• Sachin: A Billion Dreams celebrates the life of master blaster Sachin Tendulkar

    Sachin: A Billion Dreams, a biographical documentary film by James Erskine, celebrates the life of master blaster Sachin Tendulkar, his highs as well as lows, philosophy of life, value system, humility, assertiveness etc. mostly narrated in his own words. His very presence in the film makes it very special and real. It was like reliving those moments, which we have watched on television, along with the legend himself. This film shall not be reviewed keeping the box office numbers or commercial value attached to it, since the film is all about the number of centuries earned by Sachin on field, number of records created by him during his 24 years of professional cricketing career and how he and cricket became synonyms. This film certainly can’t be compared to MS Dhoni or even Azhar since the format of this film is entirely different. Audience was not happy with the superficial touch given to Azhar whereas MS Dhoni became a huge hit commercially, people loved this film. Both the real and reel Dhoni were appreciated for an honest and entertaining treatment given to the film. And here is a documentary film on one of the greatest cricket player which our country and the world has seen- Sachin Tendulkar. It is about Sachin’s life in his own words and also in words of people associated with him during his journey. The narratives by him and others add a lot of credibility to the whole film. Indeed his insurmountable achievements are very well documented, and it may appear as a replay on screen, but Sachin’s narratives do let us know what was actually going on in his mind during every victory or loss. Another unique phenomenon which is used in the film is linking the journey of Sachin with India’s positioning in the global map. Glimpses from India’s partition days to India of today’s date are shown interspersed with the film which talked about the transformation of India in parallel to Sachin’s incredible journey. The title of the film is absolutely justified, since it is not only about Sachin but about India, all those billion dreams and expectations when Sachin stepped on to the field and how Sachin aligned his dreams with the Nation’s dreams. So, for me, this is not a film, rather beyond that, depicting the very life of a living legend, a genius, who will always remain the pride of our country. If you are a cricket fan, you would certainly not like to miss this one.

    It is adorable to watch the little Sachin as a very naughty child. One can hardly believe that there was this naughty side as well to Sachin. He had tremendous energy as a child, and his brother Ajit Tendulkar introduced him to the game of cricket when he got a cricket bat as gift from his sister. Ajit, who could see a spark in his brother, took Sachin to Ramakant Vithal Achrekar so as to get coaching from him. And Sachin’s journey began at Shivaji Park. The film does talk of his strong bond with family members and friends. His father instilled a great value system in him to be a great human being first.

    Family videos shown in the film did show lovely moments of his life with Anjali and kids Sara and Arjun. His wedding video, moments of Sara and Arjun’s birth, he playing with kids, his time with friends etc. brings forth his personal side as well. Sacrifice by his family members, his wife all are also shown in the

    While watching the film, I did experience his highs, lows, his pain of losing a match, his excitement after winning a match etc. It is also great to see certain aspects of his playing various roles in life other than a cricketer viz. that of a son, brother, father, husband and friend. I did get goosebumps with the thundering applause Sachin received everytime he entered the ground to play, the kind of euphoria the very name Sachin created. His farewell speech of 2013 did move me.

    It could be possible that people who are not cricket lovers might find the tone of the film to be very plain and not very entertaining.

    Sachin’s journey does reiterate the fact that one has to be committed, honest, consistent, persistent and hard working in life. Complacency is the enemy of excellence. Especially when one plays for the country, when huge expectations are there from the player, one certainly feels tremendous pressure to perform, at the same time, it is a great responsibility. Mistakes can’t be afforded. And Sachin’s life does go through lows, be it his non-performance during captaincy, his getting removed as Indian Cricket Team’s captain overnight, match-fixing controversies of team members, people getting wild with the failures etc. Sachin believed in the value system instilled by his father that a player can’t be bigger than the team, got back in form with much harder practice. Injuries and failures used to hurt him, but then he focused on his dream of holding the world cup in his hand. What an incredible 24 years of journey from 1989 to 2013.

    Sachin: A Billion Dreams celebrates the life of master blaster Sachin Tendulkar, his highs as well as lows, philosophy of life, value system, humility, assertiveness etc. Indeed his insurmountable achievements are very well documented, and it may appear as a replay on screen, but Sachin’s narratives do let us know what was actually going on in his mind during every victory or loss. If you are a cricket fan, you would certainly not like to miss this one. Sachin is indeed not a name, it is an emotion. A tribute to the living legend.

    May 27, 17
  • Half Girlfriend is actually half-cooked, be it its romance, passion, friendship, acting, dialogues, screenplay.

    Half Girlfriend, a film by Mohit Suri, is based on the novel by the same name written by Chetan Bhagat. Chetan had not received great reviews for his novel, he was criticized for bringing forced twists and turns. This review of the film is not done on the basis of Chetan’s book versus its adaptation by Mohit into the film. The review is done purely on the basis of what is shown on screen. Certainly, some minor changes have been done in the screenplay but overall it remains the same. The concept of half girlfriend was to focus on non-committal relationships, where the boy and the girl have the chemistry of being in a relationship but not clear about the same. They might love to hang-out even during odd hours, they need one another in their lives, but not ready to accept that they have a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship. They are not ready to take their relationship to the next level. This film also showcases the story of a boy who is in love with a girl and wants to move ahead with her in life, but the girl feels that she could be more than a friend to him, but less than a girlfriend. So, the terminology used by her to define such a relationship is that of Half Girlfriend. They are not clear about their relationship status with each other. It is true that such relationships do exist, but somehow, the treatment of the subject is done in a very average manner. The film also deals with the linguistic challenges faced by Bhojpuri-laced Hindi speaking boy from Bihar who finds himself misfit amongst people speaking fluent English. Many would be able to relate with it, but somehow, it is not very convincing. It is true that our pronunciation does have regional influences. People from eastern, western, southern and northern parts of our country might pronounce the same word differently. Similarly Bihar is no exception, but what is so big deal about it. It is natural, we all have our own pronunciation, enunciation and diction. But what has been observed is that students from Bihar are the most hardworking lot in campus, be it their focus towards establishing their identity, be it their focus in civil services or be it their focus in creative areas. They are quick learners too, could be due to their persistence towards achieving excellence and prove to themselves that they are not lesser beings in comparison to anyone in this world. So, here is a film, where the lead protagonist is from Bihar, gets into one of the most prestigious college of Delhi University, still unable to get over his challenges of speaking English even after spending three years in the campus is beyond comprehension. He does not find it difficult to adjust to the cosmopolitan culture of the campus, but finds it difficult to pick up English. It is also not understandable that why the names of the place Dumrao and the college St. Stephen’s college were changed to Simrao and St. Steven’s College respectively. The very plot has loopholes, and so is the film.

    The film begins with Madhav Jha (Arjun Kapoor) rushing to a house to find that Riya Somani (Shraddha Kapoor) has left the house writing a letter to him. He travels to Delhi to hand over the letter to her mom and the story unveils as flashback during this train journey of Madhav. He is the prince of Simrao, whose mother Seema Biswas runs a school there for the underprivileged boys. He comes to Delhi to take admission in St. Steven’s College in Delhi University under sports quota (a basketball player) for BA Sociology. Riya also gets admission in sports quota. It is love at first sight for Madhav. He starts becoming friendly with Riya. Riya does take tips from Madhav in regard to the game, and also practices with him. They started hanging out together apart from game too. Madhav’s bunch of friends, especially Shailesh (Vikrant Massey) warns Madhav that he may not be a proper match to Riya who is from an affluent business family. Madhav does try to know Riya’s mind, for which her response was that she is his half girlfriend, more than a friend but less than a girlfriend. Madhav gets confused with her response. On his friends’ insisting, he does try to test her love which results in the fall out. Later the situations happen so that she chooses a different path in her life and moves away geographically. Madhav, unable to get over Riya, comes back to village after completing graduation. As it is quite predictable, Madhav and Riya’s paths cross once again. What happens to their relationship? How the story moves further? Does she become more than a half girlfriend to him ? Does their relationship status evolve? If yes, how?

    The film does try to connect with the social mission of sanitation facilities and also ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ etc. This is a good effort, but does not blend naturally with the screenplay.

    One of the most unconvincing scenes is when Riya chooses to unwind at the top of India Gate. It is simply impossible to get away from the eyes of the security guards and climb to the top of this monument.

