Long Review: Padman
Akshay Kumar plays Lakshmi, a simple, uneducated man living with his mother, two sisters, and newly-wedded wife, Gayatri. A bit of an oddball in his thought processes, he makes it his life goal to produce low-cost sanitary napkins when he learns about the hard-up conditions that Gayatri and the women around him including his sisters, who have recently hit puberty live in, when it comes to menstruation. The religious aspect of the issue – where menstruating women are supposed to isolate themselves and live outside the house during the cycle (mostly in rural India) because they are considered impure – also bothers him, which is why Padman looks like it has been written with a complete contemplation of the issue.
Padman, therefore, is a critique of our times when a technically developed country like India that aspires to be digital-ready struggles with something as crucial and necessary as menstrual sanitation. Lakshmi’s attempts to educate the people around him and fight the stigma that is stuck like the plague is much more important than to invent a low-cost napkin that is both efficient and cheap. Despite being a little bit successful in the latter department, Lakshmi continuously struggles to remove the preconceptions about menstruation that people have and which they are not ready to talk about.
It is because of not just the construction of the sanitary pad but also the construction of the screenplay that this works. Padman excels in all departments, also giving intermediate knowledge about napkins if people don’t know about it already. A well-written plot, it moves ahead without hitting a bump. Of course, there are sequences that are sometimes cringe-worthy and sometimes impossible, but director Balki has evidently taken a lot of cinematic liberty, which is mandatory for a film that captures the entire essence of a social predicament such as this. The fact that Padman is based on the real-life story of the Indian inventor, Arunachalam Muruganantham, would make the viewer more confident and supportive of the structure.
Akshay Kumar is phenomenal and looks like he came directly out of the aforementioned film’s sets. He carries the whole film on his shoulders and never once shows an inkling of restfulness. If there is a character that I feel an actor has done complete justice to in any film in the past few months, it’d be that of Lakshmi. Equally enchanting is the supremely talented Radhika Apte’s performance who seems to be made just for the role of the village wife. There’s not a single dull moment in Padman, thanks to the performances of the lad and the supporting cast. Sonam Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan grace the screen for some time and do a decent job, but it is the supporting actors that make the whole broth tastier.
Padman is perhaps R Balki’s best film so far, something that I would even go as far as to list in Kumar’s filmography as well. TN.
Capsule Review: Tumhari Sulu
There comes a time in an actor’s career when they reinvigorate their image by giving the best performance of their life. Vidya Balan is that actor in Tumhari Sulu, director Suresh Triveni’s debut full-length feature film. She plays a 30-something homemaker whose life revolves around the chores of her house and taking care of her two pillars – a young son and a timorous husband played by the talented Manav Kaul. She dreams of making it big in life by doing whatever she can get her hands onto as she finds joy in everything. Despite a series of bickering (that may have started since her childhood) by her family members, she finally takes the plunge and decides to work as a radio jockey for a late-night somewhat adult show. How that affects her life and the lives of her two pillars is what Tumhari Sulu is all about – giving the average audience insufficient fodder for thought. It is a highly predictable, and somewhat contrived story of a homemaker who takes up a job, but the beauty of the film is in its making. Director and writer Triveni has crafted a sweet story that is palpable to the core, with the right amount of ingredients for flavor. Supported by melodious music (and songs) and some of the best performances of the year by Balan, Kaul, and Neha Dhupia, Tumhari Sulu manages to bring tears in your eyes, thanks to its overtly melodramatic second half. There is enough to not like in the film, but Balan’s presence on-screen makes Tumhari Sulu look like a dessert with a permanent supply of water. Indian viewers are going to find Tumhari Sulu highly relatable, which further makes it one of the better Bollywood films of 2017. Watch it with your mum. TN.
Padmaavat is a craftsman’s joy and depicts a lot of elements that currently dictate the world. It’s a tragedy film that emphasizes on all the hate and crime that is around us, and concludes that there is only one solution. Watch Padmaavat for the grand production, Ranveer Singh and his character’s wickedness, and for a reminder about this tragedy called life. TN.
