Friday, December 28, 2018

Best of 2018: Telugu Movies

Known for its grand scales and male-centric movies, Telugu Film Industry showed a drift towards content-driven cinema. While the box office continued to be ruled by mass entertainers such as Aravinda Sametha and Bharat Ane Nenu, smaller movies also managed to draw attention. One of Tollywood’s favorite genre in recent times has been Indie Rom-Coms and 2018 was no different, with movies like Chi La Sow and Sammohanam winning praise. But the most promising trend that started in 2018 was meatier roles for women. While U-Turn and Bhaagmathie were labelled as women-centric, movies like Rangasthalam and Awe brought women to the forefront. Irrespective of the box-office numbers, I decided to pick my favorites from 2018 solely based on content and appeal.

Movies (in no particular order)

Awe: What started off as an anthology, soon turned into a thrilling tale of intertwined lives. It cohesively combined various stories, including an imaginary one where a fish and a tree speak, is no ordinary feat. Prashanth Varma achieved this through a well written screenplay, which was amply supported by the performances. Oh yes, it also had Telugu Cinema’s first Lesbian lead couple!

Mahanati: The life and times of Mahanati Savitri were not only captured beautifully, but the scale and attention to detail ensured the audiences were transported back to the same era. Keerthy Suresh’s fascinating transformation into Savitri, catapulted her to instant fame and praise. Also, the wonderful cameos by dozen-odd actors reprising stalwarts from the yesteryears added to the nostalgia.

Goodachari: Just when you lament the dearth of slick espionage thrillers down south, trust Adivi Sesh to bring something novel to the table. Made on a shoestring budget, Goodachari was a perfectly baked thriller that created waves upon its release. Some parts of it may seem contrived, but the racy pace does not let you complain.

Rangasthalam: The first movie that made me believe that Ram Charan can act deserves a mention on this list. Director Sukumar has helmed various projects previously, but the rustic treatment, authentic dialect of the Godavari districts and a much believable world made Rangasthalam an instant hit. Not to forget the better-written role of Ramalakshmi (Samantha), which is a rarity in hero-centric films.

Special Mention: Bhaagmathie, Ee Nagariniki Emaindi and U-Turn

Performances (in no particular order)

Ram Charan (Rangasthalam): With Chittibabu, Ram Charan broke the mold of quintessential Telugu film here. As the small-time rookie in the town of Rangasthalam, he mastered the rural dialect and looked every bit of a ‘sound engineer’ – one with hearing difficulties. This was an endearing and honest performance, which canvassed his acting skills.

Keerthy Suresh (Mahanati): On the cusp of being written off as yet another ‘bubbly heroine’ in Telugu and Tamil cinema, Keerthy Suresh gave a knockout performance, reprising late actor Savitri. She looked regal, re-enacted scenes from Savitri’s classics and never played a note out of place. It was a role of a lifetime and she lived way beyond the expectations!

Samantha Akkineni (U-Turn, Rangasthalam): Being one of the most sough-after actresses currently, Samantha needed a strong part, after playing second fiddles in hero-centric movies. And she redeemed herself by delivering two strong roles, one of which (U-Turn) was completely carried by her. It will be interesting to see how she follows these up in 2019.

NTR Jr (Aravinda Sametha): Though I had my issues with the narrative and its addressing of ‘feminism’, there is no denying that NTR Jr delivered a praise-worthy performance. Much like his grandfather, his powerful dialogue delivery and demeanor can win over anyone. As the man ‘fighting’ for non-violence, he was restrained, calm yet very volatile. A knockout performance, indeed!
Jagapati Babu (Rangasthalam and Aravinda Sametha): While his contemporaries are still romancing actors half their age, Jagapati Babu 2.0 continues to overshadow the current crop of actors with his powerful roles. His characters in Rangasthalam and Aravinda Sametha were structurally similar, yet Jagapati Babu used his command over his skills, to make them distinctive.

Special Mention: Nithya Menen (Awe), Mahesh Babu (Bharat Ane Nenu), Dulquer Salman (Mahanati), Vijay Devarakonda (Geetha Govindam) and Vishnu as Hollywood (Taxiwala)

Note: This list has been compiled as on December 25, 2018. Also, the following movies were not considered since I have not watched them: Kanam, Sammohanam, Chi La Sow, C/O Kancherapalem and Antariksham

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Best of 2018: Hindi Movies

2018 was an interesting year for Bollywood, where smaller films and concept driven cinema found patronage, while some of the tried and tested masala potboilers failed miserably. Even as jingoism in the form of Satyameva Jayate and Baaghi 2 raked in the moolah, a female-centric smaller film, Raazi, joined the coveted 100-crore club. While the three Khans – Aamir, Shahrukh and Salman – were panned by the critics and public alike (though the verdict on SRK’s Zero is still not completely out), Ayushmann Khurrana, Vicky Kaushal and Rajkummar Rao emerged as the faces of the new ‘Hindi film hero’. There have been a lot of discussions and lists published on the best movies and performances of the year, but here is my list of the best of Bollywood in 2018.


5. Mulk: In the communally sensitive times such as ours, Mulk came as a pertinent voice condemning in the religious divide in the society. An ensemble cast, headlined by Rishi Kapoor and Taapsee Pannu, take us through the unwarranted discrimination experienced by a Muslim family, when it is learnt that their younger son is a terrorist. Delicately handling a sensitive religious issue, director Anubhav Sinha leaves the audience’s thought provoked.

4. Stree: This small-sized Rajkummar Rao-Shraddha Kapoor starrer proved to be the biggest bomb formost of the movies that released alongside. With a simple premise of a woman haunting single men of a sleepy town, Chanderi, director Amar Kaushik along with writers Raj and DK, weave a hilarious horror comedy. Rarely does it happen that the supporting cast gets to overshadow the leads, but trust Pankaj Tripathi, Aparshakti Khurana and Abhishek Banerjee to do exactly that! Not to forget, the subtle message of respecting women, that was conveyed beautifully.

3. Raazi: Little did anyone think that the haughty Shanaya from Student of the Year (2013) could carry an entire film on her shoulders! Alia Bhatt has already proven her mettle, but she pushes the envelope further in this brilliantly crafted espionage drama. Not only was the nationalism shown subtly, even the ‘neighbor’ was not demonized. Alia as Sehmat displayed vulnerabilities through a restrained performance. And, you had the always-good Vicky Kaushal as well.

2. October: Not many liked this movie, but it is certainly one of the most poignantly told stories of 2018. For a better part of its run time, it was shot in the depressing wards of a hospital, with the hues of blue, white and a bed-ridden Shiuli (Banita Sandhu) adding to the gloom. Varun Dhawan sheds his ‘herogiri’ and gave us a compassionate friend and lover in the form of Dan. The surprise however was Gitanjali Rao, playing Shiuli’s distraught mother, who showed pain and strength in equal measures.