    Arjun and Shraddha are both mediocre in the film. In his previous films viz. Ishaqzaade, Gunday, 2 States, Finding Fanny, Tevar, Ki and Ka etc. he could bring many elements into his characters which made his screen presence very much noticeable and he did gather many positive feedbacks. But in this film, Arjun has not come out completely. It appeared as if he was not excited for this role. Shraddha looked pretty in some outfits and that is all about her. She needs to evolve a lot as far as acting is concerned. Vikrant Massey as Shailesh is good. He did deliver dialogues well. His expressions are also very good. Seema Biswas has very less of screen time and so does not have much to do. Rhea Chakraborty as Anshika (Shailesh’ wife) has a small role, but good.

    Half Girlfriend is actually half-cooked, be it its romance, passion, friendship, acting, dialogues, screenplay. The very plot has loopholes, and so is the film. The songs ‘Baarish’, ‘Thodi Der’, ‘Phir bhi Tumko Chaahunga’ are certainly a great relief in the film.

    May 21, 17
  • Hindi Medium, a satire on our education system by Saket Chaudhary, is a very relevant film. This is his third film after Pyaar ke Side Effects and Shaadi ke Side Effect. It seems that humour is his forte. In Hindi Medium, he takes a dig at our current Education System. These days education has become a business. Children’s education has become costlier than many of the professional or vocational courses in our country. Schools have the trend of charging exorbitant fees in lieu of tuition fee, capitation fee, donation, extra-curricular activities’ fund etc. ‘The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act’ or ‘Right to Education Act (RTE)’ was enforced on 1st April, 2010. When this act came into force, India became one of 135 countries to make education a fundamental right to every child between the ages of 6 and 14. This act does require all private schools to reserve 25% of seats for the children from families of low economical status. But what actually happens with this quota is still under question. This act has many other relevant clauses too in favour of students. It also makes provisions for no donation or capitation fees and no interview of the child or parent for admission. Saket has come up with a brilliant film on this. The film showcases the stress of parents in getting their children admitted into elite schools, and their efforts to manipulate things to get the admission, school management falling prey to bribe, the admission scam, the conditions of the government schools etc. This fact can not be ignored that many of the government schools in our country are underperforming due to lack of facilities, infrastructure support and resources. There is a clear cut demarcation between the English Medium Schools and Hindi Medium Schools. And also, there is a special affinity for English Language in our country i.e. whoever speaks English are supposed to have a ‘class’. A person might be very good in his / her mother tongue or Hindi, but being affluent in English only makes that person sophisticated. There is Social Divide between English speaking and Hindi speaking people. This is a mindset, which one needs to ponder upon. Saket certainly is successful in throwing light upon all these issues in a very light-hearted manner.

    The film begins with a girl – young Mita – coming to a tailor’s shop to get a designer dress stitched and young Raj (Delzad Hiwale, Chittagong & Chauranga fame) assures the girl that her dress will be stitched exactly similar to the design she wanted. There starts the love story of Raj and Mita in the backdrop of a beautiful song ‘Lafzon ke haseen dhagoon me kahin piro raha hum main huzur…’ After a period of fifteen years, we get to see that Raj Batra (Irrfan Khan) has grown into ‘the Business Tycoon’ of Chandani Chowk (Delhi) with a fashion studio. He understands the pulse of the customers. His wife Mita (Saba Qamar) does speak English well whereas Raj doesn’t. Raj calls her Mitthu fondly. She is very particular that their daughter Piya (Dishita Sehgal) studies in any one of the top five English Medium Schools of Delhi. They do apply in top five schools. And for this they do shift their base from Chandni Chowk to the posh colony of Vasant Vihar, undergo specialized training for attending interviews, handling questions and speaking English. But unable to find admission through General Quota, when Raj comes to know regarding 25% quota for the students from poor families, he decides to go to slum area along with Mita and Piya so as to clear the inspection. That is where they get good Samaritan neighbours Shyam Prakash (Deepak Dobriyal) and wife Tulsi (Swati Das). What happens thereafter is to be seen. Although there is a drag in certain areas in the second half with certain scenes of the slum, but consistent humour in the screenplay keeps the mood of the film very bright. Also, certain issues raised in the film do not see a closure.

    The highlight of the film is effortless acting by Irrfan Khan. He is an actor to reckon with. He blends with every character he plays on screen and he adds lot of value to the same. Even after one leaves the theater, his acting remains in heart and mind. Saba Qamar, originally a Pakistani Actress, is also very good, natural and convincing as Mita. Deepak Dobriyal as Shyam Prakash gives a wonderful performance. His expressions are very impressive. Tillotama Shome as career counsellor is very good. Swati Das as Tulsi is also very much noticeable. Rest of the characters Dishita Sehgal, Amrita Singh (as Head Mistress of a School), Sanjay Suri and Neha Dhupia are all good.

    There are lot of scenes with which one could relate to – be it the parental pressure of getting their children’s admissions in good schools, the struggle of the middle class or lower class to be able to provide good education to their children, the social divide etc. There is a scene where Tillotama conveys a dialogue – “People book me when they are in their first trimester.” Unfortunately, this is a Reality too.

    Hindi Medium, a satire on our education system, is a very relevant film. It showcases various issues viz. Social Divide between English and Hindi speaking people, the demarcation between government schools and private schools facilities, the school admission scams etc. in a very light-hearted manner. Irrfan Khan, Saba Qaram and Deepak Dobriyal shine in the film through their effortless acting.

    May 19, 17
  • Sarkar 3 has nothing new to offer, rather none of the scenes are exciting enough to make one watch the film.

    Sarkar 3, a political crime thriller film directed by Ram Gopal Varma, the latest one in the Sarkar series absolutely falls flat. Sarkar 3 has nothing new to offer, rather none of the scenes are exciting enough to make one watch the film. The palace politics, as it is defined and shown in the film, is inexplicable. Ram Gopal Varma does not showcase any new perspective or any new aspect through Sarkar 3. The screenplay and editing are not at all deft. As a viewer, I kept wondering what is the overall idea behind making this film. The film has the same old story of a leader who with his power of influence has earned many enemies as well as supporters. It also has the story of deceit, manipulations, betrayal, playing double games etc. The mood in every frame of the film is grim. There is not a single moment in the film which is light. As far as the character sketching is concerned, even the most powerful character has been portrayed in a very weak manner.

    Sarkar 3 is the third in the series. Sarkar aka Subash Nagre (Amitabh Bachchan) is still powerful. He is a loner. His trademark hand-wave can still mesmerize thousands of people.

    The first half of the film sees Amit Sadh’s entry as Shivaji, the grandson of Sarkar. Shivaji chooses to address his grandfather as Sarkar only. Ronit Roy as Gokul and Parag Tyagi as Raman are Sarkar’s credible aids. But once Shivaji comes, troubles begin in this camp. Shivaji is in love with Anu (Yami Gautam) who is the daughter of Sreeram who was killed by Sarkar. The film moves further without any twists and turns, any major conflicts, without any unpredictability of the plot. The tempo of the film is very slow.

    We have seen Amitabh Bachchan in Sarkar and Sarkar Raj earlier. Nothing new is added, no new dimension is added to his role. He slurps tea, offers tea to his friends as well as foes when they visit him. Abhishek Bachchan’s photograph with garland is almost there in every frame.

    Amit Sadh is a wonderful actor. We have seen him creating magic in Kai Po Che, Sultan etc. but here his role is sketched out very poorly. Whereas, his role was supposed to be at par with Sarkar, but it does not happen so.

    Manoj Bajpayee has the knack of getting into any character he plays, but he did not have much to do as Govind Deshpande in the film. His character had very less of screen space. A very talented actress Rohini Hattangadi as Govind’s mother also has a very small role.

    Jackie Shroff’s role as businessman Michael Vallya is perhaps the most unexplained character in the film, though he plays the mastermind behind many conflicts but the scenes given to him are absolutely absurd.

    Rest of the actors Supriya Pathak, Ronit Roy, Parag Tyagi, Yami Gautam and others are wasted in this pointless dark film.

    Sarkar 3 has nothing new to offer, rather none of the scenes are exciting enough to make one watch the film. The palace politics, as it is defined and shown in the film, is inexplicable. Ram Gopal Varma does not showcase any new perspective or any new aspect through Sarkar 3.

    May 15, 17
  • A must-watch, a sure shot blockbuster, etched in Indian Cinema’s history forever.