Capsule Review: Dunkirk
Dunkirk is unarguably one of the most technical sound films made so far, but at the same time the effect it has on you is limited. For starters, it requires its audience to have good knowledge of the infamous Dunkirk evacuation that happened towards the end of World War II, without which you cannot make complete sense of the plot. And even if you are well-versed with history, the degree of repetitive sequences, albeit beautifully crafted, is just too high to make it an epic war film. The score by Hans Zimmer is arguably the biggest character in Dunkirk, which manages to keep you hooked despite the aforementioned shortcomings. Director Christopher Nolan knows how important the score and camera work are for a film that tries to bring events happening in air, land, and sea together, which is one thing that works well for Dunkirk. There is tension throughout the 100 minutes of running time, thanks to Zimmer’s ticktock tunes, and one that will make you unable to move. Performances are great since dialogue is scarce and subtle, but it still shows how talented Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh, and Fionn Whitehead are. The use of numbing score and captivating shots is what hides the hollowness of the plot and what makes this an average watch at best. Director Nolan had set the bar quite too high with his past few films but Dunkirk seems to be missing the trademark. TN.
Long Review: Tiger Zinda Hai
Today, one is so much familiar with the type of films that Salman Khan stars in and sometimes produces that there is nothing original anymore. Tiger Zinda Hai is no different as the actor returns to do what he often does in these action-packed potboilers that are popular for a complete lack of logic.
After having fled India with his Pakistani girlfriend in Ek Tha Tiger (2012), Tiger (Khan) now leaves in peace somewhere in Austria. Although he is away from his covert operations and is no more attached to India’s Research & Analysis Wing (RAW), he keeps track of his former immediate senior like he is an unpaid freelancer. So, when a hostage situation concerning few Indian nurses arises in Syria, the government tracks down their best man for an operation considered suicide. It is obvious from the title itself that this is going to be a variation of convenient storytelling where everything happens with an advantage to the protagonists. And that’s exactly what happens in Ali Abbas Zafar’s latest feature, right from the very point Tiger makes his entry. However, considering that that is the default template of the film, there is enough entertainment value for one to consume and rejoice.
The plot tries to educate its audience which is both a good thing and a bad thing. Bad thing because it makes the narrative look amateur, which the film suffers from at the beginning. The action sequences are very good, albeit without logic, as Tiger tries to balance his life and work in a war-torn Syria. There are cheesy dialogs to bring in the fun factor, supported by Paresh Rawal and Kumud Mishra, who both put up a refreshing show. There’s definitely style in the film as you watch Tiger riding a horse and doing some other daredevil stuff to fight off the bad guys. Surprisingly, for a Salman Khan film, there are intelligent tidbits that elevate the film’s intellectual factor. For instance, a young suicide bomber is shown carving his name incorrectly on a wooden table. It, among other brief sequences, shows what terrorism and war can do to people.
The biggest problem, however, is the lack of vindictiveness and weight in the antagonist. Played rather brilliantly by Sajjad Delafrooz, this head of a terrorist organization similar to the real ISIL is a meek personage who gives enough leeway to his enemies. You don’t expect the head of an unforgiving terror outfit to give people a second chance. But it happens all the time in Tiger Zinda Hai, making the viewing experience a tad uncomfortable for the learned audience.
Tiger Zinda Hai is a film that has its flaws but is still a well-made action thriller that can give you goosebumps without pushing you into boredom. The patriotism factor should keep eager Indians occupied, as Khan fans dance their way out of the halls.
Capsule Review: Ittefaq
There is definitely luster in Ittefaq which depends heavily on its plot about two murders that take place within the span of a few hours. Lead man Sidharth Malhotra plays a thriller writer who is accused of both the murders which are being investigated by a smart-Alec cop (Akshaye Khanna). It is a pleasure to see Khanna act on screen mimicking his role previously seen in Mom (2017), and Malhotra surprisingly follows-up with a charming performance after a laudable work in Raj and DK’s “A Gentleman” earlier this year. But none of these help this crime thriller from revealing its textbook style of manipulation. It is obvious from the first frame that you are going to experience few twists and turns in this whodunit, but for the film to succeed, it needs impeccable attention to details and minimized plot holes. However, both these factors stare at your face when you think about it – especially in the last 20 minutes. Sonakshi Sinha is thankfully not annoying but her portrayal of this lonely housewife who does more than household chores during her day time is not entirely convincing. Maybe her character is written like that, but Sinha’s mediocre acting chops glaringly show. Director Abhay Chopra has carved a thriller that is inspired by Hollywood flicks that we enjoy but a bit more tightness and attention to details to cover the goof-ups would have made it a more worthwhile experience. Right now, you can appreciate Ittefaq for its cast, the slightly interesting plot, and a smooth cinematography. TN.