1. Andhadhun: You know you are in for a good ride, when the notions created based on the trailer are shattered 15-minutes into the film. Andhadhun was a juicy, fast-paced and whacky thriller comedy, with great performances by Tabu and Ayushmann Khurana. The ease with which director Sriram Raghavan throws twists at the audiences, leaves you surprised, shocked and stunned. And yes, the cryptic end had people talking for days with multiple theories coming out! Pure genius!

Special Mention: Sui Dhaaga, Manmarziyaan, Tumbbad, Badhaai Ho, Lust Stories and Sanju (solely for the performances)

Performances (in no particular order):

1. Ranveer Singh (Padmaavat): When was the last time you fell in love with a menacing, womanizing, cannibal-like villain? Not recently until Ranveer Singh reprised Allauddin Khilji in SLB’s Padmaavat. It has to be one of his best performances till date.

2. Anushka Sharma (Pari): Before playing a caricature-ish Aafia in Zero, Anushka Sharma played a scathingly scary Djinn in the underrated, Pari. Pale, grey, yet violent, she was extremely convincing as a good-evil.

3. Varun Dhawan (October): Though Badlapur gave us a glimpse of Varun Dhawan’s acting prowess, as a simpleton emotionally stuck to a girl in vegetative state, he displayed great amounts of restrain and conviction.

4. Gitanjali Rao (October): Making her acting debut on the big screen, Gitanjali Rao created a great deal of impact. As the mother torn between medical bills, prayers on her lips and the will to fight all odds to save her daughter, her performance was moving. Also, loved the equation she shares with Dan (Varun Dhawan)

5. Alia Bhatt (Raazi): Is there anything this tiny-sized atom bomb cannot do? Sehmat’s character arc goes from a happy-go-lucky college student in Delhi, to a girl on an espionage mission, to a woman torn between her love for her husband and her country. And she plays all of them with aplomb!

6. Ranbir Kapoor (Sanju): Keeping the hagiographic narrative aside, Sanju gave us some of the best performances of the year. Ranbir Kapoor not only physically transformed into Sanjay Dutt, but displayed various emotions brilliantly. His scenes with his father, Sunil Dutt (Paresh Rawal) were pure gold!

7. Vicky Kaushal (Sanju, Manmarziyaan): 2018 was Vicky Kaushal’s year – 5 releases, 5 completely diverse roles and brilliant in all of them. The best of these were in Sanju and Manmarziyaan, playing Kamlesh and DJ Sandzz. Watch him in the scene outside Rumi’s house in Manmarziyaan – sheer brilliance at display!

8. Taapsee Pannu (Manmarziyaan): Apart from being an underrated movie, Manmarziyaan also gave us an underrated actor. Having seen Taapsee’s work since her initial days in Telugu film industry, she has grown and how!? Manmarziyaan is a proof of her caliber and talent.

9. Rajkummar Rao (Stree): In a mixed year, Rajkummar Rao bounced back with a hilarious performance as the ‘chosen one’ in Stree. Be it his banter with his two best friends or Shahrukh Khan style romancing the ghost, he was perfect!

10. Tabu (Andhadhun): Another negative character, like Ranveer’s Khilji, that you fall in love with. But unlike the menacing Khilji, Tabu as Simi is a whacky murderer who is victim of her own circumstances. Watch her brilliance in the 10-minute long Piano-and-body sequence. She makes it one of the best scenes of the year!

Special Mention: Deepika Padukone (Padmaavat), Radhika Madan – Sanya Malhotra (Pataakha), Ayushmann Khurana (Badhaai Ho, Andhadhun), Radhika Apte-Bhumi Pednekar (Lust Stories), Neena Gupta-Gajraj Rao (Badhaai Ho) and Katrina Kaif (Zero)

NOTE: This list is as on December 25, 2018. Hence, Simmba is not in contention. Also, I have not watched the following high-rated movies and hence, they were also not considered while making this list: Hichki, Bhavesh Joshi Superhero, Manto, Love Sonia and Laila Majnu

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

KGF - Movie Review

The stupendous success of Bahubali injected confidence in the more risk-taking southern film industries. While a lot of multilinguals are on the anvil, director Prashanth Neel’s KGF (Kolar Gold Fields) opened in five languages this week. Starring Yash in the lead with a large ensemble, the movie was primarily shot in Kannada, making it Kannada Film Industry’s biggest moment in the limelight. But, does only scale and magnitude make up for the lack of emotional connect? Does mounting a movie with a big budget, make it appealing to audiences across India? Most certainly not!  
In a starkly similar opening as Gangs of Wasseypur (interestingly, it was also a two-part franchise like KGF), we are introduced to the birth of a boy, Ramakrishna AKA Rocky (Yash), born to a single mother in poverty. At the same time in the year 1951, a feudal lord, Suryavardhan (Ramesh Indra) takes over Kolar Mines in Karnataka by force, upon learning of the gold it carried under its surface. Over the next 3 decades (till 1980), Suryavardhan climbs up the ladder of power, might and wealth, along with his partners, by forcefully making the poor work in his mines, which is guarded like a fortress. Meanwhile, Rocky loses his mother, moves to Bombay and in his quest to become rich and powerful, takes the unlawful route. He soon becomes a known goon in Bombay. Expectedly, the story moves to Kolar where half a dozen characters fight it out for the control of KGF.

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As I mentioned, the beginning looks quite like Gangs of Wasseypur, with the mines, the birth of a kid and the thirst for power and might. But what Anurag Kashyap and Akhilesh Jaiswal achieved in a real setting with layered characters, is lost in the blood and gore of KGF. For the first one and half hours, the movie runs in quick shots with a narrator (Anant Nag) revering the invincible Rocky. Most of the story is explained through montage shots and the movie slows to normal pace only for the blood-laden fight sequences. Essentially, it is a series of 2-minute long montage shots followed by a 10-minute long fight sequence. And the cycle repeats. The director and writer, Prashanth Neel, does not give the audience enough time to connect with the characters. It is more engaging in the second half, when the narrative thankfully slows down and starts to build a story. Since the narrative does not let the audience understand the dozen-odd characters in the first half, it ends up an as incoherent mess.

A striking feature of the movie was its off-beat screenplay, which switches between 1970s in Mumbai, 1980s in Kolar, Rocky’s childhood in 1950s and the present day. In the present day, a senior journalist Anand Ingalagi (Anant Nag), who revers and uses atrocious dialogues to mount Rocky on a pedestal, narrates his story to an annoying news anchor, patently similar to Navika Kumar! The flashbacks of Rocky’s unhappy childhood are used well to layer his character and justify his ways. Yash, with a chiseled body, plays the flamboyant goon well. Bagging the only well-written character in the movie, he plays the baddie-hero, for whom ends justify means. All of Suryavardhan’s partners and sons looks like descendants of Kalakeyas from Bahubali – wild beards, messy hair and menacing looks. Tammanah, in a guest appearance as a bar dancer, is called ‘Milky’, which explains the kind of importance the writers give women in the film. The female ‘lead’, Srinidhi Shetty, is barely there for 4 scenes and is as important to the narrative as the background dancers in Yash’s introduction song.

