Movies en Sat Mar 06 12:43:29 IST 2021 a-half-biopic-laced-with-drumbeats <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Late former Tamil Nadu chief minister and AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa's life was full of drama, much like the films she acted in during her early days in tinsel town. Her love-hate relationship with MGR, her transformation from an actress to a chief minister, her ascent to power in the male-dominated political sphere of Tamil Nadu, becoming a larger-than-life figure in state politics... it's stuff films are made of.</p> <p>And that's exactly what director AL Vijay has done with <i>Thalaivii</i>. The very name may give you goosebumps. She was an icon in Tamil Nadu politics, and Vijay has brought alive the quintessential Jayalalithaa through his film<i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">.&nbsp;</i></p> <p>Jaya, played by Kangana Ranaut, once calls for a press conference when she is removed as MGR's heroine in a film. When she is asked whether Sivaji Ganesan or MGR is the best actor, she surprises everyone by saying that she is the best. That was Jayalalithaa, with the instinct to emerge victorious through sheer perseverance even when the odds were against her.&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Thalaivii </i>opens with a scene at the state assembly, where Mu Karuna, played by Nasser, gets up to present the budget, reminding us of the incident in the assembly where Jayalalithaa was stripped of her dignity. Clad in a black sari, Jaya asks why her partymen were assaulted. The argument heats up and she is beaten up and thrown out. Jaya then vows to come back to the same assembly as chief minister, quoting a verse from Mahabharat. She completes her vow. But her topsy turvy early life, how her mother Sandhya's death leaves a void in her life, her acting career and the courage in her is brought alive by Vijay.&nbsp;</p> <p>Jaya, in <i>Thalaivii,</i> is MGR's heroine, not just in movies but in life, too. The silence during phone calls shows the relationship that MGR and Jaya shared beyond movies. But Jaya is the character sandwiched among men - MGR, Karunanidhi and, of course, RMV aka RM Veerappan played by Samuthirakani. Except for Madhavan, played by Thambi Ramaiah, who is her manager, Jaya wants to win over every man in her life. Kangana has played her part well - she looks gorgeous as a young Tamil heroine in the 60s and 70s. Arvind Swamy is at his best as MGR. He looks exactly like the icon when he dances at the sets and when he adorns the signature fur cap and black glasses. He portrays every emotion of MGR well. The way he says <i>vanakkam</i>&nbsp;hurriedly with his folded hands, using a handkerchief, reminds one of MGR. Arvind Swamy, in fact, outshines Kangana in most of the movie.&nbsp;</p> <p>Kangana gained and lost weight to look like Jayalalithaa, but in vain. Also, she seems totally out of her comfort zone while mouthing Tamil dialogues.</p> <p>G.V. Prakash is once again at his best with the music in&nbsp;<i>Thalaivii</i>. The background score stirs the emotions, especially when Samuthirakani, as RM Veerappan, stands up against Jaya.&nbsp;</p> <p>Samuthirakani outperforms both Kangana and Swamy. But the catch is that the real-life RMV, though he opposed Jayalalithaa, was nothing like the character portrayed by director Vijay and his writers Ajayan Bala and Vijeyandera Prasad.</p> <p>In real life, Jayalalithaa always wanted to be bigger than MGR and she came out of his shadows in her very first term as chief minister in the early 1990s. But <i>Thalaivii </i>gives a different perspective by portraying the MGR-Jayalalithaa relationship as a true love story. </p> <p><i>Thalaivii&nbsp;&nbsp;</i>talks only about Jaya's transformation from Ammu to Amma. If you expect the film to reveal more unknown stories of her life, you would be disappointed. There is no sign of Sasikala. Neither is there any nod to her style of governance. For those who have known Jayalalithaa and her work as chief minister from close quarters,&nbsp;<i>Thalaivii </i>may come across as&nbsp;a melodramatic excuse for a biopic.</p> <p><b>Film: </b>Thalaivii</p> <p><b>Language:</b> Tamil</p> <p><b>Cast:</b> Kangana Ranaut, Arvind Swamy, Samuthirakani, Nasser, Thambi Ramaiah, Madhubala, Bhagyashree</p> <p><b>Director: </b>AL Vijay</p> <p><b>Rating:&nbsp;</b>2/5</p> Fri Sep 10 21:00:43 IST 2021 black-widow-review-a-handover-disguised-as-a-farewell <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>After more than a decade of largely ignoring Natasha Romanoff aka the Black Widow, Marvel finally decided to give her a solo movie. The fact that it came out after the character had died in&nbsp;<i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Avengers: Endgame</i>&nbsp;(2019) made the whole thing seem pointless. But, at least Natasha was finally getting her movie. It would be a nice way to say goodbye to a beloved character. Better late than never, right? Well, wrong. What seemed like a farewell has in fact&nbsp;turned out to be nothing more than a platform to ruthlessly move the Marvel machine forward.&nbsp;Black Widow is dead. Bye bye. Please welcome Yelena Belova.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yelena, Natasha's &quot;sister&quot; and fellow ex-Widow operative, is played by the supremely talented Florence Pugh. It is a half-baked character, but Pugh, 25, once again showed her calibre by almost salvaging it. The end credits scene has made it clear that the character will have a role to play in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) going forward. And that is the only takeaway from this movie. It is rather anticlimactic, given that, going into the movie, the only real pull, and what Marvel was most definitely banking on, was the chance to see Scarlett Johansson play the character she made iconic for one last time.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Of course, there was the possibility&nbsp;that she could be brought back; especially with the multiverse now set to dominate proceedings. But, that is now seeming next to impossible as Johansson and Disney are parting ways with a high-profile lawsuit. So, what seems certain to be Johansson's last appearance as the Black Widow, is also, arguably, her worst. The character was established&nbsp;in bits and parts over a decade, but, perhaps unexpectedly, rose to prominence. This meant that the solo movie had a strong platform, but this was completely wasted.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Johansson did justice to her role, but the weak writing greatly diminishes the impact of her performance. Ray Winstone, known for his hard man roles, was an interesting choice as the villian. Although he manages to bring his cold, puppeteer character to life, he seemed to struggle a bit with a Russian accent. The prominent supporting characters, portrayed by Rachel Weisz, David Harbour and former Bond girl Olga Kurylenko, are largely forgettable. Pugh stealing Johansson's thunder was perhaps how the makers planned it, but it still felt odd.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The humour seems forced, almost as if someone remembered late that comedy was a vital part of the Marvel formula and shoehorned utterly uninspiring jokes into the script. But, one scene where Yelena jokes about how the Widows are sterilised, delving into the excruciating&nbsp;details, catches you off guard. The topic was handled with great sensitivity in&nbsp;<i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Avengers: Infinity War</i>&nbsp;(2018). And the approach here could have gone horribly wrong. But, somehow, perhaps because the director was a woman, it does not stick out too much.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The action is, at times, breathtaking. But, it is also disappointingly similar to things seen in movies such as the Bourne series. Perhaps the similarity to spy movies was because Black Widow reverted to being just a spy and assassin in this movie and not an Avenger. Although, the movie mentions her Avenger-status an irritating number of times. Fans cannot be blamed if they shout at the screen: &quot;We know she is an Avenger.&quot;&nbsp;Some of the action set pieces would have benefited from being seen on the big screen.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Overall, Black Widow does a job for Marvel, as a messy passing of the torch to Pugh's Yelena. It does not do justice to Johansson's Natasha Romanoff and is a disappointing&nbsp;conclusion to the story of the only woman among the original Avengers. At the end of the movie, set after the events of<i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">&nbsp;Captain America: Civil War</i>&nbsp;(2016), as Black Widow gets ready to go save some of her fellow Avengers from imprisonment, it just feels like that is when this movie should have been made. One can only hope that the women are treated better in the future, now that Marvel knows that female-led projects can also make money for it.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rating: 2/5</b></p> <p><b>&nbsp;</b></p> <p><b>Cast:&nbsp;Scarlett Johansson,&nbsp;Florence Pugh,&nbsp;Rachel Weisz, David Harbour,&nbsp;Ray Winstone</b></p> <p><b>&nbsp;</b></p> <p><b>Director:&nbsp;Cate Shortland</b></p> Sat Sep 04 11:48:06 IST 2021 home-review-this-tale-of-an-impossibly-good-man-and-his-family-is-a-great-onam-treat-indrans <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Heroes walk among us, often noiselessly. Their stories may be hard to believe, and might even call for suspension of disbelief. Oliver Twist is one such hero, but this one is not from Mudfog, although Dickens gets enough credit in Rojin Thomas's <i>Home</i>.</p> <p>Rojin Thomas's Oliver Twist (Indrans) is fascinated by smartphones, but he is not your average uncle on WhatsApp whose favourite pastime is forwarding good morning/noon/evening messages and aggressively defending every bit of (mis)information floating around in the social media. There is Suryan (Johny Antony) for all that. Oliver Twist is yet to join the smartphone bandwagon when you meet him first.&nbsp;</p> <p>Twist wants to master the art of WhatsApp, Facebook and everything that there is on the smartphone as he hopes this will get him closer to his sons—filmmaker Antony (Sreenath Bhasi), whose success with the first movie has cast on him a huge burden of expectation, and Charles (Naslen K. Gafoor), an engineering dropout, who now turns every second of his waking hours into a vlog. The sons love their father, but take him for granted. Oliver Twist wants to be part of their lives, but they hardly seem to have any time and energy left to initiate their boomer dad into their gadget-dominated lives.</p> <p>When Oliver Twist finally lays his hands on a smartphone, it only takes him further away from his sons and results in unintended actions that threaten to ruin their family.</p> <p>The plot of Rojin Thomas's <i>Home</i> might read like an insipid commentary on technology that divides families, but the movie is far from that. It is an intimate portrait of a good man, and the imperfect people around him, their little joys, disappointments, laughs and tears.