Capsule Review: Shubh Mangal Saavdhan
Shubh Mangal Saavdhan tries too hard to be perceived as a comedy drama, but all that it manages to do during its 100+ running time can be described as below average stuff. The central idea of a man (Ayushmann Khurrana) realizing that he has erectile dysfunction (ED) and that his fiancee (Bhumi Pednekar) tries to help him find a solution is pretty interesting, but that’s all the film has in store for us. The treatment of the story – where not once do they mention ED or anything obscene – is the second best and the only satisfying thing about Shubh Mangal Saavdhan. The problem is that there is not enough content to fill the balloon here, and the few jokes and witty dialogues that have been sprinkled here and there fall short. Somewhere you get the inkling that this whole thing is going to turn into a mess, thanks to the over-decorated characters, and unfortunately that’s what the climax is. Khurrana plays decently but Pednekar becomes nauseating as this typecast role that she’s been playing ever since she entered Bollywood. Overall, Shubh Mangal Saavdhan is a rushed effort at showcasing exaggerated buffoonery at an Indian wedding. There is no special need to appreciate this kind of hyperbole even if it’s meant for humor. TN.
Capsule Review: Ajji
The unconventionality of having a grandmother as the protagonist about crime and revenge is what makes Devashish Makhija’s cold thriller a tantalizing watch. Ajji is an ambitious story of an old woman who takes the law into her own hands – cliché in the town – and asks us to wonder about the consequences. You tend to incline to the positive because you want her to win and so do the colorful characters who help her, but what we don’t see are the obvious superhero powers that she possesses which you cannot blame on the power of will or circumstances. Sexual molestation of minors is definitely a grave topic and one that must be discussed openly but that doesn’t mean you celebrate the idea of self-righteousness especially when related to the matters of justice. Ajji is definitely an engaging watch with clever camera work, mirror placements, wonderful performances, and above all, a magically complementing sunless setting. Everything works except for the enthusiastic plot for a film that is evidently the wheels of this crime drama. An accident is inevitable. TN.
(As part of the Young Film Critics Lab 2017 at the 19th Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival.)
Capsule Review: Newton
In his second feature film after the lowbrow bro movie, Sulemani Keeda (2014), Amit Masurkar utilizes his actors to their full extent. The character of the Indian low-grade Election Committee (EC) member, played with absolute finesse by Rao, reeks of individuality and makes Newton a worthwhile affair. However, nothing – not even the Naxal tension – saves the film from putting on a dull attire that has the unabashed ability to make its audience restless. The story of a fierce election guy going against all odds to “do his duty” is welcome in Bollywood, but the treatment is amateurish here. There’s a lot less involvement in the film per se which is ironic considering it sheds light into how the government handles/is handling the issue of Naxalism in central India – with sheer laxity. Pankaj Tripathi and Raghuvir Yadav stand out with their cheeky performances, making this worthwhile affair more bearable. The final 10 minutes look like director Masurkar wanted to make sense with whatever preceded them, and conveniently ends it with an open climax. There’s a sense of sarcasm and childishness in the plot that does not fully translate, and as a result, does not contribute. Finishing watching Newton is like being asked out for a dinner date and when the date finally happens you are sharing a club sandwich. So you go home hungry and unsatisfied. TN.
(If you are asking the question that’s on everybody’s mind, no, I don’t think Newton will make it to the final 5 at the 2018 Oscars.)