Not only were the gory fight sequences exhausting and repetitive, the overdose of reverential dialogues for Rocky made me dizzy. Every fight sequence is supported by over-drawn praises for the hero, who single-handedly beats 100 people to pulp. The melodramatic scenes showing the atrocities on the slaves in KGF mines remind of Hitler’s holocausts, but even there, the reverential dialogues do not end. Like the people oppressed by Bhalaladeva waited for Amarendra Bahubali, KGF had people wait for their Messiah too. But unlike Bahubali, the pain and gore are crude in KGF and evoke disgust rather than empathy.

At the end of the two-hour-forty-minutes tirade, I was tired and emotionally exhausted. KGF had flesh and blood in abundance – both literally and figuratively. All it lacked is some soul. As I exited the theatre, all I could do is dread the second part!

My Rating – 1.5/5

Friday, December 21, 2018

Zero - Movie Review

It is almost 2019 and the Indian audiences have exposure to some of the best Sci-Fi movies from the other side of the world. Yet, we have a big-ticket Hindi movie insulting our intelligence! Director Aanand L Rai’s biggest movie till date, Zero, starring Shah Rukh Khan, Anushka Sharma and Katrina Kaif is an ambitious idea, killed by lazy and uninspiring writing.

Baua Singh (Shah Rukh Khan) is a 38-year old son of a well-to-do Meerut-based businessman, Ashok (Tigmanshu Dhulia). Baua is spirited, fun-loving singleton with just one drawback – he is physically stunted. At 4 feet 6 inch, he is short, but not in ambition. Along with his motley of friends, especially the half-blind Guddu (Zeeshan Ayyub), Baua idolizes, loves and revers reigning star Babita Kumari (Katrina Kaif). He is the quintessential fanboy from the Hindi heartland – wear shirts with Babita’s pictures, dances in gay abandon, calls her ‘iss ghar ki bahu’ and even throws a bundle of money to celebrate her break-up with a ‘Kapoor’ (too much of reel-life mirroring real-life)! Here enters Aafia Yusufzai Bhinder (Anushka Sharma), a renowned space researcher with Cerebral Palsy. The rest of the movie is an overdrawn mixture of unnecessary and illogical twists, filled with dozens of cameos. (Spoiler Alert – There is Sridevi as well <3 o:p="">

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The problem with Zero majorly lies in its story and execution. I pity the lead actors for their earnest efforts, because only they seem to have complete conviction in the narrative, even when the screenplay and the direction falter. Writer Himanshu Sharma is known for his witty dialogues, best of which were seen in Tanu Weds Manu, and does not disappoint here. The dialogues are effervescent, funny and with a lot of references to yesteryear’s Bollywood. It is in the screenplay that Himanshu disappoints. There is no mention of what Aafia’s disability is. (I got to know from Wiki and IMDB that it was Cerebral Palsy) The love story between Aafia, a renowned scientist, and Baua, a ‘Tenth Pass’, is not built well enough and when they part ways, it comes up as an unconvincing plot twist. The audiences wonder what really led to these chain of events – was it just to lead up to the fantasy-like Sci-Fi filled second half? Only the makers can answer!

I understand that a movie with the Badshaah of Romance does not necessarily need scientific logic. Even at this age, Shah Rukh Khan has his charm intact and his trademark romance is in full display in the beautifully shot song, ‘Mere Naam Tu’. But before the launch of a spacecraft, as a checklist, if a character asks the lead scientist on the space mission – ‘Maths Theek Hai?’ and she replies ‘Yes’, it appears fake and reflects on the lazy writing! Even the ‘scientists’ in the mediocre ‘Krishh’ had better and more intelligent questions to ask! While it does not ridicule or poke fun at physical disabilities – something commonly seen in Bollywood comedies – it does reduce them to outliers amongst normal people. It is understandable that people with stunted growth are poked fun at or called ‘Bauna’, but not even discussing about the disability of a lead actor and referring to her as ‘Hilti rehti hai’ is almost like ridiculing them and their abilities. Even Guddu, played by Zeeshan Ayyub, is shown to be partially blind and is made to evoke laughs with his improper demeanor.

Giving credit where it’s due, the camerawork by Manu Anand and the music by Ajay Atul are top-notch. The next best thing about the movie is the performances by all the three leads. Anushka Sharma looks beautiful and delivers well, though she seems like a caricature before you get used to her. Shah Rukh Khan is sure to charm his fans with his trademarks histrionics – he has a charming flamboyance, perfect comic timing and repeats his favorite tropes – wide-stretched arms and ’toote hue taare’. Honestly, he does not look like a physically stunted man – his body is not disproportionate or has smaller hands. He just looks like a man shrunk in his size by the ray gun from Honey I Shrunk the Kids! Kamal Haasan looked more believable in his 1989-hit, Appu Raja. But SRK’s charm lets you overlook it. The other performance that made me sit up and take notice was by Katrina Kaif! I think after Namaste London, this was the first time she tried emoting. Playing an almost autobiographical role, she displays the insecurities and sadness that some of the biggest actors in our country go through. Though a relatively smaller role, she shows the vulnerabilities of a superstar ‘jiska poora UP deewana hai’, who puts up a happy façade for the outside world while crumbling within. Zeeshan Ayyub is the only one who stands out among the supporting cast and is fine as the supportive friend/sidekick.

The culprits here are writer Himanshu Sharma and director Aanand Rai, for making an insipid and uneven movie. If not for the audiences, they should have worked better at least for the hard-work put in by the leads. While the movie’s name itself says Zero, thanks to the lead actors, I would rate this movie slightly higher!

My Rating – 2/5

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Kedarnath - Movie Review

This week’s release, Kedarnath, brings an interesting collaboration between two contrasting film personalities – director Abhishek Kapoor and writer Kanika Dhillon. I say contrasting because if you have followed Kanika Dhillon’s work, she gives a distinct voice to the female protagonist and requires abled filmmakers to bring that out beautifully. Abhishek Kapoor, though extremely ambitious in his scale and execution, slightly falters in building his characters emotionally. And both these traits are visible in Sara Ali Khan and Sushant Singh Rajput starrer, Kedarnath. Unfortunately, it is not a great blend.

The story was predictable from the trailer itself – an inter-faith love story set against the backdrop of the devastating Uttarakhand floods of 2013. Mandakini ‘Mukku’ (Sara Ali Khan) is a feisty, confident and a frank girl, born to a Pandit’s family in Kedarnath. Belonging to a well-to-do family that runs lodges in Kedarnath, she is an outlier. She cusses, picks up petty fights, has a sharp tongue that does not even spare her opportunistic father and openly woos the guy she likes. As one would expect, she falls for a Muslim Pitthoo (the ones who carry pilgrims on their back), Mansoor Khan (Sushant Singh Rajput). The love blooms in the backdrop of a picturesque Kedarnath, till the deluge hits them and wipes the city off.

