'Darkest Hour': Gary shall steal your hour in a filmmaking achievement!
Gary Oldman-starrer ‘The Darkest Hour’, a conspicuously made Winston Churchill biographical, is technically stupendous an achievement. As many critics have agreed, it’d be nice to watch it with ‘Dunkirk’ for a simultaneous pleasure. But then, despite being so beautifully made these films, and finely acted here by Oldman, it just remains a Dunkirk- well a thing to look at, but not essential viewing. I’d pick the Claire-Foy starrer “The Crown Season 1” and recommend it if you want to watch Oldman’s Churchill in a better filmmaking-set piece.
It’s a flawed film, but it’s still worth a watch if only to look at the shining assault it’ll do to your eyes, sprinkling nothing but simplistic narrative arcs here and there. But I’d suggest to skip it if you are a fan of period drama. It’s more politics, even boring at times.
Tanuja and the leads provide you bang for your buck, but it's not romantic enough...
Tanuja Chandra’s ‘Qarib Qarib Singlle’ is an effective film, if not a particularly great one. It’s a romantic comedy starring Irfan Khan and Parvathi Tiruvothu, and it is certainly well-acted because both the actors are marvellous. Irfan is obviously good here, but I particularly fell for the Malayalam actress Parvathi. Despite the bland dubbing, she is lovely and lively in equal measure.
The film is hilariously comic: light-hearted, delightfully hilarious and interestingly funny. But as a romantic, it’s bland and close to profoundly uncinematic. It’s an unrealistic and unrelatable chemistry of the leads that lets down an otherwise enjoyable attempt. Tanuja Chandra crafts the film with skill and charm, but the screenplay is repetitively sloppy.
All I can say is that this is a very funny comedy, but not an affecting romantic. It’s hard to feel anything in it’s final acts. It’s worth a watch, but it feels hard to say that it’s worth repeat viewing- because maybe that might be overstating it.
'Lion': Saroo shall be implanted on your heart!
‘Lion’ is one of the most heartfelt and loveliest of the films I have seen in recent times. Quietly disarming yet so fascinating, this beautifully made film is delicious as it is brave- it is an unflinchingly made, and yet compellingly mainstream portraiture of the true story of Sheru, a five-year-old not separated from hai family by a train, adopted by an Australian couple, and re-united with his mother Kamla and sister Shakila after a period of twenty-five years.
This is a consistently watchable film, but it has certainly more than that to it, given its prestigious Best Picture nomination. It’s a lovingly etched out screenplay that does best wonders to the film. Yes, you might argue you weren’t affected so much in the bits where Saroo is in Australia with hai warmed-up parents, but then it’s hard to resist Dev Patel and Rooney Mara in their intimate sex scenes or the street sway scene they do, especially in the sweeping ‘Urvasi’ number. And then, there might arise the problem of Indianization of the colloquial dialogue in staunch Hindi- but it hardly matters when it’s an American gaze.
I was so moved by this film and it’s inherent simplicity that by its end, I was in tears, wholly consumed by its power of love and emotions. It’s a super competent film and you have to get the time and watch it.
'Dunkirk': Exploitative writing brandishes the exploitative filmmaking in 'just a' war movie
Christopher Nolan is so explorative, always keen of telling stories out of his comfort zone, he could well have been named Christopher Columbus. And thankfully, his explorative storytelling stretches it’s distances towards his latest ‘Dunkirk’ as well- from the startling first scene where armies walk with papers coasting across an unsettling breeze, or the wonderstriking last scene where an army man looks upon a newspaper sheet, his face covered in dust- it’s the most riveting set-pieces combination in recent times.
But fine story-telling as it is, you cannot help but just notice the lack of cohesive, concrete and coherent screenplay, which falls flat towards the first half and merely sags around the second half. It’s a well-made film that’s thoroughly fun as it lasts, but “gems”, as they say, need more than that. A dark knight maybe (😉).
Still, watch ‘Dunkirk’ for experiencing a fine technical experience. You even may not notice it’s flaws- I didn’t, I found it faultlessly made, infact. It is a film as devastating as it is moving. From another lens though, you read those dialogue in your head, and just decide to not get settled or recommend it.
'Hamid': Distraught times in the valley of splendour
‘Hamid’ is a politically precise film. It’s intentions are all ought there. And the film is helmed with responsible beauty by it’s director Aijaz Khan, who tells the story with honesty and command. He stages entire scenes sans any melodrama, which makes this film a worthy, competent one.