    Baahubali 2– The Conclusion: The much-awaited sequel to Bahubali – The beginning is finally released and it indeed deserved all the attention it gathered prior to its release itself. Part 1 was certainly grand and spectacular, and Part 2 is even grander and visually spectacular. Since Baahubali – The beginning was immensely successful, it was very natural for the audience to have huge expectations from its sequel. Generally, when the prequel is very successful, it becomes very difficult for the sequel to set new benchmarking standards, but with Baahubali-2, it is entirely different, it has enhanced its own standard, creating new records as far as the box office success is concerned, and also superior in the craft. Filmmaker SS Rajamouli might have definitely experienced the stress to make the sequel much better than the prequel and now he can relax after making this magnificent film. This epic is certainly going to be registered in the Indian Cinema’s history for the kind of huge canvas it has used to share the story, the efforts were taken by the cast and crew to make it a visual extravaganza. A must-watch, a sure shot blockbuster, etched in Indian Cinema’s history forever. This is originally filmed in Telugu and Tamil and also dubbed in Hindi and Malayalam.
    In Baahubali : The beginning, the story was of Shiva Alias Mahendra Baahubali (Prabhas) falling in love with Avantika (Tamannaah). Shiva takes up the responsibility to fulfill Avantika’s mission of rescuing Devasena (Anushka Shetty) from the imprisonment of Bhallala Deva (Rana Daggubati), King of Mahishmathi kingdom without knowing how he is related to Devasena as well as this kingdom. While rescuing Devasena, he gets surprised when he is being identified as Baahubali. Later on, when he comes face to face with Kattappa (Sathyaraj), the truth unfolds before him in regard to his identity of being the son of Amarendra Baahubali (Prabhas in a double role) and Devasena. The first part ends up with the confession of Kattappa that it was he who killed Amarendra Baahubali. Kattappa’s confession raised a very pertinent question and the whole set of the audience kept wondering why a loyal person like Kattappa killed Amarendra Baahubali. (Invite you to read my review of Bahubali – The beginning here: lenzscope.com/review-of-baahubali-beginning)
    Now about Baahubali 2 : The Conclusion, without trying to review this epic film, let me just express that this film takes us through the answers to all those questions which we had after watching the first part: What sort of power play happens in the kingdom which resulted in the initial scene of injured Sivagami (Ramya Krishnan) trying to save the child. Who was Sivagami ? What is the story of two brothers Amarendra Baahubali and Bhallala Deva (Rana Daggubati)? How does the character of Kattappa (warrior slave of the kingdom) shape up in the film? What made Kattappa kill Amarendra Baahubali ? How did Amarendra and Devasena meet ? Was power the only reason for the rivalry between Amarendra Baahubali and Bhallala Deva ? What happens when the characters suffer from the inner conflict of making a choice between Dharma and Karma, what do they choose?
    It is not that the plot is unpredictable, we can assume many happenings of the sequel, but what makes this sequel so special is that how Rajamouli has done the storytelling, making even the most obvious so intriguing in the film. This is one of the best aspects of the film which needs to be highlighted.
    The film begins on a very lighter note with Amarendra Baahubali and Kattappa’s friendly banters, Amarendra’s falling in love with Devasena. As the film progresses, the plot gets into the rivalry of Bhallala with Amarendra, Bhallala and Bijjala Deva’s crooked ways, conspiracies, power snatching, Amarendra’s righteousness, Mahendra fighting back etc.
    Some breathtaking visuals are: Amarendra leaping into the air and shooting off three arrows in one go, the battlefield’s projection, the Mahishmathi Kingdom itself, the climax etc.
    The musical scores are integrated and in sync with the screenplay.
    If the first part saw some great performances of Prabhas, Rana and Tamannah, the second part showcased even better performances from Prabhas, Rana, Ramya Krishnan and Anushka Shetty. Prabhas has great screen presence. He is good as both Amarendra Baahubali and Mahendra Baahubali, plays both the characters effortlessly and with much ease. He is indeed a superstar to look out for in the coming days. Rana Daggubati looks huge on screen and his physical transformation to adapt to Bhallala Deva’s role is absolutely commendable. Even his body language expressed his character so well. Both Prabhas and Rana have made their on-screen rivalry look very much credible through their performances. Anushka Shetty as Devasena and Ramya Krishnan as Sivagami have given stupendous performances. Both of them are very good as headstrong, feisty and powerful women. Sathyaraj as Kattappa has done so much justice to his role, he is there in almost all the frames in the film. Nassar as Bijjala Deva does generate disliking for his character through his wonderful acting. Subbaraju as Kumara Varma is also very good. What was missing in part 2 was that of Tamannah’s character Avantika. She played a very strong and a prominent character in the first part which was not further developed in Baahubali 2 : The Conclusion. One could get to see her glimpses only in 2 hours 47 minutes of the film. This was really sad. Another character which was not given importance in the sequel is that of Sanga (Rohini).
    Rajamouli’s magnum opus Baahubali 2: The Conclusion has been designed on a huge canvas, be it its production design, visual appeal, awesome performances, background score or narration. It is indeed a visual extravaganza and a treat to watch the film on big screen. A must-watch, a sure shot blockbuster, etched in Indian Cinema’s history forever.

    April 30, 17
  • The Zookeeper’s Wife is a film with soul.

    The Zookeeper’s Wife, a film by Niki Caro, is the visual adaptation of non-fiction book of the same name by Diane Ackerman. This film depicts the plight of Jews in Poland in 1939 during Nazi invasion (World War II). But the film is not about the war crisis, but it is more about how good elements of the society choose to give hope, share love and compassion with the victims. It is about how a few people grew beyond their self-interest to help the needy. The film does make one believe in the humanity and reinstate one’s faith in the goodness. War is just the backdrop, not the main focus. The film focuses on the aftermath of the violence, and how the protagonists risk their own lives to help the people who are suffering. This is the real-life story of Antonina Zabinska and her husband Dr. Jan Zabinski, who are the keepers of Warsaw Zoo. Their lives are thrown into turmoil when Germany invades and occupies Poland. The film is about how the couple decided not to succumb to the odds and do their best possible so as to save Jews from being killed by Germans. A film with soul.

    The film begins in Warsaw in 1939. Antonina Zabinski (Jessica Chastain) and her husband Dr. Jan Zabinski (Johan Heldnberg) run Warsaw Zoo. The initial frames itself are very compassionate ones, where Antonina rides her bicycle through the main paths of the zoo.

    Antonina and Dr. Jan’s lives turn upside down when Germans invade and occupy Poland. They felt so helpless to see their animals being slaughtered or moved to Berlin Zoo by Dr. Heck (Daniel Bruhl), a zoologist and head of Berlin Zoo. Antonina and Jan were not ready to be mere spectators of the ordeal their people and country were facing. They gathered themselves and started working in a covert manner to save as many people as possible. The Zoo which was home to many animals now becomes the shelter for many Jews. Dr. Heck keeps a sharp vigil over them. How the couple extends help towards the needy and fights the danger of hiding over 300 Jewish people over the course of the entire war, keeping it a secret etc. form rest of the film.

    Actors are terrific, be it Jessica Chastian, Johan Heldenbergh, Daniel Bruhl.

    The Zookeeper’s Wife is a film depicting real-life story, where war is just the backdrop, not the main focus. The film focuses on the aftermath of the violence, and how the protagonists risk their own lives to help the people who are suffering. A film with soul.

    April 26, 17
  • PredictaMaatre is predictable and clichéd. The whole revenge saga looks very superficial.

    Maatr, a film by Ashtar Sayed, focuses on one of the most sensitive topic i.e. rape and revenge. This is also Raveena Tandon’s comeback film. Certainly Maatr as a women-centric film had tremendous potential but the whole effort falters. A lot of films in the past have handled this subject and that is why it becomes all the more important that how the subject is being differently handled in Maatr. The film certainly begins on a high note but 15 minutes into the film, the whole screenplay goes for a toss. It becomes very much predictable, clichéd. The whole revenge saga looks very superficial. It is appreciable that the intention of the film is to highlight and raise voice against the heinous crimes prevalent in our society, atrocities against women, but execution falters badly. The film has nothing new to offer.