</p> <p>Over a career spanning nearly four decades, Indrans has evolved from a slapstick comedian who was the butt of many a distasteful body shaming jokes into a performer with gravitas. In<i>&nbsp;Home</i>, the actor is able to metamorphose into a man who exudes innocence. His Oliver Twist has a charm reserved only for the truly gullible, and whose heart is always in the right—a Dickensian hero, not the grotesque or the comical figure, but the naive but jolly David Copperfield type. In innocence and in the goodness of his heart, he resembles Prince Myshkin or the third Karamazov sibling. He is an impossibly good man! Even when his son makes fun of him, makes him feel insignificant, he takes it in his stride, despite the fact that he, too, has an extraordinary tale to tell. His story does call for some suspension of disbelief, but you would do it gladly for him, for <i>Home</i>'s Oliver Twist is a saint of a man, and this is Indrans' best performance till date.</p> <p>Indrans isn't the only one whose performance will mesmerise you. If Oliver Twist is one man that you will find it hard to come across, his wife Kuttiyamma is almost every mother that you meet, and Manju Pillai is exceptional in her portrayal as a loving but no-nonsense mother. If you are not familiar with Manju Pillai, good for you, she will surprise you. If you are familiar with her, she will surprise you nonetheless.</p> <p>Bhasi is perfectly cast as the young director suffering a creative block. Antony is angry, annoyed and isn't sure if he will ever come up another perfect script. He doesn't look up to his father, and doesn't believe his story, but watch out for the moment when Bhasi's Antony acknowledges his father for the real hero that he is. Naslen is another surprise package. Charles is every enthusiastic youngster with a phone camera and dreams of making it big as a vlogger. Charles embodies the many aspiring vloggers you come across on many reels and videos that flood your feed, and Naslen is indeed a delight to watch.</p> <p>Johny Antony as Oliver Twist's long-time friend and man Friday Suryan, gives you quite a few chuckles, and the rest of the cast, including the producer of the movie Vijay Babu and Deepa Thomas of <i>Rock Paper Scissors</i> fame, Aju Varghese and Kainakary Thankaraj, come up with convincing performances.&nbsp;</p> <p>If the film tends to be a bit preachy, it is about an important topic, that of mental health, and the discussion is much warranted.&nbsp;</p> <p>The background score of the movie tends to be tad over the top, as is the case with most of the feel-good movies, and at nearly three hours, the film could have benefitted from a tighter editing. That's a minor complaint for the bundle of delight that this film and its central character is. Neil D’Cunha's cinematography is pleasing, especially when you are at Oliver Twist's house, and when the director takes you to Twist's childhood days.</p> <p><i>Home </i>is a gratifying Onam watch, and is sure to leave you with a hearty smile as you step out of Oliver Twist's happy place when the credits roll.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Movie: Home</b></p> <p><b>Directed by: Rojin Thomas</b></p> <p><b>Starring: Indrans, Manju Pillai, Sreenath Bhasi, Naslen K. Gafoor,&nbsp; Vijay Babu, Johny Antony and Deepa Thomas</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 4/5</b></p> Sat Aug 21 20:08:12 IST 2021 bhuj-the-pride-of-india-review-jingoism-drowns-out-the-nuance-in-this-ajay-devgn-starrer <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>At the centre of Bhuj: The Pride of India is a wonderful theme – 300 villagers, mostly women, helping rebuild the IAF airstrip in Bhuj, which was destroyed in combat during the 1971 war, under the leadership of Squadron leader Vijay Karnik. Made well, the premise had all the ingredients of a wonderful film – pathos, fear, vulnerability, courage and patriotism. Unfortunately, in his bid to melodramatise the plot, director Abhishek Dudhaiya has bleached it of its intrigue.</p> <p>The film begins with an air raid of the Bhuj airstrip by Pakistani fighter planes on December 8, 1971. As the Pakistani army advances to capture the Bhuj airbase, Karnik has less than 72 hours to rebuild the airstrip, in order to get reinforcements. Short of manpower, he is forced to seek the help of the women, who, led by Sunderben Jetha Madharparya (Sonakshi Sinha), valiantly rise to the task.</p> <p>The film is a vehicle for nationalism, and lines like "I live to die. I am called a soldier’ and ‘Marathas know only two things: to kill or to be killed" only highlight this. The jingoism is so overwhelming that it drowns out any other nuance in the characters. You don’t get a sense of who they are other than die-hard defenders of Bharat Mata. As for Devgn’s performance, only two things were required of it – the art of walking in slow motion and the art of maintaining a facial expression of hyper-masculine bravado. Devgn excels in both.</p> <p>Despite this, the action sequences are impressive, especially the aerial combat scenes, and a nail-biting climax involving a plane landing on the newly constructed airstrip with its front wheels supported by a truck driven by Devgn. You need to suspend disbelief to enjoy it, but then, that is a requirement for the whole movie. If the subject had been treated with more truth and less bluster, the film might have made for a thrilling watch. Simple honesty is often more dramatic than contrived melodrama.</p> <p><b>Film: Bhuj: The Pride of India</b></p> <p><b>Directed by: Abhishek Dudhaiya</b></p> <p><b>Starring: Ajay Devgn, Sanjay Dutt, Sharad Kelkar, Sonakshi Sinha</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 2.5/5</b></p> Fri Aug 13 22:37:42 IST 2021 netrikann-review-nayanthara-predictable-thriller <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A bustling city, missing women, murders, a sexual predator, and a police probe—Nayanthara-starrer <i>Netrikann </i>blends in all these elements of common crime thrillers that we often get to see. Despite the predictable format, director Milind Rau’s film manages to hold the viewer’s interest.</p> <p><i>Netrikann</i>, which was released on Disney plus Hotstar on Friday, follows Durga (Nayanthara), a visually challenged woman whose path crosses with the antagonist essayed by Ajmal Ameer. Durga is introduced as a CBI officer as the film opens, but that part of her life lasts only a few scenes—she meets with an accident which results in loss of her vision. Durga’s brother is also killed in the accident. Rau does not waste a lot of time delving into her background. The beautiful lyrics of Sid Sriram’s ‘Idhuvum Kandandu Pogum’, play along as Durga is shown struggling to learn to live with her new world—one without light. Her companion dog also plays a pivotal role in a crucial scene in the film.</p> <p>While Nayanthara appears to struggle to fit in to the role of a visually challenged woman in the first half, she is in full form in the second half as the movie picks pace. The actress was last seen in Malayalam movie <i>Nizhal</i>, yet another thriller. What works for <i>Netrikann</i> is that Nayanthara goes for a de-glam look, which helps the viewer to not see the graceful lady superstar, but a woman struggling to save herself from a predator and eventually locks horns with him. Nayanthara delivers a powerful performance in the climax scenes.</p> <p>For a film in this genre, <i>Netrikann</i> is a tad too long and one can feel like a drag towards the end. A bit tighter editing would have helped. Ajmal Ameer does a decent job, portraying mannerisms that were required from his character James Dinas. However, <i>Netrikann</i> breaks with the ‘serial-killer movie’ tradition by not taking the long trip down into the traumatic past of the criminal. The movie only scratches upon the surface, with a few names of mental health issues being thrown at the viewer so that he/she can research what was going on in the criminal’s mind.</p> <p>Rau, who has also written the screenplay of the film, uses the film to quickly touch upon some social issues like abortion, women’s right to their bodies, and their choices. In a crucial scene in the movie, Nayanthara mouths a dialogue about men and their definitions of ‘good women’ and ‘bad women’. In a theatre ambience, that could have got some cheering from the women in the audience. The film, said to be loosely inspired from Korean thriller <i>Blind</i>, manages to set it well into the Indian milieu.</p> <p><i>Netrikann</i> certainly has its loopholes. For instance, through the first half, one may wonder how a sub inspector can spend all his time and police resources to rope in a visually challenged woman to help him investigate a crime. The stereotypical scenes of sexual homicide in movies—including women tied up in a room with red lights and some background score to go along—could have done with some creative improvement. The profession of the antagonist may also come across as a disturbing detail for women viewers. All said, <i>Netrikann</i> is an easy one-time watch that packs in all the elements of the genre without overdoing it.</p> <p><b>Film: Netrikann</b></p> <p><b>Director: Milind Rau</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Nayanthara, Ajmal Ameer</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3/5</b></p> Fri Aug 13 16:56:32 IST 2021 shershaah-review-siddharth-malhotra-starrer-fitting-tribute-war-hero <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>If it was up to director Vishnu Vardhan, the film <i>Shershaah</i>, based on Kargil war hero Captain Vikram Batra and out now on Amazon Prime Video, would easily have been made into a web series. After all, there was so much to say about Batra - the national braveheart that a two-hour-long film just does not seem to be enough. Siddharth Malhotra who essays the life and times of the Captain, comes across every bit believable as Batra of the 90s from Punjab's Palanpur who wore leather jackets, loved and lived with all his heart, spoke with a distinct Punjabi-Pahadi twang and passionately followed his life's calling to join the Army and serve the nation by leading his battalion to legendary victories.</p> <p>This is a film of a war hero, delivered minus the baggage that the genre has otherwise carried in Bollywood so far. There is no boredom in this film; it will keep you engaged right till the end and beyond, with frames playing in your mind long after you have watched the film. The film's musical score becomes a talking point in itself with exceptionally well-written lyrics peppered with soft Punjabi tunes.</p> <p>Cinematography by Kamaljeet Negi is sharp and instinctive while Vardhan's direction is crisp and focused. Patriotism, nationalism and every ism that denotes the love for one's nation is bound to be triggered, especially in the last scene in which the Indian forces mount an offensive against the enemy and also the moment when our national flag is hoisted on the roof of a Pakistani bunker while theirs gets lowered and rolled up by an Indian soldier. Produced by Dharma productions, <i>Shershaah</i> falls in the same league as that of Johar's previous <i>Raazi </i>and <i>Gunjan Saxena</i>, and yet, this one carves its own path as a balanced offering that evokes a multitude of emotions in the viewer.</p> <p>Batra's love affair with his college-sweetheart Dimple, played by Kiara Advani is beautifully depicted and the fact that Dimple remains unmarried to this day, in the memory of her lover, is touchingly shown. On her part, Advani looks every bit the 'Punjabi Kudi' that Dimple was in her college years and adds a beautiful rawness to the chemistry between the Captain and his girlfriend.