Saturday, November 18, 2017

Tumhari Sulu - Movie Review

A couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate to have witnessed a discussion with Vidya Balan at MAMI festival. Anupama Chopra, who was one of the compere's on the panel, rightly said that the discussion with Vidya Balan seemed like a Master Class on acting. And this movie seemed every bit like it!

Starring Vidya Balan in the titular role, 'Tumhari Sulu', is an endearing tale of a regular middle-class homemaker, Sulochana Ashok AKA Sulu, a fun-loving simpleton who aspires to make a living and tries her hand at odd jobs. Although she is always belittled by her twin elder sisters, Sulu finds support in her charming husband, Ashok (played superbly by theatre actor Manav Kaul). In hilarious turn of events, this 'Saree-wali-bhabhi' gets chosen by Maria (Neha Dhupia) as a late night RJ and starts jockeying in her 'sexy' voice on her show, 'Tumhari Sulu'. This rest of the movie is about how Sulu manages her rising stardom and her faltering personal life.

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Directed and written by Suresh Tiveni, Tumhari Sulu is a poignant depiction of every middle-class, fun-loving woman, who does not let her weaknesses curtail her dream to fly. The tone of the movie is lively and fun through out the first half, when the characters are being established. It's in the second half that the movie falters a bit from its light-hearted narrative. The writing cannot be blamed for this, as the turmoil in her life was expected to be shown melodramatically. But what makes up for this is - V I D Y A B A L A N! Hands down, this has to be one of her best performances ever (And I say this in a career marked by such amazing gems of performances). As Sulu, she gets to show all the myriad tones of acting. She is endearing, charming, unabashed, a mimic, her comic timing is brilliant and so is her performance in emotional scenes!! The scene where she hugs her son, hits him and cries is particularly heart-warming. She is OUTSTANDING!

She is supported by an equally superb Manav Kaul. As the supportive-yet-jealous husband, Manav beautifully shows the insecurities that men tend to have on their wife's success. In fact, Manav still continues to be a supportive husband, which is a rarity to find in real life. Neha Dhupia has a good supporting role as Sulu's boss and she delivers well. The ensemble in the movie has been picked well as they all make the movie a treat to watch, especially Sulu's twin sisters and her writer-colleague, Pankaj Ji (Vijay Maurya). 

A movie makes for a good watch if it is a right balance of great script and natural acting. Tumhari Sulu scores high on both these fronts. It is definitely a delightful watch.

My Rating - 3.5/5

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Qarib Qarib Singlle - Movie Review

When was the last time you saw a mainstream hindi romcom on a middle-aged pair, that too a widow? Honestly, I can’t even remember if any such thing came out after ‘Cheeni Kum’ (2007) and ‘Pyaar Mein Twist’ (2005). Irrfan and Parvathy starrer ‘Qarib Qarib Singlle’ is one such movie which explores a less-touched territory of love stories between a pair in their late-30s.

It is the story of Jaya Shashidharan (Played beautifully by Parvathy), a widow in her mid-thirties, who works for an insurance company and dabbles in helping her friends at baby-sitting or being the ‘stepny’ aunty to their kids. Bored of the monotony, she joins an online dating portal – ‘’, and decides to meet, Yogi (played effortlessly by Irrfan), a 40-year-old poet, who has tons of cash and yet, has a goofy simpleton vibe.

While Jaya is a regular, plain-jane, Yogi is complete opposite – eccentric in his ways while always wearing his heart on his sleeves. Together they begin a journey to meet his three Ex’es, to prove a point to Jaya - that they still miss him. What ensues is a Jab-we-met style road trip, where we get to see their relationship bloom, though still maintaining their platonic stance towards each other.

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It is during these trips that the story hits a rough, bumpy patch of uneven writing and sluggish pace. At 2-hours-5-minutes, it is still a crisp film, but it tends to feel long. But, undeniably, it remains watchable all thanks to its amazing lead pair. Irffan, as always, is very good, but as Yogi, we get to see an unabashed and bindaas side to his acting, something we have rarely seen in his great repertoire of films. Parvathy makes a wonderful Bollywood debut and shines as a woman trying to break-free. Having the better-written character amongst the two, she beautifully shows the shackles that our society builds around young widows – how they are expected to lead a subdued life and are always judged. And the sequence where she finally decides to break the shackles makes you applaud for her.

My major submission would be for the screenplay writers, who could have made the narrative better – especially the story in Jaipur which seemed less convincing. Also, the movie loses its steam in the middle. But, all thanks to the two powerhouse performers, you can certainly stick around till the end.