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As I mentioned, the story has a distinctive Kanika Dhillon stamp. Her stories always revolve around the female protagonists and includes a third wheel. Third wheels like Simran (Sonal Chauhan) in Size Zero, Vicky (Vikky Kaushal) in Manmarziyaan have had strong roles in her stories. Interestingly, while we do have a romantic antagonist in Kedarnath, I felt Brinda (Pooja Gor), who plays Mukku’s elder sister was the third wheel in this case. The writer deserves another brownie point for creating a sub-track on the friction between the two sisters, which adds to the main love story. Also, like Sweety (Anushka Shetty) in Size Zero and Rumi (Taapsee Pannu) in Manmarziyaan, Mukku is a girl who lives on her own terms. It was refreshing to see a female lead eyeing the male protagonist and wooing him. It could have looked awkward, given the rural setting, but the dialogues (also by Kanika Dhillon) give us some endearing moments. The progression of their love story, while taking Pitthoo rides from Kedarnath to Rambada have been developed well. Making her debut, after repeated delays, Sara Ali Khan appears confident and makes a promising start. Dressed in best of the clothes, which seem out of place given where the movie is set, Sara looks comfortable in the character and delivers a variety of emotions, though she needs to work on her romantic lines. It is a well written role for an actor to make her debut with.

Complementing her well, Sushant Singh Rajput, delivers a strong performance. His shy demeanor and hushed smiles in reply to a flirting Mukku, are a delight to watch. There are a few sequences where the religion of Mansoor and their communal difference are touched upon, but these never come out convincingly. Director Abhishek Kapoor’s 2013-hit, Kai Po Che, set against a communally fragile Gujarat riots had a better weaving of the story of three friends in a communally disturbed environment. Here, it seems rather forced because during the development of the love track between Mukku and Mansoor, their different faiths never really comes out. Again, this is the fallacy of Abhishek Kapoor, where he assumes the audiences are emotionally connected and hence keeps certain things unsaid. And this is how the movie starts to crumble in the second half, where suddenly a love story is meddled with religion at first and then an overdrawn sequence of the Kedarnath floods. The tonality of the movie changed completely in the last 10 minutes, when it seemed more like a documentary on Kedarnath floods and not a love story that it began as. Not to mention, the graphics and VFX used for creating the flood scenes looked very mediocre. Giving credit where it is due, the music by Amit Trivedi and Cinematography by Tushar Ray are beautiful and bring Kedarnath alive. I almost packed by bags to visit this picturesque place!

Kedarnath had way too much cramped in a run time of 2 hours– a beautiful love story, inter-religion troubles, the rampant urbanization and the devastating deluge! If not for the strong performances by the leads, despite the deluge in the end, the movie may leave you high and dry.

My Rating – 3/5 (0.5 just for Sara and Sushant)

Saturday, December 1, 2018

2.0 - Movie Review

Sci-Fi is a much-loved genre, though seldom experimented by Indian filmmakers. Director Shankar, with a penchant for making technologically advanced movies, takes his ode to the Robotic world in 2010 blockbuster, Enthiran, to the next level. This is not Sci-Fi. This is Tech-Fantasy. 2.0, starring Rajinikanth, Akshay Kumar and Amy Jackson, is a visual extravagance with a larger-than-life canvas and spellbinding VFX. It also gives us a strong rival for Krish, the only other desi superhero, in the form of Chitti 2.0. But, can the VFX and the heavy-lifting action sequences alone lift the movie? I certainly do not think so!

The movie begins with a mysterious phenomenon where cellphones disappear into thin air. Whether it is an extra-terrestrial interference, a miracle, some sort of witchcraft or plain robbery – nobody seems to have a clue. Enter Dr. Vaseegaran (Rajinikanth), with his bot-assistant Nila (Amy Jackson), who use holographic maps, high-end gadgets and gizmos to track the supernatural force, created by a bird-lover Ornithologist (go google what it means), Pakshi Rajan (Akshay Kumar).The rest of the movie, as evident from its trailer, is about Vaseegaran using his brainchild, Chitti 2.0 to fight the evil forces to save the mankind!

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While the motive behind the antagonist in this case is not evil – he tries to save birds from the harmful cellular radiations. But, it does not come out as convincing as it should have. It is a fact that such big-budget magnum opuses do not warrant a review, since they are solely meant for entertainment and not to look for logics. But, in Enthiran, the logic is weaved in such a way that the audience connects with it – it is a first attempt at making a Robot, which goes rogue. This is where 2.0 feels disconnected. The story takes quite a while to reach the explanation, but by then, the audience is no longer invested in the story. Also, at the basic level, this is a typical supernatural movie story. Replace ghost with a technology-driven ‘Aura’ (as they like to call it) and replace witchcraft with ‘Photon Synthesizer Neutralizer’. I am not tech savvy, but I must admit some of the gadgets looked like cheap toys and reminded me of the primitive ‘Time-Machine’ from Singeetam Srinivas’s 1993 superhit, Aditya 369. Not to mention the climax can remind one of Transformers and Antman.

Giving credit where it is due, the makers leave no stone unturned in making this a visual treat. The opulence aside, the brilliant cinematography by Nirav Shah perfectly adds to the grandeur. The wide-angle shots, the action scenes in the climax and even an unimportant scene of the approaching ‘Mobile-menace’ shown in a dog’s eyes – the camerawork is brilliant! While the effects looked sloppy in the trailer, the VFX was top-notch in the movie and was on par with some of the biggest Hollywood superhero films. I also enjoyed Rajini as Chitti 2.0 and Kutti, during the climax. He was fun and added quirk to the fight sequences. Akshay Kumar as Pakshi Rajan is decent and looks menacing as the ‘Mobile Man’ villain. Amy Jackson, with the perfect excuse of being a Robot, manages to sail through the movie with a single expression. Honestly, she did have a rather meaty role, making me wonder wasn’t she highlighted during the promotions or on the posters.

Touted to be the most expensive film ever made in India, the efforts given to the technical details in 2.0 are clearly visible. While it truly is a film to be proud of, for its technical brilliance, I wish it had some substance as well. Because no matter how good it was visually, I left the theatre not completely satiated. Dot.

My Rating – 2.5/5

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Taxiwala - Movie Review

Horror comedies seem to be the flavor of the season. After the recent stupendous success of ‘Stree’ in Hindi, director Rahul Sankrityan brings us a Telugu comedy thriller, Taxiwala, starring Vijay Devarakonda in the lead. Just to jog your minds a bit, this genre has largely been successful in the Telugu Film Industry, though the movies have been rather sporadic. Most recently, notable movies in this genre were the Rajugari Gadhi series and Anando Brahma. Taxiwala, with a supernatural plot, falls in the same category, yet, is different in some ways.