Capsule Review: Qarib Qarib Singlle
If you are like me and are wondering if director Tanuja Chandra is really into superstitious nonsense for adding an extra “L” in “Single” in the title then let me calm you down by saying that it’s a valid reference to the primary theme of the film. Other than being a honest yet dry attempt at mimicking the wildly popular Hollywood hit franchise, the “Before series” by Richard Linklater, Qarib Qarib Singlle is a surprisingly pleasant drama to watch. There is a lot of conversation going on here, which keeps you hooked, not because of the activity itself, but because of the nature of the conversation. You instantly connect with the protagonist, played slightly vigorously by Parvathy. Irrfan’s effortless comedy is actually funny that even a tight-nosed Parvathy is not able to ignore in this film that talks about desolation, life adventures, and relationships that happen by chance. There is a lot going on here, some of which are way too explosive and heavy for the humorous plot. Neha Dhupia adds to the roughness in the second half but if you look at what the message the film tries to convey, it can be easily ignored. Just don’t get bored during the second half and the lady who wrote Dil To Pagal Hai (1997) will make you feel good about life and will teach you to dread a life lived in suppression. There’s an awkward try at creating the forth wall in Qarib Qarib Singlle, which albeit amateurish, is one more good reason to try the film out. TN.
Capsule Review: Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana
Things travel at the speed of light in Ratnaa Sinha’s debut film, Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana, a romantic drama that daringly goes haywire in the second half. The chemistry between the talented Rajkummar Rao and Kriti Kharbanda, at her shimmering best, is palpable, but it is the revenge elements in the second half that is unbearable. In addition to lack of logic or credibility in the plot, director Sinha makes her characters do ugly things just because she wants the whole shindig to look intense. Of course, the sequences are intense enough to put you in a state of numbness, and the story does chafe few stark social issues like dowry and gender discrimination to stay relevant, but all that Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana manages to pull off is an annoying revenge drama that is just too sour to consume. The second half becomes highly annoying as you see one illogical sequence after another to a point of a cringe-worthy climax that will make you puke. The film is a pleasure to watch in the start but once you complete the first 40 minutes, it starts to throw bombs of drivel at you that never stop and does not even address the problem that gave rise to the revenge arc. Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana is like a romantic Hindi TV soap opera (possibly in Life OK channel) whose title does not make sense and the main story involves an inaccessible revenge drama. TN.
Capsule Review: Daddy
With an attempt to stun you with a real-life story as the only available weapon, Daddy charges forward like a gritty gangster drama. The first few minutes involving deaths and a deadpan introduction to the protagonist succeed in hooking you to the screen. But the problem with director Ashim Ahluwalia’s ambitious and long-anticipated project is that it falters after the first 30 minutes. A couple of kills (that actually move the plot ahead) in the beginning, and it’s all a loop after that. I understand that gore and violence are important in a gangster film, but when you realize that they are the only thing at play here, you start to lose interest. Arjun Rampal plays the real-life don Arun Gawli with much conviction, and so do the rest of the cast – but what dampens the experience is the shoddy screenplay. It just tries to say a lot of things without discipline, at the same time, and without a structure. That is what works against an otherwise good gangster film that highlights the world of crime in Indian in the 80s and 90s. Daddy is a good film in parts, thanks to the performances, but don’t expect too much. TN.
Capsule Review: Bank Chor
Bank robbery films have always excited me but in the case of Bank Chor, it is like watching an unfunny joke being told by the least popular kid in the class. Riteish Deshmukh plays a smart-alecky bank robber who gets embroiled in a mess while robbing a bank with two of his dim-witted associates. Things take a turn when they realize that amidst the hostages is one more bank robber who is more experienced and cunning than the trio put together. Amateur director Bumpy has tried to expand a 10-minute short into a 2-hour narrative that powers itself with fast-delivered one-liners and occasional twists. Instead of supporting the film’s movement, Vivek Oberoi and Rhea Chakraborty disrupt it by playing nonsensical characters that do not hold muster. There’s a reeking political angle in the plot that worsens the proceedings. Even though everything falls in place towards the end, to make Bank Chor look like a clever film, whatever happens in the first 30 minutes is enough to doze you off. Sahil Vaid goes borderline overacting but makes it at least bearable. There are a lot of issues with Bank Chor and even if the makers corrected it, it would still be a film that should not be recommended. There is just no substance here. TN.