</p> <p>Except for a few minutes of 'formula scenes,' <i>Shershaah</i> does bring out the persona and valour of a man who died at the age of 24 in combat and was posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra. And the best part is that it does so, without rousing a nationalistic crescendo. The film tells the story as it is. It takes you through the life of one of our most revered national heroes, exactly the way he lived, laughed and loved.</p> <p><b>Film: Shershaah</b></p> <p><b>Director: Vishnu Vardhan</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Siddharth Malhotra. Kiara Advani</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 4/5</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Thu Aug 12 14:58:21 IST 2021 kuruthi-review-an-uninspired-take-on-hatred-and-the-pitfalls-of-religions <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Kuruthi (ritual sacrifice) is the act of seeking to please gods above for favours, or riddance of misfortune. The blood spilt and the life sacrificed are believed to gladden the deities into granting favours. In Manu Warrier's directorial debut <i>Kuruthi</i>, the sacrifice involves more than one life, and the intent is not to gratify an invisible deity, but to quench hatred that forces men to see each other only through the prism of religion.</p> <p>Featuring an ensemble cast of talented actors, Prithviraj Sukumaran, Roshan Mathew, Murali Gopy, Shine Tom Chacko, Mamukkoya, Srindaa, Navas Vallikkunnu and <i>Thanneer Mathan Dinangal</i>&nbsp; fame Naslen, <i>Kuruthi </i>narrates the tale of a group of men who end up at a house in a night of horrors.&nbsp;</p> <p>Ibrahim (Roshan Mathew) is a man burdened by a loss that is too hard to bear. His teen brother Resul (Naslen) is hate-filled teenager, unable to make sense of the world that he feels as unfair to his community, and has strong views against people who he believes are opposed to his idea of the almighty. Their father Hassan, played by Mamukkoya is hard on him, and that isn't making life any easy for Resul.</p> <p>One night, a cop arrives at their house—cut off from the rest of the village after a landslide—with a prisoner. Hot on their trail are a few men bent on vengeance, one of who is Resul's mentor and Ibrahim's friend Karim (Shine Tom Chacko). Leading the men is Laiq (Prithviraj), who has assumed the role of his god's hired gun and is looking for revenge for a wrongdoing at the hands of the prisoner.</p> <p>A group of men, and a woman, at a house at each other's throat and blinded by the god(s) they claim to fight for and protect does appear like a promising premise, one that could offer plenty of chill and tense moments.<i> Kuruthi</i>, with the corny tagline 'A Vow to Kill... An Oath to Protect' had the potential to be a thrilling ride while also attempting to be a commentary on the cycle of hatred and injustice perpetuated by those who place heavenly beings above their fellow humans. However, the film, written by Anish Pallya, fails to build on the premise and ends up being a half-baked attempt.&nbsp;</p> <p>Roshan Mathew delivers a decent performance as the conflicted man Ibrahim and Murali Gopy does justice to his character of a slightly prejudiced, but no-nonsense cope. The only woman character in this entire affair of hate-filled men, Srindaa's Sumathi, is convincing as the voice of sanity most of the times, while Prithviraj's Laiq ends up as the one-note character of a bigot, who refuses to see people beyond their religions. Mamukkoya's Hassan had enough back story to be a menacing presence, but is let down by a confused script and contrived scenarios. Naslen shines as a confused victim of religious indoctrination, while the rest of the cast does not have much to contribute.</p> <p>Much of the proceedings unfold like an amateur drama, with dialogues that sometimes appear to be lifted from the comments section of a not particularly enlightening post, especially when the director makes his characters mouth their reasons for being obdurate in their spite for each other. The uninspired dialogues fail to give any gravitas to the proceedings. Abinandhan Ramanujam's cinematography brings in the claustrophobia necessary to the conflict unfolding mostly inside a decrepit house, but the action sequences appear poorly choreographed.</p> <p>Touted to be a fast-paced thriller with plenty of action and edge-of-the-seat moments, Kuruthi ends up as half-baked attempt with a confused message about religions and people who kill and maim in the name of the god(s).</p> <p><b>Film: Kuruthi</b></p> <p><b>Directed by : Manu Warrier</b></p> <p><b>Starring: Prithviraj Sukumaran, Roshan Mathew, Murali Gopy, Shine Tom Chacko, Srindaa, Mamukoya</b></p> <p><b>Rating : 2/5</b></p> Wed Aug 11 16:28:21 IST 2021 navarasa-review-a-mix-bag-of-good-average-and-unoriginal <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The latest Netflix Tamil anthology, <i>Navarasa,</i> explores the nine <i>rasas</i> or the nine human emotions. The nine stories, that attempt to tackle the emotions that define life, stand out in their own unique ways.</p> <p>The first episode is Revathi’s <i>Edhiri</i>. While Vijay Sethupathi and Prakash Raj bring out anger, Revathi is the compassionate one. However, <i>Edhiri</i> doesn’t define any emotion, and more than compassion, it dwells on guilt and forgiveness. A woman can be compassionate, but can she forgive the killer of her husband?</p> <p>Priyadarshan’s <i>Summer of 92</i> with Remya Nambeesan and Yogi Babu in the lead, promises laughter. However, the film fails to tickle the funny bone and a few politically incorrect jokes are hardly humorous. Yogi Babu’s character Velusamy states that one need not be educated to be successful—a message that comes across as boring, and the plot is devoid of originality.</p> <p><i>Agni</i>, with Arvind Swamy and Prasanna in the lead, and directed by Karthick Naren, explores the theme of wonder. Arvind Samy's character talks about science, fan fiction, aliens, subconscious reality and human civilisation, all in just thirty minutes. It is an interesting watch at the end and makes a perfect science fiction thriller, and the performances of the leading duo stand out. The director does not hide the fact that he is a huge Christopher Nolan fan.</p> <p><i>Payasam</i>, by Vasanth Sai is the story of a Brahmin wedding, with Rohini, Aditi Balan and Delhi Ganesh in the lead. The film revolves around a Brahmin man who is worried about his widowed daughter. Although the theme of the movie is 'disgust', it is the emotion of jealousy that play a prominent part. Aditi Balan's character, the widow, fails to connect with the viewer.</p> <p><i>Peace</i> is set in the backdrop of the Eelam war in Sri Lanka. Karthik Subbaraj takes the viewers to the war field where Bobby Simha's Nilavan and Gautham Vasudev Menon's Cheran Master, are rebels fighting the Sri Lankan army. Simha helps a young boy to make peace, but what it costs Nilavan forms the rest of the story. There are few emotional and nail biting moments as the characters are engaged in more action than conversation.</p> <p><i>Roudram</i> marks Arvind Saami's debut as a director. A well-directed short film, with an interesting script, <i>Roudram</i> has Riythvika in the lead as police officer, Anbukarasi. Anbu and her brother Arul, children of a domestic help Chitramma, are the victims of the societal set up and are angry with it. A revenge thriller, <i>Roudram </i>is an engaging watch.</p> <p>Then there is <i>Inmai</i> by R. Rathindran Prasad, with Parvathy Thiruvothu and Siddharth, and packed with the emotion of fear. The film set in Puducherry begins as a sweet affair, but then the plot twist hits you hard. The lead pair meet, fall in love, and soon things take an unexpected turn.</p> <p>A relatively new concept in Tamil cinema, this anthology fair is a mixed bag of emotions, but not all of them affect you equally.</p> <p><b>Movie</b>: Navarasa</p> <p><b>Directed by</b>: Priyadarshan, Karthik Subbaraj, Vasanth, Arvind Swami, Bejoy Nambiar, Karthick Naren, Gautham Vasudev Menon, Sarjun KM and Rathindran R. Prasad</p> <p><b>Starring</b>:&nbsp; Suriya, Vijay Sethupathi, Siddharth, Revathi, Parvathy Thiruvothu, Prayaga Martin, Arvind Swami, Prasanna, Poorna, Delhi Ganesh, Rohini, Gautham Vasudev Menon, Yogi Babu, Remya Nambeesan, Aditi Balan, Bobby Simha, Riythvika</p> <p><b>Rating</b>: 2/5</p> Fri Aug 06 23:27:01 IST 2021 sarpatta-parambarai-wins-the-bout-with-unforgettable-punch <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Movies made with boxing as the central theme usually have the same formulae. However, Pa Ranjith’s directorial is more than just gloves and punches, which makes the three-hour long movie justify your attention. The bilingual, made in Tamil and Telugu, successfully infuses a hyper-local flavour which gives a good understanding of the prevailing social and political conditions of Madras in the 1970s. Most importantly, it glamorises boxing in marginalised sections and lower income colonies and presents it in a convincing way.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sarpatta Parambarai was released a day ahead of the announced date, landing on an OTT platform on Wednesday night. The movie is based on the rivalry between different clans (traditional clubs) of Madras who vie for supremacy in the ring. The face of Sarpatta clan is its own boxer-turned-guru Rangan. Its bitter rival is the Idiyappa clan, whose boxers have been defeating them for consecutive years. The movie starts with the ‘invincible’ Vembuli knocking out a boxer of the Sarpatta clan, upsetting Kabilan (played by Arya). At this point, it should be said that the boxing ring, arena and the crowds feel and look realistic, heightening the visual experience of the movie-watcher.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kabilan is a worker whose father was one of the boxing greats of the Sarpatta clan. After his father goes astray, taking up violence, he is killed. Mother of Kabilan tries her best to keep him away from boxing from childhood without much success. A challenge between Sarpatta and Idiyappa clan, which involves the honour of Rangan, draws Kabilan into the ring. Rest of the movie is about the ups and downs of Kabilan’s life and what he does for his beloved guru and his passion.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Pa Ranjith does an excellent job in etching out memorable characters in the movie who have good recall value. One such character is that of ‘dancing’ Rose who entertains with his flexible moves and antics in the ring, bringing back memories of the olden times when boxers and wrestlers had a distinct style and personality. Another character is that of Daddy, a Christian member of the Sarpatta clan who talks in English and has funny mannerisms.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What is worth mentioning is that a good part of the movie moves away from boxing and covers other aspects of the society. The politics of that time is intertwined with the story as the audience gets a glimpse of how normal life was disrupted due to the Emergency and what the state government did to resist it.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are ample scenes that display the frustrations of the working class, their lifestyle and behaviour. Symbols of social equality like Ambedkar and Periyar are also shown in one important scene. The sub-plot of the movie deals with social discrimination and class differences as Kabilan, representing the marginalised, has to fight opponents within his own clan to even make it to the ring.