A special word for the cinematographer John Wilmore. His beautiful Kashmir is filmed with so much detail and an attention to aesthetic, it’s practically one of the best things about this film. But the weak spots of this Netflix film, unfortunately, are more than just a few: it has a sluggish screenplay with bland use of Urdu verse- the Dogri language has a way more diverse use. The performance by Rasika Dugal and the cameo of Sumit Kaul are beautiful. I loved the unnerving way there narratives unfold. But the same cannot be said about Talha Arshad and Vikas Kumar. The phone correspondence with Allah is heartfelt but crude.
Despite so many bumps, I have to say that as I hit the back button on Netflix, my heart was heavy and still, I had a big smile on my face. ‘Hamid’ is an earnest tale told effectively. It only needed some good writing and a handful of more polished actors to be awesome. It’s not perfect, but it’s very watchable.
'Kal Ho Naa Ho': Cringe-not!
Karan Johar’s early Dharma baby, ‘Kal Ho Naa Ho’ directed by Nikkhil Advani, has real emotions, beautiful performances delivered by Preity Zinta, Saif Ali Khan and especially the excellently vulnerable Shahrukh Khan. It also has a script that’s beautifully stitched.
But the directorial craft is laboured and the story-telling is too glossy and incompetent. It’s passable, forgettable entertainment at best, with good songs and good performances, and little else.
'Kabir Singh': Slap Map!
‘Kabir Singh’s is the official remake of Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s blockbuster ‘Arjun Reddy’. But right from the trailer, you go in ready for the thing that this is a film that’s nothing but a frame-to-frame reworking in the North Indian context. This film is so simplistic and universal that if Shahid Kapoor and Kiara Advani, and Sohum had dubbed for Arjun, Preethy and Shiva, it would have looked the same.
This is a problematic celebration of tight misogyny of its protagonist- a deplorable, bland jerk, disruptive but frightening. He might be real, but so was ‘Arjun Reddy’, which was original and way more compelling than this piece of poop.
What worked for me however, and the reason why the film is perfectly watchable inspite of it’s toxic masculinity is the romance: Kiara and Shahid have lovely chemistry, tuned in with Jubin Nautiyal and Arjit Singh’s lovely songs: ‘Bekhayali’ might have the best lyrics of a film this year. I also liked the carefree number ‘Tujhe Kitna Chahne Lage’. Added to that is the skilled performance of Shahid Kapoor: he is super competent. He doesn’t match the youthful beauty of Vijay Deverakonda which uplifted the film to near-perfection, but he is so good, he is ultimately transformed. Also a word for Sohum Majumdar’s Shiva, who adds necessary humour to the film.
Don’t mistake the film’s directorial conviction. It’s nothing more than a faithful remake, sans the strong screenplay or passion of the original. Infact it’s so forgettable and deplorable, it’s not worth more than a shot. And you can also skip it.
'Swades': A beautifully made, written SRK film which could have used more humour than earnestness...
‘Swades’ is an achievement because despite being as long as three hours and they minutes, it never for once feels over plodding. Yes it is tiring in parts, especially the frustrating bits of NASA. But Shahrukh Khan has a great chemistry with Ashutosh Gowariker and both the storytellers create unique magic.
It is easily one of the best stories to be translated into films this year and unmissable a gem for the same reason. Had the predictability of the plot been more crisp and the trimming been slightly less conventional, this could have been almost a classic. As it is, it is both fun and uplifting at the same time and delightfully joyous. Don’t miss it, because it might be one of the best Hindi films you will see this year.
'Bhavesh Joshi': Gutsy, not gorgeous...
I can’t imagine a perfect director in Bollywood. But Vikramaditya Motwane comes too close to be dismissed: the craft and majesty of ‘Udaan’, the romantically affecting and moving drama ‘Lootera’, the devastatingly thrilling ‘Sacred Games’ or the very skilfully directed and acted ‘Trapped’, he never seems to get anything wrong anywhere.
But in ‘Bhavesh Joshi’, Motwane is faultless to a fault, which is troublesome. This mostly feels like a beautiful comic bookey rendition to an Anurag Kashyap film. But it’s as disappointingly bland and indulgently mounted from its important perspectives, as much as it is lavishly diverse. The film is also let down by it’s lead star Harshvardhan Kapoor. Whom we thought as a fresh voice from the line of privileged actors turns out to be like his younger sister Sonam Kapoor: potential he has, but he is weak in his department.