My Rating – 3/5 (0.5 extra just for Irrfan and Parvathy)

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Ittefaq -Movie Review

Before I begin to review Bollywood’s latest release, ‘Ittefaq’, I would like to mention that I have not seen the 1969 original nor read its plot on the net. This Sonakshi Sinha – Siddharth Malhotra – Akshay Khanna starrer is a thriller, spread over three days, where the mystery behind twin-murders is solved. While the hype created during promotions touted the movie to be a crisp, edgy and a flawless thriller, sadly, it meanders from its intent a bit.

The movie is about a writer, Vikram Sethi (played by Siddharth Malhotra), who is suspected of murdering his British-wife, Catherine. Fearing being falsely implicated in his wife’s murder, Vikram flees from the custody of the cops and ends up getting implicated in another murder – of a lawyer, Shekhar, while trying to seek help from Shekhar’s wife Maya (played by Sonakshi Sinha). The high-profile case is handed over to Dev Verma (played by Akshay Khanna) for investigation. The rest of the story oscillates between Vikram’s version, Maya’s version and as Dev puts it – the actual version.

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Even though it has a crisp run-time of about 1 hour and 47 minutes, Ittefaq seems quite long due to its uneven pacing. Putting this minor issue aside, Ittefaq starts on a promising note. The first half is well made and builds up a good case. My major concern in the narrative was the interrogation part. The director and the screenplay writers opt for a narrative that keeps oscillating between each of the main suspect’s interrogation – without letting any of the suspect complete his side. This seems a little contrived, given the fact that police interrogation never stops in the middle – they take a complete version. My second major concern is the glaring loopholes – quite a few which any person with normal IQ could find and solve the case in a much better way.

Having said that, the movie still makes for a good one-time watch because of its ensemble cast, dark cinematography and gritty background score. Akshay Khanna proves what a seasoned actor can bring to the table. As the cop, he plays his shades undertone, never really overdoing it. I have always felt Siddharth Malhotra was the weakest among the three SOTY debutantes, but with Ittefaq, he seems to be finally getting into the groove. That one scene in the jail where he tries to eat, is a testament of how he is growing as an actor. Sonakshi Sinha is fine  - may be because she has played these demure roles too often, so I did not find anything new from her. The supporting cast, especially constable Tavde adds quite a few laughs (I tried getting their names, but sorry, google didn’t help)

On the whole, Ittefaq could have been a better film had they worked on the two major issues that I pointed out. But if the movie still manages to be a hit, I would not call that to be entirely ‘Ittefaq se’ 😉

My Rating: 2.5/5

Monday, October 30, 2017

A Death in the Gunj - Movie Review

It’s almost been 3 months since this movie released and I deeply regret watching it so late! Directed by the brilliant, Konkona Sensharma, ‘A Death in the Gunj’ is a fast-paced thriller which leaves you with an eerie feeling.
The story is based in a place called McCluskieganj in erstwhile Bihar (since this movie is based in 1978-79). A family arrives from Calcutta to their paternal home for vacations and they bring along their cousin, Shyamal AKA Shutu (played superbly by Vikrant Massey). During their stay over the New Year’s holidays, we get to see the layers that lie beneath their relationships. A newly-married friend of the family, Vikram (Ranveer Shorey), who has a fling with a carefree, Mimi (Kalki Koechlin). An elderly couple (Om Puri and Tanuja) who love their nephew, Shutu, but offer him little emotional support. And all of them picking on a 23-yr old Shutu, for being shy and sensitive.
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Shutu, in turn, has demons that he is fighting within – his father’s death that he has not been able to come to terms with, a discorded relationship with his mother and most importantly – being constantly prodded to ‘toughen up’! It is here where Konkona, the writer and the director, displays her impeccable craft as a film-maker. Using subtle nuances, she establishes the character of Shutu – shy, naïve, awkward among adults and trying to get over his father’s demise. And Vikrant Massay shines in this role with a subdued, yet powerful performance. By the end of the one hour fifty minutes long film, your heart goes out to this poor boy, who only craves for some emotional support and understanding.
The film also tries to throw light on how the society expects a man to ‘rise to the occasion’, in the face of an untimely death in the family. Shutu is shown as a sensitive boy (who is called pretty and ‘girl-like’ by Mimi) who cries wearing his father’s old sweater and yearns for compassion, which he finds in the form of his little niece, Tani. Through the film, one can see how indifferent people around him are to his pain and one can relate to the final step that he takes in the climax.
In her debut film itself, Konkona manages to get a perfect balance of all the major departments of film-making – cinematography, screenplay, dialgoues and background score – everything insync with the theme. Casting an ensemble of good actors make it a treat to watch. Even the domestic help, Maniya, looks authentic and performs ably well. But in the end, Vikrant Massay takes the cake. I would watch it again just for him and his menacing eyes thatd show his suffering.
Sadly, such gems often go unnoticed since we tend to brand such movies as ‘Art cinema/parallel cinema’. But this movie is a gem not to be missed!