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Arya, in the lead role, with a chiselled body, stands out with his performance. Music by Santosh Narayanan works well for the film. Ranjith effortlessly packs a punch with Sarpatta and once again proves that he is an exceptional story-teller.</p> Thu Jul 22 14:07:05 IST 2021 toofaan-sloppy-representation-fantastic-storyline <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>At the trailer launch of the film <i>Toofaan</i>, producer and director of the film Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and the leading crew, including Ritesh Sidhwani and his producer-actor friend Farhan Akhtar reiterated multiple times with animated expressions that the film will bring about a 'Toofaan' - a metaphorical storm that is bound to take the cake as one of the best sports dramas in recent times. Well, it turns out that the film is indeed a Toofaan, but not the kind that will blow our mind; rather it is a storm we so want to shut and save ourselves from. Right through the first half of the film one cannot help feeling that the reel is simply raw footage publicly shared, prematurely.</p> <p><i>Toofaan</i> serves as the perfect example of a sloppy cinematic representation of a fantastic storyline; and that it comes from a super talented director who is known for his breakthrough films like <i>Rang De Basanti</i>, <i>Mirzya</i> and <i>Bhaag Milkha Bhaag</i>, is saddening. As is well-known by now, the film revolves around a lower-middle-class goon-turned-boxer who hopes to make it big in boxing, despite the circumstances he finds himself in. But how exactly does the transition happen? What is the kind of emotional turmoil he goes through? How does he negotiate the big bad world of goon-ery to really be able to focus on making it big in the world of sport? These aspects are all handled in a rush, as if in single-frame scenes, thereby leaving a substantial chunk of the storyline bereft of emotions and drama. The dialogues are insipid and the acting even more so. Beyond a point, it is tough to put up with this 160-minute long flopshow.</p> <p>Consider this: Here is a gangster from Dongri who's been happily flexing his muscles in his ‘Mumbai ka mohalla’ until he unintentionally stumbles upon boxing. In no time he gets so good at the sport, that he is crowned the champion of Maharashtra. Now, the problem is that his journey from a novice goonda to a chiselled boxer is fast and random, with a complete absence of rhythm, flow and a seamless connection. In the next few minutes, he is hailed as the unknown streetfighter rewriting history. This is like, the makers are testing the viewer's patience and intelligence.</p> <p>In one of the recent interviews to THE WEEK, Akhtar had mentioned how he "really prepared for months on end to get into the skin of the character as a boxer," and to understand how the character evolves both physically, emotionally and mentally. Unfortunately, none of that comes across in the film. Eight years after his last film (<i>Bhaag Milkha Bhaag</i>) in which he collaborated with Mehra to essay the role of the late athlete Milkha Singh, Akhtar fails to display passion and the intensity required to pull off the feel of the boxer on screen; he instead seems wearisome.</p> <p>Paresh Rawal is a saving grace in the form of Akhtar's boxing coach, but he can hardly make up for a passionless script with bland dialogues. Mrunal has no "role" to play in this film. She only supplements the boxer as his lady love.</p> <p>Vijay Raaz is exceptionally talented and very believable as the Gang Lord who adopts a foundling (Akhtar's character). Akhtar's past films have known to be memorable for their music, take for instance, <i>Dil Chahta Hai</i>, <i>Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara </i>or even the pale <i>Kartik Calling Kartik</i>. But this one totally falls flat. The music, songs, lyrics are all misplaced and boring, except for the anthemic rap number<i> ‘</i>Todun Tak’ which accompanies the hero's rapid transformation from a strong and energetic street-brawler to a sound pugilist.</p> <p>The film is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.</p> <p><b>Movie: Toofan</b></p> <p><b>Director: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Farhan Akhtar, Paresh Rawal, Vijay Raaz</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 2/5</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri Jul 16 13:26:09 IST 2021 malik-movie-review-fahadh-faasil-shines-in-this-grey-zone-thriller-of-religion-and-power <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>It was on the back of stories and tales that humankind built its civilisations, religions, kingdoms and nation-states. Shared stories influence us, define us. And, the thumb rule is that every story has more than one version. It is, in fact, not a major task to find these different versions, if one intends to do it. But, we do not want that, because we are more than happy and content with the versions that would be apt for our prejudices and notions.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mahesh Narayanan’s&nbsp;<i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Malik</i>&nbsp;is the story, or a collection of stories, of two coastal hamlets: Ramadapally and Edavathura. There are different versions for each of these stories. Friendship, pain, vengeance, insecurity, love, betrayal—there is a whole spectrum of emotions that are carefully poured in. Crime, assaults and deaths are the outcomes of these emotions.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Malik</i>&nbsp;is also the story of Ahammadali Sulaiman (Fahadh Faasil)—his metamorphosis from a small-time smuggler to the godfather of his hamlet in Ramadapally. The film opens to the eve in which Sulaiman is preparing to leave for Hajj. A “criminal” against whom there are terrorism-related charges, he is under the surveillance of the state even inside his little hamlet. The state is powerless, and Sulaiman is all-powerful, inside Ramadapally. He runs a parallel state there. However, once he leaves Ramadapally, the state nabs him. The plan is for an extra-judicial killing inside the jail while Sulaiman is under remand. But who would do it? The person that the police would find for that job is a juvenile from Edavathura. His details and family history, and his relation to Sulaiman would be revealed as and when different stories are told.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Malik has references to certain real events that happened in the 2000s in the coastal belt of Kerala. But it maintains that the geography and the characters are purely fictional. The script is tightly packed with numerous well-written characters and moments. But it takes an abstract stance when it comes to explaining whether Sulaiman was responsible for the series of terror attacks that were unleashed in Ramadapally. But the film takes a real stance against the soft violence unleashed on people, daily, by the “system”. It also dares to talk about how “terrorists” are created and executed by the state, when those who are really responsible for the terror get off scot-free. The film also gives hints about the invisible powers who aim to profiteer in the name of “development”. It also raises the question of whether those who are seen as the “elected representatives” of our democracy are representing people or these invisible forces.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film portrays both Ramadapally and Edavathura as places where religions have a strong role to play. The film portrays religion as a tool of resistance and a tool to divide at the same time.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Malik is a film that demands multiple watches as it offers several complex characters. They are grey-shaded, and their decisions and choices are all decided by the will to power. This is the first character in the career of Fahadh Faasil in which he plays a role that is much older than real physical age. The film portrays Sulaiman’s life over four decades. And, Faasil brings his unique charm and screen presence to make people empathise with his character. Nimisha Sajayan who plays Roselyn—wife of Sulaiman—also gives a powerful performance. Dileesh Pothan’s Aboobacker, Vinay Fort’s David Christhudas and Jalaja’s Lyla Begum are the other praiseworthy characters in the film. Jalaja, who was active in the 1970s and 1980s, and had played iconic roles in Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s <i>Elipathayam</i> and K.G. George’s&nbsp;<i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Yavanika</i>, makes a great comeback in Malik. This is her first film after the 1992 film&nbsp;<i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Snehasagaram.</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Malik’s cinematography was done by Sanu Verghese who amazed the Malayalam audience with his debut film&nbsp;<i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Aarkkariyam&nbsp;</i>early this year. Verghese makes sure that the audience feels immersed in the stories of Ramadapally. Mahesh Narayanan had told in his pre-release interviews that Malik is a film shot for theatrical release. It is, in fact, a film worth watching on the big screen. Sushin Shyam’s music completely gels with the situations and boosts the scenes to a great extent. Anwar Ali’s lyrics for the song Theerame are mind-blowing. It completely captures all the emotions of Sulaiman and Roselyn’s life and love during their exile in the Minicoy islands in Lakshadweep.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Interestingly, parallels can be drawn between the resistance shown by Ramadapally and the currently undergoing protests in Lakshadweep against the policies undertaken by the Central administrator Praful Patel.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Malayalam film industry is going through a phase of deep crisis induced by the pandemic. Malik is one of the biggest losses for Malayalam theatres this year. The film would have gained big applause from theatres, and would have given the big screens a chance to bounce back!&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Movie: Malik</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Cast:&nbsp;Fahadh Faasil, Nimisha Sajayan, Joju George, Dileesh Pothan</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Director:&nbsp;Mahesh Narayanan</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rating: 4/5</p> Thu Jul 15 09:08:42 IST 2021 cold-case-review-prithviraj-shines-overtsretched-thriller <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Tapping into the paranormal world of crime thrillers<i>, Cold Case</i>, Tanu Balak’s directorial debut, tells the story of a fisherman finding a skull in the backwaters of Thiruvananthapuram.</p> <p>Playing the lead roles are Prithviraj Sukumaran as ACP Sathyajith IPS, the cop in-charge of the investigation and Aditi Balan as Medha Padmaja an investigative journalist who has a show on paranormal cases. It is interesting to note the new faces were given due credit and screen space in this movie. The paranormal in the movie was beautifully channelled through the character of Suchitra Pillai as Zara Zacchai.</p> <p>Two individuals working towards the same goal on different paths; logic and faith are taken through a roller coaster ride as they try to solve the murder. Despite the hype and anticipation, there seem to have been visible issues with the dubbing and questions on whether some of the characters did justice to their roles as it fell flat.