    Vidya Chauhan (Raveena Tandon) is a school teacher. It is a function in the school where her daughter Tia (Alisha Khan) is performing. After the programme, on their way back home, they get trapped in traffic and take different route to get rid of traffic. But a wrong turn brings their lives up and down. Apurva Malik (Madhur Mittal, Slumdog Millionaire fame) and his group of boys gang-rape Vidya and Ritu. Both of them are dumped on the road. Vidya survives but Tia gives up. Vidya’s friend Ritu (Divya Jagdale) stand with Vidya during this crisis. Ravi, Vidya’s husband (Rushad Rana), is unable to deal with Ritu’s death.

    The story proceeds further to show the revenge saga, the fights against the powerful and evil elements of the society, but things are handled very superficially. Everything turns out to be in favour of Vidya when she single handedly puts up her fight against the powerful. She seems to be at the right place at right time, which is so unreal. Besides, Vidya is shown to effortlessly use revolver overnight.

    As far as the cast is concerned, we have seen much better performance from Raveena Tandon. Anurag Arora as Inspector Jayant Shroff is good. Rest of the actors Rishad Rana and Divya Jagdale have given average performances. Probably the screenplay needs to be blamed.

    Maatr is a film with the right intention to highlight and raise voice against the heinous crimes prevalent in our society, atrocities against women; but the execution falters badly. The film has nothing new to offer. It becomes very much predictable, clichéd. The whole revenge saga looks very superficial.

    April 24, 17
  • Rajkahini, the original version, is certainly more intense in comparison to Begum Jaan, but this film can’t be just ignored or written off.

    Begum Jaan is a film by Srijit Mukherji, which is a remake of his own Bengali film Rajkahini (2015). The film delves into one of the darkest phase of partition of our country. The film does mention the tragedies which happened on either sides of the border. Radcliffe Line is to be erected as the boundary between the newly formed nations of India and Pakistan. The officials face a challenge when they find a brothel which needs to be demolished to draw this boundary. Begum Jaan takes us through the journey of those 11 women and 2 men, the inhabitants of the brothel and the fights they put up for their rights to live in their house. Rajkahini is certainly more intense in comparison to Begum Jaan, but this film can’t be just ignored or written off.

    The film begins with the narrative of Amitabh Bachchan. The opening scene in this Hindi version is different in comparison to that of Bengali version. When a scene from Manto’s book of gang rape of a girl during partition times form the opening scene of Rajkahini, eve teasing and efforts to molest a girl in a bus in the year 2016, decades after independence, becomes the opening scene of Begum Jaan. Is this to tell the audience that years have gone by, certain things still remain the same – women becoming the victim of men’s lust. Begum Jaan does focus on women’s fight against many elements of our society: patriarchal system, the social stigma attached with sex workers, the hypocritical men and their double standards, the right to live, concepts of secularism etc. With the opening and closing scene of Begum Jaan, Srijit does talk about hard-hitting reality that even after decades of partition and independence, the fight against social injustice is not over. Begum Jaan does force us to question and rethink about our past as well as present.

    Begum Jaan (Vidya Balan) is the owner of brothel, which has 13 inhabitants – 11 women and 2 men. Salim (Sumit Nijhawan) and Sujit (Pitobash Tripathy) are the two men in the brothel, Begum’s bodyguard and caretaker respectively. Amma (Ila Arun) is the senior most person in the brothel, who keeps sharing stories of empowered females to Laadli (Gracy Goswai) who created history and left their mark in the world viz. Rani Lakhsmibai, Meera, Raziya Sultan, Rani Padmavati etc. It does become part of plot development. Rest of the inhabitants are Rubina (Gauhar Khan), Gulabo (Pallavi Sharda), Jameela (Priyanka Setia), Amba (Ridheema Tiwary), Maina (Flora Saini), Lata (Raviza Chauahan), Rani (Poonam Rajput), Mishti aka Indrani Chakraborty (Shabnam). Master and Party worker (Vivek Mushran) is a regular visitor to brothel and keeps showering them with gifts. These women are all victims of abuse, violence, rape and these trauma become the connecting thread amongst them. All they have is their togetherness. Freedom means nothing for Begum Jaan.

    The officials chosen for execution of border construction from either sides are Iliyas (Rajit Kapoor) and Harshvardhan (Ashish Vidyarthy). Through their characters, many intricate facts are conveyed, be it the relationship getting sour between childhood friends, plight / ordeal of people on either sides of the border etc. There are shots where only half of their faces are shown on screen – a metaphor of aftermath of partition, how incomplete people might have felt losing their possessions, family in spite of freedom being restored.

    Other characters Raja Ji (Naseerudin Shah), Inspector Shyam (Rajesh Sharma) and Kabir (Chunky Pandey) become important part of the film.

    Feisty Begum Jaan and other inhabitants of the brothel are not ready to pay heed to notices issued to her to vacate ‘Kotha’. They are very loud and clear that it is their house. How they all put up brave fight forms the rest of the story.

    There are many dialogues in the film which hits one hard.

    Srijit through his film Begum Jaan does talk about hard-hitting reality that even after decades of partition and independence, the fight against social injustice is not over. Rajkahini, the original version, is certainly more intense in comparison to Begum Jaan, but this film can’t be just ignored or written off.

    April 24, 17
  • Noor is a one-time watch, Sonakshi shines but the film falters

    Noor is a film by Sunhil Sippy. This film is based on the book “Karachi – You are Killing Me” by Saba Imtiaz. The film’s plot had tremendous potential but the movie does get lost in the midway. It starts as if it is focused on Noor’s journey, but later, it shifts to focus on many issues viz. the shallowness attached with today’ journalism, organ trafficking, how ethics and humanity are dying in the world, environmental issues, how unsafe the cities have become etc. This is where the film also becomes shallow, lacks depth. In spite of Sonakshi portraying the titular character very well, the film is unable to adopt a focused approach to storytelling. But certainly, it is a feel-good film.

    The eponymous character Noor is played by Sonakshi. As her name implies (Noor means ‘Light’) she is seeking light/brightness in her professional as well as personal life. She starts her day with the statement ‘I hate my Life’. She keeps whining about everything in her life: a faulty geyser, her domestic help Malti’s (Smita Tambe) frequent leave, priority given to her cat Dimpy by her father, her weight gain, her twitter followers less in number than her weight, not excited in doing regular stuff, irritation on being asked to interview celebrities like Sunny Leone etc. She is a topper in Journalism and interested in doing issue-based Journalism, but her boss Shekhar (Manish Chaudhary) keeps drifting her attention to the topics which attract TRPs. Noor is not too happy with her personal life too. She does miss love in her life. Her friends Zaara (Shibani Dandekar) and Saad (Kanan Gill) do pep up her life. She has support system at home in her father (played my MK Raina) and her housemaid Malti. Noor meets Ayan Banerjee (Purab Kohli), a journalist cum photographer and falls in love with him.

    Situations so happen that Noor gets ‘the story’ which she was looking for. She does cover the story, but that changes her life forever. It becomes a learning point for her that as a journalist, she just can’t get carried away but she needs to be responsible too.

    What happens thereafter? What story does Noor get to handle? What events transpire after that? How does Malti become an important thread of the story? What shape does Noor’s relationship with Ayan take? How Zaara, Saad and Noor’s father support her during a crisis? Does Shekhar ever agree with Noor’s desire of doing issue-based journalism and what support he extends?

    Sonakshi enacts Noor very well and she is very much likeable in the film. Her style statement is also appropriate as per the character. Kanan Gill who makes his film debut with Noor is natural and spontaneous. MK Raina does play his role of an empathetic, supportive father very well. Shibani Dandekar as Zaara has small role, but she is also good. Smita Tambe is very much noticeable and good as Malti.

    The film Noor begins as her transformational journey of how she changes her statement from ‘I hate my life’ to ‘I love my life’. But the screenplay which later gets deviated by focusing on multiple issues, lacks the initial quirkiness, becomes shallow, lacks depth. A one-time watch.

    April 24, 17
  • OK Jaanu lacks the flow, passion and magic of its original version O Kathal Kanmani but certainly has to offer one-time watch simple story for those who haven’t watched the original.