The film benefits from the upsides: it is diverse, consists of a unique character and is a homegrown tale, consuming editing, crispy poster. But that does little to help this film, because it’s as boring as it is thoughtful. It’d not be completely unwatchable. But it’s not entirely worth it: its clash partner Veerey Di Wedding is better even when it’s just a ‘not bad’ film. I’m being very generous, two stars.
‘Haider’ stands magnificently in between as the king of the Shakespearean trilogy of Vishal Bharadwaj. ‘Maqbool’ is undeniably the wisest of them all, sitting atop as the igh priest of VB filmography. ‘Maqbool’ wasn’t all suitable, a film existing to provide it’s lip service to Saif Ali Khan, flair in writing and execution, but not much else. But this one lies in the world in between: it’s way better than ‘Omkara’, even when it doesn’t match the opulence of ‘Maqbool’.
This is the best mounted film by Vishal, in his whole career. The astounding cinematography, entertaining undertones, grim period and aesthetic of performances is what makes this a winsome. Shahid Kapoor is masterful and unflinching, transcending Irrfan’s vulnerability and Saif’s artfulness. He is faultless, graceful and effective. He’s just like Tabu, the beautiful, sultry mother and her believable, uncomfortable equation with her son that goes from absurd to unpredictable. Kay Kay Menon and Irrfan Khan deliver wholeheartedly the short bits with awesome grip.
‘Haider’ is politically correct and absolute. But the film has a radically unsmooth start, it’s first act is not entirely convincing to the viewer in spite of the visual mountings of the Shikara and ailing people. The change-of-climax of the original ‘Hamlet’ is not too workable. As it is, it is an entertaining, carefree thing to watch, brimming with texture and handsomely written. And that’s an achievement
'Maqbool': Fatigue intrigue
‘Maqbool’ is a compellingly made, competently acted and skilled film about love, loss and faith which transcends the boundaries of religious politics. Vishal Bharadwaj stages this quietly moving drama with such affecting touch that you feel a punch on your gut.
This gripping, taut and brisk gangster thriller that, despite the reading of Shakespearean drama ‘Macbeth’, shall intrigue you and leave you with a hollow mouth and an empty stomach. The only fault with the film is that it’s awfully long. But that’s only fault in this almost classic.
Watch it for the fresh performances, particularly by the heart-stealing Irfan Khan and a confident Tabu, the soul-stirring Pankaj Kapoor and the directorial craft of it’s storyteller Vishal Bharadwaj.
'Ishqiyaa': Black Steam!
‘Ishqiyaa’ is a black comedy classic. Khalujan and Babban make for an astounding couple, as does their chemistry alongside the wonderful Vidya Balan, who owns the running time mostly.
Abhishek Chaubey has well-crafted the film and his directorial debut is assured because of the precision with which the rustic to tonality and sex has been captured. The film gathers steam, grit and magic, and does on the screens what most filmmakers don’t succeed in doing. I, for one, laughed till my sides hurt.
How I wished that the film had the energy of the rest of the film geared in third act! How can an almost classic film lose all of it’s steam in a final act! Nevertheless, this is one of the best Hindi films, and don’t miss it.
Kick has kickass action blended in a band script, but serves the serviceable...
At it’s overall, ‘Kick’ might just be another Salman Khan film which offers you escapist entertainment. But if you want to give it a chance, watch it for its slick action scenes which benefit from their tense filming and unconventional trimming.
At heart though, what the film strictly remains is a one-time-watch. A perfect masala introduction to Bollywood it isn’t, because it’s too dumb in places- but it serves more than enough splendour for the fans of Bhai reinvented.
‘Raabta’ makers are ling because the film is vishnu the adapta yoon of the Rajamouli epic ‘Magadheera’ which shrey adapta the original’s cheesiness, sans the eye dor conviction and visual splendor. Its a smashing bore, a film that doesn’t even expend half its potential. Its also the most incompetent Hindi love story you’ll see this year, saved a little bit because it’s leading hero understands a little bit that he has to deliver, and Rajkumar Rao’s earnestness. Without them, the film doesn’t have the right to be called a ‘film’.
In the end of the tale I have only one thing to say to the film: Quit if you get similar scripts to be written. You have no film industry to live on.
A satisfactory film let down by it's maker, writer and star.