</p> <p>Alternation between the lives and investigational journey of the lead characters was an interesting way to move the story forward, but the narrative shift could have been a bit more seamless. Standing apart from the generic crime thriller investigation movies, Prithviraj has done a stellar role as he methodically unravels the mystery around death. His character stood in contrast with the typical boisterous police investigators as he played a mellow and methodical officer. Opening with parallel possibilities and multiple could be murderers, the movie does hold the attention of the viewer, particularly during the first half. However, moving toward the climax, it seemed to have been a bit of a let-down.</p> <p>This movie is Prithviraj’s first OTT release on Amazon Prime. As a movie without a love triangle or action sequences, it has done an above-average job with regard to its storyline. However, there are a lot of unanswered questions which should have been addressed.</p> <p>Due credit must be given to Prakash Alex, the music director for setting the mood right in the movie. That is one of the major highlights of the movie along with the cinematography, by Gireesh Gangadharan. Also, movie buffs can take a go at finding out the cross-references to other crime thriller movies within this movie. Numerology again pops in and out of the movie with subtle hints, keeping the viewers entertained.</p> <p>Juxtaposing the natural with the unnatural was successfully portrayed in the film. With cross-references to the ongoing pandemic and the movie being shot during it, the cast and crew have made the movie a success in its own manner. Overall, the mixing of genre holds an optimistic future when executed properly.</p> <p>Movie: Cold Case</p> <p>Director: Tanu Balak</p> <p>Cast:Prithviraj Sukumaran, Suchitra Pillai, Aditi Balan</p> <p>Rating 3/5</p> Wed Jun 30 10:42:06 IST 2021 jagame-thandhiram-review-this-dhanush-starrer-is-a-tedious-watch <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The film opens in London where members of two gangs fight it out. A key member of a gang headed by Peter is bombed by the members of rival gang headed by Sivadoss. Peter, played by James Cosmo, is a racist gangster who spearheads illegal activities in London. Sivadoss, played by Joju George, is a Tamil smuggler who also helps Sri Lankan refugees get permanent citizenship in foreign countries. The two are arch-rivals, and Peter wants to eliminate Sivadoss and stop his refugee cause. So, he hires a Tamil rowdy from Madurai—Suruli, played by Dhanush—to kill Sivadoss.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are guns and much bloodshed. But,<i> Jagame Thandhiram</i> fails to discuss the immigrant politics or the Sri Lankan Tamil refugee cause or even a simple gang war between two gangsters. Treason is central to <i>Jagame Thandhiram</i>, but the weak screenplay and script never really explores it fully.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dhanush as Suruli, is quite entertaining, be it in London or in Madurai, with his uncanny humour. But, there are questions director Karthik Subbaraj doesn't answer or situations which are unconvincing, and it's a major letdown.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Aishwarya Lekshmi, as Attila, plays the role of a Sri Lankan immigrant struggling to get permanent citizenship, and she is the one who makes Suruli aware of the problems immigrants face.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>James Cosmo as Peter has managed to invoke disgust in the audience with his cuss words, gait, and behaviour. But Sivadoss by Joju is downplayed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The entire 158 minutes is quite noisy, but fails to deliver any strong message.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Santhosh Narayanan's background music is quite entertaining. The <i>rakita rakita rakita</i>... number by Dhanush stands out.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But if you think Dhanush’s handlebar moustache will bring you back <i>Petta</i> on screen, you will definitely be disappointed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Jagame Thandhiram</b></p> <p><b>Language: Tamil</b></p> <p><b>Director: Karthik Subbaraj</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Dhanush, Joju George, Aishwarya Lekshmi, James Cosmo, Kalaiarasan</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 2/5</b></p> <p><b>OTT platform: Netflix</b></p> Fri Jun 18 22:11:12 IST 2021 sherni-review-vidya-balan-shines-film-human-wildlife-conflict <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>"Is&nbsp;it possible to achieve a&nbsp;balance between&nbsp;the&nbsp;environment and development? If you choose development,&nbsp;you&nbsp;cannot save the environment and if&nbsp;you opt for conservation of the&nbsp;environment, development takes a hit." This dialogue made by forest officer (Neeraj Kabi) in the just-released <i>Sherni</i> on Amazon Prime, sums up the central plot of the film. </p> <p>A riveting story revolving around the man-animal conflict inside the deep and dense jungles of Madhya Pradesh, <i>Sherni</i> is a thrill to watch for both its realism&nbsp;and striking cinematography which take the viewer right into the thick of the forest as it undertakes the ambitious search for the man-eating wild cat.&nbsp;</p> <p>The story is beautifully layered; it deftly touches upon complex topics - a cross between well-meaning foresters and their battle for conservation on the one hand and mean-minded politicians who turn it into poll agendas on the other - which essentially place the villagers and their vulnerabilities at the&nbsp;forefront of this conflict. The story is about a T12, a wild tigress which has made it dangerous and almost impossible for the villagers of Bandarpur to graze their domestic animals in the adjacent jungle for fear of the cat's attacks. The film is an instant reminder of T1, the actual tigress that was accused of killing 13 people in Maharashtra's Yavatmal district before she was shot dead by a civilian hunter who was out to show off his "killer instincts."&nbsp;Many activists described it as ‘cold-blooded murder’ and the case even reached the Supreme Court of India.&nbsp;In the film, this civilian, cold-blooded&nbsp; hunter is the veteran and very able Sharat Saxena, who murders the wild cat, thereby failing the most fool proof plans prepared by&nbsp;forest officials led by DFO (District Forest Officer) Vidya Vincent (Vidya Balan), on how they could have instead traced and&nbsp;tranquilised&nbsp;the cat to rescue it in the nearby national park.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>With Balan playing down her star status and coming as close to a woman forest officer as possible, the film is a compelling watch, for both, the way the issues of conservation and conflict are dealt with as well as the way in which the young Vincent tackles patriarchy and a male-dominated service. In this film, there are two Shernis - the real Sherni or the Tigress T12 and the metaphorical Sherni as Vidya who must make her voice heard in a male dominated universe she is a part of.</p> <p> The best part of the film is the manner in which the viewer is journeyed on multiple forest trails as officials trace the pug marks and signs of the wild cat's presence. But even then, it doesn't really bring out the Wow factor - the majestic royalty of the wild beast; if only, the indulgence was more heightened and thrilling than it presently is. The film is an eye-opener also on how the forest service goes about its daily job, simultaneously negotiating danger and dilemma. As an official on one of the trails, quips,&nbsp;"The tiger&nbsp;will see you a hundred times before you see him once."</p> <p>The cast is stellar and very relatable and Masurkar's direction is sharp and meticulous. Little details are captured fantastically, to make a point and the jungle comes out alive in the direction. Even as he brings out a project after three to four years on an average, each one outdoes the other <i>- Sulemani Keeda</i> to <i>Newton</i> and now, <i>Sherni</i>. Adding spark and meaning to the film are established actors like Vijay Raaz, Brijendra Kala, Ila Arun and Mukul Chadda, all of who make this film a must-watch.</p> <p><b>Movie: Sherni</b></p> <p><b>Director: Amit V. Masurkar</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Vidya Balan, Sharat Saxena, Vijay Raaz, Brijendra Kala, Ila Arun, Mukul Chadda</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 4/5</b></p> Fri Jun 18 13:05:00 IST 2021 the-family-man-season-2-manoj-bajpayee-makes-a-compelling-return-in-this-thriller <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Everyone loves a good spy series with breathless twists and turns, ample action, mystery and chases and you will find a lot of it in the much-anticipated second season of The Family Man.</p> <p>Fronted by the magnetic performance of Manoj Bajpayee this espionage action series is packed with several thrilling scenes that will keep you hooked. Things have changed in season two. The protagonist Srikant Tiwari has quit the life of a secret agent to embrace the drudgery of the private sector.</p> <p>The lure of the undercover is hard to resist and Srikant finally returns to the centre of the action -- a dangerous mission in Chennai. But this time the stakes are not just high but also personal. A group of Sri Lankan Tamil rebels hatch a plan to assassinate Indian Prime Minister Basu and use his teenage daughter Dhriti as bait to get him out of the way. Srikant and Suchitra’s flickering marriage adds another layer to the show.</p> <p>The second season marks the digital debut of popular south Indian actor Samantha Akkineni who brings an interesting dynamism to her character as a member of the rebel army for the Sri Lankan Tamils. Her nuanced depiction of Raji proves she’s one of our most exciting talents. Raji, who has a tragic back story is aided in her sinister plot by Pakistani agent Sameer and Kashmiri terrorist Sajid, both of whom are seeking payback for the events of the first season.&nbsp;</p> <p>The series that switches seamlessly between Hindi, Tamil and English is not all gore and grime. It has its tender moments, like the scene between Raji and Sajid inside a car on a rainy day, driving to the Southern coast of Tamil Nadu.&nbsp;</p> <p>Another scene that alludes to the rawness of the characters is when JK (Sharib Hashmi) after a particularly gruelling foot chase asks a brusque colleague to rub some balm on his back.</p> <p>Though Bajpayee is undoubtedly the main draw in the second season, Akkineni imparts a chilling intensity to her character. It’s a role that requires her to oscillate between emotional extremes at a moment’s notice. She pulls it off brilliantly.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>The debate around revolutionaries and terrorists has been deftly and diplomatically handled by Raj &amp; DK, who has managed to bring in a unique mix of rebellion and empathy to the main characters. Each episode is packed with enough action to keep you on tenterhooks.</p> <p>Outstanding performances, a crisp plot, thrilling chase sequences through cramped spaces, nerve-wracking confrontations and a jolt of irreverent humour all come together to create a gripping sequel.