My Rating: 4/5.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Vunnadhi Okate Zindagi - Movie Review

Over the years, we have seen a lot of love triangles where two best friends fall for the same girl. From Saagar to Saajan in Hindi to the likes of Hanuman Junction in Telugu. While most of these movies revolved around the tried and tested formula of sacrificing ones love for their best friend, Vunnadhi Okate Zindagi (VOZ) tried to break this convention. Does it succeed? Not really!

The movie is essentially the story of a bunch of chaddi-buddies, of which Abhi (played subtly by Ram Pothineni) and Vasu (played by Sree Vishnu) are as close as joined at their hips! To show tremors in their otherwise thick friendship, enter Maha (played beautifully by Anupama Parmeshwaran) and Meghana AKA Maggi (played by Lavanya Tripathi). The movie begins on a no non-sense note, where the two friends confess to each other about loving the same girl and leave it to the girl to decide who she finally wants. This seems a lot believable, considering the fact that they are two people who know each other in and out. The story is convincing enough till here. But then, the writers and directors are suddenly reminded that its a Telugu movie - and they add doses of stupid twists and unrequited sacrifices.

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As expected, the two part ways, only to be united four years later at a common friends wedding. To add a few laughs, we have Priyadarshi (Pelli Choopulu was his best and nothing seems to match up to it!) and a few other laugh worthy sequences. Maggi, as the wedding planner, is more involved in the feud between these friends than in arranging the wedding. And honestly, by then you are not even bothered about her as you want the friends to make up somehow and end the 2 hour 30 minutes long tirade!

I would blame the screenplay writers the most for this bumpy ride! The movie has a good plot, with a great scope to be simple and yet, shine. Probably we need more Juhi Trivedis, Ayan Mukherjees or even Sekhar Kammulas to deliver a simple concept beautifully. And also, filmmakers need to get over their urge to add elements of mass appeal and stick to simple story-telling. The huge success of movies like Fidaa and Arjun Reddy should finally make filmmakers concentrate on the content and the narrative. 

As for the performances, Ram and Anupama Parmeshwaran steal the show. Special mention to the delicate and nuanced performance by Anupama. She has stunning eyes which convey much more than her dialogues. Lavanya Tripathi had an inconsequential, half-baked character, with nothing worth mentioning. Sree Vishnu had the next best character as Vasu, Abhi's best friend. But he does not match up to Ram or Anupama. Wish they had cast someone better for this role. 

A good cinema for me is one which keeps me hooked to the screen and one where I seldom check my phone. Here, I was on my phone for quite a considerable amount of time. I guess, that explains.

My Rating: 2/5

Friday, September 15, 2017

Simran - Movie Review

When Kangana Ranaut makes tall claims about having the ability to carry an entire film on her shoulders (a la the Khans and Kapoors of bollywood), she is completely right! But her impressive performance is let down by the poor narrative and direction of this film.

Simran is the story of Praful Patel (yeah, funny name!) aka Praf (Kangana Ranaut killing it with her Gujju-English), who works as a maid at a top Hotel in Atlanta. A 30-year old divorcee, Praf is unapologetic and does whatever she feels like. She takes a trip the sincity of USA - Las Vegas, and ends up getting addicted to gambling - making some money and losing a lot more! To repay the loan she takes from a mafia money-lender, Praf resorts to robberies and uses the alias - Simran.

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Kangana is simply brilliant. She acts exceedingly well and has an amazing screen presence. Sadly, she is neither supported by an abled supporting cast, nor by a good fast-paced narrative or a strong plot. The film falls flat and it is only its protagonist who makes it a bearable watch. Among the supporting cast, only Sohum Shah manages to make his presence felt, as the devoted guy trying to get a 'Yes' from Praf.

The movie has it moments in the first half. Kangana's trip to Vegas and her flirting skills do create a few laughs. The sequence where she picks up a glass of champagne and walks to the terrace in Vegas prove how beautiful her acting abilities are. It is well-nuanced and subtly done. While watching the movie, I was reminded of Saat Khoon Maaf - another movie where the powerful performance by the protagonist was sadly not supported by the other nuances of film-making.

Simran was promoted to be a slice-of-the-life movie, whose trailers gave us all the vibes of Queen and the likes. But what worked for Queen, apart from a stellar performance by Kangana, was its crisp script, engaging screenplay and simple direction. This is where Simran falls short and makes you call it Sim-RUN!

My Rating: 2/5

Negatives: Wafer-thin plot, poor screenplay, not-engaging enough narrative and direction.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Shubh Mangal Saavdhan - Movie Review

Bollywood finally seems to have understood that you can make jokes with sexual overtures, and yet not make them sound cringe-worthy. Touching a hush-hush ‘Gents-problem’, Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, is a hilarious take on erectile dysfunction, without making its viewers uncomfortable in their seats.