    OK Jaanu, a romantic film directed by Shaad Ali, is the remake of Mani Ratnam’s Tamil film O Kathal Kanmani. The screenplay and story is by legendary filmmaker Mani Ratnam. The original version was a box office hit. Mani Ratnam had returned to romance genre after almost a decade with OK Kanmani. He drew a parallel in his movie through his protagonists – an old couple and modern-age couple. Two different perceptions were shown in the movie, without an effort to get preachy or judgmental. At one side, age-old concept of marriage and romance is shown – commitment for the whole life. On the other hand, contemporary romance and live-in relationship was shown, where the couple felt very much in love but did lack the confidence / trust to commit to each other. Mani Ratnam did not try to convey that one is superior to the other, but he very subtly conveyed that one has to be certain about his or her relationship, commitment definitely strengthens the relationship. O Kadhal Kanmani was a very light-hearted movie. It made one feel like falling in love. As far as remakes are concerned, it is bound to draw comparison to the original version in every aspect. Those who have seen the original may feel that the Hindi version is not at par with the same, but for those who have not seen the original, may find OK Jaanu enjoyable. When a remake is made, the filmmaker does face challenges – either it has to be at par with the original or atleast a bit superior to the original. And, that is where, Ok Jaanu falters. It has nothing new to offer, it is exactly similar to the original, which is still ok, but it fails to have the depth as that of the original.

    Aditya/ Adi (Aditya Roy Kapur) lands at Mumbai Railway Station and that is where his first eye contact with Tara (Sharddha Kapur) happens who was standing on a different platform and appears to be troubled. Adi is a videogame developer, who is in the process of making a breakthrough game. Coincidence brings Adi and Tara together in front of each other and both of them get amazed to explore that they are almost similar to each other, both of them happy-go-lucky people, both not believing in marriage, both not wanting to commit in relationship etc. Their friendship blossom, but a spark of a special relationship is silently handled and definitely felt right from the very beginning. Both of them are focused as far as their career is concerned, Tara wants to go to Paris to pursue her architect course whereas Adi dreams to be a rich man like Mark Zuckerberg and settle in USA.
    As is the trend in the films offlate, both want to just enjoy the togetherness, love, laughter minus any commitments, possessiveness, drama. Both have similar opinion about marriage that they don’t want to fall in the trap of marriage. They decide to enter into live-in relationship before heading to pursue their careers abroad separately. They chose to stay with a old couple Gopi and Charu played by Naseeruddin Shah and Leela Samson (Leela played the same role in Tamil too). They happen to witness this couple enjoying 50 years of togetherness in marriage. What happens next is very much predictable.

    Aditya-Shraddha are likeable, look good together, but that is not sufficient. They are unable to regenerate the chemistry of Dulquer-Nithya. The movie picks up when Naseeruddin Shah – Leela Samson come on screen, they do add depth to the film. As the lead pair wanted no drama in their relationship, the film also lacks drama, twists and turns.

    Music by AR Rahman is disappointing. Songs are not synchronized with the script appropriately. Even the energy of Humma Humma song is missing. Dialogues are very much ordinary.

    OK Jaanu lacks the flow, passion and magic of its original version O Kathal Kanmani but certainly has to offer one-time watch simple story for those who haven’t watched the original. Contradictory to one of the punchline used in its posters – ‘Love can surprise you’, it does not surprise you. A one-time watch.

    January 15, 17
  • Dangal, a sports biopic, is a powerful, inspirational and incredible story of women empowerment.

    Dangal (means a Wrestling Competition), a biopic on Phogat Sisters Geeta and Babita and their father Mahavir Singh Phogat, by Nitesh Tiwari is a triumph over odds. Geeta made history by being the first Indian female wrestler to win the Gold medal (55kg) and Babita won Silver medal (51 Kg) in 2010 Commonwealth games. Offlate, Bollywood has certainly made a few very good sports biopics viz. Chake de, Bhag Milkha Bhag, Mary Kom, M.S. Dhoni etc. Most of them have done justice to the players and their lives. It is true that films about real heroes can become predictable. The story telling needs to be authentic too without misconstruing the essence. And that is where Dangal scores like anything. It is unadulterated, and remains true to the core.

    Dangal focuses on a father and his perseverance, persistence and eccentricities to fulfill his dream of fetching gold for the country through daughters. Under the umbrella of this main plot, the film tries to create awareness about so many pertinent issues. The film not only talks about the fight which one has to do in the real Dangal but also about the fight which one has to do against the mindset of people viz. certain games and sports defined as a taboo for girls by the society, the thought that girls are born just to get married, raise children and do household chores etc. The fight is also against the scarcity of resources, the lack of infrastructure support for the sports people especially sports like wrestling. One can instantly connect with the father who has deleted ‘impossible’ from his dictionary. One can also very well connect with the girls who just want to enjoy the bliss of being children and dressing up like girls, find their father to be overbearing, and their transformation to achieve what their father dreamt for them. The end is indeed predictable since we all know about Phogat sisters and their achievement but Dangal brings to us their journey which is simply incredible, inspiring and awesome. The best part of the film is its tone which is kept very much real, authentic and light. There are moments of humour too.

    Mahavir Singh Phogat (Aamir Khan) is a National Level Wrestling Champion who had to make a choice in his life and leave wrestling. But his passion and love for the sport never died. He used to enjoy all the fights in the local Dangal and always felt nostalgic of his wrestling days looking at the medals and certificates he had won. He is hopeful of living his dream through his to-be-born son. He gets disappointed every time when his wife Daya Shobha Kaur (Sakshi Tanwar) delivers a baby girl instead of a boy. He is definitely unlike those fathers who disown their girl children. Mahavir loved his girls but was just disillusioned about how to fulfill his dream of fetching gold for the country without having a son. But the day he realizes that his girls Geeta (Zaira Wasim -young Geeta), and Babita (Suhani Bhatnagar -Young Babita), have the potential to be wrestlers, he decides to go against the societal norms, fights all odds to train his girls. This is where the incredible journey of Phogat sisters begins.

    Aamir Khan as Mahavir Singh Phogat is terrific. It is one of his best performances, which would be remembered for ever, be it in terms of his physical transformation, his dictatorial approach with girls, his determination, never-to-quit attitude, being a possibilist as a path finder; he excels in every frame.

    Sakshi as Mahavir’s wife Daya Shobha Kaur has given such a powerful and natural performance. She has fewer dialogues, but she speaks through her eyes and facial expressions. She plays perfect bridge between her unyielding husband and daughters.

    Phogat sisters are real discoveries be it the younger versions of Geeta and Babita (Zaira Wasim and Suhani Bhatnagar) or their grown up versions (Fatima Sana Shaikh and Sanya Malhotra). They are so much convincing. Zaira and Suhani are adorable. Fatima and Sanya are also very good. They have played their roles with so much of conviction.

    Another character which needs special mention is that of Omkar, nephew of Mahavir Singh Phogat. Ritwik Sahore (Ferrari Ki Sawari fame) has played his role very well. Aparshakti Khurrana (brother of Ayushman Khurana) plays the role of grown up nephew, he has less screen time, but he has made his presence felt. He narrates the story in typical Haryanvi accent. His scenes generate humour.

    Girish Kulkarni as coach in National Sports Academy has done justice to his role.

    The songs go with the flow of the film. Pritam’s music clubbed with lyrics by Amitabh Bhattacharya is great. The lyrics are in absolute sync with the story.

    Dangal would certainly touch your hearts. I failed miserably in letting the tears come out of my eyes at many occasions, be it father-daughter relationship, their triumph over all odds, attitude to remain positive even amidst challenges. Felt like jumping out of chair and cheer their every victory on and off Dangal. Got goosebumps when the National Anthem is played along with the tricolor in the air. Many scenes have stayed with me.

    Dangal, a sports biopic, is a powerful, inspirational and incredible story of women empowerment. It not only talks about the fight Mahavir Phogat and his daughters Geeta and Babita had to do in the real Dangal but also about the fight which they had to do against the mindset of the people, patriarchic society, scarcity of resources etc. A must watch film.

    December 23, 16
  • Befikre adopts a complete carefree approach towards love, life and relationships.

    Befikre, by Aditya Chopra, is a romantic comedy. Befikre is one side of Indian Cinema which actually wants to convey that gone are those days of love and romance which had commitment from either parties, and used to be intense. Befikre wants us to believe that in today’s world, relationships are absolutely loveless, devoid of soul, driven by lust and fear of commitment. Carefree irresponsible approach is the way to live relationships. But is it actually true? Why should we as an audience even believe this when there are enough stories around us which convey beautiful sides of love, commitment and passion. I was even wondering while watching the film that does Befikre even care about love, life and relationships. Every emotion has been handled at such a superficial level.