</p> <p><b>The Family Man Season 2</b></p> <p><b>Directed by: Raj &amp; DK, Suparn Varma</b></p> <p><b>Starring: Manoj Bajpayee, Samantha Akkineni, Priyamani&nbsp;</b></p> <p><b>Released on Amazon Prime Video</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3.5/5</b></p> Fri Jun 04 19:18:38 IST 2021 sardar-ka-grandson-review-arjun-kapoor-is-the-only-saving-grace-in-this-chaotic-affair <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Ninety-year-old Sardar Kaur (Neena Gupta), a boisterous industrialist, yearns to go back to her roots in Lahore, which she had to flee during Partition, to settle in India's Amritsar. She suffers from a life-threatening disease, and her only desire is to revisit Lahore "just once" to check out the two-storey home she had built with her husband, and she pledges her "will" to her grandson Amreek (Arjun Kapoor) if he agrees to help her fulfill her last wish.</p> <p>The problem is that Sardar is not permitted to travel to Lahore after getting blacklisted due to her anti-Pakistan antics during a cricket match in Mohali. So, what does the grandson do? He decides to relocate the house instead. If she can't go to Lahore, the house there can come to her. After all, Amreek—who comes across as dull, clumsy and irresponsible—used to run a transport and logistics company back in Los Angeles, albeit unsuccessfully, before he came down to India to visit his ailing grandma. What follows is a sleep inducing, extremely boring and a lacklustre drama revolving around Amreek whose only ambition in life is to prove himself worthy in the eyes of the world, after demonstrating boorishness that is typical of a pampered brat and stupidity that stems from a misplaced sense of arrogance and self-aggrandisement.</p> <p>However, within the limits of this character definition, Kapoor stands out. He comes across every bit the Amreek he plays and he does that with panache. What works against him are the below average dialogues and a sloppy script, both of which take away the intensity and gravitas out of the film. Rakul Preet Singh as Radha hardly creates a lasting impact other than looking ravishing in every frame. Amreek's parents (Kanwaljit Singh and Soni Razdan) have little to offer in terms of acting. While Neena Gupta's character as Sardar—the fun, whiskey loving, impish granny who chats and chills—is beautifully scripted, the screenplay takes the punch away from the character. Despite trying hard, this granny doesn't really pull at your heartstrings or get you to fall in love with her.</p> <p>It so turns turns out that Sardar's house has been passed over to a Muslim man who left his own property back in India to move to Pakistan after the Partition. There is no doubt that the plot is refreshing and novel, but it fails to keep the viewer hooked. For instance, one feels no connection to Sardar's emotional upheaval when she sees her house, years after the Partition. The film comes across as chaotic, with loose threads here and there. Arjun Kapoor is the only saving grace, that is if you really manage to be impressed with Amreek in the first place.</p> <p><b>Movie: Sardar Ka Grandson</b></p> <p><b>Directed by: Kaashvie Nair</b></p> <p><b>Starring: Arjun Kapoor, Rakul Preet Singh and Neena Gupta</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 2.5/5</b></p> Tue May 18 20:02:19 IST 2021 radhe-your-most-wanted-bhai-review-a-mindless-salman-khan-show <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>After one hundred minutes of sitting through the Prabhudeva directorial Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai, my mind kept going back to film's all-black ominous villain, Randeep Hooda, who, as the drug kingpin, offsets the larger than life heroics of Salman Khan's super cop, Radhe. Taken from the South Korean hit, The Outlaws, 'Radhe....' is an action packed, mindless drama which massages the male ego, specifically that of Khan, who is so self-absorbed that he is unable to look beyond himself. He crashes through doors and windows like a superhero who shows up just in time to save the girls, guys, aunties and uncles and everyone else, goes shirtless at parties, shows off his muscles at the slightest opportunity and treats his women as dimwitted creatures worthy only of romancing around with.</p> <p>Where there is Salman Khan, everyone else around him appears to be either a buffoon or a joker, mostly mindless pawns. Even in the character of Radhe—an encounter specialist with 97 encounters and 23 transfers to his credit—one can only see Salman, the star. It is difficult to find Radhe the super cop in Salman, because the actor never lets his character do the talking. He does nothing to get into the character of the super cop except enacting juvenile heroics which make for great children's TV content. And this is why Hooda's bad guy Rana is a saving grace. He is so bad and twisted, so morally bankrupt and dark, that his negativity he sends out a spark which lingers in our minds long after we have watched the film. It is a pity that the few instances that mark a confrontation between Rana and Radhe turn out to be insipid and dull.</p> <p>Disha Patani essays the role of a sexy and stupid oomph-oozing heroine to perfection. She is every bit believable in the character of Dia, an aspiring model who believes that you go to the crime branch to complain about a lost phone. But even as a male-centric, egotistic script does injustice to her abilities as an actor, Patani strikes a smashing screen presence with her flowing locks and toned self, thereby giving tough competition to her 55-year-old suitor, Salman Khan.&nbsp;</p> <p>The dialogues are cringe-worthy and the direction is strictly average. If this is the megastar's way of showing off his super human abilities, then he has no doubt succeeded. But I doubt the social media claims that the platform on which the film released, Zee5 (alongside theatre release) has crashed with over millions of viewers going over each other to catch the first show. Unless you are ready to make a mockery of your own sensibilities and logic, why would you even invest your time in this film?&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai</b></p> <p><b>Director: Prabhudeva</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Salman Khan, Disha Patani, Jackie Shroff, Randeep Hooda</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 2/5</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Sat May 15 11:52:08 IST 2021 karnan-review-mari-selvaraj-dhanush-deliver-chilling-drama-defiance <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Set in a village called Podiyankulam, in the deep suburbs of Tirunelveli, <i>Karnan</i> is the story of an angry young man and his people defying years of oppression.&nbsp;</p> <p>Directed by <i>Pariyerum Perumal</i> fame Mari Selvaraj, with Dhanush K. Raja in the lead, <i>Karnan</i>’s opening shot itself is disturbing . A little girl lies on the middle of a road. No vehicles stop to rescue her. With no one to help, she succumbs to fits. Soon, Easwar's camera pans&nbsp; towards the sky, signalling the need of a battle to defy oppression. And then Santhosh Narayanan's all-time best 'Kanda Vara Sollunga' begins with the rustic beat, setting the mood for what awaits the viewer.</p> <p>An entire village prays for the return of Karnan (Dhanush). Clad in a murky lungi and a torn shirt, a young man with his hands cuffed, head covered with a black cloth and blood on his feet, is shown as being pushed out of a police van. The people draw his image with charcoal and fire on a wall. The story then cuts back to 1997, to Podiyankulam, a small village which is home to a group of oppressed people.</p> <p>Backed by a powerful script, the film tells a tale of the village fighting the powerful, dominant caste, including those in the bureaucracy.</p> <p>For people in Podiyankulam, struggle lies even in the little things. The village does not have even a bus stop. Men and women walk long distances to the nearby Melur bus stop or stop the vehicles which pass by to commute. And people of Melur use this as a reason to further oppress them.&nbsp; Karnan and his young men vandalise a bus when it does not stop to help a pregnant woman from the village.&nbsp; And things come to a flash point when the district SP, Kannapiran, played by Natrajan akka Natty, comes into the scene. An egoistic officer, Kannapiran's action and Karnan's anger lead to more bloodshed. Karnan's love interest is Draupadhi, played by Rajisha Vijayan.</p> <p>Mari Selvaraj, with his script, has sculpted each character with the finest details. Right from their attire to the work they do, each character adds value to the script. The first half builds the characters, while the second tells the defying tale. <i>Karnan,</i> however, is slow-paced with every scene making the viewer restless.</p> <p><i>Karnan</i> subtly reminds of the chilling Majolai riots of 1999 and the Melavalavu massacre in 1997, in south Tamil Nadu.</p> <p>After <i>Asuran</i> and <i>Pattas</i>, with <i>Karnan</i>, Dhanush is back in complete action, perfectly slipping into the skin of the caharacter. And Natty is at his best as an egoistic cop. Yeman, played by Lal, is the character which holds Karnan's narrative together, scene by scene.</p> <p><br> <b>Director: Mari Selvaraj<br> Cast: Dhanush, Lal, Yogi Babu, Natarajan Subramaniam, Rajisha Vijayan, Gouri Kishan and Lakshmi Priyaa Chandramouli</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3/5<br> <br> </b></p> Sat May 15 11:51:53 IST 2021 the-big-bull-review-an-insipid-watch <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>This film might be all about a fictitious stock broker going by the name of Hemant Shah. But, it becomes amply clear right from the promos that the <i>The Big Bull</i>&nbsp;is based on the life and times of stock broker Harshad Mehta.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To make a film on and tell a story about one of India’s biggest capital market scams is not easy. Releasing this movie just a few months after Sony Liv released a full web series on the infamous stock market investor makes the job even harder.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Abhishek Bachchan plays the role of Hemant Shah, a lower middle-class Gujarati who dreams about making it big, and stumbles upon stock market investing as the easiest way to do it. Shah’s brother Viren, played by Sohum Shah, is a small-time sub-broker. But, Hemant is not satisfied making a few thousand bucks, and wants to break through the small circle of influential share brokers. The first half of the story revolves around Hemant finding loopholes, whether it is in the banking system or insider trading in stocks, using it to make crores. Within no time he goes from being a small sub-broker to the country’s first billionaire.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The chairman of the stock exchange, who is named Mannu Malpani and played by Saurabh Shukla, tries to warn Hemant that insider trading is illegal in many markets,&nbsp; and that the laws in the country will one day catch up with him. His brother and mother also try to convince Hemant to slow down. But, all these attempts come to no avail. In a scene shot in a temple, Malpani tells Hemant that someone who goes up and up also comes down and down. From there on, the film track changes and it is all about Hemant’s downfall.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Eventually, Hemant is convicted and sentenced to jail just like Harshad Mehta was. Hemant, just like Mehta, dies of a sudden heart attack. However, the director Kookie Gulati has also tried to indicate that he was perhaps silenced.