Capsule Review: Behen Hogi Teri
Rajkummar Rao plays a man without a plan in Behen Hogi Teri as he is unable to declare his love to his childhood sweetheart because of the harsh rule imposed by the elders of his neighborhood. The primary theme of the film surrounds this rule of how every guy in the locality is pressurized to see every unmarried girl as a sister. If the guy refuses, he is forcibly tied a rakhi by the girl (not so unwillingly) who he is refusing to follow the rule for. Rao’s character is lucky in that sense because the girl he is courting (played by an over-zealous Shruti Haasan) has shown feelings for him. Director Ajay Pannalal drives the story like a romantic comedy but the end product is projected like a drama that goes haywire in the middle. A palpable introduction is followed by a mess, characterized by unnecessary additions of players (Gulshan Grover and Ranjeet) and crescendoed by a predictable climax. Rao’s character also loses track of himself and is pushed to the kerb by these unnecessary characters. Behen Hogi Teri is, therefore, an average combination of all romantic comedies we have seen in Bollywood in the last few months with the only exception of a decent loverboy and an allegoric message. TN.
Molecule Review: Mukti Bhawan
Mukti Bhawan, as it is originally known, can be seen as a slow-paced look at a man and his attempt at redemption. Much like the film’s pace, it takes some time for him to figure out what’s up as he moves to near the Ganges with his son (brilliantly played by the talented Adil Hussain) and awaits his death. Shubhashish Bhutiani tries to answer few questions about death and salvation some of which were hard for me to comprehend. Nonetheless, Mukti Bhawan is a decent film that keeps you engaged with its subtle narrative and score but ends at an exclamation mark!
Capsule Review: Golmaal Again
Every single character, except for maybe the kids, plays dumb in Golmaal Again, the fourth film in the series known for exaggerated screwball comedy. Here the gang is back with an unconnected story and the same old approach of one-liners and bombastic slapstick. The horror angle, which justifies the fresh roles of Tabu and Parineeti Chopra, makes it a tad bearable because it improves the humor by at least a few notches. Although it is still mortifying to watch talented actors such as Ajay Devgn and Arshad Warsi fool around and cross the line in the name of comedy, considering the genre and the franchise, the film does not deliver the goods as one would expect. Rohit Shetty is relentless as he stoops to a new low by heavily referencing pop culture to salvage his otherwise plot-less drama. With Johnny Lever’s galling performance that sabotages other characters’ harried efforts to make you laugh, and Tusshar Kapoor and Shreyas Talpade’s redundant roles, the film holds itself on the grand and palpable production design and occasional jokes. Other newcomers Neil Nitin Mukesh and Prakash Raj are strictly textbook villains and don’t contribute much. The problem with the film is that it is not sufficient to cinematically entertain a hopeful and informed audience in 2017. Golmaal Again tries too hard to come off as a horror comedy and even though completely validates its fitting tag-line, fails to amuse.
Long Review: Secret Superstar
Towards the end of Secret Superstar, a character utters few lines about the basic need of having and chasing dreams. She is doubtlessly inspired by another character who uttered those same lines previously during a heated verbal tiff. The authenticity of drama and the power that these characters have in you, much like how they have it on their co-characters, even while shouting at each other, are remarkable.
Advait Chandan’s debut feature, Secret Superstar, which tackles two heavy subjects of domestic violence and chasing dreams at once is a definitive reflection of the patriarchal pit that we, or our women rather, live in. Self-learned amateur bass guitar player, occasional school-goer, and full-time dreamer Insia looks up to Bollywood music singers and follows them on awards circuit, albeit on TV, with a dream to become one herself some day. There are many obstacles that are limiting her chances, but the most virulent and relentless one is in her own middle-class household, a hypocritical sadist father who beats his wife at the drop of a spoon and controls his family like a merciless fascist government. Seeing Insia play with her guitar when she should be studying mathematics instead is already a good reason for him to lash out, so what happens when she creates a YouTube channel and moves an inch forward to her dream? The heated setting explodes, and the explosion is an arresting spectacle.