    The strange part of the screenplay is that every major action by the protagonists of the film is driven by ‘I dare you’ phrase. And when this ‘dare’ is given, the person can go to any extent to accept the challenge, be it slapping a traffic cop, walking into a party hall in just an underwear, dancing on a library table along with skin show, romancing in car by roadside, just jumping to bed etc. And to add to my dismay, they were able to get away from everything. Falling in and out of love seemed so ‘befikre’ and easy. The first one of this type of film of befikre love in Yash Raj Films’ banner was with Neal and Nikki. We have seen these again and again after that. What was the effort of Aditya Chopra through this film? Was he targeting today’s youth? Hasn’t he misunderstood the youths ?

    The two protagonists of the film are Dharam (Ranveer Singh) and Shyra (Vaani Kapoor). Dharam is a Delhi boy, who reaches Paris for his work as stand-up comedian in an Indian Club. Shyra is a French girl of Indian origin, who is a travel guide and takes tourists around to show them Paris. Dharam and Shyra meet and there begins a reckless and irresponsible journey of lust, weirdly funny activities, singing, dancing, kissing, break-up, reconnecting as friend, going on double-dates etc. None of these scenes have emotions in the right place, doesn’t touch the hearts. I could not connect with the film.

    Ranveer has lot of energy in him and his character Dharam displays it too, rather overplays it. Vaani Kapoor as Shyra is confident, walks with her head straight, but her body language is stiff, except during an impromptu dance sequence.

    Paris has been beautifully captured. Soundtracks by Vishal-Shekhar are peppy, especially ‘Ude dil Befikre…’ sung by Benny Dayal.

    Befikre adopts a complete carefree approach towards love, life and relationships. It doesn’t care about lust, smooches, weirdness dominating the relationships.

    December 10, 16
  • Kahaani 2 begins on a high note as an edge of the seat thriller but later the plot loosens up and gets predictable.

    Kahaani 2, by Sujoy Ghosh, was one of the most anticipated films of the year. Sujoy Ghosh’s film making clubbed with the acting brilliance of Vidya Balan and a gripping thriller plot had made Kahaani (2012 release) a big hit. So only the expectations from the film Kahaani 2 was very high. It certainly is not a sequel to Kahaani, just belongs to this franchise. The story is entirely different. Suspense, unpredictability, and thriller elements are missing from Kahaani 2. It certainly begins on a high note, initial few minutes keep you engaging, but then the plot loosens up. Post-intermission, the film falls into the trap of average screenplay, predictable twists / climax. What is most admirable in the film is that Vidya excels and proves her brilliance and spontaneity in acting once again.

    Vidya Sinha (vidya Balan) is a doting single working parent of Mini, a paralysed teenage girl (waist-down), confined to wheel chair. The film’s beginning shows their beautiful relationship and also the ordinary lives they are leading manner very convincingly. Vidya is saving every penny possible so as to be able to take Mini to New York for her treatment. Vidya is optimistic that Mini would be able to walk on her own after the treatment. But destiny was different. Mini gets kidnapped and Vidya gets a call to meet the kidnappers. She madly rushes to the said address but she meets with an accident and goes into coma. That is when Inspector Inderjeet (Arjun Rampal) enters into the scene and gets surprised to see Vidya, who looked like a lady called Durga Rani whom Inder knew. Inder starts going into the depth and that is when he finds a diary by Vidya. Rest of the film unravels as a flashback as Inder reads Vidya’s diary.

    What is the connection between Vidya and Durga Rani? How does Inder know Durga Rani ? How is Vidya able to save her daughter? What was the motive of the kidnappers? What is the story of Vidya which gets unraveled through the diary ? How the mystery gets solved?

    Vidya certainly excels in the film, her deglamorised look suits the plot. Vidya Balan’s characters keep you engaged wondering whether she is a victim or a perpetrator. Arjun Rampal is also very good, but his character is not properly developed in the film, the screenplay does not do full justice to his character. Especially in the second half, Arjun’s character Inder’s moves are very much predictable. Jugal Hansraj as Mohit and Amba Sanyal as Mini’s grandmother have distinct roles to play, but they get lost in the screenplay. Tota Roy Choudhary and Manini Chadha are noticeable. The locations Kolkatta, Chandan Nagar and Kalimpong are well captured. Kharaj Mukherjee as cop Halder is very good.

    Kahaani 2 begins on a high note as an edge of the seat thriller but later the plot loosens up and gets predictable. Post-intermission, the film falls into the trap of average screenplay, predictable twists / climax. What is most admirable in the film is that Vidya excels and proves her brilliance and spontaneity in acting once again. A one-time watch.

    December 03, 16
  • Dear Zindagi, a brilliant film by Gauri Shinde, depicts philosophies of life beautifully.

    Dear Zindagi, a brilliant film by Gauri Shinde (English Vinglish fame), conveys philosophies of life very beautifully. Although the film depicts the story of a girl who is single, emotionally vulnerable, rebellious; who falls prey to non-committal relationships; who loves imperfections around, I feel this must be watched by every individual. All of us might have our own fears and insecurities. It is very important to face one’s own insecurities and fears. It is aptly conveyed through one of the dialogue that if we are not able to cry out loudly, how can we laugh out loudly. The film also addresses one of the taboo subject i.e. mental illness / depression and removes the stigma attached with it effortlessly. One needs to learn the art of ‘let go’, fight with one’s own insecurities, stop being tough on oneself. Basically, one needs to fall in love with life. It is very much clear from the beginning of the film that ‘Dear Zindagi’ is all about how the protagonist falls in love with life when she is able to overcome her own fears and insecurities. Gauri’s simplicity in presenting great philosophies of life is absolutely commendable.

    Kaira (Alia) is a cinematographer. She is eccentric, complicated and impulsive. She hates to show her vulnerabilities to the world. She is happy to be in the company of her friends Fatima (Ira Dubey), Jackie (Yashaswini Dayama) and her house help Alka. Her sensitivities vanish while interacting with parents. She is rude with parents and she does not like to be pampered by her mother. At times, it appears that she dreads perfection too, since deep down in her heart, she feels that she is too imperfect for any perfect thing or person. Although she projects herself as a bold girl, dares to even tell her boy friend that she slept with another man, deep inside she has this whole volcano of vulnerabilities. As a viewer, one can easily make out that Kaira does have lot of inner conflicts.

    One often looks at self from the perspective of society and its norms. Forget about the judgment by the world, one tends to judge self. One dimension of the protagonist is that she tries to live life on her own terms, but another dimension of hers is that she herself feels that she is not so good human being due to her non-conformities to the societal rules and norms. One dimension of hers is that she puts up a brave front even while she faces rejections or any sort of failure in relationships, at the same time, another dimension is that she suffers from inside, she suppresses her emotional vulnerabilities. Doesn’t she represent us? The film also explains that the formative years of a child are very important.

    Kaira’s outlook towards life and her people changes, she undergoes an inner transformation, when she happens to meet Dr. Jehangir Khan aka Jug (Shah Rukh Khan), a DD (Dimag ka Doctor). Jug as her therapist helps her to change her outlook towards life, people and events in a different manner altogether. Jug’s unconventional non-judgmental approach works in Kaira’s favour.

    This film undoubtedly belongs to Alia Bhatt. She has portrayed Kaira so convincingly, be it Kaira’s confusions, inner conflicts, vulnerabilities, impulsiveness, aggressiveness, commitment-phobia etc. Alia makes Kaira so much believable. Another important character in the film is Dr. Jehangir Khan Aka Jug portrayed by Shahrukh Khan. It did not appear at all that Shahrukh is acting, he appeared so real, spontaneous, intelligent, witty and full of wisdom. The screenplay gave him enough room to share philosophies of life. Angad Bedi, Kunal Kapoor and Ali Zafar who become part of Kaira’s lives have less screen time, but are very pivotal in sketching Kaira’s character. Kaira’s friends Ira Dubey, Yashaswini and her brother Rohit Saraf are also very much noticeable. Watch out to know how and when Aditya Roy Kapoor becomes part of the screenplay.

    The film does have some beautiful dialogues. Not highlighting them so as to avoid spoilers. But I would certainly like to mention one of the dialogue: “Don’t let your past blackmail the present and ruin the future.” Metaphors used in the film are also very nice.