Shiva (played by Vijay Devarakonda) moves to his uncle’s (played by Madhunandan) garage in Hyderabad, to earn a living. After dabbling at odd jobs, he buys an old Contessa car to turn into an Ola driver. Dressed in leather jackets and ganjees that flaunt his toned body, Shiva starts earning while also making a pretty doctor, Anu (played by Priyanka Jawalkar) fall for him. His life with his uncle and his English movie fanatic help, Hollywood (played by Vishnu) is turned upside down, when he experiences paranormal occurrences in his car. This leads to series of thrills, chills and a whole lot of laughter!

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While I began discussing Taxiwala in the same light as Anando Brahma and Rajugari Gadhi, it is similar in genre yet different in treatment. The movie has a very real, plain and quirky treatment of camera (by Sujith Sarang) and sound – reminiscent of one of the first Telugu movies in this genre, the 2005 sleeper-hit, Anukokunda Oka Roju. Like Anukokunda Oka Roju, there are no cheap thrills or jarring background scores. Most of the thrills and laughs are induced organically, using the camera angles, lights and the performances. The movie is filled with little moments of laughter – band-aids on all their fingers for a hilariously stupid occult experiment, Shiva’s naïve ‘thanks’ to the ‘ghost’ in his car for steering it while he fell asleep or Hollywood (the boy who works for them) fidgeting with a bottle in the middle of a serious scene in the Hospital. It is such moments that bring this movie alive.  

The movie also reminded me of the 2004 Hindi-disaster, Tarzan: the wonder car, where a car turns rogue with Ajay Devgan’s spirit trapped in it and seeks revenge. While the premise and the treatment are interesting, it is the execution where the movie slightly falters. The writing by Rahul Sankrityan takes time to set the base and the ride is pretty much fun after that. Well, almost. Until, there is a slight slump in the narrative in the second half, where the explanation of the paranormal activity takes centerstage. Even though it has a crisp run-time of a little over two hours, the second half seems a bit of drag, especially towards the climax, sprinkled generously with trademark Telugu masala.

Having said that, the movie is still an enjoyable ride thanks to the witty dialogues and superb performances. Vijay Devarakonda has already proven his mettle and he does not disappoint here either. While his swag, rugged look and clothes off a runway model seem a bit contrived for a cabbie, he uses his charm and wit to make the viewers overlook it. Another contrived sub-plot happens to be his love story with a doctor, which also seems highly unlikely in real life. Since this love plot is cleverly shown very little, it does not take away from the main premise. Vijay’s comic timing and acting chops are further elevated by his Babai, played by Madhunandan and Hollywood, played by Vishnu. These are not mere sidekicks, but very well woven into the plot. The camaraderie between the three is fun to watch. One of the funniest moments is the sequence where the three stealthily break into someone’s home. Like Laya in Amar Akbar Anthony, another actress makes a comeback this week – Kalyani. Along with another yesteryear actress, Yamuna, Kalyani gets an extended cameo and delivers whatever is expected of her. Malavika Nair is decent in her small part in the second half, when the supernatural part is explained.

While there are a few irregularities and hiccups in the second half, the movie manages to keep you entertained with its thrills and humor. If nothing else, Vijay Devarakonda’s rugged charm is enough to stay invested till the end.

My Rating – 3/5

Amar Akbar Anthony - Movie Review

Director Srinu Vaitla’s latest release, Amar Akbar Anthony, is an opportunity completely wasted. He uses his tried and tested template – a hero running the show, surrounded by a bunch of comedians and fighting against a gang of shrewd villains. Despite using all his formulaic tropes, the film is an incohesive drag, that tries every trick in the trade, yet, falls short of hitting the mark.

Amar Akbar Anthony (played by Ravi Teja), much like their Hindi namesakes, are three characters from three major religions. Amar, a Hindu, is the son of a pharmaceutical baron, who is destined to marry the daughter of his father’s business partner, Aishwarya (played by Ileana). The love birds are separated in their childhood by the four suave looking antagonists, who take over his father’s business. Akbar, a Muslim, speaks Urdu-laden Telugu, and is a Robinhood in New York – cheating the cheaters. Anthony, a Christian and thankfully the last one of these wretched characters, is a congenial and smiling psychiatrist. Just like any other Srinu Vaitla movie, the protagonists go against the treacherous antagonists, while being surrounded by a bunch of comedians, headlined by Sunil and Vennela Kishore.

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The problem begins in the first 20 minutes itself, when the narrative feels like two different movies. The comedy track at ‘Whole Andhra and Telangana Association (WATA)’ seems completely unrelated to the parallel track involving the conniving villains, all of who look way better than Ravi Teja in their salt-and-pepper looks. Ignoring the logics (or the lack of it), Srinu Vaitla’s movies have always been madcap comedies, which keep the audiences entertained throughout. This is where Amar Akbar Anthony fails miserably. While the comedy does evoke a few laughs, it remains underwhelming in comparison to his previous works in Ready, Dookudu, Dhee or King (actually, any movie before Aagadu)! Also, the insipid dialogues feel nauseating. Sample this – one of the antagonists says, “Not to expect badness from bad people is madness”, which is quickly translated into Telugu by his partner in crime, “Chaddavadi degara chaddatanam expect cheyakapovadam pichhitanam’! It’s almost 2019 and its high time we are spared of such nonsensical dialogues.

One of my major contentions was Ravi Teja’s mysterious demeanor and performance. For the longest time in the beginning, he makes you wonder if he is playing a blind character again, after Raja- The Great. He stares into oblivion, keeps a straight face for most part of his performance and surprisingly, barely does he emote! (If this frozen face and staring gaze is due to a medical condition in his real life, my apologies!) Even his impeccable comic timing, which is usually on point, is faltering in this movie. He comes across as an uncomfortable hero amid a chaotic narrative. Ileana, making her comeback to Telugu movies, looks healthier than before and has dubbed for herself for the first time. This is all one can say about her, because that is all that she brings to the table. I wish we saw the sparks that were there between the two in Kick, but even that ends in a disappointment here.

Giving credit where its due, the cinematography and the casting of actors for comic relief were pretty good. Venkat C Dileep captures New York in all its glory and makes the frames comes alive. The supporting cast, especially Vennela Kishore as the comedian and Abhimanyu Singh as the conniving cop, are quite good. There are moments of hilarity, especially the sequences involving a religious leader, Junior Paul. Sunil, who appears pretty late in the movie, misses his charm but manages to be decent. It was surprising to see Laya in a movie after a long time, and equally shocking to see her get a completely inconsequential and small part. Again, another opportunity wasted.  

We have seen psychological angles being used in movies like Aparichitudu and Chandramukhi, but it feels like a quick fix in this movie, without adding much to the plot or the narrative. Srinu Vaitla seems to be stuck in the early 2000s, and he needs to evolve with the changing audiences. If he doesn’t, he is not going to find many takers again.