Director Chandan uses women living in oppression in a patriarchal household to craft a narrative that is a bit unrealistic and contrived from time to time. A theme last seen in Rima Das’s festival-favorite indie drama Village Rockstars, the film hopes to shed light into the dreams of young girls suppressed by their own people. A girl who prefers her father’s permanent absence and who is forced to travel miles without letting her folks know for fear of rebuke is the perfect example of the combination of audacity and determination required to tackle the obstacles, and Secret Superstar conveys that point across with some palpable drama and shades of quirkiness.
Aamir Khan is absolutely phenomenal as a idiosyncratic music producer known for his sexual escapades and bad temper. His presence on screen is like drinking Kool-Aid in scorching heat, and every time he appears, thirst automatically finds its way. It is characters like him that Chandan uses to support his ship that is determined it will not sink. From the gaudy metallic print t-shirts that he wears to his oddball demeanor, Khan plays a character that is only second to Zaira Wasim’s. She steals the limelight with her cheeks that go scarlet when she dreams and surprises herself, quarrels with her mother and close friend Chintan, and takes a stand for herself against the oppression, unlike her mother competitively rocked by the talented and sweet-nosed Meher Vij. The duo look like they are mother-daughter in real life, what with their seamless connection and similar complexion. If Wasim is the captain of this ship then Vij is the second captain with Khan sitting in the corner as an adviser with wisdom and energy to drown in. Special mention to Raj Arjun, who is the mole in this ship, for pulling off the father character so impeccably that you want to beat him up.
One of the many reasons why Secret Superstar works and never bores you is the tiny references that it makes to life in general. Taking potshots at the music industry, surface touching the current Weinstein-inspired scenario, the oppressed family living in a society called “Modern Colony”, and the sexism that is so prevalent around us are to name a few. These references are tidbits that make the broth tastier and prevents you from focusing on the mannered narrative. The soundtrack is thankfully not cheesy and gels wells with the screenplay. Music is an integral part of what Insia dreams to achieve, and that’s one thing that the film gets correct in terms of picturisation and flow.
It tugs at your heart as you root for this charming little lady with a guitar in one hand and grit in another. Secret Superstar is a warm and engaging film about being fearless and moving toward your dream no matter what, and with a sweet little love story hidden in the core, it scores. It scores big. TN.
Capsule Review: Baadshaho
When there’s a heist involved you at least expect some detailing in the reconnaissance, the execution, or the escape plan. In Baadshaho, there is no plan let alone the detailing. A bunch of lowbrow goons try to steal an army van filled with gold in the middle of a highway. The gang is conveniently self-sufficient, as with most heist films, and are made to face few solvable hurdles on the way. Watching Baadshaho is like reading through a robbery plan sketched by a 10-year-old for a history class, considering this is set in 1975 when India was under Emergency. Even though director Milan Luthria introduces conflicts in the show, thanks to a dismal Vidyut Jamwal, the narrative never gets out of the limbo which is characterized by unnecessary songs and cringe-worthy dialogues. Ajay Devgn pulls off a decent show but Emraan Hashmi looks like he belongs to the other side of the fence with his lady Esha Gupta. They are more interested in romance or what succeeds that than the actual robbery or its execution. Ileana D’Cruz annoys. With gun shots that never hit their target and two odd twists in the middle that put M Night Shyamalan into shame, Baadshaho only has a glamorous container and a stylish name. Watch Italian Job (2003) one more time and forget they ever made this. TN.
Capsule Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
If repetitive chase sequences, contrived colorful explosions at the end of every action sequence, and occasionally forced and isolated comedy are the only parameters that you judge a superhero movie in 2017 with, then Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 should be a collector’s product. There’s a lot of references in this film that demands you go back to Vol. 1 and also take a 50-hour pop culture lesson narrated by Stan Lee. The plot associated with Walkman-ambassador leader guardian Quill’s parentage is a boring cliché and one that makes you puke, considering there are more grotesque beings and objects in the film. A sheer lack of novelty, the inability to improve the charm in the characters, and reckless usage of CGI majorly affects James Gunn’s second major feature film that is gaudier than the film’s obnoxious poster. Chris Pratt has begun to slightly annoy and if he maintains a similar air we’ll have to turn to DC by the time these guardians create the next volume. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is an ordinary superhero film with lots of blabbering using advanced vocabulary and lots of flashes, lasers, flares, and plasma. It also has a gold-obsessed priestess awkwardly trying to get at the guardians for stealing a bunch of her Duracell batteries. Like this, there are many more mindless arcs, but I’m fairly content because Quill was finally introduced to Microsoft Zune, arguably one of the best music players to come out of the technology race. TN.