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Throughout the film, the director has used a lot of cinematic liberties. But, some instances are just over the top. Journalist Meera Rao, played by Ileana D’Cruz, who is also the narrator of the film, likens Hemant’s crime of gaming the system to the first 40 years of India’s Independence, during which she says there was hardly any development, and that was a crime too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are several instances where you get the feeling that the director has tried to humanise the character of Hemant Shah, and attempts to show that perhaps Hemant was made a scaepgoat while other powerful people, including politicians, went free. It is not fully convincing though. Hemant is shown as a messiah of the aam aadmi and there are several dialogues where ordinary people are shown thanking Hemant, because of whom they could start investing in stocks and make money only due to Hemant. At one point he becomes like a god to the common man. The fact that many people also lost money after the scam was exposed, and that markets crashed, gets lost somewhere in this narrative.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This film is undoubtedly about the character of Hemant Shah, and revolves around him. But, by throwing too much spotlight on the central character, the other characters, including his brother, mother and wife, don’t get enough chances to bloom.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Abhishek, as the flamboyant big bull in Hemant Shah, is also rather unconvincing, with hardly any Gujarati conversation throughout the film. Furthermore, more than once in the film, Hemant is heard saying he has no time to slowdown. Yet, in between, he has time to romance his neighbour played by Nikita Dutta, whom he eventually marries. The two even dance around Delhi’s famous monuments in a song in true Bollywood style, before Hemant sets off to meet a son of a top politician. That only adds to the distraction from the main issue at hand.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Since <i>Scam 1992</i> was a webseries, Hansal Mehta had ample to explore the man (Harshad Mehta) and the scam in detail. Trying to do that in just two-and-a-half hours, with the typical Bollywood melodrama thrown in, fails to inspire and ends up becoming a rather forgettable watch.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Movie: The Big Bull</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Cast:&nbsp;Abhishek Bachchan, Sohum Shah, Saurabh Shukla, Ram Kapoor, Ileana D’Cruz, Nikita Dutt</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Director: Kookie Gulati</b></p> Fri Apr 09 12:53:09 IST 2021 joji-review-pothettans-brilliance-all-over-again <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>It is hard not to root for antiheros. They are rarely virtuous, they cut corners, make shady deals, and kill if need be. But despite all the scheming and malevolence, they aren't all that rotten. From <i>Taxi Driver</i>'s Travis Bickle on the big screen to the most popular anti-heroes on small screen Vic Mackey of <i>The Shield</i> and Tony Soprano of the <i>Sopranos</i>, you could always spot some saving grace in the the anti-heroes, and would want to root for them, even when they spiral out of control.</p> <p>Just like you would want to root for Joji, or may be you do not want to!</p> <p>Joji is hardly an amoral man when you meet him first. In fact, he is just a feeble, good for nothing fellow—a &quot;second piece&quot; as his father calls him. Son of a rich plantation owner, Joji is often ignored and ridiculed by those around him, including his father and brothers. He is a total misfit. While the film, directed by Dileesh Pothan, is inspired by the Shakespearean classic<i> Macbeth,&nbsp;</i>and had shades of 1985 classic<i> Irakal,&nbsp;</i>Joji is nothing like the grand warrior anti-hero in the tragedy. Nonetheless, there is something that would connect the two—greed. Joji may be feeble and eccentric, but he is also wholly consumed by insatiable avarice. And much like Macbeth, there is progressive moral degeneration in Joji. While there isn't a Lady Macbeth in the life of Joji, there is a woman around him to question his manliness, and prod him towards an unthinkable crime.</p> <p>The director, in a recent interview, had admitted that while Joji isn't exactly <i>Macbeth</i> retold, there could be parallels between the two. There is a murder most foul and other crimes by a man acting against his best interests, a hint of a prophesy that you might miss if you blink, and some frantic washing—in this tale of a man losing all sense of control—set against the backdrop of the rubber plantations in Erumeli and at a time when a pandemic has forced people to cover their faces (something that comes handy to Joji at one point) and stay a few feet away from each other.</p> <p>When Pothan reunites with his <i>Maheshinte Prathikaaram</i> partners Syam Pushkaran (script), Shyju Khalid (behind the camera), and of course Fahadh Faasil, one can't be blamed for expecting repetition of the magic. And they do not disappoint.<i> Joji</i> isn't your quintessential run-of-the-mill thriller; there aren't clever twists and unpredictable moves. What sets Joji apart is the director's ability to make his hero amoral as time passes, and make him go totally out of control, all the while maintaining a veneer of sanity. Despite the tragic theme, the movie has plenty of lighter moments. The director, with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, takes a dig at religion and its custodians, the society that is only too eager to pry into the affairs of the odd one out, and the privileges accorded to men.&nbsp;</p> <p>Fahad dexterously embodies the frustration, confusions and madness of a misfit. The actor seems to have lost some weight for the role, to climb into the skin of a man whose frail frame and cowardice when met with physical violence hardly fit the bill of a hero, and walk around in it. You see him writhing in anger and desperation when met with violence or extreme disappointment, but the next moment he assumes normalcy, not like an actor would, but how a person like Joji would.</p> <p>The rest of the cast, including Sunny P.N. (Thorappan Bastin of <i>Spadikam</i>), Unnimaya, Shammi Thilakan, Joji Mundakayam and Basil Joseph, come up with stellar performances to become people you would come across everyday in this neighbourhood. Baburaj as the alcoholic elder brother of Joji is a revelation. Of course, he is no stranger to pulling off occasional wonders, (the meek cook in<i> Salt and Pepper</i>), and Pothan exacts another fine performance from the actor.</p> <p>Dileesh Pothan's <i>Joji</i> is a remarkable retelling of a tragic tale of greed, unbridled ambitions, crime and eventual self-destruction.</p> <p><b>Movie: Joji</b></p> <p><b>Directed by: Dileesh Pothan</b></p> <p><b>Starring: Fahadh Faasil, Unnimaya, Shammi Thilakan, Baburaj</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 4/5</b></p> Thu Apr 08 22:23:03 IST 2021 aanum-pennum-review-dissecting-gender-power-equations <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>How does one define the word 'power' in the context of gender? In a patriarchal society where everything is designed to gratify the desires and comforts of men, women are often painted as 'weaker sex'. However, when it comes to survival instincts or coping with trauma, women fare better than men—that is a scientific fact. There are also studies that suggest that women can outlive men in almost all extreme conditions.</p> <p>So, how fair is it to cling on to the popular perception that men are more powerful?</p> <p><i>Aanum Pennum</i> (Men and Women), a Malayalam anthology film conceived by Jay K. (<i>Savithri</i>), Venu (<i>Rachiyamma</i>)&nbsp; and Ashique Abu (<i>Rani</i>) is a decent attempt to offer a commentary on the power equations between men and women. The three films also examine how men and women would react differently to certain situations. Though each of these films revolve around these themes, there is a need to treat each work as a standalone film.</p> <p><i><b>Savithri </b></i>by Jay K.</p> <p>Set in a period after the Punnapra-Vayalar uprising in the Travancore state, <i>Savithri </i>tells the story of a Communist woman. Punnapra-Vayalar was an armed revolt of the working class against the exploitative rule of Travancore Diwan C.P. Ramaswamy Iyer and the unjust taxation by the establishment. The period that followed the uprising witnessed the violence unleased on Communists in the state. Set against this period, Savithri begins with the eponymous protagonist fleeing from the police. She becomes a servant at a feudal household to lie low and avoid arrest. There she faces sexual advances from the men in the family. Savithri also witnesses the verbal and physical violence let loose by this family on her comrades.</p> <p>Savithri, however, is not a victim, but a woman who dares to use her body and sexuality for the greater cause of fighting the oppressors.&nbsp;</p> <p>However, the film is the weakest in this anthology. Though the movie stays faithful to the period it portrays, and Samyukhta Menon comes up with a decent performance as Savithri, it can hardly claim novelty in storyline or execution.&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rating: 2/5</b></p> <p><i><b>Rachiyamma </b></i>by Venu</p> <p>'Rachiyamma' is considered to be one of the most powerful and complex female characters ever created in Malayalam literature. Venu attempts to faithfully adapt Uroob’s 1969 short story of the same name.</p> <p>The film tells the relationship developed between Rachiyamma, an outspoken woman, and a man who comes to work in a tea estate as an officer. It explores how deep a woman could invest in a love affair, and how men and women are different when it comes to setting priorities in a romantic relationship. Parvathy Thiruvoth delivers a stellar performance as Rachiyamma. She is well backed by Asif Ali.</p> <p>The controversy that started some time ago about a “fair-skinned heroine” being chosen to play the role of a dark-skinned protagonist (Uroob visualised his Rachiyamma as a dark-skinned woman) could possibly come back to haunt the movie in the Malayalam movie forums on social media.</p> <p><b>Rating: 3/5</b></p> <p><i><b>Rani </b></i>by Aashiq Abu</p> <p>Ashiq Abu’s <i>Rani </i>is arguably the best film in this anthology, and much of the credit goes to Unni R. for the great script that&nbsp; Aashiq Abu got to work with. Unni R. is a writer who could deliver riveting tales with some major twists, and Rani lives up to the writer's image.</p> <p>The film tells the story of a college boy who persuades his girlfriend to come with him for a ride to an isolated place. She is reluctant initially, but agrees nonetheless. During the ride, they face an unexpected situation, that goes on to reveal how differently men and women react to traumatic circumstances.&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Rani </i>also explores how male and female brains are wired differently, especially when it comes to sex, and goes on to denounce the general perception that “women have lower sexuality or sexual desire than men.&quot; In the final scene of the film, you see a man and a woman forced to face the society in their nakedness. How they react to the situation tells a lot about the difference that exists between the two sexes.</p> <p><i>Rani </i>could trigger a lot of conversations around gender and sexuality in the coming days.