My Rating – 1.5/5

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Thoughts on 'Nathicharami'

Topics such as women embracing their sensuality and talking about their physical needs are considered too bold for mainstream cinema in India. Largely, such issues are not touched often or made with the central theme in a movie because a lot of questions arise. Is a woman who is aware of her sensual needs immoral? Is it only the vamps in the movies that are lecherous and lusty? Does the society draft a moral code of conduct for women and their physical needs? As a character says in the movie, can women from ‘good families’ not satiate their desires without being judged? National Award Winner S Manjunath AKA Mansore’s latest Kannada drama, Nathicharami, propels its audiences to question the moral compass that the society has set for its women. (Spoilers ahead)

A young widow, Gowri Mahesh (played by Sruthi Hariharan), seeks psychiatric help to deal with her lonely life, three years after her beloved husband’s death in an accident. Her life coach/psychiatrist (played by Balaji Manohar), modelled around Shah Rukh Khan’s character from ‘Dear Zindagi’, casually asks her about her sex life after her husband’s demise. She answers that she is loyal to her husband and will remain so. As the camera pans to a dog, a symbol of loyalty, her psychiatrist tells her that carnal desires are as normal as hunger. It is just a bodily need. But in a society, such as ours, can it be called just a need? The audiences are as conflicted as the brilliant Sruthi Hariharan is on-screen. As she puts it in her own words, her heart still belongs to her late husband for whom she brings in flowers every day, while her body desires love. In the times of Tinder and speed-dating, she tries to have a no-strings attached relationship, but, fails. For a woman who cannot stand a temporary fix to a leaking tap, a temporary satiation of her desires will not work either. This brings her back to her conflict – is she being immoral by thinking of becoming emotionally infidel to her husband? Through the stunning shots that linger on her without any dialogues, Sruthi conveys her angst, confusion and pain superbly.

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While there are no dearth of predators and people showing unsolicited interest, she stays away from all of them. One of the best scenes in the movie is when she calls out a colleague for behaving inappropriately at workplace. She sets the tone straight – she may be longing for a companion, but, she is not looking for a quick fix. Among all the prying eyes, she finds a friend in a civil engineer she bumps into during her morning walks, Suresh (played by Sanchari Vijay). Suresh, stuck in an unhappy marriage, dislikes his wife since she is from a small town. Suresh acts as a reflection of the society, that detests a woman voicing her urges, but the rules do not apply to the men who seek to douse the same urges from their wives. As a society, we have been conditioned to see women in a certain way, that Suresh’s judgement of Gowri’s morality seems legitimate. One also tends to question her motive behind being involved with a married man, by keeping his wife in the dark. Does this make her evil and a home-wrecker? The name of the movie seems to answer this - Dharmecha Arthecha Kamecha Naathicharami. It is a Hindu wedding vow where the couple promise to stand by their partner in Dharma, Artha and Kama. She keeps her vow to her late husband by staying emotionally loyal to him. Suresh keeps his vows by sobbing in his wife’s arms, conveying his acceptance of his mistakes.

It is a slow, simmering and unsettling movie, because of its uncomfortable topic. It is very difficult to channel agony with ecstasy and Sruthi Hariharan delivers this in a spectacular performance. Her remorseful eyes and pale face convey her anguish louder than the happiness her vibrant clothes show. She succeeds in drawing the audiences towards her emotional turmoil, despite being a character that is very difficult to like, based on our morals and conditioning. Supporting her as a man cheating on his wife, albeit guilt-laden, Sanchari Vijay is effective being the man who has less control on his libido but sets boundaries for women. It is a poignant and painful movie, with a lot of things left unsaid yet beautifully conveyed.

The captivating final shots of Gowri getting rid of her husband’s ash trays and cushions make us wonder if she has decided to move on? Only to be proven wrong, when in the next scene, she walks into her balcony, settles in a chair and lovingly moving her hand over the empty chair next to her. She has kept her promise – Nathicharami!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Rajma Chawal - Movie Review

Delhi, like much of India, has a dichotomous existence. The glass facades and grandeur of New Delhi contrast the congested and modest by-lanes of Purani Dilli. Director Leena Yadav’s Netflix Original, ‘Rajma Chawal’ uses this distinction between Old and New Delhi to set its characters but misses the mark in execution. It is a recipe that had the potential to be the audience’s comfort food but ends up leaving them with a grumbling stomach.

A New Delhi bred musician, Kabir (played by Anirudh Tanwar), along with his father (played by Rishi Kapoor) moves into their old ancestral home in Chandni Chowk. Due to the untimely death of his mother and a remorse-filled gap between the two, Kabir is shown not to be on very good terms with his father. Despite being surrounded by a dozen odd over-friendly relatives and neighbors, Kabir feels disconnected to Chandni Chowk. The son feels his father insulted his mother’s melodious singing by falling asleep when she sang, while the father explains that the music had a calming and relaxing effect on him. The father gorges on the famous parathas of Purani Dilli and Nukkad ki chai, while the son can’t seem to stand these. Father relishes Rajma-Chawal with his hands, while his son asks for a spoon with almost a feeling of contempt. The differences are starkly evident between the two. In a bid to connect with his son, a technologically challenged man joins Facebook and begins chatting with him under a fake alias. Amid grappling with his mother’s death and struggling with his music, he meets Tara (played by Amyra Dastur), a gold-digger and a hairstylist with a funky hairstyle. As one can predict, she acts as the catalyst that brings together the estranged father-son.

The plot sounds interesting and has some good moments as well, which are few and far apart. The biggest problem in the movie is its unconvincing writing by Vivek Anchalia and Leena Yadav. The plot twists seem to happen rather unnaturally – a band is formed over night after a chance meeting of Kabir with random strangers. Though there are subtle hints of various subplots such as Tara’s past and Kabir’s mother’s death, but the pieces do not fall into place seamlessly. It begins to look like a forcefully made jigsaw puzzle, with subplots being the pieces that are forcefully joined to solve the puzzle. Even the actors do not seem completely convinced of the story, which is evident in their superficial acting, only on the surface of it. Rishi Kapoor plays his part decently well, but his character remains on the surface without much explanation. Debutante Anirudh Tanwar is decent, though his range of emotions seem limited. He appears to be a pro at displaying anger but fumbles at emoting other emotions. Amyra Dastur adds some spunk and is easy on the eyes but gets a caricature to play. She plays a stereotypical loud-mouthed girl with weird tattoos and an odd hairstyle, just to prove a point that she has suffered in life and has now become an independent woman. Among the other cast, Aparshakti Khurana and Sheeba Chaddha are good in their small parts and add to the comic relief.

What could have easily been a feel-good movie, is unnecessarily marred by a lot of plot twists in the second half. The first half, even with contrived twists, is enjoyable. It is in the second half, when the movie loses its charm and begins to become monotonous and repetitive. Also, a movie where the lead is a musician deserves much better music. Composer Hitesh Sonik uses similar tunes with different lyrics by Irshad Kamil, with none of the tracks being memorable. Even his wife Sunidhi Chauhan has sung a passable number.