Set in Delhi, the movie is the story of Mudit (played by Ayushmann Khurrana) and Sugandha (played by Bhumi Pednekar), who find each other on a matrimonial site and are about to have a ‘love-arranged-love’ marriage. During a moment of heat and passion, the duo discover that Mudit suffers from a certain ‘Gents-problem’, which is hilariously explained to the viewers using a biscuit dipped in a cup of tea! The rest of the story forms how the couple and their families try to help the groom ‘raise’ to the occasion (It is this kind of subtle pun that you get throughout the movie :P )

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Directed by R S Prasanna, who directed the original in Tamil as well, the movie comes out to be a fun take on an issue which is seen as a taboo. The tongue-in-cheek dialogues, crisp screenplay and the stellar supporting cast make this movie a treat to watch. Special mention to Sugandha’s mother (played terrifically by Seema Pahwa), who gets the best lines and scenes in the movie and ensures you roll on the floor laughing! The sequence where she tries to explain Suhaagraat to her daughter by equating it to Ali Baba and the scene where they eagerly await the results of ‘test’ of the groom’s abilities are hysterically funny!

As the leads, Bhumi Pednekar and Ayushmann Khurrana have great chemistry and play the typical Delhi youngsters with perfection. You see Bhumi’s abled acting prowess especially in the picnic scene and the scene in her bedroom as she waits for Mudit.

While the movie has many such enjoyable moments and performances, the bumpy second half brings the momentum down. The entire sequence from the groom’s ex returning, to an unrequired cameo seems forced and looks like the writers just wanted to end it somehow. Nonetheless, barring these few glitches, Shubh Mangal Saavdhan is a treat to watch, also with such a crisp and short run time (just about 2 hours)

Ayushmann and Bhumi seem to be on a roll with back-to-back good films (Bareilly Ki Barfi and Toilet-Ek Prem Katha). Ensure that you don’t miss this one.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Negatives: Messed-up climax  

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Arjun Reddy - Movie Review

I remember the day its trailer was released, Arjun Reddy had created quite a stir. In a film industry that loves glorifying its heroes and objectifying its heroines, through its masala potboilers and wafer thin plots, this was a shocker. And yes, the movie was certainly worth the hype!

Honestly, from the teasers and the trailer of the movie I was under the impression that it’s going to be the story of a psycho (sorry, but cant seem to find a better word). But the movie turned out to be a dark and gritty love story of an obsessed lover, Dr. Arjun Reddy Deshmukh (played excellently by Vijay Devarakonda) and his junior in college, Preeti (played by debutante Shalini Pandey).

At the outset, the director, Sandeep Vanga, breaks the stereotypical entry of heroes, that we Telugu audiences are used to seeing. So, there is no introduction song, no useless sidekicks who create a fake halo around the hero and no shots with a close-up of the hero’s torso! Instead, the lead actor walks in with ruffled hair and an unkempt beard. For the first time in a Telugu movie, the hero is shown to be a smoker, alcoholic, a drug and sex addict! Oh, and he abuses too (I think the entire Teluguland is dubbing his dialogue – M*******D in the theatres). Quite a contrast to our quintessential Telugu star!

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The plot is simple. Dr. Arjun Reddy is a topper of the batch and the entire college obeys to his whims and fancies. His only fallacy – his temper (or the lack of control on it). Arjun falls for a junior, Preeti, and there begins his love story. And again, romance here happens over anatomy classes where the topper, Arjun, teaches Preeti to help her study well. Loved this break from the usual singing and dancing in Swiss Alps!

What works for the movie are these departures from the usual. You see a guy you can relate to, who abuses, drinks, smokes and cares for his girl, just as any normal guy would. You see his gang of friends, who are as real as it gets – they abuse each other, pull each other’s legs but stand like a rock when needed. A special mention here for Shiva (played superbly by Rahul Ramakrishna), who plays Arjun’s best friend. The scenes between Arjun and Shiva are particularly real, effortless and extremely funny.

The movie belongs to Vijay Devarakonda, without a doubt. As Arjun Reddy, he shows how brilliant he is as an actor. As the brashy, short -tempered boyfriend, he displays emotions really well. The one particular scene where he goes to drop Preeti at the bus-stop shows his anger and the very next minute-his sweet side explains my point. While the first half shows a hot-headed lover, the second half gives us a frustrated and a completely demented lover. And Vijay Deverakonda excels in putting forth the pain of a jilted lover.

Shalini Pandey is burdened by an ill-etched role. We do not get to see or understand what makes her fall in love with Arjun, given the fact that it all starts forcefully and not like a lover’s proposal. The cinematography by Raju Thota and music by Radhan complements the dark narrative well.

Arjun Reddy is definitely a leap towards a new wave of telugu cinema, which is real and massy.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Negatives: Length, female lead's half-baked character, pace in the second half and predictable climax