    The songs Love you Zindagi and Ae Zindagi Gale Lag Ja are indeed very nice.

    This film certainly made me fall in love with Zindagi once again. I came face to face with my innermost fears of losing people in life. I challenged my own need to snap-off the relationships before it is broken from the other end. I reiterated and acknowledged the presence of 5 most important people in my life (must-haves of my life). I pledged not to be too hard on self, and also not to judge self/brand self as good /bad as per societal norms. I am in love with ‘Dear Zindagi’.

    Dear Zindagi, a brilliant film by Gauri Shinde, depicts philosophies of life beautifully. This film is all about how one falls in love with life by overcoming inner fears and insecurities. Gauri’s simplicity in presenting great philosophies of life is absolutely commendable. A must watch.

    November 27, 16
  • Force 2's screenplay is underwhelming and the cast fails to impress.

    Force 2 seems forced and raw. The reckless and tough cop Yash (Joh Abraham) teams up with RAW agent KK (Sonakshi Sinha) for investigating the traitor who reveals the names of RAW agents to the enemies. They head to Budapest where hide and seek between them and the villain Shiv (Tahir) begins. The screenplay is underwhelming and the cast fails to impress.

    November 27, 16
  • Tum Bin 2 fails to strike the right chord of emotions

    Tum Bin 2 certainly is packed with visuals of great locale and songs, but the story fails to impress. The same old story of love triangle, sacrifices and inner conflicts are shown with preachy dialogues. It does not strike the right chord of emotions.

    November 27, 16
  • Rock On 2 rocks. The music is certainly the backdrop of the film, but what rules the film is the concept that music needs to be set free for it to flow freely.

    Rock On 2, a musical drama film, by Shujaat Saudagar connects Music to Life. Although the backdrop of the film is music and the comraderies amongst the Magik band members / friends, the film does spread its wings to much larger horizons. The film does reiterate the fact that music has tremendous power – the power to connect hearts, the power to heal the wounded souls, the power to deal with inner conflicts, the power to break the barriers across genres, the power to unite people across various regions / demographics, and the power to grow beyond one’s self-interest / personal gains to think of the broader social context / cause etc. Rock on 2 is a sequel to 2008 film ‘Rock on’ and it certainly has its own moments.

    The film is narrated by KD (Purab Kohli), who explains what happens to the three key members / friends of ‘Magik’ Band and where they are now after a period of almost eight years. Adi (Farhan Akhtar) is away from the hustle-bustle of Mumbai City and settled in Meghalaya. Adi is involved in tea plantation there, as well as he helps the villagers in making their own livelihood, runs a farmers’ cooperative and a school for the children. Adi is very much loved by the villagers. Joe (Arjun Rampal) is a Judge for Music based Reality Show and he also is a partner of a posh club. KD earns his livelihood from music compositions and is hopeful of Magik getting together again. Although all three chose separate paths and designed their own course of lives, they shared a wonderful comradery amongst them. One does get clue that ‘Magik’ no longer perform together. It seems, some unpleasant event made them chart their own lives away from Magik. They all get together for Adi’s birthday along with Sakhsi (Prachi Desai) and Debbie (Shahana). The geographical distance has certainly affected Adi and Sakshi’s (couple) marriage. Adi does not succumb to his friends’ and Sakshi’s plea to return to Mumbai, Music and Magik, he really is very much skeptical.

    Jiah (Shraddha Kapoor), Udai (Shashank Arora, Titli fame), and Pandit Bibuthi (Kumud Mishra) form an integral part of the story. Although Jiah herself is facing inner conflicts, she becomes instrumental in bringing Magik together to perform and recreating the magic of music.

    What makes Adi move to distant lands of Meghalaya from Mumbai, Music and Magik? What challenges are faced by Adi in his social work? Which aspect of the past troubles him and apparently keeps him away from Magik and Music ? How Jiah and Udai become part of the thread of Rock On 2? When and how do the Magik band get together and perform ? How does the magic of music heal the wounded souls?
    Farhan as Adi is certainly able to depict Adi’s gloom, pain, frustrations, need for redemption etc. in an intense manner. Arjun as Joe is able to bring out his practical approach towards life in a much matured manner. Purab as KD makes the narrative flow and also brings out very well his priority to be a bridge in friendship. Prachi as Sakshi and Shahana as Debbie have less screen time but they certainly facilitate the story to move ahead. Shraddha as Jiah, a musician and bohemian traveller is very good. Her face does depict the pain and anger. Shashank Arora as Udai does make his presence felt. Kumud Mishra as Pandit Bibhuti is a man of less words in the film and one can feel the pain of his character – a veteran musician’s frustrations, pain of loss and as a purist his denying the fusion music.

    In spite of using the music as the backdrop of the film, what rules the film is the concept that music needs to be set free for it to flow freely. Music can create wonders by uniting people. The film does talk about how a veteran who has mastered and worshipped Classical music may feel that contemporary music is absolutely out of place and just full of noise. This mismatch between Frames of Reference and Territory can give births to tragedies in life.

    There is a beautiful scene where Usha Uthup along with Kit Shangpliang and Pynsuklin Syiemiong from Summersalt Band come together to sing “Hoi Kie /Chalo Chalo” which depicts the tremendous power of music and the magic it can create. The film also talks about how one needs to move on and make ‘self’ free from the shackles of past / self-blame and look within for powers. Another powerful scene where Shdraddha Kapoor steals the show is Jiah’s conversation with her father.

    The cinematography by Marc Koninckx is excellent, mMeghalayan landscapes are beautifully captured.

    Rock On 2 rocks. The music is certainly the backdrop of the film, but what rules the film is the concept that music needs to be set free for it to flow freely. The film does spread its wings to much broader horizons using the tremendous power attached to music. Indeed, every generation finds its own voice. Watch the film for its intense performances.

    November 12, 16
  • Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is shallow and superficial.

    Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, a much-awaited film by Karan Johar, falls in the genre of Romance. Similar to a dialogue in this film, it is about “Tedha Love” i.e. crooked love. The film is trying to project the imperfect love, one-sided love, unrequited love, people’s different perceptions towards love, the pain and passion involved in love / heartbreaks, but somehow, the film succumbs more to the lust and the need, the screenplay is also shallow. The film contradicts its one of the dialogue: “Main kisi ki jarurat nahi, balki khwaish banna chahti hoon”; the protagonists are driven more by the need rather than love. Certainly, it is bound to have expectations out of a film when the ensemble cast viz. Ranbir, Anushka and Aishwarya are involved. Besides, the very concept of love is a delight to watch, but the shallowness of the film and the superficial handling of the plot makes the film soulless and heartless. The film is all about being superficial in love, filling one’s void with casual relationships, quickly moving from one relationship to another, handling heartbreaks / failure in so-called love relationship with getting entangled in another relationship etc.

    The opening scene of the film is Ayan (Ranbir Kapoor) being interviewed after his success as a singer. When Ayan is asked about his songs’ lyrics pointing towards broken love, incomplete love, he quickly conveys that his love is complete (मेरा प्यार कामिल है) and his love can never die.

    The frames further move to the flash back. Ayan meets Alizeh (Anushka Sharma) in a disco floor in London, where both of them have come to get over the bad mood of fights with their respective lovers. Their meeting ends up in casual flirting to non-committal, guilt-free physical proximities. Both Ayan and Alizeh belong to rich families. Ayan is pursuing MBA, but wanting to be a singer, and Alizeh has registered herself in various courses like Yoga, Bollywood dance etc. She describes herself as Raita, who spreads everywhere. Both Ayan and Alizeh hit it off as friends. During a double date, their respective lovers Lisa (Lisa Haydon) and Dr. Faisal (Imraan Abbas) get caught up in a compromising position. Ayan and Alizeh go for Heart Break Holidays to Paris. Both Ayan and Alizeh’s perception towards their relationship is different. For one, if it is love, for another, it is friendship. To add to this conflict, DJ Ali (Fawad Khan) enters into the scene.

    The first half is dull, starts picking up in the last 10 minutes of the film. Post-interval, the film gets some depth with poetess Saba’s (Aishwarya) entry. But the film never tries to grow beyond the superficiality and the emotional vulnerability of the leads. Is that the only truth of the relationships in modern world? Certain scenes leave the audience confused. One such scene is that of the lead protagonist’s claims of not being in love but just being a great friend, still, in a scene, the facial expressions conveyed that the person is in love, and this confusion is not cleared in the film. It is also strange that a serious situation is diluted with silly laughter scenes. By the time, one gets to absorb the depth of the scenes, it is diffused with laughter.