While I watched the movie at Mumbai Film Festival in a theatre, it will have a worldwide release on Netflix. Going by the content, this movie makes for a decent watch on Netflix, if there are no other better options. So, catch it if you have nothing better to watch.

My Rating – 2/5

Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota - Movie Review

As kids, all of us have always been fascinated by superheroes in video games and cartoons. From Popeye to Super Mario, these fun characters stayed with us much before Marvel and DC came into our lives. These characters seem to have caught the fancy of writer-director Vasan Bala, who has created a quirky, fun comedy, ‘Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota’, basing the premise on childhood superheroes, a rare disease and karate!

Dark humor seems to be finally making its way into India, with Andhadhun last month and this whacky tale now. In what is being called as India’s take on Deadpool, Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota is a smaller version of a boy stuck with his childhood fantasy of being a vigilante against chain snatchers. Usually, dark comedies work majorly for their quotient of oddity, spunky dialogues and great characters weaved seamlessly into a tight script. Vasan Bala has got all the three perfectly on point, barring a slight drop in the tempo of the screenwriting in the second half. There is a boy (played by Abhimanyu Dassani) with a rare congenital insensitivity to pain, who quite literally, cannot feel any pain! He is the mard jisse dard nahi hota. Then, there his childhood friend and partner-in-crime (played by Radhika Madan), who leads a dual life of Lara Croft outside her home and a submissive girl caged under patriarchy. We also have an endearing yet weird grandfather (Ajoba played by Mahesh Majrekar), who instead of protecting his grandson from harm, teaches him the meaning of ‘pain’, leading to this chaos! Then we have a limping Karate Man (played by Gulshan Devaiah) that the leads look up to, for he can fight 100 men, but crumbles against his bullying and jealous twin-brother. It is these characters and their intertwined lives, that keep you invested, even when the movie slightly falters.

The montage scenes in the beginning are fun – you see a panicking father, an over-enthusiastic grandfather and a naughty child with an odd disorder. It’s endearing to see them teach him what pain means – he learns to say ‘Ouch’ when he is hurt! The boy is raised away from bullies, prying eyes and home-schooled, which leads him to be stuck with the ‘Karate Man’ movie he repeatedly watches on a Video Cassette all through his growing up years. The scenes where a worried Ajoba tries to talk to him about his growth into a man, and he conveniently dodges it, getting back to his fascination with martial arts. But the witty lines and off-beat characters seem lost in the second half, before the climax and that is the problem with the movie. Nonetheless, it picks up steam in the final moments and ends on a high.

Before I talk of the performances, a mention of the praise-worthy cinematography by Jay Patel for creating beautiful frames, slow-motion shots and montages in the first half. The hues of yellows and greys adds to the darkness of this dark comedy genre. Mahesh Majrekar as Ajoba has the wittiest lines and such a warm screen presence, despite not being the central character. Debutante Abhimanyu Dassani is good, though his childlike character has only a limited range of emotions which he displays, and it would be interesting to see how he follows it up in his next movies. Radhika Madan, thankfully makes a transition from the irrational television shows, and delivers a strong performance after a memorable debut in Patakha. It was fun to watch a female lead kick some asses and break those bones! But it is Gulshan Devaiah, who gets the most captivating and entertaining roles as the twin Shetty brothers. From the S P Balasubramnium style parody song to the mention of Matunga Tamilians and references to Rajini vs Kamal – these characters are colorful and Gulshan Devaiah delivers perfectly in both these contrasting roles.

It may not be as twisted and edge-of-the-seat as Andhadhun but is definitely a fun watch. I was lucky enough to catch it before its theatrical release at the Mumbai Film Festival. But make sure you catch it as soon as it is out in the theatres.

My Rating – 3.5/5 (0.5 here is for the sheer wackiness and oddity)

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Hello Guru Prema Kosame - Movie Review

One of Tollywood’s favorite genres in the last two decades has been breezy romances with a common template, which has a chocolate boy falling for a modestly dressed college girl, surrounded by other characters who add the drama and create the plot. Director Trinadha Rao’s ‘Hello Guru Premakosame’ is yet another movie on the same lines, with barely anything new, yet, managing to keep the audiences entertained.

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At the outset, it is projected as a regular love story and the makers keep the treatment authentic. Sanju (played by Ram Pothineni) is an engineer who moves to Hyderabad for work. He is put up at her mother’s childhood friend (played by Prakash Raj), a wise and helpful man. Expectedly, Sanju falls for his daughter, Anupama (played by Anupama Parmeshwaran), after having a fling with a colleague, Tripti (played by Pranitha Subhash). The movie takes a predictable turn from here and the monotony is broken occasionally by the witty one-liners and the amazing equation between Ram and Prakash Raj. Also, I do not understand why do Telugu writers fancy the clichéd structure of dialogues, involving a mere play of words? Just like the over-bearing dialogues of Arvinda Sameta, the writers here throw dialogues like, “Oka ammayyi no chepte edichevadini lover antaru. Ala edichevaditoh mandu taagi vadine friend antaru”. Though they were not overbearing, it is time we switch to real and conversant language, laced with humor.

Prakash Raj plays a charming and endearing father to Anupama and a confidante to Sanju. He gets to display his comic timing and his scenes with Ram, acting as his ‘friend’, are a delight to watch. The makers included a song, ‘Oi Friendu’, to cash-in on their camaraderie. Anupama Parameshwaran, playing his daughter, keeps a weirdly stoic demeanor and gives dreamy glances in most of her scenes, apart from looking extremely pretty. I wish her character was written better because her conflicts and change of heart do not come out well. Playing her other half in their love story, Ram gets the centerstage and carries the movie on his shoulders. He is charming, looks great and has a suave attitude. His comedy in the first half, especially the ones referring to engineering colleges and software programming, is top-notch and remains in the same form throughout. Despite his love story with Anupama not coming out convincingly, one does not complain much since his antics keep you entertained. The romantic track with Tollywood’s favorite second fiddle, Pranitha Subhash, should have had a better closure. It seemed insensitive and abrupt, something that contradicts the character of Sanju. The rest of the supporting actors were good in their parts, mostly adding to the comic relief.

Looking for great film-making craft and a tightly woven story in a mainstream romantic comedy would not be wise. But thankfully, Hello Guru Prema Kosame, remains majorly real and entertaining. The wafer-thin plot, usual love story and the predictive narrative are balanced by endearing performances, especially by Ram and Prakash Raj. Watch it for fun, without expecting much!

My Rating – 2.5/5

Friday, October 19, 2018

Namaste England - Movie Review

Director Vipul Shah’s second offering in the ‘Namaste’ franchise, ‘Namaste England’, is a baffling example of reputed names coming together to create an extremely insipid and nauseating fare. Writer Ritesh Shah, who has written movies like Pink, Chef and Raid, has co-written this incoherent and disjoined story of Punjab flying to London. Casting director Honey Trehan, whose previous work boasts of casting strong ensembles in movies like Kaminey, Fukrey and Talvar, casts the most disinterested bunch of actors who make Arjun Kapoor’s performance seem Oscar worthy! Even director Vipul Shah’s passable filmography highlights his not so great skills, but some of his previous movies were bearable thanks to its leading cast. Sadly, even they let him down here.