‘Ra. One’ is not satisfied with a skilled execution of a water thin plot premise. It has to add some songs, some masala moments, a novelty factor and some scintillating visual effects to add up. And it does add them. Which is good because there’s so much to enjoy here. But all of it comes startlingly down because the worst performance in the film is delivered by its otherwise nuanced star- yes, I am talking about Shahrukh Khan. Kareena Kapoor delivers much better with her emotional coherence. Director Anubhav Sinha is too indulgent in the craft, and that’s to a measure so drastically up that writer Kanika Dhillon, at that point, doesn’t even know what to do now with the characters. So she deeply delves into pointlessness and borrows from Disney and Marvel’s graphic characters and ends up adding eighties-level heft to the basic plot. That’s what makes it ‘Ra. One’ a holy mess- serviceable, bearable even- but not overtly enjoyable.
The film is too endearing and irresistibly well-made to be called a children's film...
‘Kaaka Muttai’ means crow’s eggs. Have you see one? These two brothers literally drink the juice out of it! These are not the kids with privilege. No, they are urban kids, but they live in slums. The film is wonderfully shot in the Tamil Nadu slums and gets most of its notes remarkably right. It’s an excellent achievement in the form of a film. The screenplay doesn’t have a dull moment in hand.
On the whole you should not miss the excellent achievement that M. Manikrandan’s ‘Kaaka Muttai’ is. After the film, you’ll be craving for Pizza most likely- and you’ll choke in emotion at the fact that you’ll get it easily, but these kids will have to earn Rs. 300 in a month to get one. That worked for me so much, I’ll promise the film’s makers I’ll take it in my heart. I go with five stars. Not one flawed note with the film. And if there’d be only one reason to watch this film about childlike wonder, it’s the enchanting performance of the kid duo Vignesh and Ramesh.
Rajkumar keeps you trapped towards the performance despite bland plot
‘Trapped’ directed by Vikramaditya Motwane could have worked better than it does had it avoided the other side of its manipulative game. The second your feels especially wobbly. What’s further disheartening is that the film comes from a diligent, qualified filmmaker who rarely makes any mistake: not something you do notice, atleast. I remember clapping joyously by the end ans cheering for ‘Udaan’ and that film’s wonderful characters because by the end it had become one of the best films of all time for me- one of my close favourites. And ‘Lootera’ left me with tears in my eyes, and a broken heart. This too, was one of my favorites.
Unfortunately, that quality is missing in ‘Trapped’. And that’s also saying that perhaps this home alone genre is too sensitive to be masterfully handled. It needs to be done away. Had it been in the hands of a Sriram Raghavan, it could have well achieved it’s potential. But it’s still a potently shot and written film. The director doesn’t compromise on the film’s any technicalities, which makes this film a good watch, even when it plays safe. What further elevates the film’s otherwise wafer-thin nature is Rajkumar Rao’s deep performance. His performance is disturbing, and layered, which makes it a taut one. Just try to forget that this actor’s skills are not stretched towards the entire film, and you’ll have a better film in hand. And I had a better experience on that thought.
Hansal Mehta’s gripping human drama ‘Aligarh’ is a soul-stirring adaptation of a true story which is boundlessly horrifying and gratifying in equal measure. And that’s largely because of two reasons: Apurva Asrani has written a thoughtful script, Hansal’s camera capturing the most rustic sets and gives them a profound quality, and most important thing: Manoj Bajpayee gives one of his best performances ever. Rajkumar Rao as Deepu Sebastian is good, but his new-age charm can’t match the beauty of expression that Bajpayee has mastered. But don’t mistake it as India’s big leap for a ‘gay movie’ because it’s not a full-blown homosexual drama, and even if it is, it’s not mainstream.
But I’ll remember ‘Aligarh’ because it’s emotional consistency and brutal wraps to the same have come to stay with me for a long time. The script never fails it’s issues and gets many notes right. If there is one flaw with this film it’s that it is unbound and a little pretentious towards the second hour. This minor quibble is forgettable. Watch ‘Aligarh’. I insist you see it.
‘Mom’ was easily a great leap for the career of Sridevi, who played a killer with originality and a mother with much-needed vulnerability. But the script sags a lot and there’s not much believability in the screenplay, a stage has been set for most of the problems.
The problem is that despite you are hooked to the screens thanks to its actress and an engaging plot premise, you’d never feel her reasons: and that’s largely because the film has an inconsistent tonality, and waferthin ideas are camped upon by the filmmakers about the briskness of a thriller.
‘Malang’ is not unwatchable. In fact, it’s thrilling and engaging. But the shots of Goa can’t promise a compelling narrative. The first half is promising but less twisty. The second half makes up, springing twists and turns every six to seven minutes. The casting is very good. But little of that matters when the leads have no charm together. The film is one of the most passionless in the filmography of Mohit Suri- whose slick craft is bogged down by heavy-handed scripts.