    What happens to Ayan and Alizeh’s relationship? How does Ali and Saba become part of this plot ? Trailer shows that Ayan is romancing Saba, so how and when do they fall in love? How the special appearances by Alia and Shahrukh Khan become pivotal to the script? Was Ayan in love with Saba or with Alizeh or with both ? What about Alizeh, was she in love with Ayan ?

    As far as the cast and acting are concerned, they are good. Ranbir does bring out the vulnerable & restless Ayan very well. Anushka has projected the unapologetic and mad energy of Alizeh well. The character which brought depth to the film partially is Saba of Aishwarya, and she is looking absolutely gorgeous and stunning. She conveys a lot through her words and expressions. Fawad has a very brief role as DJ Ali, and he did not have much to do, but indeed very good. Lisa and Imraan are in brief roles, they are ok.

    The film does have references of Karan’s previous films, Amitabh Bachchan’s name, Yash Chopra’s Chiffon Saree clad heroines, tributes to 80’s songs.

    Probably Karan’s vision was to make a film about unrequited love on a very lighter note, he did not want any of his characters to take themselves seriously, did not want to be preachy. To this extent, he is successful.

    High point of the film is its music by Pritam and songs Bulleya and the title track stand apart.

    Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is shallow and superficial while conveying the story of unrequited love, one-sided love. The very important ingredient and crux of the film is ‘Dil’, which is absolutely missing from the film. “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil” turns out to be ‘Ye hai Mushkil’ for a spectator.

    October 29, 16
  • Review of Shivaay

    Shivaay is an Action film by Ajay Devgn and it also marks his directorial debut. The film is an out and out action film with more of fight sequences/trekking and less of words. It operates on a simple plot, though very powerful relationship that of a father-daughter, and wider issues like child trafficking at international level. It does have some breathtaking visuals of mountains and action sequences. But certainly the film has its own loopholes.

    The film begins with Shivaay being knocked out to the ground and his breathing sound. The camera focuses on the hand-knitted doll lying there. Then the story is conveyed in flash back, to be precise 9 years back. Shivaay (Ajay Devgn) is a guide, who is an expert in trekking. He does help the people during catastrophic landslides and also helps Indian Army in covert operations. He falls in love with a Bulgarian girl Olga (Erika Kaar) who came for trekking to India. Olga gets uncomfortable when she comes to know regarding her unexpected pregnancy. She wanted to go back to Bulgaria and had her own life to live. She did not want the child, but Shivaay was very adamant on having the baby. He asks Olga to stay back till her delivery, give him the child and then go back. Olga goes back to Bulgaria giving the girl child to Shivaay. Then, one gets to see 8 year old mute Gaura (Abigail Eames) trekking along with Shivaay. When she discovers that her mother is in Bulgaria contrary to what had been conveyed to her about Olga not alive, she forces Shivaay to take her to Bulgaria to meet Olga. The moment they land in Bulgaria, the trouble starts. Very soon we see Shivaay chasing his enemies, running away from police authorities, getting trapped in a foreign land etc. Anushka (Sayesha Saigal), an embassy employee and Vir Das, a technical geek in a hacker’s role come to the rescue of Shivaay. Parallels are drawn between Gaura-Shivaay’s and Anushka-Girish Karnad’s father-daughter relationships.

    Shivaay lands into what sort of troubles? Who become his enemies and why? How does Shivaay fight back ? Is he able to explore the nexus of child trafficking ?

    Regarding the cast, Ajay Devgn definitely stands out as Action Hero. Rest of the cast have less screen time and are ok. Girish Karnad, a great actor, is underutilized in the film.

    Cinematographer Aseem Bajaj has indeed given some great visuals, it is top-notch.

    What lacks in the film is that it is very quick in jumping from father-daughter bond/emotional connect to the issues of child trafficking followed by chasing sequences between Shivaay and the culprits and at times between Shivaay and police authorities too.

    Shivaay is an out and out Ajay Devgn’s Action film, which has some breathtaking visuals by Aseem Bajaj. Watch it, if you like action films.

    October 29, 16
  • Queen of Katwe is an inspirational sports biopic of Phiona Mutesi by Mira Nair. A Must watch.

    Queen of Katwe is an inspirational sports biopic of Phiona Mutesi by Mira Nair. Mira has beautifully captured and presented the story of how Phiona Mutesi, born and raised in Katwe (a slum) went on to become a Chess Champion creating history for Uganda. Her life story is recorded in a book “The Queen of Katwe: A story of Life, Chess and One Extraordinary Girl’s Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster”. Mira has kept the storytelling pattern very realistic and authentic. While the film focuses on Phiona’s journey of evolution from a poor girl born and raised in a slum to a self-confident chess champion, the game of chess is used as a metaphor to convey great philosophies of life. This film is also the journey of a selfless coach Robert Katende who not only taught Phiona how to play chess but also how to conduct herself in life. Overall, Mira Nair’s film Queen of Katwe is an uplifting film which has the celebration of making of a chess champion, the journey from ‘not-having any hope’ to ‘dare to dream and achieve the same’, the journey from ‘nowhere’ to ‘the top position’, the art of handling success etc.
    Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga) is a 10-year old, who lives in the slum of Katwe along with her mother and siblings. The family is very poor and has to really struggle hard to make both ends meet. Selling maize in the Katwe Street Market is the source for earning money for them.
    Phiona coincidentally meets Robert Katende (David Oyelow) at a missionary programme. Robert is a soccer player turned missionary who sets up a chess club for underprivileged children. When Phiona sees Robert teaching children to play games, she is also curious to learn the same. This is where Phiona’s journey begins. When Roberts starts coaching Phiona, he notices Phiona’s immense talent, cognitive thinking, and her ability to see eight moves in advance. He grooms her for international tournaments.
    The film moves ahead answering many queries. How does Phiona’s mother Nakku Harriet (Lupita Nyong) react to, when she comes to know regarding Phiona’s interest in the game and her staying away from selling maize ? How Phiona grows to becomes a top player under Robert Katende’s guidance? How Robert balances his own life’s commitments with his passion to coach these underprivileged children to play chess? What all challenges are faced by Robert to atleast manage to get opportunities for these children to showcase their talent to the world in the game of chess? What happens when Phiona tastes success initially, does arrogance engulf her ? Is Phiona able to resume her school once again? How does Robert respond when he realizes that Phiona is atleast 8 moves ahead of him ?
    A few inspirational dialogues: ‘You belong where you believe you belong’, ‘I may be down, but not out’. Robert Katende’s story of cat and dog chasing meal is really inspiring, which says, the one who chases for life wins.
    Even after the film finishes, the credits are inspiring since these bridge the reel with real. Each actor and actress is shown along with the real individuals whom they enacted on screen.
    Madina Nalwanga is excellent as Phiona Mutesi, she has very well projected various emotions of Phiona, be it her initial amusement about the game, her realization about her own potential, her sense of urgency to be a master, her frustrations of falling back into old routine in spite of creating history in the world of chess, her disillusionment etc.
    David Oyelowo has infused so much warmth, kindness, determination, empathy, go-getter’s attitude into the role of selfless coach Robert Katende.
    Lupita Nyong as Nakku Harriet is also very good, who has handled complex emotions effortlessly, be it her protective attitude, or her being suspicious and dismissive initially of Phiona’s dream to be a chess champion.
    A special mention of all the child artists, who are also coached by Robert Katande. There is so much humour in their interactions, their astonishment in experiencing lives beyond Katwe.
    The film also inspires us to explore such prodigies in and around us and facilitate their growth. In India also, we have so many stories of people who fought the hardships of poverty, poor playing conditions, lack of basic amenities viz. food, shelter etc. to be a champion in life.
    Queen of Katwe is an inspirational sports biopic of Phiona Mutesi by Mira Nair. It is an uplifting film which beautifully captures the evolution of Phiona to be a Chess Champion, when this child prodigy is identified and coached by a selfless coach Robert Katande. The film has so many positive ingredients – the celebration of ‘Making of a chess champion’, the journey from ‘not-having any hope’ to ‘dare to dream and achieve the same’, the journey from ‘nowhere’ to ‘the top position’, the art of handling success etc.

    October 11, 16