An ambitious Punjabi girl, Jasmeet (played by Parineeti Chopra), aspires to be a jewelry designer but is oppressed by her patriarchal family. She uses her bunch of friends and boyfriend, Param (played by Arjun Kapoor), to get out of her house and work. Upon finding of their daughter’s deceit, they decide to get her married to Param. Due to the ridiculous turn of events, she convinces Param to relocate to London (though she could have relocated to Delhi, Chennai or Timbuktu and it would have made no difference). Now, do not even try looking for logic here because there isn’t any. So, due to yet another ridiculous subplot, Param cannot get a visa and hence, a desperate Jasmeet leaves him and flies to London. Just when you think good riddance, the makers remind you that you are just halfway through this excruciating emotionless saga.

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Their lack of conviction or common sense is evidently visible in almost every sequence. Param and Jasmeet exchange besotted looks from Dussera to Diwali to Holi, but Param says, ’Punjab mein pyaar toh doosro ki shaadiyo mein hi hota hai’. So, out of the blue, there is a wedding. How? Don’t ask! A rich, elite, supposed seductress meets a ‘Gabru Punjabi Munda’ and decides the next minute to marry him. How? Don’t ask! A guy sharing a dingy shanty in London and shown to be living in the bathroom there, steps out in perfectly gelled hair and tuxedos, sweeping rich girls off their feet. How? Don’t even ask!! The makers seem to have answered all these with just one phrase – Who cares?! Vipul Shah repeats the same tropes from Namaste London – a smart girl, a lovelorn naïve guy, a patriotic monologue in London and a sad song by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan! But, his poor directorial skills in Namaste London were overshadowed by good performances by the ensemble, especially Katrina Kaif. It remains Katrina Kaif’s only memorable performance as an actor and reprising the same Jasmeet, Parineeti Chopra makes this a poor caricature. While Katrina’s Jasmeet was flawed and shrewd, she still evoked some empathy and connect. Parineeti makes a shoddy caricature of Jasmeet, with a below average performance and awful dialogue delivery in emotional scenes. It is probably her worst performance till date.

Arjun Kapoor does not have a great filmography to boast of, and he adds yet another poorly acted role to the list. Akshay Kumar had a naughty and lustful swag to his character in Namaste London. Here, Arjun repeatedly says ‘Tumhe dekhke mere dil mein aisi aisi feelings aa rahi hai ki kuch ho jaega’ and you still find it hard to believe. The love story between the leads is so poorly developed in the first 10 minutes of the movie, that the audiences do not connect with them at all. There is no sympathy evoked for his difficult journey to London, travelling through half the world. As I mentioned earlier, the rest of the cast is a bunch of novices who have no weight in their characters nor have any acting chops. Aditya Seal and Dijana Dejanovic as the lead’s partners in London look good but get poorly written characters with no scope to perform. As if the main plot was not tiring enough, there are useless subplots talking about illegal immigrants, dark side of patriarchy and over-the-top nationalism – none of them required in the central story line!

A movie that lacks a tight script, good dialogues, abled craft of filmmaking and captivating performances deserves not to be rated at all. At a time when small budget movies are pushing the boundaries with innovative content, this is a major let down. With nothing really working in the movie, except may be the clothes that the leads wear, I do not think it deserves anything on a scale of 1 to 5.

My Rating – 0/5

Badhaai Ho - Movie Review

You know you are in for a good ride when a movie opens in a middle-class household, with a bickering mother-in-law and subtle humor over daily household chores. In ‘Badhai Ho’, debutante director Amit Ravindernath Sharma and his writers Shantanu Srivastava, Akshat Ghildial and Jyoti Kapoor create a funny and believable canvas filled with real characters that are stuck in a supposedly embarrassing, yet hilarious situation – when the middle-aged couple of the family get pregnant!

A young boy from a middle-class family, Nakul Kaushik (played by Ayushmann Khurrana), has a perfect life. A doting family, an understanding girlfriend and a high-flying career. His life seemingly crumbles down when he discovers his middle-aged parents (played by Gajraj Rao and Neena Gupta) are expecting a child, 25 years after he was born! What ensues is hilarious ride of children feeling contempt for their parents and the society adding insult to injury. Adding to their woes is the matriarch of the family, Dadi (played by Surekha Sikri), whose taunts leave you in splits. His colleague and girlfriend, Renee (played by Sanya Malhotra) bears the brunt of this commotion and so does her elite IAS mother (played by Sheeba Chaddha).

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Firstly, full points to the art director and costume designers for authentically setting up a typical middle-class household, replete with women of the neighborhood bonding over Tambola after a Satsang, crockery neatly stacked in a glass cupboard and the drawing room doubling up as the room for the granny in the house. The makers do not take time in setting up the theme and quickly get to the point, which reflects in the crisp runtime of the movie as well. Director Amit Sharma beautifully exploits his cinematographer, Sanu Varghese, to create frames that come alive on screen. The congested and tiny house becomes the vibrant epicenter of this hysterical entertainer, only because of the brilliant shots. These frames are further lifted by the witty writing by Akshat Ghildial, where humour is mostly understated. Some of the best examples of the brilliant writing are the hilarious scenes where an awkward Gajraj Rao breaks the news at home and the one where Dadi, played stupendously by Surekha Sikri, rebukes her daughter and elder daughter-in-law at a wedding. Also, it was good to see an organic progression of the story, sans major melodrama. The taboo surrounding an elderly couple conceiving a child, despite having a son of marriageable age, is normalized delicately without being over the top.

As is the case with any such content-driven movies, it is the actors who bring these character to life! Gajraj Rao and Neena Gupta are perfectly cast as the embarrassed couple, never letting their characters slip into farcical shame. Ayushmann Khurrana, who has become a flagbearer of sorts for this kind of cinema, is in top form and uses his charm and comic timing in equal measures. Supporting him well in a relatively smaller part is Sanya Malhotra and her mother, Sheeba Chaddha, who provide ample support to the narrative. Surekha Sikri as Dadi, is hilarious and one of the most endearing characters for a granny written in Hindi cinema in recent times. Also, it was fun to watch all the characters speak in chaste western UP dialect, adding another dimension to their characters.

Over the last few years, content-driven stories from the small towns or inspired by the middle-class folks have fancied filmmakers in Bollywood. Badhaai Ho takes a similar route as ‘Shubh Mangal Saavdhan’ and picks a taboo topic.  With a similar plot as Steve Martin’s 1995 comedy, ‘Father of the Bride 2’, Badhaai Ho uses a topic perceived as embarrassing and injects comedy in right measures, to create a delectable fare.

My Rating – 3.5/5