I'll Have Fire Instead. ♦ Grade D+
There’s a scene towards the end where a person falls in a stepwell and drowns. The person is unable to bob and bring himself up because the surface of the water is covered with long pieces of cloth. It is just one of the many things that director Omung Kumar gets wrong in his third feature film, Bhoomi, a flawed revenge drama that is a collection of all revenge dramas that we have seen in Bollywood this year so far.
The first five seconds are enough to gauge what the film has in store for us, which uses a tried-and-tested formula to drive the hackneyed story ahead. In his first film post the completion of his incarceration, Sanjay Dutt tries to exonerate himself by playing, rather decently, a protecting father figure. He is Arun, a footwear dealer, who finds his world turned upside down after his daughter Bhoomi (Aditi Rao Hydari) is gang-raped on the eve of her wedding. Unable to share his sadness over her motherless daughter’s fateful plight and the anger over police apathy and insensitivity, shortcomings of the judicial system, and helplessness as an ordinary man, Arun tries to go the vengeance route and takes the law into his own hands.
It all sounds great on paper, but when Kumar, with writer Raaj Shaandilyaa, project it on screen, it does not look exactly convincing. Plagued by homegrown and narrow generality that “all men are dogs” is introduced right in the beginning. A lustful loverboy enjoys gulping down a leftover piece of food previously tasted by Bhoomi because it gives him the gratification of having touched the same item that once touched the lips of the woman that he failed to court. The expansion of this arc is what the rest of the film is about, which is all right as far as cinema is concerned. What is not right is a lack of characters that are neutral. Every man in the film is either a rapist (or a lustful guy who does not mind opening his fly in front of any woman) or Bhoomi’s relative.
There are more issues in this film than there are good bits. For starters, some of the songs are totally unnecessary and unbelievably timed. A father is crying his heart out because he couldn’t protect his daughter, and in the next scene, Sunny Leone wants me to feel trippy. Who prepared the demographic data for the makers? The police, that are inconsiderate at first, suddenly seem to be helping, or even abetting, Arun in his self-righteous deed that is later described as a universal solution (for the issue) by the same character in the epilogue. The villains look intelligent at first but then lose control of their own sanity and do dumb things. They are epitomes of banality that make the whole drama look unnecessary and a waste of time. We all know that courtroom sequences in Bollywood films are a joke, and this one here uses those same films as inspiration. The question about this film’s existence, therefore, has to definitely come up.
This is a serious and violent film which does slip into lame territory a few times, thanks to Shekhar Suman. Although he puts up a good show after being away from the screen for years, the humor is hardly entertaining. I could say the same thing about Dutt’s acting. He looks tired and carries the same weary air throughout the film. Hydari is lovely, but I couldn’t connect with her character in the second half. A deadpan look is not the only facial expression in the dictionary of a person who has seen and been through ghastly things. Sharad Kelkar is the new Ronit Roy, and he does his part very well, compelling us to rejoice at his fate later in the film.
The final 30 minutes are a relief because the techniques used to exact revenge have the potential to keep you engaged. Arun is an ordinary man but his actions are extraordinary, thanks to writer Shaandilyaa for producing these few bits that are at least entertaining if not logical. The camera work is generally humdrum but there is one sequence around halfway where the film succeeds in capturing the misery of a man who is realizing that that moment is the point where his life is going to change forever.
Even though it has all the right ingredients and is supported by a talented cast, there are still issues that mar the film from being a valid entertainer. It tries to raise one too many questions and stumbles over at the first answer itself. There is also no hint about what the director wanted to convey. This again reinforces my statement about Dutt’s exoneration, which would then make this a propaganda film, a case I do not wish to pursue.
If revenge dramas are the only type of films that you watch, then Bhoomi is going to be a treat. Otherwise, let me stop you from exposing yourself to 140 minutes of cliché, traditional writing, and a preachy and droll climax. You won’t miss out on anything because you have already watched Kaabil or Mom or Maatr.