that is largely dominated by men and were chasing perpetrators who were men. However, in the case of <i>Delhi Crime</i>, the cop's struggle to survive looked more real.</p> <p><i>Mardaani 2</i>, like <i>Mardaani</i>, is, for the most part, about bringing women down, through problematic and discomfiting dialogues. Much has been spoken about the problematic title of the film when it was released in 2014. It still remains the same. For a film that rides on the strength of a woman police officer and tries to establish the role of women in a male-dominated world, to bring them down only to give the audience a chance to revel at the end when she is given her chance to avenge, is just a ploy to create cinematic effects. The message, though, is mostly lost.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Mardaani 2</b></p> <p><b>Director: Gopi Puthran</b></p> <p><b>Starring: Rani Mukerji, Vishal Jethwa</b></p> <p><b>Ratings: 2.5/5</b></p> Fri Dec 13 18:20:34 IST 2019