</p> <p>The online chemistry of Roshan Mathew and Darshana Rajendran is delightful, and their performances excellent.&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rating 4/5</b></p> Fri Mar 26 22:08:53 IST 2021 saina-review-a-selective-peek-into-a-champions-life <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>[Spoiler alert!]</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Does badminton mean more to Saina or is it the other way around?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The movie 'Saina' does not ask this question outright, but it does lob it up like a gentle serve. In one of the early scenes, when someone close to her is lying in a hospital, Saina gets up to leave. Her father tells her to stay and pray. She replies, “That's what I'm going to do”. In a state of helplessness, she goes straight to the court and starts smashing the shuttle. It's likened to ringing bells at a temple. Badminton is her only answer to every question.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the second half, as she joins a new academy after a fallout with her coach, her new trainer takes her into a “hall of mirrors”. A group of young girls gathers around her; they are her fans and want to emulate her. She can see herself in these little “mirrors”. Her coach then tells her that she is the most important thing to have happened to women's badminton in India. Arguably true.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As for the question of who means more to whom, the movie has no interest in answering that. It just wants to show that the two are inextricably linked.</p> <p>What the makers are more interested in are the people that shape the champion. A fierce and ambitious mother, a soft and understanding father, a disciplinarian coach and a eternally supportive partner, all work hard to mould a girl from Haryana into a world-beating athlete.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But it is the relationship between Saina and coach Rajan (modelled on Pullela Gopichand) that drives the show. Manav Kaul as the coach is the best part of the movie, followed closely by Meghna Malik as the mother.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Parineeti Chopra's performance is as uneven as the size of the mole on her face. She is earnest and nails the emotional tone, but she also slips in and out of the Haryanvi tongue. Overall, it is one of the actor's better performances.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For lovers of the sport, though, there is little to bite into. The only fleshed out match is the one where Saina beats Carla Martinez (Carolina Marin) to become world number one. The film doesn't dwell on strategies tailored for each opponent, or on how Saina changed her game over her career. The badminton scenes are quite montage-y; close-ups and quick cuts mask Parineeti's understandable ineptness. There is also the usual Bollywood trope of motivational music accompanying a feisty comeback.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The only match scenes that feel raw and authentic are the ones featuring the young Saina. The child actor who plays her is apparently an actual shuttler, and that shows. What also works is director Amole Gupte's proven record of getting the best out of child actors ('Taare Zameen Par', 'Stanley ka Dabba').</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A fortunate upside is the lack of fanatic flag-waving; it's quite refreshing to see the creators avoiding the low-hanging fruit.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Surprisingly, or perhaps not, there is no mention of P.V. Sindhu. There had been speculation about whether their alleged rivalry would find its way into the film, but perhaps the makers wanted to steer clear of such prickly topics. Maybe a movie on Sindhu could clear the air.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Also, it is hard making a biopic on an active athlete. There is more story to be told. Saina is just 31 and may be around for a few more years. And this lends an abruptness to the ending.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film is a highlight reel of Saina's career, but is selective on which points to stop at and expand on. The one point it does make amply clear is that, regardless of the newer, perhaps better shuttlers on the circuit, Saina Nehwal is the original superstar of the game in India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Saina</b></p> <p><b>Director: Amole Gupte</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Parineeti Chopra, Manav Kaul, Meghna Malik and others</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 2.5/5</b></p> Fri Mar 26 21:18:02 IST 2021 one-review-this-mammootty-flick-ticks-almost-all-boxes <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>There's 'right', and there's wrong. In every walk of life, and everywhere else. In fact, there are two types of 'right'—one, the 'right' by logic, and the other, what one conveniently perceives as 'right'. Santhosh Viswanath's ONE is essentially a conflict between these two 'right'. And at the centre of this political thriller is an idealistic chief minister who is determined to do what he feels is right—by logic and by perception.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At first glance (especially from the trailer), ONE might seem like yet another political film with its share of fiery dialogues capable of whipping up political emotions, a game of one-upmanship between parties on either side of the clearly-defined political divide, with a predictable climax.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But this is where the promising writer duo of Bobby-Sanjay manage to pleasantly surprise the audience. ONE has its share of thrills and goosebump moments (aided perfectly by Gopi Sundar's catchy BGM) but it has a thought-provoking theme at its heart, and steers clear of major cliches. The duo seem to have taken inspiration from some events and personalities in today's Kerala politics, but have consciously stayed away from giving them any obvious hues—be it red, blue, green or saffron. And rightly so.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Apart from the writing, what works in the film's favour is the stellar cast. Viswanath, whose first film was 'Chirakodinja Kinavukal'—the first spoof in Malayalam cinema—has pulled off a casting coup of sorts in his second outing. Mammootty as the CM, Kadakkal Chandran, or the No. 1, is brilliant. The veteran actor lends the gravitas that the character deserves, without giving it a larger-than-life treatment. One moment Chandran is a no-nonsense CM who administers with a firm hand, and the next, he is as human as one can be. And Mammootty portrays both with the subtlety only he can. Chandran commands the respect and fear of not just his own party members but also the opposition benches. The way the CM deals with hurdles in his political journey is also a pointer to the change in dynamics on the ground in real-life politics.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film, however, is not all about Mammootty or Chandran. Murali Gopy as Jayanandan is a revelation. The scriptwriter-actor has turned a corner as an actor, and after 'Drishyam 2', has delivered yet another powerhouse performance. Joju George, too, as Babychan holds his own among the stalwarts. His friendship with Chandran and his responsibilities as the party general secretary often put him in conflict zone but the man knows where his heart is, and Joju pulls off the character with aplomb.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But the film's strengths are also what pulls it down in places. For instance, the sheer number of characters, and the brilliant actors roped in to play them, make it difficult to be weaved in seamlessly to the storyline. Some may seem wasted, while others don't get the closure they deserve.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The writing, too, takes a hit in the second half as the unexpected twist before the interval remains hardly explored later on. There's a brief lull when the scriptwriters seem to be making up their mind to bring the film to a meaningful climax, before the film picks up pace again and strides confidently to the finish line.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film may sound preachy at times but in this politically charged atmosphere, it might be the need of the hour. With Kerala going to all-important assembly polls on April 6, the 'right' to vote is one right the people can exercise decisively to choose between the two 'rights'.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: ONE</b></p> <p><b>Language: Malayalam</b></p> <p><b>Director: Santhosh Viswanath</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Mammootty, Murali Gopy, Joju George, Mathew Thomas and others</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3.5/5</b></p> Fri Mar 26 18:37:18 IST 2021 godzilla-vs-kong-review-it-takes-two-to-tango <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>It takes two to tango. This is the message Kong and Godzilla have taken upon themselves to relay through <i>Godzilla Vs Kong</i>.</p> <p>Man Vs nature and good Vs evil are themes largely explored in several movies, including the Jurassic Park series. <i>Godzilla Vs Kong</i> does not fall under any such broad categories—it is centred around the theme of coexistence. Neither Godzilla nor Kong can be labelled as good or bad. The movie simply portrays what two alpha predators might do when they come face-to-face.</p> <p>The movie, directed by Adam Wingard, the fourth installment in the 'MonsterVerse', follows the journey of Kong and his carers, who want to find a safe place for the giant gorilla. En route, Kong finds himself facing an enraged Godzilla.</p> <p>One need not watch any of the older Kong or Godzilla movies to enjoy this monster showdown. The only reference to the previous films is in the form of Millie Bobby Brown, who plays Emma and Mark Russell's daughter Madison Russell. Emma Russell, played by Vera Farmiga, was the antagonist in the 2019 Godzilla film. This reference and Demián Bichir's portrayal as Walter Simmons, an entrepreneur who wants to put humans at the apex of the natural order, brings us to the question of how much can man manipulate nature for his gain? And how wise would it be to do so?</p> <p><i>Godzilla Vs Kong </i>does live up to the hype. Watch the movie on the biggest screen possible, simply for the action sequences. It is easily one of the best monster showdowns in recent times. Camerawork by Ben Seresin is superb, so are the special effects. The movie, in short, is a visual treat, despite the predictable second half.</p> <p>The human element in the story seems a bit fuddled, but it does not overwhelm the main plot. The comic relief provided by Brian Tyree Henry and Julian Dennison portraying Bernie and Josh is passable. Rebecca Hall as Ilene Andrews shines, while Kaylee Hottle as Jia, a girl who shares a unique bond with Kong tugs at your heartstrings. Character arcs of Millie Bobby Brown, who plays Emma Russell and her father Mark Russell played by Kyle Chandler could have been better. The storyline moves quickly enough to keep you on the edge of your seat.</p> <p><b>Film: Godzilla vs Kong</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Rebecca Hall, Alexander Skarsgard, Millie Bobby Brown</b></p> <p><b>Director: Adam Wingard</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3/5</b></p> Wed Mar 24 18:25:56 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